The Nightingale of St. Petersburg

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Part II. The Nightingale. Chapters 1-3

Part II: The Nightingale

(Picture to your right is Great Fire of Moscow by Ivan Aivazovsky )

 Chapter 1

 The city of St. Petersburg was at my feet, literally. I had a gorgeous view of the city right from my window. The houses, the churches, the streets, the river, even a glimpse of the winter palace; all this created a truly picturesque view. It was like a painting that would magically change from time to time. Sometimes it would be a painting with a clear blue sky, sometimes white clouds would appear. At other times it was a painting of Petersburg at night, with the moon shining brightly and stars twinkling. Sometimes it was pouring rain, or falling snow, or sleet and once in a while even hail. I could view the lovely city in all its forms and colors. And yet, view was all I ever did. Never once did I go into those streets, walk down the lanes, visit those gardens. No, the only Petersburg I knew was the Petersburg I saw out of my window. I had no idea what the city was really like; I hid from it and from its citizens.

Why did I hide? I am the most unsightly creature the world has ever known. If you would want to describe the word hideous without actually speaking all you would have to do was point at me. There is nothing beautiful or attractive about me, only that which is disfigured and deformed. To be honest, I have not always been the monster I am now. Once upon a time I am told I was actually quite pretty, but that was long ago and far away.

My name is Marina Pavlovna Solovyeva*. I am not from St. Petersburg. I was born in Moscow, on the July 17th, in the year 1807.  I was third child and first daughter. My father, Pavel Pavlovich Solovev was a captain in the army and while not basking in gold my family lived a very comfortable life. I was baptized on the 26th of August and given the name Marina in honor of St. Marina the Martyr on whose day I had been born. My life was supposed to be one of comfort and joy. My mother, Natalia Timofeevna Solovyeva had always wanted a daughter and after two sons she was extremely pleased with my birth. My father idolized me; my older brothers doted on and my nanny adored me. I was covered from head to toe with love and affection and wanted for nothing.

However my happy childhood was not meant to last. In the year 1812 Napoleon had invaded Russia and was marching to Moscow. I was still very young when it all happened and do not know all the details as to why we did not evacuate with many other families who fled from Moscow. All I know was our home was in chaos and despair. My father had been killed in the war, my brother was missing in action and mother had come down ill. I remember the day the news spread that Napolean had entered the city. Then, on the night of September 6** in the year 1812, Moscow burned. The entire city was engulfed in flames.

Of course, as fate would have it, our home was right in the path of the fire. I remember intense heat; I remember running, I remember the flames leaping around me and the choking smoke that clogged my lungs. I remember calling for my mother, calling for my nanny, calling for my brother, calling for anyone. And I remember the pain, oh how I remember the pain. I don’t remember where it came from or how it came to me, I just remember it wouldn’t go away! I was hot all over, I cried and cried and ran and ran and then it all just went black.

 No one knows how or why I survived. I should have died. But for a mystery that only Providence can explain, I didn’t. I lay unconscious on a pile of rubble and wouldn’t have lasted long if I had not been discovered by a priest, who was searching to see if there were any survivors. As fate would have it (or perhaps it was a higher power at work here) it was the priest who had baptized me. He was a close friend of my family. He did not reconize me when turned me over. But as he was searching me for perhaps some clue to my identity he discovered the cross and the little icon of my saint that he had placed around my neck on the day he baptized me. He also found the little locket my mother had given me which also hung about my neck. These two things had survived the fire and it was by them that he was able to determine who I was.

 "Why, it is Marina,” he exclaimed, “she survived! What of her mother, her brother?”

