Sonya Reacts

This is the final of the twenty posts I originally put together on 24 June 2012 (plus a few posts from the same story arc done at later dates) for future installments of the now-defunct Sweet Saturday Samples hop. It differs slightly from the published version; e.g., I no longer pedantically use accent marks, and Mrs. Herzena is now Mrs. Kharzina.

***

In Chapter 32 of The Twelfth Time, “The Exodus Begins,” Sonya has finally discovered what happened to her surviving daughter. During Alla and Karmov’s wedding celebration, Ginny’s mother begins pressing, for not the first time, for a potential marriage match between him and Kittey. Ginny insists, as always, that he still loves Georgiya in the Soviet Union. Ginny and Georgiya will eventually be reunited, but not for many, many, many years. Ginny will meet his daughter Inga long before he sees his one true love again.

***

“Speaking of Kittey.” Mrs. Herzena takes a large piece of smoked fish from the serving platter. “Have you given any further thought to marrying her, Ginny? It’s not good for people of your age to be unmarried. I’m not suggesting having children immediately, since I didn’t, but at least have your own adult household. People will start to talk about you if you’re not married soon.”

“Not on your life,” Kittey says. “I’d never leave my brother and his family. I’m going to Minnesota with them. Perhaps when I’m a bit older, I’ll go to the University of Minnesota. But in the meantime, I have to help Kat and Kólya with running their planned general store. And my nieces and nephews adore me. How could I even think of deserting them?”

“Don’t take Tyotya Kittey away from us!” Anzhelíka begs.

“She loves us more than our mother!” Andréy says.

“I already have a woman I love,” Ginny says. “Kittey is too much like a sister to me to even think about in that way.”

“That girl is never going to defect,” Mrs. Herzena says. “She loves the Soviet Union too much. Unless that new Stálin fellow makes life as unbearable for her as that lunatic Lénin made it for us, she’s staying exactly where she is for the rest of her life. And you’re certainly not going home. Stop wasting your time dreaming about someone you’ll never see again. I’m sure she’ll move onto an attainable man soon.”

“Even if this Geórgiya does meet and marry a nearby man, I want you to stay in contact with her as long as possible,” Sónya says. “She’s the only person who can provide information on my daughter. I know parents are allowed to bring children to Canada and bypass immigration regulations, but I’m sure that man would fight such an order. I still can’t get over how he just took my Kárlochka eight hours away from where he found her and adopted her. Decent people don’t assume a lost child is unwanted or that no one’s looking for her!”

“He was always an annoying pain in the neck,” Ginny says. “I’m not surprised he’s still unmarried. But if Kárla loves him and calls him Papa Lyonya, it would probably be very traumatic for her to be taken away from him. No offense, Sónya, but you’re a stranger to her. She hasn’t seen you in almost nine years. She was far too young to remember when she was taken away.”

“I hope to God he suffers the same way we did when the Tsar was overthrown,” Naína says. “I’m not the only one who’s suspicious about how some relative nobody was able to rise all the way to the top, instead of one of Lénin’s top confidantes. Usually people are up to no good when they rise so high so quickly, and get rid of better-qualified competition in the process. I only hope our Kárlochka stays safe if bad things happen over there.”

“You can still have another baby to replace Kárla, Tyotya Sónya,” Tatyana says. “You’re Tyotya Gálya’s age, so I know you’re not too old yet to have more babies.”

“And you can find a younger man,” Nikoláy says. “Tyotya Mótya, Tyotya Gálya, and Válya Yeltsina married younger men. Maybe you can have a little boy with your new husband.”

“There’s no proof my Maksím is dead. I’m sure no priest would allow me to marry again if the status of my first husband is unknown.”

Tyotya Állochka just got married again, and she found out her first husband was dead,” Novomira says. “A nice priest will understand your first husband is probably gone, but there’s no way to find proof.”

“You’d be blameless,” Kittey says. “At least think about it. I’m too young to think about marriage, contrary to what Ginny’s mother thinks, but you’re too old to not think about remarriage and more kids while you’re still fertile.”

The News Trickles Down

This was originally one of twenty posts put together on 24 June 2012 for future installments of the now-defunct Sweet Saturday Samples hop. It differs slightly from the published version; e.g., I no longer pedantically use accent marks, the Herzens are now the Kharzins, there’s less passive voice, and Mrs. Kharzina refers to her husband as Tatyana’s Dyadya (Uncle) Mishenka, not her Dvoyurodniy Dédushka (Great-Uncle). The former is much simpler, even if it’s not their official relationship.

***

During Chapter 31 of The Twelfth Time, “Ivan Loses His Accent,” Lyuba’s cousin Ginny gets Georgiya’s latest letter, which breaks the news about Karla. Now the only thing that remains to be done is to tell Sonya what’s happened to her daughter.

