The Terrorist’s Game
“The trick in life is learning how to deal with it.”
Clarissa was delighted that Talia was to marry the son of Eduard Sokolovsky, Russian Ambassador to America, until she heard that Dmitri worked for the Detective Administration. She had long since wanted her daughter to settle down with a nice man who would take care of her and the family that they would have together, but Clarissa changed her opinion about the matter immediately when that information surfaced, because she didn’t want Talia marrying a spy.
Clarissa Anderson had her reasons for the misgivings about the idea of her daughter spending a lifetime with a man who worked for the Detective Administration. She had only loved one man in her life, Talia’s father, Benjamin Wentworth. Benji, as she referred to him, was a field agent in the CIA. He was a larger than life man at six and a half feet tall, broad shoulders, dark brown hair often worn in a mullet, always pictured in uniform or a tee shirt and jeans. Talia didn’t know much about him, beyond the pictures, because it was painful for Clarissa to discuss him.
Her mother’s house was littered with pictures of her father, but none with both her mother and father. She always wondered why they were never pictured together. Given her mother’s status with the press, she always thought that there should have been dozens of photos of the two of them on red carpets and at other fancy gatherings. Her mother never mentioned the lack of photos of the two of them and she never talked much about the ones that only pictured him. She knew that the two were scheduled to be married at a tiny church in the center of Kent, Connecticut that sat about 40 people and looked like it fell off of a New England postcard, but Benji never arrived for the ceremony. He disappeared while on assignment in an undisclosed location right before the wedding.
Clarissa had been so devastated that she never dated again. She didn’t leave Kent, but she retired from the movie business and spent most of her time at her estate there. Her mansion was an interesting combination of luxury and enormity paired with rusticity and farm couture. Her massive South Kent estate was built into the side of the top of a hill that was nearly tall enough to be a mountain, overlooking the Housatonic River and a recreation area called Bull’s Bridge. It was a ranch style in the front, but with several sections and in the back were three stories of hillside beauty with terraces on every level. She had a switchback driveway that led up to the house and the 6 car garage at the top. She had a pool that was inside of a rustic style barn, so she could use it year round and an English garden that she spent time in almost every day during all seasons, but winter.
That was where Clarissa spent her time, ignoring the world, and that was the place that Talia hated the most as she saw her mother’s estate as her prison. She called her mother once in a while, but she virtually never visited. She hated her mother’s home too much to go there, as it aroused nothing but bad and sad feelings each and every time she saw the place.
Talia was determined to marry Dmitri despite her mother’s trepidations, and threatened to disown Clarissa if she didn’t accept their union. The only living blood relative that Clarissa Anderson had was her daughter, so the threat worked. As a result, even though the woman hadn’t left her home for over ten years, she went to Moscow for her daughter’s wedding. Tyrell, who was Clarissa’s personal assistant at the time, had flown her there in her pink Lear Jet. Years later, she had bought an identical plane in an updated model for her daughter to use with her international lifestyle, saying that commercial flights were too dangerous. Public spaces frightened the aging starlet, because she came from the time of international hijackings and random bombings. She saw the actions of the earlier terrorist groups as the sole reason that her life was derailed.
The Church of St. Vlasy was a beautiful Russian Orthodox Church not far from the Kremlin, but small and out of the way which Talia preferred. The church allowed the ceremony to be Uniate, instead of Russian Orthodox, even though the two were quite similar, and it made no difference to Talia, who had merely made arrangements to convert in order to satisfy her intended’s family. She had worn her mother’s unused wedding dress for the ceremony, resized for the slight differences in their stature. Eduard had walked her down the aisle. She remembered every second of that day. It seemed so long ago. Had it really been almost seventeen years?
Talia paced the tarmac outside the hangar at John Paul II Kraków-Balice International Airport. Cameron followed her, irregardless of her trying to walk away from him. She was annoyed with the whole mess that was her current life. She didn’t want be manipulated by anyone anymore. She convinced herself that she didn’t want to know how many people were monitoring her movements or for how long. She had worn that ring for decades. She felt like a walking locator beacon pinging out into the night. She felt violated and exposed. The concept that multiple people could have been following her every movement for decades was frightening.
She had been honored when her mother agreed to come for the festivities during the week of her wedding all those years ago. Clarissa made her feelings clear, yet accepted the fact that her daughter was marrying a Russian spy. That was her vision of the situation, and she believed that no good would come of their union. Talia knew that family was most important to her mother, and despite the anguish that she knew it was causing, she was determined to marry Dmitri. It never occurred to her to listen to her mother’s wisdom. Love is blind some say. And sometimes, hind sight is 20/20.
