WeWriWa—Velira’s Birthday Wish

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Welcome back to Weekend Writing Warriors, where participants share 8 sentences from a book or WIP. I’m currently sharing from my current WIP, Journey Through a Dark Forest, Chapter 39, “Velira’s Birthday Wish.” It’s September 1937 in Isfahan, Iran, and the orphanage co-director’s niece is turning three years old. While she was in the courtyard by herself, she saw a snake and climbed a tree onto the wall around the yard. From her vantage point, she recognized a man walking to the bazaar, and has now begun following him.

She also recognizes his friend, a former prince whom she met in the Colony of Aden a few months ago, while her group was clandestinely en route from Kyiv to Iran. He helped them with getting Nansen passports and British protection/permission to enter Iran, where the former prince has lived since 1918.

***

On any other day, she’d stop to absorb the exotic scents, bright colors, and tantalizing food, but right now she’s on a mission.

Velira finds him again by a gaz stand, talking with a hazel-eyed man about his height, whom she recognizes as Prince Arkásha.  As he starts to move on again with his new Russophone friend, she continues calling after him.

“Papa, Papa, wait for me!”

Vítya finally turns around and stares at the determined pint-sized child holding a fancy doll and racing after him.  He drops onto his knees and holds his spindly arms out, tears streaming down his face.  Velira wraps her arms around her father’s neck as soon as he encloses her in his embrace.

“Where are Mama and our baby?”

Gaz nougat candy, part of Isfahan’s native cuisine.

A Xenial Welcome (Xenon Medium)

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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.