Read Deep Sea Online

Authors: Annika Thor

Deep Sea


A Faraway Island


The Lily Pond


This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, and incidents either are the product of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously. Any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, events, or locales is entirely coincidental.

Translation copyright © 2015 by Linda Schenck Jacket photograph copyright © by Laurence Winram/Trevillion Images All rights reserved. Published in the United States by Delacorte Press, an imprint of Random House Children’s Books, a division of Random House LLC, a Penguin Random House Company, New York. Originally published in Sweden as
Havets djup
by Bonnier Carlsen, Stockholm, in 1998. Copyright 1998 by Annika Thor. This English translation is published by arrangement with Bonnier Group Agency, Stockholm, Sweden.

Delacorte Press is a registered trademark and the colophon is a trademark of Random House LLC.

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Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data
Thor, Annika.
Deep sea / Annika Thor; translated from the Swedish by Linda Schenck. — First American edition.
pages cm
Companion book to: A faraway island and The Lily pond. “Originally published in Sweden as
Havets djup
by Annika Thor, copyright 1998 by Annika Thor, by Bonnier Carlsen, Stockholm, in 1998.”
Summary: Nearly four years after leaving Vienna to escape the Nazis, Stephie Steiner, now sixteen, and her sister Nellie, eleven, are still living in Sweden, worrying about their parents and striving to succeed in school, and at odds with each other despite their mutual love.
ISBN 978-0-385-74385-3 (hc) — ISBN 978-0-385-37134-6 (ebook) — ISBN 978-0-375-99132-5 (glb) 1. World War, 1939–1945—Refugees—Juvenile fiction. [1. World War, 1939–1945—Refugees—Fiction. 2. Refugees—Fiction. 3. Sisters—Fiction. 4. Schools—Fiction. 5. Friendship—Fiction. 6. Jews—Sweden—Fiction. 7. Göteborg (Sweden)—History—20th century—Fiction. 8. Sweden—History—Gustav V, 1907–1950—Fiction.]
I. Schenck, Linda, translator. II. Title.
PZ7.T3817Dee 2015

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he tram rattles down the wide street. Stephie stares out the window without really seeing anything. The roads, houses, shops, and flower beds along the route to and from school have all become so familiar they’re invisible to her. Somewhere at the back of her mind, other streets and houses loom. But they are mere shadows, the memory of a dream.

“A penny for your thoughts!”

Stephie’s eyes shift from the window to her friend May, who is sitting next to her.

“None in particular,” she says.

“It’s lucky you don’t have to ride alone,” says May. “I think you’d forget to get off.”

With a piercing squeal, the tram pulls in at Sandarna.
Stephie and May stand up, along with most of the remaining passengers who live far from the center of town. Their tram route meanders through the whole city and passes through Mayhill, where May’s family used to live. Although Sandarna isn’t the last stop, it’s the last outpost of the city, before the area becomes more rural. Once it has finished climbing the slope and made its turn, the nearly empty tram will cross the city limit and continue toward the sea, passing the fancy summerhouses in Långedrag and running all the way to the bathhouse at Saltholmen.

Stephie lives at the edge of the city. All the way out, as far as you can get. Just like when she lived on the island, where she still has her second home, with Aunt Märta and Uncle Evert. The first time Stephie saw their house on the barren west side of the island, at the opposite tip from the sheltered harbor and little village, she thought she must be at the end of the world.

But when you have to live thousands of miles from your home and your parents, you always feel far away. It doesn’t really matter where you are.

The tram stops, and the girls get off and cross the street. Straight ahead is a big white elementary school attended by hundreds of children from the neighborhood’s many large families. Most of May’s little sisters and brothers are students there. She also has two siblings who haven’t even started school yet, as well as an older sister, Britten, closest to May in age, who had to
quit after primary school last spring and take a job as an errand girl at the bakery. Almost all the children in the area quit school after the compulsory six years. May is an exception; her high grades got her a scholarship, which allowed her to continue her education at the girls’ grammar school in town.

