для читателей старше 18 лет
1. Oh, Wedding!
— Thank you so much for my favorite ball, guys. I’ve already lost any hope to catch it in the wavy ocean, — a tall, shapely, fair-haired stranger ran up to me and sincerely thanked for the ball.
I was a little bit surprised when this young-looking American woman suddenly appeared in front of me. The curly playful waves brought the big bright ball directly to my hands from the ocean just less than a minute before. I couldn’t imagine that the next minute the owner of the ball would be standing in front of me and smiling. Of course, I gave her the big bright ball back at once.
— So, huge waves and such strong wind from the ocean today, — the young woman continued the conversation. — My light ball flew off the ground so unexpectedly, and the wind brought it to the ocean so quickly that I couldn’t get it after my continuous attempts. I can’t leave my mom alone for a long time at the shore. Look, she is sitting there in the beach-chair, can you see her?
I nodded to the nice stranger.
— I used to come here, to Zuma Beach pretty often. I am from Beverly Hills. I love this beach in Malibu. Do you like this place? — She asked me politely.
— Yes, I love Zuma, too. It’s fantastic, this wonderful place gives me a lot of positive energy and the ocean calms me down, — I answered.
She joined me and my son, and we were slowly strolling along the ocean shore. Slightly wet and hard sand crunched and left the holes under our feet. The warm fresh salty ocean wind didn’t bother us at all anymore. We were led away by our vivid conversation.
— Oh, hold, hold your little hat on, it can fly away like my ball, — the friendly pretty woman caught my flirtatious little straw hat that slowly fell down from my head.
— Thank you, — I answered and smiled. — I and my son thought that, probably, some children lost such a beautiful, extremely colorful ball. We were going to bring it to the lifeguards.
— Where are you from, guys? You have so nice light and sexy accent, — she wondered.
— From Russia, from Saint-Petersburg.
— Wow! You don’t look Russian at all. I thought you were from Europe. And how long have you been here?
— Two years and a half.
— Do you like it?
— Yes, very much. — I looked at her face and smiled again.
— I have never been to St. Petersburg, but I know you have the Hermitage there, and I’ve watched several documentaries about your stunning city. You know, a lot of Russian-speaking people live and work here, especially in Santa Monica. Recently I worked with some Russians -very smart and well-educated people.
The young woman got excited.
— Have you ever been to Santa Monica? And to Beverly Hills? — She asked me a question by question, I liked her inquisitiveness.
— Yes, sure. We’ve been there many times. We love travelling and opening new places for ourselves. By the way, I married in Beverly Hills.
— You married there? It’s amazing. An American guy in Beverly Hills? Well, I never! And where did the wedding ceremony take a place?
— Oh, that wedding! — I smiled. — Formal procedure in the city hall. That’s all. And have you ever heard about traditional Russian wedding ceremonies and celebrations?
She shook her head.
— OK then, one day I’ll tell you about different Russian traditions. And now…
I started to hum a popular Russian song “Wedding”. It is in the list of so called “The best of Russian modern classic”.
Then I briefly told her what the song was about. The American grasped the main point of the lyrics at once, and she was very much impressed by me.
In a few minutes she conducted enthusiastically, and I was impressed by her talent. She repeated after me, word by word, some words from the song in Russian: “Svat’-ba, svat’-ba… pe-la i pli-sa-la…», “mes-ta ma-la…” (aka One, two, three…)
We sang it together and unexpectedly started dancing; we stopped for a moment and burst out laughing.
— Oh, now I know, I know! My favorite ball… — she sighed, — it flew away because it was not enough room for it, either in the sky or on the ground. The same is with Russian weddings: No space is enough as Russians love to celebrate it in a big way. I’ve got it!
This way I acquainted with Joy, a very optimistic, cheerful violinist, who madly loved the life and the whole world surrounding her. She worked at one of the Los Angeles orchestras, and, as well as for the other musicians, most of her life she was touring America and Canada.
Joy was very curious about everything concerning music. After listening to the song “Wedding” and watching the video “Ferris Wheel” on YouTube, my new American friend at once and forever fell in love with the creative works of one of the greatest Russian singers Muslim Magomaev.
— Vika, such a delightful, fantastic, unique baritone. Look at his pics! He was a handsome and so talented person. You know, I have an idea. Let’s go to Santa Monica to an American ferris wheel and sing there his “Ferris Wheel”, okay?
— Let’s go, Joy. — I accepted her suggestion.
So, on a sunny Saturday afternoon I and Joy went to the well-known Ferris wheel in Santa Monica.
