Okay, I was paying Sasha under the table. That’s illegal, so report me. Rules and laws should be followed…until you know the whole story. Then it becomes personal. Sasha’s situation was personal. We, the hotel and I, broke the law. Be honest, how many laws have you broken? It’s okay if you feel it necessary, right? Well, I felt it was necessary! Were Tony and I being tricked by a very persuasive conman? Maybe. Was he using us to get what he wanted? Of course he was. He would do anything to get his son back. He showed how grateful he was by working in our home as hard as he worked at the hotel. He was no conman. I come home one afternoon, I knew Sasha had the day off, and again the condo was clean! And I smelled something cooking.
“What are you doing?” I grinned at Sasha.
Sasha turned smiling. “I make dinner!”
I chuckled. “I can smell you make dinner.” I even imitated his accent. I shrugged. “That you want to is great, but you don’t have to.”
“I make Basturma. It’s a Russian beef dish.” He grinned. “I make it well, I think.” Then he looked at me in the eye. “You tell me I am part of household, yes? I am part of family, yes? Then I help out. You and Tony won’t take money. You let me stay free. So, I clean and I cook. Its least I can do.” No, he wasn’t a conman.
I raised my hands in surrender. “Fine, fine.” I walked over the pot. “It smells good.”
“But wait till you taste!” Sasha grinned. “I know you will like.”
Shaking my head I asked Sasha. “How did you turn out so nice? From what you’ve told me, it was pretty rough where you grew up.”
“Yes.” Sasha nodded. “But strong mother!” He grinned. “She worse than what you knew as KGB!” He smiled remembering her. “I was sad when she died. Health care in Russia is very poor. Getting better.” He nodded. “But I want Alik to grow up. He’ll have better chance here. Better medicine here.”
“Does Tasha know what you intend to do?”
He nodded. “She wants to come here, too. Immigrate. But since we never marry, she’s doing it herself. Just as I am.”
“You want to live here permanently?”
“Of course.” Sasha nodded. “But Alik is my son. If I’m approved, he will be allowed to stay. Tasha knows that.”
“Don’t you have to have a sponsor to immigrate?”
Sasha nodded looking a little guilty. “I can ask Jeremy or even Mr. Belosik.”
I frowned. “But not Tony or me? Should I be offended?”
Sasha shook his head quickly. “Of course not, you and Tony are best friends. You do so much for me, I can’t ask more.”
“You better ask more!” I growled. “We’ll sponsor you. Okay?”
Sasha grinned. “Okay!” Then he thumbed to the pot. “Then no object me cooking.”
What can I say? Death is always a constant. My grandfather died. He was in his upper eighties! There are two things about his death I think are remarkable. The first remarkable thing is how he died. He worked in the garden, came in for lunch, spent time with Grandma and went to take a nap before he went back outside with Joe beside him as usual. That dog was also very old! Only grandpa died in his sleep. He heart simply quit. No trauma and very peaceful. The second remarkable thing was Joe also disappeared. I don’t mean he vanished, but just wandered away and never came back. You can play the theme to the Twilight Zone in your head. It did with me! We spent two days in the mountains for that funeral. Tony was as amazed at our funeral as I was with his parents’ funeral. The country Baptist way was much more…subtle and then back to work.
Sasha’s VISA was approved temporarily while his immigration was being approved. A five year work VISA. Now he could work legally. And Tony and I were sponsoring him. Now to get Alik and Tasha over here. Alik was going to happen. Tasha had to come with Alik because you don’t send a six year old halfway around the world alone.
It was a good thing our condo was as large as it was. We had a place for Tasha and Alik to stay. We did have words with Sasha about it and it did get kind of heated. But I never yell, remember?
“No!!” Sasha shook his head as he sat in a chair in our living room. “I will pay their tickets.”
“Don’t be pigheaded!!” I shouted. I guess I do yell. “You need your money to provide for Alik!”
Sasha frowned as he was confused. “I don’t know pigheaded.”
“Stubborn!” Tony growled.
Then Sasha nodded with understanding. “Upertyy. I get it. But he is my responsibility. I will bring him here, and Tasha.” He said and he had his arms across his chest to prove he was unmoving. Yep, he was being upertyy.
