She loved how the broadness of his shoulders curved above the volume as if cradling the very thoughts upon the pages. She could have remained there, eyes intent upon him, forever but for the gust of wind that whipped her rippling blanket of hair across her body. It forced her to gather it up quickly, then tuck it in a woven knot beneath her headscarf.
When she looked up once again she saw that Mikhail was no longer gazing into his book: he was gazing at her.
Caught, like a startled animal, she was all at once self-consciously aware of her stance: of her long, obliviously elegant body half-draped along the door-frame. Of her neck exposed from the openness of her work-shirt, of her breasts pressed flat against the door as if holding in every urge and sweltering feeling. She backed away from the intensity of his stare—her eyes challenging him.
But he stepped toward her. Crossing the damp morning earth, he tilted his head and a made a little bow.
“What are you doing?” she said, incredulous.
But he merely moved past her on through the woods and out of sight.
Whatever that had been, it had rocked her.
She would position herself to overhear his lessons with her little sisters and heatedly berate him with questions, poking holes in all his theories.
But he would smile and respond. Engaging her. Like an equal.
She felt wide-awake for the first time in all her life.
Who was this man?
Where had he come from?
Would it change him and all he was?
Would it matter?
No, she thought.
She did not need to know.
One morning, she watched him as he washed himself: the particular angles of his neck, the way his hair fell into his face when his head was uncovered, the arch of his brow, the natural openness of his face, the now familiar and distinctive sadness in his eyes.
Her breath caught.
That morning Shura saw nothing but the radiance of a blend of different lights: the reflection of sun upon the earth, the bright orange of the sky, but above all: the light from within him—the amalgamated glow of that particular morning shone so tenderly upon the earth she felt as if there were nothing beyond this scene, nothing beyond him at all but a senseless vacancy.
Soon, they were walking for hours. He would tell her of life in the cities, of politics and economics. Shura would listen before dryly reminding him of the humanity behind his rhetoric. He spoke not of dreams but of what he would do—and in challenging him she made his thoughts stronger, his plans more vivid.
It went unuttered, but in their own quiet ways, they knew—they felt the same.
There were flickering lights in the distance dotted like sprinkled stars from the dying fires and candles of the homes across the landscape. The train was to arrive in minutes. They waited there together, feeling the warmth from within those homes; children fast asleep, families together, bodies weary and resting. The lights made the place more desolate.
There was a feeling in the air—every gesture, movement, slash of light and roar of wind was charged: The way he gathered his belongings into a satchel. The way he held her hand, caressing her fingers with one thoughtful stroke of his thumb. They sat in silence, side by side, waiting. The sounds were those only ever palpable in stillness: of breaths,and the synchronous beating of their hearts. The sky was cracking in its clarity.
Shura glanced over at him: his gaze was outward, his face calm. The train was approaching in the distance. He must have felt her look upon him for he moved his eyes from the horizon and looked deeply into her.
“It is time.”
“Believe me, Shura,” he said, “this is easier for me.”
“Yes. It is so much harder to be left behind.“
The space between them was suddenly heated, ablaze with intimacy.
She could not stand it a moment longer— she rushed her body toward him, head burrowed into his shoulder, her arms fiercely wrapped around his body in an act of both complete adoration and anguish. With one arm around her frame, he lifted his other to cradle her head and draw her closer, inhaling deeply the scent of her hair, along with her very essence. It was an exhilaration almost too great to bear.
“Oh Shura,” he said, voice flooded with love, “we cannot be stopped.”
“No” he said, “…you and I.”