I've still got to pick up the pace a bit more, but with the three day weekend I hope to have the next installment (the last of this chapter) out a lot more quickly than this one was.
Kiev, Russian Ukraine. September 22nd, 1914. For the next several days a state of dazed paralysis descended on the Luterek household. Madame Luterek seldom left her room where she refused food and was prone to sudden bouts of loud despair. Doctor Luterek divided his time between the hospital -- where he could forget, for a time, the tragedy in his own life while immersing himself in the difficult operations which the influx of wounded required -- and the house, where what little time he did not spend in his wife’s room, he passed in solitude in his library.
After the shock of the first day, the staff made sure that the house was cleaned and meals were put upon the table at the usual intervals, but this background of normality provided only a limited degree of comfort. The young people were left mostly to each other’s care. During hours spent in the nursery, sitting on the faded rug and armchairs which had come from the old nursery back in Warsaw, the scene of many leisure hours spent with Konrad before he had left to become a cadet, Borys, Sara and Lena told stories of their lost brother, and learned to think of him again without the choking ache of grief taking complete hold of their words.
On Sunday, Natalie encouraged Sara and Lena to accompany her and Mrs. Sowka to church. They did so gladly. This, on the third day after the news of Konrad’s death had reached the family, provided a turning point, at least for the young people. On Monday Borys left the house early on business of his own, Natalie returned to her usual schedule at the hospital, and the girls even ventured out to an aid society tea. Only Madame Luterek kept to her room and made no move towards returning to everyday life.
Thus it was that on Tuesday afternoon Madame Luterek was the only member of the family at home when a package was delivered, addressed to the family in Konrad’s handwriting.
Something in her had stirred that day. The house was quiet. The grief which had curled its soft, suffocating self around her chest, making even the smallest action which hinted at normality seem exhausting and futile, seemed to have decreased slightly in its weight. She had got out of bed, dressed, and come downstairs to have a cup of tea.
Natalie returned home at three-thirty, along with Sara and Lena who had spent the last few hours rolling bandages for the new hospital train being funded by Princess Mikhailov. They found Madame Luterek at the table in the sitting room, staring at the package, afraid to open it yet unable to leave it even for a moment.
“It’s from Konrad,” Madame Luterek told them. “He’s not dead.” The words brought a heartbreaking smile to her face.