Ghost of you

Chapter 1.

A soft blow of the wind caressed her face, playing with her long golden hair. She stood there, not moving, taking in the scenery in front of her. The garden had grown wild; long, green grass on the ground, flowers; the roses, that her mother had once planted, now grew as wild as the grass.

The sauna building was nothing more than a pile of boards and rocks. It must have been the war that broke it, she thought to herself and was taken over by sudden sadness. Closing her eyes, she could still hear his laughter, still hear his voice, after all those years…

She opened her eyes again, walked forward until she got a better view of the house. It was still there; the white painting had been cracked in several places, windows were all dusty, but yet they had remained intact.

Quietness… it was not how she had remembered it. She stared at the front door, almost waiting for it to open, waiting to see a blond man walk out, look at her with a smile and ask where they had been, what had taken them so long. But the door did not open, he did not come.

”Do you want to go inside?” Her brother asked her and she turned her face to look at him. Without a word she looked back at the house.
”I don’t know.” She said, afraid of the memories that lived there, the ghost of the past that she wasn’t sure she would be able to face after all.

”It is not how I remembered it.” He said then, now standing beside her, gazing firmly at the front door. She looked at him, wondering how much he remembered, wondering if their memories were the same, wondering if she had only imagined it all? Their eyes met. ”I don’t remember much and maybe what I remember has been created by my own imagination and the things you and Emma have told me, but still…” He continued, taking a few steps forward. ”I remember the winter, it was always so cold…” He turned his head, a faint smile on his lips. She continued gazing at the house, the home of their early childhood years.

”Aino…” His voice was soft. ”We have waited for this, you have waited for this, and now we are here, so I think we should just go inside.” He studied her face.
”You are right.”

”So, are you ready?” He asked, his hand on the door handle.
”Yes, as ready as I’ll ever be.” She told him, taking a deep breath.
The door creaked as it opened. They were greeted by the stifling air when they entered; particles of dust danced in the air, the furniture had been covered with white sheets. They walked further in, and with each step that they took, there was a sound of creak.

Aino looked around and started taking off the sheets that covered the furniture. She stood in front of the table, looking at it with glazed eyes; she could hear his cries of pain, echoing inside her mind.

”Now, now. Don’t cry little one, let’s play with your toys. Your brother is fine, don’t worry, my comrade is just playing a little game with him.” The man had told her. She closed her eyes, trembling; seeing his face, eyes that were filled with tears. She touched the necklace on her neck, closing the golden cross inside her palm. ”…Keep it until we see each other again.”

She felt pain in her chest, it was just as she had feared; the ghosts of the past attacked her at once. Nightmares that had not only been nightmares, but horrid memories of something that had happened for real. She had been a scared child, not understanding what had been done to her older brother, not really. It had confused her to no end, to see it happening right in front of her eyes, and later on, as she grew older, it finally dawned on her. She felt sick remembering, but the images kept coming back and there was no one she could talk to about them; for how could she ever voice such horror?

She shook her head and lifted her hand up to her temple, trying to force herself to think of something else. She turned to look at her younger brother, who stood at the kitchen doorway, looking numbly at the same table that she had just looked at. ‘Does he remember it too?’ She wondered, but before she was able to open her lips to speak, he had already turned and walked into the kitchen.

She followed him in and her gaze was immediately fixed on the cellar door on the floor.
”Let’s play a little game, you need to go down here and be as quiet as you can. The one who is quieter, wins a prize.”
She met the eyes of her little brother with hers.

”Are you okay?” He asked with concern.
”Yes, I’m fine.” She assured, and once again, she couldn’t help but notice how much Olavi had grown to look like him. Her younger brother was now the same age as her older brother had been when they last saw him. He had the same delicate face structure, full pink lips, petite body… But his eyes were of deep blue color, when her elder brother’s eyes were green.

