Holiday romance

Татьяна КУЛИКОВА | Проза


It was quiet and peaceful at dusk. A large cozy mansion was wreathed in shadow. The lights had not been lit for three months here. It was always quiet. The life was gone from this place. Only the occasional creek of a lantern hanging under a canopy or a street dogs’ barking broke the sinister silence. It seemed that even roses lost their beauty and turned grey. A few passers-by, who happened to walk by the house in the dark, sometimes could see the silhouette of a woman in the window. She would stand at the window for a long time and look out into the yard, as if waiting for something. It was Zhanna, the owner of the mansion.

Zhanna grew up in a large family; she was the only girl (Zhanna had four brothers) and a nice and quiet child. Her mother was busy with two jobs; her father drowned himself in liquor, and the children were left alone, entertaining themselves to the best of their ability. Nobody paid attention to the youngest one, Zhanna. From early childhood the girl showed a great hunger for knowledge. She learned to read at a very young age and simply devoured every book in the house. Then, she started school. Ahead of her peers in studies, she was an outcast in her class. Her classmates despised her for her diligence, her desire to study, and, being from a very poor family, she was the object of harassment and insults. Zhanna endured it patiently. She spent her days in an old barn in the backyard. Her permanently drunk father rummaged the room in search of money hidden from him and threw all her textbooks and books outside, and tore Zhanna’s notebooks to pieces. It was accompanied by the yelling that Zhanna’s was one mouth too many, and it would be better for everyone if she would earn money, and not fool about with books. The sooner that happened, the better. Teachers, pitying little Zhanna, allowed all her student property to be kept in the classroom. Graduating from high school with excellent results, Zhanna packed whatever little she had and moved away from her home to Moscow. Her mother had died by that time, her eldest brother was missing, and the rest of the family spent time hitting the bottle or each other, regularly taken to the sobering-up station.

The beautiful, unspoiled, kind and industrious girl conquered the capital with her knowledge and zeal for learning. She easily entered a prestigious university, where she later met her future husband Alexey. Alexey was the only child in a wealthy family. His father had an influential position in the city, his mother was a restaurant owner, and Alexey himself was very promising. He was of medium height, very clever, gallant, well read and even handsome in a way. Alexey spent two years wooing Zhanna, the most beautiful girl at the university, until he sealed the deal. No one opposed their marriage. Zhanna, hiding her background from everyone, was sincerely glad to start a new life. Alexey turned out to be a very good husband. “As safe as houses”, her mother-in-law kept saying, and Zhanna was a loving and grateful wife and a daughter-in-law.

The silhouette appeared in the window again. With the lights still off, the woman walked into the back room that used to be a nursery, lovingly stroked the toys on the shelf and adjusted the bedspread on the bed. Then, like a shadow, she slipped into the bedroom and, without taking off her strange looking dress, lay down on the bed. The darkness made it very difficult to recognize the beautiful young woman. Her long silky chestnut hair that used to be always flowing in the wind, was now forming a messy bun on the back of her head; her eyes, black as resin, were dim from sorrow. It had been a while since she applied any makeup. It was unclear how old the woman was. She resembled a grief stricken shadow. She lay on her side, her arms around her knees, and only her tears proved that life still smoldered inside her. She no longer had strength to sob or scream, no desire to dress up and be attractive, no desire to go on living. Her head was pulsating with abrupt memories of her childhood, student years, family life and a holiday romance that had turned her life around. She closed her eyes and sank into an anxious dream.


It was summer. The sea and the beach looked perfectly welcoming under the Turkish sun. It was the first time during the eight years of a happy marriage that she went to the seaside alone. Her husband was kept back by some urgent business at work, but he insisted that Zhanna had to go have fun.

“I’ll join you in a week,” he said, kissing his wife.

And now, Zhanna, had to enjoy a citrus paradise on the shores of the Mediterranean alone. She was lying in a deck chair, covering her head with a broad-brimmed hat, and the sun’s rays were caressing her body. The air was filled with the scent of the sea, hot sand and the smell of tanned bodies with notes of sex. Merchants were walking back and forth, shouting, offering all kinds of food. The whole beach was filled with tourists; they chattered, talking loudly; children were swimming in the sea, running, playing, building sand castles. Children. Zhanna looked longingly at their faces. After 8 years of marriage, she never became a mother. She and her husband often imagined what their baby might look like. How they would play or walk with him. They made plans for the future, discussing which school he would go to, and what profession he would choose. A boy or a girl – it didn’t matter. Having a child was their most important goal in life. But fate decreed otherwise. Doctors waved their hands, «Incompatibility”. «God. What a terrible word,” Zhanna thought. “Is there nothing anyone can do? I’m only 30!”

Alexey came to terms with that and directed all his love and care towards Zhanna. Being a very wealthy man, he made a paradise for his wife. She did not work; all day long she visited spa salons, boutiques and exhibitions with her girlfriend or just read books. She had anything she wanted. She did not give up hope at having a baby, and received treatment in several clinics, took all available cure, trying to get pregnant again and again. One day, when she was out of hope, Zhanna’s friend Lena dragged her to a famous witchdoctor. He stared at the magic ball for a long time, laid out his cards and, eventually, sighed meaningfully, and said:
“You will have a baby. But I should not advise you to have it. It is better to adopt someone else’s.
«What is he talking about?» Zhanna’s thoughts were all mixed up. «If there is a chance I should definitely use it. Why would we adopt someone else’s child?”

The idea that she might have a child gave Zhanna new strength, reviving her hope for the joys of motherhood. She gave money to the witchdoctor and, elated by the prediction, ran to her husband to share the joyful news. And then she had more treatment, trips to sanatoriums and so on and so forth. Two years went by after her visit to the witchdoctor…

Sighing heavily, the girl lazily rose from the deckchair, took off her glasses and went into the water. Rolling warm waves.., sand seeping through her toes.., a light hot breeze.., the salty smell of the sea soothed her.

