She was beautiful. In a way wild things are. Wild flowers growing on the road-side. Moist with dew and open towards the sharp morning air. Heavy with fragrances. Unaware.
You are like a young horse, he told her once. With all that hair, and all that limbs. Jumpy and Scattered. Unsafe.
Rain was washing her first autumn down the dormitory windows that day he loved her for the first time in the room next to his office. Where he played piano between his lectures.
She watched him undoing her hair, still and silent. Tracing outline of her mouth, her breasts and small mark just below her ribs. Yearnings in her back surprised her.
Later he showed her how to enter without being seen. How to read poetry, drink cognac and keep secrets. For ever.
I will always love you she told him over and over.
You do not know what always is, he would say and bury his face in her hair, nape of her neck, crevice of her stomach. This is what always is, she though.
The day she could not open the door of the room with piano, Nina remembered what he told her; ‘If something happened to me you must leave. And you must keep safe.’
They later told her she was half dead when they found her by the river. Her grandmother told them to look there, in the field where they kept horses for sale. Before they break them. Where they used to light small fires and sing, when the girl was only little.
It was all arranged then. She was nursed to health and married. You have a child right away, her grandmother told her. It will keep you alive. You will fight to live. This is the way we are. All other things come and go. Trust me, she said, I know. And you are like me. We survive.
Nina crossed the oceans, and fought. For each breath. Hers and her child’s.
Twenty years later, on an ordinary day in early autumn she walked into a man with honey coloured eyes. She watched him tilt his head back and laugh that open laugh only certain men possess. Made from equal parts of strength and tenderness. It commands attention.
She wished he would never stop laughing and talking in those sharp, clipped sounds all people from his land have. She knew he has stories untold. Stories carried across the oceans, to be buried in the foreign soil. Like hers.
When she kissed him, old river song came back to her for the first time since. Wild flowers opening with dew into the morning air. Longing.
You are a beautiful woman, he told her. But I can never love you. You are unsafe.