We went in with Sasha as he made the connection with the server to begin the call. We waited as there was a beeping to let Tasha and Alik know we were trying to connect. Now this conversation is going to be in both Russian and English. To save myself carpel tunnel from typing, I’ll just do it in English. The screen suddenly came alive as the little happy face appeared. Alik was smiling at his father.
“Hi, Papa!” Alik greeted in Russian.
“Hi, Sport!” Sasha greeted warmly. “Are you getting ready for your big trip to see me?”
Alik nodded immediately. “We’re going on a big plane!” It was amazing to watch a child’s mind work. “I’ve got a loose tooth!” He opened his mouth and wiggled a front tooth proudly.
Sasha chuckled. “You’re growing up! I can’t wait to see you.”
Alik nodded and then frowned. “Mama said I’m going, but I won’t come back. Why is that?”
Sasha nodded. “Because we’re making a home here in the United States.”
“You and Mama?” Alik asked.
This was going to be the issue with the little man. “Well, Mama will be coming to the United States soon, but not right now. It will just be you and me for a while. I’ve really missed you.”
Alik didn’t like this part. Not the missing part, but Mama not being there. “But she is coming over to stay soon?”
Sasha sighed. “Yes. There are rules in place, rules we have to follow. We can’t just move. You can move because you’re my son and I followed the rules so I can stay here, therefore you can stay here, too. But Mama has to follow the rules as I did so she can come and stay. Understand?”
Alik nodded, but he wasn’t too sure. “I’m trying.”
Sasha smiled. “Well, I have things so you can like being here. We have a nice room for you here. I have some people here that are looking so forward to meeting you. These are people that really love me and will you, too.” Sasha pulled Tony and me over so we could be seen by Alik. “This is Tony Delveccio and Mitch McKenzie. They are Papa’s true best friends in the world. We’ll be staying with them a while.”
“Hello, Alik.” I greeted the little boy in Russian. “I’m just learning to speak Russian, so if I use the wrong word or don’t say it right. You can help me.”
Alik smiled as I said it. Maybe my pronunciation was what he thought was funny, I don’t know. “It does sound a little funny.”
Then I pulled Tony over. “Yeah, well hear Tony.” I jabbed Tony lightly in the gut. “Go ahead, Tony. Say hello.”
“Hello, Alik.” Tony greeted. “We look forward to….” He looked at me and asked me a question which I answered. “….meeting you.”
Now Alik was smiling even more. “He does sound funny.”
“But he’s trying.” Sasha grinned. “He really wants to meet you and make you comfortable here. When you get here, you can help Tony and Mitch with their Russian and they’ll help you with English. Does that sound fair?”
Alik nodded. “Sure.”
I smiled. “Maybe you can help me with the Alphabet song. I’m still trying to learn it.”
Alik grinned and that’s when I saw Sasha in his face. Alik was Sasha’s son. “That’s easy.”
“Oh really?” I said mockingly haughtily as you would a child. “Wait until you learn the English Alphabet song.” I pointed out.
Alik just smiled back.
Then Sasha pulled David over. “And this is my friend, David McKenzie. He’s Mitch’s cousin. He’s a special friend to me.” Then he looked at David and switched to English. “You can say hello to my son. He is learning English.”
“Hi, Alik.” David waved. “I look forward to getting to know you.”
Sasha translated what David had said. Then asked for Tasha. They spoke to make sure she had Alik’s birth certificate and passport, but just to be sure. Tasha certainly was alert and assured she had everything under control. Then Alik came back on.
“We’ll speak one more time before you come.” Sasha said. “You have a good day.” He kissed his hand and touched the screen. “I love you, Alik.”
Alik smiled. “I love you, too, Papa.” He did the same as Sasha had done. Then the screen went black.
Sasha looked at David. “That was my son.”
David smiled with a nod. “He sure is. Looks just like you.” Then David touched Sasha’s hair. “Except for the hair.”
Sasha chuckled. “He has my mother’s hair.” Then Sasha shrugged. “Or his mother’s mother. They both were blonde.”
