Maresha danced. Arms wide open, face to the sun in
that impossibly blue sky, she skipped, twirled and leaped.
The wide grassy sward was high, and climbing up had been a hardship, particularly when
she had reached the stile, designed to stop the goats from climbing up and into the nearby
wheatfields, just starting to turn golden from the blue-green of recent months. Idly,
amidst the intricate steps of the dance, Maresha wondered why she had worn her best
festival clothes, instead of the usual riding clothes that accompanied a trip up the
cliffside. No matter.
The summer breeze blew black curls away from her face, as she turned towards the ocean.
The seabirds called, and far below her, waves crashed their eternal rhythm, accompanied
by..... Maresha stopped, disoriented. Nobody should be here. This was Konstantinovich
land, hers to tread by rights. There the horse paddock, with Rovnya waiting for her to
ride him. Not today. There the wheatfields, swaying in the breeze. There the huge gumtree,
friend and sentinel for her visits - and good for shelter in the rains. No, there! A flash
of red, and definitely, yes, sounds. Vibrant. Musical. Maresha walked closer.
The late November grasses tickled her feet, bare within her soft dancing pumps. As she
neared the tree, the wind changed and she heard the haunting melodies of home, expertly
played. Looking up, she saw a swarthy face, a moustache, a golden earring and a red
headscarf, covering but not containing black ringlets blowing into blacker eyes.
"Rom!", she whispered in excitement. The music stopped, and the small man
jumped down, careful of his balalaika. He bowed to her; a fluid, sensuous movement, and
held out his hand. An invitation. She made a curtsey, her heavily embroidered skirts
billowing and her colourful shawl flapping in the breeze. The sun caught the flat planes
of her cheeks, proclaiming Mongol, as well as Russian, heritage. Heavily-lidded feminine
eyes met the deeply shadowed gaze of the diminutive gypsy. Who promptly sat cross-legged,
strummed a brief chord that vibrated yearningly in the suddenly still air, and extended
his hand again towards her.
Maresha felt the sounds fill her soul and her feet responded. She danced her best,
better than best, in response to this magical moment. Nothing less would do. The Romany
was a master of his craft, filling the air with the wondrous sounds that her racial memory
knew and loved. Maresha danced. She wished time be still, that today might last forever.
She forgot family and friends, forever lost in dancing to the precious sounds around her.
One beloved tune followed another, the Rom never pausing, never flagging. The sun was hot,
but her movement cooled her. Nearby, the horses nickered to each other, watching Maresha
Meanwhile, Nikolay looked anxiously towards the physician, checking off instrument
readings on a chart. The hospital smelled of sickness and of death. He shivered.
"Doctor.... can you give us any hope - any hope at all?" Beside him, his wife
of twenty years silently soaked yet another handkerchief, her face a frozen mask of grief.
Slowly the doctor turned to face him, pity tempered with understanding and experience.
"Kolya," he said gently "you must understand.... it is a miracle that
she still lives. The horse could have stepped on her ribcage instead of her pelvis. We are
battling the fever, and we know that the foot must be amputated. Maybe even the whole leg.
Kolya, Shaya," he moved forward, placing a hand on each of their shoulders "you
must understand.... the spine is all broken. Even with many operations, I cannot promise
she will ever use those arms and legs again...."
Nikolay reached towards his wife as something broke within her. She screamed to her
feet, angrily brushing away the compassionate hand of the physician.
"Never again?" she shrieked. "My Maresha is a dancer! She wins
competitions for her horseriding! Never walk? Never brush her own hair? Never? With all
that you doctors can offer? Never? Never?" Nikolay leaped to his feet as she attacked
the doctor with fists and words. The two of them struggled to contain the hysterical woman
before life-supporting apparatus was dislodged.
"Grishana Yegvenia!" Thundered Nikolay, gripping her arms. Suddenly the room
was quiet, except for the quiet sounds from the medical equipment.
"Shaya, they are doing their best...." whispered Nikolay, his cheeks running
"Best?" she cried, brokenly. "Kolya - look at her; look at our little
Mishka - can you tell me this is Best?" Breaking her husbands grip, she
flung herself, sobbing, onto the still form lying under the hospital blanket. The
physician looked at the quiet, calm face of Maresha Grishanova, and wondered at the tiny
smile he saw there.
Meanwhile, arms wide open and face to the sun, high up on the windblown cliffs, to
miraculous traditional music from a Romany master, untouched by anything, Maresha danced.