We both were in a very good mood and spent some time together walking around the city and shopping a little bit. In the evening, we took a ride on the Ferris wheel and merrily sang some couplets from another Russian song “Ferris Wheel”. We were in the cabin high above the Pacific Ocean and Joy showed some progress in learning Russian. She surprised me because she sounded great.
— Look, at the sky! We are flying between the stars and ocean and singing the love songs; we are screaming “Love you!” — the stars will hear us, and the real love will, definitely, come to your life and to mine. You’ll see, Vika!
When we left Ferris wheel, two young guard-men asked what the song was about and romantic Joy answered proudly:
— About Love, guys!
It was getting dark and cool, and after having a cup of hot coffee latte in the nearest Starbucks we slowly went back to the parking lot where Joy had left her car.
— I wonder, Vika. Did anyone sing in your American wedding ceremony?
Joy surprised me with her question.
— Except the birds, — I joked.
— I remember, I twittered like a bird repeating word by word the wedding oath after the representative of municipality, who was assigned to marry us. And can you imagine, Joy, instead of “my lawful husband” I said “my awful husband.” Little did I know…
— What? Unbelievable! — Joy exclaimed in bewilderment.
— I couldn’t hear the letter “l” in the beginning of the word “lawful”. It was because of my excitement and agitation. I could hear just “awful”. I felt a possible mistake, but the proper word didn’t come to my mind.
Joy listened to me very attentively.
— At that very moment one thought rapidly flew in my head, — I continued my story, — if the phrase of the oath “in the joy and despair” is considered normal, probably, the word “awful” in the same oath is OK, too.
And I quickly pronounced “awful”. Deep in my heart I hoped that if it was, wrong someone would correct me.
— I couldn’t dare to stop the wedding ceremony and interrupt the solemn oath reading just because I, the bride, misheard or misunderstood something, could I? — I asked Joy and looked at her eyes. — Although…
— You could dear; — Joy finished my thought instead of me. — And it would be just like in Hollywood movies then. You could scream nervously and stop the ceremony: “I can hardly understand you! So bad English!” Or you could scream out whatever you like. — Joy was laughing.
— But nobody stopped me, and I thought they didn’t notice — there was no mistake.
— And then? — Joy was interested.
— Then? — I re-asked her. — As soon as the ceremony was over and we left, the first question of my “new-born’ husband, as you could guess, was: “Why did you say ‘awful’ instead of ‘lawful’?”
— Oh my… Was he angry?
— A little bit, of course. And when he asked that, I stared at him for a moment and also said: “Oh, my…” I felt myself so embarrassed because of my crude mistake. I honestly explained to my husband everything as it was.
— And he? What was his reaction?
— He laughed and made a joke of the wordplay of “awful” & “lawful”. He said that mixing words will be our family’s “gold collection”. He remembered about my previous mix-ups of some English words. Once when gardening, I was so tired, that I mixed up the meaning of the words “ant” and “ass”. “Look Dan, — I addressed to my future husband, — there is an endless quantity of asses, and they are everywhere in the garden. Black and white and even copper-colored. Different sizes and shapes. I have never seen so many before. Look, look, they are running like crazy ones.” But in a minute he understood what I meant, and burst out laughing: “Where? Where are they, dear? Show me please at least one ass in my garden. I’m eager to see the biggest copper one, but I can’t see. Well, just a second, sweetheart. Where are my gold-rimmed spectacles?” He put on his stylish glasses. “Oh dear, I’m sure I’ve found one already. And I can tell you that one is the sexiest ass in the world and it’s in front of my nose!” A moment later he slightly slapped my ass; “Harassment!” — I joked.
— Well, “ant –ass” is logical, — she thought for a moment and added, — and it’s funny! But “awful husband” in the solemn moment of wedding, hmm… — she shook her head.
We approached her car, she opened the doors, we sat down and went back home.
— Vika, I’m sure that word was pronounced by you instinctively, and it definitely happened for a reason in a very important moment of your life. Have you ever thought before your marriage that Daniel is an awful person? Have you ever thought that some of his actions are horror of horrors? Or… was anything in his behavior bizarre or stupid?
I listened to Joy’s questions, and some weird pictures of Dan’s behavior immediately flashed through.
Why did he check the laundry basket in St. Petersburg? (He was mad for a couple of weeks, but didn’t tell me a word about a new box of condoms that he had found on the bottom of that basket.) Why did he rummage in my wardrobe and then was jealous just because a few American T-shirts XXL sizes were kept there? Why did he always “fail to remember” of underwear when putting on his jeans or shorts?
“You don’t know Californian guys, dear. Who wears underwear in such fine climate? No one cares. You are not in Russia. Stop it, please, Vika”, — Dan used to say.
