Pavel paused to think about which direction he should go next. Elena would be going from whence he came and not from where he had been going, that much was clear. He did not think she would offer an opinion as to whether she would like his company either, since it had been established that this was his road. She would not feel it her place to ask for his assistance, even if she thought she needed it. Since she was apparently alone on his road, and he her only available connection, he felt responsible to look after her. He decided he would walk her way until another option presented itself.
“Were you planning on staying by this fence long?” he asked.
Elena scratched through the dirt squares with her stick. “I suppose not”, she said, and she got up.
He waited to see if she would pick up her shoes or the watch.
When she started off without either, he said, “I don’t mind the watch being left, but the shoes seem too specific for any who may happen by.”
“Ok,” she said as she turned around and picked them up, and then returned to her direction.
They walked in silence until the sun began to comfort Pavel’s back. He began to think of the complicated nature of the two of them being alone on the road when night fell. He did not want to leave her alone, but neither did he want to risk her reputation, not that there was anyone to care. “Propriety is propriety,” he thought.
“There are difficulties with us walking together since you are a woman and I am a man.”
“I understand your concern,” she said as if not sharing it.
“Aren’t you concerned?”
“I don’t know.”
“Is this lack of concern a long standing thing with you, or is it because you are more upset about something else? Like what you are walking away from?”
“I suppose I just don’t see the use of being concerned about anything besides the thought of going back in that direction. The only thing I can think of is not thinking about going back there. The red dirt in this direction feels good on my feet.”
“Maybe we can find a house along this road with a woman who would take you in.”
“I do not want to go in someone else’s house again.”
“Was the house back there not yours?”
“Maybe we can find an empty house for you.”
“Doesn’t seem likely. Someone else would still own it.”
“Maybe I can make you one in the woods. But if anyone saw us, even if I were outside, it would still look bad.”
“If you say so.”
Pavel hoped his next thought would not upset her. “In many stories, a woman will dress like a man in order to live among men. “
“I do not have any men’s clothes.”
“I only have what I am wearing.”
Pavel looked around and noticed a scarecrow in a garden. “I don’t feel right about stealing those clothes,” he said.
“We could leave them my shoes.”
“The shoes do seem about the same value as a set of bird-worthy clothes.”
Pavel put the shoes on the ends of the naked scarecrow’s arms and hoped they would have the same effect.
In some nearby woods, hidden behind some brush, Elena changed into the loose-fitting men’s peasant clothes. She tried to hide her hair in the cloth hat, but it remained obvious that it was pulled up. When she emerged she asked if Pavel had any scissors or a knife.
“Perhaps no one will look that closely at your hair.”
Pavel considered her longer. “I will, though.”
He took out his knife which he kept wrapped in the bands around his shins. “Are you sure?”
“Yes,” she said.
After cutting her long, black, wavy hair and re-topping her with the hat, he looked at her in the last light of the day. “I think it worked in those stories because the men didn’t know she was a woman.”