A LOVE IN TIME OF WAR

By

BORISLAVA BORISSOVA

      A novella from "AFFAIRS OF THE HEART"

http://borislavaborissova.quenit.com/books/affairs-of-the-heart.html

 

The historical love drama happens in the time of Balkan wars in the beginning of 20 century. Sofia and Istanbul are scenes where passion, hatred, love and great efforts for peace changes everyone’s life of the two nations. On the ground of all differences in cultures, religions, languages, traditions and so on, a young  Bulgarian girl and a Turkish officer know how to prevail over all borderlines between them.

The wars become past, the past becomes history, only love is still alive in a tale, very beautiful tale to remember them.

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CHAPTER FIRST

 

Late 1930’s, Istanbul, Turkey

It was a Palace, of which people addicted to history, orient, and beauty had dreamed of visiting. The best architects and carpet masters used their chance to leave a trace through the ages by creating a magical home that preserved the spirit of old traditions. The colorful walls and ceilings of the saloons, fine crystal, and expensive furniture contrasted with a simple, small bedroom where its resident preferred to spend hours in solitude and dreams. Despite there being a long time before the fall of darkness, with need for sleep to call silence over all rooms, to him it appeared too quiet around already. So much the better!

Lying on the modest bed, his mind, dealing with many hovering thoughts, could make decisions and rest. As his life extended to a fatal crossroad once again, at first he tried to remember what changed his strong views, his steady opinions so much and when it started happening. Perhaps when he was over thirty but in those years what remained unchanged? Every day in the beginning of twenty century, the world was saying “Good-bye” to something that had been rooted in it for ages.

 

November 5, 1914, Sofia, Bulgaria

It was a snowy, beautiful winter in Sofia. The capital city appeared cleaner and brighter under the cover of white snowfall, which hid dirty spots, black tree branches and dark roofs. But the touching beauty remained nearly unnoticeable by the people who crowded the main streets, especially those between the Orthodox church, “Saint Nedelya” and the Bath Bashi mosque. A year ago from each of these holy places, divided by a small garden and a police equestrian cordon armed to the teeth, voices for victory could be heard. Bulgaria, a former part of the Ottoman Empire and the Empire itself came out of the war between them, a war exhausted, devastated and suffered. After huge victims and privations, in the end the winners were only hatred in the hearts, intolerance in behavior, and anguish in sensations until the pain soon prevailed over everything else.

Now, the police between the temples of Bulgarian Christians and Bulgarian Muslims were needless and no body showed any surprise at the girl who came out of the Saint Nedelya church only to take a few steps along the garden and stop at the entrance of Bath Bashi mosque with a lighted candle in her hands. The church’s service was over. It seemed the same at the mosque. Only Mustafa was missing in the yard outside. Perhaps he needed to pray longer. She stood peacefully, waiting near the wall, as if she’d had all the patience in the world. Some women in peasant dresses walked by her, a few people in modern clothes took phaetons. The town was becoming more cosmopolitan with every passing season. She scanned the passers-by with sincere curiosity until a man slipped on his shoes outside and stretched his hands suddenly toward her.

“Mustafa!”

“Let’s take a walk to get warm. It is too cold out here. I had a word with the imam. I gave him a rosary over which he vowed he will say prayers for nine days and then return it to me to take with me everywhere I go. Nothing is easy for me, Maria. Being with me, everything will be difficult for you, too.” He sighed deeply. “So, I prayed and promised a big offering to Heaven. It must be on my side, on our side.”

She whispered, her breathe touching his ear, “I left bread and flowers, and paid for the three great Bible’s prayers to be read for us. Ciprian’s ones, Dignity and the Lord’s Prayer. I took this candle and if I manage to keep it burning all the way home, my request could come true. In the church, in which you would never enter, I prayed to my Christ to provide his blessing for both of us, not only for me.”

Moved, Mustafa showed all his sincerity. “I asked my Allah, with whom you have never been familiar, to take care of you because I will be far away from here soon. I must go to a place where you should never be. To the front line.”

