My Heartbreaker post is here.
This week’s excerpt for Sweet Saturday Samples is also from Chapter 38 of The Twelfth Time. At the baptism celebration for her two newest stepnieces, Lyuba is invited for a sleepover by her friends Alya (Aleksandra) and Anya. Alya and Anya were ostracized from their circle of friends in Chapter 37 of the first book when a secret about them was discovered, but in the second book, Lyuba rekindled their friendship after she initially only went to see them to beg for money. In my outline and notes I made for the book in 2001, Alya and Anya only played a very minor role, but when it finally came time to write it, they became much more prominent secondary characters.
June 23, Sunday, Álla and Karmov stand on the church steps holding Zóya for post-baptismal photos, while Dinara, Yarik, Zhényushka, and Marína stand a short distance away posing with two-week-old Bogdána. Mr. Lebedev stands near the photographers, shaking his head affectionately.
“I knew my first wife and I ran to girls, but I never dreamt my girls would run to girls themselves. I’ve got five blood granddaughters and four stepgranddaughters, with only one stepgrandson. The three bastards Álla gave away don’t count.”
“I’m sure the baby I’m having is a boy,” Lyuba says. “And if Ványa and I have another child after this one, and it’s a boy, we’ll name him after you, just like I promised. Of course, if one of your blood daughters beats me to the punch, she’s welcome to name her son after you in my stead.”
“You’re coming up on twenty-four weeks,” Mrs. Lebedeva says. “How long do you think you can hide your condition at work? Everyone in your neighborhood and around Katrin’s place knows you’re expecting. You can’t hide your expanding middle forever in those loose clothes.”
“I’m behind a desk all day and at lunch. I know how to be clever. I think I’ll ask for time off when I’ve only got a few weeks left, and finally come clean then.”
“Iván’s parents don’t know yet, but his aunt does,” Natálya says. “I hope they never find out.”
“It’s always worse when people find out by surprise and learn they were the last to know,” Mr. Lebedev says. “Just like when I found out you were being courted by a young man who hadn’t bothered to ask my permission or even introduce himself to me. When am I going to meet this fellow anyway?”
“I’ll introduce him if I think it’s proper. Modern girls don’t need their fathers’ permission to go out with anyone. And I told you it’s a very proper courtship. Just going to the movies, out to eat, and taking picnics in the park. No petting parties for us. He barely even saw any girls around his age back in Bulun, so he’s not as wise to modern dating customs as most guys.”
While her family and friends are going into the social hall for the celebratory lunch, Lyuba sneaks over to talk to Álya and Ánya. Now that she’s working and earning enough money to support her remaining family nicely, she no longer needs to beg from them, but she’s continued meeting with them. And with her closest friends and Iván away, she has less people to worry about discovering their association.
“Congratulations on your new nieces,” Ánya says.
“Thank you. My stepfather was just talking about how we all run to girls. Hopefully the all-female streak will be broken when I have my baby in October.”
“At least you’re not carrying all your weight out front like when you had Fédya,” Álya says. “You can hide it easier at work. Not that I believe the old wives’ tale about predicting sex based on how the weight is distributed.”
“How’d you like to come over for a sleepover this week?” Ánya asks. “After we have our weekly dinner together, you can stay over. Perhaps we can do it on Saturday. I’m sure Katrin wouldn’t mind taking your kids. She doesn’t disapprove of our existence or you talking to us.”
“That sounds like a fun idea,” Lyuba agrees. “I’ll be looking forward to it. I could’ve never done something like that when Ványa was around.”
“Now you know how we’ve always felt, free to live independent lives without some man and children tying us down. I bet you’ll have a hard time going back to your old lifestyle after this separation ends.”