“Good morning!” Eduard said in a very cheery tone, causing you stop for a moment, slight confusion overcoming you.
‘He sure is in a good mood this morning.’ You remarked, recalling not one time when he greeted you with this much gusto. Was he feeling well?
“Good morning.” You said hesitantly, suspicious of the smile he wore on his face.
“I trust you slept well?” he asked. Well…this was all starting to get very strange in less than thirty seconds, yet you decided to go along with it. After all, stranger things have happened lately.
“Um, yeah. Yeah I slept fine.” You said, slowly walking around the Estonian towards the cupboard to retrieve a glass; the same cupboard that Ivan was hiding by last night.
“That is good to hear.” He said, raising his dark blue mug to his lips, taking a slow sip of his morning drink. After grabbing your cup you turned slowly around and gave him ‘the look.’
“What are you doing?” you asked, demanding an explanation to his odd behavior. His eyebrows rose a bit.
“What are you meaning?” he asked, as if the fact that he wasn’t acting like himself wasn’t so plainly obvious.
“Why are you talkative and nice to me all of a sudden?” you asked him. First Ivan and now Eduard? You began to worry if it was some illness going around in the house. You certainly hopped you wouldn’t catch it. But what if you already have?
“Don’t people greet one another in the morning where you are from?” he asked. That seemed like a silly question.
“Well of course we do.” You said. He allowed a small triumphant smile to cross his features.
“Then I am doing nothing different than what everyone else does.” He said, taking another sip of his drink while keeping eye contact with you. You sighed softly in defeat. Okay so he had a point. Smarty pants.
“Hey.” You said, noticing something amiss in the kitchen this morning as you looked around.
“Hm?” he said, placing his mug down on the counter.
“Aren’t you going to start breakfast? It’s already almost seven.” You said, glancing up at the clock that hung above the left wall. A small hum escaped his lips.
“Well, I was having a hard time deciding what to make this morning.” He said; pushing his glasses up a bit at he looked at you. “Perhaps you could assist me with that?”
You shrugged your shoulders. “Sure. What do we have to use?” you asked, placing the empty cup down by the sink and walking towards the refrigerator, which was much more nicer looking than the one you had back home. Peeking inside you found a plethora of different food items. Some which you had never seen before, some of which you could not read and some of which you recognized. Eduard quietly walked up behind you, planning his next move.
No, not that kind of move.
“So (Name) tell me, what do you usually have for breakfast back home?” Eduard asked, sticking his hands inside of his pockets. You blinked a few times in thought and stood up, closing the refrigerator door and leaned your back against it.
“Well, I usually have cereal.” You said, earning a blank stare from Eduard. Obviously he was not impressed.
‘Cereal?! I can’t have her serve cereal to him!’
“But…on the weekends I usually would make a big breakfast for my mom and dad.” You said, a nice smile crossing your face at the memories. Eduard smiled triumphantly in his mind.
“What sort of things would you make?” he asked. You looked up in thought.
“Well. My dad loves corn fritters, so I would usually end up making a whole pile of them just for him. My mom had a bit of a sweet tooth so I would usually help her make a stack of apple pancakes. Then we’d usually have hash and chilaquiles…” And so you continued to tell Eduard of what each of your parents liked for breakfast and what you would make them. All the while Eduard was grinning internally like the Cheshire cat, relishing how well his plan could work now.
The queen was in sight.
“Then we usually had to lie down for fifteen minutes just to recuperate from all the food.” You said, laughing to yourself. Eduard laughed with you.
“That all sounds good to me.” He said, suppressing a grin. “But I am not sure I will be knowing how to make all of that. Why don’t you make breakfast this morning?” You rubbed the side of your neck in uncertainty. Was he serious?
“Oh, I don’t know…” you said, feeling bashful. What if nobody liked your food? That would be a major blow to your self esteem. Though it's not like worse hasn’t happened to you…
“I would be honored if you would show me how to make these dishes.” He said, bowing in an exaggerated way to show his great desire for you to cook breakfast. You narrowed your eyes at him in thought.
“Wait a minute. You’re just saying that so you don’t have to cook breakfast this morning, aren’t you?” you said, causing him to snap up straight; his eyes wide in shock.
“Wha-? No! No, no, no, no, no. I just thought it might be nice to have something different, that’s all!” he said, hands held up in front of him defensively. You eyed him a bit before shoving your hands in your pockets, looking off to the side.
