In saying the girls coped with their grief by not thinking of either the past or the future, I am not saying this was true of Nata. I’m not sure how Nata positioned herself. I suspect she was of two minds about it, that she did hope for a future for herself more than the others did.

Her life was different than theirs because of me. Of course, they had relationships too. They had friends. They had girlfriends even sometimes. But Nata and I grew up together. We were both children when we came and Yuri wasn’t really in the business of prostituting children. Teenagers and young women, yes, but not children I was a convenient exception and I don’t know how Nata happened. I think maybe she was too strikingly beautiful not to notice and, given their business associates, too vulnerable not to exploit—Lana tells me Nata ran away from home. The bond between us was very strong, and so there was someone to whom we always mattered fiercely. There was someone to always live for, someone to dream of being with outside the confines of Yuri’s brothel. And I think that made it different for her.

I am spending a lot of time with the grief for her today. I haven’t in a long time. It’s been all about other things, but today I’m thinking of her and how much I miss her.

One thought I have as I sort through the grief again is that I am a part of her life that survived. I am, in some way, a piece of her that could be preserved. This isn’t to say that I wasn’t a separate person, but I am someone she loved, and her love lives in me. There is a way in which I am her future.

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