VARYA THE BOMB
The high-ranking Russian official stood underneath it, transfixed by its elegance, possessed by its absolute power and majestic beauty. He hadn’t seen one this close before and within minutes he already loved and feared it with every fibre of his being; unworthy in its presence, was this magnificent thing. The creation, destruction and promises this baby could deliver. How it remained impenetrable to reason. How it inspired hope and admiration. How it commanded respect. And its force! It could rip skeletons out of the skin, incinerate and reshape everything without remorse, annihilate every dream. There was no protection once you were caught in her sights. This was war and peace. Love and hate. Made in Russia.
‘Something as mysterious and beautiful as this ought to have a name,’ the high ranking Russian official proclaimed.
‘We’d be honoured at any suggestions you may have,’ said the humble worker, who was on his best behaviour for His Excellency’s visit.
‘Varya,’ said the high-ranking Russian official, casually without hesitation.
The high-ranking Russian official’s comrade was surprised.
‘Isn’t that the name of your daughter?’
‘I have no daughter,’ the high-ranking Russian official dismissed him. ‘Yes. Varya.’ The official placed his hard grip on the small shoulder of the worker. ‘This can be arranged, yes?’
‘Um…’ the worker looked at the official’s comrade who nodded.
The high-ranking official nodded and turned. An afterthought occurred to him.
‘One more thing.’
‘Which direction is she facing?’
The worker looked blankly. ‘Um for security reasons we are, we can’t reveal…’
The high-ranking official looked disappointed. His comrade said, ‘This model isn’t operational yet.’
‘It’s a long range model though?’ the high ranking official enquired.
‘It is,’ the worker said then reeled off a list of statistics which the high-ranking Russian official barely listened to as he looked at the underside of the gleaming shaft.
‘It can be aimed at Northern Italy, yes?’
The worker looked at the official’s comrade.
‘It can be arranged,’ said the comrade. ‘But we already have enough missiles sufficiently aimed at our enemies.’
‘Yes, yes! I’m aware of that. I wanted to make sure that this beautiful creature sends them all to the devil.’
‘I’m curious. Why Northern Italy?’ his comrade asked.
‘They have American air bases, don’t they?’
Later that evening the high-ranking Russian official poured himself some Italian red and looked at an old photograph of his daughter. He traced his fingers over her face and lips. ‘Her mother’s eyes…her mother’s lips,’ he whispered through his tears.
Somewhere in Northern Italy one rainy afternoon, many months later, Varya placed a handmade floral crown on Elena’s head and pressed her dark-lipstick mouth on her soft lips, leaving a smear. Varya smiled. ‘My princess,’ she joked.
‘Does that make you a prince?’ Elena grinned.
‘I’m the supreme witch.’
Varya led her girlfriend to the bathroom, where she took some tissue and cleared the smear from their lips before carefully applying new make-up.
‘Now,’ Varya announced grabbing her phone. ‘Selfie!’
Their pouts would be shared with hundreds of followers on Instagram. It was their oxygen. Elena checked their picture. Varya looked immaculate as usual, but hard to read, her eyes, like that Pink Floyd song, like black holes in the sky. Elena’s expression bordered on the hysterical. Varya had that effect. They had been together for six months and Elena was no closer to understanding her Russian girlfriend. She’d gone from a gangly, geeky, spotty, vulnerable, insecure girl when she arrived in Italy a couple of years ago to earth mother, rock chick to a strange mash up of sexy anime characters. It was hard to keep up with the changes in her appearance.
Elena wasn’t sure if it was a Russian characteristic but there was something about Varya that was secretive, duplicitous and intimidating. Varya had tons of admirers whom she never discouraged. Indeed she left a path of destruction and heartbreak wherever she went. This made Elena more suspicious and insecure. Nevertheless she was drawn to her flame. There was nothing she wouldn’t do for her. Varya could have been a vampire, possessed with so much bloodlust that Elena would bathe in the blood of their victims forever. Varya preyed on the weak, the vulnerable and even the powerful. Once you revealed any hint of weakness or dependence it was over. It made sense why she idolised celebrities, musicians and beautiful people to the unhealthy, demeaning extent she did. Elena had to be careful not to show too much weakness, almost remain aloof and cool. It wasn’t easy. Varya seemed to only want Elena when she was a loose end.
