для читателей старше 18 лет
This book is dedicated to Ivan, Mary and their son Semen.
“… on days when you do not fight for peace, you are helping the war.”
I am the man who looked for peace and found
My own eyes barbed.
I am the man who groped for words and found
An arrow in my hand.
I am the builder whose firm walls surround
A slipping land.
When I grow sick or mad
Mock me not nor chain me:
When I reach for the wind
Cast me not down:
Though my face is a burnt book
And a wasted town.
“War poet”, Sidney Keyes
(1922 — 1943)
The monotonous sound of the wheels announced the appearance of a column with the wounded and killed. The paratrooper rose on his elbows and fell. He was found when all the marines were loaded into covered cars and sent to a hospital in the territory adjacent to Iran. Two Red Cross nurses from the French Legion — one of African descent, the other from the Transcaucasian regions, speaking in a mixture of Anglo German dialect — tried to drag the body on stretchers. On the way, they came upon a mine.
The mine of the time of war in Dagestan exploded, leaving three corpses lying on the ground: two young women and a guy, presumably of the same age, that is, reached of the adulthood that arrived to this remote country from the Chechen aul, where he served along with his other comrades from Russia. The three of them were crowned by death. They are nobody and nothing.
The body of the guy, torn to pieces, with turned insides, the paratroopers carefully wrapped in a cape-tent, put in a barely survived, dust-covered armored car of self-propelled gun and drove to the nearest point where all the wounded and killed were together.
They were transferred to the boards that had appeared from near the point, and all the attendants lit cigarettes stuffed with tobacco, causing a gag vomit reflex among the Kurds children standing next to them.
The tall boy, Ramil, dirty appearance stayed at the curb and accidentally pushed his bare-foot a cord — a silver color metal chain with a jetton — a token of appreciation and the number of the paratrooper killed during the explosion. Having rummaged in the dust, he found more scraps of scarves and letters, blood-soaked female nurses. Ramil collected all the contents, except the tattered fabric, including a token, and, hanging it himself on his neck, fled into the village. His family ate up the remains of dinner, consisting of dried bread and drinking water from mugs.
“When we solved the Afghan question, we forgot to put an end to this area,” recalled the major, the battalion commander in the fight against terrorism, barely remembering the Russian words. His age did not tell anyone anything. He tensed and spit out the remnants of a viscous makhorka stuck in his yellow teeth. “May he rest in peace.”
Getting accustomed, everyone recognized in this short man a helicopter pilot of landing troops, a pensioner and a professional warrior. All those killed on the same day were taken to the port, where they loaded it on a submarine with the letter “K” at first and taken to an open ocean. The submarine met the cargo with the least losses for itself, having arranged final send-offs to the heroes.
The whole structure of the unit lined up on deck. Wreaths of foreign countries, twined with black, mourning ribbons, swam through the dark water, changing greatness and morality in everyday life and habit. Moving bodies to the sound of music blurred throughout the space. Who will find their corpses in a faraway country, where they did not come of their own free will? Seagulls, usually sitting on the handrails of the upper and the only deck, met these victims with a preference never to fly away from here, favorably having got in touch with the boat until the end of the voyage and demanding more and more new gifts from the attendants on duty in the galley. Their guttural cries lost their power and slowed down with the advent of aircraft, in which the combat power was several times greater than a nuclear-powered submarine.
The fatigue of the living sailors made it clear to the commanders of the divisions that the only way to follow the voice of reason is to swim in an endless voyage along the road of revenge and insanity. All the rest is a foolhardy carnival of shadows, costumes, faces.
Night views perished in the day’s hustle and bustle. Shredded in small handwriting, the sheets were strewn all over the bottom of the submarine, when three representatives of the commander-in-chief, one of them a doctor, full, in a white coat, checked the condition of the cabin.
“It is required to clean the room before mooring,” concluded, on the right holding, the captain of the second rank.
They went back to the cabin and began to straighten their things to land on the beach in the morning.
