The New Yorker

Issue of 2005-04-18

Posted 2005-04-11

Ljudmila Ulickaja
At first glance, they didn’t make much of an impression. Both seemed rather small, they weren’t particularly striking, and they were so taken with each other that they had no time for the rest of the world. A second glance, however, told you that they were kingpins, and after that it was impossible to recall the impression they had made at first. Nobody at the university could remember a time when they were not an item. They had met while taking the entrance exam, and even before the results went up, the two of them had hightailed it to his dacha. They returned five days later, on July 21st, the day the enrollment list was posted, and went straight to the dreaded bulletin board, which left all but three students trembling with fear. One of the three was Tonya Kolosova, an uninspired swot and, as they subsequently learned, the dean’s niece. They—Andrey Orlov and Tanya Sokolova—were the other two.
Their surnames, derived from the Russian words for eagle and falcon, suited them perfectly. They were soon so inseparable that people started calling them the Orlov-Sokolovs.
During those five days at the dacha, where they had crawled out of bed only long enough to slip down to the village store for wine and other basics, they had learned that their differences could be counted on the fingers of one hand. Tanya liked classical music; Andrey liked jazz. He liked Mayakovski’s poetry; she couldn’t stand it. They laughed over their final difference: he had a sweet tooth; her favorite treat was a pickled gherkin.
On all other counts, they discovered total coincidence. Both were of mixed descent, Jewish on the mother’s side. Both mothers were doctors. Granted, Tanya’s mother was a single parent and had brought her up in fairly straitened circumstances, while Andrey’s family had no worries along those lines. But even this was compensated for by the fact that, in place of Tanya’s absent father, Andrey had a stepfather, a professor, with whom he didn’t get along. The family’s prosperity was accordingly an affront to his masculine pride. From the age of fifteen, he was out earning pocket money on Gorky Street, illegally dealing ladies’ wristwatches and American jeans, which were just then beginning their triumphal progress from Brest Litovsk to Vladivostok.
At this point in Andrey’s confession, Tanya chortled. “The conflict between labor and capital!” Her own business had been in an adjacent market sector. While Andrey was hawking jeans, she had been making button-down shirts, complete with the essential brand labels, having calculated that young people who aspired to wearing jeans would sooner or later face the dilemma of where to buy the shirt to go with them, which had to have not two but four buttonholes on the collar and a loop at the back.
How about sports? Oh, yes, they were both into sports. Andrey had been a boxer and Tanya a gymnast, but they had both declined the chance to turn professional. Andrey had achieved first category, become a candidate master of the sport, and joined the Moscow junior team as a flyweight before he quit. Tanya had dropped out slightly earlier, on the verge of making first category. She was satisfied with that.
On the fourth day of their life together, they confessed to each other that they had always preferred bigger partners, both of them being somewhat diminutive, especially compared with their fellow-athletes.
“Are you saying you don’t fancy me?” Tanya snorted.
“Absolutely. I’ve always liked complete amazons.”
“Well, you aren’t my type, either. Too skinny.” Tanya laughed. Listening to them, you might have imagined that they had both been through fire and water. In fact, although they did have some experience, it was very circumscribed, barely sketched. They had, however, been around long enough to recognize the rarity of their mutual identification, which was more what you would expect from twins. They would even wake in the night and head for the fridge at the same time. And they clung to each other and fused together like two drops of mercury, or even better than that, because complete union would have killed the small amount of friction that produced those crackling discharges, the blinding flashes of lightning, the moment of near-death when the world stands still in a void of bliss.
They didn’t know how lucky they were. They had everything they could wish for—powerful athletic bodies, quick reactions, rigorous brains, and the self-confidence of winners who have never suffered so much as a scratch. They had retired from their sports just as they were approaching their limits, one step ahead of inevitable defeat. Now they were readying themselves for their scientific careers, at the country’s best educational institution and with one of its most demanding faculties. The world, it seemed, was their oyster, and it had agreed in advance to spill its pearls at their feet.

