для читателей старше 18 лет
The USSR board 75559 stood on the runway of the Pulkovo airport. It was a warm April evening in 1974. Passengers have already taken their seats and some of them have already fastened their seat belts. Most of the cadets of military schools and students were flying. They flew for a short vacation. Among them was a young couple. He was an engineer for the construction of bridges and tunnels Anatoly Ksyushinsky and his young wife Natalia. They flew for family reasons. Natalia was worried about her one-year-old daughter Matilda and was visibly nervous, “well, how she now with her grandmother is? Whole four days!”
“Not four, but three,” Anatoly answered her, “I already said, it will be difficult for a one-year-old child to fly a flight. I myself get tired of the flights. And we do not have time for the train. Only three days we will not be. On May Day, we will be home.”
The crew of the IL-18 also prepared for take-off and has already taken its places.
“Nikolai, why did the crew from Krasnodar refuse to fly back?” asked the second pilot of the aircraft.
“Eugene, they said there was a vibration of the fourth engine, but after that the board passed the test, no faults were found. I think they are just tired,” said the commander of the ship Danilov Nikolai Valerianovich.
“Perhaps, Nikolay. We are a spare crew and this is our job. In vain they called them cowardly pilots.”
“I agree that when we turned the board last month after the fire detector worked, we were also called cowardly pilots.”
“I remember it was a false alarm.”
“Well, Eugene, are we ready for takeoff?”
“Well, we are waiting for the command dispatcher.”
“Board 75559, do you hear?”
“The tower, Board 75559, we hear perfectly.”
“Board 75559, wind north-west 320°, wind speed 7 meters per second, visibility 20 kilometers, take off is permitted.”
A minute later, the stewardess entered the cabin and announced by a loudspeaker — you are welcomed by the crew of the Leningrad Unified Air Squadron and the commander of the ship Danilov Nikolai Valerianovich aboard the IL-18. Please put up the backrests of armchairs in a vertical position and fasten your seat belts.
After a while, the plane began to take off on the runway and pulled away from the ground. Rising to the altitude, the passengers relaxed. Some of them unfastened their seat belts.
“The tower, Board 75559, took off,” Danilov said to the ground.
“Board 75559, I pass the conditions of exit from the airport zone.”
Conditions were accepted by the crew, and after two and a half minutes IL-18 performed the first turn.
“The tower, Board 75559, the lamps of ‘fourth engine fire’ panel turned on, a dangerous vibration,” reported Danilov unexpectedly.
“Board 75559, make a landing at the nearest military airfield Gorelovo.”
“Tower, Board 75559, we return to Pulkovo. Provide a fire truck.
After a while, the voice of the dispatcher came.”
“Flight 75559, the approach conditions for Pulkovo landing at the magnetic course of 279°, line 28. The firefighting calculations arrived.”
“Tower, Board 75559, the fire was confirmed. The fourth engine in the weathervane is on fire.”
“Board 75559, make a landing at the nearest aerodrome. Now this is the airfield of Pushkino!”
“Tower, Board 75559, I will carry out the scheme approach at Pulkovo. Firemen are waiting for us! There are no firefighting calculations in Pushkino.”
Danilov already had had a severe reprimand and he was scolded by his superiors twice from executing a quick landing with violations. Other pilots even sometimes called him a coward, and this he perceived quite painfully. This time, Danilov decided to land in accordance with the instructions on the mandatory scheme. The plane quickly approached its landing strip and behind it stretched a huge plume of smoke.
“Tower, Board 75559, the distance of 2500 meters, I enter the glide path”, — Danilov said.
A second later the Board 75559 began to enter the right bank, while lowering the nose.
“Tower, Board 75559, we fall, the end of the connection”, — these were the last words of the commander of the ship, which were heard from the ground.
“It’s good that Matilda is not with us now”, — these were the last words of Anatoly Ksyushinsky, who tightly squeezed his young wife’s hand.
The years went by. Matilda grew rapidly and developed rapidly. Her grandmother, Antonina Leonidovna, tried to comprehensively develop and educate her granddaughter. She understood that her age would come to an end, and she wanted to be sure that Matilda could learn, graduate, and get a good job to feed herself.
