“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.

A primer on Latvian names

Dagnija Liepaitē was a completely unplanned character in The Twelfth Time, my Russian novel sequel. Secondary antagonist Anastasiya finds herself pregnant after a drunken one-night stand with a stranger in Paris during her first fashion show abroad, and she needs a lot of assistance to run her salon while she’s away on her pretended sick leave. In comes 21-year-old Dagnija, who immigrated from the coastal city of Saulkrasti, Latvia in 1920. Dagnija is one of the new seamstresses, and impresses Anastasiya so much she’s invited to be the second in command.

One fateful day when she’s staying late after work, she picks up the phone and overhears Anastasiya talking to her secret son’s pediatrician. Dagnija knows exactly how to play her cards from here, and becomes the alternate designer and even more powerful. She has Anastasiya eating out of the palm of her hand, and knows exactly what to say to her and how to work her. Anastasiya has no choice but to grin and bear it if she wants the secret of her unwed motherhood to stay as under wraps as possible. I just love Dagnija, since she’s so fun to write, and her interactions with Anastasiya practically write themselves.

The last line of Chapter 20 of The Twelfth Time ends “Now, the deceiver lays at the mercy of the deceived.” It’s inspired by the final line of a Decameron story, “And thus it was that the deceiver lay at the mercy of the deceived.”

Latvian surnames:

Dagnija’s surname in The Twelfth Time is Liepaitē, since she’s unmarried. In Journey Through a Dark Forest, the third book, her surname has become Liepienē, since she’s now married. Latvian women’s surnames take different endings depending upon their marital status, though men’s names typically have only one form. The masculine form of her surname is Liepiņš.

It’s most common, as casual observers can quickly figure out, for Latvian surnames to end in -s, -is, and -š. Sometimes a name will end in -us or -o.

Patronymics and direct address:

Latvians historically haven’t used patronymics, but during the periods of Russian and Soviet occupation, they had no choice but to legally adopt patronymics. In addition to this, their names were also forcibly Russified. The same thing happened under German domination, only minus the patronymics. Nowadays, names are reverting back to their true Latvian roots.

The vocative case is used when directly addressing someone; e.g., Jānis becomes Jāni.

Pronunciation:

Latvian uses a Roman alphabet, but like many other Eastern European languages, it too uses characters the average English-speaker isn’t used to. They’ve got bars over their As, Es, Is, and Us, a Ž (ZH), Š (SH), Ņ (similar to the Spanish Ñ and Italian GN), Ģ, Č (CH), Ķ, and Ļ. It’s a Baltic language, closely related but not identical to Lithuanian.

Common Latvian names:

Female:

Agate, Agita
Agnese, Agnija
Agra (Agrita)
Aleksandra (Aleksandrīna)
Alīna
Alise
Alvīna, Alvīne
Amālija
Anastasija
Anna
Antonija
Antoniņa
Astra, Astrīda
Ausma
Austra
Beatrise
Biruta
Brigita
Dagmāra
Dagnija
Daiga
Daina (Song)
Doroteja
Dzidra
Dzintra
Edīte
Elita
Elizabete
Elvīra
Emīlija
Estere
Evelīna
Evija
Genovefa (Genevieve)
Helēna
Ieva (Eva)
Ilga
Ilona
Iluta
Ilva
Ināra
Inga
Ingrīda
Irēna, Irīna
Jadviga (Hedwig)
Jana
Jeļena
Jolaņta
Judīte
Justīne
Jūlija
Karīna
Karolīna
Katarīna
Klāra
Klaudija
Kristiāna
Kristīna, Kristīne
Ksenija (Xenia)
Laima (Luck)
Larisa
Lāsma
Lauma
Lavīze
Lidija
Lienīte
Liesma
Lija
Lilija
Lilita
Līvija
Lūcija
Ludmila
Luīze
Madara
Maija
Margarita, Margita, Margrieta
Marija (Marika, Marita)
Marina
Marta
Maruta
Megija
Melanija
Mirdza
Modrīte
Monika
Monta
Mudīte
Nadežda (Hope)
Natālija
Olga
Otīlija
Paula, Paulīna
Rasma
Renāte
Regīna
Rota, Rūta (Rudīte)
Rozālija
Sabīne
Saive
Sanda
Sara
Šarlote (Charlotte)
Saule
Sigita
Signe
Silvija
Simona
Sindija
Sintija
Skaidra (Skaidrīte)
Sofija
Solveiga
Tamāra
Tatjana
Terēza, Terēze, Terēzija
Vaira
Valda
Valentīna
Valērija
Veneranda
Vera
Veronika
Vēsma
Viktorija
Violeta
Vita
Zuzanna

Male:

Ādams
Adriāns
Aleksandrs
Aleksejs
Alfons
Alfrēds
Aloizs (Aloysius)
Anatolijs
Andrejs (Andris)
Antons
Artjoms
Artūrs
Augusts
Bendiks (Benedict)
Daniels
Dāvids
Dmitrijs
Dzintars
Edgars
Eduards
Emīls
Ēriks
Fēlikss
Fīlips
Fricis, Frīdrihs (Frederick)
Gabriels
Georgijs, Georgs, Juris, Jurģis
Ģirts
Grigorijs
Gustavs
Henriks, Henrijs
Ignats
Ilgvars
Ilmārs
Indriķis
Indulis
Jānis
Jāzeps (Joseph)
Jēkabs
Jevgeņijs (Eugene)
Jūlijs
Kārlis
Kaspars (Jasper)
Kirils
Klaudijs
Kristaps (Christopher)
Kristiāns
Laimdots
Ludis, Ludvigs (Louis, Ludwig) (Dagnija’s husband)
Madars
Maigonis
Markuss
Matejs, Matīss (Matthew)
Miervaldis
Mihails, Miķelis, Mihaels
Modris
Nikolajs, Niklāvs
Ojārs
Oskars
Pāvils, Paulis, Pauls, Pāvels
Pjotrs, Pēteris
Raimonds
Raitis
Raivis, Raivo
Renārs
Rihards
Ritvars
Roberts
Romāns
Rūdolfs
Simons, Sīmanis
Stefans
Tālivaldis
Teodors
Toms, Tomass
Uldis
Uģis
Vairis
Valentīns
Valērijs
Vilhelms, Vilis
Visvaldis
Voldemārs, Valdemārs (Valdis)
Zigmārs
Zintis (Magic)

What’s Up Wednesday

Snowy Houses

What’s Up Wednesday is a weekly hop/meme with four simple headings. Anyone can write a post and add the link to Jaime’s blog or Erin’s blog.

What I’m Writing

Up to Chapter 100 and past 751,000 words in my WIP. I decided to wrap up Chapter 99 while it was still at a short (for me) length, and use the rest of the planned material in the next chapter. That means my table of contents was revised again, and now has 113 chapters. I’m remaining confident I won’t go past 800K for this book.

Chapter 100 includes a scene in Anastasiya’s salon, Voroshilova’s Weddingland Creations. Every time Anastasiya appears, the scene practically writes itself. She’s so fun to write, even though she’s somewhat of an antagonist. Also fun to write is her second in command and alternate designer Dagnija, who immigrated from Saulkrasti, Latvia in 1920, at the age of sixteen. Dagnija totally has her number, and has had Anastasiya quivering before her ever since she discovered the secret of Anastasiya’s bastard son Dmitriy. Dmitriy’s existence is a widely-known secret by this point, but Anastasiya is still terrified word will leak to the wrong people.

There are several college and university graduations in this chapter, and I had a devil of a time finding the date of Hunter’s 1946 commencement, and their 1947 commencement, for a future chapter. Barnard and the University of Minnesota have wonderful, free online archives of their student newspapers, but Hunter doesn’t. I finally found the information through the New York Times archives.

My writing goal for this week is to be up to Chapter 101, “Yuriy’s Homecoming.” Canadian Army medic Yuriy finally gets enough points to come home in July 1946, and goes right to see his penpal/friend/secret crush Inga in Manhattan, where his grandmother, older aunts, and three cousins live. Yuriy’s still a year away from finally telling Inga he’s in love with her.

What Works for Me

Since I write with large ensemble casts, I always make a Cast of Characters file. In Little Ragdoll, I grouped them by category—the Troys, the Troys’ friends, enemies/antagonists, and the second generation and assorted others. For my Russian historicals, I put them in order of appearance, and bold the names of main and important secondary characters. I also include birthdates or birth years and a short description of who they are. I put the name the character goes by in parenthesis after the full name, if s/he goes by a nickname or title. Just about all my characters go by nicknames, but not all of them are called by those nicknames in the narrative. For example, Lyuba and Ivan’s firstborn son Fyodor is always called Fedya and their second blood daughter together, Yekaterina, is always called Katya, but their first blood daughter together is called by her full name, Darya, instead of her nickname, Dasha.

What Else I’ve Been Up To

IMG_2544

The chanukiyah in the forefront, with the blue and red candles, is mine. Some people bring their own to light. I’ve had it since December 1998, the first year I celebrated Chanukah. At one point I was cleaning the melted wax off, but I eventually decided to leave it as a beautiful, ever-evolving work of modern, abstract art.

A local news crew came by surprise around 6:30, shortly after I arrived at the party, and interviewed my rabbi for the 11:00 news. That was pretty awesome.

IMG_2545

My Hebrew birthday is the fifth night of Chanukah, and my English birthday is Thursday. I feel sick thinking about how I’ll be halfway to seventy. It’s also sobering to think of how, by this point in my life, I’ve outlived Rudolph Valentino, Keith Moon, everyone in the 27 Club, and so many others. Getting older sure beats the alternative.