1. August. Memories
Warm August days were standing. Hot summer to everyone’s pleasure came to an end. Everyone was waiting for the autumn. The season of holidays was more than ever stifling and dry. Even the most ardent opponents of sunburn have visited the beach and at least once bathed in the Volga. The winners were those who had vacation for any other time of the year. To escape from the heat they could only be in the walls of institutions where air conditioners are installed or on the banks of a cool river. The shadow inspired the idea that winter is an invention of evil people who have never experienced the “charms” of summer heat.
Examinations in higher education institutions were handed over and new-born freshmen were attached to student life at the construction site, in dormitories and subsidiary farms as trainees.
Those who did not enter the university were also not saved from the heat, but it was easier for them — all the year it was possible to prepare for the next entrance exams. The specialists who left from the city to their destinations no longer had a black envy for those who were fortunate enough to stay on the distribution, at least they were avenged.
For Lucy Uvarova summer flew faster than ever before: State exams, a trip to the Crimea, and then to Moscow. By the time she practically did not prepare. Everything that had been done in the last year was repeated. They did not pass new themes; only in practice they used the received knowledge. Therefore, the time for self-training was enough, and to go to the beach, and have fun in the cinema, after watching a blockbuster — action-packed movie with the participation of Bred Pete or Steven Seagal.
To the cinema, Lucy loved to go alone, so as not to spoil the impression of the movie because she had her own, special approach. With many actors of Russian and foreign pictures she was familiar in absentia and was with them on “you”.
Lucy, like all the girls, when she was at school, dreamed of becoming an actress, so that her photos would be displayed in all the windows of newsstands. But she perfectly understood the minuses of her face, and she could not really reincarnate. Her appearance did not meet the standards of female beauty. Everything spoiled, in her opinion, a rather long and unsympathetically extended nose, like an owl. Lucy’s eyes were light green, the mermaid’s, her hair was chestnut, thick, shoulder-length. With them she had to constantly fight. A female braid from hair has long out of fashion, so after graduation, the first independent step was going to the hairdresser and to do a haircut in the fashionable style of “square”. She took the braids with her, as a reminder of her school years.
One day, Lucy read in the medical journal that in Moscow at the Beauty House plastic facial operations are being done, and the next step was to fix the nose.
Money she accumulated for a trip to Moscow, where she intended to buy something fashionable and make a plastic operation of the nose. All the plans were fulfilled exactly.
Operation was successfully completed. Now her profile, corresponding to the world standards, could easily be placed on the pages of a fashion magazine.
Studying at the university attracted Lucy. She was well aware that mathematics was much more important for her than theatrical farce or philology. In mathematical precision, she found her romance. It gave her a pleasure to make discoveries for herself in geometry, astrophysics, and mathematics. … Einstein, Curie, Landau… She wanted to learn about these scientists as much as possible. How did they live, who surrounded them, were they happy, whether they loved or not? She found answers to these questions in fiction about their lives. But this seemed to her little, often stayed late in the scientific library of the university. Classes took a lot of energy and time.
But there was no regret, as the wide perspective and research work abroad opened in one of the successful and prosperous scientific laboratories of Belgium, Germany, Canada, the USA, Japan or France.
2. New Meetings
Two years of study passed unnoticed. But after the first course there were complications. Lucy was sick. The sudden death of a blind mother was unsettled. The whole household was on her. It was necessary to cook, to wash, and to clean the apartment. To do this, it took time, but it was almost not there.
Lucy and during her mother’s life helped her, but she did not suspect that everything would not be so easy when the native person died. The blind father was a weak support and continued to teach Braille in a school for blind children.
Her nerves shook, she began to smoke and because of this often hurt. She had to skip classes. It so happened that they did not allow Lucy to pass the winter session, and they offered to take an academic leave at the dean’s office, otherwise she would be expelled on poor grades. Academic leave was issued without unnecessary ceremony. It was necessary to work a year, not forgetting about studying, to read that did not have time. Uvarova went to work to the post as the postal operator. There was no special preparation, although she had to learn the speed. The work was replaceable. Sometimes, about once a week, she had to go out into the night.
