'Victory in Europe' by Gay Degani
They walked to the river in bare feet. He wore her brother’s clothes--his uniform on a peg in her upstairs room--and carried with him a jar of pastel drawing sticks and a square of whitewashed plank tucked under his arm. She clung to his elbow, the heat between them like glue.
He settled her on one of boulders scattered along the grassy bank, the water murmuring behind her, and kissed a tear from the corner of her eye. When he stepped back, she smiled, then dropped her head, squeezed mud and grass between her toes.
“I miss the bridge,” he said so she would turn her head to look at the empty space.
Dark curls tangled against her long neck. He searched the jar for a stick of brown and finding it, sat on another boulder not far away. She said, shivering a little, “It wasn’t a very pretty bridge.”
“It was a beautiful bridge before the Germans blew it up. Now look across water and sit still.”
The sun pinked her cheek. “Lift your chin a bit,” he said and she did. He sketched fast, filling in detail as he dug pastels from the jar.
“So you make a picture of me.”
She gnawed her lip.
“You will show my picture to your friends and brag about your conquest?” She turned to face him.
“I said don’t move.”
But she did and got up and walked toward him while he watched her coming and she shoved him back from his rock so fast he fell into the mud where he made an “oomph” sound. She stood over him with fists on hips.
“You think my picture will be enough for you?”
He held up the plank so she could see.
“You are drawing the bridge? That ugly bridge that’s not there anymore? You take nothing to remember me by? You want to forget me?”
“I won’t forget you.”
“You say that now, but you get home and some fat American girl—” Her face was flushed, her eyes wet, and she swung away from him and trudged up the bank.
“The drawing is for you. So you don’t forget the bridge.”
She twisted around. “I remember it every time I can’t get to the other side of river!”
“Wait!” Struggling up from the mud, overtook her in three strides. He handed her the picture. “This is for you to take with you.”
She frowned. “Take with me? Where am I going—”
“Not a lot of bridges in the state of Nevada.”
“Nevada?” She didn’t move, staring at his wide grin. “What are you saying to me?”
“Say it. Say it slow.”
“Come home with me. Marry me.”
“Oh.” She stared at the drawing. “I loved that ugly bridge.”
He brushed her cheek, left a smudge, then wiped it off. Kissed the spot. “I know.”