A wheezy scream flew from her breast. “No war! Not a new war!”

“I am a soldier, Maria! Three days ago Serbia and Russia declared a war on the Ottoman Empire. Now France and Great Britain have done the same.”

“If Bulgaria enters this war, it means we will be enemies again! On top of all other differences that divide us.” She sounded desperate. “The only common thing between our countries remains one borderline. Why? Peace should be the most common thing between people! Even militaries must know it!” Maria held the candle carefully despite the risk of falling down on the slippery streets. “Loving Heaven, good and white, suffused with dreams from our earthy side, first give us peace and piece of love, and also for hopefulness might!”

As he listened to her voice, he made a shelter around her candle with his palms to protect the flickering light from the snow and wind. Close to him the snowflakes made sparkling crowns over her hair an instant before they melted. She appeared so beautiful, as nothing else under that sky

 

Late 1930s, Istanbul, Turkey

A doctor spoke honestly, “If he awakes up from the coma, it could be for the last time. He’s vital signs are weakening.”

“I think his dreams are nightmares,” a servant answered him.

The man lying in the bed somehow heard them, wondered what had happened before his opening eyes to stare at the few people standing around his bed. A small sound escaped from his moving lips. “No nightmares any longer. I dreamed some memories of my life. The beautiful ones! It was November of 1914 in Sofia and now seems so very long ago. The pain is gone but the beauty of that time is still alive.”

 

1914, Sofia, Maria’s home

The kind welcome to the guest was followed by a bowl of sweets, pieces of banitza, the traditional food, and cups of hot tea to overcome the traces of wintry coldness over their pale lips, frozen hands and cheeks. Sitting comfortably on a solid divan among mild cushions, with a first sip Mustafa was feeling warm and passionate.

“General Achev, I would never ask you without having the confirmation of your daughter as it is.”

“She doesn’t know you. You are a man with a tough character.”

Blue flames exploded in the eyes of both men upon hearing a determined voice say near them. “Dad, it’s easy to love good people, the difficulty is to have a heart for the tough ones. If mine is able to give much more than others, it should be not for a simple good man, because a though one like Mustafa also deserves to feel loved like everyone else.” Maria left cake crumbs fall on the flowered table-cloth in the large parlor where they sat.

Long-experienced in hectic situations, the white-haired General Achev mastered the inner stream of mixed emotions to reply softly, letting his strained body lean back in the armchair. “I have heard he followed no safe road in his country. You are a dangerous man, Lieutenant. Maria would never have a peaceful life with a one like you and your political pursuits.”

“You know war times are hard times.”

“Then what do you expect to change with your marriage? A wife of Bulgarian origin and a daughter of a Bulgarian general is not the best choice for someone who is inclined to a military career in Turkey.”

“Not everyone is afraid of hardships, general. When I took my first difficult road, I did it because the easier ones were occupied already. Now I’m used to living my way. If I keep in my heart lofty ideas for my country and give up their defense, how could I expect someone else to provide it?”

He didn’t notice they were sitting under a worthy picture in the large parlor where the sun loved playing through the large windows with vibrant colors. No simple thing could catch his attention. That afternoon Mustafa was worrying about his personal desires. At first he thought it would be too painful but courage and persistence could always be found in large amounts in him if he wanted something badly enough so he went on.

For that reason,the piano sitting in the corner remained untouched despite how much she loved to play for guests, for her adored father, who liked music very much and so did Mustafa. The two men shared similar blue eyes, medium height, moustaches, and something else Maria herself could describe the best. She would seen Mustafa possessed many of the same qualities her father had when he was twenty years younger. Always open for discussion on every topicq general Achev made the young woman feel more comfortable in his presence than her mother’s one. Their mutual confidence put all others at a distance since her upbringing as a child.