***

Sunday after church, the Konevs are invited to the Herzen house for lunch. While Tatyana and Dárya hold hands and skip ahead of their parents and other siblings, Fédya drags his feet the entire way there and constantly snaps and complains about everything. Lyuba feels wounded every time he raises his voice to her or utters unkind words, and Iván now knows why some parents hit their kids in the heat of the moment. He struggles to honor the promise he made to himself long ago to never raise his voice or his hands against any of his children.

“Ginny got a letter from that girl he thinks you should forward to Sónya,” Mrs. Herzena says as they’re waiting for lunch to be done. “He says his eyes almost fell out of his head when he realized what exactly that girl was saying.”

“She has a name, Mátushka. Her name is Geórgiya.” Ginny opens the nearest candy jar and pops some gumdrops down his throat.

“That’s snack food for between meals. You’ll spoil your appetite if you fill up on them before lunch. Surely you’re a big enough boy to know that by now.”

“I’m twenty years old. That’s a man, not a boy.”

“As long as you live in our house, you’re a boy, not a real grownup.”

Ginny rolls his eyes. “Thank God I’m finally graduating in June. I can’t get out on my own soon enough.”

“And who will you marry once you’re an independent adult? Every man needs a woman of the house. I don’t know how your cousin’s friend Pável does it, living all alone for so long now. At least he could hire a housekeeper and a cook, if he’s going to insist on waiting for his girlfriend to be released from Siberia and make her way here. From what I hear, he’s making more than enough money to afford a few servants.”

“What exactly is in this letter?” Lyuba asks. “How does this concern our friend Sónya?”

Ginny gets up to fetch the latest letter he’s received from Geórgiya and points to one section in the middle. “Right there. It’ll tell you everything you need to know about what really happened to Sónya’s surviving daughter.”

Lyuba scans the five paragraphs Geórgiya has written about Kárla, not sure whether she should feel relieved or horrorstruck. On the one hand, Naína, Kátya, and Sónya will have their minds set at rest as to whether Kárla is alive and in good hands. But on the other hand, this means she’s still in the Soviet Union, being raised by people whose belief system is the antithesis of her shrunken family’s. And Leoníd made no efforts to try to find her guardians or even to tell the police he’d found a missing child. Silently she gives thanks Tatyana was never taken away to an orphanage either of the short times they were separated back home.

“Is there anything that poor woman can do to get her child back?” Iván asks as he takes a turn reading it. “She’s now a Canadian citizen, and her only surviving child is being kept in a hostile country, raised with odious beliefs, with a potential dictator as the new leader. They must be filling that poor kid’s head with lies about how her real family is so horrible for being anti-Bolshevik. She might not even want anything to do with them if anyone succeeds in taking her out of there.”

“With what authority?” Mrs. Herzena asks in resignation. “Leoníd, even if he is as stuck-up and annoying as you all say, has legally adopted her, and she’s been living in that house for almost two years now. She must be attached to her new family. Any child who was raised in orphanages must feel it’s a dream come true to be adopted by a man who lives in a mansion, has servants, and makes enough money to take her on vacations, buy her fancy presents, and enroll her in a private state-run school.”

“I don’t think he’d want to turn her over, even if Sónya had enough money, connections, and determination to get a Supreme Court or Kremlin petition to have Kárla given back to her,” Ginny agrees. “Leaving the only real home she’s known and being forced to move to Canada would probably be very traumatic for her. I don’t even think Leoníd would respond to the letter if Sónya sent one begging for the return of her child.”

“But that’s not fair,” Tatyana protests. “Sónya’s thirty-seven now and getting old. She should get her little girl back while she’s still young enough to be a normal-aged mother. It’s not nice to keep a mother away from her own child.”

“I’m forty-four!” Mrs. Herzena says. “I’m seven years older than Sónya, and I don’t think I’m decrepit just yet. I could even have another baby if I wanted to.”

“Do you want to give Ginny a baby brother or sister? I love my little brother and sisters, even if my little brother has been really rude and mean to us lately.”

“Oh, no, I’m quite happy with only having one child. Your Dvoyurodniy Dédushka Míshenka and I deliberately chose to have just one. There are no problems we know of, but we just prefer having a small, quiet house.”

“I’m glad you’re only having me,” Ginny says. “That would be too awkward if you did have another baby when I was this old.”

“Wouldn’t a judge or government man step in and make Geórgiya’s brother return Kárla to her mother?” Tatyana asks. “You shouldn’t raise a child away from her mother if you know she’s alive and wants her child back. Bad guys took both her kids away from her, and one of them went to be with God early. Now she only has one left, and she’d be very happy if she got her back.”