Her beautiful, slim, delicate figure could not help attracting the attention of annoying admirers. They were buzzing around Zhanna, showering her with compliments. The water was warm and absolutely transparent. She could see flocks of small fish swim by, almost touching her feet. She dove into the water. Zhanna could not swim at all. Alexey’s attempts to teach his wife had been in vain. She stood up and sank into the water again, closing her eyes from pleasure.

«My God, how nice …»

“Excuse me, what did you say?”

Next to her was a tanned, dark-haired handsome man with a white-toothed smile on his face and brown expressive eyes. Ah, those eyes. Zhanna would often remember them.

«Forgive me, I did not get it,» the stranger was grinning broadly, showing off his white teeth.

“No, no. I was talking to myself,” Zhanna said, a little embarrassed.

«Are you alone?»

“No. I’m with my husband,” Zhanna turned away and went to the shore, making it clear that the conversation was over.
She went to the deckchair, took a towel and, accidentally, brushed off her glasses.
«Darn it,» Zhanna cursed.
«Here,» The stranger picked up the glasses deftly.
“Thank you. You did not have to trouble yourself,” Zhanna began to wipe herself intensively with a towel. Out of the corner of her eye she tried to get a good look at the young man. He was tall, about 6.5, and tanned. Droplets of water were running down his press cubes.

“Every woman’s dream,” popped into Zhanna’s head.
“I’ve been watching you for three days. You live alone in the hotel. Do not deny it.”
«Wow!” Zhanna thought. “He is so well-informed. What a jerk.»

“Are you a detective?” Zhanna did not bother hiding her frustration. “Who gave you the right to follow me?” She nervously collected her things, intending to leave.
“Your beauty did. You outshine the sun when you come to the beach. Did they tell you that you are divinely beautiful?”

Zhanna looked at the stranger with wide open eyes. She had seen him on the beach more than once. Those brown expressive eyes utterly devoured her. And by the way, he was alone. «Beautiful as Apollo,» she thought.

He stood there, still smiling — a tall, broad-shouldered, well-built tanned handsome man with a Greek profile and insanely expressive eyes with long eyelashes…

«Stop!» Zhanna threw on her robe, grabbed her bag, put a towel in and went to the hotel. «What a jerk!»

Halfway there, she looked back. The stranger was standing in the same place, with a towel over his shoulder, watching her walk away. Zhanna quickly went to her room, threw the bag on the floor, plunked herself down on the bed and called her husband.
“Hi honey!” the receiver was obviously glad to hear her. “How are you there? Did you miss me?”

“Are you coming soon?”

“Baby, you have to wait a little. I have tons of work. If you want, I’ll send you more money, go shopping.”

“No thanks. I miss you.”

“Baby, cheer up. As soon as I am done here, I’ll join to you immediately. Sorry, I have to go. Love you.”

“Love you,” Zhanna sent a kiss into the phone. She lied for a bit and went into the shower.
The water streamed down her body, following its curves. Suddenly the stranger’s face came to her mind. “Pull yourself together,” Zhanna thought, and switched the tap from warm to cold. Wrapped in a towel after a cold shower, she went up to the window. Three days spent alone seemed like an eternity to her. “It is almost dinner time. I have to get ready”. Standing naked in front of a mirror, trying on clothes, she proudly noted her gorgeous breasts, round hips and a thin waist. She definitely had everything to attract men’s attention. Finally, the outfit was chosen. It was a floor length dark blue dress with a deep neckline and an equally bold cut. She swiped her eyelashes with mascara a couple of times, took a small handbag and headed for the restaurant.

The waiter bowed and offered her the menu.

“May I?”

Before Zhanna could say anything, the stranger sat down next to her.

«There’s plenty of seats here. Could you move?”

«I’m sorry, but I like it here.»

«Well, then I will move.» Zhanna rattled her chair back and stood up. People around them looked at her curiously. Then, in order to avoid attracting even more attention to herself, she headed for the exit.

“That was stupid. I should have called security. Why did I have to go? I bet he is sitting there, eating. I wish he chokes on his food!” She walked quickly along the path to the street restaurant. With a broad smile showing off his white teeth, the owner of the restaurant politely escorted Zhanna to the table and pulled a chair, welcoming her to sit down.

“Do they paint their teeth with white paint, or what?» Zhanna said to herself. «I will have an orange juice, a Caesar salad with shrimps, and a baked salmon, please.”

The phone rang. It was Zhanna’s friend Lena.

“Hi Zhanna! How are you there? Have you tanned already? And what did you buy? Did Alexey give you enough money? Are you having fun there?”

“Hi!” Zhanna was glad to hear her friend.

Lena looked like “a doll from a picture”. The girls had become friends a long time ago, while in university. Lena never finished it, marrying a rich “daddy” instead. But it by no means damaged their friendship. They spent all their free time together. Zhanna even wanted to ask Lena to come with her to Turkey, but the illness of her beloved dog Tolly kept Lena from coming along.

They talked on the phone for a long time, exchanging gossips, remembering their vacation on the shores of Italy and making plans for the future. Lena told Zhanna about her upcoming yet another breast enlargement surgery, about her dog’s health and about seeing Alexey and, according to her, he was loaded with work “up to his ears”. Time flew by. The salad and salmon was eaten during the chatter.
Zhanna left the restaurant. The conversation with a friend calmed the young woman; she even forgot the recent incident. It was a warm summer evening; the fragrance of tropical flowers made her head spin. She stood on the pavement with her eyes closed, and inhaled the fragrance of blooming flowers. The rustle of leaves whispered something mysterious; a gentle breeze tenderly touched her shoulders, kissed her neck and stroked her hair. The melody of the waltz was playing in the distance. Zhanna remembered how she and Alexey waltzed at their wedding. She could see it clearly: herself, wearing a snow-white long dress and he, in a dark suit, so handsome, tall, with big brown eyes … He. Was she imagining the stranger?