“I need to live another ten years and put his granddaughter on his feet!” though Antonina Leonidovna.
Now she was sitting in a chair and knit wool socks. She took them every Sunday to the market and gave to her friend for sale. It was not possible to her to stand in market and sell socks. She couldn’t leave the little one Matilda. Antonina Leonidovna had a small pension, only 72 rubles and 30 kopecks. On life them this was enough. Knitting socks was little bit helpful to her pension. This year Matilda must to go to school in the first grade. It was needed to buy uniform, a briefcase, and notebooks. Textbooks were given out at school for free. The house of Grandma Tonya and Matilda already had textbooks. It was an ABC book, textbooks in English and many books. Matilda at five years learned to read, and at six years the grandmother insisted on the study of Matilda of the English language. It was an English textbook for the fifth grade of high school. Twice a week had coming a young English teacher and engaging with Matilda. Grandmother was paying twenty rubles a month for these lessons. After six months of learning English Matilda’s grandmother was forced to withdraw from these lessons. The pensions were become not enough. It could not be said that the products were more expensive, but they gradually disappeared from the shelves, and they could be bought at the Bazaar a little more expensive. It was hidden inflation, expressed in a shortage of goods on store shelves. Goods in the country were, and refrigerators of common peoples were at all or almost at all full. Grandma Tonya still remembered those times when 1 gram of gold was always equal to four rubles and forty-five kopecks, and inflation was absent as a concept. At the end of February 1950, she read in Newspapers about the Decision of the USSR Council of Ministers, in which the Soviet ruble was transferred to a permanent gold base and 1 gram of gold equaled to 4 rubles and 45 kopecks. Yes, it was a Gold Standard! Since then, prices for all goods fell, but after 10 years, the Chairman of the Council of Ministers N. Khrushchev abolished the government decree of March 1, 1950 and again tied all money settlements to the dollar. About it not wrote in Newspapers. But later all began to feel it on their wallet. Sometimes neighbor Zina came to Tonya. She was a little younger, and she had a husband who came back alive from the war. Tonya and Zina were one of the few Leningrad women who survived the blockade and survived. Grandma Tonya still remembered those post-war years when Zina’s husband was getting drunk on vodka, and if Zina fell under his hot hand, she always got а fist under her eye. With a bruise under the eye Zina proudly went out into the yard, hanging clothes for drying or just went to the bakery. Many women envied her — a bruise under the eye meant that this woman has a man who returned from the war. Now they were already old. The Zina’s husband has already stopped to drink vodka and has passed to kefir. It can’t be said that he did not drink vodka at all. Sometimes he was drinking on holidays, sometimes without any reason. He often sat in the courtyard and knocked on the dominoes. Grannie Zina had no choice but to go to the bench, where women gatherers, or go to visit hers neighbor Tonya.
On the one floor above lived a grannie Katya. She was not a native Leningrader, but came from the East Kazakhstan region after the war, and was been brought by geologist, for whom she married. Grannie Katya rarely told how she worked in the mine as an ore thrower by shovel during all the war. By a shovel, she threw ore into the carts that the horses were transporting. These horses were blind, and their entire adult life passed in the mine. They lived there. They were not raised to the surface. Grannie Katya was always seen with her old husband. They often went for a walk along the waterfront or together went to the cinema. Left alone, the grannie Katya began to often buy vodka. Her pension was high, more than a hundred and twenty rubles and she could afford to drink vodka every day. Drunk no one saw her. Closer to the dinner she began to slowly walk down the stairs and for a long time rested on them, leaning on the railing. It was hard for her to go down and it was also hard for her to climb up. With a shopping bag, she walked to the store. Two hours later, she similarly slow step by step he passed through the yard to my porch. All the neighbors saw who and what bought in the store. And grannie Katya was no exception. All saw in a string bag at grannie Katya a bottle of vodka and half a bottle of black bread. A pack of cigarettes Belomorcanal grannie Kate always carried in his pocket.
“Catherine”! — Told her neighbors, “sit down with us on the bench, sit down, news at least listen”.