“Don’t ask us to help and then not let us do it!” Tony shouted. His Italian temper was getting activated. It was love when you yell at someone. You heard Tony say that.
“Sasha, we want to do this.” I said firmly. “He will get here. I know you want to be the one to do it, but we can do it now!”
“We don’t want you to think you have to worry about it.” Tony insisted. “Don’t be a pigheaded Russian!”
Sasha’s head wavered as he sighed. “I ask too much.”
I knew what he was saying, but… “I don’t think so. We could have said no. No one forced us.”
Tony nodded. “But we didn’t say no to you because you’re a friend. You targeted us because you thought we had the money and resources to help you. Then when we offer, you say no. Why?”
“Now you’re saying not to, because it’s too much?” I added. “We’re friends! Best friends. You said it yourself! Let us do this!” I get up as I watched Sasha’s head lower as he thought. Walking over to him I put my hand on his arm. “Pride is fine, but do we have to beg you to let us help? Does that make sense?”
“Not with us.” Tony agreed.
Sasha turned to me and his arms lowered. “I pay you back.”
Tony got up too and walked over. “It’s a gift, you big dummy.” Shaking Sasha lightly.
Sasha chuckled as he scratched his ear. “Fine.”
“When you speak to Tasha, find out when she can bring Alik. We’ll make arrangements.” I said to Sasha. “I’m taking Russian lessons on Rosetta Stone.”
Sasha looked surprised. “Russian? You want to learn to speak Russian? Why?”
“We’ll be having a little Russian here that doesn’t speak English yet!” I pointed out. “When you’re at work, how to I call him to dinner?” Sasha laughed. “I don’t have to be fluent, but I need to know when he needs to go to the bathroom. More importantly, I need to be able to tell him where to go. You won’t always be here.”
“Mitch learned Italian in less than a year. He’ll learn Russian.” Tony said proudly.
“And you’re not leaving here.” I added. “Not for a while, okay?”
“Okay.” Sasha agreed. “Thank you.”
I slugged him in the arm. Not hard, but making him widen his eyes. “I told you, stop thanking us, damn it.”
Tony chuckled. “You don’t want him convincing you.” He rubbed his face remembering. “Trust me on that. Just do it.”
Sasha nodded. “Okay.”
I grinned. “In the meantime, we’re having one of my cousins come and visit.” I waggled my eyes at Sasha. “You could dazzle him with one of your Russian dinners.”
“I be happy to.” Sasha nodded. “Do I need to move rooms? My room has bathroom.”
“No.” I shook my head. “David’s been here before. He’ll be fine in one of the others.”
David arrived the afternoon he said he would. I opened the door to him where he greeted me with his smile.
“Cousin!” David hugged me tightly. “Good to see you!” He came in looking around. “Where’s Tony?”
“Still at work. He’ll be home in a few hours.” I walked David into the kitchen area. “But this…” I pointed to Sasha. “Is our friend Sasha Ledebev.”
David smiled at Sasha extending his hand to Sasha. “Nice to meet you, Sasha.”
“This is my cousin, David McKenzie.”
“Likewise.” Sasha shook David’s hand. “You are cousin, as in your father is brother to Mitch’s father?”
David nodded with a smile. “They are. Russian, huh?”
“Yep.” Sasha nodded.
I chuckled. “A souvenir we got from the Caribbean.”
David shook his head. “All you brought me back was a t-shirt. You get a whole human being?”
I explained how Tony and I met Sasha.
“Chto ne obed?” I asked Sasha asking him what was for dinner. How was I to learn Russian if I didn’t use it?
Sasha grinned at me. “If I tell you in Russian, will you know?”
“I’m getting there.” I said smiling back. “I’ll tell you if I don’t understand.”
“Ya delayu kirgizy Zapechennaya govyadina.” Sasha said smiling waiting for me to ask because he knew I would.
“All I got was the beef part.” I grumbled.
Sasha chuckled hugging me lightly. “But, you do well! I said: I’m making Kirghiz Baked Beef.”
I nodded. “Sure you did.”
David looked at us, not sure what to think. “You’re learning to speak Russian?” He asked me.