Zhanna shrugged. He, again. Who was he? What the hell was he doing in her head?


The fourth day of her vacation came to an end. Zhanna spent the whole day in her room at a huge fashionable hotel reluctant to go out and meet with the mysterious stranger again. She called her husband, and once again, he promised to come in a few days, as he was too busy to come immediately. In the evening, she admired the sunset through an open window. The huge orange sun was going down over the horizon, leaving tongues of flame on the sea surface. The groans of seagulls and the rumble of the street composed a calming background. When the luminary comes down to the horizon, the whole nature seems to slow down. Zhanna grabbed a towel, locked the room and ran to the beach. What was she trying to catch up with, the passing sun or the days gone by, or maybe both?

The spectacle of the sun disappearing behind the horizon was enchanting. It was a romantic sea view that had inspired many artists and poets. The calming tranquility of the sea at sunset, boundless waters painted crimson by the setting sun was a breathtaking sight. The sky was literally sparkling from the radiance of the last rays, while the solar disk was sinking in the water, leaving a magical glow, saying goodbye to everybody until the morning. Small transparent waves were rolling onto the shore and sliding back again, their gentle soothing rustling being the breath of the sea.

Zhanna was standing on the shore, amazed, her dreamy gaze fixed on the view.
“Isn’t it beautiful?” The stranger’s voice startled the girl.

“Are you stalking me?” Zhanna tried to hide her confusion.

“You and I are both alone here. I don’t think it will be such a crime to get acquainted. It does not oblige us to anything, does it?”

Zhanna quickly turned her face to him. God, she was just gorgeous. Her curved figure against the sunset, long wavy hair, flowing in the wind, bewitched the stranger. He could not take his eyes off her and looked, frankly, looking a bit stupid.

“Arthur,” the stranger awkwardly held out his hand.

He was wearing a short-sleeved shirt that covered the six-pack on his tanned body and light white linen trousers with a belt on the hips.

Zhanna was amused by the stranger’s confused look. She smiled and held out her hand.



She returned to her room long after midnight. She threw off her sandals and fell onto the bed. Her heart was beating feverishly. Her eyes burned.

“Arthur. I feel like I’ve known him for a hundred years; he is so courteous, and knows so much.”

As it turned out, Arthur had come to Turkey alone. He lived in Pyatigorsk, which explained his unusual looks, and worked as a commercial real estate manager there. The young man with bitterness in his voice told her of his unreturned love, blaming his mild temper and the rosy colored glasses he wore throughout his life. He was immersed head deep in his favorite work, and spent all his free time at the gym. Among other things, he was well-read, well-mannered and passionately loved cats. He had two cats living in his mansion. By the way, Arthur built his mansion himself. He proudly showed Zhanna some pictures of his pets in his phone; here they were walking in the yard, here he was surrounded by his cats, here his kitties were climbing a cat tower and so on, and so forth. Then Arthur gently turned the conversation’s focus to the stars, which he was willing to get and throw at the feet of his beloved, again, inadvertently, sighed, remembering his past love. All those conversations, the stars, the sea, the warm evening and the heart-rending story of the young man could not help but touch Zhanna’s heart.

“Ah, poor young man. He is so sweet, so childlike. Add to that his physical appearance.” She thought. “And most importantly, he did not even try to seduce me, only kissed my hand saying goodbye. How romantic.”

Zhanna picked up her the phone, which she had forgotten in the room. Alexey, as always, texted her, “Good night, baby. Love you».

“Love you,” Zhanna whispered and kissed the phone.

She quickly took her clothes off, turned off the light and slipped into the bed. Her thoughts kept bringing her back to the seashore, where she and Arthur walked barefoot along the beach and talked, and the sea caressed their toes, slowly sliding up the shore.

The week was coming to an end. She spent more and more time with Arthur those days. They had lunch together in the restaurant, walked around the town and shopped; their conversations were facile and unstrained, full of laughter and jokes. They looked like a couple of lovers.

Alexey called her every day and fed her promises, appealing to the task overload at work. But Zhanna, listening to him, caught herself thinking that it was sometimes even more pleasant to vacation in solitude. When Alexey suggested she should spend another week at the seaside, Zhanna agreed immediately.


The sound of street dogs barking made the woman get out of bed. She wrapped a blanket around her, shivering from cold, and went to the window. The sky was overcast with black clouds. A sharp wind ripped yellowed leaves from the trees, covering the ground with them. Autumn. Zhanna went down to the dining room. The pain brought on by memories was unbearable. Every little place in the house literally screamed to her about the happiness that she abounded in and about the sorrow, the wages of that happiness.

She poured a glass of whiskey and drank it in one gulp. It was not that Zhanna was addicted to alcohol. But sometimes, when she was out of strength to go on, she allowed herself to drink some.

Whiskey. “You must drink whiskey in small sips, slowly, savoring the taste, Arthur used to say”. Arthur. Zhanna smacked the glass against the wall with all her might. If only she would have stopped then…

The weather the following week agreed with Zhanna. The sea was completely calm; the water was so warm that you could splash in it all day. Zhanna wandered along the shore wearing a beach dress and a broad-brimmed hat. She picked up shells and pebbles for amulets.

“The Chicken God for Happiness”, Zhanna remembered Arthur saying that. “Why ‘chicken’?” Picking up such an “amulet”, Zhanna, squinting, looked at the sun through the hole in it.

“You’re like a child. I like your naivety.”Arthur appeared next to her.

“Only my naivety?” Zhanna playfully pouted.

“I like all of you. You’re an angel. Probably I had somehow pleased God, since he gave me the happiness to know you.”

Arthur gently ran his hand through Zhanna’s hair, took her by the hand and gently pulled the girl close. Zhanna felt his breath on her skin. Her heart began to beat so fast that it nearly jumped out of her chest. Wide shoulders, strong hands, the smell of the tanned body, sensual lips … Oh, how many times Zhanna, starving for a man’s touch, had imagined herself in Arthur’s arms and each time shook herself together, thinking about her beloved husband and marital honor. She skillfully slipped out of Arthur’s hands, and ran along the shore, laughing, and inviting the young man to follow her.

