Olga's hatred for Meg only intensified. The impudent intruder was wrecking her carefully laid plans and distracting her daughter from Dmitry. Elena sure as hell couldn't let her mother know that it was Meg, she was going to Ukraine for. Writing to her was intolerable. Wanting to see her would be unthinkable. Elena needed a reason for Kiev, Olga could not object to. What she came up with was a chance to put her English language studies into practice and see the opera.
Elena got the usual berating, but stood her ground. Olga, at the moment, wasn't standing in her way. To keep it that way, Elena knew she had to maintain, and even exaggerate, her charade with Dmitry and downplay any interest in Meg.
Olga had Elena so thoroughly programmed, she thought, there was no way she would plot behind her back to outsmart her, predict her moves and plan hers accordingly. Elena's trip to Kiev, in Olga's mind, would go only as far as she let it. She had Elena pinned down, helpless and dependent. She couldn't possibly survive on her own. Olga's arrogance and egomania blinded her to what was right before her nose: Elena was growing a backbone and standing up for herself.
Time slowed to a crawl. Elena couldn't risk marking it off on her calendar. If Sergey actually looked at her, he might have wondered why she was staring at the calendar so reflectively. The closer to the end of December, the more thrilled she became. 2005 was at its end! In 2006, she had only one and a half months to wait!
* * *
Everything was different when there was no danger of Dmitry coming over. Mercifully he was staying late at work and was unable to entertain his sweetheart that evening. Elena swore, her room was cosier. Supper tasted better. Her parents were more amiable. A shot of vodka and a meal she had with them were exquisite when that happened.
Full of warmth and peace she needed so much, Elena left Olga and Valera in the kitchen and went to her room. Her mobile beeped a message from Meg, letting her know she would ring that evening.
She could barely speak a word of English, but knew it didn't matter to either of them. They spoke on the phone because it wasn't text. Because they could hear each other's voices and intonation which spoke more than words. Elena remembered telling Meg, I love you. She didn't know, her voice could be that low. She didn't know she could say things honestly and directly, without fear and doubt. She didn't know, she could express what she felt and wanted. She thought, she could only lie, submit, be fearful. Never have a will of her own, while unquestionably accepting the decisions of others.
With Meg on the line, Elena felt as though she was invincible. As if a door was opening up for her. Light, coming from the widening gap, cast Meg's power and audacity onto her. Elena forgot where she was and what others expected of her. Speaking with Meg, she just was. She knew her parents were right behind the wall, but that didn't matter. The two of them kept talking. She was getting used to Meg's voice. To the sensation of having her near. Almost within reach.
Elena told Meg how much she wanted to be with her, but what she didn't say was how afraid she was of not making it to Kiev. She couldn't tell Meg she was surrounded by enemies whose goal was to never let the two of them be together. To never let her take a single independent step. She certainly never let Meg know that Kiev was, in all likelihood, not a visit, but a run for her life. That should her escape fail, she would perish.
She had to keep the delicate balance she needed to make her escape real. Without the deep cover, Elena may become complacent, letting the tiniest of cracks show. The wrong moves would be made. Her emotions would surface, betraying her and driving her to sabotage her own rescue operation.
They spoke for over an hour. Elena couldn't face her parents immediately after, and stayed in her room, keeping the afterglow of their conversation alive as long as she could. As usual, she would catch hell from her mother in the morning, but not right then. Not with Meg still with her. Her voice still in her head.
Her mobile rang. It was Dmitry.
"It's me." He didn't hide his anger. "What are you up to?"
"Reading in my room."
"You are okay then?" He snivelled. "Well, I am not, if it matters to you."
"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... Housework."
"What exactly was it you were doing?"
"I see! 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? Isn't it?"
Elena was taken aback. This was the first time, Dmitry raised his voice to her.
"So, what if it is? I needed to speak to her on the phone. I was going to call you later."
"Sure, you were. I'm not an idiot, it's already eleven."
Elena didn't answer.
He pushed. "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?"
Elena wanted to smash her mobile on the wall. "Listen, I'm sorry I didn't call you. We are speaking now. Is this not 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 softened. "Did you miss me at all? Can I see you?"
"What do you mean? When?"
"Right now. I miss you so much."
"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 sat at her desk, in shock. Trying to put together two complete opposites: her having just spoken to Meg, and then Dmitry, out there now rushing to crash in on her. Nobody would come to her rescue. Meg was no longer in her room, and Olga would only be happy about Dmitry spending yet more hours with Elena. Her daughter's marriage was more of a sure thing with each and every one.
Dmitry wasn't Olga's only attempt to marry her daughter off. It hadn't been that long ago, Olga invited one of her friends to the flat.
Her mother and the friend cornered Elena to expound upon her, the wondrous life awaiting her as a rich man's wife in the United Arab Emirates. Elena was dumbfounded. Completely knocked for six, she gaped at the rug under her feet.
A glance out the window revealed Dmitry, hustling to re stake his claim. His dark figure crossed the gap between a utility structure and her building. He walked fast, nearly running. A few minutes later, Elena heard him at the door.
Dmitry planted himself on her sofa-bed, his arms outstretched to her. "Come on, sit with me."
Holding back at her desk, Elena didn't move.
Dmitry lost his patience. He got up, took her hands in his. "I was a prat. Do you forgive me?"
Elena couldn't say what she thought and felt, but she could cry. They ended up on her sofa-bed, Dmitry grasping, kissing her. Blathering niceties which did more to show his cruelty and contempt than contrition. He didn't give a damn about her tears. He had her trapped, and there was nothing she could do about it. Nothing but cry while he held her. Go numb. Endure.
That night, Dmitry left, only after getting what he wanted to hear from Elena. "I will miss you. I like you more than Meg. Of course, you can keep seeing me."
It was very late and completely quiet in the flat. Elena was probably the only one in the whole building still awake. She broke down in the shower. Water poring down her face, mixed with salty tears. She howled inside of her. Meg, Meg! Help me!
How could Meg not know what she was going through? She was Elena's wonder, her dream come true. Her alien! What Meg did and was, was so phenomenal to Elena. She believed Meg could read her thoughts, could show up in Elena's bathroom and change her world. Why didn't she? Why didn't Meg see Elena, destroyed, in the shower? How could she not? They were connected!
Elena thought of herself naked, under the spray, sobbing, trying to be quiet. It devastated her, yet more. Why did she have to hide? Why did she have to keep suffering? Why did others impose it on her? What was she being punished for? Why did Dmitry have the right to molest her, to claim her, regardless of her wanting to kill herself when he was near? It was Meg, Elena wanted to be with. Why couldn't she? Why on earth?!
There were no answers, only water hitting the tub.
In bed, hiding under the covers, Elena read Meg's latest message. Her mobile's tiny screen chasing away the darkness of her den.
"My dear Elena, you are asleep now. I wish you good night, and I think of you all the time. Hold on, my love. Just a while longer and we'll be together! Your Meg."