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A small, white-coated house on the edge of a hill could easily be seen in the thick snow. It was one of those rare days when a storm didn’t howl through the barren lands of the Soviet Union, and if you stepped into the right spot, you could see an industrial town on one side, and an area of far apart houses on the other. On one side, life was a booming firework, on the other a quiet, forest-hilled land, where the fireworks could only be heard as a distant echo.

Batyushka preferred the distant echo. At nights, if the air wasn’t unbearably cold, she would take a stroll through the pathway made by other villagers, enjoying the crunching echoes of snow and the occasional wind, like she did now. Batyushka huddled into herself when a stronger breeze came by, but not because of herself.

Мой мальчик… my baby boy.” she dotted her baby, nuzzling his nose into the softness of her furry coat so he wouldn’t be cold. He was a year old now, and a splitting image of his father. The only thing of hers he had was the colour of her eyes, a vibrant green.

“I’d say it’s time for use to go home, little Bok.” Batyushka kissed the top of her son’s dark head and turned towards the house on the hill.

Meters away from the house she heard her husband’s axe furiously hacking away the firewood. He was a diligent worker for a woodsman, even in the evening hours.

“You should come to bed soon Ilyusha. I don’t want you to strain yourself too much.”

“Just have to cut Alinka’s firewood and I will be with you shortly.” Ilyusha wiped the sweat from his brow and kissed the top of Batyushka’s head for goodnight, a serious expression never leaving his face. He was always serious, his frown frozen in place, but Ilyusha’s actions spoke volumes. Whether he cut wood for longer hours, or went on a longer trek to Vladivostok for better supplies for her and Bok, he was a man who gave all his time for his family. “Sleep well, Batyushka.”

Batyushka loved him for the honest man he was. Smiling, she first placed Bok in his wooden crib next to their wheat and wool covered bed. She covered him with two blankets, in case the night got too cold and the furnace didn’t warm the room enough.

“Sleep well my darling.” Bok gurgled one last time before turning with a snore.

Batyushka undressed to her evening gown, a woollen garment, and snuck under the covers. To a Vladivostoksky citizen, the bed would be rough and tough. She’d know, she was once one, but this bed, this whole house, was the most comfortable place in all of her 20 years of life.

She was barely awake when Ilyusha joined her and took her into his chest, and in return, she wrapped her arms around his waist. She loved the sound of his beating heart, it lulled her to sleep.

“Tomorrow I’m free of woodwork, and Badyak is going to the city with his wagon. He’s willing to take passengers.” Ilyusha played with the end of Batyushka’s long braided hair. He did that whenever he was in thought. “We could keep Bok with my babushka*, and go out. It’s been a year…”

True, ever since the birth of their son, Bok was all Batyushka saw. He was hers, to care for, to keep company, to scold, to keep happy. “Hm…” She was drowsy, but tiredness couldn’t push away the feeling of worry from her gut. That subconscious protectiveness she had ever since she became a mother. “He is still so young… maybe, in spring. I want him to see the city with us.”

“I knew you would say that.” His chest vibrated from his chuckle. “You really are a mother bear.”

“Every mother should love her child.” Batyushka said in her defence, but she couldn’t deny the truth. Nothing was more important to her than her baby boy, and the man that made it all possible. “… I’ll think about it. Since you offered so nicely. But for now, let’s sleep.”

“Whatever you say, wife.”

Soon followed his peaceful snores, and soon her own.

She wouldn’t give this peaceful life for anything.