Her trip was going to be over the next day. Her things were neatly packed, her documents prepared, gifts bought for everyone. Zhanna felt rested enjoying her last day in the Turkish sun.

“Madam,” Arthur appeared with a cocktail and an ice cream in his hands.

“Thank you,” Zhanna did not hide her disposition towards the handsome man.
They stayed together and walked around holding hands. They did not take their eyes off each other. They were a beautiful couple. Was it love or infatuation? It does not matter now. It felt like a fairy tale. There they were, having left their cocktails, happily racing each other to the sea. Sideways, envious glances of other tourists followed them, but they just enjoyed their last day of rest.

That night, Arthur, escorting Zhanna to her room, followed her inside. They drank whiskey in silence. Both of them realized that this was their last date. The last date. The room smelled of freshness and flowers. Quiet, barely audible, purring music came from the seaside cafe. The whiskey pleasantly warmed their stomachs, while the darkness was filling the room. The idea that the fairy tale would be over tomorrow was boring through their heads like a nail.

Arthur started gently kissing her hands and shoulders, asking her to leave everything and stay with him. She was silently crying, and big beads of tears fell from her long eyelashes and flowed down her cheeks. He hugged Zhanna, pressing her against his broad chest. Zhanna did not resist. They looked into each other’s eyes. The inexorable desire for love drew them together.

Thoughts in Zhanna’s head were mixed up; her heart was pounding so loudly that it seemed to resound in the corridors of the hotel. The whiskey or the atmosphere of the resort night clouded her mind. She clung to Arthur and kissed him.

“To hell with propriety! To hell with modesty and honor! To hell with everything! Tomorrow they will be far from each other and, of course, they will never see each other again…”

If she knew how abruptly her life would turn after that night, she would have stopped. But no one can see their future, can they?


The plane was gaining altitude. Far behind, there was a welcoming shore, a loving sun and the sea warm like fresh milk. Turkey would be remembered as a hospitable country because of the chic hotels, velvet beaches, pure sea water, delicious food, a variety of delicacies on Swedish tables and gallant cavaliers. Zhanna was looking through a small round window at the distancing land. She was completely exhausted after last night. The whole body was sweetly aching from kisses, and butterflies were fluttering in her lower abdomen. She still felt how strong Arthur’s hands held her in his arms, and his big brown eyes nearly incinerated her… Zhanna closed her eyes. Every now and then, details emerged in her memory. “Farewell, my stranger.”

At the airport, Alexey was waiting for her with a large bouquet of roses. He fussed around his wife, unable to take his loving eyes off her. Zhanna was also glad to see her husband. The driver took the heavy suitcases and, putting them in the car, drove them home.

In the evening, Alexey took Zhanna to the most expensive restaurant, where he had prepared a surprise for her. The beautifully laid table, delicious food, excellent service, but, most importantly, an atmosphere of luxury that makes you want to stay and gets you in a romantic mood. Everything that night made Zhanna feel like a queen. Alexey spoke tirelessly, telling about what he had been doing, how much he had missed his “baby” and that he loved her more than life itself. Zhanna was enchanted with her husband, and, somewhere in the back of her soul, she was very ashamed of what she had done the night before.

Life went on. Alexey brought flowers for his wife every day coming home from work. They went out for dinner in the evenings, meeting with family and friends, and in the afternoon Zhanna visited the salons. Zhanna and Alexey’s relationship was as good as ever. Alexey was an ardent lover, and Zhanna, eager to have a child, was equally passionate.

“God, how I love you,” Alexey whispered.

“And I love you,” replied Zhanna. She was not lying at all. She slowly forgot about her holiday romance, falling in love with her husband more than ever, admiring his accomplishments and boundless love for her.

A week after Zhanna’s arrival, Lena came around. Her new breasts grew two more sizes and swayed like ocean waves when she walked. “Daddy wanted them,” Lena explained. They chattered incessantly, sipping brandy and eating chocolate. They looked at the clothes that Zhanna had brought from Turkey. Zhanna told her friend about the trip, except for her holiday romance. Later it turned out that Lena needed to buy a new wardrobe because of the surgery, and, therefore, they planned to do some shopping starting tomorrow.

A month passed, or, rather, flew by. She hardly ever recalled the night spent with Arthur; only occasionally, he came to her in a dream, where they walked along the seashore.

“Are you feeling okay?” asked Zhanna’s mother-in-law, during one of her rare visits. “Did you catch a cold or eat something bad? You two should eat at home more. Your housekeeper cooks fairly well.”

Violetta Lvovna — Zhanna’s mother-in-law — was a woman of strict rules and always dined in her own restaurant. It was a stately woman. She became even more attractive over the years, which was more that could be said about her character. She was a neatnik, or, better to say, a pedant. She was very difficult to please. If she noticed any dust in her house, she fired her housemaid without hesitation. Violetta would often be seen early in the morning, with a white duster in her hand, looking for dust, that her housemaid might have missed.

“It is probably a cold,” Zhanna was indeed feeling bad. She felt weak and dizzy. After apologizing to her mother in law, she went upstairs to the bedroom.
“Darling, shall I call the doctor?” Alexey was seriously worried about his wife’s condition. He escorted her upstairs, put her to bed and covered her with a blanket.

“I’ll stay with you, if you want.”

“No, no. Go to your mother. I will be okay soon.”