 Those were questions forever left unanswered. Father Alexis took picked me and and carried me to a the home of his sister which so far seemed to be out of the way of the fire. No doctor cold be found of course, the city was still in flames, so Father Alexis did what little he could an then he prayed and prayed and contrary to what his sister and his wife had predicted, I survived the night, and the next night, and the next. Hope appeared that perhaps I would live after all, but it was painfully obvious that I would be deformed for life. The scars that covered my body were beyond hope of healing. The question at hand was what to do with me. Father Alexis could not take me in. With a family of five children and a widowed sister with three children, had his hands full. My mother, brother, nanny and just about the entire household had died in the flames. I was an orphan now. I did have one aunt. She was my father’s only sister who had married a rich landowner and now lived in the countryside. Father Alexis kept me for as long as he could, and once Napoleon was gone and things were beginning to settle down a little, he sent for my aunt. She came, but one look at me and she turned around and departed, refusing to be burdened with the monster I had become. Fathe Alexis searched for my godmother, hoping that she would take me in, but we discovered that she had also perished in the flames.

It seemed there was nowhere for me to go, but then, one day, some six months after the fire, my godfather, Andrey Nickolievich Belizhov appeared. Father Alexis had written him and told him of my plight, how I was left alone in the world and how my relatives had turned their back on me.

My godfather did not live in Moscow. About a year after my baptism, he had moved to St. Petersburg, where he lived and thrived. He was a merchant by trade, rich enough to own two houses in the city and a nice dacha in the country and led a very comfortable life. This saint of a man made the journey from St. Petersburg to Moscow in the dead of winter to collect me and take me back with him to his house. He had only told his wife of the reason he was going to Moscow, and upon returning he called her to discuss what was to be done with me. My godfather’s wife was so distressed by the sight of me she made my godfather promise to never bring me in her presence again. The shock of seeing me twice would be more than she could bear, or so she had expressed. This reaction only confirmed the fears my godfather had been entertaining the entire trip back home. I was such a beast of a creature the whole household would be mortified by my presence.

My godfather’s wife had gone so far as to suggest that they just get rid of me and not be burdened with my wellbeing. But my godfather was a God fearing man, and he would not even listen to such suggestions. As my godfather, it was his duty before God to care for me since my parents were not able too, and since my relatives had refused. However, his wife said that there was no way I would be accepted into the household, the children would have nightmares, and the servants would be frightened out of their wits. No one could be told of my existence, what would the neighbors say? What would her friends say? What would society say? That they, a good standing merchant family had a monster living with them! 

After much thought on what his wife had told him and a battle with his conscience, my godfather came to a resolution. On the top floor of his home he had a room that was seldom used by anyone in the household. It was out of the way and in recent years it had been simply used for storage. He cleared the room of the junk and had it furnished. In this room he placed me and gave me a servant. His wife, though not fully satisfied, approved of the arrangement; with care I would remain hidden from the civilized world and would not be a threat to the social life of the family.

Apart from my servant, Sofia, my godfather, his wife (who acted as though I had did not exist) and Father Alexis no one knew of my existence. I vanished from memory of anyone who once might have known me.

 Time passed. The open sores slowly healed, but the flesh that covered them was almost as hideous as the sores had once been. My skin remained wrinkled and swollen. No amount of time would heal the scars, would replace the ruined skin; I was disfigured for the rest of my life. I had lost three fingers on my right hand and the other two were forever mutilated. My legs had taken a good part of the burning and though I could walk, it was with a severe limp. To get around I had a chair on wheels; after all a chair with wheels moved silently across the floor and would not attract the attention that the loudness of my dragging my legs across the floor would have created. The wheels were large enough so I could roll them myself and this helped give me a sense of independence. 

My face probably suffered the worst of the burning. I had lost a part of my nose and the skin around my eyes had melted. My eyebrows never grew back and the entire skin was rough and coarse. My long auburn locks never truly returned. The thick hair turned into a thin little strand that I kept short. I was revolting, I was a monster, I was frightful to look at and what was worse, I was fully aware of the fact! I grew from the little girl into a young woman, but there was never even a tiny hint of improvement. Indeed, I believe I became more hideous as I grew older. I banned mirrors from my room and vowed to never gaze upon my reflection. I couldn’t bear the thought of myself, much less the sight of me. I do not know how Sofia could bear it. Somehow she did, saying with time, it grew on you and you just got used to it.

