How will he choose between them, I wonder? What is there to make any single girl distinctive from the next?
Each is curtained with arctic fox and mink, buckling under the weight of velvet and wool, silks and satins shimmering in the candlelight like sun striking the troubled waters of a lake. They are snuffling, shifting dolls, symbols of their family’s wealth and clawing ambition, flaws cloaked by diadems and dowries.
Watching from the shadows I break a smile. These poor creatures have been trained all their lives, coached to be the perfect kotyonok for the Tsar. Each is silent, eyes turned to the chequered tiles, hands folded as in lazy prayer, features floating like dead leaves in milk pail faces.
I wonder what’s happening behind those half moon eyes, if ever a spark flares beneath the ashes. Do they have a spirit unrestrained by unbending fathers, grasping mothers?
My Galina waits for me in our cottage, kneading bread with her reddened fists, lugging wood from under the forest’s black veil. Full of fiest and fire, eyes filled with love or hate or lust, ready to kiss or claw me, depending on her mood.
I’ll take my girl over these varnished Babushka dolls.
Kotyonok – a Russian term of endearment meaning kitten.