“Death of Valentino”

In honor of my beautiful Rudy Valentino’s 93rd Jahrzeit, here’s the third section of Chapter 26, “Death of Valentino,” of The Twelfth Time.

***

On Monday, shortly after noon, an official comes out of the hospital where Anastasiya has been standing vigil with a group of other fans since Saturday. She wonders if Lyuba would still make fun of her for doing this if she knew her stepsisters Vera and Natalya are among the women and teenage girls gathered to pray for their favorite actor and watch for any glimpse of him through the open window on the eighth floor.

Anastasiya sees his lips moving and hears words coming out, but can’t process anything after the word “died.” Like a chain reaction, many of the people in the crowd start screaming and fainting. She grows numb as she utters a loud scream and falls to the ground in the August heat. Everything starts spinning around her, and she hears a ringing in her ears and sees a bright light in her eyes. She’s barely cognizant of the weeping and screaming surrounding her.

“Would you like me to help you get home?” she hears someone asking after she comes back to herself, by which time some of the crowd has dispersed. “Surely our presence here isn’t needed anymore. God must’ve wanted Rudy more than we wanted him here on Earth.”

“I don’t live nearby,” Anastasiya hears herself choking out. “I live on the Upper West Side. I’ll give you directions and money for a cab.”

The young woman helps pull her to her feet and supports her as they walk away from the Polyclinic and towards a line of cabs heading north. “I’m Dorothea Hasenkamp. What’s your name?”

“Anastasiya Voroshilova.”

“The lady who runs the uptown salon and makes all those pretty wedding and bridal party dresses? I love your designs, and I’m also smitten by the gorgeous gowns your second-in-command Dagnija makes. Can I get a sneak peek at some of your upcoming creations in your apartment?”

“Perhaps you will,” Anastasiya mutters as they climb into a cab.

As if the shock of learning her favorite actor was just taken away by the Angel of Death at the young age of thirty-one weren’t already enough, another shock awaits Anastasiya when Dorothea helps her into Katrin’s penthouse after they step off of the elevator when it reaches the top floor. Dagnija, Mrs. Whitmore, Mr. Rhodes, and Dmitriy are all there in the living room. Anastasiya faints again.

“Are these servants?” Dorothea asks.

“Hello,” Dagnija says. “I am Miss Voroshilova’s second-in-command at our salon, and these are her best friend’s butler and Miss Voroshilova’s nanny. The baby is her son Dmitriy. He is going to be nine months old in five days.”

Anastasiya comes back to herself when she hears Dagnija revealing this secret to a complete stranger. “Mrs. Whitmore, Mr. Rhodes, what are you doing here? If Mitya took ill, you should’ve called me instead of going to all the trouble to bring him here! He’ll recover sooner at the shore, where they’re not having a heat wave.”

“I let Miss Liepaitē in about an hour ago,” Mrs. Whitmore says. “She heard you were back in town, and wanted to discuss some of her new designs. As for myself and Mr. Rhodes, we figured you must really miss Dmitriy, and decided to surprise you by coming back with your darling little baby. It’s not right for a precious little boy to be looked after only by a nanny and a wetnurse. Now you can do the majority of his caretaking before you return to Long Island. Mr. Rhodes came as my male escort, in case anything untoward happened on the train and subway, or if anyone broke into the penthouse.”

“You have a baby?” Dorothea asks. “What’s his full name? I assume you kept your single name if you’re not a Mrs. but have a baby.”

“Dmitriy Rudolf Voroshilov,” Dagnija says. “He’s named after Rudolph Valentino and Grand Duke Dmitriy Romanov.”

Anastasiya wants to die of shame, and almost forgets about her grief over her son’s second namesake passing away after such a horrible illness.

“Are you divorced or a widow?” Dorothea asks.

“The father of Dmitriy is a Frenchman. He abandoned Stasya after their brief courtship and secret marriage in Paris last February,” Dagnija says, valuing her budding career enough to tell some white lies. “Now she is a chained woman, unable to remarry because her husband and baby’s father left them and can’t be found to have an annulment or divorce. If you ever wondered why an attractive, successful woman in her twenties is unmarried and doesn’t have any public suitors, now you know the tragic truth. We trust you not to spread around such an upsetting story.”

“How awful! What a scoundrel, to abandon a beautiful wife and his unborn son! Don’t you worry, Miss Voroshilova, I’ll keep your secret. I’d love to wear one of your wedding dresses when I get married, and I can’t very well do that if the rumor mill drives you out of business.”

“There’s a jug of milk in the refrigerator,” Mrs. Whitmore says. “Mrs. Kalvik-Nikonova used that new-fangled electric device to pump her milk so you could feed Dmitriy properly while she’s not here.”

