Welcome back to Sweet Saturday Samples! This week’s excerpt is from Chapter 19, “Tatyana’s Sweet Sixteen,” of my current WIP Journey Through a Dark Forest. It’s set on 23 January 1935, and ends Part I. After all the other guests at Tatyana’s party have gone home, her lifelong best friend Nikolay asks her parents (his godparents) for permission to start dating her, and they approve. But Tatyana isn’t expecting what comes next.
“I’d like to go outside with you quickly,” he whispers. “Just quickly. I don’t want you to get too cold or get in trouble for going outside with me without your parents’ permission or knowledge.”
Tatyana slips on her winter wraps and goes out through the garage with Nikoláy. Once outside, they lean against the wall of the garage and look up at the stars twinkling in the clear night sky.
“I remember looking up at the stars in the night sky after Dyadya Pétya smuggled me into Estonia. All I could think about was how much I wanted my parents, and how upset I was with my mother for not coming with me. Tyotya Kat held me up at a window and showed me the stars. I was only three, so I don’t remember what exactly she said to me, but she probably said something about how my parents were looking up at the same stars across the border, and missing me very much. Of course, now I realize that my mother sent me over the border ahead of them because she loved me so much and wanted me to be safe. If she were going to die waiting for my father to get out of prison, at least she would die knowing I was safe and would soon go to America with some of her friends.”
“Sometimes I wonder why my mother didn’t send me over the border alone as well. It was so dangerous at that point, she told me, and my parents and I very narrowly escaped becoming corpses. But I’m glad we all got out of there in the nick of time.” Tatyana squeezes his hand. “Look, a shooting star. Close your eyes and make a wish.”
Tatyana shuts her eyes and begins to wish that things will stay as perfect and lovely as they are now. She’s startled out of her train of thought when she feels Nikoláy’s mouth brushing against hers. Her heart flutters during the all-too-brief moment. So this is what that mysterious adult sensation feels like.
“That was the surprise last present I promised you,” Nikoláy says nervously. “I hope I didn’t scare or offend you.”
She shakes her head, a smile on her face.
“So you wouldn’t mind if I did that again sometime?”
“You’re my real boyfriend now. You’re supposed to do that.”
“Oh, good. I was afraid you’d be offended since I didn’t ask or warn you.” He opens the door back into the garage. “You should probably get back inside before your parents realize you went out.”
Tatyana steps back into the garage. “I’ll dream about you tonight.”
“I hope I dream about you too. Happy birthday again.”
Tatyana closes the door softly, slips off her boots, and tiptoes upstairs. After she hangs her coat up in her closet and stuffs her gloves in a pocket, she flops onto her bed and fondles the garnets of her new necklace, smiling as she remembers how Nikoláy just kissed her under the stars. Then she looks over at her old ragdoll Kíra and contemplates whether a sixteen-year-old girl with a boyfriend should still be sleeping with a doll, even if she’s not going around telling everyone at school about it. Her father bought her that doll when she was a newborn, but now she’s wearing a necklace bought for her by her sweetheart. She figures she can’t have both and still move forward into the womanhood she wants so much. Only two years ago, she was horrified to find out how babies are made, but now she’s curious about what it would feel like to kiss Nikoláy again, and to do a little more. So long as she doesn’t end up an unwed mother like her mother did twice, and so long as she doesn’t move past kissing for a long time.
Tatyana reluctantly puts Kíra in the closet, on the lap of the large teddybear Borís bought her, which she put in the closet some time ago. She’s going to miss holding her old doll every night for comfort, but everything must come to an end eventually. And sometimes, one ending starts another beginning.