David smiled. “I just hope he likes me.” Then he sighed. “I really need to learn Russian.”
“You might want to.” Sasha kissed him gently. “I know he will love you.”
“Okay!” I said suddenly knowing when we should leave. “We’re not needed right now. Come on, Tony.” Taking Tony’s hand and we walked out of the room.
I knew that David and Sasha went back to that gay bar. But this time, I knew it would go well. That was confirmed when I came out the next morning and saw Sasha in the kitchen again in his sweat pants and t-shirt. He was whistling.
I grinned. “You’re happy.”
Sasha nodded. “I am.” Then he looked at me. “I’ll tell you if you want to know.”
I smiled and patted his chest. “I know you’re happy, that’s all I want to know.”
Sasha grinned. “We both are.”
“Good.” Then I went to start Tony’s coffee. “Now to get things ready for the day.” Then I grinned even bigger. “Besides, David and I are cousins and more than that, we’re friends. He’ll tell me without me even asking.”
David came down then. He walked up to Sasha and kissed him passionately. “What are we making?” The McKenzie/Ledebev coupling had begun.
“You didn’t wait for the third date.” I said smiling at David.
“So sue me.” David shrugged laughing.
Working was just fine. Alan and Kent were happy. Now my cousin and Sasha were getting there. Tony and I were happy. This was all good!! I often saw Sasha where we both worked as well as at home. He had become the most popular waiter at the hotel’s restaurant. He was charming, efficient and paid attention to details and was often asked for by name for those eating and staying often enough. Jeremy was not pleased when Sasha reminded him of the days off he’d requested. But he had a son coming. No job was that important.
And then, the day came. Sasha was excited! He could barely stand still. He paced and he fretted about…everything! He worried if we had what Alik would like to eat on hand. Did we need to get more?
“Sasha!” I grinned grabbing him to keep him still a moment and continued in Russian. “It will be fine. What we don’t have, we’ll get. Take a deep breath, buddy.” I shook him lightly.
Sasha did stop a few seconds and did do what I asked taking a deep breath and let it out slowly. “I just want things to go well. I want him to like it here.”
I nodded. “He will.”
Then Sasha looked worried. “This will be traumatic for him. He’s lived with his mother all this time. Not with me.” Then Sasha looked at me. “I’m sort of scared.”
Smiling at Sasha, I nodded. “There might be some problems. In fact, I’m sure there will be. But you’re not alone. David will help and you know Tony and I will help with whatever we can.” I looked at Sasha closer. “You know that.”
Tony came out of our room. “Is everything okay?” He asked noting the anxious look from Sasha.
Sasha and I switched back to English. “Sasha is just worried about how to ease Alik to life here.”
Tony nodded. “Whatever is needed. We’ll do it.”
Soon the plane was pulling up that little tunnel thing to unload passengers connected with the plane. Sasha was watching anxiously as the crew and employees readied the plane to disembark. Then as passengers started to get off, naturally we’d gotten Tasha and Alik first class tickets and they were some of the first ones off. Tasha was a beautiful woman. Of course she was. Dressed in a red top and casual dark pants her dark hair and showed a petit figure that said she took care of herself. She was about a foot shorter than Sasha. Alik was all boy. He was going to be tall when he matured, but for now a typical six year old who brightened when he saw Sasha.
“Papa!!” Alik shouted running into Sasha’s waiting arms. Sasha pulled his son into a hug so tight as tears were coming from his eyes. Sasha buried his face in Alik’s neck, cheek and kissed him repeatedly. Tasha just smiled as she, Tony and I watched. She loved that Sasha was so happy. So she was pleased the same was said about her son.
Sasha didn’t care who saw or even registered anyone was looking. “I am so glad to see you.” He said kissing his son again.
Alik smiled back. “I’m glad to see you, too.” Then he waved back to the plane. “It was a long trip!!” Then he opened his mouth. “Look! My tooth is gone!”
“I see that!” Sasha nodded grinning. “That’s because it was a long way!” Then he looked at Tasha. “How are you? Did you travel okay?”
