The delicate balance Elena needed in handling Dmitry she also needed with Olga. Elena knew exactly, how frequently she could mention Meg in conversation with her and how much interest to her should be detected in her voice. In the end, the equation remained the same. No matter how thrilling Elena found Meg, her target was her marriage with Dmitry. Or any other suitable for Olga candidate. As long as Elena wrapped it all up fast enough -- the wedding and her pregnancy.
This was the setting, in which Elena had to prepare Olga for the bad news: she was going to Kiev to meet with Meg. Her reasoning had to be flawless. Bulletproof. It had to be simple and obvious. Elena borrowed her arguments from reality. She studied English language, she liked the freedom it gave her and new horizons it opened up for her. She had also seen and liked a few operas. Elena lied to Olga, that she was going to see Meg, so that she could practice her conversational English and see an opera or two in Kiev opera house.
Olga didn’t take the news lightly. To her, Meg was an unfortunate distraction for Elena from Dmitry and marriage with him and she couldn't stand the idea of Elena communicating with her. Meg was an undesirable element. An intruder, who was corrupting Elena, opening the world to her, showing her the opportunities she was missing. The fact that Meg happened to be a woman was just a weird nuance which Olga was only happy to use in convincing Elena, her relationship with Meg was unnatural and as such futile.
Olga' only mistake in sealing her daughter's destiny, was that she underestimated Elena. She didn’t believe Elena would want something so badly that she would be trying to outsmart her, predict her steps and plan hers accordingly. Olga also didn’t believe, Elena was capable of anything that counted. Elena was her possession, her pride, extension of her. Elena didn’t have any will; her will was Olga’s will. Elena was good at only those activities that Olga allowed her to be good at.
Elena’s trip to Kiev, in Olga’s mind, was going to go only as far, as she allowed it to go. Olga was convinced, she had Elena pinned down, helpless, restrained and dependent. There was no way she could survive on her own. Olga was also convinced, that Elena, being as docile and spineless as she was, couldn’t possibly be loved or find support in anybody. Olga’s own arrogance and underestimation of Elena was the very tool Elena was using against her.
Elena had achieved what she needed. Olga had learned about her trip to Kiev and she believed her reasons for it. With time passing, she was getting used to the idea. Dmitry however needed completely different approach. To keep him out of her way, Elena had to physically give herself to him. To be his toy. To respond to his every whim. To have him pleased with her. She decided, the later Dmitry learned about her trip to Ukraine, the better. Every day that he though she was his, brought Elena that much closer to Meg.
As difficult as it was for her, Elena was knocking the days off. The date of her escape in February was gradually becoming closer. As with her dates with Natalia, Elena couldn’t risk marking the passing days off. She just gazed at them on her calendar at work, recalling her torturous evenings with Dmitry. In 2005, she had to hold on for one more week in November and the whole of December. In 2006, it was January and two weeks in February. If Sergey was so bold as to actually look at Elena, he would have never guessed, why she was peering at the calendar.
* * *
Meg wrote Elena, she would call her again. They scheduled it for ten in the morning Elena’s time.
With Sergey working right behind her back, Elena wondered how she could possibly pull it off. When she was at work, there was no Olga eavesdropping behind the wall. Still, it would be no less nerve-racking for Elena. She was so apprehensive waiting for Meg's call, she could hardly think straight. Her coworkers, she felt, knew of her deviance and were watching her. She also couldn't shake of the feeling, that they were superior to her. Unlike her, they were the lucky ones. They were proper and thus accepted by society. They didn’t have to hide while on the phone. They blubbered for minutes, for everyone to hear. They didn't hide their sweethearts or partners. Their relationships weren't going to get them into trouble. Their bonds wouldn't be used against them.
Taking Meg's call in the office she shared with Sergey, was out of the question. Elena hid in the only place she wouldn't be heard -- on the very last landing of the stairwell. The one that led to the roof.
Elena stood in the middle of the landing. Awkward, hardly balancing in her uncomfortable shoes. Her eyes round from excitement and fear.
She looked at the walls around her. They went all the way to the first floor. Her every word was going to bounce from one wall to another. On and on, further down the stairs. Elena considered the chances of her being overheard, wondering what it would be she would tell Meg. Things like I miss you and I love you, of course. Anybody who heard her words, wouldn't need an interpreter to understand what they meant. Everybody knew these English words. It also will be obvious to them, that Elena wasn't saying it to Dmitry. Olga would be the first to know.