Alexey kissed his wife tenderly and, promising to come back shortly, went downstairs.
Zhanna could hear voices coming from the foyer. Her mother-in-law was reproaching Alexey for their frequent dates at little-known restaurants and insisting that he should immediately call the doctor in to examine Zhanna. Despite her bad temper, Violetta Lvovna loved Zhanna as if she were her own daughter. She felt pity for her, because according to Zhanna’s story, she was an orphan and had been brought up by her grandmother. Violetta supported her daughter-in-law wholeheartedly seeing how tenaciously Zhanna was trying to give a child to Alexey. Even at minor disagreements between her daughter-in-law and her son, Violetta always took Zhanna’s side.

So now, concerned about her daughter-in-law’s health, she insisted on calling the doctor. She left the house only after Alexey had done so.

“What is taking so long?” Alexey was beside himself from worry. He was pacing around the room like a predator in a cage, “That’s it, Mother is right. No more eating out at strange places. Besides, Mother’s restaurant is the best in the city.”
The doctor came out of the bedroom.

“Well, young man,” the doctor did not bother wiping a smile off his face, “your prayers have been heard. You will become a father in eight or eight and a half months.”
Alexey froze, amazed at the news. The doctor’s announcement was the best moment in his life. He rushed into the bedroom and fell on his knees, crying, kissing his wife’s hands.

“God, how wonderful! Zhanna, my love,” he could hardly speak for the tears, “Thank you! Thank you!”

Zhanna was crying too. In the back of her heart, she knew that it was Arthur’s baby…


Time went by. During the months of pregnancy, Zhanna gained weight and became even prettier. Her husband’s family literally waited on her hand and foot. Her mother-in-law, having sent her son and his wife to the States for rest, began to repair their house. So much had to be done, especially for the nursery!
The woman was flying as if she had wings, or, to be exact, she was fluttering. She lived for that event. It got to the point that she started helping workers to hang the wallpaper…

“I am going to have a grandson! I’m sure it is a boy! The Lord could not but make my son happy,” the woman was overcome with joy.

The whole neighborhood, even the whole city knew that Violetta Lvovna was going to have a grandson.

Lena also took part in the preparation for the grandiose event. She helped Violetta Lvovna as well as she could. Lena herself did not want to have a child yet, believing that pregnancy would damage her body, and “daddy” did not insist. Yet Lena considered it was her duty to help her dear friend.

Meanwhile, Alexey and Zhanna were enjoying themselves in the States. They were happy. They noted new changes every day: the belly grew; Zhanna wanted a watermelon; the baby would not calm down at night and tumbled about in the mother’s belly. Alexey took care of his wife’s every whim with joy, and she, in turn, could not be more grateful for her husband. Alexey had to work from his hotel room at night, but never complained about the lack of time. They hired a famous obstetrician and were preparing Zhanna for labor. Still, giving birth for the first time at thirty was a risk.

The fetus was developing properly, without pathology. They found out that they were expecting a boy in the very beginning. Violetta Lvovna came up with the name for the baby, Svyatoslav, or Svetik – a short form for Svyatoslav. Zhanna said yes to everything. She had been looking forward to having this baby so much. Her friend called her every day, inquired about her and her baby’s health.

“I can’t wait to see the baby! I am going to be his godmother,” she chirped on the phone. Lena described all the changes in Zhanna’s house: new furniture from Italy for every room, details of the baby’s room arrangments, and even let it slip that Violetta Lvovna bought a brand new BMW for Zhanna!

The last days of the pregnancy lasted infinitely long. Violetta Lvovna joined her children it the States, as soon as the repairs were finished. The house was ready for the return of the happy parents. Zhanna spent two weeks in the hospital. Her stomach was huge. The baby no longer tumbled, but moved slowly, pressing his leg or butt against his mama’s stomach.

“It is a large fetus, young lady,” the doctor said in bad Russian, “most likely we’ll have to do a C-section.”

“It is a usual thing. And you will be fine,” Violetta Lvovna sounded confident, reassuring both Zhanna and herself.

Alexey wanted to be there during the labor and even took a preparatory course to be able to stay conscious through it, but Violetta Lvovna insisted that the father should wait outside, and that he did not need to know the details.

Finally, the board of doctors had a discussion and advised on a C-section.
That night Zhanna could not fall asleep. Her thoughts were swarming around the baby. She felt it in her heart that it was Arthur’s child. Could she hope that the miracle had happened and she and Alexey had finally made it? No, it would have been too wonderful. For the first time during her pregnancy, Zhanna was afraid. Who would her long-awaited baby look like? What if Alexey suddenly suspected something and demanded a DNA test? What then? Would he throw herself and her son out into the street? Where, where would she go? Who would care for her? What about her mother-in-law? Oh Lord. The woman catered to her every whim… What had she done?

She thrashed about in the bed, as if in delirium. Cold sweat trickled down her forehead. Her stomach was tense and hurt.

“I do not want to live. I cannot look into Alexey’s eyes. Let the baby be born healthy, but I do not belong in this life … God, why does it hurt so much?.. She should talk with Alexey before the baby is born, while it’s not too late yet. And let him tell her everything he thinks about her; she deserves it. Let it be!»

Zhanna slid out of bed. Her head was spinning; her arms and legs refused to cooperate. She reached for the phone and dialed her husband’s number. Alexey picked up the phone.

“Zhanna? Is everything okay?”

The next moment he heard his wife’s scream.

“Zhanna! Zhanna!” The phone fell from Zhanna’s hand and turned off.

The nurses heard the woman’s screams and came running. Zhanna was lying on the floor covered in blood and was screaming, clasping her stomach with her hands. She had started hemorrhaging.

“Take her to the OR” the doctor ordered.

Zhanna, half-conscious, was muttering something while they administered an IV and took her through an endlessly long corridor. She fell into oblivion.

