This whole Partisan experiment was ridiculous. He should have stuck to the ships he knew and not be in a forest in Bosnia with a rifle in his hands and a bullet in his head, and a woman by his side cackling like a throttled fowl in some dazzling display of hormonal triumph.
‘You threw yourself at them!’ he roared at her, briefly releasing a hand to wipe blood from his eye. ‘What the hell were you thinking? You could have been killed! You didn’t think, did you? You’ll be dead and I’ll be dead trying to save you.’
‘Let me go, you big bully!’ she cried, wriggling to get out of his grasp. ‘I’ve got to get back!’
‘You’re not going anywhere, young lady.’
‘Yes, I am! I killed a fascist and I’m going to kill another one.’
‘You were ordered to stay behind the men.’
‘I’ll do what I like!’
‘You can’t do what you like in the army.’
She’d lost her head besieging Rogatica – he understood it clearly – and she was nothing but a headstrong woman, the product of a privileged upbringing. Her face below him was exuberant, breathless and beautiful and her eyes, as she struggled with him, were so close that he was astounded by their depths. She threw back her head and he saw the sunset brighten the tips of her hair. Already the light was fading and soon night would fall. Anton was sad, as one is at twilight, though he didn’t know why. Before him, her eyes paled, her hair darkened, and she was too exhilarated to perceive his bewilderment.
‘I want to fight!’
He took a breath. He forced himself to reply reasonably.
‘I’m not happy with you fighting. Please stay in the typing pool where you’ll be safer.’
‘But I shot a fascist!’ She clasped her hands together over and over, in an effort to express what she had achieved. ‘In his chest where you showed me. He went like this.’ She threw the hands over her head, stuck her tongue out and blurted from its soft circlet of lips that he suddenly wanted to kiss. ‘I did just what you told me and you are being illogical to show me one thing then tell me another. I’ll tell everyone that Captain Marković has failed the first principles of consistency in command and should be demoted to fetching water! So there! And while you’re down at the river, the women will triumph on the battlefield!’