When she was 16, Natalia left her home. It was not to escape a horrible family, abusive home life, nor even an impoverished lifestyle. Yes, her home town was poor by global standards, but there was always enough to eat, with plenty of good people to pass the days with.

But Natalia was not made for the simple life, and she had known it early. Ever the one ready to make long trips to nearby villages, she found herself yearning to see and do more at any chance she got. Looking back it was lucky to have someone like Marina, a kindly older woman down the road from her childhood home, but Marina was only the means of her departure, not the source.

From only a few years old, Natalia had been taught by her in the ways of certain acrobatics. No one in the village knew how or why she had obtained such skills, especially as she was now chiefly concerned with being the village’s sole seamstress (at least, the only one good enough to do it somewhat professionally). And Natalia had taken to it very well, being exceptionally talented by the age of 10, performing for the small village almost once per week.

One chance day she found herself talking with a traveler, someone just passing by, and two weeks later she was aboard a cruise ship in the Caribbean, the junior member of a performing trio. To Natalia it was a dream. Not the acrobatics, that was only a means. But through it she was traveling to a new destination every few days, meeting new people constantly. For a girl from rural Siberia, the culture shock was immense and exhilarating.

Perhaps that was how she first fell for Samuel. He was a guest on a cruise out of Miami, but she didn’t meet him until after a stop in Tortola. He was alone (or claimed to be), and unquestionably charming. There were strict rules against any sort of fraternization between crew and guests, but she found herself smitten almost immediately. When the final day of that trip came she waited anxiously to see him again, but he never arrived to their agreed meeting place.

Weeks went by with Natalia in a daze. She performed in the evenings, and kept to her small inside cabin most of the rest of the time. That is, until one day Samuel returned, and asked her to come with him. The waves of relief and passion were too much for her to see clearly, and she followed Samuel, leaving the ship as soon as she was able.

Within a week they were married, and within a month life had become routine again. Natalia often wondered how she had let it happen so fast. Someone so resolutely adventurous and nomadic as herself should not have been so eager to settle down, but in the moment the wild thing to do was to marry a near-stranger on a whim, to quit her show and move to a small town in North Carolina.

And Samuel was indeed charming. He had the biggest heart of anyone she had ever known, and when he said, “No wife of mine will have to work,” she knew he thought it was generous and noble.

But it was not generous, and Natalia found herself growing stir-crazy in the cavernous house by herself. She devised ever more elaborate ways to perform mundane tasks like laundry and washing dishes, and she wondered how long she would be able to stay here.

Samuel needed stability, and Natalia needed excitement. She knew in her heart that he would do whatever he could to please her, but it was not what he needed for himself. And so, one warm day in June, Natalia balanced herself on the counter. Her forearms held her upright and her toes clutched a pen. Her toes wrote a bittersweet goodbye, sprinkled with tears, and Natalia prepared to move on as she always must.


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