“I have no time to sit with you”, answered the woman Katya and went to the entrance. The lifting by steps on the fifth floor took her twenty minutes. Grannie Zina sometimes sat on a bench and discussed the news, but Grandma Tonya on the bench no one has ever seen. She’s been busy all day with Matilda and her knitted socks. Matilda often read aloud the poems of Agniya Barto and Samuel Marshak. Sometimes grandma asked her to memorize and tell. Matilda was good at that. Grandma Tonya never had driving Matilda to kindergarten. Matilda usually had playing in the yard with the girls. They were playing ball or hopscotch. In the sandbox, the girls hid candy wrappers and covered them with glass. It was called “secret’. Boys from small to large hung on a bar or played chess. Adults played dominoes. Sometimes, they sometimes played cards, but when the police car UAZ had driving into the yard, the cards had disappearing somewhere and there was a knock of dominoes. When Matilda was in the third grade, she was already allowed to attend English language extensions for fifth graders, and her grandmother had to take her out of school later. Grandma was glad that Matilda is honors pupil and was sure that the English language is useful to her. When Matilda was in fourth grade, one day she came back from school wearing a red tie. Grandma began to cry.
“Grandma, why are you crying?” asked her Matilda, “you were a pioneer?”
“No, Matilda, I’m even was not a member of the Komsomol because I don’t have a worker-peasant origin.”
“Who did you work for before the war?”
“Before the war I was a Secretary and typing.”
“And during the war?”
“During the war I worked at a sugar factory here in Leningrad. Night, when I was not on shift, he exploded,” said Grandma Tonya and stopped crying.
“Is fascists blew it up?
“No, the powdered sugar exploded, which rose dust in the shops. Ventilation didn’t work.”
“Does powdered sugar explode?”
“Yes, Matilda, any powder can explosive.”
“Will you tell me more about the war?”
“Yes, of course, but first you have to do your homework and learn all the lessons. You know, you need to learn one lesson in advance, and when the teacher will explain a new topic, you will be all clear and you have questions that you can ask the teacher.”
Trouble never comes alone
It was the fifth year of Perestroika. Matilda was already 17 years old, and she has already passed the school final exams. In the middle of summer her grandmother passed away. Matilda was alone and in the tears. But it did not last long. A week later a UAZ police officer drove up to her house. They were employees of the Children’s room of the police and representatives of Social Security. Matilda has been showed some orders and said to collect her things and documents. She, like a minor, was to be sent to the orphanage. The apartment was locked with a key in the presence of the district police officer, and he escorted Matilda to the police car. Matilda took with her a school bag and old grandmother’s photos. In the backpack was passport, a school’s and a birth’s certificate. After some time, UAZ drove up to the building, enclosed by a fence made of brick columns and wrought-iron lattice. The gate was opened by the watchman Vasily Petrovich. He was the watchman of this orphanage and was on duty this day after three days of rest. UAZ without stopping drove up to the entrance of the building. Matilda was taken to the teacher’s lounge and handed over to director. Then, representatives of the law signed some documents with the director and left. Matilda did not understand what was happening.
“So, girl,” said the Director, “where are your passport and birth certificate?”
“Here in the backpack,” Matilda said.
“Well, leave the backpack here in the staff room, tomorrow morning we’ll wrap it up. Now I’m gonna take you bedroom.”
“Am I must to live here?”
“Yes, until you come of age. And not just live. You can even work in a garment factory, as learner, like all our grown-up girls. It is care of the state and you have to be glad,” the Director said. It was a middle-aged woman with large sizes. Then in the teacher’s lounge was entered the man of thirty years in a sports uniform.
“He is our gym teacher, Andrei,” she said to Matilda, “he’s on duty today at the orphanage.”
The Director then turned to the teacher, “Andrey Andreevich, take her before the dinner in the girls bedroom, let she wait. And I have to run the education Department. Yeah, and don’t forget to give her a mattress, blanket, and bedding. That’s all, I ran,” said Director, and, banging she’s heels, withdrew from the teacher’s lounge.
“Come on, move your ass!” said the teacher and pulled from his pocket a bunch of keys. Matilda stood up and left the teacher’s lounge. Andrei Andreevich closed the teacher’s lounge and led her down the hallway past classrooms. Stopping at one door, he picked the key and opened the door.