“She’s not getting her back, unless Kárla takes it into her head to run away and finds a way to come to North America without being deported,” Mrs. Herzena says. “But perhaps someday they’ll be reunited in this lifetime.”

Union with a Snake (Underwood Champion)

(Quick note: This post is coded with a font I downloaded, not a default that came with my Mac. It might not show up for everyone. But if you love typewriters and typewriter-esque fonts, I recommend you check it out yourself!)

Font: Underwood Champion

Chapter: “Union with a Snake”

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

Written: 27-29 October 2011

Computer created on: 2008 15-inch MacBook Pro

File format: Word 2004

Chapter 41 of my Russian novel sequel is one of the things I’m proudest of having written. I wrote all 17,000 words of it over the course of just three days. After having kept so much of this book memorized in my head for over half my life, it finally was able to be committed to paper, and so much of it just came gushing out. This book wrote me more than I wrote it.

The day the Stock Market crashes, there’s a blackout in the tenement and Lyuba goes into labor with her fifth child. Just as she suspected, it’s a boy, named Igor, after Ivan’s murdered uncle. (This name actually sounds softer in Russian, though it was almost ruined for me by my ex-“fianc锑s Harpy mother constantly screeching at her husband: “EEEEEEE-gaaaarrrrrr! Eeeeee-GAAAARRRRR! Eeeeee-GAAAARRRRR! Eeeeee-GAAAARRRRR!”) Lyuba is supported in labor by several of her stepsisters, including Svetlana, an infant nurse, along with her longtime midwife Mrs. Kuzmitch and Katrin. When I first created Katrin (né Catherine) in 1993, I never dreamt she and Lyuba would ever become such dear friends that she’d one day hold Lyuba’s hand during a birth!

Lyuba once again has a very difficult birth and recovery. She’s so feverish and weak that Mrs. Kuzmitch has to use forceps. She’s so out of it, in fact, that when Boris comes by after hearing about her state, she mistakes him for her husband. Over the next few weeks, he regularly comes by at night to dope her up with morphine, mescaline, alcohol, and aphrodisiac teas. Boris even writes Ivan two letters bragging about this “affair,” one of which he signs Lyuba’s name to. Things do not end very well when Lyuba finally realizes, in a sober state, what’s been going on.

Some highlights, so to speak:

On the evening of Tuesday, October 29, while Lyuba is reeling from the shock of the Stock Market’s dramatic plummet over the last two days, all the lights go out in the building.  Then, to make matters worse, she feels her water breaking.  She’s felt mild contractions all day, but chose to ignore them.

Through her swimming vision, she can make out a male figure.  She has no idea how her husband could’ve come here or even found out about the birth so soon.  In her delirium, she doesn’t register that her male visitor is plump, on the short side for a man, and has black hair and eyes, instead of being over six feet tall and having dark brown hair and eyes.

“Ask and you shall receive.” Borís pulls out another syringe and quickly injects her, glad her eyes are shut and he can use his right hand this time.

“It’s a sad state when a new mother can’t even wake up to her baby’s cries,” the mohel agrees. “At least this was caught in time to be taken care of properly.  The baby will recover.” (Igor developed a severe case of balanitis on his 9th day of life and had to be circumcised, something totally foreign to Russian Christians.)

“I’m so glad you came back, my handsome stallion.” Lyuba wraps her arms around him, her vision still cloudy from all the morphine and delirium. “I can’t get over how plump you’ve gotten in Minnesota.  If I didn’t know any better, I’d almost think you were Borís.”

“Look at my pretty buttons.” Lyuba opens the tea crate. “We soak these in our tea every night, and they make me feel so happy and aware of the world.  It’s like walking through a dream when I’m awake.  Like right now, I feel like I’m looking at a moving stained glass window.”

“Can you get that brat to shut up?  I can’t concentrate on screwing you if he’s going to be interrupting us.  It’s time to pay attention to me, not him.  He has your attention all day.  Now it’s my turn.”

Lyuba screams even more hysterically.  In the midst of the commotion, her mother and stepfather, the Karmovs, the Kharzins, and Valériya come into the apartment.  Borís suddenly doesn’t feel as confident anymore.

“Borís doesn’t even know the meaning of shame anymore,” Mrs. Kharzina says. “He sinned once and kept running with it.  Once he got a taste for sin, it was too sweet to resist.  Now he’s completely degenerate.”

Lyuba sits on the davenport at her mother’s house, still in complete shell-shock over what she’s discovered.  This seems like a twisted, deranged nightmare that happened to someone else, not her.  In her mind, she keeps replaying everything that happened over the last month, unable to comprehend how she could’ve been so blind to the obvious.