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Faith and Fate

Author's note: Every detail of this story is a piece of my soul. I got the inspiration from various aspects...  Show full author's note »
Author's note:

Every detail of this story is a piece of my soul. I got the inspiration from various aspects of my life: from movies to people I talk to but mostly it was the story of my mother. My mother had to immigrate from a young age and many emotions are involved with this concept. I also wanted to bring to the spotlight another valuable theme that is innocence. After reading To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee, this topic became very important to me. This topic is hidden in everything from political conflicts to law to personal times. I hope that when someome reads this story, they can realize something new as well.

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     We take a ship to Poland where we hop on a train to Belarus. From there, we take a tram to my Grandmother’s neighborhood. My sapphire eyes rest on the streets of my childhood; the streets where a little girl and her friends trudged to school in the wintry scenery and where she would stroll with her papa as he would tell her of his life experience. My mind floods with clear and vague images as my tear ducts flood with clear and vague emotion. I dab my face with my thumb.
     The door opens to Grandmother in a wheel chair, grinning from ear to ear. “Rosa! Sofia! My girls are here!” We enter and greet each other with hugs and kisses to make the whole world kinder. I feel her wool sweater, smelling her sweet body spray that I now remember she would always wear at special events.  We carry our luggage in, exhausted after taking multiple forms of transportation. I take a second to examine the apartment: no more toys lying around for the grandkids’ visit, carpets and pictures of family are on almost every wall, and the room has a frigid temperature that makes my skin crack. I imagine that little girl again as I turn towards the kitchen; she’s furtively trying to taste the forbidden batter while her Grandmother’s turned around, and here, in this living room her Grandpa reads her fairytales as she lays on his lap, hoping and dreaming that her life be like every golden-rimmed page in those books.
     “Come on in. The couch can be unfolded for you to sleep on and every morning you’ll have a view of the pine tree we’ll be putting up for New Year’s soon.” She wheels around, guiding us. “I want to thank-you so much for coming.” She clasps her bony fingers together, veins like rivers emerging. 
    “Mama, you don’t need to thank me at all. I came immediately. How have you been dealing with this? Are you taking your medicine?”
      “It’s been tricky, but I’ve learned to handle it. I’ve been through a lot. And yes, I take medicine once a day.” Mama checks the medicine bottles lying on the coffee table, rubs her hands together complaining about the cold, and turns on the heater. 
     I wonder what Grandmother has been through when she calls “Where’s my granddaughter? Come here, my darling!” I come closer, observing every feature of her face as she observes mine. Lavender crescents hang under her bright blue irises, which are exactly like mine, and skin like thin wrinkly dough masks her youthful looks. “You’ve changed, started to look more like your papa. You’re tall like Grandfather.” Grandfather was an expressive artist- story-teller- family man with silky gray hair and black-framed glasses who I cherished. Even if he is gone, the impression I have of him will always be with me. As we reunite and rekindle, Grandmother tells me I’m beautiful.
     “Thank-you, I missed you.” She takes me in her arms again and I get fulfilled of that Grandmother’s affection I was sorely deprived of for five years.