“Wait here,” said he and penetrated in the room. Then he came out with a mattress and a blanket. “Behold! Take it,” said the teacher and gave Matilda a rolled up mattress and blanket. Matilda grabbed it with both hands. The teacher returned to the room and took out the sheets and the towel. “Come on,” he said, closing the door, and headed further the hall.
Matilda followed him. The bedroom was small. On both sides of the bedroom was a double bed in a row. The windows were facing the gate and the wooden guard house near them.
“Make the bed which not occupied,” the teacher said, tossed the sheets and towel on the nearest stool and went out. Matilda found a free seat on the second tier of one of the beds and made a bed for sleep. Then she went to the window, sat down on a stool and began to examine the street behind the fence. It was a wide street with tram tracks. On the other side of the street at a respectable distance from the road were ten-story residential buildings.
“How nice it was to sit next to my grandmother and listen to her stories about the war, about the blockade of Leningrad and about pre-revolutionary times!” thought Matilda. Her memories were interrupted by a physical education teacher — he came back and brought a pillow.
“Here on the wall read the schedule of daily regime,” he said and left.
Matilda stared out the window for a long time and did not understand what was happening and why she could not live alone at home. And then she wanted to go out into the garden to the street. She got up, straightened her dress and started to look for a way out.
“Stand! Not move!” Matilda heard, passing by the open door of one of the offices. She stopped. A teacher of physical education came out of the door.
“Where do you go?” he asked.
“I wanted to take a walk in the garden.”
“Not allowed. Go back to room,” the teacher commanded.
Matilda had no choice but to return to the bedroom. She had habit to obey teachers and treat them respectfully from times of school. Towards evening, girls and boys began to return to the orphanage. They were all from the older group and had the opportunity to leave the orphanage and go to work. Everyone tried to get back on time for supper.
“Rookie!” The girls returned from work were glad.
“Yesterday we have been told they will to lead an excellent pupil of school. So are you really an excellent pupil of school?”
“Yes,” Matilda answered.
“Is it means you are cleverest?” asked one of the girls who chewed chewing gum.
Matilda did not know what to answer, and looked at her coevals around her with perplexity.
“You’re in addition a quiet pigling!” another girl said.
“We no need rat-snitch here. If anything not wrong, you’ll fly straight out the window,” the girl with the chewing gum continued, and then she inflate a bubble out.
On the other side of the room Matilda heard an indecent exclamation, which continued with the words, “What the hell! Newcomer will be sleeping here?”
Then from there to Matilda came a girl in tight jeans and with a small ring, threaded through the lower lip on the left side. The left side of her nose had also inserted some small metallic shiny object, similar to a tetrahedron.
“What stared?” said the ringed one, “did you not find another place? Do not you piss at night?”
“Girls, why are you so angry?” Matilda asked, “I did not anything to you.”
Matilda was shocked by the behavior of her coevals and did not even know how to talk to them. The position was saved by the physical education teacher who entered the room.
“So, everyone left and goes to dinner, and do not make a noise, otherwise you’ll go follow the ranks!” he said, and waited for everyone to leave.
The dining room was roomy, no smaller than the other school cafeterias. In the dining room, the boys also ate. They were also Matilda’s peers. Many of them already had specialties, such as turner, welder, assistant auto mechanic and other working specialties. In the dining room they behaved loudly. The boys loudly talked and pronounced indecent words. Matilda did not hear such words, even from the rare school hooligans. She looked around the audience, and began to for dinner. On table was compote, bread, pounded potatoes with a cutlet. Here were no forks. Matilda took a soup spoon and broke off a small piece of cutlet, then sent it to her mouth. The taste of minced meat seemed to Matilda stale, and she laid this piece in her hand. Putting it aside, Matilda little ate pounded potatoes with bread. The potato was tasteless. After drinking compote, she got up, went out of the dining room with obscene whoops of some boys addressed to her and went back to the girls’ bedroom. Matilda realized that she did not want and could not stay here. She went to a poster with a schedule of the day and began to read it. The sleeping room was designed for twenty people. On the left and right side of the room were five double beds. Matilda counted the mattresses.
