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American Now Departed: War of the Heart

By historyman101 All Rights Reserved ©

Romance / Thriller

Chapter 3

January 22nd, 1943

The last class of the week had just ended, much to his silent rejoicing as he quietly and hurriedly packed his knapsack in preparation for his journey home to the girl patiently waiting for him in his modest little bungalow sitting perched on the hill. The professor had called on him a few times and he did his duty and answered all asked of him, but in his head he quietly wished for an end to this. Thankfully he got his wish.

He made his way out of the classroom, and towards the courtyard of the school through the long, seemingly infinite hallways. While passing by the rows of lockers and shuffling past classmates, he heard the quiet passing of rumors and stories concerning him, and bore witness to his fame spreading faster than he would like.

"That's him, Jake. The kid who fought in Stalingrad."

"They say he killed more than 200 Krauts!"

"I heard he was decorated by the Russians…"

"Didn't he travel to Stalingrad because of a girl he loved?"

He said nothing to the last question, one that was not even posed to him. What could he say about his reasons for going and fighting in a war he would rather have no part in? No one could truly understand what drove him across the Pacific and over the frozen empty Russian steppes. No one could relate to what was felt between him and her. They were a world apart from all the others in this school, in this town. He would rather they all left him be so he could continue the struggle in his soul of what he felt towards that modest quiet girl for whom he had undertaken everything. What did exist between them? It was certainly more than mere friendship now. It wasn't quite love either, however.

He wracked his brain for an answer as to where they stood now, and the damning question she asked him once again reverberated.

Petroshka, if you were destined to stay in Russia forever, or if I was a citizen of your country, would you and I have fallen in love?

He continued dodging the question, but the one true answer seemed to stick since he quietly confessed to Chertov before they escaped. The one word that seemed to sum up everything he felt towards that humble girl waiting for him at home. He thought it was simply a way to convince the secret police to let them leave unmolested, but the more he thought about it, the stronger that one word took hold in his heart.

She was the best friend he made while abroad. She was the sole reason he risked his very life in a land that was not his. She was the one person who he felt could understand him and he her. She was the closest person to his heart in every sense.

Whenever Russia was spoken, she was there.

Whenever he felt tormented and beleaguered by past sins, she comforted him.

Whenever he felt in need of a companion, he turned to her.

Whenever his friends joked of falling in love, he thought of her.

She was a part of him now. She had been so ever since he left her there standing on the docks of Stalingrad, he a mere boy of twelve and she a tender, vulnerable girl approaching eleven. He was wracked by depression at the mere mentioning of her name since he left her homeland, as if a part of his own heart had been cut out and left to rot in the unforgiving sun. He left a piece of himself with her the day he left. And no matter how much he desired to go and see her, comfort her when times seemed darkest, he did not return until four years later.

He ground his teeth and covered his right eye, lost on what this aching pain was in his heart. He tried to think of a way to get her out of his head.

But do you really want her gone from your thoughts?

That counter from himself troubled him further. He didn't hate her. Far from it. She was the dearest person in his life, but something about being more than just a simple close friend seemed to make his heart waver. Why? It was a situation that any other boy would jump at without hesitation or second thought; what boy didn't dream of falling in love with someone he had known all his life? Silent costly wars raged in his head as he battled to find a reason why his heart hesitated.

As he continued searching through the battlefields of his subconscious, a voice broke the silence he had shrouded himself in.

"Hey Pete!"

He looked to see where the call came from, and found that it was from one of his friends, Walter Sharpton.

Walter, or "Wally" as he preferred to be called by those close to him, had first met Peter during grade school, and quickly became friends. He was part and parcel to the teasing Peter endured upon his return from Russia for gaining a friend out of a girl, and Peter was always quick to mark him with the sign of hypocrisy for his feeling for a significant other. Walter's greatest dream was to be a soldier in the army, but he never seemed to mind the terrors and nightmares that would come with the job; he worked as a volunteer at the Presidio in San Francisco and was in his second year of Junior Reserve Officers Training Corps.

Off the training grounds and out of uniform however, he was a simple, caring soul with a demeanor to match. He was a supportive friend to Peter, but now he grew wary of Peter's continued isolation and reclusive nature.

"Wally…" Peter said with a tired smile. "What can I do for you, my friend?"

"We still got some New Year's cake left over, and I'd like it if you joined us for some this weekend."