”I know it’s silly, but I kind of expected to find him here.” She confessed. He smiled sadly at her.
”I know… Bur don’t you think that if he were alive, he would have found us already? Or someone would know something about him?” He said carefully. Suddenly tears filled her eyes, her body started trembling.
”Aino…” He walked closer and wrapped his arms around her. ”It’s okay.”
”It is just that I miss him so much…” She whispered. ”He could still be alive, living there; in Russia. Maybe he’s lost his memory and that is why he hasn’t found us?” He placed his hand on her cheek, caressed it gently, seeing how much she wanted to believe her own words. ”I know how unlikely it is… I just wish I’d known. I wish I knew where and why they had taken him.”

”Yes, I wish that, too.” He whispered, smiling sadly. He then took a few steps back, stood in front of the window and looked outside. ”I wish I remembered him better, I wish I remembered them all better.” He sighed. Aino walked behind him, wrapped her arms around him and rested her chin on his shoulder.

”When did you grow to be taller than me, little brother?” She asked with a smile. He placed his hand on hers.
”I don’t know.” He answered, smiling as well. ”No matter what, we still have each other.” He said then.
”Yes, and promise me, that it’s never going to change. Will you promise that we’re going to stay close?” She asked.
”Always … Even if it means that I have to follow you to India.” He chuckled.
”Oh, don’t you worry about that, I’m not planning on leaving anytime soon. After all, we have just got home… Here’s where we belong.” She smiled.
”Yes…” He turned around to face her. ”So, how about returning home, to Emma, now? We can come back here later. I don’t think it’s safe to walk up those stairs before a carpenter has had a proper look at it. And…” He looked around. ”And I think we’ve had enough of old memories for one day, don’t you?” She nodded her head in agreement.

They returned outside. She took her brother’s hand in hers, taking one last look at the house before they left. She closed her eyes for a moment; an image of their mother’s body laying on the snow. She had touched her; met with the cold, unreal like skin… Her brother’s hand gently wiped the tears away from her cheeks.
”Let’s go, we can come back here later.” He whispered.


********************





His leg was acting up again; it was aching, pain shooting up and down along it. He tried to ignore it as well as he could. There was a storm brewing in the air and his leg felt it. It would come, even though the sun was still shinning brightly, but he knew that it would come; it always did. He looked at the house in front of him, searched for the piece of paper in his pocket, the piece where he had written the address that they had given to him; it matched. So here he was, after so many years. Finally.

He took a deep breath. One would think that in all those years he had had time to think about a perfect opening line, a perfect way of telling what he came here to tell, but no such luck. If anything, it had only became harder and harder. So there he was, this was what he had lived for, finally going to fulfil the dying wish of his lover … And he had no idea what to tell them, how to start telling them.
”Just go in there, tell what you came here to tell and leave, it’s that simple. If they don’t believe you, it’s their problem, not yours.” He thought to himself. But deep down, he knew that it wouldn’t be that simple, it never was that simple.

His thoughts were interrupted by a sound of child’s laughter. He turned his head to the voice. A small boy, who looked like 3-year-old, was running in his direction. He seemed to be running towards the forest.
”Elias, stop this instant!” A woman called, coming from behind the house, running after the boy.

His heart took an extra beat when hearing the name, but he was able to compose himself and act quickly. Reaching towards the boy, he lifted him up to his arms.
”Where were you going, little fellow?” He asked with a smile.
”I was going to play with the squirrels.” The boy answered with a giggle. The woman walked towards him.
”I believe he’s yours?” He asked, placing the boy on the ground and smiling up to her.
”Yes, thank you. He’s always trying to run from me. Always trying to escape the bathing time, aren’t you?” She lifted the boy up into her arms, smiling and kissing his forehead.
”I don’t like the shampoo mama… And my hair doesn’t need to be washed yet, it’s clean.” The boy babbled and looked at him with curiosity, he played with his mother’s long hair. She shook her head.
”Children…” She smiled, rolling her eyes. He smiled. There was a moment of uncomfortable silence.

