This week’s installment for Sweet Saturday Samples comes from my Russian novel sequel, The Twelfth Time. It’s Chapter 22, “Kat’s Agony,” and takes place during the annual summer vacation to Coney Island in 1926. Main character Lyuba’s second-best friend Kat and one of Lyuba’s stepsisters, Alla, recently got a letter and two newspaper obituaries from their friend Pyotr, who risked his life and double-crossed his father and older brothers to get Lyuba and her friends out of the Soviet Union in the first book. Kat is heartbroken to learn her mother has died, but Alla is overcome with joy to learn her odious husband in name only has died. Now she’s a free woman, and has quickly found a very appealing potential beau.
The next day, when Kat has finally been prevailed upon to join the group and start taking an active part in their vacation, they catch sight of Álla walking away from the El Dorado carousel with someone who matches her description of her crush. Both of them are talking and laughing in Russian. Apparently her guess that he’s a fellow Slav was right, or else he speaks very good Russian for an American.
Iván’s jaw drops when they get a bit closer to the crowd of people walking away from the carousel. Lyuba, Kat, and Eliisabet get a closer look at the man and stop in their tracks too.
“Dánya!” Iván says when they’re finally only feet away. “What are you doing here? I never knew you like to go to Coney Island for your two weeks’ paid vacation!”
“You know each other?” Álla asks.
“This is Daniíl Karmov, my former co-worker and now the president of the union! You don’t mean to tell us he’s the one you’ve been going on about!”
“It looks like he is, unless Állochka found a second man just today who also happens to have very light brown hair, deep blue eyes, a muscular build, callused hands, and a five-ten frame,” Lyuba says. “Have you properly introduced yourselves yet?”
“Not yet. He just asked me if I were Russian, and I said yes. We started talking about how we’re liking Coney Island, since it’s both our first time here. I suppose this means he comes highly recommended from you and you’ll approve of him.”
“Are you friends with my former co-workers’ wives?” Karmov asks.
“Lyuba is my stepsister. I’m the seventh of the ten Lebedeva sisters. Eight of us are in America, and two others are probably still in Siberia. I’m Álla.”
“I helped her escape from prison, her and one of our friends who lives in Toronto,” Iván says. “Lyuba and I met her in April of 1920. She was one of our cellmates. If you’re interested in courting her, I’ll let you know she’s a lovely woman. I hope you don’t mind courting a woman who’s already been married.”
“My husband in name only recently died, thank God. We never lived together as husband and wife. If you want to know the details, I can tell you in private. That is, if you’re interested enough in me to want to know.”
Karmov waves his hand. “It’s in the past. I guess this answers my unasked question about why an attractive woman your age isn’t wearing a wedding ring. I assume you’re somewhere in your twenties.”
“I’m twenty-five. I’ll be twenty-six in September.”
“I’m twenty-eight. My birthday’s in December.”
Álla smiles. “I figured you were around my age. How come you’re not married yet?”
“That beast Glazov takes up most of my time. But right before I left on my two weeks’ paid vacation, Konev’s father’s cop friends were intensifying the investigation of Glazov I initiated. With any luck, he’ll soon be seeing the world from the inside of a jail cell and the factory will have new management.”
Lyuba and the others stand back in amazement as Álla and Karmov walk off, picking up their conversation about Coney Island rides right where they left off.
“He’s pretty old to still be a bachelor,” Iván says. “Perhaps if he marries Álla, it’ll serve as positive inspiration to your older stepsisters to hurry it up and get married themselves. They’re even older than she is. At least a guy Dánya’s age can get away with being unmarried. It’s harder and more unnatural for a woman.”
Lyuba rolls her eyes at him. “Svéta’s only two months my senior. She’d be giving up her career as an infant nurse, her dream job, if she married. And Gálya’s thirty-six and Mótya’s thirty-four. They’re probably reconciled to never getting married.”
“Léna’s oldest sister got married last October at thirty-nine and is now due for her first baby in September. It does happen. It’s not like your oldest stepsisters are fat like Zína Yeltsina. At least she has a valid reason why men aren’t approaching her.”
“This talk is boring,” Novomira says. “Let’s get on the carousel. I want a pig.”
“Can we ride on the top level?” Tatyana asks.
“I want the lower level,” Lyudmíla says. “I don’t like heights.”
“I want a regular horse,” Nikoláy says.
Katrin leads the way to the carousel, Oliivia, Mireena, and Milena trotting alongside her. Some of the other people look askance at all the people in their party for bringing small children onto the ride, but Katrin gives them several dirty looks and makes dismissive gestures. Viktóriya copies her sister and adds fuel to the fire by deliberately mounting her horse so that she exposes a lot of leg. Iván hangs his head in shame. Now not only is he stuck the whole summer with these women, but one of his stepsisters-in-law is romantically pursuing one of his former co-workers, and it looks like Karmov returns Álla’s feelings. It already seems an eternity till their citizenship ceremony can break up this endless summer.