It is time to go to my son.
Nen waited to hear those words from the Vasilissa for fifteen rotations, since that time the snow wouldn’t stop falling. But now that he’s about to meet Anani, the love of his life, again, he’s afraid. What if Anani doesn’t feel the same anymore?
Anani, the guardian of the water element, was only seventeen when he was banished from his mother’s court. Heartbroken he couldn’t be with the one he loved, he lost control over his emotions and his power. No matter what he tried, the snow wouldn’t stop, and as a last resort, he was sent away.
When they finally meet again, Anani is hopeful but disillusioned. The law that kept them apart hasn’t changed. How will they be able to find their happily ever after?
And what happens when the snow starts falling again?
A third knock hushes the forest even more. Not a single insect can be heard. Is the wildlife waiting for me to leave? Is he? Would he answer if I call out to him? Or will the sound of my voice make him even more resolved to stay behind the closed door?
Before I have time to come to a decision, the door is yanked open and he appears in the opening.
Oh, great Spirit, still my heart!
He is magnificent!
He is willowy tall and has grown so much these last fifteen rotations, reaching me to my nose, standing over a head taller than any other member of his family. He’s dressed like a commoner in a tunic and pants even plainer than my own -- where's his kaftan? The clothes hug his body and reveal every long sinewy muscle in his legs and arms.
Hair as white as newly fallen snow is parted in the middle and hangs straight to his waist. His nose, slightly upturned, gives him a mischievous look. His pale lips, imperceptibly darker than his skin color, are pillowy but set in a severe line.
But it's his eyes that draw my attention. Pale blue eyes staring at me as if he can't believe what he's seeing. After a few heartbeats, they widen, and he lets out a gasp.
A wave of emotions hit me square in the chest. What was muted just moments before grows into an avalanche as though he let them loose, or lost control of them. They overwhelm me; I physically feel them, poking and prodding my breast, invading my heart. I stagger a few steps backward and sink to my knees without hesitation. I don't avert my gaze. "Vasilieu."
He narrows his eyes. "Do not call me that. You know my name. Use it."
The barrage of his emotions intensifies, making it hard to breathe but easy for me to identify them. Disbelief. Uncertainty. Hope.
Yes, definitely happiness.
"Anani," I whisper. Never before have I uttered his name, not even alone in the night. Saying it now is terrifying and freeing all at once. And it feels right, as though my lips are meant to say it. Whisper it in his ear as our limbs are entwined and sweaty.
He surges forward and throws himself on his knees before me. Cups my cheeks and lets his thumbs caress my beard. His gaze flits over my face as if though he's trying to take in all the changes that have happened since we saw each other last. The crow's feet by my eyes. The corners of my mouth that are downturned from the lack of smiling. The first gray at my temples in a sea of black, bristly hair.
I'm an older, more tired-looking version of the man who watched him walk away all those rotations ago, while he's more breathtaking than ever.
"Vasilieu. Don't kneel before me. It's not proper."
"Nen. Oh Nen. Is it really you?" he asks as if he didn't hear my plea. His hands explore my face; the fingertips linger in my wrinkles and lines, sending sparkles through my body. He tugs lightly on my beard and gazes into my eyes. I wonder what he sees.
"Vasilieu. Anani." The second time I use his name is even more momentous. "Stand, I beg you."
He sits back on his heels. "What are you doing here?" His disbelief melts away. Clearly, he trusts his own eyes and what he can see before him. Confusion takes its place. With grace, he rises to his feet, bends down to grab my hands, and pulls me to standing with little help from me. Spirit, he is strong!
He doesn't let go.