art by Jonathan Westbrook
by Sylvia Spruck Wrigley
Gunthar sat in stoic silence, a woolen blanket folded over his lap, facing the fireplace. Ada set her basket of fabric and lace onto the frayed rug and eased herself into the chair next to his, pulling it closer to the fire.
He kept his eyes on the flickering flames. "So, it's over?"
There was no point in denying it. "Our men have surrendered. The soldiers have taken the palace."
He grunted. Outside, a whistling sound and then the bang of a firework.
"The victory celebration begins," she said, swallowing hard. She closed the shutters against the scent of gunpowder and tugged her sewing out of the basket.
"Do you remember when we came to the city? The victory ball? Those were happy times," Gunthar said. His face was dreamy with recollection as he rocked back and forth. "You were sixteen."
"Thirteen," said Ada. "Just turned." It wasn't a victory for the city, only for them, the occupiers. Ada kept her eyes firmly on stitching lace edging onto the pale silk piled up in her lap. "But never mind, it doesn't matter anymore."
"It was your first ball. You were nervous."
"My godmother insisted. She made my dress herself."
Gunthar picked up a pinecone and tossed it onto the fire. The flames flared as they devoured it. "You were beautiful," he said.