There is a very definite Russian heart in me; that never dies. I think you're born and you live your life with it and you die with it. I'm very much an American - my books tend to be about American things, but inside there's that sort of tortured, long-suffering, aching, constantly analysing Russian soul underneath the happy American exterior.
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Good-bye, my moonsong and my breath, my white nights and golden days, my fresh water and my fire. Good-bye, and may you find a better life, find comfort again and your breathless smile, and when your beloved face lights up once more at the Western sunrise, be sure what I felt for you was not in vain. Good-bye and have faith, my Tatiana.
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Ask yourself these three questions, Tatiana Metanova, and you will know who you are. Ask: what do you believe in? What do you hope for? But most important - ask: what do you love? ... I know who I am, she thought, taking his hand and turning to the altar. I am Tatiana. And I believe in, and hope for, and love Alexander for life.
Oh, to be walking through Leningrad white night after white night, the dawn to dusk all smelting together like platinum ore, Tatiana thought, turning away to the wall, again to the wall, the wall, as ever. Alexander, my nights, my days, my every thought. You will fall away from me in just a while, won't you, and I'll be whole again, and I will go on and feel for someone else, the way everyone does. But my innocence is forever gone.
She ate it and cried. Soon, he put the melting ice cream away. "Shura, " Tatiana whispered, "darling, forget what should have been. Remember all that was." "Tatiasha, babe, " Alexander whispered, coming back to bed to be covered, "my one and only wife, forget our age, our splendid youth, forget it all and let our crazy love make us young.
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They stared at each other. Every ocean, every river, every minute they had walked together was in their gaze. He said nothing and she said nothing. She kneeled by him, her hands on him, on his chest, on his heart, on his lungs that took air in but could not move air out, on his open wound; her eyes were on him, and in their eyes was every block of uncounted, unaccounted-for time, every moment they had lived since June 22, 1941, the day war started for the Soviet Union. Her eyes were filled with everything she felt for him. Her eyes were true.
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What was she thinking?' muttered Alexander, closing his eyes and imagining his Tania. 'She was determined. It was like some kind of a personal crusade with her, ' Ina said. 'She gave the doctor a liter of blood for you-' 'Where did she get it from?' 'Herself, of course.' Ina smiled. 'Lucky for you, Major, our Nurse Metanova is a universal donor.' Of course she is, thought Alexander, keeping his eyes tightly shut. Ina continued. 'The doctor told her she couldn't give any more, and she said a liter wasn't enough, and he said, 'Yes, but you don't have more to give, ' and she said, 'I'll make more, ' and he said, 'No, ' and she said, 'Yes, ' and in four hours, she gave him another half-liter of blood.' Alexander lay on his stomach and listened intently while Ina wrapped fresh gauze on his wound. He was barely breathing. 'The doctor told her, 'Tania, you're wasting your time. Look at his burn. It's going to get infected.' There wasn't enough penicillin to give to you, especially since your blood count was so low.' Alexander heard Ina chuckle in disbelief. 'So I'm making my rounds late that night, and who do I find next to your bed? Tatiana. She's sitting with a syringe in her arm, hooked up to a catheter, and I watch her, and I swear to God, you won't believe it when I tell you, Major, but I see that the catheter is attached to the entry drip in your IV.' Ina's eyes bulged. 'I watch her draining blood from the radial artery in her arm into your IV. I ran in and said, 'Are you crazy? Are you out of your mind? You're siphoning blood from yourself into him?' She said to me in her calm, I-won't-stand-for-any-argument voice, 'Ina, if I don't, he will die.' I yelled at her. I said, 'There are thirty soldiers in the critical wing who need sutures and bandages and their wounds cleaned. Why don't you take care of them and let God take care of the dead?' And she said, 'He's not dead. He is still alive, and while he is alive, he is mine.' Can you believe it, Major? But that's what she said. 'Oh, for God's sake, ' I said to her. 'Fine, die yourself. I don't care.' But the next morning I went to complain to Dr. Sayers that she wasn't following procedure, told him what she had done, and he ran to yell at her.' Ina lowered her voice to a sibilant, incredulous whisper. 'We found her unconscious on the floor by your bed. She was in a dead faint, but you had taken a turn for the better. All your vital signs were up. And Tatiana got up from the floor, white as death itself, and said to the doctor coldly, 'Maybe now you can give him the penicillin he needs?' I could see the doctor was stunned. But he did. Gave you penicillin and more plasma and extra morphine. Then he operated on you, to get bits of the shell fragment out of you, and saved your kidney. And stitched you. And all that time she never left his side, or yours. He told her your bandages needed to be changed every three hours to help with drainage, to prevent infection. We had only two nurses in the terminal wing, me and her. I had to take care of all the other patients, while all she did was take care of you. For fifteen days and nights she unwrapped you and cleaned you and changed your dressings. Every three hours. She was a ghost by the end. But you made it. That's when we moved you to critical care. I said to her, 'Tania, this man ought to marry you for what you did for him, ' and she said, 'You think so?' ' Ina tutted again. Paused. 'Are you all right, Major? Why are you crying?
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Though outwardly Kristina maintained that a clean room was a symptom of a diseased mind (for how could she, while studying the world's greatest thinkers, be bothered with such mundane earthly issues as cleaning?), inwardly she hated untidyness and made a point of spending as little time in the room as possible.