“Couldn’t you buy artificial milk? It won’t kill him to drink infant formula for a few days, and Katrin’s milk won’t dry up, since she’s nursing her own baby.” Anastasiya wants to believe this entire day has been a nightmare, and any moment she’ll wake up, back on Long Island, Valentino making a full recovery from pleurisy, Dmitriy being cared for by anyone other than herself, her secret still confined to her inner circle and Dagnija.

“He’s used to drinking real mother’s milk. It won’t kill you to pour some of your best friend’s milk into a bottle and feed your son.”

Anastasiya curses her life as Dorothea and Dagnija help her onto a couch and Mrs. Whitmore hands her Dmitriy and an already-filled bottle. As she disinterestedly feeds him and drifts in and out of full awareness, she hears Dagnija excitedly talking to Dorothea about some of the secret upcoming designs at Voroshilova’s Weddingland Creations. If Dagnija didn’t know her shameful secret, she’d want to strangle her when she leads Dorothea into the room where some of these secret designs are displayed on mannequins. She can only hope someone with a good enough heart to help a stranger in need can keep her mouth shut about Dmitriy’s existence.

WeWriWa—Death of Valentino

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Welcome back to Weekend Writing Warriors and Snippet Sunday, weekly Sunday hops where writers share 8–10 sentences from a book or WIP. In honor of my favorite actor’s 89th Jahrzeit (death anniversary), I’m sharing something from The Twelfth Time: Lyuba and Ivan on the Rocks, Chapter 23, “Death of Valentino.” You don’t have to tell me I have extremely dinosaur tastes.

Even though Anastasiya Voroshilova (an Estonian in spite of the Russian name) is the secondary antagonist, she’s not really a cruel person, and she’s always been so fun to write. When she’s on the page, the scene practically writes itself, since she’s so predictable. In this scene, she’s returned to New York in the middle of a heat wave, leaving her not-so-secret bastard son Dmitriy with her friends on Long Island.

terry-valentino-horsemen

On Monday, shortly after noon, an official comes out of the hospital where Anastasiya has been standing vigil with a group of other fans since Saturday.  She wonders if Lyuba would still make fun of her for doing this if she knew her own stepsisters Vera and Natalya are among the women and teenage girls gathered to pray for their favorite actor and watch for any glimpse of him through the open window on the eighth floor.

Anastasiya sees his lips moving and hears words coming out, but can’t process anything after she hears the word “died.”  Like a chain reaction, many of the people in the crowd start screaming and fainting.  She grows numb as she utters a loud scream and falls to the ground in the August heat.  Everything starts spinning around her, and she hears a ringing in her ears and sees a bright light in her eyes.  She’s barely cognizant of the weeping and screaming surrounding her.

“Would you like me to help you get home?” she hears someone asking her after she comes back to herself, by which time some of the crowd has dispersed. “Surely our presence here isn’t needed anymore.  God must’ve wanted Rudy more than we wanted him here on Earth.”

Cobra

Rudolph Valentino, né Rodolfo Pietro Filiberto Raffaele Guglielmi, 6 May 1895–23 August 1926

The sound quality here isn’t as good or accurate as it would’ve been had he stepped back into the studio in 1925 or 1926, but these are the only two known recordings of his voice

P.S.: Happy heavenly 69th birthday to Keith John Moon, the greatest drummer ever!

WeWriWa—Lyuba and her antithesis

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Welcome back to Weekend Writing Warriors, a weekly Sunday hop where writers share 8 sentences from a book or WIP.  I’m now sharing from the opening of my first Russian historical, You Cannot Kill a Swan: The Love Story of Lyuba and Ivan (available for pre-order here).

Eighteen-year-old Ivan has just been jilted by his secret sweetheart, 17-year-old Lyuba, who’s also his best friend. He and his close friend Aleksey have been discussing why they think this might’ve happened, along with the hope that Lyuba will come back where she belongs before long. Then the tram home pulls up Arbat Street, and they go to find seats. Among the passengers are three new girls who just moved from Estonia, each a little bit different.

First we briefly see Eliisabet, who has a mutual crush on Aleksey, and then we meet the shallow, materialistic Anastasiya. Ivan hasn’t the heart to sit beside Lyuba, and the seat he finds all the way in back is right next to the woman who becomes Lyuba’s antithesis and rival for Ivan’s attentions. Ivan never has any feelings for Anastasiya, but he later makes the mistake of using this delusional woman to make Lyuba jealous. They end up having an on-and-off pretend relationship that never goes beyond hand-holding, but in the very Victorian, delusional Anastasiya’s mind, this is true love and serious business.

***

One of Eliisabet’s friends, a delicate blonde who bit her nails all day, takes a seat next to him and smiles flirtatiously.  He takes in this stranger, immediately sensing she’s nothing like Lyuba.  She looks like she stepped from the pages of a fashion magazine, with her painted face and nails, Jeanne Paquin gown, and tango shoes.  She also has a very large sketchpad of dresses she spent the day drawing in lieu of classwork.  Lyuba meanwhile has never painted her face or nails, wears comfortable over fashionable clothes, and enjoys reading newspapers and classic novels instead of keeping up with the latest fashions and the lives of the rich and famous.