My godfather would come and see me from time to time, and once a year, Father Alexis would travel all the way from Moscow to see me; hear my confessions and give me communion. Other than that I had no visitors. I lived alone, secluded from the world and filled with despair. I often wondered why I had survived the fire. What was the point of my life, what good could I do? How many times I would lie in my bed at night and just wish that I would die; wish my wretched existence would be over. Girls of my age and of my social status would be going to parties, attending balls, and being presented to society. They would be meeting young men, experiencing first love and getting married. And I, what was I doing? I was locked in a room for the rest of my life! My godfather supplie me with books and I read a lot to dry and fill up the long dreary hours that compsed my day. But I wished to be more than a monster stuck in a room reading endlessly till the end of my days. But what could I do? Well, there was one thing I could do and that was sing. By some miracle, my voice had not been taken from me and it grew pure and sweet. Singing was my only solace. Afraid of being heard by the household, I only sang at night. Soon the night became my one time of comfort and peace. I would sit by my window and sing. I would forget the horrid creature I was, I would forget that I was stuck up in this room forever, I would forget everything and just sing. That was my life, day in and day out for 14 years and then one day he appeared.

 Chapter 2

 I did not notice the first night he came, I didn’t see him standing under my window listening to my song, so I’m not sure when exactly he appeared in my life. But by and by I began to notice that every night at the same hour I would sing, a man would stop underneath my window and listen. He would remain there until the song was finished, and then he would leave. He came every night, every single night. It didn’t matter if the weather outside was less than pleasant, or the night wind was chilly, or even if it was raining. He always stood there, just a little distance from the house.

At first I was rather uncomfortable with him standing there. What if he was to come asking who it was that sang every night in the upper window of № 55 on – street? But apart from listening to my night song, he never did anything and I became bolder and even went so far as to sing just a little louder so he could hear me better. I never did get a good view of what he looked like, for he never lifted his head to look for the singer. He would cock his head to the side, for better hearing perhaps. As for myself, afraid he might look up and see me, I always kept the veil drawn over my window, even though that made it hard to make out his features. I could see that his hair was of a light color and he was of average height. He was dressed poorly and he never walked fast, but rather slowly, as though counting his every step.

One day I decided to share my secret with Sofia.

 "Sonichka***,” I confided in her, “you will not believe this, but I have an admirer. Every night he comes to my window and listens as I sing!”

 “Marina, does he know who you are?” Sofia seemed a little worried.

 “Of course not! He doesn’t know anything about me, he can’t even see me. I keep myself hidden by the curtain.”

 “But what if he should come knocking on the door and trying to find out who you are? No one in this house, save the master and mistress and myself know anything about your existence. It could get very awkward.”

 “He’s been coming here every night for two weeks and never tried to discover my identity. He hasn’t even once looked in my direction. Really, Sonya, I thought you would be happy that at last I have what every girl dreams to have and other girls are allowed to have.”

 Sofia pondered for a moment and then nodded her head. “I suppose if you put it that way. Does your godfather know?”

 “No, and you must not tell him! No doubt he’ll have all this put to a stop and that will be most unfair. I deserve and admirer just as much as any other girl. It’s certainly no fault of mine that I am the world’s ugliest human being and have to be kept a secret from the entire city! Promise you won’t tell?”

 “I promise,” Sofia agreed and we kept the mystery admirer a secret between us. It was only a few days after I had told Sofia my secret when another strange incident occurred!