She nodded. “It was a long trip.” She said kissing Sasha on the cheek. “Of course, Alik slept on the way. But I just can’t.”
Sasha nodded and then looked back at me and Tony. “These are dear, dear friends of mine. Natasha Ivanov, this is Tony Delveccio and Mitch McKenzie.” Sasha said in Russian. Tony had the translator held out.
Tasha nodded shaking our hands.
“My Russian is not that good.” I told Tasha. “But it’s good practice if I use it.”
“My Russian is terrible.” Tony grinned allowing the translator to do its job. “I’ll let this thing do my talking and listening.”
Tasha laughed at that. “You’re Russian is a little different. It’s a little odd, the accent.”
I glared at Sasha. “So I’ve been told.”
Sasha chuckled. “I told you, you’re doing very well!”
Tasha shook her head. “And you’ve been speaking Russian how long?”
I shrugged. “A few months.”
She nodded. “Then I say you’re doing very well. You must have a good ability for languages.”
I chuckled. “I love to talk if that’s what you mean.”
“He does.” Tony said and the device translated. “He learned Italian fluently in eight months.”
Then Sasha looked at his son. “This is Alik. My son.” He said proudly to us. “Alik, this is your Uncles Mitch and Tony.”
Tony and I shook Alik’s hand as Sasha put him back on the ground.
“Let’s get your bags.” Sasha smiled.
Getting their things was not hard. Tasha only brought one little suitcase, but Alik’s things were in three!! He was moving!
While Tony and Sasha got their bags, I talked with Tasha.
“Alik seems like a pleasant little boy.” I said to her. “He’s well-mannered and intelligent. You’ve done a great job raising him.”
“He’s a good boy.” Tasha agreed. “But I’m sure Sasha has told you what we face in Moscow.”
I nodded. “He has.” But I had to be sure of one thing. “Sasha told you he and Alik will be staying with us. That Tony and I are married, even though it’s not legal.”
She nodded. “He has.” Then she laughed. “I knew Sasha liked men and women. We met near the base where Sasha was stationed. We had a pretty exciting weekend.”
I smiled. “I can imagine.”
She smiled. “He was pretty exciting. And of course you see what happened.” She waved at Alik. “I believe he likes men more than women, but he just likes having sex.”
I nodded smiling. “It’s what we were made to do.” I shrugged.
She laughed. “Well, after I found out I was pregnant, I knew I wasn’t getting an abortion, so I decided to at least tell Sasha. I didn’t expect or want anything from him. I figured he’d yell, deny it was his or what many men do, ignore it. I was shocked when he…well…he was surprised, but not that much. He knew we’d had sex and unprotected. Then he actually was sort of excited about having a child.” She looked down as we walked. “And I never asked him to support Alik, but he has. Every day while I was pregnant he’d call or come by to see if I was eating, even brought me groceries when I was low.” She chuckled. “He really wanted Alik.”
“But you know he likes men.” I said cautiously. “You’re not hoping for a future relationship?”
She laughed at that. “No, not at all. We’ve been clear about that to each other. I even have a boyfriend. He’s already immigrated to New York.”
“Really?” I smiled. “So he knows about Sasha?”
She nodded grinning at the memory. “Oh yes. Sasha was grilling Egor and it was worse than having Egor grilled by my father.” She laughed. “What temperament did he have, what experience with children did he have…it was almost brutal. But Egor is a good man and understood, answered all Sasha’s questions.”
“So, Egor would be a good step-father.”
She nodded. “He wants children of his own, but yes. I think he’d be an excellent step-father. But I doubt Sasha will let go too easy. Not that I’d want to take Alik away from him. We will probably marry when I come to the United States.”
I put her hand in my arm. “That’s good to know.”
There were so many suitcases, Tony and I decided that a van was needed to take them home. Tasha could only stay three days, she had to fly back to go to work.
And yes, it was again the same thing when they walked into the condo.
“It’s huge!” Tasha said to me and looked at the furnishings. “And so clean and pretty.”