At the post Lucy was not tired; she even liked to be a conductor of thoughts and feelings. When she picked up a bunch of letters, it seemed that she was holding all of Russia in her hands. Joys, sorrows, grieves, victories, failures — all these fit on ordinary sheets of paper, despite the fact that the Internet has conquered the whole world, the letters did not decrease.
There was more work for the holidays, so they did not indulge in the days off, but the vacations were paid doubly, and the money to Lucy was very useful. She wanted to dress nicely, buy model shoes, and generally look no worse than others. The collective was purely female, even the chief of the shop was a woman, however, several men of retirement age worked at the delivery.
Lucy befriended one girl. Her new girlfriend was Marina. She came to the city from an area where she had elderly parents. She lived here with her aunt. Aunt helped Marina get a job and wanted her to go to college, because she said “now you can not break through with school education”. But Marina did not think about any studies, she met Alik, and devoted all her free time to him. Alik was an Azerbaijani and, apparently, was going to marry. Lucy knew all the details of their relationship, up to what he was wearing, and how much each of his things cost.
Lucy also wanted to get acquainted with some nice male representative, but to ask Marina about this Lucy was shy, and there was practically no time for walks. She did not want to leave the university before the time, especially since Marina was younger than Lucy, and Lucy was too proud to drop herself in the eyes of a friend younger than herself for two years. Therefore, Lucy kept mum, and when the conversation came about her personal life, she tried to translate into another topic, which she successfully managed.
Soon Lucy got acquainted with Natasha and Larissa. Communicate with them was interesting. Natasha was older than all of them. She was twenty-five years old, serious, but her appearance caused a smile: small and very plump, like a donut. She traveled twice to the Czech Republic and told many interesting things about her trips, about the sights of the Czech Republic, about the castles, the palaces of Emperor Charles IV, the church of St. Vitas, the picture gallery of the Prague Castle.
She came to the post office by accident; she was a photographer by profession. But for some unknown reasons she left the photo studio, where she worked before. Larissa was her constant companion. They were fond of movies and often went to the cinema together. They were interested team wise. Familiar guys they probably did not have. Larissa was younger than her friend and prettier. Soon Lucy got acquainted with another woman, who was called Katya. During the break, she smoked cheap Magna cigarettes and boasted that she was buying a cigarette from her daughter Natasha, who worked with them. During the work Lucy met almost all the team. There were employees who worked at the post office for ten, or even fifteen years. To them, the chief of the workshop, Aleksandra Petrovna, treated with special respect.
The year passed by unnoticed. She worked on shifts, studying, reading fiction and wanted to learn, see, and do as much as possible. Walking in the air was minimized, so if the second shift ended a little earlier, she was walking home. At work, too, often walked on foot, so as not to deprive her of the pleasure of breathing fresh air. Lucy dressed modestly.
Once while she was working at the post office there was a strange case. The operator Natasha, who received communal payments, did not come out on her shift. They forgot about her forever, but along with her, a large sum of money disappeared from the cash register. On that ill-fated day, strangely enough, the encashment was delayed. All the day’s earnings, left on the table in a gray-green tarpaulin, disappeared completely together with the package when Larissa went out to meet the detachment of guards with automatic weapons, which was called in order to clean up the premises for visitors.
Nobody wanted to go out, and everyone was indignant that the working day set by the administration was too short. Natasha calmed down the customers and made order with her eyes on the routine. Once she came out when Larissa asked that the neighboring car repair shop not “stare” at the windows. The scandal dragged on. Encashment left with nothing, Natasha wrote an explanatory note and went home in a terribly bad mood. The next day she did not appear at all at work. All suspicions of missing money fell on her.
The investigation interrogated all employees, except for Natasha, who simply blatantly robbed this post. The case was conducted by a woman in a Renault-Megane car from the criminality’s department, which was embedded in their team as an operator, so that all employees were happy to put over her all responsibility for the mail. It turned out that the private detective and investigator in one person — Tatiana Ivanova — took the side of the missing Natasha.
When the next day after the disappearance of three hundred thousand rubles Ivanova began to search all the safes, she accidentally found an empty bag of collectors in the dust under the safe, and near, wrapped in an old newspaper, the missing amount. Larissa and Lucy were assigned to recalculate the money. The whole operation took away an hour or so from them. Then Tanya called the administration and happily reported:
“The case of the loss of encashment can be closed. Some dwarf threw it. Do you have such specialists in the database?”
