The Nevsky Wall
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Chapter 15   -  Pole Star

December 6

Alex stood there for some time, alone on the street corner. Viktor was gone, likely at the station by now, but his words hung in the air. Alex could not shake them.

His brother’s words cut so keenly because there was a part of Alex – the small, critical voice inside, immune to both fraud and frailty – that agreed with Viktor. A world of dreams, that’s how he had described Alex’s life. Was that really the case? His life had turned in directions he might not have chosen, it was true, but he always took responsibility for his actions. And he was not blind, as Viktor had accused him, to his brother’s efforts for the family in their father’s absence.

His first thought, as he watched Viktor walk away, had been to follow him. He would run and catch up to his brother, speak his mind this time, explain how he, too, had made sacrifices for their family’s sake. More than anyone could know. He would run after him and make his brother understand. But hadn’t he run after Viktor his whole life? Hadn’t he always sought his brother’s approval, even as he made it clear to everyone how little they had in common? Wasn’t it time to stop running?

He looked across the snowbound street. This area of the Petrograd Section was nearly deserted. The old mansions had long ago been converted to government offices, and everyone in them had either been evacuated or transferred to work at the Smolny. It was quiet standing there on the corner. He could hear just the faintest percussion of artillery to the south – not an unpleasant sound, taken on its own. Like the soft booming noises beneath a frozen lake. Life is more manageable, he thought, when you can separate the image, or in this case the sound, of a thing from its reality. It can then be appreciated for what it is, without emotion or consequence. Over the last few years, he had become an expert at this art of separation. Perhaps that was what Viktor meant by his world of dreams.

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Chapter 15   -  Pole Star

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