A slender finger turned the knob on an old radio until the high pitch of pop music came through the speakers.
“Masha!” Called out an older voice, “Why do you listen to such music?”
Masha rolled her blue eyes before turning around. “Because I like it, Ma-ma. It’s the only thing lively around here.”
The middle aged woman sighed dramatically as she wiped the glass of the display case. “Exciting doesn’t pay the bills. Forget exciting. Exciting is for the rich. You want exciting? Get married and have kids. Kids will give you more excitement than you’ll ever want.”
Masha shook her head and grabbed a broom. “That is not excitement, Ma-ma. That is the Gulag!”
Ma-ma gestured vibrantly with her arms. “And this is why you will never be married!”
The bristles of the broom yielded to the weight bore down upon them as Masha jammed the broom onto the weathered oaken floor as she swept vigorously.
A high pitched buzz came from outside and soon drowned out the tunes of the radio before lowering to a baritone hum and ending abruptly. The women had stopped their work in curiosity to the foreign noise. The door opened to reveal a dark woman clad in black leather and covered in road dust.
“Hello.” The stranger greeted with a bright smile. “What a lovely store you have here.”
Mahsa and her mother smiled and nodded with polite uncertainty. “Z’drastri’.”
The stranger nodded and smiled back at them with confidence. “Water?” She asked before rephrasing her one word question. “Va-DAH?”
The older lady nodded with understanding and handed the stranger a small bottle of water.
The stranger took the bottle as she handed over some money. “Spasiba. Thank you.” She said.
Masha looked at the lady as she drank from the bottle. She had never seen anyone like her before. Even though this stranger was near her mother’s age, she seemed somehow much younger and full of life.
Uncertain, she asked, “American?”
The stranger beamed, “Yes! American.”
“My name is Cynthia.” She said as she extended her hand in friendship. “What’s yours?”
“Masha.” The young lady replied.
“Do you speak much English, Masha?” Cynthia asked.
Masha shook her head. “Very little.”
“Well, Masha, would you like to see my bike?” Cynthia asked while waving with her hand.
Masha followed Cynthia out the door to see a motorcycle parked in front of the store. It had suitcased sized metal boxes on its sides and was covered with the same road dust that matched Cynthia’s outfit.
“It’s a BMW.” Cynthia said without worry of translation. “This is our fifth tour together.”
“You ride this?” Masha asked as she hesitantly got closer to the vehicle.
Cynthia replied, “Yes.”
“All over the world?” She asked as her eyes memorized every line of the bike.
Cynthia answered with pride, “All over the world.”
Masha turned to Cynthia, “Your husband allows this?”
Cynthia shook her head. “No husband.”
Masha was shocked. “No husband?”
Cynthia assured her. “No husband. No need. I do fine by myself.”
Masha looked down timidly, “Your family ok with this?”
Cynthia answered, “My family knows. My life. My choice.”
Masha struggled with this exchange when Cynthia abruptly said, “Hold on for one moment. Don’t move.”
Cynthia pulled out two objects from one of the hard cases.
“Stand here.” She said, pulling Masha next to the motorcycle. “Say cheese!”
Masha smiled a little bewildered as Cynthia took her picture.
“Wait!” She called to Masha as she switched cameras. “One more.”
A different click sounded this time as a small square of paper slid out from the front of the camera. Cynthia handed over the piece of paper as the stored the cameras away.
“That’s for you.” Cynthia said before putting on her helmet.
Masha stared in wonder as the image of her standing next to the bike of adventure.
“Spasiba.” She replied with wonder. “Why such a gift?”
Cynthia started up the BMW. “Your life, your choice.” She said with a gleam before heading down the road.