A sharp click echoed in the room, and everyone froze. The Russian’s cocked pistol pointed at Tato. “Are you resisting orders? If you are, we will have to label you an enemy of the people. We all know what happens to enemies of the people. I could shoot you right now, and nobody would care.”
Katya’s head buzzed. All the anger she’d felt morphed into sheer terror as she stared at her Tato. His beet-red face glistened with sweat and his hands curled slowly into fists, the anger crackling off him like a hungry fire seeking fuel. If someone didn’t intercede, he would be shot for attempting to murder Prokyp with his bare hands.
Mama, too, saw his inner struggle, for she stepped in front of Tato and spoke calmly. “I apologize for my husband’s behavior. He’s overprotective of his daughters. He didn’t mean what he said. We’ll cooperate, I swear it.”
The Russian smirked and lowered his gun. Dropping Alina’s hand, Katya pulled her father into a hug and spoke in his ear. “Please, Tato, there is no harm done, but we can’t lose you. Please.” She felt the tension lessen from his body, but vibrations of anger still throbbed like the veins on his neck.
Prokyp watched the scene with amusement, then sauntered back over to his cohorts, smiling. The Russian turned to him and asked with complete sincerity, “Have you been offended by this man? What would you like to do, Comrade?”
Prokyp glanced at Tato and then at Alina, who was white as a sheet, but holding her head high as Mama had taught them to. Katya’s legs wobbled, so she locked her knees and held her breath as they waited for this fool to decide the fate of their family.
“I suppose I can overlook it this once, as long as he and his family promise to cooperate fully in the future.” His gaze lingered on Alina. “But we shall have to check back here often to make sure they are behaving.”
Another activist pushed into the house with a large sack of wheat balanced on his shoulder. “I found this, and another just like it, hidden in the barn loft.”
Katya’s heart sank. She’d worried the wheat in the barn wasn’t hidden well enough, but Tato thought it safe out of sight beneath the hay.
“You can’t take that!” Tato shouted. “It’s my seed for planting this fall!”
“This will pay your quota. For now.” The Russian Soviet waved a hand dismissively, as if suddenly bored by them. “Come, we must move to the next house.”
The woman cast an apologetic look toward Mama and hurried behind the men as they left. The door swung wildly in their wake, and none of them moved until Tato strode forward and slammed it shut, though not before Katya saw the activists’ cart stacked high with sacks of grain, just like the ones they’d taken from the barn.Read More