“Means here will sleep fifteen girls, I’m sixteenth,” she thought, “no, sleep here I will not, I should try to get out of here. What if the girls will involves me into fight?” thought Matilda, and began to look is whether in a room suitable items to protect herself. In the room there was nothing except the stools, and nightstands. Near each bed there was a bedside nightstand and two stools. Matilda picked up one of the stools. “Heavy,” — she thought, “it will be difficult for me to swing by it and hit.”
After a while the girls returned. It was dark outside. Matilda didn’t have a watch, and she didn’t know what time it was. The girls were divided into small groups, sat on the beds and discussed something. Matilda stood beside the window and looked out. To have acquainted with girls Matilda had no desire. After a while the teacher of physical education entered the room.
“So girls, all stripped and went to bed, then I’ll turn off the light,” he said, and remained standing in the doorway and watch. Girls, do not hesitate, undressed and lay down in bed, covering up with blankets. They almost all had black pants and white tops.
“What the fuck you are stand? Do you need a special offer for undresses?” said the teacher, turning to Matilda.
“She’s shy, modest,” said one of the girls and her girlfriends laughed.
“Clearly,” said the teacher, and turned off the light, “after five minutes I’ll check that all lay in their places.”
After that, he went out and closed the door to the room.
“Yeah, he doesn’t check, he just always says,” said one girl and climb down from her bed. Then to Matilda came a few girls, among them was ringed. Ringed girl on was a stretchy black pants and an expensive bra. There was no curtain in the room, and light from the street lamp penetrated into it.
“If you’ll ever just look at my boyfriend, I’ll knock out your keekers,” said girl with ring in nose.
“I wasn’t looking at your boyfriend, I don’t need him,” Matilda replied.
“I didn’t see how you stared at him in the dining room? I’ll ruin your scoreboard, no one guy will look at you,” threatened ringed girl, and added, grabbing her by the hair, “your skin is too white, will be all scarred.”
“Why don’t you go to bed?” another girl who had previously inflated bubble gum asked.
“Do not touch her, she’s an excellent pupil, let her read us a poem better,” shouted one girl from the bed.
“Well, get up on a stool and tell us,” said the girl with tetrahedron in nose, and released Matilda’s scythe.
“Pushkin, Mtsyri,” said the other, smiling slyly.
“What’s your name?” the ringed girl asked.
“I’m the Russian,” thought Matilda and remembered her conversation with her grandmother.
Matilda once asked grandmother, “is it my Russian surname?”
“Your mother was Russian, and your father was Russian too, according to the passport,” grandmother replied, “you can be of any nationality, but the main thing is that if you feel Russian in your soul, then you will not be afraid of anything.”
Matilda wasn’t afraid. She took a stool and smashed by it the window glass. Shards fell. The girls rushed in all directions to their beds. Matilda picked up a small fragment of glass that looked like a knife blade and squeezed it in her hand.
The gym teacher came in and turned on the light.
“She banged on the glass by stool. She wanted cut us,” said the ringed girl from bed.
“She’s crazy,” said the other girl.
“So what’s that in your hand? Drop it and come here!” the gym teacher commanded.
Matilda didn’t moves. The gym teacher came closer, grabbed her hand which had a piece of glass with his left hand, and grabbed her by the scythe with his right hand.
“Drop it,” he said, and turned Matilda’s head more tightly, holding her by the scythe. Matilda released the splinter from her hand, and the teacher dragged her by the scythe to the exit.
“I’ll kick your ass and you’ll be learning undress,” — the teacher said and dragged her into his office.
“You better fuck her on the table,” the girls shouted after her and laughed.
The teacher pushed Matilda into the middle of his office and followed her. Behind him appeared watchman Vasily Petrovich.
“What happened here?” he asked, “there the glass fell out.”
“Here, the newcomer did not want to go to bed, broke the glass with a stool. I led her to a preventive conversation,” the teacher replied.
The palm of Matilda’s right hand was cut and blood bleed from it.
She lean her hand at the dress on the waist and said to the watchman, “my blood oozes, it hurts, maybe the liver damage. Call, please, an ambulance.”
A red spot appeared on the dress under Matilda’s arm.
“Well, can you go?” he asked.
“Come with me,” the watchman said and led Matilda to his lodge. Then he dialed 03 and called the Ambulance.
“I’ll need a passport there. It’s in my backpack and closed in teacher’s lounge.”
