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More boys.Just what she needed in her life.
They stood in the train station—four of them to be exact—ready to fill her house with muddy boot prints and raucous laughter.
Anna double-checked the hand-printed slip of paper to make sure she had the right name. She did. She had memorized the name on the slip of paper as soon as her father brought it home from the city offices last night.
R-A-N-T-A.Family of six.Arriving on the 4:20 train from Karelia.
Anna stared at the strangers across the crowded room and stifled disappointment. She had been hoping for a family with daughters—girls to share late-night giggles and afternoon jaunts through the wildflower fields behind their farmhouse. Girls to help with the endless laundry, cooking, and cleaning. Girls to teach her all of the things she didn’t know because she had been blessed with six brothers.
But God evidently had a sense of humor—there was no mistaking the fact that their new houseguests were all of the male variety. Well, except for the mother who stood next to their family’s lone trunk, looking at her sons out of the corner of her eye with a frown that seemed to plead with them not to do anything to draw attention to themselves.
The boys failed miserably. Every one of them was tall and handsome, with mussed blond hair and gorgeous smiles that would make the girls in Kalajoki swoon.
Every girl except for her, of course. She had learned to resist the charms of the male species.
Anna peered through the crowd to assess the strangers who would now be like family. Mr. Ranta—tall, thin, and graying—stood in the corner of the tiled waiting room, one arm placed protectively around a woman who was his polar opposite in stature—short and plump, with a firmly set chin, and a no-nonsense smile. In his other hand, he carefully grasped the yellow placard that identified them as the Rantas.
Behind them stood the gangly teenage boys. She scanned one blond head after another, until her gaze settled on the oldest Ranta boy. He was probably eighteen or nineteen, twenty at most, yet he stood straight and proud in his navy wool Finnish Army Corps dress uniform.
Catching her breath, Anna forced herself not to sigh. Not only did she suddenly have four more boys to take care of, but one of them was one of Finland's finest. And he was staggeringly good-looking too—from the tips of his Army-issue boots to his crystal-blue eyes.
Anna stomped her boot down hard on her own foot, angry with herself for letting her mind wander. She had enough to deal with right now without adding a handsome soldier to the mix. With her art and plans to immigrate, she simply could not be thinking of Soldier Boy as anything other than the charity case he was.
Raising her head, Anna made her way through the crowded room, doing her best not to stare at the rows of yellow signs, each printed with a name and a number, held by pairs of trembling hands and hovering below frightened eyes. She sighed loudly, allowing the images of tear-stained cheeks, dusty children, and travel-weary adults to sear into her memory.
Maybe someday she would paint this scene.
Show the world what the Russians had done.
But not today.
Today she would smile, laugh, and forget that her family was forced to give away half of their too-small farmhouse to people they’d never met.
Anna’s footsteps echoed across the tiled floor of the train station. Indefinitely. This would put a damper on her life plans. How would she apply for a visa, move to the United States, and go to art school now that the Rantas would be living with them? She couldn’t leave her mother alone with all these boys to feed.
Four steps, three steps, two… Anna wiped her moist palms on the sides of her dark green wool jacket and pasted on a smile. “Hello! I am Anna Ojala. We will be your host family.”
“Good day, Miss Ojala,” Mr. Ranta said, as Mrs. Ranta lunged to take Anna’s hands into hers as if clinging to a lifeline.
“Welcome. I trust you had a pleasant journey?”
Mr. Ranta shrugged his shoulders. “As nice as it could be.”
Soldier Boy nudged his father aside and held out a tentative hand. “I’m Matti.”
Anna tried to smile back, but those blue eyes and perfect smile made it hard for her to concentrate. Don't even think about it. “My father has his flatbed wagon hitched up outside, so if we can find our way through this crowd, we’ll load up your belongings. It’s an hour’s ride to our village.” Anna stared at the Rantas’ dusty trunk in an effort not to look at Matti.
Mrs. Ranta saved Anna from her own awkwardness. “Thank you. Boys, please bring the trunk.”
“Yes, ma’am,” four voices echoed in chorus.
Anna turned toward the door and waved for them to follow, a tiny part of her hoping that Matti watched as she walked away.