Yea, my friend was absolutely right. Some of Daniel’s actions seemed if not awful, then unusual and bizarre to me.
I was deepened with my own thoughts and could hardly notice how quickly Joy’s Mustang convertible was racing along the picturesque and comfortable CA-1.
And when I was ready to answer Joy’s questions, we suddenly were deafened with yelping sirens of the fire engines and police cars. They blinded us with their bright red twinkling lights.
We had to yield the right-of-way to the emergency vehicles and stopped until the emergency vehicles have passed; at the same moment we could smell the smoke, and I started to cough.
Joy began to rub her eyes.
— On my wedding day in Beverly Hills I rubbed my eyes and coughed, too, Joy.
— Why? Vika, tell me, please. I want to know the whole story of your wedding.
And I continued with my wedding story specially for her.
2. Beverly Hills, Tornado, and My Husband
That wedding day when we left La Dolce Vita in Beverly Hills after celebration of our marriage, there was a huge fire not far away from the restaurant. The nearest streets were closed for emergency vehicles and the heavy smoke spread quickly and covered all the buildings and cars.
— Is this the end of the sweet life and the beginning of the smoky one? — I joked and looked at Dan.
— Yes, my dear wife. Of course, this is the “end” and the “start” at the same time. Now it is supposed to go together, with me — your lawful-awful hubby, — Daniel answered playfully.
We stopped for a minute, trying to figure out the shortest way to the parking lot. Dan took me by the hand and embraced. None of us could expect that in a minute or so a few bikers on their fully-loaded motorcycles would shoot by like a big black thunderstorm cloud. The bikers on accident, but still rudely, touched several passers-by — people started screaming. Fortunately, no one was knocked down or injured, but it was a real mess and panic. Fortunately again, the bikers disappeared in the smoke as quickly as they had appeared in the street earlier.
— Get the fuck out of here, bastard!
— What the fuck do you want here? Shut up your fucking mouth!
— I don’t give a fuck. Motherfucker!
The roar of the engines and extremely bad words of those so cool guys were hanging up in the smoky air for a while. It sounded horrible and much more than repulsive. It was like a little wedding collapse for us…
Oh, that wedding! My son Slava was the only guest, as well as the witness and the photographer, but it was Daniel’s decision. Due to some reasons he had no wish to invite anyone else to share that special day with us, but Slava had to share everything with me and my husband from the very beginning.
It’s not a secret that in the States you can’t legally drink, if you are not 21. Yet against the rules both of us suggested Slava to drink a little bit of champagne to us. My son was proud of me and felt happy — his mom was married! And of course Slava couldn’t refuse to raise a glass of delicious sparkling champagne to his just-married parents.
— To us Vika, for me and you! — Daniel, who has officially become my lawful husband just a couple of hours before, pronounced that very seriously and solemnly.
A few minutes later he couldn’t stop proposing toasts by toasts: “To my wonderful Russian wife!”, “To our happy Russian-American family! “To you, guys!”, “And of course to me dear, to your awful-lawful husband! Cheers!”
Dan proclaimed the last toast for himself, for the favorite one. He loudly laughed and drank another glass of champagne in one go. As soon as he did that, suddenly the long leg of the champagne glass fell down on the floor with big clinking, and it was broken to smithereens. Moreover, in a second the remainder of the empty champagne glass cracked into tiny pieces in Dan’s hands.
Dan looked perplexed. He was standing in front of me frozen, and his face was like a pale wax mask.
Fortunately, the waiter came up to us at once. He skilfully took the pieces of the glass away and quickly cleaned the table. He approached and left almost unnoticed.
— Are you OK, dear? Have you cut your hands? — At that moment I was definitely bewildered too, not less than my husband was.
— Everything is ok, I’m ok, my love, and no problem, — he answered and ordered another glass of champagne.
— There is a tradition in Russia, you know, dear? On the wedding day just-married after drinking the first glasses of champagne used to break them into the pieces. It is supposed to be done for future happiness and prosperity of their marriage. And your glass of champagne broke itself, Danny. For luck, — I tried to diffuse the situation.
The waiter appeared again and instead of the glass of champagne for Dan he brought a new bottle of the same first-rate French champagne.
— This is a surprise and present. It’s on the house. Relax and enjoy it, guys. Cheers! — The waiter was very polite to us.
We thanked him and with great pleasure tasted the excellent high-quality champagne. Slowly sipping it and in a very good mood we continued our conversation about this or that.
— Vika, look at the next table, please. — Dan whispered in a hurry. — Can you see three ladies there?
I turned my head right to see them.
