By William Kitcher
Ekaterina sat on the steps of the courthouse and looked at the prison gates across the road. This was the day her father was being released. She had never met him. She was sixteen years old.
Her father had been innocent, according to everyone in her town. The Tsar’s court disagreed.
Alexei waited inside the prison gates. He glanced at a guard, who took out his pocket watch, opened the cover, and stared at it, not looking at it. “Not yet. A few minutes more.” The bastards were going to wait until the last possible moment.
“I wonder if anyone will be here to greet me,” said Alexei.
“Everyone forgot about you a long time ago,” said the guard.
Alexei nodded in agreement.
At six o’clock, the prison gates opened. Ekaterina stood up and walked slowly across the road. She knew only vaguely what her father looked like. Men changed a lot in sixteen years, even more when in prison. The description she had been given was sixteen years old, and had come from her grandmother, who was very old. Ekaterina’s mother had died many years ago, and her brothers were fighting in Crimea.
Seven men came out of the prison. A small crowd, including Ekaterina, moved toward them. Alexei looked at them all.
An old woman broke through the crowd and embraced one of the released prisoners. “My son! My son!” she cried, and kissed him. She wouldn’t let go, and the two of them left together. Other relatives embraced other prisoners.
A young girl approached Alexei. “Father? I’m your daughter. Svetlana.”
“Yes, that’s right.”
Alexei looked into her eyes.
“Let’s go home, father. I’ll take care of you now.”
She took him by the arm and guided him down the road. As they went, Alexei locked eyes with Ekaterina. They smiled at each other. Alexei and Svetlana disappeared.
There was one prisoner left. Ekaterina spoke to him. “I’m Ekaterina.”
“Ekaterina. Your daughter.”
“I have no daughter.”
“Are you Alexei Ivanovich Beloglazov?”
“Get away from me, you horrible child.”
* * *
Bill’s stories, plays, comedy sketches (and one poem) have been published, produced, and/or broadcast in Australia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Canada, Czechia, England, Guernsey, Holland, India, Ireland, Nigeria, Singapore, South Africa, and the U.S. His stories have appeared in Fiery Scribe Review, Ariel Chart, New Contrast, The Prague Review, Helix Literary Magazine, Eunoia Review, Once Upon A Crocodile, Pigeon Review, Little Old Lady Comedy, Yellow Mama, Black Petals, Slippage Lit, and many other journals. His novel, “Farewell And Goodbye, My Maltese Sleep,” will be published in 2023 by Close To The Bone Publishing.