“Well, I’ll bring it right away,” the watchman said and left.
“Andrei Andreevich, it will be necessary the passport for an ambulance, open the teacher’s lounge please, the passport there in her backpack,” said the watchman.
The teacher and the watchman went into the teacher’s lounge, the watchman easily found a bright backpack.
“I will not rummage in it, I’ll take the whole backpack,” said he to the teacher and left the office.
The ambulance did not have to wait long. The watchman opened the gate. Into the watchman’s lodge entered the doctor with a suitcase and a young girl — an assistant.
“So, what’s here? Let me take off your dress and see,” said the doctor.
— No, I’m not going to take off my dress here, drive me to the hospital, the wound is not too deep.
“Well, can you go?” the doctor asked.
“Yes,” answered Matilda and went to the ambulance, taking her backpack.
Ambulance drove through the city with included beacons. The doctor and his assistant were very polite.
“At last I broke free,” thought Matilda.
“I cut my hand too, could you see it and bandage it?” she asked the doctor.
The doctor examined her hand and processed it with hydrogen peroxide.
“The wound is not terrible, a small cut,” he said. A young girl, the doctor’s assistant, cleverly bandaged her hand.
Arriving at the hospital, the car drove up to the reception. The doctor took Matilda to the department and handed it to the attendant. Then he said goodbye to Matilda, wished her a speedy recovery and left. He already had to go to another challenge.
“So, what have you got here?” asked the attendant.
“I cut my hand with glass, I was treated in the car, the doctor stitched wound and bandaged. The doctor said that you need to registry me in your journal and then I can go home. He said me to come to your clinic tomorrow,” Matilda lied.
“Okay, passport with you?”
“Yes, of course,” said Matilda and handed in her passport.
The attendant made the necessary entries in the journal and returned the passport to Matilda. Then Matilda said goodbye and went out into the courtyard of the polyclinic.
“I forgot to give her pass to the exit,” the attendant thought, “well, nothing, she’ll be right now back, and I’ll write out.”
At the exit from the policlinic’s gates was a guard.
“Girl, what hospital room are you from?” he asked.
“I’m not from a hospital room. I accompanied my sister to the ambulance, now I’m coming back.”
“Ah, got it. Well, come on,” he said, and went back to the security guard cabin and the automatic gates opened. “Maybe I can help you to get a taxi?” the guard asked after Matilda.
“Thank you, I’ll catch it myself,” answered Matilda and moved away.
It was about ten in the evening, and the city did not sleep. Matilda straightened her backpack behind her shoulders and headed toward her house. It was far to go. On the way Matilda met no one hooligan. There were strolling couples, were also married couples with baby carriages. As always, there were a lot of idle tourists and hurrying people in the city. Matilda reached her house at midnight. Entering the entrance and climbing till her apartment, Matilda did not know what to do. She did not have the keys. After standing a little at the door, she went down into the courtyard and went to the nearest kindergarten. There were no children in the kindergarten. They were ordinarily taken there early in the morning, and in the evening they were taken away.
“Perhaps there is a watchman here,” thought Matilda, “I don’t need to run into him.”
She tried to find some place in the fence to penetrate the territory of the kindergarten. Then she went to the gate. The gate, was like a fence, was made from a forged rods. She slipped her hand through the bars and pushed back the bolt, and then closed the wicket behind her.
“I need to sleep somewhere until the morning,” thought tired Matilda and headed to the playground. She climbed into the small hut on the chicken legs, sat down on the wooden floor and fell asleep.
Do you speak English?
Matilda woke from the cold, she was trembling violently. It was already six in the morning. She got out of the hut and went back to her house. Usually at seven in the morning the neighbors were already awake. Matilda went into her porch, and without taking off her backpack, she began doing squats to keep warm. After a while, the chill went away. She no longer shook, but Matilda needed to keep warm.
“Yes,” she thought, “a cup of hot coffee would not hurt.” Continuing to do sit-ups, Matilda waited seven in the morning. She had no hours, and from time to time she left the entrance and looked at the neighbors’ windows. The light caught fire in the window of the old woman Zina. Matilda went up to her apartment and rang the doorbell.
