This week’s excerpt for Sweet Saturday Samples concludes Chapter 38 of The Twelfth Time. It’s now the weekend, and Lyuba is having a sleepover by her friends Alya (Aleksandra) and Anya in Greenwich Village. The last time Lyuba stayed over with them, she was at rock bottom, at such a low, desperate, out of character point that she left her four children with whooping cough just to get away from the hated tenement and those constant gasping coughs. When she came back from the visit two weeks later (Alya and Anya having been quarantined just to be safe), she attempted suicide. Now she’s in a much happier, healthier place.
On Saturday, after work, Lyuba goes back to her apartment to pack up some things and then goes to Greenwich Village to spend the night with Álya and Ánya. She feels happy that this time, she’s staying over at their place under much happier circumstances, and that this time she feels some guilt over not being able to see her children.
After dinner, they all change into their Chinese silk pajamas and play Mahjong. Lyuba’s new pajamas are purple, her favorite color, and were bought in a somewhat larger size, to accommodate her expanding body. She knows Anastásiya makes some very fashionable maternity wear, nothing like the hideous things sold in stores, but Lyuba wouldn’t be caught dead buying anything Anastásiya designed.
“I sort of like almost pretending I’m a free woman, no kids or husband around to bother me.”
“Who wouldn’t?” Ánya asks. “Now you know why we shunned marriage and courtship by men. We’ve got it so good right now, we almost wish we could stay like this forever. Eventually we’d still like to investigate having children by some means, but if we stay childless, it won’t be the end of the world.”
“And you look so much happier,” Álya says. “You looked so harried and depressed when you had that Rapunzel-length hair and wore those long skirts and sleeves our grandmothers wore. Even if they looked pretty, they were still out of touch with modern styles. It feels so great to be able to walk and run without heavy, long skirts dragging you down.”
“People look at me differently now,” Lyuba says. “I think they all take me more seriously. I’m no longer some immigrant woman who wears her long hair in a bun or hanging loose, and I’m free of those hideous clothes Ványa thought would protect me from male stares. I don’t even mind when men look at me and smile. I’m glad other men find me attractive, even if I’m married.”
“You really should stay in New York till you have your baby,” Ánya says. “Why prematurely end your freedom?”
“Yes, I think I will. I’ve got a lot of lost time to catch up on, and God knows I’ll never be able to be this happy and free ever again once I’m in Minnesota for good. And even after I move, I’ll bring all my changes with me. I don’t even care if Ványa hates my new look. He doesn’t control me.”
“That’s the spirit.”
“I’m sure he’ll still love you no matter what,” Álya says. “He’ll just have to get used to loving a new version of you. He’ll know you’re still the same person underneath, even if his wife will be new and improved on the surface.”