”Did you come here to look for a job?” She asked then.
”Job?”
”Yes, for the house. I’m looking for constructors, to reconstruct a house, make it proper for living.” She looked at him with question.
”Oh, I…” He hesitated, slightly taken back with the question he had not expected.
”The house is quite near here and no one has lived there for over ten years. I am determined to get it back to it’s former glory, it would be a present to my close friends. Well, they’re more like family members really… Anyway, both the garden and the house need a lot of work, and you seem to be a strong man who gets things done and if you are good with your hands then…?”
”Well I…”
”You’re Russian, aren’t you?”
”Yes.”
”I know a lot of people here aren’t willing to hire your people, but I’m not one of them. The war is over and done and well… we must learn to get along… So if you’re interested? I pay well.”
The boy started squirming.
”Mama, I want to go and play already.”
”Oh, wait for just one second…” She said, placed the boy down, but still held him. ”Olavi! Aino!” She called. ”Oh where are those two…”

A blond boy appeared from behind the house.
”Yes Emma?” He asked.
”Could you play with Elias for a while?” She asked.
”Yes of course I can.” He smiled and walked closer. He looked at the man next to her, curiosity in his eyes. ”Hello.” He greeted him.
”Uh, hello…”
The man said and just stared at him, making him feel a bit uncomfortable, like there was something odd in the way he looked. ”Yes, well, um… Come Elias, let’s go and play with your toys.” He took the boy’s hand in his.

”You’re not much of a talker, are you?” Emma laughed softly. ”Well, I don’t mind. But what I would like to know is whether or not you’re interested?”
He looked at her, it seemed like it took a moment before he understood what she meant.

”Yes, the house. I am interested in this job.” He answered.
”Good, we can talk more inside. Would you like a cup of coffee, perhaps?”
”Yes, thank you.”
”Oh, and I forgot to introduce myself properly, I’m Emma, Emma Lund.”
”Nice to meet you Emma, I’m Alexander Volkov.”
 

Chapter 2.

”Do you have a place to stay?” The woman asked him, sipping her coffee.
“No ma’am, I have just arrived. I left my luggage at the train station.”
“Well, I could rent you a room, take the payment out of you salary and I could also offer you three meals per day.” She offered.
“Thank you for the offer, I accept it gladly. I take it that your husband doesn’t mind you hiring me?” He asked then.
“My husband is dead Mr. Volkov.” She said and placed the coffee cup back on the table. “And even if he weren’t, I tend to make my own decisions about things concerning myself.”
“I’m sorry about your loss.”
“Dear Matias died a year ago, it was cancer that finally took him. It seems that I cannot keep the men in my life.” There was a sad smile that graced her lips. “Anyway, after he died, I saw no reason to stay in Sweden and so I returned here, I bought this estate with the money that my husband left me … So, do not feel sorry for me, for I am home, I love this place with every inch of my being. I missed home all the years that I was away.” She told him.

“So, Mr. Volkov … May I in return enquire about your reasons for coming here to look for job, instead of trying to find it at home?”

“I think your question is only fair… Things in my home land…well, they are what they are, nothing keeps me there, no family binds me … And as for why here? Well, it is a long story, perhaps I’ll tell you some other time, but for now…”
“A man of mystery, are you? Fine, I accept your answer, though I do find it peculiar that a man of your age and looks has managed to avoid marriage this long. Russian or not, I do believe that there will be many women here throwing themselves at your feet and many men that will look at you in a jealous manner, afraid that you might take their women. So be careful, that is all I’m going to say about the matter.” She smiled and stood up. He followed her example.


“Well then, there are chores to be finished. I’ll have Olavi to show you the room and the estate, let you settle in. I’ll ask him to show you the house, you can start working there tomorrow. I’ll meet you at supper.”


******************


“What happened to your leg?” The boy asked as they were walking straight ahead on the sandy road.
“The war is what happened. I got a grenade splinter in it as we fought against the Germans back in 1944.”
“Oh, does it hurt much?” He looked into the curious blue eyes of the boy, but could not look at him for long.
“At times it does and at times it’s better.” He gave him a lazy smile.
“Did you kill many men in war?” The boy asked.
“I did not count. I survived. The only way for me to survive was not to think of the men I killed on the field.”
“I see…” They walked in silence for a while.


