Sabina never thought of her mother as beautiful. As she flipped through the pages of the album, she saw photos of a striking young woman who only dimly resembled her mother. It was Maria, of course, but Maria with flawless skin and a fine-boned face built for stories of intrigue and romance. It seemed she’d been in quite a few films, probably mostly love stories — there were photos of her in the arms of a number of different handsome men. Closeups of her being kissed or fondled. Images of her scantily dressed or even nude. But those photos were nothing compared to the ones in which she appeared with Ceausescu and his family. What?! Maria hanging around what looked like a grand parlor in what was probably the Primaverii Palace, the dictator standing right behind her, and one of his sons kind of groping her. There were several photos of her with that son — Nicu, as Sabina learned later. He looked like a drunk and was always slobbering over Maria.
Sabina’s stomach tightened into a ball as she studied the pictures. She had to hide them quickly before her mother came home. Who could she ask about what she’d seen? For years she’d received odd looks and heard murmurs that Cornel Danciu wasn’t actually her father — someone else was, someone who was never named. She’d played deaf and dumb to those rumors, little girl with her head in the sand. Now she had to wonder, especially peering at Nicu’s face which somewhat resembled her own.
The one person she could speak to was her grandfather, Gheorghe. He was a great man, a kind of saint who even now at eighty-six received a daily stream of visitors seeking his blessing and advice. The only problem was she’d have to admit to snooping in her mother’s closet, a no no in the Danciu household.