“Oh!” exclaimed the old woman Zina, “Matilda, what’s the matter with you? Come on, come inn. My old man is still sleeping. Come into the kitchen, I’ll make you tea,” said Zina and led Matilda to the kitchen.
“You did not spend the night at home! Neighbors said you were taken by cops to the orphanage. Poor little soul! Did you escape? What happened with your arm?”
At tea Matilda told how she managed to escape from the orphanage and that there was only a small cut on her hand.
“Now I’ll prepare for you another sandwich. Do you want me to warm up the soup?”
“Thank you, Zina! I’m already full. And can I have some hot tea?”
“Tea is not food. Now I’ll warm up the soup on gas quickly. Hot bouillon is very salutary,” said Zina, took out of fridge the pan with soup and put it on the stove. “My old man still sleeping, yesterday watched football to midnight. If you want, stay with us. Only don’t show yourself to neighbors. Evil tongues can inform cops. You’d better not see cops. And my old man does not like these cops, he calls them garbage!”
The old woman Zina fed Matilda by hot soup. She spoke without stopping. It was her professional quality — in her younger years she worked as a teacher.
“Let me bring you a dressing gown, and I’ll wash the dress. The blood just can’t be washed.”
“Thank you, Zina, but I have to go.”
“Where will you go, my dear?”
“I’ll go look for work.”
“Where will you sleep? Come to us.”
“Thank you, Zina, but really I shouldn’t appearance here. Okay, shall I go? Is good?” said Matilda, got up and headed for the door, “thank you for not allowed me to freeze.”
“Wait, do not go away, I’m right now,” said Zina, and went out into the room. Matilda stood and waited for her at the front door.
“Here, take some money, you’ll need it. We’re old, and no need money,” said Zina, and slipped several bank notes into Matilda’s hand.
“But there are many, I would have enough only to travel around the city.”
“Take it, take it.”
“Thank you, Zina. I will refund the money when I will can. But when — I do not know.”
“Don’t worry. We have money with my old man. We wait for you in this evening, come to sleep here. Wait, I’ll bring a shawl now.”
“Why should I have a shawl?” Matilda asked, but Zina went out to the room again.
Returning, she brought a thin woolen beige scarf. He was with a fringe. Then Zina tied a scarf around Matilda’s waist. “So, the blood on dress will not be visible,” she said.
Matilda once again thanked, said goodbye and left. She ran down the stairs, came out from the entrance, and, trying not to meet with neighbors, headed towards the street.
After several hours of walking around the city and looking for work, she stopped at the building with the inscription “Business Center Lingua.” The lesson of English at school was Matilda’s favorite lesson. Her teacher — Fonarina Darya Antonovna, was delighted with Matilda’s successes and always gave her extra assignments and books in English. Matilda’s pronunciation was perfect. Sometimes after the lessons, Matilda stayed at school and came to the English class room. There she could talk with Darya Antonovna in English. They discussed Matilda’s books, sometimes Matilda retold them. Matilda felt confident in English and entered the building. In the front entrance hall towards Matilda came a guard. He was wearing a black suit and tie. An antique chair with bent legs stood behind him.
“Do you want something?” he asked.
“Yes, I’m translator and come to ask about job.”
The guard examined Matilda. She wore a cheap dress and a tied scarf around her waist. The dress did not hide the wide hips and her feminine figure. Proper facial features and too white skin gave out her aristocratic origin and young age. The guard noticed cheap shoes with low heels, and a cheap school backpack behind her back. Matilda looked around for some reason and looked up. The video surveillance camera was staring at her.
“Well, wait here, I’ll find out right now,” the guard said and left. After a while he returned and invited her to go into the office. Passing Matilda into the office of chief, the guard returned to the front entrance hall. A middle-aged man was sitting at the table. “35—40,” thought Matilda. At Matilda’s entrance, he stood up and greeted her in pure English, “hello! How do you do?”
“Fine, thanks!” answered Matilda, and smiled.
Then they acquaintance, and all their conversation continued in English. The head of the company was Arthur Khananovich. Convinced that Matilda speaks English fluently and competently, Arthur Khananovich suggested that she translate into Russian the text the contract that lies on his table. Matilda read the English text with ease and translated it into Russian aloud. Arthur Khananovich liked it very much.