 It was the hour of noon and I was sitting in my room staring out the window (not having much more to do at the moment). There were sounds of music drifting from the lower part of the house and I strained to hear what was being played. To my surprise I recognized the melody of my own song that I would sing every night. I slid out of my chair put my ear to the floor, to make sure that I was not imagining things. There was no doubt; it was the very song that I had sung the night before! After it finished, it was followed by another of my songs, and then another. Who on earth could be playing them? I only sang at night when the rest of the world was asleep, and I certainly never played my songs on any musical instrument. After a while the music stopped and all was silent again. I decided I had been imagining this whole thing. It is a known fact that when you live alone for so long the mind has a tendency to start playing tricks on you.

However, the next day, precisely that same hour, the music played again! Who would dare play my songs without my permission? Who dared to put them to music? I was so surprised to hear them being played on the piano once more, I forgot to be insulted. Even I had to admit that the music was lovely; it was played with true talent. Not once was there a false note, no stumbling through hard parts; whoever was playing was truly a master of music. The music so inspired me that before I could stop myself I started singing along, and kept singing even after the music has stopped. Never before had I sung during the day, but somehow, the gentle notes of the piano brought the voice out from my lungs. All at once I heard the door open and I turned my eyes from the window in order to find out who had just come in. It wasn’t like Sofia to come at this time of the day and my godfather only dropped by to see me in the evenings. The door had opened rather timidly and, good heavens on earth, a man walked in! He seemed a little unsure of his surrounding and bore himself very awkwardly. I didn’t even bother to look him up and down but exclaimed horror,

 “What are you doing here?”

 “Forgive me,” he said and gave a little bow. “I hadn’t meant to be rude and just barge in here like this, but I had to come here. I followed the voice, the lovely voice singing and it led me straight to you. You are the owner of it are you not?”

His head was directly facing mine. He had shades over his eyes, but I could most certainly feel them staring at me just the same. Of course he would stare!  Did he know what it was like to be a horrid, ugly creature? What it was like to hide from the whole world? Did he know what it was like to hate the way you look? No, of course he didn’t, so how dare he stare at me.

“And if I was what difference would that be to you,” I shot back at him. “What are you staring at anyway?” I demanded, looking him straight in the eye.

If he had been so rude as to barge in here than he would just have to pay the price by seeing the full horror that I was. He shouldn’t expect me to hide my face with a veil. My min was racing, I did not know what to do. I couldn’t call for help, that would bring the whole house up here and then the secret would come out.

His response was laughter! (At first I was sure he was laughing at me, which only added to my shame and anger!).

“I'm blind, ma'am.” he stated in an amused voice. “I thought you would be able tell right away with me wearing these.” He lightly touched the shades that he was wearing.

“Oh.” I felt rather ashamed of myself, I really should have guessed that he was blind. I allowed myself to relax. After all, a blind man wouldn’t see how terrible I looked, so there was no need to fear my visitor. At least, I hoped there was no reason to fear him. Now that I knew he wasn’t going to be frightened or repulsed by my appearance, I looked him up and down to get a good look at him. He was rather thin and dressed in poor and simple clothes. His hair was a dark blond and I noticed that it curled a bit at the ends. It wasn’t long, but neither was it very short. If the curls had been left to themselves, they would probably have gotten in his eyes, but they were combed neatly back out of his fac. His height was pretty average, not too tall and not too short.

The silence was beginning to get awkward, with him standing in the doorway so I searched for something to say.

“Why did you come up here?”

“I came to find you?”

“To find me?”

 Since when had he ever known about my existence?

“Yes, for so many nights I have stood and listened to you sing. You have a voice that angels would envy, why, even the nightingales are put to shame by it. And a true nightingale you seem to be, for I have noticed that as of today, your voice only sings at night.”

It suddenly all dawned on me. This young man was none other than my nighttime admirer. What was he doing here, in this house? I waited for him to go on with an explanation. After a moment or two of silence, he explained that he had been asked to play music for an old lady. (I guessed he probably meant Margarita Vladimirovna, my godfather’s mother.)

 “Ah, so you are the one who was playing my songs,” I couldn’t help but smile. “I had been wondering who it was that gave them music. You were right that I do not usually sing during the day, but hearing you play downstairs, well, it just somehow got me singing.”