The first-year curriculum was overloaded with general subjects; there were an enormous number of lectures and sessions in the laboratory. At the end of the first semester, they passed all the exams with top grades, confirming their élite status, and their grants were increased.
By this point, nobody in their year was unaware of them. Some they irritated, some they attracted, but everybody was intrigued.
During the winter vacation, Tanya had her first abortion, carried out professionally, expertly, and with much more effective anesthesia than was common at the time. It was the first negative experience they had shared, but they emerged from it without evident damage and became, if anything, even closer. No thoughts about the baby entered their highly organized minds. It had been an absurdity—indeed, a sickness—of which they had needed to be cured as promptly as possible. Andrey’s mother, Alla Semyonovna, a good and unpretentious woman who had played an active part in the medical undertaking, had greater qualms about it than the couple did. She and her second husband had no children, and Alla was more aware than most of the capricious fragility of the feminine equipment.
Alla Semyonovna liked Tanya, although she was alarmed by her independent manner, and also by the benign obliviousness she showed toward Alla and her husband, Boris Ivanovich. It seemed to be a matter of complete indifference to Tanya what they thought of her.
“They really do have such a lot in common, the two of them,” Alla confided to her husband. “They are a perfect couple, Boris, a perfect couple.”
Boris, raising his sexless white face from the newspaper, agreed, slightly shifting his wife’s thought in the process. “Well, yes, two boots make a pair.”
He had never brought himself to love Alla’s son, and in truth he had not tried all that hard. The son of a peasant, the eighth child in a poor family, he found all this Jewish doting over children fairly wearying.
Tanya’s mother, Galina Yefimovna, knew about the abortion, too, but in her eyes her daughter could do no wrong. She had never tried to instruct Tanya and couldn’t imagine where her strong character and remarkable gifts had come from. From Sokolov, she supposed, though she had never noticed any such virtues in him before he’d abandoned her.
Galina was, however, privately regretful for a couple of months. Stealing occasional hangdog glances at her daughter, she could not understand how Tanya, not yet nineteen, could be so unabashed. When Galina hinted that it might be a good idea to formalize her relations with Andrey, Tanya gave a curt shrug and said, “Why would we want to do that?”
Their winter vacation was spoiled, of course. Instead of going skiing, as planned, they spent a week at the dacha, opening their embraces to each other very carefully. For them, the procedure had no moral stigma, but it had entailed a number of inconveniences that they would prefer to avoid in the future.

Classes recommenced, and they were far from easy. The couple had studied together during the first semester, either at the library or at Andrey’s home, and although both of them had scored top grades, Andrey nevertheless proved to have the better mind. He solved problems more elegantly, more interestingly, with greater mental agility. His superiority rankled Tanya sometimes, particularly when he expressed surprise at her slowness. Tanya would take offense, and then there would be a reconciliation, but she began studying without him, in her communal flat with her mother by her side and with the quiet murmur of music on the radio.
They both achieved excellent grades on the spring exams also, and by now their fame had spread beyond the students. The professors also regarded them as rising stars. The only thing that could blight the prospect of a brilliant future was that both had neglected the obligatory “social activism.” Worse, they were not discreetly neglectful but overtly so. Here, too, they were in complete agreement: the Soviet state was beyond redemption and Soviet society was degenerate.
It was, however, the society in which they had to live, and the question was to what degree they would have to accommodate themselves to the system. Both had joined the Young Communist League and supposed, for no very good reason, that this was where the line could be drawn. Theirs were the problems of the nineteen-sixties generation, problems that had seeped down to them from people like Andrey’s stepfather. Boris was a former frontline soldier, an honest but prudent man enthusiastic about atomic energy, which in those years seemed to offer power and prosperity rather than catastrophe and disgrace. To such people, a career in science seemed to promise the least likelihood of ideological interference in their lives, a hope that had yet to be disappointed. Solzhenitsyn was already being read over dissident radio stations, samizdat was being passed from hand to hand, and Tanya and Andrey slipped boldly into the double life typical of the masters of miscellaneous sciences.