“Now let’s try the synchronous translation,” he said, and turned on the television set in his office. On TV screen from the rostrum spoke Vladimir Wolfowicz, well-known for many, and he scolded the Communists.
“Begin please, we need a synchronous translation,” said Arthur Khananovich to Matilda.
Five minutes later Arthur Khananovich turned off the TV. He was amazed at the ease with which Matilda synchronously translated what she heard and with accuracy passed all the expressions of the speaker’s not normative vocabulary. Matilda’s thin voice did not drown out of speech Vladimir Wolfowicz. It was easy to listen to her and listen to the speaker’s speech at the same time.
“Well. We will formalize you to work. Do you have a passport?”
“Yes, certainly,” said Matilda, took off her backpack and handed the passport to Arthur Khananovich.
“But you’re not eighteen yet!” exclaimed Arthur Khananovich.
“Yes, but it will be soon.”
“You know what… I can take you to work, but not officially. Do you agree?”
“I think yes,” Matilda answered.
“Will it suit you $ 700 a month?”
Matilda thought about it. She had counting this sum in her mind for rubles.
“Perhaps,” she answered.
“Well, that’s just for starters,” said Arthur Khananovich, looking at Matilda’s registration. She was registered in a prestigious area in the center of the city.
“It’s strange, why she dresses so simply, as if from a poor family! Probably, this is such a newfangled enthusiasm for children of wealthy parents,” Arthur Khananovich thought.
“I think, soon you will raise your salary to a thousand, and a thousand and a half is not the limit too. Everything will depend on you,” added Arthur Khananovich.
“Well, do we wait you tomorrow at work?” he asked.
“What time I need to come?”
“It is desirable by nine in the morning, but not later than ten. Usually our customers do not arrive until ten. We have a special hall for negotiations. Here meets businessmen from different countries, including our directors of factories and large enterprises with their foreign colleagues. We provide them with simultaneous interpretation during the negotiations, and also we help to draft contracts in accordance with our laws. We also have the lawyers for this in our staff.”
“It is interesting! Such work, I hope, I like it,” said Matilda, not hiding her joy.
“All right, I’ll see you at nine tomorrow.”
“I forgot to say, my parents left, they rest in Cuba now. They will not arrive soon. I stayed at home alone. In general, it so happened that I needed money. I do not want to talk about this, how it all happened. So I decided to look for a job. Prepayment now would not prevent for me.”
“Ah, of course,” Arthur Khananovich suddenly remembered, and reached with his hand into his pocket for the purse, but then decided that paying an advance from a purse would be highly indecent. “So, where’s the key?” he said.
Then Arthur Khananovich opened the drawer of the table, took the key and went to the safe. He was ready to pay Matilda two and three thousand dollars a month, but was afraid that she might not go to work. It was impossible to miss such luck as Matilda, but also to give a large sum at once Arthur Khananovich could not by virtue of his worldview. He opened the safe, took out three banknotes of one hundred dollars each and handed them to Matilda.
“I think this is enough to begin with, because you have not started working yet,” he said.
“Yes, thank you, you helped me out.”
“Now, do not forget your passport.”
“Yes thank you. Can I go?”
“Yes, of course,” said Arthur Khananovich and smiled goodbye. It was a kind smile of a man who looks at a cute baby.
Severe labor weekdays
On the same day Matilda went shopping, she chose a black business suit and a white blouse. The long narrowed skirt to the ankles with a slit and a short jacket well emphasized the figure and hid its white legs from unnecessary looks. Matilda’s stockings were also black. To go with such a skirt Matilda could only take small steps. Selected her high-heeled shoes and brooch Matilda left her bloody dress in the store. Before leaving the store, she still for a while turned around the big mirror, and tried to walk in small steps with the gait of the model. She liked it. The costume was sewed by the factory “Bolshevichka’ and Matilda still had a lot of money. She had already chosen a handbag for her dress, but then changed her mind and bought a briefcase of black leather. But most importantly, she decided to go to the hairdresser.
“Make me the same hairstyle as has Mireille Mathieu,” Matilda told the hairdresser and pointed to the photo of her favorite singer, who was hanging on the wall.