I have to admit that I was flattered that someone had taken the trouble to catch the tune of my song and make music out of it.

“May I have the pleasure to know who I am addressing?" He asked.

I frowned at this question. I wasnt' at all excited about giving him my identity, what if he should start asking members of the household about me. "Why do you wish to know?" I asked at last. He pressed on by I was not going to give in, he didn't need to know who I was, no one on this earth was supposed to know who I was, or anything about me. Suddenly, I was hit with an idea.

“You called me a nightingale, and that is what my name will be!”

“A nightingale? Is that what you are?”

I made no reply. I couldn’t answer yes, that would be an outright lie. I didn’t want to say no because then he would try and get out of me who I really was, so I simply said nothing.

 “But you speak with a human voice, does that not mean that you are human? Surely you cannot be a bird that knows how to speak,” he persisted.

“I am what I am, and I have no name other than the one that I have told you earlier.” I figured if I drove him round in circles long enough he would finally give up asking me those sorts of questions.

“But how, how am I to understand what you look like?”

“Let my voice describe me for you,” I replied.

He opened his mouth as though to ask another question, but the clock struck and he jumped a little, saying something about him having to g back or someone will have noticed that he was gone. With that he felt his way back to the door and disappeared. I had not uttered a word while he was leaving. This whole encounter had been very strange, I’m pretty sure he thought so too. I didn’t expect to see him again and so put the whole thing out of my head. I almost half expected him not to appear at my window that night. But he did, he was there. I gazed at him more intently while he stood listening to me sing. Now so many things made sense. Why he never bothered to look up, he knew he wouldn’t be able to see anything anyway. I also understood why when he walked it seemed as though he was counting his steps, no doubt he actually was. But here was a question I hadn’t asked myself before: why was he always out so late at night? Was it just to listen to me? What had he been doing that had brought him to my home at such an hour the first time he had heard me singing? It dawned on me that I hadn’t asked him his name, or what he did for a living. I had been too upset with him showing up out of nowhere to find out anything about my one and only admirer.

We girls like to have admirers! I honestly don’t think there is a single girl out there, who deep down in her heart, doesn’t want to be admired! I had always been sure such a thing was impossible for me! Ugly creature that I am. And then, out of the blue, suddenly I had one. It didn’t matter that he was blind, in my case that was good. If you are a pathetic excuse for a living creature, a blind admirer is really the only option you can have. That night, I slept with a smile on my face and without tears for the first time, in a long time.

Chapter 3

He came the next day, I didn’t expect him too, but he did and I discovered his name, Alexander. I didn’t quite catch the rest of it; somehow it never mattered to me. Even though I had not expected him, I had thought it best to prepare just in case (Oh hope, how often you fight on when all logic is against you!) This time I decided I would be more hospitable and put a chair for him to sit on. I placed the chair at a safe difference from me, so he wouldn’t be able to grab me or anything. Not like I thought he would, but still, it was always good to be on the safe side. It was so funny when he crashed into the chair and turned all red with embarrassment. Obviously he was trying to make a good impression on me and that incident really hurt his pride. I was more relaxed this visit, which made it all run so very smoothly. All too soon the clock chimed and he had to go, but he promised to come again.

I had never realized how starved I was for human communication before his two visits. Of course I had Sofia and my godfather, but they were different. There is something so delightful, so wonderful about being able to meet new people. Asking questions, finding out things about a person, nothing in the world can make up for this. As humans, we are meant to communicate, meant to discover other human beings, made to want to get to know each other. From that day on Sasha**** would come and visit me almost every day. Never once did we have a dull hour, there was always so much to talk about. He told me about his family, about his life and about Martha Ivanovna. I quickly understood that he was very poor and constantly struggling to make ends meet. You would never have guessed that from the way he conducted himself. He was always so cheerful, so joyful. From the way he behaved you could easily believe he was a man who had it always easy in life. That was what puzzled me. How could he be so happy? Honestly, what did he have to be happy about? True, he was a very talented musician, but he was so poor and on top of that he was blind. Yet he was always so content.  I never once caught him complaining about any of the hardships he faced on the daily basis. 