Having done their requisite stint of factory work, they went on vacation for a month and a half to the Baltic states, where they swam in the cold sea, fell asleep on the distilled white sands beneath stately pines, drank the revolting Riga Balsam, and ventured into the dangerous dance palaces of Jurmala. Then it was Vilnius’s turn to receive them, and they found Lithuania even more agreeable than Latvia, perhaps because they met up there with a lively group from Moscow who were five years or so older than they. Playing cards on the beach, they developed friendships that would prove long-lasting. Until their graduation, every New Year and birthday was celebrated with this new circle of acquaintances—a young doctor, a would-be writer, a scientist from the faculty of physics and technology who already was what Andrey hoped someday to be, a young actress who was rapidly becoming (but never quite became) famous, a very bright philosopher who later turned out to be a K.G.B. informer, and a married couple who lodged in everyone’s memory as the ideal pair.
In the autumn, Tanya had another abortion. This time, Alla made her disapproval clear but again arranged everything for them, and it was quickly and smoothly done. Tanya was regarded as part of the family by now, and even Boris Ivanovich, who paid attention to nothing other than his beloved Alla and his meals, took a liking to her; she had a good brain. He went to America for a conference and brought back presents for everyone, including a pair of white jeans for Tanya. Amazingly enough, they fit perfectly. Tanya was very pleased and twirled in front of the mirror, prompting Andrey to concede jokingly, “That’s the last straw. Now I’m going to have to marry you!”
Tanya stopped wiggling her backside, turned her little head on its long slender neck, and said, a little tartly, “No, you won’t.”
By now, in their third year together, Andrey was pulling confidently ahead of Tanya. She followed a short distance behind, and had almost reconciled herself to the fact. Grades no longer mattered as much as they had in previous years. Everybody had been assigned to different departments and laboratories, and the most active students had had their first publications. Those who had chosen a more direct career path were already sitting on Communist Party committees, local committees, and trade-union committees, taking minutes and voting and distributing tickets to the New Year’s party in the Kremlin, or gifts of sturgeon, or places on group tours.
These goodies held no allure for Tanya Sokolova and Andrey Orlov. Everything they needed they already had. Indeed, they both had a scientific article to their credit—co-authored, of course, by the director of their laboratory. Despite the independently written articles, they grew even closer when both of them unexpectedly chose to work in a slightly backwater discipline—crystallography—rather than in something trendy, like theoretical or nuclear physics.
Crystallography lay at the intersection of chemistry and mathematics. Tanya busied herself with spectrophotometers, while Andrey worked at night in the Computing Center at a computer that filled one entire story of the building.

Before the beginning of their fifth year, Tanya underwent what had become her annual autumn abortion and they returned to their studies. Tanya’s mother on this occasion ventured to express her view that Andrey was a complete asshole. Tanya did not take up the subject, only grunting, “I’ll work it out myself, O.K.?”
With postgraduate studies looming, the Orlov-Sokolovs needed to obtain recommendations from those very representatives of Soviet public opinion whom they had so studiously disregarded. Tanya’s synthetic-leather skirts, knee boots, and other fashion accessories were also going to have an effect, and not to her advantage. Tolya Poroshko, the Young Communist League organizer for their class and the third signatory required for their references, along with a representative of their trade union and the university administrator, announced for all to hear that he was prepared to sign anything as long as it included the line “Takes no part whatsoever in the social and political life of the faculty.”
Poroshko was a rustic lad from western Ukraine, a good-looking, ill-natured idiot, and he could scent blood in a way that any personnel department could only dream of. He took the measure of the Orlov-Sokolovs at first sight; by insisting on his formulation, he could have them automatically excluded from postgraduate study.
The Orlov-Sokolovs now revealed their cunning. Andrey, a qualified boxing referee, had been providing his services to the physical-education department, and Tanya had been running a gymnastics club for the past two years at a school affiliated with the university. All this had been for a purpose, of course, and the physical-education department wrote them effusive references testifying to their valued social contributions. Poroshko got egg on his face and a lesson, as he saw it, in the omnipotence of the Jewish-Masonic conspiracy.