“I’m worried sick about our math test!” says May. “I’ll never pass. I just know it. And if I fail this one, too, Miss Björk is going to have to flunk me. Then I’ll never get into high school.”

Stephie and May are in their third and final year of grammar school now. Next fall, they’ll start high school if their grades are good enough to win them scholarships again. Everyone in the class is focused on grades, but Stephie and May are the only ones who won’t be able to go on if they don’t get scholarships.

“You’ll get through,” says Stephie. “I’ll help.”

In the city center, there are many stately apartment buildings with a dark labyrinth of courtyards at their rear, where a myriad of outbuildings and sheds are separated by tall wooden fences. But the homes are so tightly lined up along the streets that passersby can’t see what lies behind them.

Here in Sandarna, there are no courtyards. The apartment buildings are dotted along a slope, now covered with last year’s snow-burnt grass, which will soon turn
green. The off-white buildings are set at angles that give every apartment, each with its own balcony, some sun. Narrow paths lead up to the doors. The carpet-beating racks sport cheerful rag rugs being aired, and the whole area swarms with children.

The girls stop at the grocery store, the Co-Op, where they buy dinner on credit. Almost all the customers have their purchases written up in the ledger. Aunt Märta wouldn’t approve. One of her many rules in life is “Be in debt to no one.”

Then the girls head to the school day care to pick up Erik and Ninni. Erik is a confident six-year-old who doesn’t really want to be seen with his big sister and her friend. He runs right off to play with the big boys. But three-year-old Ninni gives both girls hugs and kisses, and wants to be carried up the stairs. May picks her up, but Ninni reaches out for Stephie, who takes her from May. Halfway up, Ninni wants to change back.

“Spoiled rotten,” May mutters, lugging her little sister up the last two fights to the fourth floor.

Stephie laughs. “And who’s to blame for spoiling her?” she asks.

“I know, I know!”

Gunnel, who’s eight, comes running up the stairs after them, wanting to tell them about something that happened at school. She takes Stephie by the hand, chatting eagerly. Gunnel is constantly admiring Stephie’s black hair, dark eyes, and slight accent. She even
tries to imitate the way Stephie speaks Swedish. She always wants to be holding Stephie’s hand or sitting on her lap. Stephie is happy to let her.

But occasionally, as Gunnel sits on her lap and twirls a lock of Stephie’s long hair, Stephie’s conscience bothers her. She starts thinking about Nellie, her own younger sister who still lives on the island with her foster parents, Auntie Alma and Uncle Sigurd. Since Stephie left to attend grammar school in Göteborg, she sees Nellie only one weekend a month and on school vacations. Nellie is ten now, going on eleven, a big girl who doesn’t want to sit on anyone’s lap.

Long ago, when they left Vienna before the war, Stephie promised their parents that she would take care of Nellie.

Stephie isn’t sure she has lived up to that promise.


tephie unlocks the door with the key she and May share. Britten has one of her own, but the younger children aren’t allowed home until May and Stephie return from school, or unless their mother finishes her housekeeping job and gets home first.

There’s a yellowish card on the doormat inside. Stephie picks it up, knowing without even looking what it is.

Early last autumn, she stopped receiving letters from her parents in Vienna. For several months, neither Stephie nor Nellie heard anything from them. Stephie’s anxiety tightened uncomfortably in her stomach day after day, week after week, month after month.

In the end, a card arrived, identical to the one she’s
holding in her hand. It came from Theresienstadt, a camp in Czechoslovakia, not far from Prague. The Germans had gathered thousands of Jews there—men, women, and children from Vienna, Berlin, Hamburg, and Prague. Stephie and Nellie would be there now, too, if their parents hadn’t sent them to Sweden while there was still time.

The cards from Theresienstadt are always identical. Blank cards, like postcards but without pictures. And with very little text. Stephie has counted the words. Excluding the date and signature, there are always exactly thirty. She thinks people in the camp probably aren’t allowed to write more than thirty words. She imagines someone sitting and counting the words on thousands of those cards. No wonder it takes at least a month, sometimes even longer, for them to arrive.

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