“Bau!” Alik said looking at the condo.
Which got Tony tapping the device. “Bau?”
“Wow.” I translated for him.
Tony nodded. “Oh.”
“Well, Sasha’s responsible for the clean part.” I said grimly. “Even though I tell him not to, he cleans anyway.”
Sasha frowned at me. “I am a part of the household. You keep telling me it’s my home. I’m going to clean my house!” But he’d been around us enough to smile as he said it gruffly.
I leaned in to Tasha. “I know he just wants to show me up.” Then I said loudly. “I cleaned before Sasha came.”
“And I cooked.” Tony added. “Italian, of course.”
Sasha grinned. “Of course.” Then he looked at Alik. “Be prepared for a lot of great Italian meals.”
Tony was again tapping on the device frowning. “This thing works and then it doesn’t.”
I grinned taking Tony’s hand and kissed him. “Now you know why I’m learning Russian, honey.” Then I turned to Tasha. “I’ll show you where you’re staying. We have the room ready for Alik as well.”
“I’m just not as good at languages as you are.” Tony grinned and shrugged.
“There are other things you’re good at.” I winked at him. “There is a couple of things that you are very good at.” I grinned saying it all in English.
Since Sasha had moved in I hadn’t really paid a lot of attention to what he’d done to the room he was giving Tasha. Since he’d moved out, I was surprised at the little touches he put in here. Sheets that would definitely appeal to a woman with her love of floral patterns, fresh flowers in the room in vases. Soaps that were fragrant as well as pretty in her bathroom. Any sign that it had been occupied by a male was gone. He might not be in love with Tasha, but he loved her. If you understand the difference. She was smiling when she entered the room.
“This is bigger than half of my apartment in Moscow.” Tasha said softly looking around and then she looked at me. “Are you sure you two don’t do….anything illegal?”
I chuckled. “No, we’re kingpins. Crime bosses.” Then I shook my head. “Does Tony strike you as dangerous? Do I? I’m a manager of a hotel. Tony does investments and stocks. All perfectly legal. Tony’s just very good at it.”
She nodded. “You’ll give Alik a good life here.”
“Sasha is working hard to make sure Alik does.” I assured. Then I saw tears form in her eyes. “You’re not having regrets, are you?”
She waved me off shaking her head. “No. I know this is for the best.” She looked at me. “But I’m letting my son go. It’s just so hard!” That’s when she started crying more.
I walked over to her and put my arms around her. “I can’t imagine how that feels, but I know it can’t be easy.”
That’s when Sasha came by with Alik. Sasha looked in, his eyes widening. “Is everything okay?”
Tasha turned around quickly, more to keep Alik from seeing her cry. “We’re fine.”
“She’s just voicing some pain about what you two are doing.” I said to Sasha. “It’s just a mother being a mother.”
Sasha walked in telling Alik to stay in the hall. “But we agreed…”
“And I’m not changing my mind!” Tasha shot. Then she said softly. “It just hurts, just as it did every time you had to leave Russia. Leave Alik behind. It’s going to hurt. I’m sorry, but even though I know it’s for the best, it’s going to be hard.”
Sasha smiled, but his eyes were tearing a bit understanding the pain. “I know.” Then he hugged her. “I’ll take good care of Alik.” Then she just cried on Sasha.
I went in the hall. “We’ll just give them a moment, okay? I’ll show you your room.”
Alik didn’t listen very well. He came in the room. “What’s wrong, Mama?”
Tasha sniffed and knelt in front of her son. “Do you remember what’s happening this week?”
Alik nodded. “I will be staying with Papa.”
Tasha nodded. “What does that mean?”
Alik didn’t seem to understand what she was asking.
“We’ve talked about this.” Tasha said patiently. “I will be leaving here and you will stay. I’ll be going back home. This will be your home. I won’t be here.”
Alik frowned. “But not forever. You said.”
Tasha nodded. “Not forever. I will be back, but for a while, it will just be you and Papa.” Then she looked up at me. “And some very kind friends.”