     The proud sun starts to go into hiding when I decide to knock on old friends’ doors, if I can find my way around. Each tongue speaks of different news. I save my best friend Masha for last because then I will have more time with her. She was the oldest of the Three Musketeers which we called me, Alex, and her. Back in the days of the classroom, Masha was the child who the teacher asked to raise her voice multiple times, she was the one who was picked last for the team, and she was the one who everybody whispered rumors about. On a spring afternoon, she was sitting under a birch tree at recess and I had the guts to come over to her. I smiled that old baby-toothed smile at her and after a few tries, I got her to do so back. I soon introduced her to Alex. Since that day, our imaginations grew together as did we. Masha treasured us like diamonds. If anyone hurt us- even in the slightest bit- she would step up. Sometimes, she would take it too far with her threats and end up sitting in the principal’s office chair. She became known as the tough girl and no one wanted her on their team for a different reason-fear. We didn’t care and would meet at the yard between our buildings everyday afterschool instead. One day, she didn’t show up. We came to her house and found her in tears in her room. She looked up at us and pretended noting was wrong. We sat around her, gulping nervously because we have never her cry before, and soon found out that her father had died. She told us: “I will not use my father’s death as an excuse for pity for myself.” I scoffed at her, handed her the tissue box, and told her it was okay to use it. We spent the rest of that afternoon together and from then on, she felt brave enough to cry when she was around us.
     At last my knuckles beat against her door. I hear locks opening and to my surprise see a man- respectfully way too young to be her father, old enough to be her twin but he’s a jet black brunette, not a caramel like the siblings. “May I help you?” He asks. I look behind him but that doesn’t give me anything. I observe him: his head is almost touching the door frame and his muscles bulge out from his clothing. That doesn’t give me anything either. “My name is Sofia Brodsky, an old friend of Maria Fedorovna’s, and I was wondering if she still lives here.”
     “She’s here. Please, come in. My name is Maksim.” He introduces deeply.
     “Nice to meet you, young sir.”
I humbly enter as he shuts the door behind me and goes to get her. I look around cautiously. I see pictures of her in a frame from when she was younger, her family, and her and Maksim – and I am not suspicious anymore. The nostalgia powers up my brain, which rotates like a ride. We would play wooden dolls on this very hardwood floor, the smell of a bookstore takes up the room, and the wind pounding against the windows is when her mother knew it was time to make tea that we would try to catch the steam from. I hear quick footsteps.
     “Sofia?” I hear someone say as spin around and nod rapidly. “It’s you!” I see a tall lady with short bouncy coils, peach skin, and a coffee dress bordering her hourglass figure. We squeal so loud that Maksim checks to make sure we’re alright. My chin rests on her shoulder as we are having a hard time believing this is real. 
     “So what have you been up to?” I ask, our forks clanging against the plates in the kitchen.
“I’m a community theater actress, Michael- remember my brother? - moved out as well as my parents so now I share the apartment with Maksim, and I got engaged.”
     She kisses her fiancé tenderly like a grown up and he beams, staring at her dreamily. I guess Masha isn’t that teenage girl anymore who I whispered in the yard with, fancying about first love. She’s different now and it says so on her thin lips.
     “Getting ready for the holidays soon?” I ask after looking at Masha’s work-filled calendar on her refrigerator.
     “Yes. But ever since the revolution in 1917, Christmas has been banned. Our family and many others… started secretly going to a priest’s house. He’s a close family friend. We are not allowed to go to a Church.” She whispers as if someone might be spying. 
     “Your holiday is banned? How immoral. That priest is very generous, though. ”
     “Very, he would never let us be confiscated of our faith, ever. Many important moments of our lives took place in his hands or on the Church steps. Well, the season is still magical. New Year’s will be fun. All night you will hear the kid’s joyful cheers as they are sledding down that hill at the neighborhood park across the street.” She points towards the window. “You’ll be tempted to eat the delicious edible ornaments on the tree and it’s so much fun when everybody counts down at once. It’s simply wonderful. You like it don’t you?”
     “Yes I do. Perhaps you want to come over on New Year’s?” I offer as she enthusiastically agrees.
     “Remember how everyone used to come over to your place, Sofia?” I take a forkful of food and ask her if she has been keeping in touch with Alex. I inform Maksim about our old friend.
     “My cousin from New York sent me a letter telling me all about his new wonderful employee Alexander Gregoriovich. He’s from our city. It’s him, right?” Maksim asks. I nod and think of that boy who crossed the street.
     “Small world, eh?”
     “Very.”
     “But we had such a great time growing up, right?” Masha cuts in as I nod. “Just think: through all the wars and conflicts, our days were filled with laughter, petty arguments that faded away after a minute,” she chuckles, “and wild imaginations.”