— I’m sure all three of them are very wealthy. — Dan continued. — Look at their faked faces. They’ve definitely had a lot of face plastic surgeries, and not just one at a time. No doubts! Look at their lips, noses, cheeks and at their necks. Their faces are sickening, but the ladies consider themselves fine-looking and perfect.
— Why are you so sure, dear?
— Oh, Vika. I know American women, especially Californian. They all are the same. They all need but money and try to get it from their husbands, boyfriends or parents. They successfully inherit millions of dollars and then spend it with no trouble for clothing, new houses and cars and, of course, for re-making their faces, breasts and asses. There are so many such wealthy “beauties” here, in California, especially in Beverly Hills. They are all fake, inside and outside and you’ll never know their real age. I’m so happy to be married to you, my dear Russian girl!
— Thank you, Dan.
The ladies actually fascinated my husband. He couldn’t stop speaking about them with great inspiration.
I wondered why.
— It’s hard for them to chew because of the plastic surgery. You’ll see in a few minutes: they will run to the restroom to spit the food out of the mouth. I know this; I have been observing them since we came here. You’ll see, Vika.
— Hmm. You are saying it with the expertise, like a plastic surgeon, Dan. — I looked at the ladies once more and that time with feminine curiosity.
Three ladies of indefinite age, too good-looking and too much-taking-care-of-themselves, at least from the first sight; they enjoyed the delicious food, red wine and company of each other. Too much mascara, long faked nails, but good hairstyle. It is fake hair, isn’t? What can you say, the “professor of women studies?” — I joked.
— I love you! — Dan answered and kissed me
— Love you too, dear.
— The ladies look too bony and skinny to be healthy, — Dan supposed.
— But look, they are dressed very expensively, evidently comfortably, and fashionably; haute couture, — I whispered to my husband. — They remind me synthetic Christmas trees, well-decorated with hand-crafted gold and silver toys.
— You are funny, sweetie. — Dan laughed. — Look at the endless quantity of gold and platinum rings with huge shining diamonds on their fingers. Probably, they were married three or four times already, and now they are wearing all the rings from the ex-husbands. Ha-ha-ha.
— You never know, — I replied. — I like their stylish bracelets. Too heavy for their thin wrists, but gorgeous.
— Although they remind me of beautiful golden Christmas garlands, — I added.
One by one the ladies, like ghosts, stood up from the comfortable chairs and went to the restroom. Their faces were absolutely cold, and you could mistakenly think that it was their swelling up cheeks, but for the strict critics and observers, like my husband, it was obvious: the ladies’ cheeks were so big that moment because the food was kept in the mouths for a while, similar to hamsters, who do it naturally.
— Can you see? What did I tell you? — Dan was so proud of himself.
Pretty soon one by one, happy and relaxed ladies, without any food behind the cheeks, came back to the table. They joked, laughed and noisily discussed something. The waiter brought a new bottle of red wine for them and then suggested dessert menu for us.
Suddenly Dan’s cell phone rang. It was the call from his mother.
— Yes, mom… I’ll call you back soon. Busy now. — Dan answered his mom’s phone call and addressed to me and Slava at once. — I’m sorry, guys, but it’s time to go. My mom is worrying so much about her car. She wonders if everything is OK with the car and if I drive safely enough not to ruin it. She also demands to return the car as she suddenly needs it for some reason.
— Okay then, let’s go! — I smiled.
We left the restaurant and ended up in a heavy smoky street instead of the same, bright and sunny one, just three hours before. We went to the parking garage and sat down into my mother-in-law’s car that she politely allowed her son to use for the wedding.
Dan’s cell phone rang again. He apologized for being interrupted, stopped the car and left it.
— Immediately come back home, can you hear me, asshole? Come back until you get into an accident. Where the hell are you, Dan? I want my fucking car now!
The car windows were opened, and I could hear very irritated and categorically insistent demands from angry Miriam — my husband’s mother. She wasn’t shy in choosing expressions when she spoke to her son over the phone.
— OK, mom. Please, do not worry. I’m coming back. Your car is safe, — Dan answered quietly.
At the moment Miriam called, she had no idea about our marriage. She didn’t know that her son had gotten married just a few hours before in Beverly Hills.
Dan didn’t tell her a word about this, but a few days before the ceremony Dan tried to explain to me.
— Vika, my sick mother is a real witch, and it would be better for everyone to keep a secret about our forthcoming marriage at least for a while. But do not worry, she will give me her car for the wedding, and we’ll spend the wedding day as we have already planned with you, okay?
— You know better. — I shrugged my shoulders.
Dan finished the phone conversation with his mother and sat down into her comfortable luxurious golden Pontiac. That car Miriam got as a present from her husband Tommy, Dan’s father, for the 50th anniversary of their marriage.
