The first time Ekaterina tried to run away, she was six years, three months, and twelve days old. She hadn’t quite made it out the gate when her eldest sister, Ovna, caught her by the collar and dragged her to the butter churns. Ovna had stood beside her, working a large churn of milk into creamy butter, and ranting. After diatribes about the weather, her suitor, the wheat crop and the heaviness of the crock, she’d asked Ekaterina where she had been off to. Ekaterina, tired from churning and the conversation, answered that she had been starting on a great adventure. Ovna had been less than impressed by Ekaterina’s great plan, and had laughed outright when she confided her reasons for leaving on that day. Evidently, Ekaterina reflected while Ovna told the story at dinner to the guffaws of all gathered, not everyone believed that starting an adventure when you were the exact age your favorite dog had been when she died would bring you good luck and a ghostly dog protector. Next time, she’d take protection other people believed in as well.
The second time Ekaterina tried to run away, she was twelve, and modeled her escape after the classics. She snuck out of bed in the middle of the night, and crept downstairs to grab her carefully packed rucksack. She had left it under the grand table near the door, but in the pale moonlight she couldn’t find it anywhere. After several hours of frantic searching, she crept back to bed, pretending nothing had happened. The next day, her brother Alexi thanked her for packing him a lunch to take on his day of fishing. “Very thorough” he commended, “I never would have thought to pack an extra shirt.” Ekaterina was sullen for two days.
The third time Ekaterina tried to run away, she had been sixteen, and her father had been talking about marrying her to some nice boy. She had waited an hour, then walked out of the house, unburdened by a ghost dog or a rucksack of carefully packed food and clothing. She’d walked a mile down the main road before she realized that with her gone, no one would think to feed the chickens. She slowed, considering the apples she’d left baking in the hearth. She continued walking until she reached the river, where she stopped to remove the pebble in her shoe. She threw the pebble into the fast moving current, and turned around. She was home before the apples burned, and decided not to mention her journey to anyone.
Time passed, and her father didn’t mention marriage to her again. It was probably an oversight on his part, that year, three of her sisters had married, and two of her brothers been engaged. In the flurry of visitors and in-laws and betrothal parties and wedding feasts, her father had forgotten to notice if his youngest daughter had a suitor calling.