I didn’t understand it, I just didn’t! I was miserable all the time, and I had every right to be miserable. I had been robbed of everything one needs to live a normal life. Shut up in a room, hidden from the world, kept a secret, how much worse does it get? I hated my life, I hated living and I often wished I would just die! On the other hand here was someone who also had it rough, and to a certain extent, had it even rougher than I did. I didn’t have to worry about how or when I would get my next meal, I didn’t have to worry about rent or clothing I knew it would all be provided for me. Sasha was not as lucky, but as opposed to me, he was happy all the time.

Another great difference between us was he hated pity, I loved it. I pitied myself all the time and I felt good when other people pitied me too! If I had not been determined to hide my ugliness from him, I would have told him everything to have his pity as well. But at that moment, I preferred his admiration to his pity. Pity I could get from Sonychka and my godfather, admiration was something only he could give. One day I confronted him with all I have said above

“Sasha don’t you think it terribly unfair at how your life has turned out?”

“What do you mean?”

“I mean you, being so talented ended up blind, thus making it unable for you to work at a better paying job and living more comfortably? Surely you must think it unfair?”

“I never thought it unfair before. Sure, I do have those hard moments in my life when I get sad at how things are difficult for me, but it never once crossed my mind that my life as a whole was unfair!”

His manner was so innocent, it really shocked me.

“You haven’t? Honestly Sasha, don’t you have any sense of fairness at all? Personally, I cannot help but think how unfair life is to you. And you are not the only one who has to deal with such hardships. Surely you must agree with me, you really must, that it is not fair that things turn out like they have for you and for…others. I find it very unfair, sometimes, sometimes can’t even bear to think how unfair it all is!”

He was silent for a while, in thought. He cocked his head a bit to the side, something I noticed he often did when he was thinking. At last in a quiet voice he slowly asked,

“If I may be so dare as to ask, who made you the judge of what is fair in my life and what is not?”

I opened my mouth and then shut it again, no answer came to me and I was forced into thoughtful silence myself. Who did make me the judge? I had made myself the judge. I had always thought I had a right to judge what was fair and what was not. Evidently he didn’t think I had a right to judge what was and what was not fair in his life, and it was obvious he didn’t feel he had a right to judge what was or wasn’t fair in his life, much less anyone else’s. Well, if I wasn’t allowed to judge and he wasn’t allowed to judge…that who was? This man was a mystery to me, almost as much as I was a mystery to him. I always looking forward to his daily visits, and if they for some reason didn’t turn out, I was very much disappointed. It wasn’t only because he was perhaps the only person that I really talked too, and it wasn’t because he was the only man I had ever known. There was something in his personality that made him so pleasant to be around. His smile was something I could die for; it lit up his whole face and just made it glow. As time went on, I began to think less and less of him someone who had imperfection about him.  He was perfect, even in his blindness and disability, he was perfect. I loved just sitting and listening to him talk. He could tell me so many things of the world out there that I could only see from my window. It does sound rather strange, to be hearing about the city from a man who couldn’t see it. But there was more to St. Petersburg than what the eye can take in. I didn’t understand that until I began communicating with Sasha. Never having actually seen one thing the city had to offer, he could tell me so much about it.

“What is it like where you work?”  I asked him once.