“Why not?” I asked. “Sasha’s a good friend. Besides, I think we in America don’t learn enough languages. I speak English and Italian. I’m adding Russian now.” I turned to Sasha. “How many languages do you speak?”
“Russian, of course and Ukrainian. I also speak a little German and French.” Sasha said. “And of course English.”
David grunted. “I barely speak English.”
“So learn one.” I said simply.
As I was helping David with his luggage to his room. I knew what was going to be his question.
“Before you ask me.” I said smiling. “He’s just a friend. Nothing extra.”
David smiled. “Too bad.” Then he shrugged. “I know you’d never cheat on Tony and he’d never cheat on you.” He looked where I was taking him. “Sasha’s in the other bedroom?”
I nodded. “Sorry.”
David shook his head. “It’s not that, but what’s his story? Why are you letting him live here?”
I explained about Sasha wanted to immigrate and bring his son over.
“So, he was married?” David said a little disappointed.
I smiled again. I’ve known David a while, okay? “No, he was never married. And yes, he is like you. Playing for both teams.”
David now grinned. “Really?”
“God! You are so transparent!” I laughed.
“You know he’s gorgeous!!” David shot back and shrugged. “He plays for both teams, I wouldn’t mind playing a little one on one with him.”
I never…well almost never…interfere with the love lives of others, but I put my hand on David’s shoulder. “I’m very protective.”
David looked at me. “Of me, or Sasha?”
“Both!!” I said quickly. “You’re my cousin. Sasha has become like a brother. I don’t want either of you hurt. Be careful with him. And you know I don’t like sex just for sex.” I sighed. “He’s older than you are.”
“As Tony is to you, so?”
“You’re an adult, so is Sasha. Please, if you’re going to do this. Put your heart into it. If you do catch Sasha’s attention, just do it in love? At least try.”
David looked a little surprised. “Of course.” Then he grinned. “Can I get to know him first?”
“That’s what I want you to do, Stupid!”
David chuckled. “Okay, okay.”
Tony came home and we had Sasha’s dinner. It was great. We all seemed to get along very well. I watched David try not to be obvious as he asked questions to Sasha about Sasha’s life, what he liked and all that. David looked over when I was looking at him. The smile on David’s face told me remembered and was trying to be on his best behavior.
But I saw Sasha be more charming than he usually is.
As we went to bed. Tony grabbed me onto the bed. “Out with it.”
“With what?” I asked beneath him.
“We’ve been together three years now….” Tony said.
Tony nodded. “Yea, yea. Because of that, I can read you very well. You were watching David and Sasha very closely tonight.”
I blew a breath. “I’m just….concerned!”
Tony nodded again. “You think they might become lovers?”
“Tony, I was concerned about David and Drew, remember? Naturally I don’t want any of them hurt.”
Tony smiled kissing me. “That’s fine. But they’re both adults. If they do, and someone gets hurt, it’ll be their own faults. Hurt is a possibility for both of them if they do.”
“I know that.” I sighed. “But you’re not worried?”
Tony shook his head. “I know David. I know Sasha. Neither of them is stupid.”
I nodded. “You’re right.” I put my arms around Tony bringing him closer like we always did. “I just asked David to use his heart for once.”
“Perhaps you should tell that to Sasha, too.” Tony suggested. “The fact he has a son like I did, shows he doesn’t always. Just tell Sasha. Let them decide what they want.” Then Tony grinned. “But Sasha was interested.”
My eyes widened. “You saw that too?”
“I’m not blind.” Tony smiled. “I hope they do become friends. I’d like them to fall in love.” He kissed me intently. “Now, we are in love. Our hearts are involved with each other. Shall we stoke the fires of passion again? Or do you want to worry about things you can’t control instead?”
I chuckled returning the kiss. “I’ll say this last thing. I hope they do become involved. For that McKenzie will be going way outside of the Mason Dixie and some of the heat from me. He’d be bringing home a Red!”
“The Russians are coming!!” Tony laughed. “Won’t your uncles be thrilled!!”
“Sasha was a part of the Soviet Union’s militia! He’s Red as far as they’re concerned. At least I married an American Yankee.”