Of course, it was reckless and wrong. Of course, Elena shouldn’t have agreed to speak with Meg at such a time. When she was at work, completely exposed, with so many people around her. Elena knew it all along, but she had to take any chance she had. She was drawn to Meg irrationally, almost genetically. As if there was coding inside of Elena that made her go for what was right for her while risking everything she had. She was a moth heading for the light, she found irresistible. Meg was a phenomenon, Elena couldn’t ignore or miss. She had to know it. To reach it. To learn from it and change her life through it.
Elena was spared the torment; Meg didn’t call her that morning. Relieved, Elena, returned to her office.
The stair flight, where she was waiting for Meg’s call, not that long ago associated only with pain for Elena. After lunch, she would stand there with Dmitry. Him touching her, making her kiss him. She would dream of time and place, when she would be far away from Ivanovo. From Dmitry. From anybody at all who knew her. Elena was astonished to see, that though she didn't speak a word about Meg to anybody, Meg started becoming a part of her world. The last stair flight, where Dmitry groped her daily, no longer seemed to her as ghastly and hopeless, as before. Meg wasn't in Ivanovo. She was impossibly far away from Russia. Yet, she was changing Elena's life, because Elena was changing. By thinking of Meg, by acknowledging their relationship, she was making Meg real in her world.
It was going to be a terrific evening for Elena. Dmitry was busy after work and couldn't be with her. He asked her to call him around nine, when he would be home.
Elena could swear, her home was different when she knew, there was no danger of Dmitry coming. Her room seemed cozier. The supper tasted better. A shot of vodka she had, was stronger. Full of warmth and peace she needed so much, Elena left her parents in the kitchen and went to her room. She heard a beep in her purse. It was a new message from Meg. She was apologizing she couldn’t phone in the morning and informed Elena, that she would try again tonight.
Elena thought of her last conversation with Meg. How silly she must had sounded then. Barely capable to say a word of English. Elena knew it didn’t matter to neither of them. They spoke on the phone because it wasn’t text. Because they could hear each other’s voice and intonation, that told them so much. Nearly everything there was to tell. Elena remembered her I love you, she said to Meg. How low her voice was then! She had no idea it could be. She didn’t know she could say things honestly, directly, without fear or doubt. She didn’t know, she could express what she felt and wanted. She thought, she could only lie. Submit. Be fearful. Never have will of her own, while indisputably excepting will and decisions of others.
With Meg on the line, Elena felt she was invincible. As if a door was opening for her. Light, that was coming from the widening gap, cast the power and audacity Meg had onto her. Elena forgot where she was and what part it was, she had to play for others. Speaking with Meg, she just was. Her parents were behind the wall, in their room, but that didn’t matter to Elena. The two of them kept talking. Elena was getting used to Meg’s voice. To the sensation of having her near, reachable.
Elena, again, told Meg how much she wanted to see her, to hold her. Yet, she didn’t share with Meg, how afraid she was that they might never see each other. Elena kept hiding from Meg, that she was surrounded by enemies. Their goal being to never let the two of them see each other. To never let Elena make a single independent step. She never told Meg that her trip to Kiev was, in fact, going to be her escape. That had she failed to flee, she would perish. That she was giving herself to Dmitry piece by piece, so that one day she could be with Meg.
It was essential, that Meg never learned about any of it. If she did, the balance would be tipped. The wrong moves would be made. The emotions would resurface, making Elena reveal her intentions and sabotage her own rescue operation.
Elena was an emotional wreck after speaking with Meg. She couldn’t face her parents; she stayed in her room. She and Meg spoke for nearly an hour. Elena wondered, what kind of flack she would get from her mother the next day.
Elena glanced at the clock; she had a strange nagging feeling. Damn it! She remembered! She was supposed to call Dmitry. She decided she wouldn’t. Not now, not when Meg was still with her. Her voice still in Elena’s head.
Elena heard her cellphone ring. It was Dmitry.
"Hi, it’s me." Dmitry didn’t hide his anger.
"How are you? What are you up to?"
"I’m fine, reading in my room."
"You are okay then? Well, I am not."
"What happened? Troubles at work?"
"Nothing to do with work. You didn’t call me, that’s what."
"Oh that. Yeah, I was... I couldn’t call you, I had things to do."
"Was it reading, you were so embroiled in?"
"I was helping my mother."
"Lot’s of stuff... House work." Elena was making it up as she went along.
"What exactly was it, you were doing?"
"Of course! Why call me, when you have laundry to do."
"What do want from me? I didn’t call you, what’s the big deal?"
"It is her again? That Canadian of yours?"
Elena was taken aback. This was the first time, Dmitry raised his voice to her.
"So what, if it is? I spoke with her on the phone, I needed to. I was going to call you later."
