The big iron gate started rumbling as they stood in front of it. Daniel had his head in his neck, gaping up at the seemingly endless iron bars. He was holding his mother’s hand, even though he felt a little too old for that. But the sight of the gate had scared him, and he had grabbed her manicured hand anyway. Her fingers were almost as long as those iron bars but much thinner. The cold metal of her rings was burning into his flesh, as she tensed her hand. A tall, uniformed man was approaching them. Daniel squeezed his mother’s hand with reassurance. He was here to protect her. She looked down at him with a sadness in her eyes that tug at his heart.

“Who are you here to see?”, the guard asked with an unfamiliar dialect. Daniel looked down, not wanting to appear in any way inappropriate. “To see my husband”, Daniel’s mother said with a tremble in her voice. “And his name?”, the guard enquired more gently with a slight chuckle. Daniel looked up at him now and saw the kindness in his eyes. But he also saw something else. A longing for something. Daniel looked at his mother and caught her batting her eyelashes, certainly for the benefit of the guard. “Richard Tauber. His name is Richard Tauber.”, the mother said, now with a repulsive sweetness in her tone.

“Well, come in through here and we will get you on the visitor’s list”, the guard said, smiling broadly at the mother now and gesturing for them to follow. Daniel hesitated and his mother let go of his hand to step forward, into the prison grounds. He looked down at his now empty hand, wondering if he should follow her. Already halfway to the main building his mother finally turned around and saw him still standing by the gate. “Hurry up, Daniel. Visitation time is almost over.” So, he stepped over the final threshold and the prison grounds welcomed him with a muddy splash which landed on his shoes. “Daniel, come on.”, he heard his mother’s impatient voice. With a shudder down his spine, he followed her into the building.

In the waiting room, Daniel looked around to assess the other families visiting their own disgraced blood-relations. He saw children around his own age, with a blank look on their faces. Was it mirrored on his own? His mother stood, leaning against the wall. She didn’t want to sit down, whether she found it too dirty or whether she didn’t want to settle in too much, he didn’t know. When a female guard appeared to call their name, she winced, as if she had hoped they had forgotten about their visit. “Follow me”, the guard said gruffly, and Daniel got up to follow the woman. He gestured to his mother to come along. It did not feel right that he was leading the way through the prison into the visitation room. He wondered what his mother was feeling. The room where his father would be in, waiting for them, had a big red door. It looked like a door that rarely opened. Helplessly, he regarded the female guard, who had stopped in front of the door. “You may go in now”, she murmured in a monotone voice. Daniel looked back at his mother, and she nodded encouragingly but her eyes seemed devoid of any emotion. Icy blue, nothing else. Daniel reached for the massive black door handle and pushed. The red door flew open. It was surprisingly light weight. Daniel saw his father sit at the only table in the room, his head in his hands. When the door came to a halt, his glance shot up and landed on Daniel.

“My son”, his father exclaimed, immense relief in his voice. “There you are.” Daniel smiled at him and rushed to his side. “Here we are, Papa”, he cried, and tears started rolling down his face. “No touching”, said a bored voice from the corner of the room. Daniel stopped himself from throwing his arms around his father’s neck. “Oh son, don’t cry, my love. We’re together now. Tell me about you, tell me about school. How is everything going?” Daniel wiped his eyes and realised he hadn’t heard his mother come in or greet Papa. He turned, only to see her perched on the threshold. She seemed unsure whether she would enter the room or turn around and leave. “Mama, come in, say hello to Papa.”, Daniel urged her softly, but she didn’t even look at him. Her eyes were fixed on her husband. Daniel thought she might start crying as well. Instead, her face betrayed her anger. “Mama?”, he said again, this time more a question than a demand. But she wouldn’t move, her body was as rigid as a marble statue.

“Marianne, won’t you come in?”, his father’s soft voice travelled across the room. Her name from his mouth seemed to shake her out of her stupor. “No, Richard, I am only here for one reason.” Father nodded his head solemnly. “I know, Marianne, but can we do this without Daniel in the room?” She shook her head and Daniel knew something life-altering was happening right that moment. “Mama what’s wrong?” he asked, surprised how small his voice sounded. “I am leaving your father. And I’m not taking you with me Daniel. I met someone else who wants to marry me. He wants to start fresh with me.”

Fresh. That word would stay with Daniel his whole life. What was he then? Stale?

“Are you insane?”, Richard said. “Where will he go? He has no-one but you.” Daniel realised his father was talking about him. Where would he go? With a sober expression his mother looked at him. Directly at him and said: “You don’t want to come with me, do you? If you could, you would be in here with him.” Daniel had no idea what to say to that. “Marianne, I beg you, don’t do this. I have five years in here, it’s not that much. Leave us after that.” She scoffed and took a step back. She was leaving already. Daniel felt his throat close up, it got harder to breathe. “Darling, you can’t leave our son all by himself. Come on, that’s crazy. Where would he go?” “Well, you should have thought of that before you did this, shouldn’t you?”, she said condescendingly. Then her face changed, a cunning flicker went across it. “Richard, if you sign the divorce papers today, I will promise you to keep Daniel, until you get out.”

His breath became more hectic, his throat hurt at this point, his knees gave way. As his parents argued loudly, Daniel collapsed on the floor. The last thing he saw was his mother walking away from him and the red door closing slowly.