— My mother is an unpredictable awful mischievous lady. My deceased father warned me about her weird behavior many times, — my husband commented on.
— Really? It’s not good.
— Don’t worry please. We‘ll go to the ocean. It’s our special day! — Dan looked at me and Slava. — As I’ve promised to you, guys. The Pacific Ocean in Santa Monica!
He started the car. In half-an-hour or so we arrived.
Dan was a very good guide. He knew the city. His grandparents had their house in Santa Monica not far away from the ocean, and in his childhood Dan spent a lot of time with them there. He showed us the dearest to him places and told some stories.
— This is the well-known pier, and that is my favorite carousel with the horses.
We came up to the carousel pavilion and entered.
— Forty-four hand-crafted ponies for little children. Amazing, isn’t it? And now everything is exactly the same as it was in my so remote childhood. It was always a big problem for my mom to lead me off from the carousel’s ponies. My eyes were completely full of tears, despair and disappointment… It was because the short entertainment always ended so soon. I was roaring, screaming and crying. My hysterics could continue for hours. I had no any wish to go back home, since I was afraid of my father.
Dan sighed and in a second several little boys in the carousel were crying. They sobbed so hard, and their moms couldn’t sooth them.
— Hmm, — Dan shook his head. — It’s I in my childhood!
We looked at each other.
I put my warm palms on my ears, and we hurried up to the exit. The beach was absolutely deserted. The abnormal lull, intense quietness of the Pacific… It strokes and alerted. We took some pictures and paid attention at the huge amount of dark standstill clouds above the ocean.
Suddenly the strong wind sprang up. The tallest coastal palms bent down so close to the ground that it seemed they were not the trees, but huge elastic grass what in a minute or so would cover and dam all the roads; so we were in a hurry to go back to the car.
But it was too late to reach it safely: A sand whirlwind started, and we couldn’t move.
— Tornado, — I heard Dan’s voice. — Don’t stop, move, guys, quickly! Go!
Somehow we hung on to each other and with closed eyes and mouths (it was impossible to open them) groped our way through to the car. It seemed to me it took us for ages to reach it that moment.
— O-la-la-la, — I heard myself…
I couldn’t pronounce a word when realized at last that we all were safe, sitting in the comfortable car with the doors and windows closed.
— Well, — Dan said.
— Well, — Slava repeated.
— Hell! — I exclaimed, and three of us burst out laughing.
It was nervous and relaxed healthy laugh of big relief at the same time.
I looked through the windshield.
The sun was brightly shining in the blue sky. There was no thunderstorm cloud above the ocean, it was breezing. The weather was fine.
— Let’s go? — Daniel asked. — Let’s go home, guys. And we raced back home, listening to a popular country music station.
Late in the evening Dan downloaded all the pictures of the wedding day into his computer and almost all of them were cream of the crop.
— Excellent pictures. Such a remarkable day! A very special, extraordinary day, Vika. Thank you, my darling. And where are your sun-glasses?
It turned out that somehow and somewhere I left or lost my sun-glasses, and one of my high-heel wedding shoes was broken.
— I’m not upset with that at all Dan, what a great loss! — I joked. — We brought home some ocean sand instead! I can still feel it not only in my hair but on my teeth too, and you?
Dan shook his jeans and the golden sand from the Pacific Ocean poured from his pockets out to the floor.
— And now it’s time to check my clothes and take a shower, isn’t it? — I smiled.
The phone rang. It was long-awaited call from Dan’s best friends from Texas.
— Hi, guys! — Dan answered joyfully. — You can congratulate us. We got married at last… Yes, today in Beverly Hills. And can you imagine we were caught in the tornado in Santa Monica. It was terrible… … Of course, we were scared. I was afraid so much for the guys. It was their first experience… … No, I haven’t heard or read the weather forecast yesterday. … Oh, thank you so much! We are ok, everything is good. Thank you! I’ll tell Vika for sure now.
Dan interrupted the phone conversation for a second and shouted out.
— Vika, congratulations from Nick and Stacy! They are so happy for us. They opened the bottle of fine Californian wine and raised their glasses for us and for our marriage. Cheers! They sent the best wedding wishes to us and their personal “Hi,” to Slava.
— Thanks. Thank you and your friends, my dear husband. We’ll see them soon in California, won’t we? — I shouted out from the bathroom.
— Okay, my sweetheart.
— And I’ll go to sleep, my dear hubby. I’m tired. Is it ok?
— Okay, night-night, my sweetie pie! I’ll join you pretty soon; — Dan replied and continued the conversation with his friends.