The countryside near Pridraga basked under a gentle sun. The town buzzed with stories of five young men who’d arrived from a neighboring village. Amongst them was Martin, with a nervous glint in his eye, and his four cousins, including the boisterous Vrater.
Martin was 23 and the journey was crucial. He remembered the Church dance where he had first seen Marija, a fleeting moment when their eyes met. The music, the crowd, and the sheer beauty of the night, everything became a blur except for Marija’s luminous face. She had captivated him then and the memory of that night brought him to her selo.
Marija’s family was known to be hardworking. On that day, amidst the scent of fresh clothes and the potent aroma of brewing rakija, Anica, Marija’s mother, was coordinating the day’s chores. As Martin approached the yard, Marija was washing clothes, her sleeves rolled up. She caught a glimpse of Martin and her heart raced.
“Marija,” Martin began, taking a deep breath. “I’ve come to ask for your hand in marriage.”
The entire yard went silent. Flustered, Marija’s eyes darted to her mother, the cousins, and then back to Martin. She remembered that dance; the way Martin’s gaze made her feel special amidst the crowd.
Anica, sensing the gravity of the situation, took matters into her own hands. Without uttering a word, she rushed off to the neighbors, who were known to have connections and information extending beyond the town’s borders. Martin watched as Anica disappeared and turned to Marija, who was nervously fiddling with the cloth in her hands.
When Anica returned, she had the town’s blessing. “Well, Martin, it seems your family is well-respected. But this is Marija’s decision.” She turned to her daughter, who looked even more nervous, “Marija?”
Marija hesitated, “Whatever my mother wants.”
But Martin stepped closer, meeting her gaze, “I’m asking you, not your mother.”
After a beat, Marija whispered, “Yes, I accept.”
The cousins cheered, Vrater clapping Martin on his back.
Later that day, as Pridraga’s flea market bustled with life, the village whispered about the young couple strolling together. At one of the stalls, Martin, wanting to indulge Marija, offered, “How about a caramel for the lady?”
Marija, ever the practical one, smiled gently, “New socks would be better. Mine have holes.”
Martin laughed, purchasing socks for his future bride.
Two months later, Marija moved to Martin’s village. Their simple wedding was a celebration of love, commitment, and the bond of two families. And soon after, they ventured to Canada where for 60 years they built a life together.