Tuesday, May 14, 2019

Natashinka, will you marry me?

Then she whispered, “You look happy, my love.”
And I said, “Natashinka, will you marry me?”
“I will,” she said, “even though I know what Mama will have to tell me about that. You can guess it too: ‘Over my dead body.’”
“Which is a funny thing for her to say, because that’s just the kind of wedding I was expecting, until not so long ago. Over my dead body.”
“That,” she said, “would make for a short marriage.”
“And,” said I, “an unhappy one.”
“Ma knows nothing about what we’re going through, about you heading for an execution at the hands of the SS soldiers, and me pretending to be pregnant, to save you, somehow, from it.”
“Haven’t you told her about your proposition of marriage before death?”
“No, Lenny. Telephone lines have been cut off. I have yet to find a way to contact her. For now, all Mama knows is that one way or another, she must stop you from marrying me.”
“Let’s mail her an invitation to the wedding.”
“Really?”
“Really! I think she’ll be thrilled by it.”
“Oh Lenny, you know she won’t.”
“Seeing the look on her face as we exchange vows would be half the fun.”
Natasha laughed, only to turn serious once again. “I want it to happen in Paris.”
“Then, let’s get there in a big hurry,” I said. “But first, my love, don’t we have to go back?”
“Back where?”
“Up to the clearing in the woods, to let the partisans and their leader know that you’ve kept your promise.”
“The boy will do that for me. He’ll tell them to expect an air drop.”
I relaxed into thinking that for the first time in a long time, there was nothing for me to worry about. The future seemed bright. We were together. We had no plans, and it was just fine that way.
“You look sleepy,” she said. “Come here.”
She wrapped her arms around me. I closed my eyes, and on the verge of dozing off, imagined the boy arriving at the camp, up there in the hills. I could just see the partisans, coming out of their tents late in a moonless night. 
They would tremble slightly in the cold night breeze, wrap themselves in their ragged blankets, and turn their eyes to the west, where a whir of engines would signal the coming of British planes. Hanging beneath silk parachutes, crates of armaments would start dropping, ever so dreamily, from the starry heavens. 
Packed full with explosives and automatic weapons, these crates would help win the fight for the liberation of France.
Natasha took the last piece of toasted bread, dipped it in the last remnant of melted cheese, and put it—ever so playfully—in my mouth. I licked it, licked her sweet fingers. 
Then she sealed my lips with a kiss.
In later years, I would try to duplicate that culinary experience by making my own version of baked Camembert. It would come out mouthwatering, lip-smacking, finger-licking good—but nevertheless, it would fall short of the taste it left, that particular day, in my memory.

Excerpt from Marriage before Death


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"Uvi Poznansky, a master story-teller, captures the sights, sounds and smells of World War II France, bringing them to life with an imaginative plot, excellent writing, a mastery of fine detail and the creation of imagery in her scenes. She draws you into the story as though you were there, experiencing what Lenny and Natasha experience.
Bill Cronin, Author

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