Peter turned his eyes away, wondering what he was after. Everyone who asked him for a moment of his time was more interested in stories from a soldier returned from the front rather than the actual soldier himself. But he knew Walter better than that; he was a friend who never asked for much, and never demanded much in return. Perhaps all he was after in the end was just the company of his dear friend.

"I'll come by tomorrow."

Walter beamed. Finally, he was able to lure the hermit out of his cave.

"It'd be nice if you could bring Tanya, too. Peggy would love to see her again."

"Sure, Walt. She'll come."

With the matter of friendly gatherings concluded, the two friends parted ways and Peter made his way out of the main school building and down the long concrete steps to the courtyard facing the street that would eventually lead him home. However, he was to be intercepted by another, meaning the same objective as Walter, but with different intentions.

"Oh, Peter!"

Peter recognized the voice and looked to find Jane Hart, the British girl who always found a way to be with him when he needed it. The friend that seemed to stand out to him as the others drifted away like small toy boats floating down a stream. Peter smiled, happy to see her.

"Hello, Jane. What can I do for you?"

Jane blushed and slid her Mary-Jane encased foot back and forth, sifting the loose dirt as one would sift sand on the beach.

"I don't suppose…if you have the time, that is…you could stop by my house before going home?"

Peter turned to face her, staring at her intently with those piercing green eyes that seemed to stab like daggers. The eyes did not give the slightest hint to his thoughts, his barrier to others even extending to one of his closer friends. His solitude and isolation was something that had bothered her greatly, and surely others, but she was determined to see him come around, even if she had to drag him. Surprisingly, however, Peter did not give a rejection.

"Certainly, Jane. I'd be happy to."

Jane grinned at his approval.

"Oh, lovely! I'm so glad you can come. Finally I have someone else to share tea with."

Peter chuckled at the prospect of having tea. Fitting for an outing with a British woman.

"What kind of tea do you have?" he asked casually as they walked down the steps.

"Earl Grey and English Breakfast. Which one do you like?"

"English Breakfast, but I'll take either."

They laughed as if they were a couple who knew each other, inside and out. As they walked down the tall steps to the street, he mused of what was to be said of his friendship with Jane. It was similar to what he had with Tanya now, but at the same time, Jane and Peter were far more distant. They had gone together to some places such as his meditative spot on the beach and maybe they might see each other in the cafe or downtown, but apart from that, they rarely saw each other outside of school. Even if they were good friends, she hardly knew anything about him, and he about her.

Perhaps this trip to her house would give him an opportunity to know a little more about his Limey friend.

Then he spotted a public phone booth and remembered Tanya. He had to call her to let her know he would be late. He could not make her worry.

"Could you hang here for a bit? I just have to phone Tanya."

Jane nodded, acquiescing to his request. She watched with longing blue eyes as he trotted over to the phone booth and dialed a number. She wondered to herself what they talk about between the two of them at home. Peter spoke in a language Jane could not understand, only making out small words such as "da" and "nyet" and "kharasho" and occasionally hearing Tanya's name spoken. He laughed, sharing a private joke between the two separated by street blocks and the wire of the telephone their only connection.

Tanya.

The name stirred a strange, dark feeling from her. She had never even seen the girl Peter talked about so much and she had a sense that she should be watching out for her, like she was an existential threat. If she could make Peter smile, make Peter laugh, make Peter happy, then could she make Peter love her as well?

Jane felt like slapping herself at leveling such accusations with never even meeting the girl. She had to be a sweet and good little girl.

"Da, ponyatna1, Tanya," he concluded in Russian. "Poka2."

He hung up the phone and took his change from the slot before exiting the booth and turning to Jane.

"We can go now."

They began walking along the road that led into Peter's neighborhood, with Peter following Jane as she knew the way, and this would be his first time entering her realm, her sanctuary from the world.

"You speak Russian very well, Peter," Jane complimented. "I'm impressed."

"I get by," Peter acquiesced, not wanting to brag.

Jane laughed at his overarching humility.

"Don't be so modest, Peter! It takes a lot of study and practice to master a language like Russian. You should be proud."

"I've had enough exposure to it throughout my life to know a thing or two. And journeying to the country does help. Do you take a foreign language, Jane?"

"I take French," Jane joked, "and I have a hard enough time with it than when I started learning in London!"

"Have you ever gone to France?"

"Once or twice, but not enough to help me with my fluency. What about you?"

Peter looked up to the sky, and thought of the friends he left behind in France. After Russia, France had special significance since he spent much of his time in the Norman countryside. He made friends of the children in a small farming town. The town was now occupied by the Germans, and he knew full well that all the children, young men and women by now, must be suffering under the yoke of Nazi oppression.

