Pavel stood with Katia in the solar of the terem. His father angrily paced waiting for Pavel’s explanation of where he found Katia.
“She was downstairs, outside the servants door, sitting in the grass under the tree, she had been crying.”
Katia, explain yourself, her mother demanded. “I wanted to sit, in the sun, without the house all around me. I wanted to be alone, I was too warm in the sun and had to find shade.”
“Do you realize what you have done? You have compromised yourself. What if someone saw you? When I speak for you I can no longer claim with absolute certainty that you are worth the value I have attributed to your innocence.”
“Father, I was watching her, I didn’t want her to know, in case she had planned to meet someone or run away.”
“Run away? Why would you suspect that Pavel?” his mother insisted.
“I meant nothing, I was just trying to understand her reason for slipping out of the terem.”
“Why are you dressed like that Katia?” her mother asked suspiciously.
“It looks like she was planning this for sometime, when Sasha couldn’t find her, and she was soundly punished for her error, perhaps she was right after all.” her father suggested.
“No, father I swear, this is the first and only time I will try to learn something on my own.”
“What do you mean by learn something?” her mother insisted.
“She wanted to see how the sun would burn her skin.” Pavel interjected. “I was telling her about the sun and how powerful it was, so powerful it could burn you.”
“She could have sat out on the balcony and done that Pavel.” their father stated.
Pavel had to think quick, this was dragging on far too long.
“I’ll take the blame, I was teasing her, it wasn’t the sun, it was a joke, I challenged her that she wouldn’t do it, that she was too weak that she had no interest in the world. I’m sorry it’s all my fault.”
“Pavel,” his father stopped him. “You are a grown man, about to go off to war and you tempt and tease your sister? I will hear no more of this. Mother will assign a servant to Katia, who will never leave her sight, she will make sure from now on that Katia stays in the terem and away from you Pavel.”
Katia shrieked, Pavel just put himself in the line of fire and they would both suffer. However, Pavel was going to leave and not have to face the day to day scrutiny of a woman of questionable character, she didn’t care however, there was no one or anything she desired any more, she would retreat to her chamber and stay there, only to live on memories.
Pavel was expected to leave the room but he ran to Katia and hugged her, she noted a tear in his eye and she knew he loved her, she squeezed his hand, told him she loved him and would miss him terribly and she thanked him.
“Pavel you are forbidden to enter the terem from now on. You have committed your last taunt.” their father warned.
From then on Katia’s days were a torment. She had no news from the outside. She felt she would die, she had to do something to give her the will to live. She knew this terrible feeling would fade with time and soon Michail was warming her days. Sophia was with child again and Katia was able to put her efforts into helping her with her boy, her personal servant started to relax her constant supervision, there was no need. Katia had no desire to venture outside when her reason for doing so was now training and bracing for the war that Katia could hear in the secret whisperings that went on between the servants when no one thought she was listening.
One morning the terem was full of excitement, Katia rushed out of her chamber to hear the news, she thought Pavel was coming home, but it was not what was causing the commotion this day. Annushka was happy to announce that their Aunt from Kiev was coming with Adeline who was one year older than Katia and one year younger than Annushka. Katia knew something was at the root of this. She never had a close relationship with Annushka but ever since the incident, they had hardly spoken.
“They are coming to meet Anatoly Danilovich Brodsky the son of the General who is a promising military man himself in the Tsar’s special bombardier unit.” Annushka announced.
“Sophia, how does Annushka know so much about this Anatoly, and Adaline’s connection to him.” Katia interrogated her.
“Katia, you must keep quiet. If I tell you … you must remain quiet they will know I told you.”
“Sophia, what has happened? I promise I will keep your secret.”
“Adeline, Annushka and you are to be presented before Anatoly Danilovich, he is seeking a bride.”
Katia’s heart skipped a beat, she went pale and Sophia pretended it was herself that swooned, she made sure Katia sat next to her and covered for her by putting on a big scene. When Katia finally realized what was going on she perked up and attended to Sophia, then she took Michail to her chamber and cried until Sophia came for her.
“Katia, what is wrong? I cannot do that again, you almost caused a scene out there.”
“Sophia, why do they want to put me through that? Let the two of them go without me. I don’t want to be married. I don’t want to leave the terem. Please Sophia, don’t let them make me go!”
Katia was sobbing now more than before. Sophia was worried about Katia’s irrational behavior.
“Katia, you have to pull yourself together, in light of what happened to you, you cannot give them anymore reasons to mistrust you. You have to comply, you have to put on your best effort. You must tell me what is on your mind. Perhaps I can help you.”
“Sophia, you cannot help me. I have done something so selfish and childish and I cannot get you involved. Please trust me, I will do as you say, I will act the spoiled child and make Annushka or Adeline the only choice for him from our family. Thank you Sophia for your words of wisdom.”
“Katia what have you done? You are not … ” she pointed to her own stomach since she couldn’t say the words.
“No, Sophia, my goodness no! Is that all everyone thinks about around here?”
“Yes, Katia — I am afraid it is. That is all we are good for it seems. Uri is only happy with me when I give him sons. This one better be a boy, then after that I can have all the girls I want, he tells me.”
“Oh, insurance the second boy will assure there will be an heir, but nothing will ever happen to Michail, I won’t let it.”
“Oh, Katia I know how you love Michail, and he loves you. But the truth is that illness can strike at any moment … I don’t need to say more.”
“Not Michail never him.”