She looked at Vasili and in a commanding tone said, “Of course you cannot do this.” Nadya’s guilt at Maria’s plight seemed to vanish.
Still, Vasili stood silently, staring. Nadya’s statement had caused Maria to weep louder and even more pitifully.
“You just cannot Vasili,” demanded Nady. “It is out of the question. We have only been married four months, and you think you should leave me and go back to Čirč?
Finally, Vasili returned his attention to the room. “It is the only thing I can do to make it right,” Vasili said. “I brought her to this place and I should take her home.”
“What about me?” demanded Nadya.
“What about you? What about you?” Vasili emphasized.
“My sister is dying and you are worried only about yourself!”
Maria sobbed, “Please Nadya, do not be angry with me.”
But Nadya was not moved. “How will it look if you suddenly leave me here alone, and how am I to keep this apartment?”
Vasili, his face turning red, said, “This is how it must be Nadya. Maria is my responsibility and—”
“And what,” said Nadya, “And I am nothing because she is sick.”
“Of course not,” said Vasili, calming down. “You can make the trip with us.”
“I cannot return to Čirč. I have nothing there now. My father is gone and my brothers hate me for leaving against my father’s wishes. I knew she would somehow take you away from me. I knew it!”
“You cannot be serious,” argued Vasili. “Do you think she wants to die just to take me away from you?”
“Of course not, but that is what is happening.”
Maria pleaded, “Please Nadya, I cannot make the trip alone. My brother is my only hope. I know how much he loves you and I promise to you he will return as soon as I am home with my father. I cannot die before I see him again. God will curse me for leaving.”
“Why should I trust what you say? If you die in Čirč how do I know Vasili will ever come home?”
Vasili had heard enough. “I will take her back! You do not give me orders. I have listened to you enough and you make no sense.”
Nadya got very quiet but her eyes told the story of her anger with Vasili and her building animosity towards Maria.
“This is her dying wish,” said Vasili in a softer tone. “Please Nadya, you must understand. This is also your family now.”
Nadya walked to the bedroom door, her head bowed in defeat. “I know you will do what you want Vasili,” she said quietly, “but I do not approve, and I do not give you my blessing.”
With that, she went to her bedroom and shut the door.
Vasili looked at Maria. “Do not worry, I will talk to her. She will be see things my way,” said Vasili.
Maria, coughing, choked out, “Don’t you see it yet? She hates me. And now she hates me more. There is no changing her mind.”
“She does not hate you. She is just afraid to be alone. You must understand that she has been alone for a long time, since the Old Country, when she left her father’s house and came here. She felt alone long before she left, after her mother died, when her brothers and her father made it clear they wished they had another son. She has not had someone to love her until I came along, and she is afraid she will never have it again.”
Maria, looking surprised at the length of Vasili’s speech, answered, “Yes, but I am now her enemy because she thinks I want to keep you to myself. This is not true, but it is what she thinks.”
Vasili said, “I will take you home. It is settled. Nadya will understand.”
Vasili went to the kitchen and opened the drawer where they hid their money. He took only enough to ensure he and Maria could could afford the tickets necessary and receive decent treatment along the way. Nadya was sitting in the chair. She was quietly crying.
“Nadya, I love you and I will never abandon you,” said Vasili in a pleading voice. “You must give me your blessing for this or something terrible may happen to us on the trip.”
“So you are going then,” asked Nadya as if she had not heard anything Vasili had said earlier.
“Yes, I am escorting Maria home. I will be back to you as soon as I can. She cannot make it on her own. You can see that.”
“But why must she go back at all? She could stay here. We can make her comfortable.”
Vasili let out a long sigh and said, “I know you have nothing back in Čirč to go back to. But Maria wants so badly to see Father before she dies. If she does not, she says God will curse her. Do you want her to die thinking she is cursed?”
Nadya softened her tone for the first time since Maria asked Vasili to take her home. She said, “No, that would be my sin to bear, and I could not live with it. But Vasili, so many things can happen on a voyage like this.”
“I know. But we made it here, and I will make it back again. That is my promise to you.” Vasili laid down next to Nadya, then embraced her and kissed her with a sweetness he had not shown for months.
“I have to give you my blessing, you know that. I could not forgive myself if something happened to you and I had not. I will give you my blessing, but please Vasili, please come back to me. You and I have loved each other since we were in Čirč, and the moment we met I knew we had to be together.”
“Of course,” Vasili said in the most reassuring tone he could find. He kissed here on the forehead and whispered, “Thank you.” He knew that he could not make such promises, but he needed Nadya to agree.
I will tell Maria and we will start packing. We will leave tomorrow.
Maria was happy for the first time in many weeks.
“Thank you, thank you,” she said to Vasili.
Vasili could see the spark of Maria in her eyes, and that made him happy.
“You should thank Nadya. She has given us her blessing.”
“But does she mean it?”
“I know her heart. She does.”
Nadya came into the bedroom and sat on Maria’s bed. She said, “I am going to be worried as much as I can bear, and I will be all alone. Just remember that when you get home, and make sure that Vasili returns as fast as he can.”
Maria’s smile faded as she said, “I know what this does to you, but I want you to know that I love you for allowing Vasili to take me. I do not know how you feel about me when you are alone, but I will love you forever.”
Nadya’s face softened and she replied, “I understand you need to go home to see your father. And go with God.”
Nadya and Maria both began to cry as Vasili sat down and hugged them in turn.
“We are family,” he declared. “Nothing can change that.”
He packed a case with clothes they would both need on the way. None of them slept that night.