THE COLDEST DAYS OF WINTER WERE ABOUT TO END and a hint of early spring flowers peeped their heads above ground. It had been over eight months since the duel and the social gossip had all but diminished. A pending marriage was the current tittle-tattle.
Roman had returned to St. Petersburg and received his captainship. He trotted Ivan past his company of stalwart soldiers standing at attention. The bars across his shoulders held as heavy a weight as his responsibilities. Through rigorous military exercise, Roman had gained most of his strength. However, he still suffered from a lack of breath now and then.
Uri pulled his horse alongside Roman as the two headed for the stables. “I want to again thank you for asking me to stand beside you at the altar,” Uri said.
“If not you—then whom?” Roman winked.
“I hope the political upheaval settles down long enough to give you both time to settle into marriage before you must travel.”
“Angry Japanese voices carry across Siberia. I fear another war is imminent,” Roman said. “That and the strife at home with the newly formed labor party in Minsk. These are turbulent times my friend.”
“MOTHER, I NEED TO YOU TO BE HAPPY FOR ME,” Kira said.
“Your father says I must relent now that your fiancé…” she cried into her handkerchief, “has been promoted.” She dabbed her eyes then blew her nose. “It seems your man is in good standing with the Tsar, something about his grandfather saving the Tsar’s grandfather. I don’t know it’s all too much for me.”
“You see, everything is set to right.” Kira twirled around the room. “I am getting married next month. Oh Mamma, I am so happy. Everything is too wonderful.” She ran over to her mother and grasped both of her hands. “I want everyone to be as happy as I am.”
“I’ll do my best, dear.”
The bedroom door opened and the Countess entered. “Oh Auntie,” Kira rushed to her side, “please talk to Mamma.”
“Sister, this is a time for celebration not tears.” The Countess pulled the servant’s rope. Moments later, a maid entered. “Vodka,” she said. “Bring us vodka.”