“Why do you speak Finnish, where did you learn it?” Olavi asked then looking at the man.
“I taught it myself… I once knew someone, someone who became very dear to me. Back then, we did not speak the same language and then the war took this person’s life. The memory of this one person made me want to learn the language.” He explained.
“A lover, perhaps? I know my sister and Emma would be dying to know the whole story, they are such hopeless romantics.” Olavi laughed, and Alexander couldn’t help but glance at the boy’s laughing face. He smiled, but soon turned his face away as the boy noticed him looking at him.

Soon the house came into view. It was a peaceful, beautiful place and Alexander could imagine how the place had once looked like; he was sure he could help build it back to its former shape. The sun had already begun to go down, painting the sky with soft orange, gold and purple.

“So here it is.” The boy told him.
“It’s beautiful.” Alexander told him and walked closer.
“It was.” The boy said and Alexander looked at him, the thoughtful expression on the boy’s face. He still could not get over the fact of how much the boy looked like him and every time, he seemed to take his breath away. Hypnotize him.

“This was my childhood home, did you know?” The blue eyes met with his. He looked at him in surprise.
“It was?” He asked and took another look at the house.
“Yes… I was forced to leave this place with my sister, when I was four and she was six… It was the January of 1943, such a cold winter… I’ve never been so cold in my life…” He walked forward and Alexander followed, listening carefully. “Our father died back in 1942 and so we lived here by ourselves: me, Aino, our mother and our elder brother Elias.” His heart almost stopped hearing the name again. “Then one night…” The boy now stood at the front door, touched it, before opening it. “…One night they came. They just broke in.” He stepped in and held the door open for him.

“My brother hid us, me and my sister, in there.” He pointed towards what Alexander could only assume to be the kitchen. “But he had no time to hide from them, nor did mother, she was very ill… I do not remember much of it, but anyway, they took my brother with them… My mother, she… She wanted to go after them, she was so ill… But she wanted to save him, her firstborn…we never heard her going out… next morning we found her lying dead in the snow.”

Alexander stared at the boy, who seemed to be deep in thoughts. He knew he should say something, tell him, tell all of them, but how could he say it? How could he voice what still made no sense even to him? He looked around, feeling sudden coldness on his neck. This had been his home, here was where Elias had grown up, here was where it had all started. He could almost feel his presence beside him.

“I’m so sorry…” He said with low voice.

Olavi turned around, the dimness of the room hid the true color of his eyes and he really did look so much like his brother. Did the boy even realize that? Alexander wondered.
“You have yet to meet my sister. She doesn’t like Russians much, you will have a hard time being around her, just be aware of it.” He laughed quietly.

*****************

“How could you hire him?” Aino hissed with low voice, looking at the older woman.
“He is a strong man, he was looking for a job, so I gave it to him. I needed one more worker… Why not him?” Emma asked casually while feeding her youngest child.
“You know why. He is one of them… You say you are doing this for us, but I do not want one of their people working there, touching the walls that my father built, touching the things that belonged to my mother, or to my brother.” The girl said, standing in front of her. Emma looked up.

“Being a Russian does not make him one of the men that took Elias from us. He is not the one to have killed your father. What are his sins? Being born in Russia? Does the blood in his veins make him the enemy, Aino? Does it really? He is just like us.” Emma told her.
“You are the fine one to talk, you weren’t here! You do not know what it was like! You did not lose your family in the war like we did! I cannot forget that, I cannot forgive what they did to us.” She sounded outraged.
“There were faults on both sides. You cannot blame one man for the crimes of his countrymen, like he could not blame us for the crimes of our side. We each have our own sins, but his are not the ones you’re accusing him of… I understand your anger, but what good does it do? I loved your brother, I loved him as much as you did. But he is gone, you need to let go.” Emma stood up and cleared the table. Aino followed her.
“You loved him, did you? Well, what would he say if he found out that now you’re lusting after that bastard of a Russian? That is it, isn’t it? You want him for yourself? Forgot your husband so fast? Your bed is cold and you need a fine man like Volkov by your side to warm it up for you?…” Emma slapped her cheek and the young woman cried out, lifting her hand up to the burning skin.

