‘Be careful, Maria,’ cautioned Papa, as we carefully negotiated the filthy water, empty bottles and other unmentionables laying in a disgusting mess on the marble floor. It made our footing treacherous and uncertain in the dying light of the sunset.
‘Yes, Papa,’ I said, realising but, not mentioning, that my footing was more secure than his. The events of the last year had taken a terrible toll on him. The starvation rations and loss of status made him question himself; could he could have done more for his people and beloved country, could he have influenced events?
The corridor was aligned with the setting sun so the shadows of the seven of us jumped and danced on the walls. Who was more real, the shadows or us? We were as weak as ghosts and made very slow progress.
‘What are those things hanging from the ceiling?’ asked my sister, Anastasia.
‘Those are the ashes of the leather wall hangings that were burnt when the fire gutted this Ipatiev House in Yekaterinburg on that terrible May day in 1918,’ I told her.
We slowed to wait for Mother.
‘Come lean on me, darling Alexandra,’ said Papa to his wife. ‘We have to get to that cellar but we have plenty of time, all eternity in fact, so there is no need to hurry.
The steel windows were open but there was no glass left so it made no difference, the bullets of the Bolsheviks had shattered the glass and left the shards on the floor. They were hidden in the muddy water from the heavy rains that followed the shooting.
It had taken us seemingly forever to get from the grave site on the Koptyyaki Road. It was only twelve miles but time and distance had no meaning for us now. We hoped by getting back to cellar, we would eventually get to lie in the Pete and Paul cathedral in Saint Petersburg with the other monarchs of Russia.
We eventually got to the cellar, the scene of the execution. Pap told Mama and Alexie to sit on the three chairs and rest. We had only eighty two years to wait before we were finally laid to rest and so leave behind our earthly cares.
© Richard Kefford Eorðdraca
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