A Wedding

THE WEDDING PRECESSION took place at the Countess’s chapel in Moscow.

Inside a plethora of lit candles emitted a sweet aroma and provided a romantic ambiance. There was little space between guests in the seventy-seat chapel. Kira’s mother was elated to have influence over Colonel Vershinin. Reports of his behavior had created several enemies due to his excesses.  

Roman stood in front of the altar with Uri by his side. The both wore full dress uniforms with dark trousers and tunic tops, an array of medals pinned across their chests.

Uri whispered through the side of his mouth. “Are your legs trembling? I can hear your knees knocking together.”

“I think running full speed into battle is less nerve racking. God, I wish this were over.” 

The music started and the men straightened their stance. Kira had chosen the Strauss waltz that had played during their first meeting. A broad grin spread across Roman’s cheeks.

Carved wooden doors that lead into the chapel opened. There in the doorway stood Kira, her father by her side. She wore an egg-shelled colored heavily embroidered laced gown. The bodice cinched tight at the waist exposed her hourglass figure. As she floated down the aisle, her train equally elaborate, stretched ten feet behind. Atop her head adorned a petite diamond tiara, attached to a sheer veil. In her arms, she caressed a dozen strands of vibrant purple orchids.

When Kira reached the altar, the white bearded priest wearing a gold robe positioned the bride and groom next to one another. He traced the sign of the cross above their heads and proceeded to bless them. Someone handed the couple lit candles then the priest commenced with a lengthy prayer. Kira shifted in her tight shoes, with thoughts of slipping out of them.  

The priest placed gold crowns on both the bride and groom’s head. Roman’s crown started to fall forward. Uri caught it with a laugh then placed it firmly on Roman’s head. Snickers in the audience caused the bride and groom to blush. 

The promises of vows were exchanged, further prayers, then the sharing of a common cup of wine. Roman took the opportunity to indulge in a large sip.

The priest joined their hands and wrapped them in his sash. Roman felt the heat from Kira palm. Their eyes locked and Roman squeezed her hand. Her gazed calmed his nerves and he felt at peace.

A final sign of the cross and blessing then the priest presented the couple. Roman leaned over to Kira and said, “My love is eternal, Kira Pavlovitch.”

“Till death us do part, my love.”

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A Pending Marriage

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.”  

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A Promise

ROMAN FELT HIS BREAKFAST RISE IN HIS THROAT as the servant escorted him into the parlor. Alexander sat on a chaise and cast a severe expression his way. Roman swallowed hard. “Sir.” He clicked his heels, bowed then returned to attention. His arm lay in a sling to prevent the stitches from splitting.

Alexander rose. “Let us step outside.”  

The plush tree lined park with its rolling green hills stretched beyond sight. The warmth of the sun and fragrant summer blooms helped to calm Roman’s nerves, although he stuttered. “I…I.” He paused, took a breath, and began again. “Sir, I’ve come to ask your permission for Kira’s hand in marriage.”

Alexander stopped walking and examined Roman. 

“I don’t hold great wealth,” Roman said, “but my military career will provide a comfortable life. My promotion to captain is certain. I will command a company and follow a family tradition of rising up the ranks.” 

Alexander rubbed his chin. “I’m not convinced you’re a good match for my daughter.” 

Roman’s shoulders collapsed. Kira had assured him that his offer was all but certain. He straightened his backbone. “My life could not be content without Kira. I promise you that she will have a good life and be loved.” 

“Love,” he grumbled. “My daughter is a high-spirited young woman. I had hoped to find a mature man who could tame that spirit and settle her down so she can take her place in society.”

“Sir, with all respect, the one thing that makes Kira most endearing is her spirit.”

Alexander shook his head. “I am not sure that constitutes a good marriage. You may find that quality unacceptable later. The things that most draw you to a person can later repel you.”

Roman wondered if Alexander referred to his own marriage.

“I believe you to be a good and honorable man,” Alexander said. “After all, I owe you my life, as well as my daughter’s.” He paused, look up to the heavens then continued, “I am reluctant, but I give you permission. However, I will hold you to your promise.” 

Roman beamed and without thought vigorously shook Alexander’s hand using his good arm. A sharp pain extended over to his injured shoulder, but it would not supersede his joy.

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The Infirmary

KIRA CRINGED AT THE SOUNDS OF moans, coughs and wheezes that filled the eight-bed ward. At the end of the room, an attendant mopped the floor with a pungent solution that stung the inside of her nose. Her maid waited several feet away while Kira sat at Roman’s bedside.

“With all these sick people, it’s a wonder anyone can regain one’s health,” Kira said. “I’m glad you’ll be discharged tomorrow.” 

Propped up with pillows, Roman rested his head against the back wall and exhaled. “Yes.” 

“How’s your wound?”

Roman tried to rotate his shoulder and winced. “The doctor said the muscle will be stiff for awhile.” He caught his breath. “But if I continue to move it, I should regain full use. He said it was pure luck the bullet didn’t shatter anything.”

“The Lord, be praised,” Kira said and crossed herself.

“Amen.” Roman replied.

“Where are Fëdor and Boris? I haven’t seen them in days.”

“Called back to to St. Petersburg.” He frowned. “I, too, must return.”

Kira wrung her hands. “I have been trying to decide the right time to tell you something.” She blushed, hesitated then said, “After the incident…” She scanned the room to see if anyone was listening then lowered her voice. “Uri told me about Mikhail’s financial situation. You know.” Roman nodded. “Auntie Masha who was also present decided to look further into his affairs. She reported to my father some rather disturbing health issues.” Kira bit her lower lip, too horrified to say the word syphilis. “Papa commenced a long discussion with Mikhail.”  She smiled.

Roman sat up in bed with a sparkle in his eyes.

“The engagement is off.”  Kira sat tall in her chair, warmth radiated throughout her chest. 

“What about your father? Won’t this weaken his ties with the Tsar?”

“Not at all, Mikhail agreed to dissolve on good terms.” She held the truth about the conditions Vershinin had placed on her family.      

Roman took Kira’s hands, raised them to his lips, and kissed one then the other. “I must speak to your father without delay.” 

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