17 Will you be mine?
17 WILL YOU BE MINE?
Everything felt familiar about the journey this time. The border guards searched everyone’s luggage except mine. The delay at the border seemed endless; nonetheless the train still reached Cracow just after five in the morning. My heart leapt when I spotted you through the train window. You had put on make-up and you had changed her hairstyle. Young men’s heads turned as you rushed in my direction and I knew I didn’t deserve you, but I resolved to earn my luck.
“You have no idea how much I have missed you,” I confessed.
“I have missed you too,” you told me and we stood and kissed totally oblivious of everything going on around us.
We chose to stand at the back of the tram together, despite the many empty seats.
“I enjoy the feel of your hand around my waist,” I told you before kissing the top of your nose.
An athletic young Shaun ran his fingers through your hair and stared into your eyes.
“You’re gorgeous,” he told you holding your face in his hands.
“Gorgeous, “you repeated mimicking him.
“What does gorgeous mean?”
“Yestesh wadna jifchina” (you’re a beautiful girl)he smiled.
An old lady, sitting close by laughed was visually moved by his efforts.
“Yest-esh shall-own-y,” Magda replied and the old lady laughed this time.
“Yes,” Shaun answered, “crazy about you.”
Magda had rearranged her teaching hours, allowing them the freedom for her to show him some more of the city. Kaya accompanied them on their walks, taking their hands in hers. Magda and Shaun ran together swinging Kaya between them.
“Please do that again,” she begged.
The evenings were theirs alone in the small room. He reminded her of his promise:
“I told you that when I came back I would be free to talk to you. I don’t want to take the risk of losing you to someone else. I want to wake up beside you, everyday for the rest of my life.”
You kissed him and looked sad.
“ I want that too, but, I don’t know if I could be happy, so far away from my family.”
“What if we were to stay in the GDR for our first year?” he suggested. “Next summer we could spend in Ireland to see if you like it there.”
“But your scholarship is only for a year,” you interrupted.
“I can have a year’s extension, if I agree to teach some English and Irish,” he confirmed.
“What I’m trying to say Magda is will you ...”
“Shaunoosh, don’t think you’re getting away that easily,” you interrupted before he could finish.
“In Poland a girl’s father has to give his permission before you ask her to marry you and if he says no that’s it.”
“How do you expect me to do that?” Shaun protested. “My Polish isn’t good enough yet.”
“I’ll translate,” you insisted. “I’m not going to marry a coward, so be a real man.”
I can still remember Dziadek’s answer:
“Tell him,” he told you, “we have all taken him to our hearts. We never thought it possible to like a foreigner so much. However, we hoped our children and grandchildren would stay around us. It is hard to agree to our child spending the rest of her life so far away, but I trust you when you say you will love her and take good care of her.”
“Tell your dad not to worry,” Shaun replied. “I promise that we will spend every summer in Poland and our children will be able to greet Dziadek and Babcia in Polish when they arrive.”
After that he put a bottle of vodka and two small glasses on the table and Shaun drank his first Polish vodka in one gulp.
We kept that promise and we all enjoyed the most wonderful summers as you grew up. I know I don’t have to convince you of how blessed you have been to spend time with the best grandparents anybody could ever hope to have.
“Now you can ask me properly,” Magda insisted, when they had the small room to themselves again.
Shaun knelt on one knee, held Magda’s hand and looked into her eyes as he finally got the chance to complete the proposal he had intended earlier.
“You’ve made me the happiest man in the world,” Shaun told her when she finally agreed and her lips formed into a pensive smile.
The next day we set off to the house in Brszesko which had been kept secret until then.
“It isn’t much,” Babcia had said, “just a roof over our heads for when we retire.”
As you can imagine, after the small flat, I was surprised to find a three storey detached home with balconies on each side, not to mention the parquet in every room.
“Wow! You didn’t tell me your family were millionaires,” Shaun exclaimed.
“Don’t underestimate what it cost them in time and effort,” you explained. “It was their dream. They spent summers building, while others took holidays. Nobody knows it’s finished,” you cautioned, putting you finger across your mouth, “otherwise, we’d have to give up our flat.”
You took Shaun upstairs and showed him around. The room which impressed him most was the one with the double doors which opened onto a small balcony. A wintry sun appeared from behind the clouds as they stood there and lit the room up as if to welcome them.
“Which bedroom should we pick?” you asked him waiting for the surprise on his face.
“Pick,” he hesitated not hiding his surprise.
“Yes,” you answered in mock exasperation.
“We are going to spend every summer here after we’re married. That’s what you promised my father anyway.”
“This one of course,” he laughed, finding the cheeky smile on your face irresistible and using the excuse to push you in the direction of the bed-settee.
“We’re not married yet,” you cautioned, but you still kissed him, as you sat together on the settee.
“Come on lazy bones,” you teased as Shaun lay back on the couch, attempting to pull you down beside him.
“Guess who is going to help me make dinner?” you smiled, ignoring the frustration on his face.
Darkness fell suddenly and the house became even colder as soon as the winter sun disappeared.
“How do we turn on the central heating?” Shaun asked in innocence noticing the radiators.
“There is a coal burning furnace in the cellar, but my father always sets the fire.”
You disappeared for a while leaving him to put the last of the crockery back into the cupboard and reappeared several minutes later with a heavy blanket and a dusty bottle of wine.
“This is my dad’s last bottle of the season, but I’m sure he wouldn’t begrudge it to us.”
You cuddled up with him under the heavy blanket in the living room and drank sweet, homemade wine together.
“I love you Magi,” Shaun told her. “You can even make an evening in a frozen cold house an adventure.”
“And there’s more to come,” you teased prising yourself from his embrace and walking over to a bulky television set with Russian writing under the screen.
“You haven’t lived until you’ve watched Polish television.”
Shaun enjoyed the warmth of your body beside his underneath and old dusty blanket. Later you set a bed in the room with the balcony, covering the bed-settee with the thickest duvet Shaun had ever seen.
“You probably won’t believe this, but I’m actually terrified of the dark. I’m not sure if I can manage the whole night alone,” he persuaded.
“I wouldn’t like to spoil you,” you smiled, giving him a peck on the nose and retreating before he could react.
“Don’t worry, my dad will be here in the morning and he’ll be happy to protect you.”
The next morning Shaun was awakened by the creek of the door .
“I hope you weren’t too scared on your own last night,” you teased in mock concern.
“I was hoping that you would come back to tuck me in,” he answered.
“I didn’t want to risk waking you,”
“Come in beside me,” he invited. “I wouldn’t forgive myself if you died of pneumonia before I got you as far as the altar.”
“We Polish girls are harder than you might think;”
He put his arm around her and kissed her.
“I thought you promised to behave,”
“Do you know you are driving me crazy?” he grumbled.
Just then we heard the front door open.
“You don’t want my dad to take the axe to you, do you?” you threatened retreating back onto the landing.
Soon the chill had gone out of the house and we sat eating scrambled egg with bits of bacon and onion in it. I remember it as one of the tastiest breakfasts I had ever eaten.
The remaining days just flew by and we found ourselves saying goodbye again.
“The next time we meet will be in Dublin,” I told you.
“Don’t worry, I’ll go to the Irish Consulate in West Berlin and organise the visa.”
“See you in Ireland,” you promised as the train pulled away from the platform.