(Sweet Love) Are You Feeling Any Doubts?
by Keren Ziv


Nadia says: I love, and it is the truest thing she has ever known.

She tries to come twice a week, but her job is oftentimes too demanding. It's unspoken that she will visit her mother first in the week and her aunt second. Katya understands. At times Nadia feels like maniacal laughter is the only thing that will save her from her family ties.

With her she brings small amenities that she thinks her mother would like: soaps that smell like burnt vanilla; dried flowers of lavender and lilac to help her sleep; fresh fruits. She's limited by the guards occasionally; and on the days when she arrives empty-handed, she tries to smile as if indulging the confines of the prison. Let them take these trivialities of property. I am here to see my mother, and that is our greatest gift.

(In return) her mother tells her things that she's never heard: tiny spots of memories of a life that Nadia never had, that her sister won't share. They are small, broken pieces of the past, but they are there regardless, and in them she sees a childhood.

"Birthdays," her mother says, and Nadia closes her eyes to picture the party that she just had in the comfort of her friends and family. Except, no, it had been falsehearted and heavy and wrong, and there was none of the innocence that came with the party of a five-year-old with "cake in her hair. Always with cake in her hair."

More, she begs, and she listens to a love story about a young man named Jack and a girl-woman named Laura. She might have known these people in another time, perhaps in the days when a sister had messy fetes and disheveled 'dos. She might have recognized them, but it's too late now.

But did you love him?

"How could I have? Look what I did to him."

Nadia feels inapt and tactless through her very being. Look at what she did to him.

"I am as close with him as I will ever get to loving someone. It is enough."

But it isn't, not for Nadia. For her mother and him, and for her sister, it is enough, because that is what they have nurtured in their lives together, a Darwinian rearing where nature is promoted above all other forms. She wants: hugs; smiles; presence; company; family; and to be not the only one who craves such things. Her sister: has no such desires (any longer).

She needs to understand more than Sydney though, and her mother obliges then too. She hands Nadia stories that are the same as Katya's and yet are so very different. Details are missing, are added, and Nadia drinks it in, feels it enter her flesh and seep through her bone until it courses through her veins, one liquid remembrance that is bred into her.

Sisters feature heavily. Girls growing together are the stars of her mother's stories. Nadia sees girls made of one body and one mind and loyalty enough to smother themselves with it every so often. She ties to picture Sydney and herself, eyes crinkled in amusement and mischief, but it will not visualize. Her sister's youthful looks are a mystery to her -- and she? She cannot recall how her young self was. There was never a girlhood for her, but she tries not to call forth full womanhood yet.

"My mother taught us everything she could."

Nadia reaches through her past and sees Sofia, only this time she remembers her as Yelena, as an aunt, as a woman who is raising an artifact for --

For what? Nadia never has asked if it were the end of the world or the conquering of it for which her aunt truly yearned. A half-destruction had been begun, and half a world is easier to win over than a full, unbroken earth. If it were the latter, she can see the overwhelming evidence of extreme breeding gone wrong; if the former, well, that's quite a way to put a spoil on her childhood, isn't it?

"Yelena is not mad, my daughter. She just wanted more than she could understand."

(Another girl-woman who calls herself) Nadia seeks and has sought for many years a sort of honesty that can hold her up and sustain this shadow-life which she has constructed. Histories is another word for secrets, and nobody will tell her a thing resembling reality.

Nadia knows: her mother is all too glad to have this daughter for whom to spin sweet webs of deceit and with whom forge roads of friendship. Fidelity: is being cultivated; is withheld; is yearning to be given away freely.

"This is my truth" (and Nadia believes her). And then: "You are a Derevko."

She is; and she is the daughter of a powerful man and a more powerful woman, and therein lies her future. Nadia can see more than she wants. Peace looks for hope, but to what ends?

"I love too."



Nadia walks home alone.


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