Mikhail gazed upon his wife from across the room.
Shura’s assignments often varied according to the wants of the camp. She would attend the hospital ward one day, work the kitchens the next, as many of the wives did. She would cook in vast quantities, clean endlessly. She swept, organized rations, and maintained as reasonable a level of sanitation as possible, often to no avail.
But just now Mikhail caught a flash of the girl he had first encountered. He smiled to himself. How they had kept their guards up! Never had Mikhail felt so strongly for a woman, and it had frightened him.
So many men had encountered her and been intimidated by her passions, by the strength of her will and shrewdness of her mind. She clearly expected him to be the same. Shura was proud and vain, often contrary; but despite her limited knowledge of the world, there burned a flame within her of a kind of universal wisdom.
He was captivated.
In her presence he felt free to not simply recant and debate the academics of his ideals, but to open up his heart and release his overwhelming passion for them. He had been teacher to her little sisters, but truly he learned from her.
Mikhail had known women, oh yes, but here was another kind of creature altogether. She would ask illuminating questions, challenge him with a fire that would ignite him. It was intoxicating. It was real. Once he felt what it meant to love as he knew to love Shura, he was incapable of anything else.
Shura made him feel, even at the height of their arguments, almost indescribably understood. When Shura threw her eyes upon the world she saw what he saw, and he, in turn, shared her visions too.
It was not political. It was human. Their intimacy felt familiar from the very first moment. They would wake, and, despite their bleak surroundings, would wake happy and warm. They spoke of a future filled with fruit trees. They touched each other’s hands, enfolded in each others' company. Then, they would pour over the newspapers and wonder what their friends were doing now. We shall change the world, they vowed, and we shall do it together. There were no more games, no proud veneers, no wonderings or hesitations. They were clear.
His love for her was a reverence, not a worship.
It was a joy received from her very existence.
“You taste sweet,” he whispered that evening as he came up for air after making love to her. They were buried beneath a collection of woolen blankets in the dead of the night, silver moonlight reflecting off now thawing river and falling through the threadbare curtains.
Mikhail didn’t cling to, clutch or embrace her. He held her—her long, radiant hair, her crowning beauty, surrounded them in a perfumed blanket. He caught its fragrance and was breathless.
They were in this, together, for a long time to come.