“How dare you?! I can’t believe you Aino, I thought we were friends and you spoke to me like I was a slut, in my home, in front of my child no less. This is the thanks I get of all the help that I’ve given to you?” Emma glared at her in anger. Aino’s eyes began to water. “You speak as though I didn’t know how it’s like to lose someone. Well, for your information, yes, I loved your brother, I still love him. We may have been young, but we made our promises to one another. Not a day goes by that I wouldn’t wish that I could share this with him. This was our dream Aino, this was the place we planned on building our home together. I loved him, I’ve cried for him and I’ve cried for my husband. I do not need your accusations; leave if you please, you owe me nothing. If you do not wish my help with your house then just tell me so.”
“I’m so sorry Emma, I don’t know what has gotten into me, I’m so sorry, please forgive me my horrible words, I did not mean them…” The girl sobbed. Emma softened to her tears and pulled her into a hug.
“It’s this place that has gotten you so emotional… It’s okay, I understand my beloved adopted sister.” She smiled, caressing her hair. Aino gave her a smile through her tears.
“I love you Emma, and I am grateful for everything you’ve done… I know you loved him, and I know that he loved you too, he was always writing letters to you… So, I’m going to just try and deal with a Russian working there, I’ll try Emma, I promise.”

Emma held her, comforted her, wondering whether or not she had made the right decision, hiring the man. It felt right to her, but she knew that there might be trouble, not many in the village would appreciate having a Russian around as the wounds of the war were still fresh in many people’s mind. But the change had to start somewhere.

Chapter 3.

Two weeks passed by quickly. Alexander did his work with the others but he mostly remained an outsider for them. The other men did not like to include him to their joking, their chatting and in all honesty, Alexander did not mind. He did his work, often lost in his thoughts and memories of him. Here, in this place he felt closer to him than he had in years. He missed his touch, more than anything; he missed his touch.



The day was exceedingly hot, most of the men took their rest often, but he worked hard, taking a drink of water every now and then so that the sun would not wear him out.

Once again he was lost in his memories and thoughts as he did his work; the way his voice sounded like, the touch of his hands, the letter, the last words, the last night. In his dreams they were often together, but a touch in a dream and a touch in reality could of course never be the same.



“It’s alright to take a rest you know, every now and then.” A woman’s voice said from behind him and he turned to look. He smiled to her.
“Don’t worry Mrs. Lund, I’ll take care of myself.”
“Please, do call me Emma already.”
“Alright, Emma.” He smiled again and knelt down to take more nails from the ground
“And here I thought that the Finnish men were hard workers, but I guess you’ve proved me wrong.” She spoke bemusedly gesturing the other men who were having a coffee break nearby. A few of the men looked in their direction, frowning as they saw her talking to him. Alexander noticed this.

“Well, I’d rather work now and finish a little earlier.”
“I see, but you do need to eat, would you have a lunch with me? I brought a picnic.”
“Oh, that’s very nice of you… I just…” He started, glancing towards the men. Emma saw his slightly worried look.
“Oh, do not mind them. You can have an innocent picnic with a friend, who just so happens to be a woman.” She said and placed the blanket on the ground nearby. She started placing the food on it, adjusting the hem of her skirt as she sat down.

“Well?” She asked with a smile. He did feel hungry, so he sat beside her.
“You do realize what this must look like? You and I, having a quiet picnic together…” He asked with a slight smile as he took a piece of bread.
“I do, but I’ve never really been the one to care about what other people might think of me. What matters is what I think of myself, what I know is true.”
He looked at her for a long time, a genuine smile on his face.

“After we’ve eaten, I’m planning on going upstairs and taking a look at his room, Aino said that there’s a box in there with letters to me.” She sipped her juice, once again a sad smile appearing on her lips, the same sad smile that was there, whenever she mentioned him.
“Oh?” He asked, as he thought of nothing else.
“Elias and I, we planned to get married, did you know?” She asked. He shook his head, but listened carefully. “We knew each others from infants, oh we were so young, just children really. The last time I saw him, I was twelve… It feels like a life time ago…” She gazed towards the sky.
“I know what you mean.” He said quietly, their eyes met. There was a long moment of silence.


