The old man looked at her and a smile flickered somewhere inside his gray beard, making his coffin nail dangle down.
“You remind me of a girl I used to know,” he said. “And you, lad, you remind me of myself, long before I became a soldier, before she left me.”
“That’s never going to happen,” she said, “with the two of us.”
And I said, “We’re going to get married.”
For a while, the fisherman considered this news in silence, while lifting a pail, over which fishtails were flickering to and fro. He set it down before us, right here on the gravel.
“Going to get married, ha?” he said.
“Yes we are,” said Natasha.
“In that case, you may need my advice,” said he. “Of course, coming from someone who’s never been married himself, you can take it with a grain of salt.”
“Oh please, tell us.”
“Want to know the secret to happiness?”
“It’s this,” he said. “Low expectations.”
Unprepared for this kind of wisdom, I laughed. So did Natasha.
“You can’t be serious,” I said.
And she said, “Our life together will be just perfect.”
The old man took her hand and mine, holding them together between the rough-textured palms of his hands. And in a gruff voice that became, suddenly, quite formal, he said, “By the power vested in me as a confirmed bachelor, I hereby pronounce you—”
“No, don’t—not yet!” I said.
“—boy and girl in love.”
My sweetheart and I exchanged looks. I kissed her, thinking that one day, when this war is over, or maybe sooner than that, we would have a proper wedding, with everything that would complete it and make her happy: a pair of gold rings, a bridal bouquet, and a beautiful wedding gown for her. There would be bride’s maids and a best man, to give a toast. Of course, her Ma should attend the ceremony, if only to sweeten the occasion, at least for me, with her displeasure.
This, right here, was merely a joke, what with the only witnesses being the tail ends of fish.
At best, this was a strange rehearsal.
Natasha raised her eye to me. There was a lovely green glint in them. “Make me a promise, Lenny,” she said.
“I’ll always love you, Natashinka. I’ll always take care of you.”
“Will you be true to me?”
“I will. Always.”
Lenny in Dancing with Air
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Ia Uaro, Author