Bara89

Theda Bara, the ultimate Vamp

Though Iván has never dared tell her this, Lyuba has long reminded him of Theda Bara, both in appearance and personality, and that excites him deep down.  He’s more attracted by what the ruthless, man-eating, domineering, dark-haired, dark-eyed, voluptuous Vamp represents than what a sweet, innocent, virginal, blonde, blue-eyed ingénue like Mary Pickford represents.  A so-called good girl might guarantee a safe, normal, predictable life, and an easily-attained happily ever after, but the so-called bad girl, the one with a haunted past and scars where no one can see them, represents a more interesting, complicated life, and the thrill of the chase.

Pickford675Mary Pickford, America’s Sweetheart

***

 Jeanne Paquin was a very popular fashion designer of the early 20th century. A Vamp, in the silent film era, did not refer to an actual Vampyre, but rather a sexually aggressive, assertive, take-charge woman who actively pursued men instead of smiling and keeping sweet.

Who Will Stand, Who Will Fall? (Weekdays Roman Slant)

(Quick note: This is another font I downloaded, not one that came with the computer. The pre-existing Roman font, Wide Latin, was too big and bold, and hard to look at for extended periods.)

Font: Weekdays Roman Slant

Chapter: “Who Will Stand, Who Will Fall?”

Book: You Cannot Kill a Swan: The Love Story of Lyuba and Ivan

Written: August 2001

Computer created on: The ’99 Mac we had

File format: ClarisWorks

This is the 42nd and final chapter of my first Russian historical novel, barring the short Epilogue. It was one of the numerous chapters that didn’t have a name till I finally had access to the files again a decade after finishing the book. The title comes from a line in the George Harrison song “The Lord Loves the One (Who Loves the Lord),” the first song on Side Two of his incredible Living in the Material World.

It’s set over one long day in March 1924, the long-awaited court battle for paternal rights over Tatyana. Over the course of the seven years of the book, Boris has made an enemy of all his former friends, and picked up some new enemies along the way. The only people on his side are his priest, Father Spiridon, and Father Spiridon’s overly pious daughter Granyechka, his former fiancée. Even they admit he’s not exactly a moral paragon. And when Boris calls Anastasiya as a surprise witness, she makes a complete fool of herself and unintentionally delivers one of the final nails in his coffin.

The final nail is delivered by Tatyana herself, who has no idea until the eve of her 18th birthday in 1937 that Boris is really her blood father. Even though he’s the antagonist of the book and deserves everything he gets, as his creator, I felt pretty sorry for him in his final scene. He’s been an awful human being, but his love for his only child is the real deal. Those are not crocodile tears.

Some highlights:

“Why did Konev have to be the plaintiff?” Borís begins whining to his lawyer and Father Spiridon. “Now I look like the bad guy to the judge because I’m the defendant, when I’m the one who had the better case, wanting to take him to court to force him to give me back my daughter! Konev went and beat me to it, just like a spoilt child!”

“Even if you lose your case today, at least God will forgive you,” Grányechka whispers.

[The first character witness, 17-year-old Lena Yeltsina] “One hundred percent.  In my eyes that man is pure evil and has no business having children, not even adopted ones.  I hope he burns in Hell for having kidnapped my son.”

Iván looks away in horror when he sees Katrin breastfeeding Oliivia for the whole world to see.  She sits down in the witness stand, oblivious to the gasps of horror.

“You can answer affirmatively,” the judge announces. “I’m a very alcohol-friendly judge and despise Prohibition.”

Anastásiya reverts back to biting her nails after she’s sworn in.  She lowers her gaze from that of Borís’s lawyer, feeling he’s looking at the lower-than-usual neckline Katrin has finally persuaded her to start donning in place of her last-generation outfits revealing usually not a micrometer of flesh except for her face and hands.

Anastásiya turns bright purple in horror. “What do you take me for, some immodest little flapper who exposes her knees and elbows and goes around driving cars?  I have never engaged in any immoral behavior such as that!”

“I hope you take the fifth too when they start asking you the hard questions.” His lawyer rises. “The defense is going to call Borís Aleksándrovich Malenkov to the stand.”

“I despise you.  I would’ve trusted Mísha more to raise his son alone than I would ever trust you to raise any child.” Léna coldly turns away.

Borís, fearing being arrested if he doesn’t instantly comply, signs away all his paternal rights over Tatyana and stands off to the side as Iván and Lyuba sign the document.  When they’re back at their seats, Borís falls onto his knees and then down into the kowtowing position sobbing hysterically, like an infant.  Grányechka, Father Spiridon, and the lawyer all move away, slightly embarrassed.