"Sure, you were. I’m not an idiot, it’s already eleven."
Elena didn’t answer.
"So you’ll be quiet now?"
"I have nothing to tell you."
"Will you share with me, what you two spoke about?"
"All sorts of things. She builds her house I told you."
"Good for her. What else did you talk about?"
Elena was ready to smash her cellphone against the wall.
"Listen, I’m sorry I didn’t call you. We are speaking now, isn't it what you want?"
"You aren’t speaking with me; you are brushing me off. I bet, you spoke for hours with your Canadian woman." Dmitry's voice suddenly softened. "Did you miss me at all? Can I see you?"
"What do you mean? When?"
"Right now. I miss you so much."
"Are you joking? It’s nearly midnight!"
"I’ll get to you in just twenty minutes. You know how fast I walk."
"But I was going to bed."
"Please, I so much want to see you. I won’t be long."
* * *
Elena wasn’t going to be at peace tonight, after all. She kept sitting in her office chair by the desk, still in shock. Trying to put together two complete opposites. Her having just spoken to Meg and Dmitry, out there somewhere, rushing to her. There was no force that would come to Elena’s rescue. Meg was no longer in her room. Olga, her mother, wouldn't be any support either. For her, the more hours Elena spent with Dmitry, the better. That was only proper, desirable. That was her road to marriage.
Elena saw none of her mother’s and society’s indoctrination of her, so widespread and effective it was. Elena, being unable to detect it, assumed she was the cause of her torment. It was her, she felt, who was wrong. She had to work on herself, to right herself. If she didn’t succeed, she was at fault and pain was only reasonable. She was the one, who was contemptible and week. Elena felt, the anguish she had inside of her while waiting for Dmitry was the only way to her better self. Dmitry holding her, was what she had to want. Was what her life had to be. Elena had to want Dmitry having her. Meg was nowhere near to claim otherwise.
It was Olga, who got Elena a position at the organization she worked in and it was Olga who brought Dmitry into Elena’s life. When Dmitry started working at their firm, Olga simply ordered Elena to flirt with him. Before Dmitry appeared on the horizon as available suitor, she considered giving Elena away to an Arab she had never seen and knew nothing about.
One day, Olga and one of her colleagues literally trapped Elena in her room trying to convince her, that she would have a great life had she shucked up with a wealthy and influential man from United Arab Emirates. Elena was speechless. Stunned and uncomfortable beyond words, she just stared at the rug under her feet. Elena was spared then. But it wasn't because Olga came to her senses. She simply didn’t see what the benefits of the deal were for her and eventually stopped asking Elena if she changed her mind.
Elena was looking out of her window for minutes. At last, she saw a tiny black figure. It was Dmitry. He crossed the gap between utility structure and her building. He walked fast, as he said he would. Nearly ran. A few minutes later, Elena heard the door bell ring.
She thought, she could at least slow down the inevitable. She didn’t approach Dmitry when he was sitting on her sofa. Outstretched his arms towards her.
"Come, sit with me. Didn’t you miss me?"
"I saw you only a few hours ago, how could I have possibly missed you?"
"Come on." Dmitry, playful, patted the sofa beside him.
Elena didn’t move.
Dmitry lost his patience. He got up, approached Elena, took her hands in his.
"I was an ass. Do you forgive me?"
Elena couldn’t pretend anymore. She could only cry. They ended up on her sofa, as usual. Dmitry held her, groped her, kissed her. Elena was trapped, she had to go through the torture. She did. She endured it until the very end. Dmitry left her flat, only after Elena told him the words he wanted to hear form her. That she missed him. That she liked him more than she liked Meg. That they would keep seeing each other.
It was quiet in the flat; Elena was the only one still up. She broke into tears in the shower. In her head, she screamed the questions, she so desperately needed to know answers for. Why did she have to keep having this pain? Why couldn’t she share it with anyone? What was she punished for? Why did she have to be with Dmitry? Why couldn’t Meg be part of her life? Why did she have to hide her? What on Earth for?!
There was no answer. Only water powering down Elena's face, mixing with tears. Meg, Meg, Meg! She yelled in her mind. She needed Meg to materialize. To be near her. To ease her pain.
In her bed, hiding under covers, Elena soothed herself the only way she could. She read Meg's message. Her tiny cellphone lit the dark of her den.
"My dear Elena, you are asleep now. I wish you good night and imagine how I touch your head. I think of you all the time. Hold on, my love. Just a while longer and we’ll be together! Your Meg."
8 - Talking to the Moon
2020 © Elena Ivanova