As the interior of the small cabin was revealed in the warm firelight, Maria gazed around. During the day, on her previous visit, it had appeared cramped and half-empty, and kind of dirty. But in the firelight, it appeared almost cozy. The steel animal traps and weapons Dimitru’s uncle used were locked up safely in the shed, which now also doubled as a one-horse stable, leaving the cabin as a place to relax and sleep. There was a simple square table with two stools; a rumpled bed; some half-bare shelves with old tools, worn dishes and odds and ends; a chest that was no doubt filled with clothes and linens, locking them away to prevent bugs and mice from getting at them; and a number of antlers and hunting trophies on the walls. To her relief, there were no actual heads mounted up there.
“You ok?” Dimitru asked.
“Yeah.” The horror of the journey had melted away now that she was surrounded by thick log walls and protected by a sturdy, locked door. She came over and sat on the bed next to him, eying him under her lashes. She sat just close enough for their bodies to touch. When she looked up, her eyes met his. She smiled, suddenly nervous, and when he smiled too, she giggled. And then he leaned in for a kiss. She accepted him, gladly. She brought a hand up and laid it on his arm.
He flinched, breaking their kiss.
“What’s wrong?” she asked, concerned.
She looked at his upper arm. She couldn’t see under his shirt right then, but she had seen things on other occasions. Bruises. “Your uncle?”
He grimaced and shrugged, not wanting to admit how much his abusive relative hurt him. With Dimitru’s father dead, his uncle looked after Dimitru and his mother. The selfish older man, and his wife, treated mother and son like slaves and the uncle ruled the house with a heavy hand.
She felt a surge of protectiveness for the young man that she loved. She desperately wanted to take away his pain. She threw herself at him, wrapping her arms around his neck, pouring her body into his, giving him all her love and affection. Her hands ran through his hair and her breasts pressed into his hands, wanting to be touched, wanting to give him that pleasure so that he’d feel better. They tumbled back onto the bed. She crawled atop him and started pulling away his shirt. Where his uncle had brought pain, she would wipe it away with joy. That was one of her strengths as a woman, bringing healing and comfort. Despite her youth and only recently having left girlhood behind, she rejoiced in being able to be a proper woman for her man. It made her feel all grown up. Then thoughts of her upcoming wedding forced themselves into her mind, spoiling her mood.
He broke their kiss and looked at her in concern, having noticed the tear forming in her eye. “What’s wrong? Did I hurt you?”
“No! It’s just…” She trailed off and looked away, trying to master the guilt and despair that had suddenly encroached on her love.
“Talk to me.”
She brushed away her tear and looked up again. “I don’t want to marry him, Dimitru. I don’t. I hate him. I love you. It’s you I want to marry. I want to be with you, like this, forever. But my parents. My grandmother-” She almost sobbed, barely choking it back.
He rose up. “This is why I wanted us to meet tonight. I have an idea.”
She had expected to see anger or sadness on his face. Instead, she saw eager hope and, when he grasped her hands in his own, excitement.
He looked straight into her eyes. “England.”
She blinked. “England?”
“The land of Shakespeare.”
“I know. What about it?”
“We’ll go. Together. Tomorrow.”
“G-go?” she stammered. “To England?” Wasn’t England really far away? She didn’t know anyone who had been further than Cluj, about sixty kilometres south of here.
His face was as eager as a little boy’s. “Yes! I’ve got it all planned out. I found some maps in Dej. We’ll cross Transylvania to Brasov, then go to Bucharest, then Varna, on the coast. We’ll find a ship and sail away from this place and make our way to England. It’ll be wonderful.” Full of eager energy, he lifted her off him and dug into his pant’s pocket. He pulled out a folded piece of paper and thrust it at her.
It was a page torn from an English newspaper. She only recognized the words London, Queen Victoria and the number 60. An anniversary of some sort? There were pictures: a big clock tower; a bridge and a mighty river; vast throngs of people – so many people – crowding streets lined with huge, stone buildings; a plain-faced queen, serious yet regal in her crown.
“London?” she asked, still stunned by the idea.
“London!” he crowed. “The greatest city in the world. And we can be free there. No more families holding us back. No more living cleaning up after the pigs and horses. We’ll be in a city, a real one. The biggest one in all Europe. With the latest culture and developments.”
“But, how will we live?”
“We’ll get jobs.”
“But I – I mean how-?” Questions streamed through her mind. She immediately conjured up doubts and obstacles. “You want to leave?”
“Yes!” he exclaimed, grinning. “I hate this place. I hate these small-minded people. I hate my uncle for what he does to me and my mother. I hate my mother for not standing up to him. I hate your parents for trying to marry you off to someone else. The people here are so consumed with the old ways. Meanwhile, the world is moving forward without us. I want to go to London. And I want you to come with me.”