     The playful shrieking of the town’s youth occupies the school’s territory and gets louder and louder as Masha and I approach the playground. Albeit keeping my notion that I’m never too young to step foot on a playground, especially under the influence of a younger sister, I’m not here to play. Masha and I scan for our teacher that was with us for many years who is supposed to be on guard now. “I adore children.” Masha lets me know.
     “So do I.”  She opens her mouth to respond but changes her mind. Finally, she points to a woman with salt-pepper hair, adjusting her round glasses. We come over to her, anxiety twisting our insides. The woman’s eyes almost pop out when she recognizes us. We hug. My best friend passes her the bouquet of yellow and white that’s out of season and we searched for everywhere.
     “I can’t believe it; two of my best students are here! Thank-you for reminding me why I love to teach!”
     “Thank-you for teaching us, Katerina Smirnoff,” I say.
     “Now, Masha, I know you stayed but, Sofia, you went moved to New York. How is it?”
     “It’s great. The men who had come back from the war have this yearning to explore, like Masha’s brother here. The woman who filled in for their jobs now realize how much they are capable of.” I smack my lips in delight.
     “We women don’t have much experience in that world. Let the men handle it, we are better off in the kitchen.” I now look at one of the most beloved adults of my childhood a different angle now. My fingers begin to tremble and I want to let out what’s boiling inside of me but turn down the heat. “Well, I think that women can get some experience in this world. If men can have it all, why can’t we? Aren’t we all human?” I ask rhetorically.
     “Hmm…” she makes a poker face and smiles at me, as if she knew what my response was going to be. “You have a point. You are quite the activist, Sofia.” An activist: that’s the word that can be used to explain to the questioning world what I want to be. She will be my teacher for life. We converse until recess is over. Strolling home, I tell Masha about this new muscle I feel after sticking up for myself, like a true activist (I love the sound of that word!). We come to a screeching halt when we see a tiny body in brown ragged garment, shivering on a bench. Masha’s expression would make me question everything I thought of her defensive nature if we were nine years old again and sitting on her bed with tissues. Yet, it seems as if she’s seen this before. “Let’s help. Come on.” She leads me to him. I stumble, coming up with fearful excuses like “how?”
     “I don’t know, but I know we will regret not trying. Don’t be afraid, Muscles.” My heart sinks down to my stomach in worry as we come closer and the little, skinny, dirt-covered face looks up at us. The boy sits up from lying down but Masha kneels down before him. “Little boy, why are you here alone?” He observes us before answering. He gets up and jogs away.
     “Wait, we want to help you.” I call as he stops and turns around.
     “I ran away from the orphanage. Nobody wants me, none of the parents. Do you have food?” He raises his blonde eyebrows in hope.
     “Not with us, but at the orphanage does.  You should go back, it’s better than being out here in the cold. Come on, we will walk you.” She pulls out her hand and he hesitantly grabs it.
     He walks with us. I introduce ourselves and ask him his name. “Artur.” He answers in a hoarse voice.
     “What a beautiful name. Tell me, is there a reason you chose this bench?” She asks with honey sweetness.
     “This used to be my school. I wanted to see my friends. They still have parents.” He wipes his nose with is dirty coat sleeve as Masha offers him a napkin. He is doused with gratuity and amazement at her maternal, not just polite care. “I saw them.” He trumpets.
      “How old are you?” I ask.
     “Almost six.”  The, she asks him what orphanage he is from and he points to somewhere in the distance and says number twelve.
     “Alright, we will go there.” She searches her purse. “Go feed the birds, okay?” She pours some bird crumbs into his palm. While he is summoning birds, she tells me: “When you left, Sofia, Russia was in chaos. The Great War ended and the revolution was on its second year. Millions of homeless children roamed the streets, desperate for food and shelter. We call them the besprizorniki- the name for the neglected ones. The government looked at this and started to build child welfare institutions-emergency shelters, orphanages, and special boarding schools.” She exhales disappointedly. “Don’t worry, we are improving. No more war-communism.”
     “Why don’t the little ones go to these places? Why do they stay outside?”
     “Who knows? I heard they go to back when night falls but during the day, they beg for money. I’m not sure.”
