The next days were hard on her. Recovering from the hardships of three days out in the cold and nothing to eat had taken their toll on her. And even though the family was good to her, all she thought about were her parents. Their death, their sacrifice. The injustice of the world. They, who had nothing, never had the chance to earn anything, and this led to their death. On the other hand, the people owning more than enough accumulated more and more wealth, sitting in their palaces, safe from the hardships of the freezing winter.
On the third day, she was strong enough to walk around. She wasn’t able to do much else, but she did stand up and walked to the table and back. And the whole family stood there and cheered. Karla smiled. At this moment, she knew, she was now a part of this family. She sat down at the table and kissed the beartooth hanging around her neck. She softly whispered “Father, Mother, I’ll never forget you. And I thank you that you have led me here, even from your icy tomb out in the wild. I love you.”
The following week, she was strong enough to help in the household. She helped cutting the flesh and the vegetables to add to the stew, she even sweeped the house once. It was a good feeling, giving something back to family that saved her life. And with each passing day, her bond to them grew a bit stronger.
In this fashion moons passed. The nights started getting shorter and the days longer. The sun started heating up the land, and a wind from the south brought some warmth with it. The snow on the fields of the farm started to melt, and it was time to work the land. At this time, Karla was more than just an orphan the family watched over. She now was a true part of the family, and as such, she started going to work the first day it was possible. The wheat that was grown during the cold moons was harvested, and new seeds were brought out. Karla was not as efficient in doing all this as the two farmhands were, and not even close to Leo’s speed and efficiency. But she did something. Even though it was only a fraction of the work, it still took some weight from the shoulders of the family. And Karla went to bed with a big smile. She worked the land, readying it to feed the family. It was a feeling she swore never to forget.
And she realized another thing working out on the fields. Aleksandr was the better farmhand. He worked hard, ensuring he did not miss anything to do. Michail, on the other hand, worked the land because it was nature. She saw him more than once just looking to the sun, smiling as the rays warmed his face. He stopped to listen to the sing of the birds. He helped her harvesting the wheat, he helped her finding the right rhythm to bring out the seeds. Thinking about his hands grabbing her arms and showing her the right movements to throw out the seeds filled Karla with warmth.
Erika nudged Karla. “Hey, sweetheart! No time to think about whatever you are thinking about! The plates will not clean themselves!” Karla had completely forgotten where she was. She had stood in the kitchen. Dinner was eaten, Anna was bringing the children to bed. Leo, Michail and Aleksandr sat in the living room, drinking some kind of alcohol, destilled out of the wheat. And she and Erika where cleaning the dishes. “Now come on! If you keep up that speed, I’m dead before I dried off the last of these plates!”
Karla blushed a bit. “Oh, yes, sorry, Erika.” She gulped and got back to work. She did now only concentrate on cleaning the dishes so good, that not even the slightest hint of a stain would remain.
Erika laughed as she dried off the plates. “How I miss being young again. Oh, I can ensure you, there’s nothing like the first love rising up in your heart! I’d give everything to feel this feeling again! But I lived my days, I gave birth to an amazing son. My life has been everything I could have hoped for.” She smiled at Karla, but she did not answer. She was wondering, how Erika did know what was going on in her.
Days became weeks, weeks became moons. During the days, Karla helped out on the fields, at the evenings, she helped cooking and cleaning. She spend most of her little free time playing with the children. Viktor and Vladimir were nice to her, even though they liked pranking everybody around the farm. But Natalya was a real sweetheart. She showed Karla her dolls, made by Anna. They played with them, Karla told Natalya about the beautiful days at the streets, Natalya showed Karla how to knit. It wasn’t very good, but Karla appreciated every second of it. She realized that she never had this kind of a childhood. In hindsight, she missed not being able to play silly games with siblings and living a life free of sorrows, but on the other hand, she was happy and thankful that she was born to her real parents. For nothing on this world she would have forgot the beautiful times with her parents.
Her relationship with Michail was something else. She never approached him. She had not even the slightest clue of how to start a conversation with him, and she wasn’t daring enough to ask either Erika or Anna. So she admired him and his ways from afar, each day telling herself that she would talk to him the next day.
As the cold winds started to reclaim the land again for another winter, it was time to say good bye to Aleksandr. It was his twenty-first winter, and during his trips to town to sell the goods of the farm, he started a relationship with the daughter of a merchant. This relationship had went on for two moons, and the father offered him a place in the family business. He had only stayed at the farm until winter because he felt that he had to pay off his debt to Leo. Saying goodbye to him was a hard day for all of them. He had been part of the family for four years, and even for Karla, he had been something like a brother. Not the most caring brother, but still somebody ho shared a bond with her.
This evening, the living room was mostly silent. Leo started drinking early, even before dinner was served. The last harvest of the year was brought in and the new seeds were planted. He now had some moons to find a new farmhand. Because even though Karla started getting better and more muscular, mostly thanks to Michail, she was in no way able to take the part of Aleksandr. She helped where she could, but she still was not strong enough to flail the wheats like she would had to. Her main focus was the household, where she helped Anna and Erika with everything.
Some days later, Leo had decided that his sons were old enough to work real work at the farm. They had watched the men working the fields during the last summer, and with this being their tenth winter, they were old enough. This would mean a complete change for them, from being childish and free to having to be mature, to an extent, and working on clear times of the day.
As winter went on, the deathday of Karla’s parents drew closer. She got very silent during this time, some days crying herself to sleep in the little room she had gotten earlier this year. She again realized how much she still missed them, hearing their laughter, their voices. And the family understood what went on in her and left her much free space. During this time, she build a little memorial from wood for her parents, with help from Michail. After it was finished, they both stood there, looking at the finished work. Karla cried as Michail started singing a song for the dead. His voice was clear, with a hint of sadness. As the song traveled over the fields, Karla wasn’t able to do anything else than crying and listening. Not even a single thought went through her head.
When the song ended, Karla rested her head against Michail’s shoulder. “Thank you, Michail. This meant much for me.” She smiled while looking at his face.
“No problem, Karla. After all, you’re my little sister now!” He ruffled through Karla’s long, golden, curly hair. “And it was an honor for me helping you build the memorial for your parents. The dead have to be remembered, because they live on as long as the memory of them does. As long as they are in somebodies heart, they are still here.” He smiled back at Karla.
But Karla’s smile crumbled inside of her. She kept it up, but his words washed away the happiness she had just felt. ‘you’re my little sister now!’ She should have expected this. She was like a sister for him. There was no possibility he would even THINK about starting a relationship with her. She sighed and let the smile fade slowly. “Thanks again, Michail. For everything. But I have to help Erika in the kitchen.” She turned away, leaving Michail out in the cold. He looked after her, a bit confused, before he followed her back to the house.
The next two years were pretty boring. Nothing special happened, just harvesting, seeding and harvesting again. The seasons came and went, and Karla started to completely accept the life of a farmer. It was nothing big, but still important. Nothing changed.
Then there came the night when Kosul’s fields were drenched in blood.