(My Disclaimer is on the former first chapter.) This chapter is really very sad. I just always sort of figured it would have happened, and I wasn't even going to include it, but I did. It is VERY brief, because I didn't want these two characters (which I do own) to have a lot of backstory. It's just an explanation why the ten-year-old in the prologue is working as a kitchen apprentice. Keep Kleenex handy, unless you're like me and they just make you sneeze with their cottony villainousness.
It was a mild, dark day, typical for that spring of 1910. Rain poured in fat, ominous drops from the clouds above the town square. It was a crowded place; the kind of area in which you could easily lose someone if you weren't careful.
Or if you were.
The young woman's wavy, dark-blonde locks fluttered around her head in the breeze. She readjusted the quick-soaking hood that framed her face to better sheild her from the rain.
"Marina!" The dark-haired man loaded their one bag of luggage onto the back of the waiting cart. "There's no use blubbering over it now. We agreed on this. We can barely feed the two of us. Now come on and get on the wagon."
The woman was hesitant to follow her husband. He was right---she knew he was right. But what she was about to do, she knew, was wrong. And she was scared. God in Heaven, forgive me. Forgive us.
Sergei had already put the worst of the regret behind him. "Marina!"
She knelt down, oblivious to the wet cobblestones that pressed into the worn knees of her tattered linen dress. The ability to speak had left her. As she placed her hands on her son's shoulders, the tears in her eyes mingled with the rain, making it impossible to tell which one there was more of.
"Whatsa matter, Mama?" the small boy asked innocently.
Marina had no answer. For this, and for a lot of things. She pulled the boy closer and held her son for a long moment, as if they were the only two left on earth.
At last, she pulled back from him, and embedded the image of the small child in her mind. He was too thin, of course. They all were. At least this way, he would have a fighting chance.
"Mama needs to tell you something," she managed at last, "and you need to pay special attention, okay?" She kept a tight grip on the boy's shoulders, and looked straight into his eyes. "If you're ever in trouble, Dimitri, no matter what it is, don't you ever, ever give up. Do you understand me?"
The boy was confused at the sudden gravity of the conversation. It was a bit much for a four-year-old. "Did you ever give up, Mama?" he inquired.
That was too much for Marina. Breaking down into tears, she hugged her boy one more time, stood, and caught up to the cart just as it began to crawl from the city. She didn't look back.
There was a clap of rolling thunder from a cloud above, the ever-shifting crowds of townspeople filled in the cart's wake, and a young child stood alone in the center of it all. The dark, grey rain fell on.