At the other end, someone was looking for something for a long time, and finally the detective loudly proclaimed: “I’ll come, we’ll play solitaire.”
In her report to the authorities there was one miscalculation, she did not take into account neighboring private enterprises, and justified her evidence solely on the speculation of postmen and operators.
Lucy’s jaw squeaked with tension when she heard the whole story, because she knew all the details of the case. Alexandra Petrovna alternated her disagreement with obscene language, but continued to work and even delivered a bottle of Bosco Italian champagne with a peach taste to settle relations with postmen and Lucy, who simply had a desperate situation. The investigation in search of the vanished Natasha has reached a dead end.
She disappeared suddenly. No one was hoping that she would appear. Several times they were called from the police and even the prosecutor’s office for a month, but the girl seemed to have dissolved. They were told that it turned out that she was married to a university lecturer — the son of a professor. Her husband had an older brother, a Ph. D. student. Lucy remembered that she had heard about this family of physicists, where they all devoted themselves to science. Soon they with Larissa visited a low house without a garden and a courtyard where the newlyweds lived. Acquainted with the youngest of the Skripals, who was very friendly, he invited the girls to the table.
“No, no,” Lucy hurried, and Larissa added modestly: “Natasha loved children very much; maybe she went to work in a nursery or a kindergarten?”
“Who told you about this?” answered Eugene, smiling sweetly. “She had health problems. I sent her to be treated abroad, to Germany, where the Russian tsars were vacationing, to Baden-Baden, and she would be back soon. Then she will go to work. Imagine having paid for this pleasure a thousand dollars plus road and various documents. It turned out almost one and a half bucks.
“Where did you get that kind of money?” Larissa said imperiously, crouching on the edge of the stool at the front door.
They did not meet a more miserable home in life. A cobwebbed ceiling, gray walls, a dirty veil on an old sofa. On the table, eaten by a scrub, there were cans of canned food and bread crumbs. In the corner was a stove used to store things. In the passage between the room and the hallway there was a gas cooker for two hot plates, where there was an empty pan.
“The millionaire was killed,” the host replied glumly. “Try it yourself. I do not have anything to pay for the house and electricity. My parents have died long ago; she and I have no other relatives.”
“Did your father teach at Physics department of the University? I met such a name in the list of teachers,” Lucy became interested in surprise. “He read us lectures on physics at the first course.”
“No, this is a mistake. It is either a namesake, or a distant relative. I have no one and the point.”
Lucy did not like his familiar tone at once, and a scrawny smile resembling a wolfish grin.
The girls went off upset that they did not know the details of the life of their employee. Most likely, she cohabited with this Zheka, as he presented himself to his wife’s friends. Neither the one nor the other from Natasha heard of any husband. So, the boyfriend has appeared recently and at once has entered the rights of the husband and the lover simultaneously.
Soon the police stopped the inquiry. And one day Larissa accidentally informed Lucy that she had met with Skripal, and they were about to sign marriage contract.
“How is Natasha?” Lucy was surprised, worrying when they came back after the shift.
“And she stayed there, in this state forever,” Lara explained. “They have the opportunity to get a job as migrants. And we have already arranged our accommodation and will register soon.”
“Fast!” Lucya rejoiced. “Will not it be disgusting for you to live with this scumbag?”
“Why? He promised me a local residence permit and treated me to wine. It is difficult to imagine that such a person will be my husband.”
“What a man he is. A real beast! And the house is about to collapse.”
“Are you envious of my happiness?”
Larissa laughed and shook the snow off the collar of her sheepskin coat.
“Do whatever you want!”
They broke up. A few days later, Larissa called and told them that their house was on fire, and all her husband’s documents and belongings were burnt. She will spend the night with relatives in the hostel.
Suddenly, Zheka appeared on the post with his girlfriend, and they stayed overnight, where there were no surveillance cameras, that is, in the office of the postmaster, where Larissa had an access, since she managed to become a deputy in a short time.