Now it was the loving daughter who caused the painful issue. This was the first time she refrained from speaking with him about Mustafa until now. A bit of pain found a place in General Achev because he knew she was too young to understand what she was doing:

“Lieutenant, you have enough enemies in your homeland and, also, on the front where everyone could be killed. You do not lead a peaceful life as I desire for my daughter. She would live constantly in fear for your well being. How would she be safe and protected around you?”

The young man also preferred to call the things of life with real names:

“General Achev, I am being honest with you. My place is at the battle front. In few weeks I should leave to start a division there.”

“No, Mustafa, Not war. Never a new war!”

“Believe me, Maria, nobody desires peace more than I do. The Ottoman’s entry into the war is a wrong resolution but the political leaders preferred our involvement. I should defend my country instead of watching from the sidelines from Sofia.”

He kept silent that the decision opened a new invisible front in him with the people who dealt with the power in Istanbul. For days, political and personal, difficult and more difficult issues burnt his mind and no clear solution appeared for any of them. In low mood he stood up while with a promise for consideration, the general permitted them to say “Good-bye” in private in the vestibule on the first floor. Maria could hardly keep her spirits up. “Protect yourself, Mustafa.”

“Wait my return from the front, Maria.”

 

At the same time they were saying their farewells, General Achev sat at the desk in his study to mark in his diary. “This story has made each of us really unhappy.”

 

With winter hugging those on the outside, the cold couldn’t stop the emotional girl from running after Mustafa. Her sister, Ani, older and reliable, caught her arm and drew her in a corner before she got too far.

“Are you crazy?”

“Please be on my side in this, Ani!”

“My God, you must gain our father’s approval at all costs before you do anything.”

“I know! But that quiet, kind, lazy Balkan’s blood pulsing through the veins of the two men, whom I love the most burst like geysers through both of them. Ani, you must be living in a fairy-tale if you think they can peacefully decide something that concerns me and my future.”

 

Late 1930s, Istanbul

The doctor confirmed to his devoted ones, “He is leaving us and is now seeking his dream that will last forever. Come, let’s say a prayer for him.”

The clothes and a few of his personal things prepared for his funeral were placed in a chest some weeks ago. He was ready. In the past, on the front, he always expected death to come in the shape of a bullet, quickly and suddenly. A dignify death! It appeared the best way to die so just about in the last days he found ground to stop being angry for his prolong agonizing sickness. At finally it seemed for better because gave him an opportunity to think back and ensure what he would like to take with him for the world beyond death after the last crossroad. The blue costume, black shoes, a little copy of the Koran, single amber hidden in a pocket and…

An old letter on yellowed paper attracted the attention of his people. No one appeared to be embarrassed to read such a personal note. The sender had mailed it from Sofia long, long ago.

“Mustafa, even the long days come to an end. The stars appear in Sofia’s sky already, the night is reigning. Are you outside at the moment and see these stars, winking like candles above my home, above my head? There can’t be another sky with so many magnetic stars all over the whole universe.

The sleepy town is mine, the streets are mine, the trees in the park are mine, the wind in the grass is mine, Vitosha Mountain is mine. Somewhere beyond the hills, the Black sea is mine as well. Its endless rhythmic water is mine. Time is mine. The century is mine, in which both of us happened to be born on this Earth to share the same sky, wind, grass, sun, news.

And the thoughts of you are mine. The whole warmth of my heart is mine, yet, unfortunately it is not yours. Who else could keep such warmth for your heart as mine does now for yours? I don’t know what to do, having so much and why the warmth exists if it is useless, you could not receive it, especially in recent days.

I have heard such dreadful news, it makes me wonder why were we born in such awful ages. I like to dream of running in a better world than the one in which we live. Close your eyes and dream with me. We share being at a great place together. Peaceful and beautiful! No problems, no fears. How can I share these dreams filled with all my love for life while you are under thunderbolts of bullets and shed innocent young blood around?”

Why would the man take that old paper with him to keep it forever in the coffin? his people all wondered years later.

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