A Russian Summer

by James Keogh


I felt imbued with pride and was light hearted all day. The image and feeling of that kiss, his lips on mine, stayed with me, and I shuddered with delight as I recalled his words. 'You do really love me don't you?' I cherished that moment, so much so, I did not want to go to the lodge in case I should meet with Konstantin and dispel the dream. It was so delicate and ephemeral, it might, like a wispy summer cloud, fade and vanish. I was struck with fear that with these new found feelings I might provoke a catastrophe. It seemed I could ask nothing more, the instant had been perfect, I should take a deep, final breath, and die.

But the next day I again visited the lodge and, of course, Konstantin was there, with Radomir and Vyacheslav. I felt embarrassed on seeing him as I knew we had a secret between us which I tried to conceal with a feigned confidence. Princess Anoushka greeted me with her usual charming smile, and asked me how I was. It was a simply question, but I fumbled and stammered, certain I had concealed nothing and she and the others could see everything. She ignored my uncomfortableness as if it were nothing unusual, which was a relief. Her attention was taken by Radomir who was telling her he had not been able to find a suitable horse.

Whilst I had been preoccupied with myself, I saw the princess was most occupied with horses, a ride was being arranged. Konstantin gave me a little smile as Vyacheslav suggested they should defer the ride for another day.

"Nonsense!" exclaimed Princess Anoushka, "I shall ask Nestor Mikhailov."

When I heard my father's name I was surprised the princess mentioned him in such a casual way, as if she were certain he would be willing to do her a service.

"You mean to go out riding with him then?" Radomir seemed annoyed.

She ignored his tone, and in her usual aloof manner, told him, "With him, or anyone else."

"I shall still try to find you a horse," Radomir said.

"Well, good. But mind it's not a cow," she scolded, "I want to gallop."

"Gallop away," Vyacheslav said, "but with whom?"

"Why not with you?" She laughed.

"You say that to console me," he replied.

"Does that console you? And you M'sieu Alexei, would you come with us?"

"I don't know," I muttered.

"You prefer a tête-à-tête? Your liberty and freedom, well paradise for the innocent. Radomir, get moving will you! I must have my horse for tomorrow, today is lost. I had not noticed her mother enter the room until the Princess Agnia spoke, "And where's the money to come from?"

"I will not ask you for it, but Vyacheslav will trust me."

"Oh! He will?" Princess Agnia turned to leave. "Bogdan!" she screeched, "where the devil are you?"

Konstantin had not said a word, but he nodded for me to join him as he took his leave. "Perhaps we may have a moment tomorrow?"

"Oh yes!" I could hardly contain my enthusiasm. "But will you ride? I do not have a horse."

"But your father might get you one?"

"Perhaps," I was not certain he would, but why not, if the princess was confident he might find her a mount.

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