I felt so tired after hanging up with my dad. Emotionally. Confusion clouded my judgement, and I made a solid decision not to think about it anymore until I had the chance to bring Francine up to speed on everything. Leaving my laptop in the room, I went to lay on the couch and wait for my girlfriend to call me during her first break. The second my head hit the decorative pillow, my eyes became heavy. I tried to fight it, but I got so comfortable.
Maybe I’ll rest my eyes for just a minute....
A strong vibrating sensation jolted me awake from where I’d been sleeping on the couch. The living room was almost pitch black, letting me know I’d been asleep for several hours. I felt my phone continue to buzz from somewhere underneath the heavy cushions and I blinked sleepily, slapping my hand at the surface and digging in the crevices until I found it.
“Hello?” I answered without checking the caller ID.
“Detka, were you sleeping?” Francine’s angelic voice crooned in my ear and I smiled slowly. My favorite sound in the world.
“I’m glad you woke me up.” I responded with a yawn, raising my arms above my head to stretch. “I need to-“
“I can’t talk long, little bat. It’s insane over here. I just wanted to let you know we’re heading over to Charlotte and Olivia’s later. Brody has an announcement for all of us, but didn’t give any details. I wonder if she’s proposing to Liza!” Francine was gushing with excitement. I didn’t want to trouble her with this now, and hoped she’d be too preoccupied to bring up my question.
“Alright, Bunny.” I acknowledged what she said and rubbed my arm in a dazed state. It always takes me a few minutes to fully wake up.
“Oh, what was it you wanted to tell me really quick?”
“Pizdets.” I shout whispered. For you English speakers, it means “fucked up” in Russian. It’s easily one of the most used words in my vocabulary. The Universe is always working against me. Of course because I didn’t want her to bring it up, she would.
“What’s fucked, Vasha?” Francine sounded worried. Before I could explain, she cut me off and I pursed my lips together. “Shit, gotta go. Some bitch ate like 75% of her food and is complaining about it’s quality. The fun never ends around here.”
“Ok then, Detka. Shove the remaining food in her face! I’ll be ready when you get home.”
We shared an evil giggle, and I hung up to take a hot shower. Our bathroom was only a few steps away and I slipped in before Ember had the chance to follow behind me. My skin shivered in anticipation while I waited for the water to get warm. I quickly left my clothing behind and stepped in when the temperature was just right. I loved going out with my American friends, because it was never the same experience. The people I occasionally spent time with back home were so predictable. We all drank and complained about life. Or we went to the bar to play cards, and drank until we couldn’t feel our faces. Olya usually came with me to make sure I behaved myself. Bar fights used to be a pastime of mine, and I’d pick arguments with men I thought I could take after having a few strong drinks. I wouldn’t fight with her around, because she’d distract me with funny stories and detailed plans for her future. We had a simple friendship, made complex by her inability to let go of our romantic past.
Francine was right. I wouldn’t have ever stopped talking to her on my own.
As strong as she perceives me to be, I’m very weak emotionally. Olya was someone I thought I could trust. A constant friendly face in my black and white existence. The truth is she never really wanted to settle with being just friends, but I couldn’t say what she was truly after.
It would have never worked, even if she hadn’t cheated on me. Olya required more than what I could offer, and I don’t mean financially. Nothing I did was ever enough. She didn’t really try to climb back into my arms until I met Francine. She couldn’t stand seeing me happy with someone other than her, and it drove her to do things I didn’t think she’d ever do. It took me years to realize that same friendly face I thought I needed was just a mask.
By the time I ceased all communication with Olya, I felt like I didn’t even know her anymore. The rest of my friends just stopped talking to me after I told everyone I was moving to the United States, but it didn’t surprise me. I hung around a group of miserable drunks. What else could I expect? What’s that English saying....oh, yeah. “Misery loves company.” Now that I’m thinking about it, it’s a blessing I never got around to introducing Francine to any of them.
On the other hand, my former boss Zlata Skypes me occasionally and it feels good to know someone other than my father misses me. She told me right before I left that she knew about my identity all along, and gave me warm blessings. Zlata is scary when you first meet her. She shouts orders and always looks like she’s having a bad day, but it’s just her disgruntled aging face. I must have reminded her of something pleasant, because she never yelled at me. During our first Skype session she proudly stated I was her favorite employee, and it made me hope my next employer would think the same when I eventually found work in America. I missed that little bakery and the sugar cookies Zlata used to send me home with occasionally. She far surpassed my baking skills, and my mouth always watered for her treats. I made a mental note to pay her a visit while I was in Siberia.
Thinking about Russia and everyone I left behind there feels strange sometimes. I used to get terribly homesick, but in many ways I felt like I was out of place my whole life. Coming to America was the best decision I ever made, and I silently thank my girlfriend every day for not giving up on me. My mind wandered to Evgeniya, and I snapped out of it quickly.
Damn, I got lost in my thoughts again. I had no idea how long I was in the shower for, but by the time I realized I’d been spacing out my fingers were shriveled up like prunes. I hoped Francine wouldn’t be home soon as I switched the steady stream of lukewarm water off, and wrapped a fluffy black towel around my slight body. After finger combing my newly dyed stringy black bangs back, I ran into the bedroom to probably stare at my closet for an hour before eventually choosing what to wear. The clock caught my eye, and I winced at it. 7:45 P.M. My girlfriend would be home in less than a half hour at most. Oh well. An hour would have to be cut down to fifteen minutes.