Tears will not help for sorrow. Everyone sympathized with the young people. The house was going to restore and allocated from the trade union committee money for repairs, like fire victims.
Larissa began an affair with Zheka. They bought a second-hand foreign car, somehow repaired the house for money, allocated by the team. All employees — operators and postmen — accurately handed over two thousand, which amounted to thirty thousand rubles. Zheka did not work and lived well at the expense of the concubine: he got drunk and threatened with reprisal “to all the neighbors who planned to come to visit them.” This story was presented by Lara when investigators came to her home.
On her return from the academic vacation, Lucy got into another social environment.
She became friends with her former fellow students, so she did not feel comfortable in the new group. They seemed like children to her. After a year of work, Lucy understood much, became more serious. Life no longer seemed so cheerful and bright as it was before.
It was not very difficult to pass the “tails” exams over. The girl did a lot and worked hard throughout the year. At the last courses the studies went smoothly. Lucy spent all her scholarship on herself.
Her father bought food, and she cooked. Lucy was able to cook quickly and deliciously. She liked occasionally to pamper her father with some delicacy. He was not cranky and ate everything that Lucy had given him.
After the third year, the study went much easier, since the main foundation of knowledge was already laid. Lucy knew almost all teachers; she was used to the requirements.
The group, with whom Uvarova studied after the forced leave, consisted of ten girls and six boys.
Gradually, she was recognized as “their own mutual like-minded girlfriend” and she was elected the monitor. Discos were rare, it was very difficult to get there, but, as an elder, she could at any time get a ticket.
Several times she and her group mates visited the café “Student”, where dancing took place. She liked the music of modern, fashionable authors, rhythm, and tempo.
It was good to be shaken, distracted from all problems to the sound of the guitar. Many songs pleased Lucy with their melodiousness. But a frequent visit to the disco was tiresome.
Sometimes she visited the café as necessary, as the head of the stream, but this did not happen constantly. The more often she attended discos, the less she wanted to get there again.
In the fifth year, many of the girlfriends got married. Lucy could not yet decide on someone specific. Familiar young men were enough, but she had not wanted to bind herself by bond of marriage yet and so she frequently refused to meet.
One tall, dark-haired guy with blue eyes and a dark mustache — Yuri Preobrazhensky — stayed in Lucy’s memory for a long time, perhaps she remembered him always, even when she did not want to think about him.
They met by chance at a friend’s party on the occasion of May Day. Yuri was a surgeon and taught at the Medical University. He liked all of Lucy’s friends right away, was very modest, always inventing poems, tricks and it was fun with him.
It seemed that in his spare time he only did that he was preparing for admission to the circus school. Although, with all this, he worked well and managed to take the session without the triples. They did not meet often, but enough to get used to each other.
Yuri often invited Lucy to concerts, to the cinema; he was very attentive and helpful. Their meetings continued throughout the year. In the spring he stopped calling Lucy, and it seemed strange to her. From friends, she found out that he had some other sympathy — a brunette older than he for a year.
Lucy severely experienced the gap and, by her youth, decided to fall in love with no one, or at least not to get used to it, since she considered studying and future work to be her main task, and lost all interest in her private life. She represented her future career in black paints.
She often said to herself: “In any case, happiness is not in love, but in work,” and recalled how mom, the teacher of literature and the Russian language at the school of the blind, quoted Schiller: “…Enlightened mind ennobles moral feelings: the head must educate the heart.”
Lucy’s parents were blind. They lost sight during the war, were brought up in a boarding school, and there they met. Together they entered the university, helped each other at school, graduated from high school, got married. Lucy was the second child in the family. Her brother Vladimir was seven years older. With him, Lucy had a good relationship, since Vladimir grew up independent and purposeful. He graduated from the geological department of the university, married a girl named Lucy, too; they had a son. Vladimir decently earned and, as soon as he married, went to his wife. Soon Vladimir received an apartment. His life was arranged as best as possible.
After the completion of the State Examinations, a banquet was held in the restaurant, in a low circular room with sparkling walls. Glittering parquet. Glittering chandeliers. Glittering white tablecloth. Sparkling glasses.
