The snow was piled high on the sides of the old buildings lining the street. The sidewalk was slippery, dark under the heavy grey sky. The soft wind was colder than ice and her breath formed clouds of vapour that escaped along the avenue.
February 9th. She was hungry. She closed the lapel of her fur coat against her chin, holding it tight with her gloved hand. A cart pulled by two large horses raced past her. The driver with his red hat barely glanced at her. He reminded her of Igor. Ahhh, Igor! She suddenly felt warm all over despite the bitter wind. Too bad his body had never been found after the battle. "Damn the French," she thought.
An old man was shuffling along the sidewalk, coming in her direction, taking small steps with old boots. His eyes sparkled, his smiled appeared when he said "Dobre din!"
But Katya didn't feel like being kind to the poor today, not since the fuss they had made at her brother's farm. She had been so upset! And her niece, Anna, had witnessed the shouting!
Quickly she crossed the street and entered the bookstore. Anything to get away from the miserable poor!
The place was warm and new. The shelves had not yet bent under the weight of the books. Even the wood floor looked unused.
The bookseller came out from behind his counter, shook her hands warmly. "Miss Timofeyeva, what a pleasure!"
"Dobre din, Master Batalov. It is cold outside!" She said smiling, taking off her coat.
"That it is!" He took her coat and hanged it on a peg on the wall. "Oh! Please come, I want to introduce you to someone!"
She kept her smile on but hoped it wasn't another miserable creature.
She followed the bookseller to another room. There, a young man was seated. She noticed his broad shoulders and fine jacket. He turned and she saw him, and was immediately smitten by his rugged face, by his piercing stare. He stood, and while the bookseller watched, speechless, the young man took her hand in his, then bent down to kiss her hand most properly. She fanned her blushing cheeks with her other hand and said: "You may call me Yekaterina."
He lifted his eyes to hers, and with a wink he said "You may call me Leo."
Suddenly swooning, she turned, to pass her gaze to the bookshelves, to regain her composure. She held her sides, just below the ribs, and said, quite theatrically: "Tell me, Leo, what are you doing now?"
He too turned away from Yekaterina's slender figure. "I came to Moscow to work on my book. It's about the war."
Seeing he was remiss in his introduction, the bookseller took a step and said: "Miss Timofeyeva, this is Mr. Tolstoy. I think you two will get along."
On her ninety-third birthday, Yekaterina sat on an old chair in her little rented room. This was the first birthday she didn't go visit the gravesite. It was too far. She was too old. The world had changed too much. No longer would she go to Paris and stay up all night drinking champagne with him. He had become famous; too famous. He had been away too many weeks, too many months. Now, in her twilight, with the fate of her dear Nikolai and his family unknown, and the hooves of cossack regiments echoing in the streets, she sighed, and died, sitting on the old chair.
Sometime in the Spring of 2013.
© 2013 Christopher Mahan