Christmas. That’s what was coming up, right? The days seemed to blend together, I drifted in and out of consciousness so it became hard to tell. Usually it was Lina or Jonas who I would awake to, and sometimes it was Mrs. Rimas. I don’t dream. The only reason I wake up is to see my children, my beautiful children. Why did the Soviets have to take my children too? They had done nothing wrong, yet they were still being punished for it! How has the Lord allowed such a thing to happen…
Christmas had come and gone, I was too weak to partake in anything. I could tell Lina and Jonas were worried about me, but I will live. I will leave this hell with them, that’s the least I can do.
Later that evening, I laid my head in Lina’s lap and closed my eyes, hoping my presence was enough comfort for her. I knew it wasn’t. I thought of what Lina had said to Nikolai, that poor young man. I had to see if she’d righted things with him. “Did you apologize?” I asked, opening my eyes to look up at her.
“To Nikolai. You told him you hated him.”
“I do hate him,” she said, I would have scowled if I had the energy, “He could help us. He chooses not to.”
Of course she would think that, she didn’t understand how much he’d done for us. “He helped me,” I replied softly. She looked down at me, and I explained the kindness Nikolai had shown me on that dark night on my way back to the village. She took on a stern expression, not unlike one her father would take on during his meetings. Lina acts so much like her father. “See,” I said, lifting my head to hers, “that helped me. And I think the commander found out about it. Nikolai was punished for it. I think that’s why he’s here.” Lina must understand the importance of not holding grudges, it would only make things worse for her.
“He deserves to be here. Maybe he’ll get sick and everyone will ignore him. Then he’ll see how it feels. He could get a doctor for us!”
“Lina, think of what your father would say. A wrongdoing doesn’t give us the right to do wrong. You know that.” I could see my words were finally getting through to her. I closed my eyes again. Everything felt cold. My bones felt stiff and ached, I could feel myself deteriorating.
“How is she?” I faintly heard Jonas ask. When did he get here? It was hard to focus, but I could make out Lina giving a reply. If I was going to survive I had to get something done about this cold.
“Darling,” I said, opening my eyes again and turning my head to see my son, “I’m so very cold, are you cold?”
After a moment, I felt something warm on top of me. Jonas. He said something about Ulyushka’s gift, I smiled. “Ulyushka…” I repeated, such a kind woman to us.
“I’ll warm you, mother,” said Jonas, kissing my cheek.
“I feel better already,” I replied. I did feel much warmer now, and knowing my son was by my side boosted my spirits. I was going to survive this for my children.
I felt Mr. Stalas hand me his ration, and opened my eyes to see him standing over me. “Come on, woman. You’re better than this. You’ve got children to take care of, for God’s sake,” he said.
Minutes felt like hours. I was so cold. I felt like an icicle, but Mr. Stalas was right. I had to survive for my children. I had to keep going, though a strong wave of doubt rolled over me, perhaps I should make sure Kostas’ ring was safe. “J-Jonas, keep this,” I stuttered, handing the ring to him. “It’s full of love. Nothing is more important.”
He hesitated. I started to panic. What if I didn’t make it? What would become of mine and Kostas’ love and our love for our children? “Please,” I glanced to Lina, pleading with both of them, “Kostas.” They both held me, I could feel their desperation. I wanted to get better for them, it hurt so much for my children to see me like this.
I felt nothing. I was nowhere and everywhere at the same time. This had to be the end. I’m sorry, my children, I tried my best to stay alive for you. I heard someone calling from the nothing, inviting me to go with him. Kostas, how I’ve missed my husband. My eyes fluttered open, and I could see Jonas, Kostas just behind him. I opened my mouth to tell Jonas I loved him, but nothing came out, and then I was gone.