     “What do we do?”
     “Pray and donate. Maksim and I were thinking about adoption, but I’m afraid.”
     “So now you’re afraid? Of what exactly?”
     “That the child won’t feel mine.”
     “Family doesn’t have to be by blood, Masha. If you fall in love with someone and they love you back, that’s family.” The cold chill makes me put my hood on. I see Artur scattering food to the innocent, underappreciated pigeons. “Can you believe it, Masha, it feels like just yesterday we were kids and now you are talking about having kids?” I can’t help but feel taller.
     “It’s something.” She holds out her hand for him to grab as he does so, skipping to her. She puts his hand in her pocket to warm it and stares at the boy.
     “Are you going to be my mother?” He looks up at her as we exchange glances. She takes a while to answer.
     “No, I’m so sorry.” The words struggle to crawl out of her throat as sad silence descends upon us. Still, he doesn’t let go of her.
     Finally, we arrive at the orphanage. The kids begin to chit-chat about us and straighten out their spines in case one of us is a potential mother. A round mistress with a bob haircut comes to greet us as all the other kids scurry away. She starts scolding the boy, as if to show that they have discipline here. He stares at the wooden floor. “He was just upset that parents rejected him.” Masha stands behind him.
      “If he keeps running away, no parents will ever want him and no parents ever do.” She yells angrily, yanks him by the collar and takes him away as his head is down. As I see his profile, I can see he is confused whether to look at Masha or not. Masha runs towards the exit as I try to catch up. She presses her head against the glass door.
“What’s wrong? We did a good thing, Masha.” She doesn’t respond and I try a few more times, just like to that little girl sitting under the birch tree. The security barks at us to go outside and we do so. I continue to try to get to her outside. “He’s in a good home,” I tell her.
“Pfft, a good home. Every time an adult comes in, those kids think that they’ll be greeted with open arms. I know how it feels to grow up without knowing you can always have a shoulder to cry on…” I embrace her tightly as she does so back.  I try to tell her something but she bursts out all of a sudden like a singer with no need for a microphone. “Did you see how she was yelling at him? At that boy? At my…” She steps back and looks at the orphanage. She darts off back to it as I shout “what’s the matter?” Before we know it, we stand before the bob-cut mistress and she looks at us questioningly.
     “I want him,” Masha says breathlessly. The teacher rushes to get him as I turn to my best friend.
     “Masha, are you sure you are making the right choice? Maksim-”
     “Maksim wanted this and we both have jobs so we will be able to support ourselves.” She says quickly.
     “But didn’t he want to have the whole experience of picking out a child? And-”
     “I feel like the child picked me. Maksim will understand.”
     “It’s just so unexpected. I think you should’ve planned it before.”
     “Maybe I should’ve consulted him but I couldn’t pass up on an opportunity of fate. I just couldn’t take it. ” She presses on her heart.
     “You just made a decision that will change your life forever. I say ‘forever’ because I know you don’t have the wickedness to give that child back. ”
     “I know. I would never give a child back in general.”
     “But are you sure you are prepared to raise that boy?”
     “Yes, I am. I fell in love with that child the moment I looked at him. It’s like he was my own.”
     “I…I guess…I’m happy this happened. I’ll help you as much as I can.”
     “Thank-you.” She turns around at hearing quick little feet dash around the corner.
     “My mamochka is here! She’s here! She came for me!” He cheers, embracing her.
     “Want to be my mine? I’ll give you a home and food to fill your belly up.”  
     “A home?” He gasps.
     “Yes, a warm home with a mama and papa that will kiss you every day.” They both begin to weep tears of joy as he makes up for and repeats every baby’s first word.
     “Mama! Mama! Mama!”

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This book has 4 comments. Post your own now!

KMG28 said...
May 22, 2016 at 5:34 pm
Thank you for commenting!
 
Suzanne said...
Apr. 20, 2016 at 9:46 pm
What a magnificent job you did writing this many chapters long love story! There was suspense, and young romance, perfect combination. Your descriptions of feelings/emotions very realistic. Congratulations! Suzanne
 
alemargo said...
Apr. 19, 2016 at 10:03 pm
very beautiful and touching story
 
ALEMARGO00 said...
Apr. 19, 2016 at 9:19 pm
GREAT STORY!
 

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