As far as the crystals were concerned, things could not have been better. Symmetry was just then coming into fashion, and crystals displayed all manner of symmetrical delights. Everyone agreed that the two postgraduate places allotted to the department were clearly theirs by right. In late May, however, after they had defended their degrees, one of the places was taken away. The head of the department, a decent and intelligent man, summoned the Orlov-Sokolovs to his office. He had a high regard for them and he knew how difficult this was going to be. He had already arranged a good temporary placement at one of the institutes of the Academy of Sciences. The probationer would be working on the same topic and, in effect, also under his direction. He had decided to let the couple choose who went where, although his personal preference was for Andrey to get the postgraduate place.
They asked for a day to think about it, and walked to the metro in silence. Both knew that the postgraduate place had to go to Andrey, but each left it to the other to speak first. When they reached the station, Andrey gave in.
“It’s for you to choose,” he said.
“I already have.” Tanya smiled.
“Well, fine. I’ll take what’s left.”
Each was as strong-willed as the other, neither giving an inch.
At the Park of Culture station, she butted him in the ear with her crewcut, and stood up. “I’m going home.”
“I thought we were going to—” They had been planning to visit friends that evening.
“I’ll see you there a bit later,” she said, and walked off the train on her improbably high heels.
The pointed toes of her shoes were, Andrey knew, stuffed with cotton wool, because her shoes were always too big for her. It was difficult to find her unusually small size.
Her feet were small, she had a deep scar beneath her knee, a narrow trail of hair down her flat stomach, large nipples that took up half of her small breasts, and arms and legs that were a bit too short. So were her fingers and toes. Her neck was exquisite. She had a wonderful oval face.
She took all that with her, and he went home in a bad mood, annoyed and hurt. It really was about time she understood that he . . . but this was the one thing they never talked about.
They met up a few hours later at their friends’ apartment. It wasn’t a great evening. Andrey suffered an attack of malicious wit and several times insulted the hostess, which didn’t improve matters. They left late, feeling grumpy. Andrey got a taxi, and they rode to his parents’ place, where Andrey had only a hundred square feet to himself.
They lay together in the darkness on a narrow divan that left no room for sulking, and he began talking as soon as he sensed that he was getting his way.
“You’re being silly, Tanya. I am the man, for heaven’s sake. Rely on me. Don’t feel bad about it. I love you. We share everything. We have everything in common.”
She said nothing, and they shared everything fully. When they had finished, Tanya said in a desolate voice, “I think I’m up the creek again.”
He turned on the light and lit a cigarette. She buried her face in her pillow to hide from the light.
“Well, it’s time to go for it, I reckon. Have the baby this time. A girl, O.K.?”
“Oh, I get it. You go for the postgraduate place and I go for a baby and changing diapers.”
If she had been the type to cry, she would have cried then. As he realized.
Tanya filled out the forms for the job at the institute, had an abortion, and took off for the south. Andrey stayed behind to take the qualifying exams for the postgraduate fellowship. Before she left, they went to the registry office and filled out an application to have their relationship officially recognized, which Andrey considered essential. They still felt dreadful. Neither had done quite what he or she had meant to, and each still harbored a certain amount of resentment toward the other.
Andrey saw her off at the station. She would not be travelling alone. Part of their group of friends was already in Koktebel, and now the rest were going to join them. They were travelling in style, paying an unbelievably high supplement to have two train compartments to themselves.
Andrey and Tanya kissed on the platform, and she climbed onto the steps of the train. Stooping down, she waved to him. That was the way he would remember her in this last moment of their life together: wearing a man’s red shirt with the cuffs unbuttoned and a ridiculously long scarf draped around her slender neck. This was her personal sense of style—she would start wearing something unusual, and then others would follow her lead.
The train moved off, and he shouted to her, “Don’t go falling in love with Vitya!”