“At the public ball house? It’s very crowded! There are lots of people there every night. We play music and there is much dancing. Lots of clinking of glasses, I take it people drink quite a bit there. It’s a happy place. People come to have fun, dance and socialize. Of course, not everyone gets what he came there to do. I know there was a woman, she was sitting not far off from where we musicians sit, and she was talking aloud to herself. Her voice was so sad, she had come here in hopes of dancing, put on a nice dress, and not one gentleman had asked her; not even her brother, with whom she had come. I felt so sorry for her, I wished I could have invited her to dance, but I had to play the music and anyway, I don't know how to dance. Another lady was loudly complaining how this one man wouldn’t get away from her and how she could not avoid him. There was a man, with a rather high pitched voice, who was sadly confessing to another man, that a young beautiful woman he admired, would not dance with him and he couldn’t do anything to win her good favor. Working there for so long, I have worked there for at least five years, there are many stories like the few I have just told you. Amidst all the partying and the dancing, there are many disappointments. But still, on the whole it is a happy place, with people dancing all around and the music playing its merry tunes.”

“Don’t you not get tired?”

 I could only imagine, with him playing at a ball nearly every night, he must get exhausted! And then he would still have to come and play for Margarita Vladimirovna here.

“I do,” he confessed, “but I could have done a lot worse with finding work. At least I have stable work and don’t have to tramp the streets looking for some way to earn my next meal.”

“And you still have to come all the way here and play for an old lady.”

“Oh, I don’t mind playing for her! It is easy and pleasant work and I am glad for the extra money. Besides, it is through me coming here and I am able to see you and that is the highlight of my day.”

“Is it?” I felt my facing turning a little hot.

“Of course it is, surely you must have guessed how much I admire you, how much, how much I have come to, to, love you.”

He had spoken the last words very softly, no louder than a whisper, but I heard them and something filled my heart and soul. I felt a tear still down my face and another. He did have a way with making me cry a lot, but they were never tears of sadness, only tears of joy. Never, never had I thought I would hear those words spoken to me, ugly, wretched creature that I am. He must have heard me sniffle a little, for he spoke out again, a little worried.

“Have I made you cry again? It seems I have a habit for bringing you distress.”

“Distress,” I tried to steady my voice, and I had a smile on my face, a smile that he (thank goodness) couldn’t see. “Sasha, you never bring me distress! I am only very touched by the words that you say.”

I was touched, and yet I also felt a pang of guilt every time he praised me (and he praised me all the time). I felt as though I were deceiving him, he called be beautiful, because he did not know how ugly I really was. He called me so many wonderful things because I hid the horror of myself from him. I felt as though I were making him believe a lie, and yet, I couldn’t tell him what I really was, I just couldn’t. As long as he never touched this wrinkled, disfigured skin, as long as he had no clue as to how unsightly I really was, he would never know that his beautiful nightingale was not so beautiful after all. I was a mystery, but I was a lovely mystery and that was better than being an ugly reality. The days passed and I naively believed they would go on like this forever. But then, from one day to the next, everything suddenly changed.

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*Marnia's surname Solovyeva is derived from the word Solovey, which is the Russian word for Nightingale. Her middle name, Pavolvna, is what is known in Russia as her' father's name.' (otchestva). Everyone in Russia carries their father's name as their middle name. Boy's father's name end in 'vich' while girl's father's names end in 'vna' (so let's say Marina's brothers otchestva would have been Pavlovich, while her's was Pavlovna.) (I hope all that makes senses)

**I wish to remind my readers that the events are taking place in Imperial Russia and back then they followed the Julian Calendar, which is about 13 days off from the Gregorian Calendar we use today.  Only later, in the year 1918 was the calendar updated to match that of the rest of the world, so when Marina says the fire was on September 6th, she's talking about the Julian Calendar. By the Gregorian Calendar the fire started September 14th and last till September 18

***In Russia adding the ending 'ichka' or 'inka' to a name gives it an endearing sort of feel to it. Sort of like saying 'dearest Sofia' in English

****In Russia there is an official 'short version' for most names. Sonya is the short form of Sofia, Sasha is the short form of Alexander, Pasha the short form of Pavel and so on.

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So, here we are, we now know just who this Nightingale is, but where did she disappear too? I'm sure you all want to know, so tune in, I'll be updatng on Thursday :)

votes and comments are greatly loved :)

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