Bormand swallowed, masking his terror from his pigtailed daughter who was grasping his hand for safety. He felt every slight tremor in her nerves. They only way they could probably escape the day would be for Linka to faint from fright.
All the girls in the town were required by law to come to the main square dressed in their best. It was happening in random small towns throughout the Soviet Union; one of the countries wealthiest and holiest men was traveling from town to town for his son Ivan.
This man was King Alexander. He was the Prince Philip of the Soviet Union, only younger, stronger and much more religious.
It was never too early, he thought, to find eligible wives for his boy. After all, arranged marriage was perfectly fine where they lived. A royal family needed perfect breeders to deliver the next generation, and every class chose life partners for the inferior one. This would be the tenth, and last, town of choice he had gone to. There were nine little girls already in his palace waiting for the fateful decision.
Little Linka was shivering under her special yellow dress. Bormand and Mishka gripped her hands as Grandmushka, Uncle Dmitri and Boris followed. They walked around muddier areas to keep her as clean as possible, though Boris was tempted to get her a little dirty to repel the clean rich man away.
When Linka saw all the other girls lined up in front of the fountain, she stopped dead in her tracks and kept her shoes on the ground. "I'm scared daddy." She backed away until she bumped into Boris. The slight chill outside was the least of her worries as her blood pumped hotly under her skin. She shook her head. "I can't do this!"
"Shhhhhhhhh." Bormand kneeled in front of her, broad hands gripping her bony shoulders. "It's going to be fine, Little Swan. They will take ten minutes and we will then go home."
"But what if he picks me?"
"He won't." said Mishka. "There are too many other girls."
Linka though wasn't any less insecure. "Then can we go home now?"
"I'm sorry but we can't." Grandmushka sighed. "It's the law."
"The law's not fair!"
"Life isn't fair." Her father shook his head in defeat. "I know you're scared to go out there."
"I can't leave you, you need me."
Boris remained quiet. He would usually manage to make everything humorous but there was nothing goofy about this manner. Dmitri was not the best at advice and he would never have mutual feelings with Bormand because he didn't have a daughter.
"I got you something to make this easier." Linkas father reached into his jacket . "It's a red canary pin. And as long as you wear it, only good things will happen to you. This, I swear."
"Where did you find it?" she asked, astonished at the fine piece of work.
"It was your mothers." He told her. "I was going to give it to you when you turned eighteen, but you need it now."
Linkas lip curled, remembering that her mother could not be with her. Bormand kissed her forehead. "As long as you have it, your mother will always be there."
The little girl erased the tear attempting to escape her eye. "Thank you." She clung herself around him. When he released her, she felt him being pulled away from her heart.
"I'll see you soon and we'll go home."
Linka nodded. "Ok."
Bormand gently pushed her off towards the line. He watched as the baby bird tried her best to fly.
She squeezed in between two brunettes and waited anxiously for the event to be finished with. If it weren't for the law, she would just run to her favorite place. She was not used to seeing such finely dressed and groomed men.
Alexsander stood nobly in front of the young girls, trying his best to look friendly. His gold cross was pinned to his wool jacket. His hands were curled behind his back as he paced in the dust.
"I am King Alexsandar Petrovskii." He began. "I am here on a search for my son, Prince Ivan. You see, I would like to find him a wife from a low-end village like this and bring her into a life of a princess. I strictly believe that class does not determine who is suited for whom. So I will choose one of you girls to come with me to Moscow for a chance to meet him. There will be a one in ten chance you're chosen. The bride selected will then stay with us until the summer." Alexsander scratched his trimmed moustache.
Linka held her breath. 'He's not going to pick you, he's not going to pick you…' she kept telling herself. She closed her eyes to avoid seeing him come up to her. Linka later found it useless because his footsteps crunched on the pebbles like nails on a blackboard. She turned her head to look at Boris. 'I'm scared.' She told him.
'Don't be. Look, I'm mocking Hitler.' Boris put two fingers under his nose. Linka held back a giggle.
"You." Linka gasped and jumped back slightly. This enormous man was standing in front of her. "What is your name child?"
She gulped. 'They won't pick you.' She told herself again. 'You're not pretty enough.' "… Linka."
He seemed intrigued for he bent down to level his eyes with hers. "I never heard of that name before. What does it mean?" With his gloved fingers, he took a hold of one of her pigtails.
"My parents made it up, sir."
"Interesting. I like it. And I have never seen hair this yellow. It's just like corn."
Her heart was bulging, 'Please go away now sir.'
"I like you." He stated. His hand left her hair and outlined her pin. "This is lovely. Where did you get it?"
"… It was my mothers."
Alexsander turned to one of his guards. "This one. Most definitely this one."
"Nyet!" her tiny voice cried. "I don't want to go!"
Linka broke out of the line and frantically ran into the townsfolk to hide behind her father.
"They picked me! Please don't let them take me!" The tears were now uncontrollable. "I don't want to leave you, please!"
Bormand looked up insecurely as Lord Petrovskii and two guards approached them. The crowd previously shielding her was moving away.
The king stood there, assuming right away that was her father.
"Daddy, please no!"
"Shhhhhhhhhhh." Bormand was just as shocked as everyone else. "It will be ok, Birdie."
"Nyet, it won't!" she protested. "I won't go!"
Bormand held her close, only to speak for no one else's ears. "If you don't, they can hurt us. You must do as he says, I'm afraid. Hug your brother and cousin. Don't worry because you will be back here in no time. You'd have to be."
Boris had a hold on her skirt since he could reach her. Mishka kissed her on the temple.
"You will be back." Her father handed her to the guard waiting in front of them. "Just keep praying Birdie."
"Nyet!" she shook her head as she was carried away towards a car. "Daddy!"