Even wrapped up in numerous hooded jackets, I could still feel the bitter Russian wind. I lifted my head from Chaplin's lap to peer up at the cold hard stare of the Sun. Sleeping on a bench park wasn't ideal. It wasn't even an idea but Chaplin's smoker cough was filling me with guilt as we wandered the grey streets of Russia.
An old man cooed besides me as he threw stale bread to the pigeons.
He blended seamlessly into the dull morning light with his creased face greying with age.
'Did you know that Fallen Monument Park has over 700 sculptures in it?'
I blinked, looking around at all the statues.
'They're covered in bird shit... and grey.'
'Things can't be covered in grey, Birdy.'
'Yet somehow Russia managed to do so.'
He opened his mouth to protest but looking around, shut it again. He pushed my head back down onto his lap.
'Oh shut up. You're such a miser; nothing is yet to impress you.'
'That's not true; I found your sea sickness amazing.'
He grumbled, pulling a cigarette from behind his ear and lighting it. The smell was everything to me now. It was weird, but I felt as if Chaplin walked around like he was at the bottom of the sea if he didn't smoke.
Everything in him seemed heavier without that white stick dangling from his lips.
Sometimes at bars, I'd sneak cigarettes from drunkards packets and place them behind his ear whilst he slept. Just to keep the sea from swallowing us whole.
'There's a World War Two statue section somewhere over there.'
He waved his hand vaguely past a gaggle of Russian women.
'Or we could go talk to those delightful creatures over there.'
'I give up!'
His thigh shifted beneath me and settled again and I smiled into his jeans. Muttering again, he rifled through his backpack.
In the silence, I listened to the wind thread through the grey.
'Did you know that women outnumber men so much in Russia that they will take two or even three wives?'
I bolted up; he cursed and brushed the ash from his jacket.
'That's not true, is it?'
Smoke ribboned through the air. His hand lifted to the back of my head and guided me back onto his lap.
'That's not fair, why should the women settle for second or third best just because, why can't they just leave?'
'It's not that simple Little Bird, nothing ever is. Besides, why should we criticise? Maybe they're happy being second fiddle.'
I hissed through my teeth.
'Of course you'd say that, you're a boy. If we were Russian, you'd be getting fed grapes by your harem of women while I'd be stuck deciding whether to be your umpteenth wife or sell my front teeth for rent.'
'I definitely wouldn't marry you if you sold your teeth.'
I ground my teeth and he sighed, breathing hot smoke onto my cheek. Then his arm was around me and we were rolling off the bench. The ground was cold and hard beneath my back. He lifted some hair from my cheeks and stubbed his cigarette out behind my ear.
'I never said I wanted it, I just think some things you can't fight.'
'You can fight everything even the skin you live in, hence tattoos.'
'Doesn't mean you'll win.'
He was frowning, fingers knotting into my hair. I lifted up and traced the troubled skin.
'So you'd give up, just like that?'
'I'd just hope that amongst the string of many wives, I'd find love and be happy with the rest.'
Sun discs caught along his chin and our warm bellies crashed and fell against each other.
'Well I'd marry you.'
'I thought we established that I wouldn't without your front teeth.'
'What if I sold them for a motorbike?'
'What if I gave the motorbike to Helga?'
'Who the fuck is Helga?'
'My second wife.'
'Oh and what number am I?'
I hit him, hard on the shoulder and laughter turned into a choking cough. Hacking into his fist, I heard the spittle rumble in his throat.
'With a cough like that, you won't make it to wife number seventeen.'
His ribs hit mine again, hard.
His breathe were haggard.
'Gotta lay off those cigs, eh Wren?'
I pushed him off and stood up, looking at the old man with a pigeon now resting on his boots.
I looked down at his black figure sprawled across the cracked floor.
'I never thought about fighting – ever, but then I got mad.'
With that, he had pushed himself up and out of the park.
Stopping, he turned, hand unfurling like autumn leaves.
There was no hesitation in my decision to take it.