The dawn was breaking. The storm was raging outside, tearing the last leaves off of the trees and breaking their branches. Rain was banging against the roof, and the wind was howling in the chimneys. The woman, exhausted by insomnia, came down into the hall. With lights still off, she looked around. The shapes of huge vases stood out in the darkness; you could see the outlines of pictures on the wall. Everything had its own story. Zhanna was standing in the middle of the hall. The huge chandelier hanging from the ceiling suddenly looked too close, too heavy, threatening to crush her. The woman went to the wall and clicked the switch. Bright light flooded the room, making Zhanna cover her eyes with her hand. There was dust in the corners of the parquet floor. Zhanna stood up tall and, quietly singing the melody of the waltz, began to dance slowly along the hall. Lookers-on would have thought that she had gone insane and, most likely, so she had. The woman, opening her arms wide, was twirling with her eyes closed, on and on. Her crumpled, untidy dress and disheveled hair only added to her insane looks. At last she stumbled upon a wall. Opening her eyes Zhanna turned her head and saw doodles on the wallpaper made with a marker…. It was Svyatoslav’s drawing.
Sliding down against the wall, the woman could not hold back sobbing. Her soul was torn apart … Thousands of steel claws tore her from within, leaving deep wounds. She sank to the floor, beat her fist against the parquet floor and screamed from helplessness … but nobody heard her. Nobody………


“Mom! Look! I have drawn the sun!” Little Svyatoslav was four years old already. «Mom, I love you so much. I drew this for you. Do you like it?”

“Sweetie, you are our sun,” Zhanna said and kissed her son, «You’re my treasure!»
Svyatoslav was the most important member of the family. The boy was energetic and precocious, and constantly surprised his parents with his genius. He was very good-looking with dark curly hair, an upturned nose, puffy lips and big, piercing brown eyes. Violetta Lvovna carefully looked for resemblance to Alexey in the child, finding none.  She did not worry a bit, saying that the boy would be a genius like his dad.

Svetik, as his family called him, learnt to speak early. Trying to explain his meaning, he thought through phrases for a long time, frowned in a funny way, and then produced them.

Violetta Lvovna was the most caring grandmother in the world. She spent all her free time with her grandson.

“You are the light of our lives,” she tenderly told Svetik. Demanding and strong-willed, she literally melted at a mere mention of her grandson.

The birth of his son made Alexey so happy that he felt as if he had wings. Zhanna, Alexey and Violetta Lvovna raced one another to their darling’s crib, should he make a sound. Everyone tried to be the first, take the baby in his or her arms, sing him a lullaby, and then chirp at him all night. Svetik was a grateful boy. He loved everyone and smiled with his charming childish smile.

“What a pretty child! He is such a cutie. Isn’t he, Tolly?” Lena asked her dog. “Perhaps, my husband and I will also have such a dear one day …»

Lena visited Zhanna more frequently than before, though conversations about forthcoming cosmetic surgeries and foreign resorts now only made the latter tired. Lena became Svetik’s godmother, and she and her husband gave him a baby pony.

The kaleidoscope of days, weeks and months kept rotating. Svetik grew. The child’s laughter filled Zhanna’s house like music. A perfect idyll, love and happiness seemed to have settled in their house forever.

Two years of happiness passed. One day, back from her regular vacation, Lena came around, looking worried. Her eyes glistened with tears, and her lips quivered nervously.

“What happened?” Zhanna sat her friend in a chair and brought her some water.

“Zhanna, I am leaving Daddy, I just do not know how to tell him about it,” Lena’s tears flowed like hail.

Zhanna hugged her and gently rubbed her shoulder, trying to comfort her friend.

“There, there. Did he offend you? You have lived together so long. Why leave him now?”

“I fell in love… You see, I met the man of my dreams at the resort. His name is Rudolf. Zhanna, I wish you’d seen him … he was so,” Lena was looking for words, “divine … tall, handsome, and his eyes … I’m willing to drown in them.”

Lena kept on chatting, praising her donjuan, but Zhanna could not hear her. Memories of a holiday romance, more precisely Arthur, his brown piercing eyes, tender kisses and strong hands began to pop into her head. She could almost feel his arms around her. Zhanna closed her eyes. The memories of the beach, warm sand, the smell of his tanned body overwhelmed her, causing butterflies fluttering in her lower abdomen.

“Lord, what’s wrong with me?” thought Zhanna, “It is all in the past. I forgot him long ago.” However, it was impossible for her to forget him completely. One look at Svetik was enough to bring him back to her mind. “It was just a fling,” Zhanna tried to reason with herself. Her friend’s story made her relive those moments of fake happiness.

“Lena, you must calm down. Your Daddy adores you. There’s no need to shoot from the hip. You hardly know the man. What if he is a gigolo and all he wants from you is money?”

The woman hoped that reason would triumph over Lena’s heart, but she pushed Zhanna away.

“How can you say that? Just look at him. The look on his face says that he is a man of honor.”

Lena began to scroll down the pictures in her iPhone.


Zhanna casually took the iPhone. Arthur was smiling at her from the screen. The woman nearly dropped the phone.

“Lena, wake up! Can you not see? Do you really think that you are his only girlfriend? He has thousands like you! Thousands! Asshole! Slut! He should be castrated! Did you have sex with him? Did you? Answer me!” Zhanna did not notice that she had raised her voice. She hated Arthur, hated her friend for having been intimate with him and she hated herself. At that moment, it seemed to her that the whole world was against her. She could not believe that her Arthur had thoughtless love affairs with everyone who came his way… What about love? Did he lie to her?..

“Mom!” Svetik was standing in the doorway, smiling. Zhanna lips trembled. She poured herself some whiskey and drank it in one gulp. Lena, dumbfounded by her friend’s unexpected hysterics, looked at her with unabashed curiosity.

“Mom!” Svetik, laughing, ran to his mother and climbed into her arms. “Granny is over there. No, no, no,” he shook his finger and pointed to the door.

Grandma wasted no time. She immediately appeared in the doorway and, jokingly scolding the boy for mischief, took him in her arms. Svetik burst into a happy laugh. The women felt relieved.

“What is the matter with you?” Lena asked her friend, “Do you know him?”

“Have you lost your mind?” Zhanna tried to be calm. “I’m just worried about you. I do not want you to do something stupid.”