Her mother joined her in Moscow one week before the wedding to help with the final details. her taste was impeccable and her pockets were bottomless, therefore, if Talia wanted something, money was no object. If nothing else, her mother could give her the perfect wedding that she was never able to enjoy in her own right. Her daughter would have what she once missed out on, and had never sought again. Clarissa made her daughter’s wedding the affair which she had never fully realized for herself.
Talia’s college roommate, Peggy Meyer was the maid of honor, and she brought half a dozen sorority sisters from NYU with her. The whole group, including Clarissa had spent that week putting the finishing touches on the wedding. They went to the GUM shopping in the early days of the foreign influx with only a couple of American designers to choose from. Natalia Valevskaya was one of the hottest Russian designers at that time, and she had an entire collection of formal wear that was suited for royalty. Peggy, who also had red hair and was a bit thicker than the rest of the girls, convinced Talia to go against her usual pink and have the entire wedding party in black, white and royal blue. It was a beautiful, elegant wedding topped off with red and white roses and a small audience.
Clarissa had been anxious and edgy that entire week. She insisted on wearing a scarf over her face every time she went out in public, because she was afraid that paparazzi would stalk her and ruin her baby’s pre wedding activities. She had been in seclusion for many years and she was in Russia at the time, away from the American press that so stalked her, but she still worried about the tabloids and the exposure. She insisted that she needed to stay in the shadows to make sure that her only daughter was the center of attention. She believed that every bride should be the center of attention on their wedding day, and she wanted her daughter’s to be the event of a lifetime.
The night before the wedding, Clarissa came to Talia’s apartment on the Sokolovsky level of Moscow City Towers, overlooking the soon to be defined financial district from the top floor. As was the Russian way, the apartment was lavish and modern with none of the subtle elegance that Talia was raised with. Where in Connecticut there was country chic, in Moscow her daughter was surrounded by gauche appliances and leather furniture. Wood floors were the style in Kent, but in Moscow it was thick carpet. Wood and paint in one country became chrome and glass in another. It was a different world that her daughter had chosen to live in, and one that was terribly nuvo riche.
When she arrived that night, Clarissa had a box with her. Talia sat on her sleep number adjustable bed with the black leather and chrome headboard and looked at the box. When she opened it, she was extremely flattered. There were two wedding bands inside. They were a specially designed, one of a kind matching set. They were silver with red painted inlays. The woman’s band had red birds enameled on the outside, and the man’s had red stars. Talia was never a fan of precious gems. She favored nontraditional jewelry, and one of a kind, meaningful items. Growing up in the house of Clarissa Anderson, modern American royalty, she learned that money wasn’t everything, even though she had no idea how to live without it. She stared at the rings.
“Why birds and stars?” Talia asked.
Talia never forgot her mother’s words.
“They were supposed to be mine and your father’s,” she explained. “Your father was also a spy, as I’ve told you. The rings were symbolic. The birds were because I was always flying off somewhere to film movies. Your father’s had the stars to guide him home.
”I never told you much about your father, but I loved him. He was the only man I ever loved. I’ve never explained what happened. The event that meant you would never know him. I don’t know much about it. I didn’t ask many questions. He was gone, and that was all I could handle. All I actually know is that he never showed up for the wedding, and I never saw him again. He was killed in St. Petersburg on covert assignment. I never got to see his body, or have his personal effects, or know where or if he was buried. It was many years before I even found out where he was when he was killed. It was as though he never existed. It leaves an emptiness that I hope you never feel.
“Besides an unworn dress, these rings are the only family heirloom I have to give you on your wedding day. All the riches in the world can’t buy meaning. It’s the only legacy I have to give. I had them specially made for our union. They are one of a kind, created by an artist that your father knew. He helped to design them especially for me. I hope that you get more use out of them than I did.
“It’s fitting, don’t you think? Dmitri is a spy, and you can’t seem to stay home. Take these symbols. Wear them. Let them always remind you to find your way home.”
“Let them always remind you to find your way home.” Those words stuck in Talia’s head. She thought that her mother had a sentimental side that day when she gave her the rings. Now, all these years later, she realized that it was just another way to manipulate her.
Talia took out her phone and stared at it. She wanted to call her mother and tell her off, but she didn’t know what to say. As she thought, she could only feel hurt. Betrayal was a pain that she wouldn’t wish on most people. She stood outside at an airport in a country that she didn’t frequent, wondering if her feelings were valid. If they were valid, were they important enough for her to waste time on. She had her priorities in front of her, and being angry with her mom was not amongst them.
She stood in the cold and watched Cameron standing off to the side, at the edge of her peripheral vision. “Why are you following me?”
“I’m worried about you,” he replied. “Is that okay?”
“You never should have come,” she answered. “You have no idea what’s going on. You couldn’t possibly understand, and I don’t want to talk about it.”
She tossed the phone onto the ground and walked away from him.