"I was there for about a month when I first traveled to Europe," Peter said, holding back repressed sorrow. "I stayed in a small town in Normandy, and made some friends there. God knows what's happened to them since the occupation began."

Jane felt like slapping herself again, this time for making Peter melancholy. She was taking him to her home to make him feel happy with her, not make him wistful for happy days long since past.

"I'm sorry, Peter, I shouldn't have mentioned it."

"It's not your fault," Peter returned. "It's mine for always thinking about them."

"Don't talk like that," Jane countered. "Don't you say yourself how you should always be dedicated to your friends?"

Peter laughed, seeing Jane's point and noted his hypocrisy.

"You remember my words, I see…"

"Why wouldn't I, Peter? It's not every day you find someone so committed to the people around him."

"It's just something my family always taught me, Jane. Being faithful and loyal are signs of a trustworthy person."

"Very true, indeed."

"And what of you, Jane?" Peter asked, seeing an opportunity to learn something about his friend from across the pond. "Do you have any friends? Besides me, that is."

Jane pondered the question for a moment and turned to him asking clarification.

"Here or back in London?"

"Take your pick, I suppose."

Jane sighed, thinking back to her times in London before the Blitz that tore her friends and family apart. It seemed so distant to her now, much the way England was so distant. Sometimes she could only see fading fleeting glimpses of her past life that now seemed so far behind her. The world she once inhabited was lush and grandiose, filled with socials and parties, brimming with lessons by personal tutors, teaching her things far greater than her mind could comprehend. She had her friends here, but what she noticed was how status had nothing to do with where she was in this school or in this town for that matter. Her life in London was largely dictated by class and limited who she did and did not see. Here, she met all kinds of people, rich and poor, who cared not for how much money the other had or how the other was dressed or how eloquently one spoke but only delighted in the company of their fellow man and woman.

"In London, my family had a life of privilege."

"One of the rich snob families?" Peter joked, nudging her in the arm.

Jane shrugged it off with a feminine chuckle as they carefully trotted across the street, even though both knew there were no cars around.

"My family was well-off enough, let's put it like that. But being how our family was, it meant I was kept away from society most of the time. You would often find me with a tutor or at a party somewhere with some other family of significance. Most of the friends I had were friends of the family. If the war never came, it might have gone on like that for the rest of my life."

This piqued Peter's curiosity, as he was never fortunate enough to have the privileges Jane enjoyed. His family was of farming stock, and even if his was one of the better more profitable farms, they still struggled just to get by. He lived the Spartan life, devoid of any luxury or glamour. He wondered briefly how the farm must look now after all the years of neglect and age.

"What was it like, being a debutante?"

"I was hardly a debutante," she said laughing, not thinking much of it. "At times, it seemed like a dream. Chatting with friends over tea, sitting in on meetings with families, all of it. Sometimes I still wonder if it was all just my imagination. And then the war came."

"And that's when the dream ended?"

Jane sighed, remembering when she had to say goodbye to her parents and to her older brother as she left on a ship bound for New York, the start of her new life in America away from the old country.

"Yes. I left with my parents' blessing, and saw my brother for the last time. That is when I came here."

"I'm sorry all that had to happen."

"It's not your fault war came, Peter. I don't think any of us could have predicted what was to come."

"No, I suppose you're right. And what about now? How's life here different from what you experienced then?"

Jane smiled, thinking of all the friends she made here. She seemed to fit into a higher echelon in school, conversing and socializing with the more popular and fashionable people in the school. She could not deny that she was near the top of the heap, and at times the life she led here was not that different from the life of a socialite back in England. But at the same time there was something drastically different about what being a higher-up meant here.

"Well, I certainly get out more than in London," she chuckled. "But I suppose you could still qualify me in one of the higher echelons, at least as far as our school goes."

Peter laughed, noting the castes in their little realm of education. Jane always seemed to be off with the popular golden crowd, and he was on the lower rungs, only appreciated among his group of friends and acknowledged and respected among those who sat at or below him on the social food chain.

"Feeling a bit of envy, are you, my dear?" Jane said with a sly grin.

"Truth be told," Peter said lightly, "I've never cared much about things like status. I just go about my business in school and get my work done. It pays off for me most of the time."

"Well, it certainly shows with how well you do compared to the rest of us."

Peter blushed at the compliment.