Lena pouted and her silicone lips started looking like big dumplings. That amused Zhanna. She started laughing and Lena joined her.

“Let’s go see your sorcerer,” Zhanna suggested.


The girls made an appointment and went to the witchdoctor. Lena and Rudolph texted each other all days long; luckily, Daddy had gone on a business trip. Lena kept describing the details of her holiday romance to Zhanna, sighing each time. Zhanna listened to her friend, but said nothing, afraid to talk about her ill-fated adventure.

“So you had a baby,” the sorcerer stunned the women as soon as they entered. He frowned at Zhanna; it felt like had seen all the events of that night in Turkey.

“We are here for her.” Zhanna, shrugging it off, nodded at her friend.

Turning his gaze to Lena, the sorcerer pointed to the price list, implying that they had to pay first. Lena obediently handed him the marked amount.

Putting the money away, the sorcerer grumbled, “They need to beat you black and blue. The good life has gone into your head. You should better have a child. Otherwise, what good are you?” He turned away, pointing at the door.

“What about Rudolph?” Lenka was clearly disappointed by the séance.

“Listen to her,” the sorcerer nodded at Zhanna. “And you — live and wait. You wrote her own destiny.”

The women returned home in complete silence. Both were thinking about the sorcerer’s words addressed to them.

«What is going to happen?» What was this sorcerer hinting at? Does Arthur know about our child and is he going to claim his rights? Or maybe Alexey suspects something, because his son does not look like him even a little bit.” Zhanna chased away all thoughts, but they swarmed and swarmed in her head. She quickened her pace and nearly ran home to see her boy.

“Live and wait” — now Zhanna saw what the sorcerer had meant. She went into the living room, took a large family album and began to look through her son’s photos. He was so small, so cute. He looked like an angel. Here he was with Alexey; here he was with Granny, as Svetik used to call his grandmother affectionately. Here he was making his first steps; here he was riding a pony. The woman lovingly leafed through the album. Tears ran down her cheeks, falling on the pictures. She was unaware of the time. Zhanna had lost track of it long ago. The day was coming to an end; shadows were creeping in.

Zhanna looked at the last picture of her son. She remembered every minute until the terrible event. It was Svetik’s birthday. He turned five on May 25. Had she forefelt disaster? It did not matter anymore.

Zhanna got up, took the album and went to the chest of drawers.


Zhanna dropped the photo album.

“Mom, it’s me.”

Barely keeping it together, Zhanna forced herself to turn. Svetik was standing at the door.

“Mom,” he held out his hands and, trying to make a step, fell down. Only then, Zhanna saw the child had broken bloody legs. She felt her strength oozing out of her. She collapsed to the floor. That was the first vision.


The whole family waited for May 25. Svetik was turning five years old. They had bought presents long before the big day. Robots, scooters, rockets, airplanes — all these toys flooded the nursery and the living room. The house looked like a big toy store. There were presents everywhere, wrapped and tied with large beautiful ribbons. The house was decorated with vases of flowers and balloons. Svetik had his first birthday wishes in the morning.

“Hey buddy! Happy birthday!” Alexey picked his son up, “You have gotten so big! We are going to go to work together soon.”

“Good morning sweetie,” Zhanna tenderly kissed Svetik. “Do you know that you are our dearest one in the whole world?

Svetik, breaking free from his parents’ affections, ran into the living room to look at the gifts.

He opened the boxes one by one, and loudly expressed his joy over every gift.

“The best present is prepared for you at our summer house. Your friends are going to come there; we will have clowns and fireworks in the evening. Do you like fireworks?” asked Alexey.

Svetik leaped with joy and clapped his hands.


“Zhanna, darling, something terrible happened,” Violetta Lvovna, crying, screamed into the phone. “Svetik is in the hospital. He was hit by a car. Zhanna, come quickly. Alexey is already there. For heavens’ sake, come quickly!”

Zhanna jumped out of the hair studio. Unaware of what she was doing, she dashed to the cars passing by, crying and begging to take her to the hospital to her son. The drivers braked, afraid to hit the insane woman, loudly cursed and drove away.

Violetta Lvovna came to the summerhouse, and, without waiting for the party to start, solemnly presented her grandson with a toy car. It was a remote control toy BMW. It was blue and shiny. Multicolored lights were flashing in its wheels and its steering wheel, music was playing from a built-in stereo. Svetik’s eyes shined from joy. He had dreamt of such a car for a long time. So now he was an “adult”, now he was big.

“Granny!” Svetik hugged his grandmother’s neck, “You’re the best! You’re the best!” he exclaimed, kissing his grandmother on the cheek.

The boy ran around the gift full of joy, stroked it, and then steadily opened the door and climbed into the car.

“Granny, will you teach me how to drive?”

“Certainly. But let’s wait for your Dad,” Violetta Lvovna gave her grandson the remote control. “Let’s put the car in the shade. You can drive it tonight.”

Svetik nodded his head in approval, then pressed the button to turn off the ignition and got out of the car. He helped his grandmother push the car into the shade, put the remote control in the glove compartment of the car and went to the kitchen. Everybody was busy preparing for the party the whole day. Of course, they could order a feast in the restaurant, but they thought better of it at the last moment, because they invited some children. Besides their summerhouse and the garden around it were quite big. Every now and then, cars drove up to the summerhouse, bringing food, chairs, flowers and balloons. The phones kept on ringing. Clowns and fireworks specialists were going to come. In short, the house was humming with preparation. Violetta Lvovna was giving orders right and left, paying the most attention to her favorite. Svetik, feeling the master of the situation, in a dress suit and tie, strutted behind his grandmother and watched what was happening.

The neighbors’ children came first. Masha and Vanya, of 5 and 4 years old respectively, were Svetik’s friends since birth. They spent a lot of time together, as well as their parents. As they say, they were each other’s family friends. There were still a couple of hours before the party started. Alexey was going to come any minute, and while they were waiting, Violetta Lvovna took the children to the room to watch TV and went about her business. Watching TV turned out to be very boring, so the kids ran into the yard to see the grandmother’s present. Svetik proudly showed his car.