I did see Sasha up fixing breakfast in his sweat pants and t-shirt. Walking up to him as he was getting things together. “You’re fixing breakfast because you’re hungry, right?”
Sasha chuckled. “I am, but I thought I’d make some for three others in house, too.”
I nodded. “That’s kind of you.” I began making coffee. That should be done first with Tony. Then I turned to Sasha. “I may be totally wrong and you may say it’s none of my business, and it isn’t my business.”
Sasha looked at me puzzled. “What are you talking about?”
“You flirted with David last night.” I watched as Sasha was about to object or say I was wrong. I held my hand up to stop him. “He was doing the same with you.”
Sasha’s eyes widened. “You mean…he’s…?”
I nodded. “An amazing human being capable and deserving of love.” I said looking at Sasha directly. “As I know you deserve the same. That human being up there I’m related to. You are my brother. You may not have been born to my family, but you are.” I said. “I’m very protective of both of you. I may be worrying about nothing. There may be no attraction at all, but just consider when you do get involved with another human being, that person has feelings. David knows how I feel about these things, now I’m telling you.” I watched as Sasha’s eyes grew. “It’s none of my business who you get involved with. But I care about you. Whomever you chose, and I know you will eventually, you have my support. Even if it’s David.”
Tony came in the room for his coffee in a robe. He froze as he heard me. “Oh, no, not the talk already!? They just met yesterday!”
“And we knew each other how long before we started dating? And we met in church! When it’s right, it’s right! And I’m letting Sasha know its fine with me, if he wants to start something. If not, that’s also fine.” I growled at Tony finishing getting his coffee ready. “No slinking around like he would offend me.” Then I looked at Sasha again grinning. “Just remember, if you do. He’s a McKenzie. Ask Tony what that was like for him when I brought him home.”
Tony gave a shiver. “It was brutal.” Then he grinned. “Only at first. There are good people there, too. But it’s not for the faint of heart. Before you jump into anything, just remember that.” He watched the coffee pour into the pot. “I married one!”
“Tak, chto na zavtrak?” I asked.
Tony looked at me frowning. “What did you say?”
Sasha stood straighter. “He asked me; what I was making for breakfast.” Then he recovered a little. “Kak naschet bekon i yaytsa?”
Tony brightened as he understood part of it. “Bacon and eggs!”
Sasha smiled. “Otlichno!” Telling Tony very good. “You’re taking Russian, too? You two learn fast.” Then he smirked. “Fast than I learn English.” Then he looked at me serious. “You wouldn’t mind if I ask David on date?”
I smiled. “I’d love it. So would he. But I’ll have to give David another talk.”
“Talk to me about what?” David asked coming down the stairs yawning as he came in shorts and t-shirt.
Sasha smiled at David. “I was going to do later with you when just you and me, but would you go out with me?”
David looked surprised, but I saw his look. “You mean on a date!? That’s gay!”
Sasha looked at me frustrated. “But you said…” He pointed at David.
“David,” I shook my head. “Sasha’s first language is Russian. English is his second language. He doesn’t always get the McKenzie humor. Certainly not your brand.”
David grinned as he came toward Sasha. “Sorry, big guy.” He kissed Sasha very chastely and quick. “I’d love to.” Which Sasha smiled at that. “In fact…I say we start now. You’re here, I’m here….what are we waiting for?” Then he got another mischievous look. “Should I learn Russian?”
I watched as Tony poured his coffee then did his luxurious inhalation. “It wouldn’t hurt.” He said absently. “Mitch learned Italian for me.”
“Non agire stupido.” I shot at Tony who merely chuckled. “And Sasha, there are two of him.” I pointed to my cousin.
“Two?” Sasha asked wanting to understand.
David nodded. “I have a twin brother. His name is Michael.”
“Twin?” Sasha asked smiling. “You two are alike?”
“Exactly alike.” Tony chuckled. “Identical. You’re looking at his brother now.” He waved toward David.
“Well, not entirely alike, he’s married and never dated a guy.” David smiled. “I have.”
“You can tell them apart.” I said. “Get to know David, you’ll see differences. I do.”
David nodded. “He does. One of the few that can.”
