Marshlands August 1933
The light was so clear and so white that at times the land looked as if it was made of bone. As they journeyed north through the taiga, the forest of pine and spruce thinned, giving way to open marshland that left Sofia feeling exposed. They were waiting for the creeping gloom of night before they crossed the flat wetland that stretched ahead, but every delay drove Sofia to distraction.
‘Patience,’ Mikhail cautioned.
He was adjusting the packs on the horses and picking burrs from their manes. The chestnut’s head hung low, its eyes half shut, and Sofia was shocked by how weary it looked and how its ribs poked through its hide. Was that how she and Mikhail looked too? She studied Mikhail as he tended the animals. She loved to see the skill with which his hands moved over them, soothing their twitchy skins the way he soothed hers. They didn’t talk much now, images of the dead patrol ousted words from their heads, and in silence her fingers ruffled the ears of the yellow dog that was resting its head against her thigh.
‘I’m not good at patience,’ she said.
Mikhail’s grey eyes skimmed over the marshland. ‘You’re good at other things.’
‘Anna’s out there.’
‘So are the soldiers who are searching for that patrol.’