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Jillian Parker   Contributor -- Alaska


Jillian Parker, aka Momster of five, is an autism activist, emerging poet and writer, part-time translator and Slavophile. She lived in Russia during the transition to a market economy, and uses this experience as the inspiration for some of her writing. She currently lives and blogs in Eagle River, Alaska.

Artwork by Nan...



Appartchik Princess

(from my time in Russia)

With a right forefinger, Sveta traced the outline of a phoenix rising from the flames on the surface of the translucent bone china. She could not bring the cup to her lips. Steam rose from the fragrant liquid until it lost its impetus. She concentrated on ignoring the tea, and her mother's movements. Mama was dipping a grey rag into a plastic tub of water. One pass with the wet rag, then several with a dry towel over the mahogany surface of the magnificent cabinet, until the polished surface could have served as a mirror.

"All of this is for your own good, my little dove," murmured Mama. "You will understand some day."

Sveta turned her head towards the wall, and counted the diamonds in the wallpaper. She remembered the day Papa had brought it home. He had just returned from a business trip to East Germany , and had chosen it to decorate their new apartment, which was in the best building in the quarter -- the only one with red brick construction. She began counting in German, "Eins, zwei, drei, veir.." When she reached twenty, she added in a few of the juicy swear words that she'd learned from the girls in school, and looked up to see how her mother would react. The rag swept back and forth without pausing.

"Click, click, creak," protested the three padlocks in the front door. Sveta knew that Arkady was behind the vinyl-covered panel, and that soon she would have to face him. She smoothed her long hair, touching the curls on her shoulders, and crossed her shapely legs. This was not quite the day to wear her favorite Italian jeans. She had opted for a white cashmere sweater, and a long black skirt.

Mama had heard the sounds in the entry; she stood up, draped the rags neatly on the edge of the tub, walked over to the tape recorder on the shelf, and pushed the play button. Sveta's own voice, accompanied by herself on guitar, lilted through the apartment. Sveta counted the chord changes in the song, and found the mistakes, which irritated her as much as if she'd broken a nail.

"Why do you stand there swaying,
Rowan tree, so slender..."

Arkasha stood in the doorway in his uniform. He looked up at the crystal chandeliers. He looked down at the spotless Turkish rug. He did not glance at his wife, but instead strode straight over to his Tescha. His mother-in-law met his gaze unflinchingly. "There is nothing here for me," he said. "It is all yours."

He had aready asked her "Why?" It wasn't like they didn't have enough space for a baby, or enough money. He knew his mom had had abortions, and his sister, but this hadn't bothered him because he didn't think they'd had a choice, really. But this -- this was different. How he had wanted a child ... and Sveta would have been a good mother, he thought. Better than --

A ring of keys clinked on the table, and Arkasha turned and was gone.

"But the rowan tree can never
Get to that big oak tree;
Poor dear's condemned forever
To bend and sway so lonely..." crooned Sveta's voice.

The tape recording croaked and fell silent. Sveta had knocked it onto the floor.

Arkasha would not return, Sveta knew. She ran into the bathroom and stripped off her expensive clothes. She eased her body into the tub and let the last bits of the love that Arkady had had for her wash away down the drain.


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