"I just do what's expected of me, I guess," Peter laughed, embarrassed. "But I don't suppose you and the others in those high towers looking down on all of us ants talk about me much, do you?"

Jane saw a good opportunity to tease Peter as they approached her house.

"Well, wouldn't you like to know, Mr. Daniels?"

"Indeed I would, Ms. Hart."

Peter was immediately drawn to the abode of Jane, which was about the same size of Peter's. It was a Victorian-patterned house, about two stories tall and adorned with decorated windows that seemed freshly painted. The house looked like it had been recently renovated, in far contrast to the aging state of his home. Surrounding the house was a picket fence enclosing a freshly cut and clean lawn with a small flower garden hanging near a bay window on the ground floor.

"Well the answer to that, my dear Peter," Jane giggled as she opened the gate to her home, "must wait until you and I have had tea."

"Seems fair to me," Peter laughed in return.

Jane offered him her arm and Peter took it, as they walked down the cobblestone path arms locked to the front door. Jane searched her dress pockets for presumably the key to the house and quickly found it before unlocking the door and opening it up.

"After you," she said, motioning him in first.

"No, after you," Peter countered, "I insist."

Jane chuckled and curtseyed slightly before slipping into the house with Peter quickly following. What struck Peter was how high-end the house looked from the interior. Floral patterned wallpaper covered the walls right down to the moss green carpeting that went wall-to-wall. Everywhere there hung old Victorian age portraits of people unrecognizable to Peter, harkening to an age of sensibility, reason, and austerity. The house seemed to speak, "A well-mannered lady of good standing lives here. She is eligible for a suitor, if you so desire her."

"Do you live alone here?" Peter asked, still taking in the dignified aura of the house.

"Yes, I do," she answered as she went into the kitchen and out of sight from Peter as he examined the front room.

"How do you pay for a house like this by yourself?" he posed to her, astonished.

"My parents regularly mail me enough money to pay the rent on this house, along with some funds for food and new clothes. But I'm always told to use it sparingly."

"What made you decide to live alone?"

"It wasn't my decision. Mother and Father thought it would be good for me. They said it would be a lesson in independence and self-reliance. I've gotten on fairly well, but of course, I would be a terrible liar if I said I didn't miss London sometimes."

Peter found a velvet Edwardian style sofa to seat himself on as he placed his knapsack against one of the legs, and sat tentatively waiting for Jane to bring in the tea. He had only been in the house for little than a few minutes, and he felt like he was in a place he didn't belong. The dignified and austere feeling of the house gave him feelings of increased restriction and isolation, as if he was a poor orphan boy who had wandered into a grand ball for royalty. He was a mild mannered farmer's boy breaking ice with a former personality of the London middle class, a well-brought-up young girl beginning to blossom into womanhood and come into the adult world.

She talked of things foreign to him; talks of parties, fancy dresses, of recitals and special tutors. Given how she described herself, she would be far out of his league anywhere else. And yet she still reached him. She still offered her hand to him and gave him her friendship and confidence. Why? Why would she, a well-to-do socialite, spend her time on a poor country boy who had only recently turned into a war hero?

"How do you take your tea, Peter?" Jane called out from the kitchen.

"With one spoon of sugar, if you please," Peter responded.

He heard a clattering from the kitchen as he drummed his fingers on his knees, nervously waiting for the tea to be served, and wondering what he could say to Jane. This was not a situation he had ever encountered before; never before was he ever invited over to a girl's house as an outing. It was strange he would feel strained and tense with her while with Tanya he was relaxed and calm.

"Here we are," Jane said as Peter eyed the tray.

It was ceramic with a floral pattern, holding a white china teapot and matching cups and saucers. Two cups carried the tea from which arose steam that gave off an enticing aroma to the both of them. It was simple but at the same time dignified, like so much else in this house and even Jane herself. Quite a stark contrast from how Peter characterized himself in this alien environment. She set the tray down and took one of the cups, grasping it by the handle with her dainty fingers and her pinky extended. Peter by contrast took his cup and held it normally, grasping the bowl of the cup rather than the handle like a mug.

"Bottoms up, I guess," Peter chuckled nervously as he gently sipped from the cup.

Jane laughed as she drank from hers and waited for Peter's reaction.

"Very good," he said smiling. "Just like when I traveled to London."

"That's imported tea from Britain, too. No store bought packs from around here."

