Female World War II Pilots in Historical Fiction – Excerpt Five

This first scene focuses on developing the romantic tension between Sasha and Stella; the second scene explores more of Sasha’s inner conflict and feelings of internalized homophobia that threaten her burgeoning relationship with Stella. The novel also follows both protagonists’ journeys to self-acceptance. As a psychology major and future therapist, I am interested in how people can work through personal issues of identity and shame and how they affect interpersonal relationships.

“I sleep on the floor, is okay.”

Stella’s eyes narrow. “Don’t be stupid, you’re injured.”

Sasha shrugs. “I’m guest.” Please don’t give up anything else for me, she wants to say. Please be an angel for someone who deserves it.

Stella looks incredulous. “Yes, the guest sleeps on the bed!” she hisses, then sighs. “Fine. We’ll share.”

Sasha’s heart skips a beat. “You fiancé not mind?”

Stella might blush at that, or maybe Sasha’s eyes are just adjusting to the low light. “We’re both –” Stella falters. We’re both women, she meant, and that’s exactly why this is a problem. Then, simply, “I trust you.” She pulls back the covers and climbs into bed, and Sasha has no choice but to follow.

Sasha wills her body to relax, hoping Stella can’t feel the tension radiating from her limbs. Stella shifts closer, centimeter by centimeter. Sasha holds her breath. Stella fits jigsaw puzzle-perfect against her, her head resting on the pillow, so close Sasha can feel Stella’s breath on her collarbone. Sasha’s arm stretches so slowly across Stella’s waist – like a comma, like a question. Stella only nuzzles closer.

Sasha should not look, should not touch. Sasha should touch her, but not like that – not like this.

Sasha is just a warm body in the middle of a war. She is whatever Stella needs her to be. She presses her lips to Stella’s hair and tries very hard to think about nothing. This is how it felt with Raisa – before she got married, before the war. Sasha is just a temporary husband, a substitute, and if she lets herself get used to this feeling, it will ruin her. Sasha already longs for so many impossible things. The smart-ass little Jew with stars in her eyes, dreaming of glory, of saving the world, of being loved, in all her strangeness. Sasha is selfish like that, and now she wants to put her lips on Stella’s neck and feel her pulse, cup her breast, smooth away the tense furrow of her brow. This can only end poorly.

“Is this okay?” Stella whispers into her chest.

“Yes, zvezdochka. Perfect.”

“I love you,” Stella whispers again, so tenderly it makes Sasha ache. You can’t, she wants to say. You shouldn’t. You could have a real life and everything. You could have a half-life with anyone else but me. You deserve a world I cannot give you. I’m selfish, don’t you see? I wished for you to love me and I’ve ruined everything for you. Sasha is prideful, lustful, deviant. Stella is an angel who cannot save her. But Stella could be happy, still, if Sasha lets her go.

Sasha cups her face and kisses her, slow and deep and selfish.