The whole day was unusual and full of adventure. So it stayed until the end… They will have dinner in a restaurant. In the restaurant! This one word caressed an ear. It was much more pleasant Lucy to think about the restaurant than to recall the worries experienced and realize that now the former students already graduated soon will part and perhaps forever.
At the table, everyone was quiet and felt at first uncomfortable. But the girls were given absolutely new, specially tailored dresses and shoes that had never been worn before. The guys did not lag behind the girls. Smart, festive suits and shirts were very much corresponded towards their young and happy faces. Lucy was a bit scary… The atmosphere was solemn, as if in a temple!
People were not enough in the beginning. Their table stood at all in sight, as on the stage, in the very center of the hall. Performed dignity waiters carried dishes and put drinks. At the beginning they brought ragout, and then served a meat assortment. On the table there were already sandwiches with black caviar and balyk — smoked fish, spring salads with fresh vegetables. Among the fruits there were grapefruits and apples. Separately there were served fried pieces of rabbit and chicken in oil. At the dessert — coffee with ice cream and candy.
Everybody were satisfied with assortment, this was the merit of Lucy, as she had previously agreed on the arrangement of the banquet, so she worried more than others. But when everything went off as smoothly as possible, Lucy sighed with relief. Now everything would be okay if she knew how to behave, where to put her hands: to keep on her knees or lean on the edge of the table? Lucy was in the restaurant for the first time, so everything was new and unusual for her. Yuri never invited to a restaurant, and in general, Lucy was negative about alcohol, preferring only dry wines, which was not enough on the table: only six bottles of dry and two bottles of champagne. “Boys” ordered separately cognac for themselves.
Several hours flew by unnoticed, as if someone had specially accelerated time. Dusk fell outside the windows. Lucy looked around the room. All the tables were occupied. On the stage musicians appeared, the hall came to life, the light of the chandeliers became less bright, multicolored lights jumped on the walls. Everyone cheered up. Stiffness disappeared somewhere, life seemed simple and carefree, as if there was only happiness ahead of all, and grieves and sorrows are the destiny of other people.
Lucy danced almost all the dances, except those when she simply physically tired and could not get up from the chair; in this case she had to refuse.
At one point, she thought that she saw Yuri when he appeared in the foyer of the restaurant with a girl. Apparently, they wanted to get into the hall, but they came too late. There were no more places. He also saw her, recognized and became doubly annoyed. She did not look the same as he used to see her, but surrounded by cute guys whose presence Lucy was not indifferent… She just sparkled with beauty and youth in a dark-maroon, tight-fitting figure, a dress with a white collar of lace, in white sandals. In the ears of Lucy were gold earrings with rubies gleamed. On the head there was a high hairstyle, done in advance at the hairdresser.
Yuri immediately wanted to continue acquaintance with her, and he seemed to be ready to leave his companion, which was a burden to him, but it was too late. Lucy did not even pay attention to him.
That night she was in shock, she laughed incessantly, talked a lot. She was very dizzy from the champagne, and she seemed to have forgotten all the hard things she had experienced: both her mother’s death and illness, and a forced break in her studies, and a break up with Yuri. She believed in tomorrow, in her future interesting work at the plant, where she received direction, in love, in happiness. That was great! Be able to overcome all adversity and come out victorious in a fight with life. This evening, she seemed to have realized and experienced all over again, so as not to repeat, perhaps, the mistakes made to her, but to go always with her head held high.
At the height of the evening, a young man of pleasant appearance approached her, about twenty-seven years old, fair-haired, in a fashionable suit. He immediately liked Lucy. They met. The guy was called Alexey Izmailov. He worked at the plant as a programmer. About himself Alexey said that he graduated from college, left the army, and then returned to the plant.
As it turned out, Alexey worked at the plant where Lucya received the direction for the distribution of vacant seats. This fact was very pleased a girl. Now it was not so terrible to appear in the new factory team, at least one familiar person. All subsequent dances Alexey did not depart from her, accompanied Lucy home in a taxi. On the road, he told her a lot about the plant. He found himself in a restaurant on the occasion of his friend’s birthday. Lucy felt that Alex liked her, but she did not want to stay ahead of the event, as she was afraid, he would not want to meet her if he realized that his presence was also not uninteresting to her.