“Svetik, it is so pretty,” Masha was very impressed. She came up to touch the steering wheel. “Will you let me drive it?”

“I am going to drive it myself first, then you can try.”

“I want to drive it too,» Vanya frowned, “little girls must not drive. You do not have a license.”

“Do you have a license?» Masha asked Svetik.

Svetik looked thoughtful and paused, then said, “I guess that they will give me my license as a present tonight. Definitely!”

“No, they won’t. The police keeps licenses. That I know for sure. Mom always tells Daddy that the cops have taken her license again. Do you know any cops?”

“My Grandpa knows a lot of people. Grandpa says, first, you buy your license, and then, you buy a car. They bought a car for me, so I definitely have a license.

The argument did not last long. Svetik took the remote control from the glove box.

“Look at what I have here.”

They in turn held the remote control, examining it, but they could not turn on the car.

“How about if we push you?” suggested Masha.

Svetik obviously liked the idea. He climbed into the car, put his hands on the steering wheel, and the kids leaned against the car, pushing it forward.

“Faster. Please, faster…”

The driver, which had picked up Zhanna, was rushing to the address she had given him running past signals.

The woman ran into the hospital building. Her mother-in-law rushed towards her.

“Svetik is in the operating room with Alexey. The boy needed urgent blood transfusion. The doctors said it was treatable. Both Alexey and Svetik are type A.”

Violetta Lvovna dissolved in tears.

A nurse ran out of the operating room. Seeing her, the two women bounced out of their chairs.

“What? How’s the boy?”

The nurse looked at the crying women in confusion and ran down the corridor. A few minutes later, more doctors and ICU staff rushed to the operating room. Zhanna’s shoulders were shaking with sobs. Violetta Lvovna knelt down and, looking at the closed operating room door, whispered a prayer. Minutes went by painfully long. Zhanna was pacing the corridor, wringing her hands.

“What? What? What is taking so long?” her thoughts were running, racing one another. “How’s my baby? How long is it going to take him to recover? Lord, why so long…”

The children were pushing the car, while Svetik was sitting at the steering wheel, looking important.

“Phew, I’m tired,” Vanya squatted down.

“Come on, Vanya, a little more,” leaving the car at the back gate of the summerhouse, Masha ran up to her brother.

Svetik was sitting in the car, thoroughly pressing every button on the remote.

“Why won’t it go? Is it broken?”

At last the car started. Svetik was excited, he pulled the stick and the car drove forward in full speed, running out of the gate directly under the wheels of a truck passing by.

Everything happening after that was like a nightmare. The children ran screaming towards Violetta Lvovna, the truck driver jumped out of the car and tried to pull the child and his smashed little car out from under the wheels. Someone called an ambulance. Someone gave Violetta Lvovna some valerian. Shouts, moans, crying came from everywhere, and only little Svetik was lying motionless in his toy car. His legs were tightly clamped in the twisted blue car.

The doctor came out of the ICU. His heavy gaze pinned Zhanna to the wall.

“How are you going to live with this?” He dropped his head, walking past Zhanna.

Zhanna did not remember how she got home.

When the baby was rushed into the ICU, he needed a blood transfusion. The problem was that the boy was type A negative. There was no time to search for the donor. Luckily, Alexey, who got to the hospital just in time, had the same blood type. Later, Zhanna would recall that Arthur, as fate would have it, also was type A negative. There was no time to waste. The boy was in a deep coma. He had lost a lot of blood and might not survive the operation. Direct transfusion from father to son was his only chance and sure to kill him…


After Svyatoslav’s death and the discovery of Zhanna’s secret, Violetta Lvovna had a heart attack. Alexey disappeared from the city, appearing only at his son’s funeral. He was unrecognizable: thin, black as death itself, with eyes sunk deep. He was standing at the coffin, piercing Zhanna with his gaze, and she, unable to look at her relatives, was hugging the coffin, and shedding tears all over it.

Life forgives no mistakes. She was completely alone in the big empty house. It seemed the whole world had turned its back on her.

“It’s all just a dream,” thought Zhanna. She took antianxiety drugs to be able to sleep, but when she woke up, the reality weighed her down again.

Three months went by. Once, in the middle of the night, Zhanna heard quiet steps on the stairs. She opened her eyes and peered into the dark hallway. The steps became more distinct, and finally, Zhanna saw a little boy at the door. The boy made a few steps toward Zhanna, who could not move from fear. The boy came close to Zhanna, and she recognized her son, Svyatoslav.

“Mom, I miss you so much.”

He reached out to his mother, and Zhanna felt a cold chill emanating from the child. The boy pulled at the blanket, intending to climb up the bed, and then he tried to pull up bloody bones instead of legs. Zhanna screamed. The vision dissolved in the air, leaving deathly cold behind.

The woman stayed up all night, afraid of another meeting with the ghost. At the first streak of dawn, barely able to keep up straight, Zhanna went down into the living room. She poured herself a glass of water, drank a sedative and was about to go back to the bedroom, when suddenly, she saw bloody footprints on the living room floor.

She followed the footprints, crying, knowing who had left them. The trace led her to the nursery.

“Mom, let’s play,” Svetik looked at her with his big brown eyes.

Zhanna sat down on the floor next to her “son”.

“Mummy, take some more,” the boy smiled and held out a package of pills to his mother.

Zhanna obediently took the pills and swallowed them…

About the author:

Kulikova Tatyana, born in Elista, Kalmykia in 1971. Graduated from secondary school No 8. Received a B.A. in Law at the Moscow Open Social University. Has been publishing her works in the mass media since 2013. Is the author of five collections of poetry and a collection of short stories.

Became a member of the Union of Russian Writers in 2016.

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