I couldn’t save him from him, I wanted and I tried, the only way I knew: lie that he was sick, and I failed.
What more can I do? He will use him, they all will and what happens when they get enough? What happens when someone starts to question why 15 year old boy is kept here? My heart feels heavy and my mind is filled with such self loathing; I am powerless and weak.
It’s night when I step into the room bringing some food with me, he looks so fragile there, the soft burning fire from the stove illuminates his angelic face, I feel heavy all over, as if my step weiged a ton, but I approach, I try to smile but fail, just like I failed him.
I want to reach out and touch him, tell him how sorry I am, but what’s the use? What comfort could my words give?
He turns his eyes to me, his wrists bound before him, he reaches and takes out a small piece of paper, hands it closer and I take it confused, not understanding, I open the small note; revealing words that I can not understand, words that I wish I was able to read, but no matter how many times I read them through I’m none the wiser. I frown and look at him, in his eyes and he gives me a small smile as if encouraging as if… Oh how I wish we’d speak the same language, so many things I want to explain and ask, but as I look back at the note I realise that there is a way.
My heart starts to beat faster, I fold the paper and sneak it into my pocket, it could be dangerous but we might be able to communicate, for a moment we simply look in each other’s eyes, I nod my head and smile; I promise to find a way to understand you.
“I brought food,” I finally speak and like I’ve done before I begin to feed him, like before I talk to him; for now it’s the only thing I can do, I have begun to care for him and I know how dangerous that can be.
I leave him before dawn, promising to return as fast as I can. I feel anxious, checking that the note is still with me, when I find Sergei, I take a deep breath; I trust him, I want to trust him, but I know it’s still a risk, he could reveal it to everyone, but I’m prepared to take the chance, I trust him, foolish or not but I do.
“You know some Finnish…” I start with a whisper when everyone else is out of earshot, he looks at me with surprise, but finally nods his head.
“Yes, why?” I take a careful look around and when it seems safe I hand him the little note,
“Tell me what it says?”
Sergei frowns, looks at me with surprise and then unfolds the note and reads, again he looks up at me. “He gave you this?” he questions, I simply nod.
“Alexander, what are you doing?” He sounds worried.
“Just tell me what it says,” I demand. He sighs and shakes his head softly.
“I know what you did for me, thank you for trying.” He reads and looks at me again, “tell me what’s going on?”
I think of the words, smiling slightly; first words from him! But I am not worthy of his thanks…I haven’t done enough.
“Please, do not tell anyone,” I plead him, “promise?” I ask.
“Alright, I promise, only if you tell me?”
“This is not right and you know it, he’s just a boy… I can’t turn my back on him.”
He looks at me silently, sighs and shakes his head.
“Oh, Alexander… I hope you won’t do anything foolish, Lord knows I do not like this any more than you do, but…” Our eyes meet, his stern worried gaze meeting mine, “…don’t risk your life for him. I worry for you, you are young and…”
“I know, I know what the risk is… but I can not live with myself if I simply close my eyes from this. War is one thing, but to bring someone, innocent and young into it and hurt him in the way they have is another.” I grit my teeth and look down, trying to calm down, before I bring my gaze back up to him. “You said you have a son his age at home,” I start then, “now what if, lord forbid, he was in that position, what if someone did this to him? Wouldn’t you want that at least someone would… try… try to do something, anything, to help him or at least make him more comfortable?”
He’s silent again, clearly my words have upset him, and finally he nods.
“Alright, alright…” He repeats and looks around, “What is it that you’re going to do?” He asks.
“I don’t know, honest to God I don’t. I’m scared, I wish there was a way… For now, I simply ask you to write a note for me, a note to him; to let him know I understood what he wrote, and… well, I need to think about it some more, but can you do this for me?”
“This is crazy,” Sergei takes note and sighs heavily. “But alright, I’ll write it for you, just tell me what you want the letter to say.”
I wonder what day it is, how long? I lay down, close my eyes and think of home, oh what I would give to be back home, what I would give to be able to change things and make them alright, to hold my siblings in my arms, to see Emma and hold her.
I dream of a summer day, dream a dream where she is close, laying next to me and I can almost feel her hand in mine, I can almost imagine her soft touch on my face, she would kiss my forehead and tell me it’s alright.
I dream of the life we wanted, that we thought we’d had, it was so simple back then to imagine, so far and yet easily enough reached, before the war, before everything, with the naïve hope of children we thought we could have it. She said she wanted lots of children, at least five, and in our dream we would climb on trees, run in the fields and play, even working would be playing. We would have animals, cows, chickens and couple of dogs, life would be simple and joyful, we promised to never fully grow up, that as parents we would be easy going and loving, have enough energy to play, we’d survive, money wouldn’t be important as long as we’d be happy, as long as we would have enough food and a roof over our heads. I would have built a house for us and become a farmer, go fishing with my sons and daughters.
It was a beautiful dream, it was a beautiful future but I know now how out of reach and impossible it was, but it was good to dream.
I feel the pain in my chest and I feel the tears in my eyes, it’s overwhelming, so overwhelming that I wish to scream from the top of my lungs but only a choked cry comes out. I feel so alone and all my dreams now lay broken on the floor with me, I won’t survive this. I open my eyes and blink in the darkness, part of me had hoped to see her or them, but there is nothing! Of course there isn’t! I want to curl up, scream and hit the floor; just take me out of my misery!
And I cry until there are no tears left, until my head is throbbing with pain, I long for a tender touch, long for someone to hold me gently and whisper it’s alright, make me feel something other than pain!
How long? I question, look around in the darkness, before my eyes move to the fire, there in the stove, casting shadows and light, I wonder why I thought it was dark? I wonder how I didn’t see the light of the fire before.
The echo of the boots hitting on the wooden floor draws near, they each sound different and simply by this sound I already know it’s Alexander and I feel a strange calmness settling inside of me, I blink tiredly, tears dried on my skin, the sound of the lock being opened, the creak of the door that would need some oil. His steps draw nearer and I’m too exhausted to lift my head up.
He kneels beside me, his concerned voice whispers something before his hand reaches to gently touch my face, his thumb collecting the remaining tears away. I look at him, smile wearily, and again he speaks before handing me a note. Curiously, I look up and then at the piece of paper, finding some energy to move he unfolds the note for me and with trembling hands I take it and read; Finnish!
“I have talked with my friend; he’s a good man and knows your language, he helped me to write this and he translated your note for me. First of all, you have no idea how sorry I am, it pains me to know and see what they have done to you. If I knew how to help you, if there is away then I will do it. I do not at all approve the actions of my fellow comrades, the actions of our Lieutenant. You shouldn’t be here, you are innocent. I try, but you must give me time, I won’t abandon you; I promise.”
My hands tremble and new tears rise to my eyes; hope… he’s given me hope, such a small fire but everything I needed! I look at him, reach out and lean against him, my hands clutching his uniform jacket and I lay my head against his chest listen to the beat of his heart; human.
“Thank you, thank you,” I repeat over and over, finally feeling his hands wrapping around me, hugging me close and gently his hand strokes my hair and silently I cry against him; thank you, you’ve given me hope, you’ve given me light, I just want to be held, I want to feel warm again, I want to feel alive! Just for one moment, a small moment let me have my hope, let me think it’s possible to live.
My Secret Shore