The evening was warm. After the heat of the day and the stuffiness of the restaurant it was pleasant to walk from the taxi to the house. Lucy realized that he was very fond of his country when he served in the army.
“Why do not you want to continue studying at the Technical University?” Lucy asked insolently when they stopped near the entrance.
“This is not the time,” Alexey said shortly and hesitated a little.
Lucy did not ask why “not time” and when there will be time, as she feared that the friend was offended. They parted friends and agreed to meet on Saturday and go for a walk.
Rising to her room on the fourth floor, Lucy immediately laid down her bed and lay down. Her father was already asleep. It was about midnight. Usually, returning from somewhere late, Lucy found her father waiting for her, but today he knew that his daughter had the final banquet and was calm. He completely trusted her. Lucy was a good daughter. She often shared her interests with her father, talked about her troubles and worries. Father morally could always support Lucy and calm her. She often read aloud or together they listened to a tape recorder with recordings of radio shows and performances.
Lucy could not sleep for a long time, because she was very excited: the banquet, the appearance of Yuri, unexpected success, a new pleasant acquaintance with the man who immediately liked her. All this together for a long time swirled in the girl’s head and a loving heart pounded in rhythm.
In the morning she did not want to get out of bed. Yes, in general, she could relax a little, because there was a lot of work to be done, and it was necessary to approach it with all thoroughness. Lucy had a two-month vacation after taking the exams. During August she had to start work. A good rest is necessary for a full-blooded work with the greatest impact. She wanted to stay a week in the city, and then go to the Crimea and from there to Moscow. But she did not want to go to the Crimea alone, therefore agreed in advance with my two friends — students of the medical institute — Olga and Irene, who studied in the same group, about the trip. They bought tickets beforehand, so could calmly gather and prepare for their departure. All three lived next door and often met with each other.
Accidentally, Lucy ran into Alex twice. Once they went to the movies, and the second — just so walked along the street. He was not talkative on the last date. They met at the corner, near the trolleybus stop. There were many people. To be noticeable, Alex walked away a little to the side. And now, finally!
Lucy walked, holding a small bonnet from the wind. She wore a light blue dress and small, white, pearly beads around her neck, a handbag in her hands, and white sandals on her legs. Alex was frightened. Every time Lucy liked him more and more. He wanted to rush to meet her, but he pulled himself together in time and decided not to do it. She ran and slyly said:
“Hello, I seem to be a little late.”
“No, that’s right. I just came up,” Alex answered, and even more embarrassed, hugged Lucy around the waist. “You look great!”
It seemed to him that he had done something wrong and, perhaps, she had joked at him. Alex wanted to see himself from this moment. Suddenly he realized his mistake, he had to buy flowers. “This mistake can be corrected,” thought Alex and boldly said:
“You know, we’ll walk to the square.”
“With pleasure,” answered Lucy and took his arm.
There was a flower market on the market square, where Alex planned to buy flowers. In the street there was a crowd. At 6:00 p.m. everyone was in a hurry from work. Alex took out a pack of cigarettes and smoked eagerly.
“What to talk about? Even there is no one to consult with. And why, in the end, not to tell Lucy one of the books read recently?” Alexey reflected. He was fond of military memoirs and detectives.
“Lucy, do you like detective stories?” Alex asked as politely as possible.
“Yes, I do. I have read the whole Conan Doyle. I even have his complete works.”
Alex realized that according to the detectives, Lucy was more educated, than he and it was pleased, that they had the same tastes.
The road to the square seemed to Alex very long, but there was a lady alongside and this fact brightened up today. He came on a date right from work and felt a little tired. When the light breeze blew in his direction, he sensed that Lucy was emitting a fragrance of good perfume. “Maybe even French ones,” Alex decided.
At the entrance to the market, next to the kiosk “Seeds” was a bright blonde with vases filled with armfuls of peonies. Alex chose five barely begun to blossom white and pink buds. Luce really liked the bouquet, and she looked at the guy with tenderness, feeling that he was the person with whom he could share his sorrows and cares.