It was a standing joke in their group. Vitya, the would-be writer, was starting to have some success and he had girls buzzing around him like bees around a honeypot.
“If I do, I’ll tell you straightaway! By telegram!” Tanya shouted, already moving away toward the south.

Tanya Sokolova never did come back to Andrey Orlov. She called him some ten days later, in the middle of the night, waking up Boris Ivanovich, who in the morning told Andrey exactly what he thought of him.
Tanya told Andrey that she would not be coming back. She was moving to another city now and—well, see you around!
Understanding exactly what had happened, and why, Andrey said in a sleepy voice, “Thank you for phoning, Tanya.”
She was silent for a time before giving in. “How did the exams go?”
She was silent again, because she really had not expected him to take it so coolly. “Well, so long.”
“So long.”
He hung up first.
Andrey’s mother went around to see Tanya’s mother. Galina just raised her eyes to Heaven. She had known nothing about the phone call or about Tanya’s change of plans. She was so genuinely and deeply upset that Alla Semyonovna instinctively consoled her. They agreed that Galina would let Alla know as soon as Tanya resurfaced.
A few days later, she called. She informed her mother that everything was splendid, and that she was calling not from the Crimea but from Astrakhan. The line was poor. She promised to write a long letter. Galina tried to shout something about Andrey, but the line went dead.
We lost the connection, that’s all, Galina thought, but she feared for Tanya. How quickly she had changed direction. How recklessly she was living. What was she doing in Astrakhan, anyway?

Not far from Astrakhan, in a fishing village hidden away among the marshes, lived the family of Vitya the writer. His father had been the deputy director of the marvellous Askaniya-Nova nature preserve. A local workingman who had enjoyed accelerated promotion, he had died a few years earlier, but a number of his relatives remained. Vitya had fished up his first stories and a novella from the nearby Akhtuba River.
The village was a poacher’s dream, a realm of fish and caviar, shallow waters, and dense reed beds. The local lads cruised around on motorboats instead of bicycles, and Tanya and her writer, with a sharp tug on the outboard motor’s starter, would take off in the early morning and head for a remote sandbank upstream.
She gloried in the hot golden sand and in her new love for this huge man, who was close to six feet three. His entire physique was different from Andrey’s. This was fine, this was excellent, if a bit awkward. He was constantly amazed at how small she was. He would cup her little foot in the palm of his hand, and it seemed quite lost. He was only thirty but already fairly jaded, having gone through a succession of women whom he had, not unreasonably, failed to trust. With this small person, however, he was a giant, and their romance was the more piquant for her having dumped her fiancé for him. The fact that Vitya knew Andrey well, felt protective toward him as a younger colleague, always lost to him at cards, and had got drunk at his house more than once only added to the thrill.
Even before the hair had grown back on Tanya’s shaved pubis, she could tell that she was pregnant again. “And this time I’m going to have the baby,” she exulted, with a sense of triumphant vengeance.
She lolled on the sand with her writer for the better part of a month before she began to find the smell of fish intolerable, and in these parts potatoes cost far more than sturgeon.
Vitya put his hand on her taut, athletic belly and anxiously wondered aloud, “How will everything fit in there? This is going to be a big baby!”
He was incredibly curious about the goings on in her belly, already loved what was living there and felt concern for it. He would fall asleep, resting all of Tanya on his shoulder and with his hand sealing her prickly-ticklish muscular entrance and exit.
They registered their union at the village office in five minutes flat. The director of this modest institution was the friend of a cousin. No advance application was needed. They took in their passports, paid one ruble twenty, and in return received a marriage certificate rubber-stamped in violet.
Having sunbathed, got sunburned, peeled, and gained a suntan, Tanya returned to Moscow in mid-August. Without warning, she took Vitya straight home and announced to Galina, “Mom, this is my husband, Vitya.”
Galina was dumbfounded. Heavens above! The girl just did whatever came into her head.
He was not particularly good-looking, this husband of hers. He had a plebeian face, thin hair parted down the middle, and a coarse, prominent brow. He was a large man, which makes a big impression on small women, but he was also unexpectedly well spoken and had good manners.
