Do You Love Me?

I keep replaying that moment in my head. The moment when there was a gun in Vovochka's hands, pointed directly at my father. Vovochka did come after the wedding to the barn.

"What were you doing?" I demanded as soon as he stepped foot in the barn. "What were you doing with a gun… pointed at my father?"

"I was following orders," Vovochka said sincerely. "The last thing I would ever want to do is hurt you, Shprintze." He hugged me, but I didn't hug him back.

"You could have bailed," I said, refusing to look at him.

He tilted my chin up with his fingers, so I had to look at him. "I don't follow the Constable's orders, I get shipped back to Russia. And I never see you again."

I started to cry again. I wrapped my arms around Vovochka. "Why, Vovochka?" I sobbed. "Why must it be this way?"

Vovochka sighed. "We will get out of this somehow. If I can't find a way, I'll make a way. But I do have one thing to ask you, Shprintze."

"If it's about running away with you, I still don't know. There's so much going on right now."

"Do you love me, Shprintze?" Vovochka asked.

"Love you?"

"Yes, love me."

"Vovochka… of course I love you! I wouldn't be out here if I didn't."

"That's all I needed to know. But now I have extremely important news to tell you."

I nodded, urging him on.

"A month from today, the Constable will expel the Jews from Anatevka. You will get a three days' notice."

"How?" How could the Russians take away our land, our homes, our lives?

"It's a long, complicated snowballed story. I'm just warning you. And I'm here to say that if you want to run away with me, I'd be happy to as soon as tonight."

"Oh, Vovochka…" I felt so overwhelmed. Nothing like this had ever happened to me before. I was never faced with a choice such as this. For fifteen years, my life had constantly been a rut, with nothing original. Now that I was facing a new adventure, I wasn't sure if I was ready or not. "I love you. I've never loved any other man in my entire life like this. I want you to know that. But at the same time, I could never leave my family at a time like this."

"If your family will just make you marry a Jewish man you don't love, why do you want to stay with them?" Vovochka asked.

"Family is so much more than that," I tried to explain. "Sure, they do things you don't like, but they're always there for you through your struggles and your joys. That's why I can't leave them now."

"I understand," Vovochka said. "But when you officially get the news of the expulsion, let me know where your family plans to move. I will follow you there. Then we can get married."

I want so bad to trust him, but whether we're in Anatevka or Antarctica, I don't think Papa will be thrilled with me loving a Russian. "Okay," I nodded.

Vovochka kissed me again. "I love you, Shprintze."

"I love you, Vovochka."