He also longed to meet a good, smart, pretty girl. Following the voice of reason, he realized that Lucy was the only one about whom he secretly dreamed.
“Let’s go to the cafe,” Alex decided. “We’ll have a snack and have a drink of juice. I am immediately after work and did not have time to go home to eat. I will pay.”
Offer to drink beer Alex was afraid that Lucy would consider him an avid alcoholic.
“May be it not worth?”
“What nonsense! If you do not want to eat, I’ll order ice cream. Do not you like Popsicle? Especially it is such a heat.”
Alex was right; it was tedious and uninteresting to walk around the streets for a long time. So, the proposal was almost adopted, as by silence he realized that Lucy was ready to agree.
“All right,” she said after a moment’s hesitation. “Come on!”
They went to the cafe “Arabella”. A small, extremely clean room was located on one of the busy streets.
“Of course, it would be better to go to a restaurant,” he said.
In his pocket he had only five hundred rubles, and going to a restaurant with this amount was just silly. Lucy knew “Arabella” for a long time and repeatedly visited with her friends. There it was possible cheaply and satisfyingly to eat, sit, talk, listen to music, throwing a coin in the jukebox.
Lovers of strong, spirits were not interested here, as the menu was full of only dry wines and juices. They came here to pass the time. As a rule, this ordinary cafe visited the same people. It was a sort of private youth club.
“It’s good that we came here,” Lucy said, crossing the threshold of the establishment. “Perhaps later, Olga and Irene will appear here, and I will introduce you to them.”
“Do you like it here?” he asked, looking around the room.
“Yes, I do, because I often visited my friends here,” answered Lucy, as she understood that they had chosen the right place to spend time.
“How many respectable personalities,” he continued.
The couple passed between the tables and took a place close to the window. They were served quickly. Alex ordered an entrecote, a salad of tomatoes, Lucy — two bottles of beer. Conversation again went about work.
“Over the past year, I made two business projects. One of them was introduced into production, and with the second there was a delay. The production manager believed that it was necessary to wait, to check all the pros and cons of the new method and only then to put his ‘agree’, ” he talked about his complicated relationship with the production manager.
Alex, in his youth, was impatient to see the fruits of his labor in the business as soon as possible. In Lucy, as in a young specialist, he saw his supporter.
“You know, Lucy, it’s great that we met. I really want you to enjoy our production. We have our own hostel on the banks of the Volga. We can get tickets there, if you want, we’ll go to the next Saturday for two days.”
“No, I’m traveling with friends to the Crimea,” she stressed her independence.
“Very sorry. We’d have a nice weekend there. You can get there on the river boat.”
“Will you wait for my return?” she smiled coquettishly. “I will go to the plant, will go in the camp site as a full member of the team.”
“Come back soon. I’ll miss you, patiently waiting for your return. Write my address and call, I’ll meet.”
Lucy liked the nice guy’s care. She felt like a child next to him. Well, if he wanted so much, she did not mind. However, Lucy has become unaccustomed to any excessive guardianship.
They did not stay in the cafe for long. At nine, Lucy hurried home, citing a headache. He did not want to leave. The music evoked pleasant memories, but she insisted, and they left. At parting, they agreed that Alex would come at the day of departure.
For a week she got ready for the journey, prepared everything she needed, did not even forget to put a notebook in her suitcase with the verses of her friend called “Illumination with Love”. She gave her to read and evaluate when they were resting with Yuri in one company at the cottage. The girlfriend studied at the Faculty of Philology and by lucky coincidence with Lucy in views.
They exchanged telephone numbers, found many common acquaintances and topics for conversation, but they saw each other rarely. Lucy often re-read one poem and again began reciting herself, remembering her former friend, marveling at the name:
Like white clouds,
A wanderer swims along the wave’s bounds.
He forgot peace and sleep.
An eternal wanderer in life he is steep.
Years pass, but again
The harsh truth does not in vain.
He had been forgotten and thrown by all.
Let the violins echo drawl.