Galina went to the kitchen with the kettle and did not return for a long time. When Tanya went to see what had happened, she found her mother on a stool beside the bathroom, weeping bitterly. She was so sorry to have lost Andrey.

Real life began in earnest. Tanya started her job, and Andrey came to the institute to see her, not yet knowing that she was married. Tanya and Vitya had said nothing to their mutual friends, and so far the marriage was a secret.
“Let’s go and sit somewhere,” Andrey suggested.
“Here’s a bench.” Tanya sat down on the nearest one.
He told her to stop playing the fool. She told him she was married.
“To Vitya?” he guessed astutely.
“Well, fine. Let’s go around to his house right now and collect your things so that there’s no misunderstanding.” He made the suggestion so confidently that for a moment Tanya believed she would do it.
“I’m pregnant, Andrey.”
“That doesn’t matter. You’ll have to have another abortion. One last time.” Andrey shrugged.
“No,” Tanya said gently. “I can’t do that anymore.”
He took out a cigarette and lit it. “All this because of that shitty fellowship?” he asked viciously.
Tanya had already thought this over many times. She knew that she would soon be leaving the institute; her interest in crystals had depended on having Andrey by her side. Now she had no interest at all in finding out why the crystals in the druse of one rock were dextrogyrate while those in another were levogyrate.
What she did not yet know was that one of the twin boys she would give birth to would be left-handed. It would be a strange and delightful surprise.
If Andrey were to say to her now, “You can have the fellowship, I’ll take the temporary post,” would her interest in crystals revive? Something had gone, unpredictably, wrong. There had been a glitch, a malfunction of some kind in their destiny, but . . . now it had happened. There was nothing to be done.
She stood up, placed her finger on the top of his head, and ran it down his forehead to his chin, where she put a full stop. “No, Andrey, no. Amour perdu.”

They next met eleven years later, at the seaside in the Crimea, in the place they used to go to when they were young. They were there with what was left of the old crowd: the physicist had emigrated to America, and the ideal married couple was no more, since he had died in a car crash, but she now had another, equally ideal family. Through their mutual friends, Andrey and Tanya had advance warning that they would meet up again on this holiday.
Andrey came with his wife and five-year-old daughter. Tanya was with her ten-year-old twins, scrawny bespectacled boys who were already taller than she was. Her husband was staying in Moscow to work on a novel about the life of a fish, having already written about the lives of various other animals. It was his way of fighting the Soviet system, but it fell considerably short of “Animal Farm.”
Tanya had changed less than Andrey, who had put on a lot of weight. This was not something a person of his height could afford to do. He was now a doctor of science. Tanya had longer hair than before, and had exchanged her bikinis for one-pieces, her once bewitching belly crisscrossed with coarse Soviet stitching left by her Cesarean section. Otherwise she was just the same: she did gymnastics on the beach, wore extravagant outfits, and stuffed wedges of cotton wool in the toes of her shoes.
They had all brought their kids. They walked to coves near and far and taught the children to swim and to play card games. Andrey and Tanya met only when other people were present, at large gatherings, and said nothing meaningful to each other. From time to time, Tanya noticed the anxious gaze of Andrey’s wife, Olga, resting on her, but she found this merely amusing. Olga was tall, and had a good figure, was almost pretty, and belonged firmly in the bimbo category. Andrey would occasionally tell her to shut up, and she would flap eyelashes heavy with mascara and pout. Their daughter was a sweet little thing.
A few days before they went home, everybody decided to camp out at Seagull Bay. It was the kind of outing the children loved. Tanya said in advance that she did not want to go, but her sons begged and begged until the ideal family agreed to take them. Tanya was tired of having people around her all the time and wanted a day on her own. She had made no prior arrangement with Andrey, and indeed genuinely did not know that he, too, had decided against joining the excursion.