“Pleeeeeeeeeease?” Eduard asked, no, begged. Was he giving you the puppy dog eyes too? Oh you just couldn’t resist those!
“Fine! Fine! I’ll do it! Just stop making that face.” You said, pushing him slightly. He chuckled and pushed his glasses further up on the bridge of his nose.
“Then it’s decided. What shall you need for breakfast this morning?” he said, rolling his sleeves up to his elbows. You smiled as you recalled the ingredients used.
“Well, we’re going to need corn meal…you do have corn meal, right?” you asked. Eduard looked off to the side a bit.
“We might…I could always run to the store if you are needing anything.” He said, you thought for a moment and shrugged.
“If that’s alright with you. Now let’s see…” you said, placing a finger to your chin in thought. “Were going to need cornmeal, tortillas, flour, cheese, eggs, apples…”
His warm breath fogged up the window which he was looking through, the morning light barely penetrating through the thick, snow filled clouds. His amethyst eyes gazing out upon the world before him. So cold and bitter outside, yet there was a certain gentleness to it all at the same time. A deep sigh escaped Ivan’s lips as he watched the snow let up for a bit. It had been snowing for quite a few days in a row now; surely he would have to have the driveway shoveled once again.
Though he had lived all his life surrounded every year by snow, he grew tired of it every year as well. He grew tired of all the whiteness covering everything; giving everything a false sense of purity and gentleness when he knew perfectly well the world was anything but that. The world was filled with violence, disappointment and grief, enough to taint the pure white snow in a sickly red color. Then again, sometimes life was also like the summertime, bright and cheery for a time. Like the sunflowers that flourished in summers warmth, giving everything and everyone a sense of relief and happiness.
Ivan’s heart had been in deep winter for so long that when spring started to melt away at the winter ice, he wasn’t sure how to handle it. He still didn’t quite know, too afraid of what might take root and grow in his heart, knowing full well that winter’s bitterness would just take it away from him.
Another sigh escaped the man’s lips.
‘I’m tired of all of this.’ He remarked to himself, referring to all the weight his past placed upon his sturdy shoulders. Oh what he wouldn’t give for a change, for a summer like renewal to his life. He failed to realize at this point that his winter-like situations were slowly melting away into spring, a single strong willed bud fighting to spring up through the cold and solid ground so that it might bloom into something truly beautiful. A small smile found its way across his lips.
‘But...things have gotten better lately… ’ He remarked to himself, slowly pulling himself away from the window to gaze at the clock on his night stand. 8:15 a.m.
“How long have I been standing here?” he wondered as he hurried over to his dresser, gripping the old glass knobs as he pulled his top drawer open. Breakfast had surly been served fifteen minutes ago. He hated being late for breakfast; he prided himself on being prompt. Discarding his night shirt from his body, he folded it and placed it on top of his dresser, pulling a white undershirt over his body; covering the many scars that riddled his torso. Today seemed like it was colder than usual, reaching for a light grey sweater Ivan pulled it over his head. Slipping his arms through and pulling it down the rest of his torso, brushing the hair from his eyes, he closed the drawer and pulled the second one down open, retrieving a pair of white slacks to replace the one he was currently wearing.
As he sat on his bed to put his black dress shoes on, which were shined to perfection, he couldn’t help but think back on the previous night. He allowed a small smile to cross his lips. He really did have fun last night. Fun, how long had it been since he experienced that word? It seemed like an eternity. Yet he experienced it last night and with one of his servants at that. Highly unusual, at least that would have been true before last night. He surely would never have done something like that with any of the other servants. So why did he allow himself to have fun in your company? Ah, strange things really were happening.
‘I think she is starting to grow on me…’ He admitted to himself as he tied his laces and stood up from his bed, supporting his hands on his knees in the process. He walked over towards the mirror and looked into it. Not bad, the sweaters neck almost completely covered his own neck. But he wouldn’t take any chances; last night was close enough for his liking. He grabbed his scarf from the old green velvet sitting chair that resided beside his mirror and wrapped it around his neck as usual, allowing the two tail ends to fall behind his back.
‘I’d better hurry.’ He told himself as he quickly left his room, closing his battered up door behind him on his way out. He walked briskly down the hall, turning as he descended the stairs to the second floor, his shined dress shoes clacking against the old yet well varnished wooden floors beneath him. Luckily for him he did not have as much work to do today as he usually did, maybe he would relax a bit more today.
‘That would be a nice change.’ He told himself as he turned the corner, the main floor stairs dead ahead of him.
