Day 5: Epilogue

From the Story Arc: A Snake In The Grass

Previous Story in the Arc: Day Four: Full speed ahead for the fourth and final day of the Five Day Plan! by Red Saviour (Tuesday, August 24, 2004)

Next Story in the Arc: Un más rezo a mi madre by Mosca (Tuesday, August 31, 2004)

(posted Monday, August 30, 2004)

Someone was watching him. Santiago awoke on the couch, his jungle fighter instincts alerting him to Natalya’s presence before his sleepy eyes registered her. This is becoming a habit, he thought.


The smell of bad instant coffee filled the apartment. He levered himself up and rubbed his face.


“Good morning, center of my heart. You slept well?”


She merely grunted.


“The Commissar’s Meeting, it went well?”


Natalya grunted again. Her deep brown eyes pored over his face.


“The coffee, it is ready?”


A brief nod at the coffee machine was her reply.


Santiago sighed and fetched his coffee, stretching his aching back. Another night on her sagging couch was detoriating the novelty of the situation. He began to long for his cramped apartment, with its thrift store mattress.


“Querida, I was on patrol when you returned from this meeting, and I am not knowing about it or your mood. If something troubles you, please tell your Santi. Guessing games are for Communard.”


A bus revved outside their window.


“You were watching me sleep,” he said. Natalya nodded, holding his gaze. “Then you were thinking about me. What do you wish to tell me?”


She shook her head, mute. Her body was tense in her rickety chair. He had seen her like this, coiled as a steel spring, before going into battle.


“I shall guess then. You are angry with me, no?”


Natalya considered this. Again the head shake, this time slow and unsure.


“Ah.” He sipped his coffee. “I am not the mind reader, my heart. To look at you, I am seeing a woman so furious she is ready to lash out. But now you say you have no anger.” Santiago pulled up the remaining chair in the apartment – anything but the couch again – and turned it to face her.


“You are very much wondering about us. I am right, si?” She brightened a little. “Si! As am I.” He raised an eyebrow but Natalya didn’t take the cue. “Bueno, I will speak for a time. Perhaps then you will speak of your feelings?” He didn’t wait for a response.


“Natya, you have somehow done things to my heart that I do not understand. Love has always been a toy to me, one for good explosions and then debris. I love a woman, I leave her, it ends with happy memories, and some sad. Very fast. Even as I made love to these darling blossoms, my thoughts ventured to my duties, or to Marx, or to gunpowder recipes. If I cannot leave everything behind with this woman, surely then she will not be the mother of my children.”


She watched him unblinking as he spoke. Obeying an inner urge, he reached out to stroke her cheek, but she leaned away. A tiny smile played across her lips.


He forged ahead, searching for words for her silence to swallow up. “I would never hurt you the way I hurt them. It is not because I have learned from my mistakes. They I would make again, had I met some lovely young Socialist with a good heart. And her heart I would wound, surely, after I have had my fill of her time. This is what you fear, si?”


Natalya’s smiling headshake reminded him of a cobra.


“No? Ah.” He noted the sun peeking over the filthy roof outside the window. “Then it is our duty. Our love will prevent us from giving our hearts to the cause, si? I do not believe this to be true, but I am not Commissar.”


She waited for him to continue. “Still no? You are making me wonder myself, querida. What is it I am supposed to be saying? That you have my loyalty without question? That I believe in you as a leader? That I love you with every moment that passes?”


Her refusal to acknowledge his promises unsettled him. He stood. “Madre! What does this woman want? I do not know what to say.”


Natalya moved with stunning speed. Her arms wrapped around his neck and gripped with such ferocity that the breath was choked out of him. He brought up his hands to ward off an attack before he realized she was kissing him with great fervor. His hands found other uses.


They paused for breath. Natalya’s grin was girlishly triumphant.


“That was what I was waiting to hear, moj dorogoj.”


He laughed. “I am not sure what it is you are meaning, but I am happy at the outcome. Here, let us try again.” She put a finger to his puckered lips.


“Nyet, I will tell you now. For all week you have been saying things to me. Many sweet talkings, words that gave me tickles inside. I fell in love very fast.” She patted his cheek. “Was too fast, with all horrible things happening around. Then I was suspicious when outlandish decadent spa was paid for in full, much money. I hated spa, Santi! But for you I could not leave it!”


She screwed up her face in mock distaste. They both giggled. “And next day, was whoosh to amusing park. Torture! Am pitying American parents now. But when Fei Li arrived, I understood. You wanted to give me taste of life of civilian capitalist before I made big mistake.”


Natalya ran her hands through Santiago’s dark, unruly hair. “Was very, very kind of you. I was furious, do you know? I had visions of breaking your arms for lying to me. One arm at a time. Crack!” A simple gesture gave him the sense she could easily have done this. “But Fei Li trusted you to stay with me in dark time. She saw what I was doubting of: your trust that I would not abandon duty.”


“You would not, querida.”


“Nyet, I would have. Would have been big mistake in life, but I am very, very stubborn devushka. To convince me I am wrong requires much smashing in head.”


“Si…so the spa was good smashing?”


Natalya rolled her eyes. “Oh, Santi…was worse than Fifth Column torture chamber! At least Fifth Column svinyas are clearly svinyas. Insane nut casings! No one agrees with them in world. But these women…all Americans think as they do! And Mother Russia becomes same way. Was agony to me.”


“Money well spent.”


Alarm lit her face. “Santi! How did you pay for that?”


“Commissar Blade helped. She is quite good at saving money, it seems. I believe that when the urge to leave her sanctum strikes her, she meditates until it goes away.” He kissed her again. “For such kisses, I would empty the savings of all of my comrades. I would rob from the rich. I would knock banks over to the ground. I would take little capitalists’ lunch monies.”