"Certainly tastes like it…"

He took another drink as he eyed her, harkening an image of British aristocrats who sat in on the inauguration of a great sovereign, attended the banquets at Buckingham Palace and tripped the light fantastic at galas and balls day and night. She came from a world of power, prestige, and privilege. He came from a world of hard labor, endurance, and loss. For a moment, he realized how fundamentally different they were. Their life experiences, their ways of seeing the world, the environments they had been born and bred in, were so radically opposed to each other. They were different people from two separate worlds, but yet they still touched and spoke, like they were old friends.

"So about your friends at school…"

"Ah, yes," she said smiling, remembering her small contract with Peter. "To answer your question, your name is brought up a few times."

"In what context?" he pressed.

Jane sighed, knowing the true answer was much harder to tell, but Peter never wavered and communicated as much with his stern green eyes that seemed to see straight through her.

"Just tell me the truth, Jane. I won't think of you any less for it."

"Truth be told," Jane said contemplatively, "if it were not for your exploits in Russia, they wouldn't talk about you so highly. You've really made quite a name for yourself with all you did in Stalingrad."

Peter leaned his head back on the sofa, sighing as he looked up to the ceiling, spotting a fleur-de-lis pattern surrounding the chandelier. Even the ceiling betrayed the high nature of this place, and further called to his attention just how small he was compared to this.

"Sometimes I wonder if I should even have gone, with all the notoriety it's gotten me. Many days I get tired of all the attention."

"Don't talk like that, Peter. You said yourself that you did what you felt was the right thing. And I can tell you the others have nothing but respect towards you for it. But if they ever have a harsh word, I am always the first to your defense."

"I thank you, Jane. But do the others really hate me that much?"

"They hardly hate you," Jane protested. "But I suppose they find you…unapproachable."

Peter turned to her, quizzically.

"You hardly ever talk to anyone outside me or your friends. You don't go out often unless your friends ask you to come. And…well…honestly, you're very gloomy most days. In fact, some of them are frightened by you."

Peter laughed as he drank again. The thought was so ironic considering what he had to face with himself day after day.

"I have to battle with my own demons on a daily basis…and they think I'm frightening."

"As much as I hate to admit it, Peter, they are right about some of those things. You're quite the hermit."

Peter turned to the ceiling again, contemplating the truth behind it. Yes he avoided others and put a wall around himself, but he did so much sparring with himself every day it seemed counterintuitive not to. He was the most solitary of his small corps of friends, even though ironically he was arguably the leader of the little crew. When he was with friends, he was often the sole voice of reason in a world of fools, much how he tried to make sense of a world that seemed to be inhabited by fools, sheep and tyrants.

"I have my reasons for it, Jane. That's all I can say."

Jane looked to him, and saw that his piercing green eyes were wandering much like how he wandered nowadays. Aimless, lacking in purpose, dazed, and perhaps even a little demented. That restless soul always seemed in search of something far greater than she or anyone else could give him, but she still strived for him, and still ran after him wherever he went. Why did she put herself out for him? Why did she spend her time reaching to him when he seemed in the pursuit of a grander universal truth?

"Peter, I am your friend. I deserve to know what's bothering you."

Peter's eyes seemed glazed and weary, trying desperately to grab onto the truth that seemed within his grasp and then just as quickly slipped away. That was his life story. Missed opportunities. Lost chances. Hardship. Taking on the weight of the world for the one he cared so deeply for, even more than he cared for Jane or any other friend he had in this town.

"Jane…I don't suppose you've ever been in love with someone?"

Jane was now struck silent. The boy sitting next to her who seemed the most unassuming, innocent and naive character when it came to matters of the heart, was confiding in her feelings of adoration to an unknown figure. Was it her? Was it Tanya? Was it another girl she didn't know of? All manner of assumptions and allegations whizzed through her head as Peter patiently awaited her answer.

He laughed, as if in on a joke unspoken between them.

"I know, it's strange, coming from someone who seems not to give a damn for it."

"I…I'm not really sure of how to answer that question, Peter. I have never felt that feeling of affection towards another person before."

Peter smiled, as if expecting this misfortune for him.

"Just my luck I suppose. I've been doing a lot of soul searching since I came back from Stalingrad, and I have yet to find a definite conclusion. It seems you are as lost on the concept as I am."

"Yes I suppose you could say that," she responded softly. "It is a new thing for a girl of my age to have yet experienced."

"Strange, you seemed to me the type that boys would be lining up to get a chance with. I guess looks are deceiving. You don't have any advice for me in my soul searching then, I suppose."