“The thing that I find the hardest is that I have no idea what happened to him, what really happened. I know about the night that they took him, but I don’t know what really happened that night, where they took him, what they did to him. His body was never found and what I find strange is that they hardly took anything else from the house and if they killed him, why not do it close to the house? So… well, there are just so many maybe’s and what if’s.” Alexander suddenly lost his appetite.

“What you must understand is the reason why Aino is acting so cold around you. She… Well I think she might remember that night, she does not like to talk about it though… And well, they’ve had it hard, she and Olavi… First they lost their father at such a young age, then Russians came and took their brother right in front of their eyes, their mother died and then… They were six and four for goodness sake… I can’t even imagine how they made it, walking together, in that cold winter day… But they did, you know? It was a group of soldiers that found them and they took them into the hospital… Anyway, it seems, that Elias had told them, that if something ever happened to him, they needed to find a way to contact me. So she gave my name to them and my mother’s name. They contacted us and my mother and my stepfather agreed to take them in. Later, after the war had ended, they even adopted them. It was easier for Olavi to adjust, he does not remember so much of his former family, or what happened here… But both of them wanted to come with me, when I decided to return here.”

“I had no idea that…” Alexander started, lost with words. How could he tell them now? He should have told them right away. How much had the children really seen? How much did the girl remember? He did remember them telling that they had already raped him, but he had no idea that… He really felt ill.
“Is something wrong? You don’t look so good, maybe it’s the sun?” She asked with worry, touching his arm.
“I’m fine really.” He tried to reassure her.
“Now, I know that you’re lying, come, let’s go inside for a bit, get you away from the sun.”

He followed her in and sat down in front of the table.
“Lean your head down, are you dizzy? Here take some water.”
“I’m fine, I really am, I’ll go back to work.” He tried and was about to stand up, but she stopped him.
“No, stay where you are, and I forbid you to do any work today.” She glared at him firmly.
“Alright, alright, I’ve never been the one to argue with a lady.” He grinned, lifting his hands up as if surrendering.
“Good.” She smiled. “Now, I’ll run upstairs and when I come back, I expect to find you here where I left you.”
“Yes, ma’am.” He teased.

He heard the sound running coming from outside and suddenly the door opened, Olavi plunged in and closed the door behind him. The boy didn’t seem to notice him at first as he was too busy glancing outside from the window near the door. He breathed heavily.
“Oh shit.” He muttered and then quickly looked around him, jumping as he saw him.
“Oh gods you scared me, didn’t know anyone was in.” He said, still a bit out of breath.
“If she comes, tell her that I’m not here, alright? I trust you.” He smiled briefly and then disappeared in one of the rooms. Alexander looked after him a little puzzled of what was going on. Soon enough he heard a girls voice calling the boys name.

The door opened.
“Olavi? Are you here? You know you can’t run from me forever!” Alexander looked at the brown haired teen-age girl who had just stepped in. The girl looked around, blushed when she saw him and made a curtsy.
“Hello sir, I was looking for Olavi, is he here?” She asked.
“No, haven’t seen him.” He lied.
“Are you sure?” She asked, one eyebrow raised. “Because I could have sworn that I saw him running here.”
Alexander looked around himself.
“Really?… “ He looked back at her. “I saw no one.” He said then.
“Oh… okay then… Um… If you see him, tell him that Hanna asked for him.”
“I sure will.” He smiled.
“Thank you.” She smiled and left.

“Oh thank you so much! I could almost hug you for that!” Olavi exclaimed when he walked back into the room. Their eyes met. “But don’t worry, I won’t” He grinned then. “Though, I have heard that you Russians like to hug? Kiss on the cheek? Because if you want, I can.” Alexander stared at the serious face of the boy and blinked his eyes. Then the boy laughed. “I’m sorry.” He said then. “Ignore me, really, just ignore me.”
He shook his head and sat down opposite from him. “Seriously though, thank you.” He smiled.

