The painting, What Freedom!, by Ilya Repin is the focus of Jane Dougherty’s Microfiction Challenge 15: Freedom. I perceived the painting as a rushing river metaphor. Or is it more?
For Iska, it had been a whirlwind: from orphaned shop girl to wife of a man with hundreds of relatives. A 12 hour train to his family’s country home for wedding celebrations gave Leon, an excellent story teller, the opportunity to make Iska laugh til her belly hurt with tales of his boyhood misadventures. He was resting now, so she memorized the passing landscape absorbing so she could sketch later.
Eventually, she laid her head on his shoulder and drifted through his boyhood tales. He spoke of the river as a living entity. They stood on the banks, the cold grasp of winter still upon her. Leon’s breath came in white puffs: “Spring can undo cold winter’s damage freeing the river into a joyous dance.” He held out his hand “Come – let’s join with the river for our wedding dance.” Taking Leon’s hand, and holding her hat down with the other, they stepped into the swirls and waves of winter’s detritus and debris being swept away. Spray beaded on her new felt travelling coat, but the river brushed by, too happy to stop and wet her dress or Leon’s cape. Dancing freedom with the spring-happy river . . .
Iska heard the conductor over the roar of the laughing river, 15 minutes to their stop. She was back in the train carriage. Leon got down their carry-on baggage, while Iska tried to manage her wind-mushed hair and hat pin. As she slipped on her coat, the bodice felt cool and damp, as did the hem of her dress. Never mind – with suitcase in one hand, and Ivan’s in the other, she stepped out into the river of her new life.