Sasha’s head wavered. “I just want date.”
“I’m fun to be with. You’ll see.” David smiled. Then looked at me. “I know the rules. Three dates, right?”
I just rolled my eyes, Tony was laughing.
“So, do I drive?” David asked.
“I can’t drive in America yet.” Sasha replied. “I know how to drive, but haven’t got license yet.”
David brightened. “I can help you get the license!”
“There are things to do first.” Sasha chuckled. “You’re here until tomorrow, yes?”
“Yes.” David nodded.
“I work today. Eleven to eight.” Sasha said. “We date after work?”
David smiled. “Sure. I’ll even take you to work and pick you up!”
David took Sasha to work then was asking what he should wear.
I shook my head. “David, Sasha is not a rich man. Most of his money is going to his son right now. There are fees for getting the VISA and immigrating. He doesn’t wear anything that expensive.” I looked in his suitcase and saw the jeans and nice shirt. “Just wear this.” I shook my cousin. “Just be yourself. He can’t help but love you.”
David nodded and took a deep breath. Then he looked in the mirror. “Why am I nervous?”
I chuckled. “Probably like I was when I met Tony. Scared, but unable to stop. This could mean a lot for both of you.” Then I looked in David’s eyes. “I want you to have fun, but be serious about this. Sasha’s not a kid. He’s a man. Treat him that way.”
David did go get Sasha after work, but I knew Sasha would come home to shower before going anywhere. When they got home, Sasha took the stairs two at a time to get ready.
Everything was going great! They went out to eat and the two were going to a club I suggested to them. It was just after midnight when they came home. Only it wasn’t very happy. Sasha went up slowly, but David came in to sit near us shaking his head as he watched Sasha go unstairs.
I sat up from the sofa. “It didn’t go well?”
David shrugged. “I thought it was going great. We had dinner then went to Patrick’s. And all of the sudden Sasha was distant. He barely said a word on the way home.”
Tony frowned from his place beside me. “He didn’t say anything was wrong? You two were hitting it off last night and this morning.”
David shook his head again. “Not a word.”
Then we all looked up as Sasha came downstairs. He walked up to David. “Tonight, you made me think.” He began. “I like you. I can like you much more.” Sasha shook his head. “I can say what you do. I was ten when my father died. My mother had to support me alone. I smoked as did my father, which is why he died. Then I had Alik. Then I say I don’t smoke. I’m not leaving Alik like my father did. You do what you want. I can’t. Now, Alik is most important. I want to see what happen with you and me. But I not lose you because of smoke after I give my heart. You chose. Smoke? Or see me. Because I want see you again. If you don’t smoke.” Sasha pulled David up and kissed him. The kiss was not chaste and it was not all that gentle, but Sasha put his heart into it. “You think about what I say.” Then Sasha went back upstairs and we heard the door to his room shut.
I looked at David. “You smoked?”
David shrugged. “We were at the club. I never do it unless somewhere like that. It just….” He looked at Tony and me. “…happens.”
I nodded. “I smoked, too.”
Tony looked surprised and sat away a bit. “You did!?”
I nodded. “When I was a teenager. But right before I went to the academy I quit. I couldn’t run if I smoked. At least not as well. It just made sense.” Then I grinned at Tony. “You never did?”
Tony shrugged a nod. “Well….I did. I was a teenager, too. Mama found them in my clothes doing laundry.”
I nodded with a smile. “I can imagine the yelling then.”
Tony shook his head. “But you’d be wrong. She simply came to my room, put them on the desk. But never said a word.”
I was having a hard time believing that. “She didn’t? I thought Italians yell to show love.”
Tony chuckled. “Imagine the agony. She answered me, but didn’t raise her voice. I mean no animation at all. Just even tones. No emotion at all! By the week’s end I was swearing to her I’d never smoke again. And I didn’t.”
I chuckled at that. “It would be agony.” I nodded and then looked at David. “So, I guess you need to decide. A possible future with a very good man, or those coffin nails. You’re not a teenager and haven’t been for a while now. It’s up to you.”
David pulled the pack of cigarettes out of his pocket. He looked at them, balled them up and went to kitchen and threw them away.