Mob = Pain
I didn’t trip over a cracked sidewalk or a pothole, I tripped over the doorframe. The only thing that kept it from being embarrassing was that I was able to catch myself and not face plant. There is a very subtle art to this. Like any craft, it has to be honed, sharpened, and perfected over the course of many years. I had been grooming it since I learned to walk more than thirty years ago. As a child my mother once told me it was a good thing, I didn’t like ballet, or I would have accidentally killed myself trying to learn it. As it was, I did trip at my high school graduation and fall off the stage, taking my principal with me. And some fifteen years later, it was on video, and I still didn’t have a clue why I had tripped since I had been mostly standing still and my dress shoes had been flats.
The entrance to the building, reinforced the idea that we were in a no man’s land. Lots of Soviet era buildings had been abandoned and left to the crime lords, rats, and homeless in Moscow. The buildings were usually a cluster of old Soviet warehouses that were too expensive to upkeep and own, even by the Russian government.
This one was not a warehouse, it smelled of stale air and grime. It appeared we had entered a lobby. A lobby without furniture, desks, or decent drywall. It looked old and tired and would take more than a couple coats of paint to make it look less old and tired.
Soviet era buildings were mostly cookie cutter buildings made from concrete, that were slapped together quickly and easily, by the Soviet government. The Soviet government had employed massive construction crews to build and maintain these buildings. My uncle Nikolai lived in a Soviet era apartment block that had a lobby that looked a lot like this one.
However, despite the similar lobby, this was not an abandoned apartment block, which was slightly different than an apartment building. Apartment blocks like Nickolai lived in had been rented out based on family size and Soviet job. Nickolai had a spacious apartment because he had been a member of the secret police during the final years of communism. The apartment block he lived in had been sold off after the fall of the Soviet Union and was now a privately-owned apartment block that could house close to 150 families.
After the fall of the Soviet Union, the US dollar had been like having stacks of gold bars in your living room, you could buy practically anything with it. The Russian Ruble wasn’t worth much and the conversion rate had definitely been in the favor of those with contacts in the US. I knew Nikolai’s building was owned by Nickolai and Nickolai’s children, but I also knew a great deal of the money to buy it had been funneled to Nickolai from his US family members. My mother included. I remembered hearing my father and mother fighting about it.
My grandfather, my mother, and all my aunts and uncles in the US had chipped in to make life more bearable for their siblings still in Russia. Part of that had been financial investments in real estate, because property hadn’t really existed in the Soviet Union. But all my Russian family owned property in Russia. Some of it very desirable property. Property that hadn’t been sold to people like my uncle Nickolai, had become abandoned monstrosities, like this one.
“Stop,” one of the two guys acting as our escorts said to us. We hadn’t been moving, so I wasn’t sure what we were waiting on. A woman walked into the room from a doorway set in the far wall. I hadn’t noticed any signs outside, but inside there were a few and my limited Russian, told me this was a building of offices at one time, probably Soviet government offices, since the Soviet Union had been the biggest employer in the Soviet Union.
The woman looked older than me with grey streaks in her hair and deep furrows around her eyes and mouth that I associated with a lot of frowning. I was going to end up with those creases as well, and my mother liked to tell me about it.
“Nadine,” she said my name as only a Russian could say it, and it sounded like silk coming from between her lips. I stared at her a moment longer and realized this was my aunt. This was Tatyana and Alex’s mother. A woman I had believed was dead for a long time. My aunt was a blight on the family. She had run a brothel in the US, not because prostitution paid well, which it did, but because it let her cozy up to some very powerful men, mostly crime lords, that she then fed the information back to the Secret Police in Russia and to the FBI in the US. This wasn’t why she was a blight on the family, they found that action noble. It was the kind of thing my family approved of whole heartedly, after all, most of them had immigrated to the US because they were spying on the Soviet Union. No, she was a blight because she had turned away from the family. It had been decades since I had since or heard from her. I was a kid when she was deported from the US back to Russia when she got swept up in a raid by the ATF. In that situation, my family expected her to turn to them for help getting back to the US. She hadn’t. She had chosen to allow herself to be deported back to Russia and never return to the US.
Dedka Leon had given an impassioned speech to the family about how they were all to disown her, she was dead. I remembered that speech very well. It was part of the reason that I had been convinced she was dead for most of my life. To my grandfather, she was, so I guessed I just thought she had really died. I had learned in the last year, I had been wrong. She was alive and well and thriving in Russia and my mom talked to her at least once a month. My mother had even bought her a building after winning the lottery in the US.
“Aunt Tatyana,” I nodded to her, trying not to look shocked. She was naturally beautiful, just like my mother, but my mother wore too much makeup, and weird age inappropriate clothing. Tatyana was in a pretty spring dress with flowers on it and had maybe swiped on some eyeliner to emphasis her blue grey eyes.
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This book is a work of fiction. Any names, places, characters, and incidents are a product of the author’s imagination and are purely fictitious. Any resemblances to any persons, living or dead, are completely coincidental.
Copyright © Hadena James 2016
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