During WWII in Romania, Tsura’s brother is sent to a concentration camp for being Roma (gypsy) and Tsura is lost and alone until she finds hope in the arms of Andrei, a Jewish man in hiding with her who becomes her lover.
But Tsura should know better than to trust in happiness lasting.
Soon she’s discovered and her only means of protection is to marry Mihai Popescu, the grandson of the man whose basement she and Andrei are hiding in. She has no choice but to leave Andrei behind.
She marries Mihai, who’s also a Nazi sympathizer that works as a translator at the German Embassy in Bucharest. He’s a strange man of strange habits. He’s extremely stoic. Tsura’s passionate. He likes silence. She grew up surrounded by music and noise. But as much as she hates it, parading as his happy wife is her best disguise. And she’s Roma, hasn’t her entire life prepared her to wear a false face in front of the gagii (non-Roma)?
But Tsura soon realizes things may not be what they first appeared. The tides of war are swiftly changing. Romanians flee the outer territories as the Red Army gains more and more ground every day. Danger threatens from all sides. When events come to a head, will Tsura return to her former lover or realize that her yearning for family might just be found in the most unlikely place of all—with her husband?
And will any of them be alive for it to matter?
Later that night, Tsura lay in bed, hugging her pillow close. Andrei. Where was he? For the hundredth time, she looked over her shoulder to the closet. The door was open. But the trapdoor hadn’t moved.
She closed her eyes and her body deflated. They’d been arguing all week. But tonight. She’d been so sure that he’d come tonight, their last night before…
A noise sounded behind her and she held her breath. She didn’t move or turn her head again even as she heard shifting and the sound of the trapdoor closing again. The soft noise of footsteps on the rug. The creak of the bed as he got onto the mattress behind her.
Then she broke and turned to fling her arms around Andrei. She kissed his neck and then his face and then his lips.
She’d been lying to herself earlier. She hadn’t been sure if he’d come at all.
When she pulled away, he didn’t look like himself. Normally his face was laughing, so ready to smile. But he wasn’t smiling now.
“I can’t let you marry another man.”
What? She thought he’d come to make peace with her. “You know I wouldn’t do this if there was another way.” Her own anger sparked. She’d meant to be conciliatory, but how could he not see this made her as miserable as it did him? How many times would she have to explain it? “What would you have me do?”
He grabbed her hands. “We’ll run away together. You and me.”
“And go where? With what papers?”
“We’ll head north, to Russia. The Communists don’t mind the Jews. We’ll sneak rides in hay carts or go through the forests. Or we could go south and get lost in a Jewish sector in one of the big cities. We’ll live quietly, get married.”
Tsura’s heart lurched at the thought. Yes, she was tempted to say. Yes, of course I’ll run away with you.
Instead, she said, “And what about Domnul Popescu and the Weinbergs? If I run, it will cast suspicion on them. The house will be raided. Domnul Popescu and Mihai could go to prison and the Weinbergs sent to Transnistria. You know there’s no way Eva would survive the trip.”
He pulled back, breathing hard. “Do you care about everyone else more than me, Tsura? Do you even really love me?”
His words were like a knife in her chest. “Of course I love you! How can you ask me that?”
He looked ashamed then and drew her tight against his chest. “I’m sorry, I’m sorry. This is all making me so crazy.”
“It’s only on paper,” she whispered. “Just until the war is done.”
“I try to tell myself that,” he rubbed his hand down her spine, eliciting a shiver. “But then I think of his ring on your finger and I want to strangle him. How would you feel, Tsura, if I married someone else? If I stood before God and pledged my life to another? Do you think you could stand it?”
She sank her face into his shoulder, not knowing what to say. It would make her insane if he married someone else, whatever the reason. He was hers. Even though they weren’t yet married, she considered him family already. She’d be blind with jealousy if he even looked at another girl. “I don’t know, I don’t know,” she murmured, nestling her nose into the space between his shoulder and his jaw. She breathed him in, then pressed a kiss to his warm, soft skin. “But what else are we to do?”
“Yakira,” he cradled her face, “you know I want no harm done to you. I would cut off my own arm before I let someone hurt you. I would gauge out my own eyes. But I can’t bear to think of someone else’s hands on you.” He dropped his hands to her waist, pulling her against him.
“It won’t be a real marriage.” Tsura put her hands behind his neck and pulled him in close. “I’ll never share a bed with him. I love you. I only do what I have to do to keep us all safe. Once the war ends and the madness is done, this false marriage will be annulled. It will be as if it never was.” She caught his face in her hands. “I am only yours, Andrei.”
“Yes, you are mine,” Andrei growled, yanking her tight against him. “Only mine.”
HEATHER ANASTASIU IS KINDLY GIVING AWAY AN AMAZON GIFT CARD TO ONE LUCKY READER. ENTRIES ARE OPEN FOR SEVEN DAYS, AND THE WINNER WILL BE NOTIFIED SHORTLY AFTER THE CLOSING DATE.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Heather Anastasiu is the author of the young adult trilogy GLITCH, OVERRIDE, and SHUTDOWN (St. Martin’s Press) and the forthcoming novel, GIRL LAST SEEN (Albert Whitman & Co, Spring 2016). She recently moved from her native Texas to Minneapolis with her family, and when she’s not busy getting lost exploring the new city, she spends most days writing, reading, or daydreaming about getting a new tattoo.