Posted in 1920s, Anastasiya, Historical fiction, Rudy Valentino, Russian novel sequel, Writing

“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.

Posted in 1930s, Fonts, Historical fiction, Third Russian novel, Writing

A Xenial Welcome (Xenon Medium)

My Sweet Saturday Samples post is here. I wanted my X post to lead today!

(Quick note: This is one of the fonts I downloaded, not a system default. It may not show up properly for everyone.)

Font:  Xenon Medium

Chapter:  “A Xenial Welcome”

Book:  Journey Through a Dark Forest: Lyuba and Ivan in the Age of Anxiety

Written:  4-15 April 2013

File format:  Word 2004

Computer written on:  2008 15-inch MacBook Pro

This is the 35th chapter of my current WIP, my third Russian/North American historical novel. In this chapter, four of the Soviet characters arrive safely in New York, and some of the other Soviet characters finally reach Isfahan, Persia, and reunite. A very xenial (hospitable) welcome is waiting for them in both places. After the risky escapes all three of these groups have gone through, it’s nice to finally relax and settle into life in a safe place. To date, this is the book’s longest chapter, at over 13,000 words.

Some highlights:

“Would you like a ride?  Passengers come along every few minutes, but it doesn’t seem right to keep driving past people with so much baggage, and a woman who’s approaching a blessèd event.”

Rustam starts hyperventilating and rolls down his window.  Ever since he escaped Kurapaty, being in small spaces has brought on panic attacks and vivid flashbacks.

“Anyone would have a mental breakdown if he’d escaped from a mass grave,” Rustam says as he flops into the nearest chair. “That night of terror will be with me as long as I live.  Don’t even ask me to describe it again.  It was enough I had to tell my family, Polish embassy people, and the officials who greeted us here.  All those bodies, pressing on all sides, that gag on my mouth, barely any air—”

Katrin pours cranberry juice, brandy, ice, raspberry syrup, and rose water into a penguin-shaped cocktail-shaker, then pours more of the same mixture into a shaker shaped like an aeroplane.  Her guests watch in continued amazement as she prepares drinks.

“What’s a hotdog?” Fyodor asks. “I thought only Asians and some Africans ate dogs.”

“Yes, he’s a Great Dane,” Oliivia nods. “We wanted a puppy, but our mother said it’s better to give a home to an older abandoned dog.  Puppies find new owners quickly, but older dogs in the pound are usually ignored.”

Velira runs to a window of the abandoned old summer house Ínna and Mrs. Brézhneva have claimed in the center of Isfahan.  She smiles down at the pheasants having a dirt bath in the garden of the courtyard, several feet away from the long reflecting pool.  It’s been a long time since she’s been able to just stand and watch animals, without being rushed along, or kept away from most flora and fauna at sea.

Mrs. Brézhneva stiffens at the loud laughter coming from the car.  She doesn’t even need to be told it’s directed at her.

“Why am I not surprised to see you still look like an ape with a bad haircut, pointy ears, and an unflattering hat after all these years?  It’s me, Alína Pétropashvili, and those are the Nahigians, Ohanna Zouranjian, and Ohanna’s daughter Siranoush.” Alína opens the back door and steps out. “Don’t you recognize me as an adult?”

At seven o’clock, the guests arrive at Firuza and Vahid’s house three minutes away from the new orphanage.  Velira, Siranoush, and Manzura’s eyes light up at the sight of all the food arranged around the table—mint tea, orange sharbat, cheese and walnut spread, stuffed grape leaves, cucumber and eggplant salad, noodle and vegetable soup with chickpeas, pistachio-stuffed lamb, saffron rice with dates, orange peel, and apricots, apple khoresh, honey almond brittle, nan-e dushabi with pomegranate jam, and baklava.

Velira perches on Ínna’s lap and obediently drinks the sharbat and eats the soup, khoresh, and plain dates Firuza sets before her.  After she’s finished eating, Firuza goes into the kitchen for a small bowl of ice-cream liberally flavored with saffron, pomegranate syrup, rose water, and watermelon juice.  Velira eagerly wolfs it down and then curls up in her aunt’s lap, where she quickly falls asleep.

Mrs. Brézhneva gives one of her trademark befuddled looks. “Is xenial a Georgian word?  Isn’t there a Russian equivalent?”

“This is one old dog you’ll never teach new tricks to.  At least I’m nearing retirement and won’t need to worry about finding a new job in this new country or doing much interaction with the locals.  I’m here only for political and personal safety, not to try to rebuild my life at almost seventy years old.”

[After Katrin orders Anastasiya to finally move out] “Thank God,” Mr. Rhodes says. “I won’t have to put up with her on vacation.  This’ll be the best vacation I’ve had in years.”

“You can sure say that again,” Mrs. Samson nods. “Good riddance.”

[Title page of a comic book/graphic novel, and the close of the chapter] One Lived to Tell the Tale, written and illustrated by Rustam Dmítriyevich Zyuganov

In memory of my dear friend, neighbor, and cousin-in-law Román Vasilovich Safronov and all the other innocents who were murdered in Kurapaty on the night of 11 April 1937, and for my beautiful, intelligent, generous wife Ólga Leonídovna Kérenskaya and our firstborn, Liliána Rustamovna Zyuganova, whom I survived for.