Maria was dumbfounded. Leave her home? Sure, their corner of the world might have problems, but leave? Go to England? This was the only life she’d ever known. She knew the people here, the culture. How would she even speak to anyone in England? They spoke English but she didn’t. And how could they survive with no money, no land, no family to support them? She’d never see her mother and father again. Her grandmother would die and Maria would not be here to celebrate her life. She’d leave all of her friends behind. She floundered at how overwhelming the idea was. “Dimitru, we – we can’t just run away. It’s impossible.”
The joy on his face fell away. This was obviously not the reaction he’d been hoping for. He frowned in confusion. “You don’t want to be with me?”
Angst twisted her heart. “Of course I do!”
“But we can’t be together if we stay here. They won’t let us.”
“But we can’t just leave. We’ll have nothing. No one.”
“We’ll have each other. Isn’t that enough?”
She wanted it to be. She really did. She’d told her parents it was enough. And, to a degree, the thought of going to England with him, of running away together, it was romantic and exciting. But she was also scared. Of hardship, of not having their parents around to help, of not having any friends. Of leaving behind the people she loved. Of the unknown.
He sensed the conflict within her and a look of disappointment settled over his handsome features. He pulled away. “I thought you’d want to leave with me. I thought you’d be excited about the idea.”
The hurt on his face crushed her heart. She was hurting him, losing him. She reached out her hand. “I’m sorry. I’m just – I don’t know how to think. It’s so sudden.”
He shook his head sadly. “I can’t stay here, Maria. I can’t.” He held up his arm. The outside of his bicep was bruised an ugly deep purple. “I need to go.”
Maria grew worried. Was he so desperate to leave that he’d leave without her? The thought of him leaving her terrified her more than anything else. “I’ll go.” she told him.
His head snapped in her direction. “You will?” A smile tugged at the corners of his lips.
Her nervous smile reappeared. “Yes.”
His smile grew. “Really?”
His happiness made her happy too. She smiled fully. “Yes. I’ll go with you.”
With a cry of joy, he wrapped his arms around her. They hugged, they kissed. His excitement fuelled her own. They rolled around on the bed, suddenly desperate for each other.
Maria felt his strong hands pulling her to him. She felt his powerful arms around her like a shield from the world. And she felt his excitement for her pressing into her leg. Impulsively, she reached down and grabbed it with her hand. He was hard, so hard, and she knew that he wanted her. She wanted him to want her. That’s why she put up no resistance as he peeled her dress away and exposed her breasts. She knew that her body hadn’t filled out yet the way she hoped it would as she grew older, but she welcomed his attention and gave what she had to please him.
His ministrations soon elicited moans she could not suppress and a heat between her legs that demanded attention. She grabbed one of his hands and pushed it down, over her belly, then boldly under her underwear.
They had only done this a few times before. His face lit up. His fingers immediately went to work, rubbing her, teasing her, then pushing inside her.
Maria gasped and arched her back. She spread her legs a little wider, opening herself to him, inviting him to go further. He did and soon enough she found herself whimpering and then crying out and shuddering uncontrollably in his grasp.
He grinned down at her, pride of accomplishment on his face.
Suddenly embarrassed, she felt her face heat with blush and she tried to bite back her own smile. Shy at the way he looked down at her with such pride and joy, she sought to distract him by reaching down under his own underwear and grabbing his manhood.
He groaned and flexed in her grip.
Maria stroked him up and down, pushing away his underwear to give her more freedom of motion, and so that she could see him in her fingers. For some reason, even in this intimate moment, her mind stirred. She recalled the look of excitement on Dimitru’s face at the prospect of going to England. She felt a stab of fear at all the risks and unknowns and dangers that awaited them on that path. What if they couldn’t get money to live? What if someone tried to hurt them? What if he left her? The last question bothered her the most. What if he ran off for England without her? What if he met someone more beautiful on their adventure, some pretty foreign thing, and abandoned Maria, leaving her alone in the world? The fears swelled in her chest. She had to do something. Had to bind him to her somehow. She loved him so much. She had told him that many times. But would love be enough? Would words be? She feared it wouldn’t. She needed to do more. She needed to prove how much she loved him.
“I want you.” she told him.
“What?” he asked, as if he hadn’t heard her correctly.
She looked up, straight into his eyes so there’d be no misunderstanding. “I want you.” She didn’t give him time to think, time to doubt. She shifted under him, spread her legs and maneuvered him on top of her. She pressed her mound into his steel-hard shaft.
He looked down at her, part in amazement, part uncertainty. They’d never done this before. “Are – are you sure?”