Vilya.. that familiar voice rang in my head.
Her descent to the ground seemed too slow. First, her body jolted backwards, the bullet was like a stone disturbing the ripples of water. Her eyes widened for a split second before they fell to a close as her head lolled back, the bun on hair remaining perfect as always.
Before the blood started to spill from the side of her head I ran to her side, carefully dragging her body onto the bed, allowing the blue sheets to turn purple from the steady flow of blood. My hand shook wildly, and I tried to calm my quickening breaths as I placed my Tokarev by her palm. With heavy steps I walked out the bedroom door, making my way back into the dinner hall.
6 years earlier
“Haven’t I told you not to call me that, Vilya?”
Josef chuckled and leaned down to ruffle my hair, putting the blonde-gray strands locks out of place as he pulled away, looking quite satisfied with his work. “But..that’s your real name!” I argued, pouting at the man whom towered over me, nearly blocking the sunlight.
He shook his head. “Its Josef now, understand? Now go to Nadezhda and play with your nephew. Vasily would be excited.” Continuously pouting my lips as I was dismissed, I knew that what my older brother said was not exactly true as I continued walking through the grass and to the path back to the picnic. No, Vasily was not excited- nor did Nadezhda wanted me here. The evil witch. I could not go back to Josef, it seemed that he was busy talking with the man with messy dark hair and sharp eyes. Even now from a distance, my skilful ears could catch their words.
“Yes, consider the Testament as good as negated, Zinoviev..”
“Does Kamenev know it is complete?…”
Yet, the turn of events was not enough to turn my mood foul, the staggering amount of green surrounding me was too bright, too colourful..and too happy. In the fresh wake of spring, the grass sprung out from the soil full of life, and the flowers were emerging from what little snow winter had left behind. It did not take long until I had come across the small picnic camp my sister-in-law had set on the drying grass. Her hair tied in a strict, neat bun, Nadezhda sat on the red-white checkered fabric, wiping a stain on Vasily’s shirt with a handkerchief as he stood impatiently before her.
“Starshaya Sestra!” I called out with a meagre smile, she took care of me sometimes, and it was expected I be respectful- though she was my sister-in-law. Her eyes glued to the stain on Vasily’s shirt, Nadezhda spoke plainly. “Vilya, hand me the water satchel.” Nodding I rushed over to the picnic mat and dug into the bag she carried for the satchel, opening it for her. Just as I was about to hand her the container, a sneeze stopped me in my tracks.
It was Vasily, crying out in surprise as I had managed to spill the water onto his pants. “Mama! Vilya spilled the water on me!” Seeing the pool of water forming a large, darkening damp spot on the crotch of her son’s pants, Nadezhda’s look of concentration turned to a heated glare. “Careless child! Useless…”
“I am not a child- I am also your brother-in law!” I snapped back at her, holding the partially filled satchel in my right hand. Though she was older than me, Nadezha could not change that.
“You know what you are? A criminal’s son! No one wants you, not even your mother! She does not want the child of scum.” She hissed, moving to quickly dab her handkerchief at the spot. Realising the mess on his trousers, the 4-year-old frowned at me. “Scum child.” He repeated after his mother. “Criminal son.”
Panting softly, my anger rose within my chest like a volcano ready to erupt- but tears were starting to pool at my eyes. How dare she say such a thing! Her, and her brat of a son! Before any atrocities could escape my lips, I turned away and ran from the mat, the satchel spilling water down the path and following my footsteps as I escaped from the tiny hellhole Nadezhda had made in the middle of the pleasant park.
I dashed through the tall weeds, until I spotted a group of trees growing in the middle of the fields. Approaching it, I tried to catch my breath as I collapsed into a sitting position against the biggest tree’s trunk. Still clutching the container tight in my hand, I gathered my knees together and rested my forehead on them, folding my arms together as the cluster of sobs came. I knew Nadezhda was right. I did not know my father, only having been told he was a wandering drunk that raped my mother. Out of disgust, my mother gave me away after I was born. The son of a criminal, the child of scum.
The deep voice startled me, and I immediately lifted my red, tear-stained face to see Josef standing before me. He only smiled, so wide that even his moustache smiled along with him, his eyes turning into tiny slits. The sun shone behind him, framing his face in light, the rays caressing what seemed to be forming wrinkles around his mouth. It was almost divine.
“What’s the matter? It was Nadezhda again, wasn’t it?”
I merely nodded. “She said..I was..I was a criminal’s son. The child of s-scum.” Simply uttering such words had me fighting back even more tears as I gulped.
But Josef did not stop smiling. My older brother simply held his hand out, silently encouraging me to take it. “Come.” Exhaling slowly, I reached out with my left hand and took his as he helped me stand, leading me slowly out of the trees. At that moment, I wasn’t sure what Josef was going to do, he said nothing as we kept on walking to the fields of grass.
Then, I saw it. Isolated in the middle of the plain grass, a tinier field of sunflowers, forming a large yellow circle that seemed to mirror the sun. Gasping inaudibly in amazement, I moved faster towards it, earning a chuckle from Josef as he increased his pace as well, all the while until we reached the centre of the bright, searing mass of sunlight. “Do you know what these are, Vilya?”
“Sunflowers. They grow in spring, and summer.”
“Yes, they are.” Nodding approvingly, Josef did not let my hand go, and bent down to pluck a single sunflower from the crowded stems, before offering it to me. “But that is not the only thing this is.”
Josef’s mood was contagious, and I found myself starting to smile as I took the large sunflower. “This is the future, fully grown after a sprinkle of hope.” He pointed to the petals. “Everyone is the same, all bright and powerful, knit together in a beautiful group.” He then poked the soft brown centre, running his fingertip through the tiny soft spikes. “This..is us. Holding everyone together- not as bright sometimes, but providing them with strength and energy.”
My eyes followed his every movement, studying the flawless arrangement of the yellow petals, in line with one another as it surrounded the patch of brown.
“Wow! I want to be in the centre- with you.” My tears had long dried away.
“You do? Well, that’s wonderful! I’m glad, Vilya..” A chuckle erupted from his lips as his quick arms captured me, making me cry out in surprise. “Yah!” Bursting into a fit of giggles, I held on tight, wrapping my arms around his neck for support as I looked to the star on the horizon.
“I will shine with you!”
-The Musing Mestiza, 2nd Year