There need be a reckoning and justice must be done. I’ll hear the people and all they have to say. I call my wife, Tsveta, into the room first. She has not been well since Mila was born. She takes cures from the girl Yasna and her old grandmother.
Tsveta is thin and almost transparent. Every step is a hardship for her. She’s walking on knives she tells me, but most of the time, she lays abed, not complaining. It’s hard for me, I am still vigorous, but I take hold of myself and keep my temper in check.
‘She was happy,’ Tsveta says. ‘She had that look that young brides have. She was singing on her way to gather honey each day and happy when she came back. Could she have slipped and fallen into the water?’
But we both know our daughter was a strong swimmer and would have removed her cloths on the banks of the river. She looks down.
‘What is it?’
‘The girl, Morana, let it be known that Vladimir and Yasna were together many times.’
I think about this and ask her to bring Yasna to me.
Yasna quickens my pulse, but many men look at her with lust. Her eyes are like amber and her hair is the color of nuts. She’s brown from the sun, long legged and full figured.
‘Sit down, my child,’ I say. ‘There’s nothing to be afraid of.’ I put my hand on her shoulder to reassure her, but she can feel my heat burning her and shrinks away from me.
‘It’s true, I loved Valdimir, but I knew that after he was betrothed that he was not mine, and so I gave up all thought of him,’ she says.
So easily, I wonder. ‘You’ll not find many the likes of him,’ I say for Vladimir is the best of our young man, and often I had wished my own sons were like him in beauty and in strength.
‘I loved him, but life holds no hardship for me. You pity me my rags and herbs, but I am free and have no wish to marry another.’
‘You only wanted him?’
‘And you were prepared to drown my daughter to get him?’
‘No.’ She says this quietly and evenly. There is authority in her tone.
‘You can have him now that he is free again.’
‘Perhaps. Perhaps our time is over.’
‘And Vladimir, what was he prepared to do to keep you?’
‘I believe he found it more of an honor to be the son-in-law of a rich man than to keep the love of a poor girl.’
I see. This girl is different. She is stronger than the rest. I need time to think.
‘We will speak more on it,’ I say. Rising, she slides out of the room soundlessly.