By Sally Madison
The soldier had shaken the bars so hard that the horses lifted their heads at being disturbed and gave a faint puff from their nostrils. Kolya had covered their heads and they soon were soothed back to sleep. Kolya grabbed his chest and sank to the ground, his eyes winced, his jaw clenched in pain. The ancient man could take no more strain. Kolya whispered to Alexandria, “I have often wondered why the Lord has kept me alive all these years, when all of my people have gone: my wife, your grandfather, all of the others that I knew. Only you three ladies are left to comfort me in my old age, but now I know. When I was a young boy – a rom, to my adopted gypsy family – I swore to myself that I would get even with the Turk savages who destroyed my village and killed my family. I have reached an epiphany. My life’s work is complete. I have avenged my family and helped save my daughter, Alma, and you ladies from those savages. My life is complete.”
Alexandria wrapped her arms around Kolya, rocking him slowly and soothingly, as tears welled in her eyes. “What price do we pay for our deception?” she thought, as she began remembering her childhood, and this man who had been such a large part of her life. Now, this man, who had sacrificed his eternal salvation, by committing a great sin to save their lives, appeared to be dying in her arms. She wanted to scream; she wanted to cry; she wanted control, but she could only hold this man who had been her friend and protector all of her life.
Alma held her father’s hand. Fear and hope alternated on her face, as she denied reality. Natalia dipped the hem of her apron in the jug of water, and gently swabbed Kolya’s wrinkled face. All attention to the sounds of the soldiers upstairs was dismissed, as the true drama of life unfolded before their eyes.
In flashbacks of his childhood he remembered his family’s Orthodox Church, Kolya whispered, “Forgive me Father, as you forgave the thief on the cross at Jesus’ side. I have sinned, but now I repent. Lead, and I follow,” as he tried to crossed himself, right to left. He continued, “Hail Mary, Mother of God…” Alexandria began working her fingers over her chain of beads. Barely breathing, she whispered, “Hail Mary, Full of Grace….” letting her own faith take over the final moments.
With eyes closed, Kolya allowed God into his being to prepare him to go home. In his mind’s eye he could see his wife, mother, father, siblings, gypsy friends and his best friend, Alexandria’s grandfather. Kolya smiled, this was his time. Peace had overcome him.