“Hatred does not cease by hatred, but only by love; this is the eternal rule.”—Buddha.

Posted in 1930s, Anastasiya, Secondary characters, Third Russian novel, Writing

Six Sentence Sunday—Owned by the Butler

This week’s offering for Six Sentence Sunday comes again from my third Russian novel and is another little scene between quasi-antagonist Anastasiya and her best friend Katrin’s butler Mr. Rhodes. It’s late at night on the Fourth of July, and Anastasiya’s 7-year-old son Dmitriy asks his uninvolved mother why she’s painting her nails so late at night. Anastasiya responds in her usual unmotherly manner, and is immediately called out by the butler.

***

“I’m thirty-four years old.  I’ve earned the right to do whatever I want, whenever I want it.”

“Including having a drunken one-night stand with a stranger and becoming pregnant?” Mr. Rhodes asks as he picks up the mess Katrin’s youngest daughters made earlier in the evening. “If you don’t want me to understand your endless parade of unintentionally amusing conversation, you need to speak another language.  Do you speak any other languages besides Estonian, Russian, English, German, and French?”

Anastásiya ignores him and goes back to painting her nails red.

Posted in 1930s, Anastasiya, Secondary characters, Third Russian novel, Writing

Six Sentence Sunday—Owned by the Butler

This week’s offering for Six Sentence Sunday comes from Chapter 9 of my WIP, my third Russian historical novel, which spans 15 years and three continents. One of my favorite recurring secondary characters is Katrin’s butler Mr. Rhodes, one of the few people besides Katrin and her little sister Viktoriya who’s able to shut down quasi-antagonist Anastasiya and put her in her place.

In a previous Six Sentence Sunday, Mr. Rhodes stunned Anastasiya when he revealed that he could understand everything she said, because he’d picked up Russian after so many years in Katrin’s service. This week, she’s speaking in her native Estonian with Katrin, horrified that Katrin is entertaining a former prostitute (the stepcousin of main character Lyuba). She’s in for another shock if she thinks Mr. Rhodes can’t understand this language!

***

Katrin’s butler Mr. Rhodes raises his eyebrow at her. “Morality aside, at least someone who works in a brothel is earning a living through that behavior.  She’s not the one who has a bastard son and goes to great lengths to hide her shame from the public.” He goes back to dusting. “You seem to forget that the butler sees and hears everything.  I know Estonian and Russian as well as my native English by this point.”

Posted in Secondary characters, Third Russian novel, Word Count, Writing

A seventh of the way done

ROW80

I’m now up to around 64,500 words in my third Russian novel, which puts me at roughly a seventh of the way done, if my guesstimate of the final length proves to be correct. I’m on Chapter 10. So much of my writing style has been influenced by the older books and classic literature I’ve read, and my approach to chapters is no different. I see chapters as like mininature novels unto themselves, and so I always title my chapters and structure them like short stories, not just 3-5 page episodes.

In Chapter 9, my second-favorite female character of these books, Katrin, finally made her first appearance, along with her best friend Anastasiya. Anastasiya was one of the antagonists of the first book, but she’s a much nicer antagonist than Boris. She was also somewhat antagonistic in the sequel, but again, she’s not evil. She’s just self-absorbed and hypocritical, not stupid or really mean-spirited. And she provides great unintentional comedy. I love writing her.

Katrin’s awesome butler Mr. Rhodes also made his first appearance of the book in Chapter 9. I love my butler characters, even though they’re just secondary characters. He didn’t have a name in the first book, though I named Katrin’s maid and cook in the first book. I have plans to use him in a Part II scene where Anastasiya is caught and called out once and for all re: her pathetic “mothering” of her secret bastard son Dmitriy. Mr. Rhodes is one of the few people who’s able to shut her down when she tries to cop an attitude.

Secondary and minor characters can be just as fun to write as major characters. Sometimes they can even steal the show.

***

“She’s our mistress.  You’re just the unwed mother friend she moved back into her penthouse to save your name from scandal and ruin.  And you’ve been just as insufferable as you were when you lived with us before.  Thank God young Dmítriy doesn’t even recognize you as his mother and can be brought up to be a nice young man, not a selfish, superficial, annoying person like you.”

***

“Must you be so vulgar and hateful in front of children?” Mr. Rhodes asks as he’s dusting a bookshelf. “I like how you pride yourself on being so ladylike and modest, and yet cavalierly making such shocking remarks about such personal matters.”

“You know Russian, Mr. Butler?” Fédya asks.

“After working for Mrs. Kalvik-Nikonova for so many years, I’ve picked it up.  They do say the butler sees and hears everything.”

***

Katrin’s butler Mr. Rhodes raises his eyebrow at her. “Morality aside, at least someone who works in a brothel is earning a living through that behavior.  She’s not the one who has a bastard son and goes to great lengths to hide her shame from the public.” He goes back to dusting. “You seem to forget that the butler sees and hears everything.  I know Estonian and Russian as well as my native English by this point.”