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Alexander moved her off him, laid her down, was over her, was pressed into her, crushing her. Anthony was right there, he didn't care, he was trying to inhale her, trying to absorb her into himself. "All this time you were stepping out in front of me, Tatiana, " he said. "Now I finally understand. You hid me on Bethel Island for eight months. For two years you hid me and deceived me - to save me. I am such an idiot, " he whispered. "Wretch or not, ravaged or not, in a carapace or not, there you still were, stepping out for me, showing the mute mangled stranger your brave and indifferent face." Her eyes closed, her arms tightened around his neck. "That stranger is my life, " she whispered. They crawled away from Anthony, from their only bed, onto a blanket on the floor, barricading themselves behind the table and chairs. "You left our boy to go find me, and this is what you found... " Alexander whispered, on top of her, pushing inside her, searching for peace. Crying out underneath him, Tatiana clutched his shoulders. "This is what you brought back from Sachsenhausen." his movement was tense, deep, needful. Oh God. Now there was comfort. "You thought you were bringing back him, but Tania, you brought back me." "Shura... you'll have to do... " Her fingers were clamped into his scars. "In you, " said Alexander, lowering his lips to her parted mouth and cleaving their flesh, "are the answers to all things." All the rivers flowed into the sea and still the sea was not full.
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Each day brought just another minute of the things they could not leave behind. Jane Barrington sitting on the train coming back to Leningrad from Moscow, holding on to her son, knowing she had failed him, crying for Alexander, wanting another drink, and Harold, in his prison cell, crying for Alexander, and Yuri Stepanov on his stomach in the mud in Finland, crying for Alexander, and Dasha in the truck, on the Ladoga ice, crying for Alexander, and Tatiana on her knees in the Finland marsh, screaming for Alexander, and Anthony, alone with his nightmares, crying for his father.
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Do you see the Field of Mars, where I walked next to my bride in her white wedding dress, with red sandals in her hands, when we were kids?" "I see it well." "We spent all our days afraid it was too good to be true, Tatiana," said Alexander. "We were always afraid all we had was a borrowed five minutes from now." Her hands went on his face. "That's all any of us ever has, my love," she said. "And it all flies by." "Yes," he said, looking at her, at the desert, covered coral and yellow with golden eye and globe mallow. "But what a five minutes it's been.
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He stared at her fists and at her face and said with upset incredulity, "You promised me you would forgive me-" "Forgive you,"Tatiana hissed through her teeth, tears streaming down her face, "for your brave and indifferent face, Alexander!" She groaned in pain. "Not for your brave and indifferent heart.
A bus came. The soldier turned away from her and walked toward it. Tatiana watched him. Even his walk was from another world; the step was too sure, the stride too long, yet somehow it all seemed right, looked right, felt right. It was like stumbling on a book you thought you had lost. Ah, yes, there it is.
Oh,to be walking through Leningrad white night after white night, the dawn to dusk all smelting together like platinum ore, Tatiana thought, turning away to the wall, again to the wall, the wall, as ever. Alexander, my nights, my days, my every thought. You will fall away from me in just a while, won't you, and I'll be whole again, and I will go on and feel for someone else, the way everyone does. But my innocence is forever gone.
The sunshine filtered in through the billowing white curtains. Tatiana knew there would be only an instant, a brief flicker of time that bathed her with the possibilities of the day. In a moment it would all be gone. And in a moment it was. Still...that sun streaking through the room, the distant rumble of buses through the open window, the slight wind. This was the part of Sunday that Tatiana loved most: the beginning.
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Tatiana...you and I had only one moment..." said Alexander. "A single moment in time, in your time and mine...one instant, when another life could have still been possible." He kissed her lips. "Do you know what I'm talking about?" When Tatiana looked up from her ice cream, she saw a soldier staring at her from across the street. "I know that moment," whispered Tatiana.
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I'm going to die with Alexander's hand on my face, Tatiana thought. That is not a bad way to die. I cannot move. I can't get up. Just can't. She closed her eyes and felt herself drifting. Through the haze in front of her she heard Alexander's voice. "Tatiana, I love you. Do you hear me? I love you like I've never loved anyone in my whole life. Now, get up. For me, Tatia. For me, please get up and go take care of your sister. Go on. And I'll take care of you.
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Alexander, you broke my heart. But for carrying me on your back, for pulling my dying sled, for giving me your last bread, for the body you destroyed for me, for the son you have given me, for the twenty-nine days we lived like Red Birds of Paradise, for all our Naples sands and Napa wines, for all the days you have been my first and last breath, for Orbeli- I will forgive you.
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Here I am, your one man circus freak show, having bled out for mother Russia, having desperately tried to get to you, now on top of you with this scourge marks, and you, who used to love me, who was sympathized, internalized, normalized everything, you are not allowed to turn away from me....this is what I am going to look like until the day I die. I can't get any peace from you ever unless you find away to make peace with this. Make peace with me. Or let me go for good.
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Where was he, her Alexander, of once? Was he truly gone? The Alexander of the Summer Garden, of their first Lazarevo days, of the hat in his hands, white toothed, peaceful, laughing, languid, stunning Alexander, had he been left far behind? Well, Tatiana supposed that was only right. For Alexander believed his Tatiana of once was gone, too. The swimming child Tatiana of the Luga, of the Neva, of the River Kama. Perhaps on the surface they were still in their twenties, but their hearts were old.
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Up on the roof Tatiana thought about the evening minute, the minute she used to walk out the factory doors, turn her head to the left even before her body turned, and look for his face. The evening minute as she hurried down the street, her happiness curling her mouth upward to the white sky, the red wings speeding her to him, to look up at him and smile.
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