“No problem, care to tell me what that was about?” Alexander asked with curiosity. The boy sighed.
“Oh, I guess she wants me to take her to this dance on Saturday, but I don’t know… I’d rather not go, I don’t care for dancing much and frankly I don’t care much about her, either.” He grinned.
“Why not just tell her that?”
“Are you out of your mind?! You don’t tell a girl like her that you don’t like her. I have enough problems as it is.” Olavi stared at him.
“Oh okay…”Alaxander glanced at the boy. Perhaps he was just getting too old to understand the youth of today?
“How old are you?” Olavi asked suddenly, as if reading his thoughts.
“I’m 33.” He said and suddenly felt very old indeed.
“And you’re not married?” Alexander shook his head. “You like Emma?” What was this? Twenty questions? He wondered. “Because I think she likes you.” Olavi explained.
“Oh?” It was all that he had time to say before they heard Emma returning downstairs.


She sat down with a box in her hands and looked at the two of them.
“It has my name on it.” She said quietly, took a deep breath and opened the box revealing a big pile of letters. She looked at them, touched them, taking one in her hands. Alexander quickly glanced at Olavi, who stared quietly at the letters and her.
“They’re from your brother.” Emma said out loud what the boy had already guessed.

“Can you… um… Could you read them out loud?” He asked. She simply nodded her head and cleared her throat.

“1st of January, 1943….” She started. ”Dear Emma… It is the first hour of the year 1943. I’m sitting upstairs in my room, with my coat on, it is as cold up here as it is outside, but at least the wind does not get to me. Normally the New Year always gives me hope, but tonight I feel different, weary and hopeless. I’ve grown tired Emma, I feel like crying because I am so tired. I guess it’s a part of the reason why I’m up here tonight. I do not want to scare them, I cannot let them see me this weak.

Mother is only getting worse, at nights she coughs, and there is blood, she’s so weak and she does not understand. Before, when she was better, I tried to ask her to let me go and get help from someone who could take us away, but she did not listen and now she is way too sick for me to even think of letting them stay by themselves while I would go to get help.

I’m scared Emma, I’m scared of dying, I think of it almost everyday and it does not make me any more ready for it. I want to live! I want for this war to end! I want to hold you again, I want to kiss your lips and just hold you. I want to take you to the lake, I want you to take the mud and draw lines on my face like you did when we were little. My crazy Emma; I miss you.

Sometimes I look at her, trying to ease her pain and I know she won’t make it through this winter. I’ve even found myself thinking, perhaps even hoping, that she’d die, so the pain would end for her and I could be free to leave this place with Aino and Olavi. Does this make me a horrible person? I think it does, I hate myself every time I think like that. She is my mother… I hate myself Emma… But I have a horrible feeling inside of me that tells me we are all doomed if we stay. Everyday I fear that they will come and I am not ready to die, I have yet to live!

Thinking of you, thinking of the future we’ve planned gives me hope, the dreams keep me warm. I want to marry you, I want to have children with you, I want a life with you. I can’t even send these letters to you anymore and yet I keep writing them, I am going to continue writing them and maybe someday when we’re wedded, I can give them to you and we can laugh at how desperate I sound in them. I love you Crazy E. Never change.

I’m too cold now, so I have to stop and return back down stairs where it’s warm.

Yours: Elias.”

By the time when she was done, she was crying. Olavi stood up and without a word he left. Emma looked after him.
“Are you alright?” He asked her, not sure which of the two he should worry more and at the same time he felt afoul himself, too.
“Yes, I’ll go after him…” She said and stood up, leaving him alone. He was kind of glad she did. God, this truly was one messed up situation. He had come here for one reason and one reason only: to tell the truth and what had happened instead? Here he was, getting more involved and had not completed the one thing he had come here for. He had failed to save the life of Elias and now he was failing to complete his last wish. What was he to do?

Continue to ch 4

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