"Katya, Katya," my father sighed. "Do you think perhaps you could calm your mother down. She seemed more upset than usual."
I sighed, wondering just how such an unobservant lecher, could have ever been the greatest airman of the War.
"That's because she's pregnant you big clod," I scowled at him. How could he have not seen the signs. He had been in Petrograd for more than a month now, on leave to be with his 'loving family'. "She wanted to tell you herself, but you never gave her the opportunity. For an entire month she has been wanting to tell you, but she is scared she will drive you away unless she finds the right moment."
My father's face broke into a smile. Not that stupid grin that so infuriated my mother, but a wide beaming smile of pure unadulterated joy.
"Another child," he said with delight. "Perhaps a son. I could not handle another Katya, you know, so it had better be a son. A Dmitri. Dmitri is a good name. I once flew with a Dmitri. Good pilot, but never double-checked his equipment. Proved to be his end. But our Dmitri shall be drilled to double and triple check, always."
"Why not a girl?" I asked, only slightly hurt. I wanted a brother too.
"I already have a daughter and a wife, and they both treat me like an errant son. Having three mothers is not good for a man's soul." His eyes twinkled. "Besides, I could never love another daughter as much as I love you," he ruffled my hair. "A son is different, a different sort of love. A son requires more responsibility, because men are idiots and need close watching."
"Finally," I rolled my eyes, "the Rider of the Fire Dragon begins to speak some sense."
He laughed, his hand once more moving over the metallic surface of the wing tip of his plane.
"I want to be an airman," I said, deciding that now was the time to tell him.
"You know you cannot," he said, his thoughts far away. He seemed to have been expecting my demand. I don't know how he could have guessed, for I had always hidden my ambition from him. "Airmen can only be men. The airforce will give you a job once you are old enough, if I ask, but they will never let you fly, no matter whose daughter you are."
"I hate you," I screeched. "And I hate Dmitri, or whatever his name will be." For some strange reason I was as confident as my father that my soon to be sibling would be a boy.
"I go to Austria tomorrow," my father changed the subject. It wasn't called Austria anymore, not since the Empire had conquered it in the War, but father always forgot. He called all the newly conquered lands by their old names--Austria, Hungary, Deutschland, Bulgaria, Romania. When anyone confronted him on this he claimed that his memory was failing him.
"Anyway," my father continued, "I have to take the Zhar-Ptitsa for a test run. Care to be my co-pilot?" he winked.
I nodded eagerly, our recent conversation entirely forgotten. My father and I overlooked as the technicians began a last minute check over the plane, my father insisting that they check some parts over, hurling abuse at them when they made some slight mistake. The men were used to this, and grinned when he did so. They knew that he didn't mean any of it, and that he'd buy them drinks once he landed.
"Let's take off before Vitali realizes I'm leaving without him," my father lifted me into the cockpit. Vitali was his co-pilot, and very enthusiastic in his duties. Unfortunately for him, he worshiped my father's every footfall and would do anything he asked, which usually was a firm order to not get in the way.
"Tell Sergei that I'll do the paperwork later," my father yelled out to one of the ground crew before closing the cockpit. He made sure that my equipment was strapped on correctly, tapping my helmet when he was satisfied.
Minutes later we began to taxi, and then with some fluttering and a final jolt we were in the air. During those early years of mine I had no words to describe the feeling that passed through me when I took off into the air. Now, the closest word that comes to mind is 'orgasmic', and even that barely describes the pleasures, alone the joy, the racing heart, the suddenly becalmed mind, the pure bliss, and then the peace that can only be experienced miles high in the sky amidst the fluffy cumulus clouds. It was when we were flying that I truly saw my father at peace. Some pilots who had flown with him said that even in the chaos of the sky during the culmination of the Great War he had never lost his calm. Even during the Berlin Hellfire of 1927 that had ended the War. He was an irresponsible rascal on the ground, fit for nothing, but an enlightened saint in the sky, an avatar of the stars. I was not an uncaring daughter no matter how much I disparaged him to his face. I was a foolish girl but I still loved my father no matter what he was like, but it was only when we were flying that I truly realised it.
Airman First Class Sergei Sergeyevich Agafonov, hero of the Empire, member of the order of St. George, loving husband and father. May your soul rest in peace.