Vasily returned home after his seventh year of working for the Ural-Kuznetsk complex.
When he entered his house, heavily bearded and covered in grease and dirt, his wife, Katanya, blinked several times, with great pauses between each, and then cried.
She kissed his knuckles and rubbed his forehead. Vasily cried at the touch. They stood very close for many minutes not wanting to separate.
"So...how was work?" Vasily brightened at her having such light humor, even after their hardship. "Sit, love. I'll make us tea. Or perhaps...vodka? You look cold."
Vasily leaned into the chair and when he sat he transformed. His chest was no longer tight and his shoulders lifted. He was, for the first time in seven years, ready to relax.
"Here, Vasily." She paused. "I can say it now for real -- Vasily." She smiled at him, and his heart broke. "Here, my husband, my love." And she held out a cup to him.
Vasily reached for the cup.
And his hand passed through.
Katanya didn't notice. She kept smiling. "Please take this, my love. You deserve it."
Vasily reached out. And his hand passed through again.
A slight madness bubbled between his cracked lips. He'd forgotten. Maybe he was still standing, asleep. Maybe still in chains. Was he being beaten? Had he passed out from mine work? Or was he in isolation, leaning against a gulag wall, painting this scene on dusty granite?
His cracked hands looked ill-equipped to provide the means for such beautiful invention. Mindless, they reached out and passed through the cup. And he relaxed.
Vasily sighed. And looked away from his wife. "You are my most beautiful love," he whispered before turning his ghostly face back to the last loving family he would ever know.