I managed to get all my undergarments on, fix my hair, and brush my teeth before I heard a car pull into our parking space outside. Francine was always in an animated mood when she returned from work. Both Ember and I usually greeted her as soon as we heard the keys jangling in the door, but I was right in the middle of tugging my form fitting white jeans on when she stepped inside. I frowned at my ass scornfully as I struggled, eventually cramming everything in and zipping up. My tastebuds loved American cuisine, but my figure was paying the price. I had to be more careful about what I ate.
“All ready to go huh, Vash?” Francine smirked from the living room, rushing in to plant a hurried kiss on my forehead. Ugh. Garlic smell again. I waved her off and she giggled, shedding the work uniform she looked so appealing in and rummaging quickly through her side of our closet for something to wear.
“Give me a break. Also, tell me you’re taking a shower before we go?” I bantered, pulling one of my favorite all black dress shirts over my head. My girlfriend undid her ponytail, and dirty blonde waves tumbled around her shoulders. She turned to cross her big brown eyes at me.
“Before bed. I promise. I don’t wanna risk missing Brody’s big announcement.” In seconds, she had a pair of black skinny jeans on paired with my Siberian tiger sweater. She looked great in it.
I didn’t think Brody was going to ask Liza to marry her. They haven’t been dating long enough! Although I’ve learned so much, living in a completely different country with Francine while we weren’t together for even a year at the time. Love doesn’t care about trivial things like time or circumstances. I nodded with understanding and grabbed my keys.
“Fine, but don’t you dare do another THING in this apartment until you bathe yourself.” I gave her my most serious look, and she bit her lip sexily. I melted a little, but remained steadfast.
“I mean it!”
“Deal, Oscar the Grouch.”
I made the corillation to the grumpy puppet Francine used to watch when she was a child, and chased her out of our apartment gleefully. Her squealing filled my heart with joy, and I couldn’t help but to laugh right along with her.
“Hey Ceen! Brody’s running a little late. Char set everything up in the living room already. I think Olivia’s with Brody but I’m not sure, I just got here. Hi Vasha.” I saw Liza appear before we even had the chance to knock on Charlotte and Olivia’s front door. She embraced Francine tightly, and then squeezed my hand softly. I smiled and kissed her on the cheek.
“Ok, sounds good.” Francine always tries to speak basic English around me so I could understand what was being said. She does it on her own, and it makes me feel that much more loved.
“Good evening.” I liked to address people by the time of day sometimes. Regarding the night sky, I pointed upwards and grinned. Liza laughed, pushing us gently inside.
“Yes Vasha, good evening.” She responded enthusiastically. Francine poked my waist teasingly, and I swatted at her hand blushing like mad. I enjoyed being tickled by her, but not in front of other people. It embarrassed me for some reason I haven’t figured out yet.
“What’s up ya’ll!? Olivia and Brody went to grab some refreshments. They should be in literally ANY minute. Make yourselves at home.” Charlotte jogged toward us in her lime green jumper, giving us all light side hugs. We only just got comfortable when the front door swung open.
“I hope you’re all sitting down...” I heard Brody’s deep voice. I understood “sitting down”, and intertwined my fingers. She didn’t sound happy.
“Everything alright?” Charlotte nervously played with the end of her black braid, and eyed Olivia, who seemed unusually quiet tonight.
“You uh...should all hear it from Brody.” She walked toward the recliner and plopped down, setting a grocery bag filled with beverages beside her. I glanced at Francine, who had stood up and was rocking from side to side anxiously. Liza sat frozen beside me. I grabbed her hand in support, since she seemed to be just as nervous as everyone else.
Brody looked at each of us, and asked Francine if she’d translate for me. My girlfriend nodded.
“What’s going on?” Liza asked, pulling her hand away and standing up shakily. I had the feeling everyone knew something I didn’t.
“I’ve been called in for active duty. It’s a two year mission overseas. I leave in two weeks. I thought I’d served all my time in active duty...but I guess I haven’t. They aren’t asking, I have to go.” Brody sounded forlorn. Olivia looked away sadly, and Charlotte went over to comfort her. I felt a strange energy between them when Olivia abruptly got up and joined Brody to rub her back.
Francine translated softly, and I gasped. Liza whimpered and my heart went out to her. I couldn’t imagine having to be without my girlfriend for that long.
“That means she’s serving America from somewhere else...right?” I whispered to Francine.
“Yeah, Detka. That’s exactly what it means” she whispered back, glancing over at Liza who had tears spilling down her cheeks. We watched Brody stride toward her, and they embraced tearfully. “Brody got a letter last month from the Navy,” Francine began gently and I leaned in to listen. “She didn’t think she’d have to go, but it looks like she has to.”
“Really? For two whole years?” I widened my eyes.
She locked her jaw without another word, and I averted my attention to Olivia and Charlotte, who seemed to be having a disagreement in the kitchen. Charlotte reached for Olivia’s hand, but was rejected immediately as her wife to be stormed into their bedroom. I knew I wasn’t imagining trouble and furrowed my brow.
What was the deal with those two?