My third novel Mine is hotting up, with interest growing. I thought I’d choose one of my favorite parts to share with those of you who have asked.
Sophie listened, while catching the tiniest sliver of a rainbow out past the pines and over the sea.
“Without warning I was taken off the world-touring list. Clearly, I was now suspect. Would I defect? Maybe it was the length of time I took to pack my violin, or to leave the orchestral venues. Maybe it was a minder’s notes, or maybe it was a friend or a relative who had informed. I could never be sure. A boat, hidden amongst the glacial rocks, had been prepared for me to make the crossing from here to Helsinki. Right here.” She pointed out the window to beyond the pines and the stretch of sand.
Sophie refilled their cups, and took another piece of chocolate.
“I am not sure when I first made the decision about defecting. There had been so many moments, like the one in Berlin, when it hung on a knife’s edge. I could have just walked out the door, into the night, the traffic, but I couldn’t contemplate being gone forever, even fifty years of exile. I didn’t want to think about the KGB agents who may show up at my door, wherever I might be, in the West, to retrieve me, possibly kill me — quickly or slowly, and as always, without a trace. Who cared about a young violin player from Tallinn? Maybe I became suspect after the concert in Sydney, where I froze, almost fainted, when I couldn’t pass through the stage door, when the voice in my head shouted ‘run’ and my accompanist did — straight out into the street, and into the American embassy.”
“You had a chance,” Sophie breathed.
“I had a chance, but there was a last chance. Hidden between the glacial rocks and the windblown firs at the water’s edge, a boat pitched from side to side, blown by the night wind. One lone sailor would captain the boat to Helsinki. I was to bring nothing but my Bergonzi — that was the trade. Free passage for the violin. I remember it clearly as if it were just yesterday, almost as if I were meant to leave right now.
“The sound of late summer lovers laughing echoed somewhere off in the distance. The scent of pine, fir and mulch filled the air, along with the salty smell of the sea and sand that ran the length of the pristine beach. Peat and bog. That aroma, the perfume of Estonia. Waving his lamp, the seaman signaled to me, ‘time to go.’ But rooted to the spot, standing there like a fool, my violin case in hand, I couldn’t move. We had so little time. I knew the odds, the danger. The radar operators were paid only enough for those few hours. After that, we’d be easily detected, used for target practice or worse.
“Gripping my violin case by the handle, nailed to the spot, I studied the True Lover’s Knot at my feet and the other ferns in the gulley two feet away. The smell of the trees made me dizzy. I still could not move, and I watched as the mariner’s lamp made a slow arc, and I listened to the low, sharp blow of his whistle.
“‘Kirrusta.’ Hurry up, he said. Every second I delayed I knew was a second less to escape and a second greater that I’d be detected, we’d be detected, caught and punished. I knew the risk I took, the risk the others took, what my family had paid, but I couldn’t move. Two alternating woodpeckers hammered away, and a flood of summer flowers poured forth in my memory, especially the lily of the valley at early morning, wet with dew. I saw the carpet of white wild roses spread out before me in the moonlight, and I started to cry.
“‘No.’ I would not go. Already the stark red berries of my wild roses were showing, preparing for winter. The sailor called out once more, and then left. After all, he had his life, his family’s safety to think about as well.
“The small boat receded into the distance, and I knew my beloved Bergonzi would be taken by the state, but Sophie, I did make that exchange willingly for a simple spread of fragile summer flowers, ones that blow away in the night but leave a bright, inedible fruit that can pass through the coldest winter unharmed. Sometimes a decision is made for you and sometimes you must just make that decision — let it rip right through you. It’s either a yes or a no — and no one can do it for you. That is courage.”
Sophie heard the distant refrains of Arina’s violin, as she walked back up the beach to the causeway and then along the sea esplanade. She watched a Tallink ferry sailing to Helsinki disappear over the horizon.