"Not really," she responded giggling. "I wasn't of age to be considered for a suitor, but I am still waiting for the right one to capture my heart."

Peter sighed, seeing this as a sign from God. This was a battle he had been fighting in his heart ever since he found Tanya again, and no matter who he turned to for advice, in the end it was a battle that he had to win by himself. It was he who had to decide the fate of his relationship with Tanya. It was he who ultimately had to decipher what he felt towards her. He had to judge for himself whether this was love he felt or not.

"Then I guess my soul searching continues. And I keep on being a hermit because of it. Sorry to disappoint you," Peter said with a wishful smile.

"It's quite alright, Peter. As long as we have you in our lives, I am sure everything will turn out well in the end."

"Maybe finding the answer will finally bring me back to you and the others. I guess I have to find out for myself."

Peter took another sip from his tea and then, as if he had willed it, the question that had tortured him from the day it was uttered was made known to him once more. That horrible, damnable, and yet important question he could not ignore, no matter how long, and would eventually have to answer. The pain that he felt with that question was so large it felt he was about to be crushed by it. He turned to Jane again and, calling to her deep ocean blue eyes, asked,

"Jane, can I tell you a secret?"

"Of course Peter. You can trust me with anything."

Peter inhaled deeply, and mentally readied himself to unleash this horrendous pain he had been feeling up to now out and into the open with her.

"Jane, when I first traveled to Stalingrad, Tanya was the closest friend I ever had in that city. She and I spent more time together than with anyone I ever met in my travels. One day, a few days before I was scheduled to leave the city, Tanya asked me something. She asked me a question that I have never been able to answer to this day."

"What was it that she asked?" Jane said curiously.

"She asked: if I was destined to stay in Russia forever, or if she was a citizen of my country, would she and I have fallen in love?"

Jane froze at the question unsure of what to say next. She couldn't help but feel a slight pang of hurt in her heart.

"I…I don't know what to say about a request like that."

A tear stood in his eye as the melancholy in his heart at reawakening such a painful and yet important memory.

"Believe me, I didn't know what to say either. I never gave an answer, and to this day I have left that question unanswered. But every day when I traveled back to Stalingrad, every day I fought in the streets and searched for her, that one little question kept coming back to me, and it still keeps coming back. And the fact that I still don't have an answer is agonizing for me."

Peter sighed heavily as he drank from his cup.

"I know that you're as inexperienced as me when it comes to love, Jane. But I never once in my 16 years of living thought that an emotion so beautiful as love can carry such a deep and horrendous pain as the kind I feel now."

"Yes I can imagine," she said quietly. "I do hope that you may find some peace when it comes to finally finding out what it means to be in love."

"Thank you for listening to me, Jane. The more days pass, the journey becomes that much harder for me. But talking to you about it makes it easier to bear."

"I am glad I can help, Peter. Would you like any more tea?"

Peter smiled at his friend.

"Certainly, thank you."

They talked on into the evening for what seemed like an eternity, but the sun eventually began to set and the time came for Peter to go back to the girl who waited for him back in his small house on the hill. They said their goodbyes and laughed at shared humors as he made his way to the door. Jane stopped him for a moment as he stood in the doorway, looking back to her entreating blue eyes, that seemed to cry out to him for something.

"Yes, Jane?"

With no chance to protest or question why, her lips met his in a sweet and chaste kiss that seemed to melt away his anguish and melancholy with a gentle, moist, and warm touch. His struggle with himself would not end this day, and he had a long road of introspection and contemplation ahead of him before he could reach a definite conclusion, but letting one person in on his private war was comforting. The thought of what it meant to love and what love truly was faded away, leaving only Jane's soft lips on his.

"Peter, if you ever need anything, you know who to look to."

"Thank you, Jane," he returned, heaving a heavy sigh. "It's going to be a long road and a hard-fought battle before I finally come to an answer about what I feel. But knowing you're there makes it so much more bearable for me."

Peter smiled and bid her goodbye as she watched him traverse over the cobblestone pathway before turning right and making his way back to his home. The wind whipped at the hem of his trench coat and through his ash blonde hair, his eyes still focused on the horizons and searching for the truth that drove him endlessly across the Russian steppes, over the waters of the Pacific and through the shadows of this little valley town. He had to find his truth, she thought. And perhaps she would see his truth benefit her as well, if God contented to smile upon them and will them as destined.

She would wait, because she knew that was the only thing she could do for him.

1 Yes, understood.

2 Goodbye (informal)

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