Once Varya had learned enough Italian and English she became Miss Popular. Elena was chosen. Reading Varya’s signals was like a chess game. Her face told you nothing. Was it her eyes that liked you? Was it how she used to loiter about in the corridors or steps at school, waiting for Elena to pass in between lessons? Was it the rare smile? Elena almost went insane trying to read the signals. Then they talked. About various imported TV series’ and Jared Leto. Elena’s appreciation was non-existent compared to Varya’s OTT fan-girling. They met, they held hands. Many girls in Italy held hands. It meant nothing more than casual friendship but Varya and Elena knew different. They coloured each other’s hair, hung around the video game shop with the other losers and free spirits and chatted on the latest messaging app. Mostly. Varya often read the messages but rarely responded. Elena tried to not let it get to her but it hurt. Sometimes in the bedroom Varya was more focused on her laptop than anything else. Her eyes fixed on her networks, surveying every like, new friend request, status update, feeding her admirers scraps and keeping all the plates spinning. And the mood she was in for a fortnight when half the city was offline due to some problem with the service provider in the area! Elena was all too aware that this relationship would end badly, that she could find another girl, and maybe she’d be happier but Varya was forever. When the fallout came Varya would be safe, nothing could hurt her. The worst you could do was to ignore her.
On the sofa Elena checked Instagram while Varya had her head on her lap.
‘Already fifty-five likes!’
‘It’s pretty,’ Varya said.
‘It’s you they’re all hearting!’
‘Show me,’ Varya demanded. She grabbed Elena’s phone and checked her status immediately. Yep, fifty-five likes and several comments alluding to Varya’s beauty. She smirked to herself. More satisfied users. Elena snatched her phone back.
‘It’s cute,’ Varya laughed.
‘You love it,’ Elena replied.
‘You love me really,’ Varya said, her sad eyes looking up from Elena’s lap.
‘Benjamin still wants to fuck your profile,’ Elena said.
Varya went red a little but laughed. ‘Again!’
It was true. Benjamin went onto her Facebook profile and said ‘I want to fuck your profile page.’ Even though she was fifteen at the time and he was what, thirty-two?
‘And he’s ugly,’ Elena added. ‘Seriously, he’s horrible. Is he Russian? The girls are usually beautiful but the guys…’ She pointed her finger inside her open mouth, as if she wanted to make herself vomit.
How Elena bristled and had to fight from reminding him of this fact but Varya had been like ‘Hahahaha ooohhhh okay!’ Elena didn’t speak to Varya for five days after that, didn’t go into school. Varya never sent a message or called.
‘It’s funny,’ said Varya. ‘It’s all good.’
‘Yeah, yeah…but he’s a creep. You’re followed and liked by creeps. Who was that guy you used to sometimes see in town? The one you shamed on Instagram, taking his photo when he was just chillin’?’
‘Who?’ But she wasn’t really listening.
‘I don’t know who. He looked Irish or something.’
‘Oh him. What’s his name? Don’t remember.’
Elena suspected that she shamed him because he must have hurt her in some way.
‘And that kid from Moscow who writes you love poetry and traces pictures of you …He’s into you as well.’
Varya’s tone was defensive. ‘What about him?’
‘Just tell them they’re wasting their time,’ Elena advised.
‘He’s an old friend from school.’
‘And that idiot with the motorbike?’ Elena continued, barely betraying her jealousy.
‘His feed is full of his stupid, fucking, gurning face! Is he mentally ill? You know some morons, Varya, I’ll tell you that… and you love it.’
Varya just smirked. But her eyes weren’t happy at this invasion.
‘You’re crazy,’ said Elena. ‘You take advantage of them.’
She probably already went too far so she stopped. They paused. Varya looked deep in thought. Then she said, ‘Let me tattoo your mind!’
Varya sprang up, grabbed Elena’s phone and said ‘Fucking kiss me!’
It was a hard kiss, almost violent. She could feel Varya’s fist tugging her hair tightly.
‘How can you tattoo my mind?’ Elena wanted to know, breaking off.
‘With this…I want you to stay with me forever…’
Varya held her tightly but Elena was seized with a horrible realisation.