“Look at that fat short man, crying like it’s the end of the world,” Katrin says haughtily. “Of course I don’t hold any grudge against his mother for comforting him, but he has to show some restraint when he knew damn well this was coming!”

Anastásiya, turning green in jealousy, runs out of the courtroom and hails a carriage going her way, longing for the moment when she can drown the day’s sorrows and humiliations by gazing at her pictures of Rudy and Dmítriy, men who may be unattainable but who at least won’t use her to make another woman jealous.

Katrin Discovers Anastasiya’s Secret (King)

(Quick note: This is one of the fonts I downloaded, so it might not show up as such for everyone. My one pre-existing K font using Roman letters, Kino, was too crowded and hard on the eyes to read for extended periods.)

Font: King

Chapter: "Katrin Discovers Anastasiya’s Secret"

Book: The Twelfth Time: Lyuba and Ivan on the Rocks

Written: 28-30 June 2011

Computer created on: 2008 15-inch MacBook Pro

File format: Word 2004

This is the 10th chapter of my second Russian historical novel, one of the summer vacation chapters. Every summer since 1923, Lyuba and her friends have stayed for two weeks at Coney Island (to coincide with the paid union vacations of Ivan, Aleksey, and Nikolas), and then gone to a rented five-story house on Long Island until Labor Day. Katrin pays for the rental house.

During Summer 1925, Anastasiya has settled into the top floor, instead of as usual staying with her best friend’s family. Everyone is wondering about this, and why she so rarely comes out or interacts with anyone. Katrin and her little sister Viktoriya decide to finally investigate, and discover Anastasiya’s trip to Paris in February involved more than just her first fashion show.

Anastasiya has always been so fun to write, over the 20 years I’ve been with her. She’s the secondary antagonist of the first two books, but she’s not a mean-spirited person. She’s more of a delusional, meddling hypocrite. And her reactions are so predictable, they’re comical. Even when she’s caught in a potential scandal, she continues with her hypocrisy and unintentional comedy.

Some highlights:

"I’ll be up to her room later to make her come," Katrin says. "She’s deluding herself if she thinks she can take a vacation on my dime and barely do anything with us.  I’m sure there are some good spas around here where she can start feeling normal again."

"Do you think Nástya’s been having a love affair?" Katrin asks. "Perhaps after all that talk about how she’s better-off without kids or a man because it’d ruin her fashion empire, she felt embarrassed when she found a man anyway.  Sure we’ll laugh at her expense and say we told her so, but we’ll be happy for her if she has found a beau.  Though I can’t imagine how she’s been sneaking him in and out of the house if she has."

"Are you hiding a boyfriend?" Viktóriya demands. "Or are you dying of cancer?" She pulls the bag away from Anastásiya in the hopes of finding some kind of proof of an affair or a disease inside.

"I’m about twenty weeks too!" Katrin says. "You got pregnant around the same time I did, and you never even told your own best friend so we could enjoy being pregnant together?"

"It’s not supposed to hurt unless you have a thoughtless and brutal lover or a medical issue, like a very thick hymen," Katrin says. "Can you please stop using the silly word ‘maidenhood’?  That’s an abstract, male-defined concept, not a membrane."

Katrin goes over to look and sees Iván getting out of the car. "I guess Konev wanted to spend the vacation weekend and his birthday with his family.  I hope his mother is having a sobbing fit about it.  She should be embarrassed at herself, forty-six years old now and thinking her grown son is still a helpless little boy."

"Oh, well this is one piece of gossip that’s not going anywhere," Katrin smirks. "I’d say you’ll still have ample time to see the proof for about twenty more weeks, and any time thereafter, in another form."

"I’d never deny myself breakfast.  I never fast before Communion anyway.  I usually just make something up in Confession so I can be cleared for Communion.  Since when do I ever sin?"

Anastásiya takes the lift down and strolls along the street.  As much as she’s grown used to the Upper East Side, she’s at least thankful she’ll only be going back to the Upper West Side and not the Lower East Side, where she started her life in America.  There’s not much difference between the two sides of Uptown Manhattan.  As she’s passing by an alley, she stops in her tracks when she sees two people having relations under a fire escape.  Her eyes widen when she realizes the man is Borís.

"Are you sure you didn’t already lose your maidenhood earlier and just didn’t know it, or were in denial about it?" Borís asks. "God made the female body in such a way that women would feel devastating pain upon being deflowered.  It lets the man know she’s a pure, untouched virgin.  Only sluts and whores enjoy their first coitus, let alone actively seek it out."

"Don’t pay any attention to her, Ksyusha," Borís barks. "It really should hurt when a girl first has coitus.  Perhaps she was just too drunk to remember the pain."

"You’re a complete dog, Malenkov. I’m not even going to ask why you were doing that in public when you have your own house."