“Ilena, get away from the window.”
Ilena looked up at her grandmother, Marina Gavrikov. The old woman looked tired and concerned. Her grandfather had been out for much too long. It was becoming too dangerous, even for a man who had lived there his entire life. What was left of the Red Army was causing riots up and down the countryside, especially in the interior where the Soviets' hold was weakening. One such group had just now managed to come to Perm. It seemed an odd place for a demonstration. Perm was in the middle of nowhere and their little village didn’t even make the Soviet map.
Their house lined the main street of the town, facing several neighbors who were cautiously watching the riot from the security of their own windows. Ilena couldn’t help being drawn to the chaos. It was so new. Drama like this only happened on the radio or in the American Westerns she watched. This little town hadn’t seen anything exciting in over ten years since Ilena’s unscrupulous arrival had sparked a fury of gossip that took months to die down.
She pushed the curtain back. On one side were young men from the surrounding villages and towns trying to defend what little they had left. They stood out like an ugly sore next to the fine uniforms and straight-backed poses of the Red Army. Ilena couldn’t help admiring the soldiers. Their unity and precision created for a very admirable force. Some were even handsome. She caught the eye of a younger officer. The corner of his mouth curled in a brief smile, but he continued to stand stiff as his commanding officer ordered the farmers to go home.
Marina pulled Ilena back so suddenly that she didn’t have time to fight. “Get back!” she hissed. “You don’t want one of them seeing you!” She clung tightly to her granddaughter, the fear shaking her hands through the folds of Ilena's dress. She had seen too many people she loved destroyed by men in such uniforms. The safety they were supposed to provide was always trumped by the fear they always brought.
Ilena was patient with her grandmother, but the desire to see the men was tugging at her curiosity. She gently uncurled herself from the woman’s arms and walked back to the window despite the older woman's protestations. How often did one see such history being made outside their own home?
The door crashed open before she had a chance to pull the curtain back for a second look. Three soldiers walked in. Marina screamed for Ilena as two of them pulled her back into the kitchen for supplies. The third soldier grabbed Ilena around the waist and pulled her into the bedroom. It was the young officer who had looked at her earlier. He slammed the door and pushed her down on the bed. “What is a beauty like you doing in this shit hole?” he asked with a smile.
He kissed his mouth hard. Ilena closed her mouth and twisted her face away as best she could. He smelled like dirt, sweat, and vodka. She had enough common sense to know what that combination could lead to. Yet even with the threat of violation looming before her she was surprised how unafraid she felt. He had pinned her arms to the side, but Ilena’s legs were free. She kicked him hard in the gut. “Let go!”
The soldier took the hit with a “oof” sound, but it didn’t deter him from his course of action. He reached down and placed his knee on her stomach as a free hand began to tug at his belt. Marina’s screams could be heard in the kitchen. Ilena’s heart began to pound harder and harder. She had to get to her grandmother.
Marina had gathered all of the flour and bread they had as well as the small container of sugar and all the spare money. The soldiers were looking over their bounty pleased. It was small by anyone’s standards, but it was more than the other homes had yielded. Licking her lips nervously, Marina nodded towards the bedroom. “Please…my granddaughter…”
The men grinned. “Don’t worry, ma’am. He’ll make sure she listens from now on. A girl really ought to have an education at this age.” Laughing together they walked out of the house without their comrade. One soldier could handle a girl and an old woman.
Marina was frozen to her place in the kitchen, her eyes glued to the bedroom door. She couldn’t open it. She couldn’t step near it. Karl would have stopped this. Karl had the strength to fight fifty men. Ilena adored him and leaned on ever word he spoke. Marina could barely make her granddaughter listen.
The door to the bedroom opened. Marina’s eyes brimmed with tears and she put a hand over her mouth as Ilena walked out. Her dress was torn and there was a thick line of blood down the front. Ilena stared wordlessly at her with the soldier's knife in her hand. Her hair was disheveled and her face red from being struck. Outside the sound of soldiers marching could be heard as distinct from the fluttering activity of the townspeople.
Marina’s legs moved before she told them too. She quickly grabbed the knife out of Ilena’s hands and wiped it off with a cloth. She threw it into the sink that was full of water and soap where she had been doing dishes before the intrusion. She pulled Ilena over and quickly took what was left of the dress off. Ilena didn’t fight. She silently obeyed her grandmother’s hands. Marina wrapped a blanket around her and threw the dress into the garbage. She threw newspapers and other trash on top to cover it.
The bedroom had a great deal of blood, but the body was too heavy to move. Marina removed the bedsheets and wiped the door before shutting it. She paused long enough to face Ilena in the living room. Her granddaughter was pale, but there was no trembling in her hands. There was no look of fear.
“Go upstairs,” she ordered softly. Ilena merely walked up the ladder to her loft where she slept and lay down in bed. Marina sat down in the rocking chair and quietly rocked her nerves to still them.
When Karl came home he took the body and buried it. Neither woman asked where. He took the trash and threw it away in the next town. Marina scrubbed the floors as best she could. When that didn’t work Karl put a rug down to cover the stains.
No one ever spoke of what happened.
No one came back looking for the soldier.
No one asked Ilena what really happened.