by Rae Cod
He knelt before her and took her liver-spotted hands in his, as gently as if he was collecting an injured bird. His eyes hadn’t changed since he was a baby, but what a strong young man he’d become. It wasn’t fair he had to carry this on his shoulders, but she could ease his burden.
‘Nonna, we have to go now, I’m sorry.’
She looked at him gently, but her voice was firm as she spoke.
‘I am staying here Nicolai.’
‘I am Katrina Van de Vars,’ she interrupted him, ’our family have lived here for five hundred years, five hundred years Nicolai. I know that doesn’t mean much to you now, but it will one day. It will. I am not made for change any longer. I will stay. If there is a way to salvage our lives here, I will find it and be here when you return.’
They both knew this last was a platitude, even if she could find a way to survive, her life would be spent before he could ever make it back.
Tears filled his eyes now, and she was touched by the depth of emotion this sweet boy held for her.
‘Home isn’t a place Nonna, it’s here,’ he placed a hand on his heart, ‘as long as we’re together we are home.’
‘That is true for you Nicolai, it has to be because you have your whole life to live with your beautiful wife, and your beautiful children. But I belong to a different time. My life is here, in this town, in these four walls where your mother and her brothers grew up, in this chair, which your Grandfather made for me with his own two hands. I am this place, and this place is me.’
He bowed his head in defeat and it hurt her heart that she was the one to inflict such pain upon him, but it was necessary. The new world was not for her. His tears fell onto their clasped hands as Katrina made gentle soothing noises.
‘All I ask Nicolai is that you remember me, remember this place, which is as much of us as we are of it. Tell your children about the earth, not just its end, but its life, tell them of its bounty and its beauty, craft stories from its magic, and bring it alive for them in their minds so that they may hold it in their hearts. Can you do that for me?’
He nodded, and with one final fierce embrace, he was gone.
Katrina rearranged her blanket over her knees and listened to the howling of the wind outside, as debris from the latest super-storm battered her window. She looked around the room, its simplistic comfort her haven from all that had been and all that was yet to come. Her eyes fell on the photos of her wonderful family, proudly displayed on the mahogany dresser which had belonged to her great-great-great-grandmother. She had outlived so many of the faces smiling back at her, which is not, she reflected, the natural order of things. So very little was natural these days. Here is where she would wait it out.
And if you can’t wait it out? asked a small, terrified voice, floating across the surface of her mind.
Well then, she replied, and her reply which came from the deepest part of her, the part fed by so many years of a life that, for all its struggles, remained full to the brim with love, was wrapped in such trust and comfort that it soothed that small voice instantly, then I shall see my beloved husband and children again.