After seeing the children off early in the morning, Tanya spent the day lounging around, reading Thomas Mann in her muggy room, dozing off, waking up, and dozing off again. It was evening before she got out of her chair, took a shower, shaved her armpits, made herself a facial with the cucumbers in the garden, brewed some coffee, and took it out to the garden table. This was the moment that Andrey appeared.
“Hello, Tanya. What are you up to?”
“Having my morning coffee. Want a cup?” She answered him, aware that this was the moment she had been waiting for all month.
“I don’t drink coffee. It makes my ears go all buzzy.” It was a phrase they had used in the old days. “Let’s imbibe some of the local beverages.”
They strolled down to the promenade, where Crimean wines were sold directly from the barrel. Tanya was relaxed and euphoric, the unbuttoned cuffs of her man’s white shirt flapping. They drank the white Aligoté, then the local port, then the sticky-sweet red Kokur, constantly putting off a moment that was already behind them.
Everybody else was renting rooms in private homes. Only Andrey was living like a general in a small separate cottage on the grounds of a military sanatorium. The medical director had ceded his official accommodation in return for a large sum of money.
They walked along the embankment a hairbreadth from each other, talking inconsequentially about the weather. They had done the rounds of the wine barrels and were walking back to the sanatorium, rather than to Tanya’s accommodation. They went in through the service entrance and across the crunching gravel, straight to the little cottage set among rosebushes. The door was unlocked, and they didn’t turn on the light.
“Just, please, don’t say a word . . .”
Oh, what a lot I’d forgotten: the metal brace behind his front teeth where they were knocked out. . . . No, I hadn’t forgotten; my tongue in here, under the brace . . .
My poor dear home, given over to a stranger. Your porch, your steps, your front door . . . your walls, your hearth! What have you done, Tanya?
Andrey, what have you done? Instead of those three children, there might have been someone quite different. Perhaps not only one. . . . What have we done?
These were not two foolish cells rushing toward each other for a mindless continuation of the species. Every cell, every filament in their being was thirsting to enter the other and be still, be one.
Wordlessly, the flesh lamented until morning. Then it came to its senses. They still had a full day before them. They had something to eat and crawled back under the crumpled sheet. Tanya ran her finger from the top of his head to his chin.
Andrey saw very clearly how it was going to be: the others would come back from the cove, get their things together, and return to Moscow. He would take his family home, and then he would take Tanya and her boys to the dacha. It would be cold in the winter. His car would get stuck in the snowdrifts. He would clear a path to the gate with a wooden shovel and drive the boys to school. Olga and his daughter . . . well, he had no idea what they would do. Perhaps he would have to take Vera to kindergarten as well.
Tanya supposed that Vitya would just shrug it off. He would probably even be pleased and run off to some other woman. It was difficult to imagine Andrey in her house. He must have worn out his red terry-cloth dressing gown by now. He doesn’t drink coffee in the morning, only tea. And, then, the crystals. Of course, there are the crystals to think about. Actually, that might be the biggest worry. What’s to be done about the crystals?
Tanya wanted it more than anything in the world, he could tell, and that was why he said nothing. Neither did she, but eventually she gave in.
“Well, then?” This could be interpreted in many different ways.
What a fantastic figure Olga has, though. Those breasts, that waist, those legs. No, this isn’t going to work.
He ran his finger over Tanya’s face. “Amour perdu. Time to get up.”
She jumped up lightly, laughed, and shook her head. Short hair had suited her better.
“No, you can’t fool me. Not perdu.”
“It’s not on, Tanya.”
She put on the white shirt, raised herself on her improbably high heels, and left.

The next morning, Olga was sweeping the cottage. With the broom, she brushed a triangle of cotton wool out of a corner.
“Yuck! What’s this?”
Andrey gave it a glance. She really must have been born yesterday. Well, he thought, how could she know what it was for? “I feel I’ve had about enough of this holiday,” he said. “Why don’t we go back a bit early? Maybe tomorrow?”
Olga was amenable. “Anything you say, Andryushka.”
(Translated, from the Russian, by Arch Tait.)

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