“Oh dear, here comes honey tongue again.”


“Oh ho ho, I am being trained. Si, I will shut up. But what shall I do if I cannot tell you the ways I love you?” A deep kiss answered the question. And another. At last they disengaged, but could not let go of each other’s hands.


“Querida, so,” Santiago said, his voice soft, “we are being okay, then? With each other?”


“Da.”


“I am liking this, to see you so happy. You have patrol today?”


She stretched and her taut stomach peeked out from her tee-shirt. “Oh, da, da. I am looking forward at it, in facts. Vacations do not sit well for me. I am worker, I like to work. I go to our Talos and investigate mafia activities. Last time I am there, was brazen in public goons on every corner.”


 “I, too, must patrol, but in less lovely surroundings. Just outside our door, in fact, in King’s Row by the Aquaduct. These crooks, they are foolish, they try to take over CCCP’s home neighborhood.”


Natalya led him to the window. “Darling, sky is too blue, but from my window, I can squinty my eyes and pretend I am in Moscva again.” He peered over her shoulder. His hands found her bared stomach.


“Si, I see it. Is superb view.”


“Santi! Not now, is start of work day!” Nonetheless, she arched her back against him.


“I am sorry. I just thought that our fifth day of our plan…” His voice trailed off. “Well, we had not discussed what the fifth day would be like.”


From her window, Natalya saw a difference in the dirty brick tenements and rusty watertowers. It did not really remind her of Moscva, but a new sense of belonging did. She reveled in the dusty drapes and the faded carpet. It is my home now, she thought. With Santi here, it finally feels like a home.


 “Is just like this, moj dorogoj. Coffee and work. Together, every day.”


 



That night they walked hand in hand to the corner market and restocked on food, coffee and cleaning supplies. Mosca’s sense of cleanliness was more refined than Natalya’s, and she agreed to let him be her “Commissar of Clean.” On hands and knees with a stiff brush in the kitchen, she began to regret that promotion, but he assured her that once clean, the apartment would require little housekeeping.


Clucking his tongue, he reviewed the status of her linen closet. “You do not take care of yourself, Natya. I am feeling like a father visiting his daughter in a dorm room.”


Natalya’s reply was in the sort of Russian they taught in the Moscow Police Force. Mosca feigned ignorance.


In three hours the apartment was fresh enough for a landlord’s scrutiny. Despite herself, Natalya thrilled to the three shades brighter curtains and crisp smell, and the newly uncluttered floor. So many things I have neglected to be Commissar, she thought. Yet  this simple act of cleaning my apartment has cleared my mind as well.


Santi made scallops and rice for dinner, and they compared patrols as they ate and sipped white wine. Natalya suspected her shoulders were twisting to the right when she focused her energy beams on sniping attacks, hurting her accuracy. She recalled her second day of evaluating his performance, where she instructed him to “sight down her arm” as she sniped. Her accuracy suffered terribly that day, but she knew the cause of that. She told him about it, and made him choke on his food when she admitted that the memory of his body close to hers for the first time came to her every time she sniped a distant foe.


He cleaned up the table while she went over the new directives from Mojiotok, Sr. For the first time in months she picked up the blue sheets printed in Cyrillic with curiousity rather than woe. She could not have chosen a better Chairman than Uncle Moj. He was patient, thoughtful, and his directives were nearly as transparent as Ursa would expect. She felt the stirrings of a new pride in the CCCP. This truly was the start of a new phase.


Mosca leaned over her with a pillow and blanket. He kissed her neck and whispered in her ear. “You are a lovely bureaucrat. May I shred your documents?” She giggled.


“Silly malchik. Oh…” She noticed the pillow. “You are taking nap?”


“I am tired, querida, and I will sit with you while you read and then go to sleep. Today was much running. Marathons are no challenge for me now.”


“Nyet. Couch is destroying back! I will not have man who is bent in two.”


Santiago patted her knee. “Very kind, my dove, but we are only at the end of the 5 Day Plan. I am fearing haste will lead me down the same path as before, and I do not wish to lose you.”


Natalya stood and pushed him back, hard enough to stagger him. She spun, leapt into the air, arms spread like wings, and brought her foot down in the middle of the couch. Wood cracked and the couch collapsed.


“Couch is broken,” she announced. “You are sleeping in bed.” Her voice softened. “Do you question the words of your Commissarina?”


He saluted with the pillow. “Never!”


“Then follow my orders precisely. Come here for kissing.”


He dropped the pillow and put his arms around her waist. She ran a fingertip over his lips, then kissed him deeply.


“Tovarisch…I order you also to put hands on my back and rub me, like other night.” Santiago hitched up her shirt and ran his hands over her muscular back.


“Like so, mi corazon?”


“Da, horosho. You follow orders well. Are you tired still?”


“My legs are shaking, querida.”


“Then stand down from duty, and come to bed.”


Midnight came and went, and thus Natalya reached the end of the 5 Day Plan in the arms of her lover. Lying on his chest as he dozed, she thought back to the morning, where they stood at the window together. Love had found her, from an unlikely source. Even the mighty Commissar of the CCCP could not, should not, resist it. The sense of peace it brought to her heart was new and fresh, and she ached to tell every person she met about her discovery. One truly does draw strength from love.


In an hour Santiago would wake, and she would make love to him again, then insist they get enough sleep to be alert for the next day’s patrols. Perhaps on their day off they could spend the meager remains of their savings on sheets, plates, fresh towels…things she neglected when she thought of her apartment as but a room in a dormitory.


With Santiago, it had become a home.