‘Maybe I’ll read…or play my cello…or maybe I’ll just sit in a chair and look out the window.’ His thoughts continued as his foot hit the top step, descending down the stairs…only to stop dead in his tracks, like a deer caught in the headlights. He sniffed the air a few times, and then inhaled deeply.
‘What is that smell?’ he wondered as a warm and flavorful aroma drifted to his large nose, filling his lungs with its warmth. It was…what was it? He wasn’t even sure but it smelled absolutely delicious, enough to make his mouth water a bit. Eduard was really going all out this morning that much was certain. He hurried down the stairs a little faster now, wasting no time to sit down and eat whatever was making that wonderful smell. His feet couldn’t move fast enough for his liking. He placed one of his large and callused hands on one of the doors and pushed it open, surprised by what he saw. Food. Warm delicious looking food of all shapes and colors adorned on platters and bowls resting on the table. And his two sisters, sitting across from each other at the table, looking over at him and smiling as they both set their tea cups down.
“Good morning Ivan~!” they both said in unison. Ivan felt his heart swell a little. How long had it been since he had a normal breakfast like this with his sisters? Not served to him one course at a time but right there for everyone to see and partake of? Like a normal family meal. How had he missed that, it had been far too long for him. He had almost completely forgotten what it was like.
“Don’t worry Vanya, the food isn’t going to run away.” Yekaterina said, noticing his intense stare at the food on the table. Ivan released the breath he hadn’t realized he was holding and inhaled once more. Oh the food looked good. But wait, what was this exactly? Ivan furrowed his brows and slowly rounded the table, walking closer to his seat; towards the food.
“What is all of this?” he asked. This was certainly not the traditional breakfasts he was used to having. Not that he was complaining, but when on earth did Eduard have the time to make all of this? Better yet, when did he have time to learn how to make all of this?
“Its breakfast silly, now sit down before it gets cold.” Yekaterina said, placing her napkin in her lap. Ivan hesitated for a moment before slowly walking up to his chair, easing down in it and scooting forward, staring at the strange plethora of food before him. Some of it he could recognize but other dishes he wasn’t even sure what to call it. Where should he begin? Natalya raised an eyebrow and removed her teacup from her lips.
“Aren’t you hungry, Vanya?” she asked, noticing how he was just staring at the food instead of placing it on his place like he usually would. Ivan slowly nodded, still staring at the food.
“Of course, it’s just…” he began to say. A smirk crossed Natalya’s lips.
“Don’t tell me you’ve forgotten how to serve yourself.” She said, teasing her older brother as he laughed a bit.
“Now how could I forget how to do something like that?” he asked, looking at her with a small smile of his own. She shrugged her shoulders and sipped her tea again. Ivan looked down at her plate and noticed it was empty, as if no food had been placed on it yet. He looked over at Yekaterina’s plate and noticed the same thing.
“Why are your plates empty?” Ivan asked, now curious. Yekaterina smiled at her little brother.
“We were told to wait until the final dish was served.” She said, causing Ivan to feel very confused. He opened his mouth to say something but never got the chance.
“Fritters are done!” you announced as you pushed the swinging kitchen door open with your hip as your hands were preoccupied with holding the platter of piping hot corn fritters. You stopped dead in your tracks when you saw a third person sitting at the table that was not there before. Ivan looked over at you just as stunned as you were.
“Oh…you’re awake.” You said slowly, fritters still in hand. Ivan said nothing, which only made the situation a tad more uncomfortable. Thankfully Eduard walked in with the bowl of hash, also stopping when he saw the owner of the house at the head of the table.
“Oh. Good morning Sir. I hope you slept well." He said, walking towards the table and placing the bowl next to the apple cinnamon pancakes.
“Better than expected.” He said slowly, not once breaking eye contact with you. You quickly snapped your attention to the empty spot on the table and hustled over to place the fritters there; Ivan eyes following you the whole way.
“Well! Enjoy!” you said quickly while sprinting back into the kitchen just as fast. Ivan blinked as he stared at the swinging door slowly halting. Why did you leave so quickly?
“Well, let's not waste anymore time. Everyone dig in!” Yekaterina said while clasping her hands together. Natalya wasted no time, serving herself while Ivan was busy staring at the food in front of him.
“Eduard?” Ivan asked, staring at the plate of fritters.
“Yes sir?” Eduard asked, a tad nervous of what Ivan was thinking at the moment. What if this change of food was displeasing to him? Then this whole plan was all for nothing.
“What exactly is all of this?” he asked, his eyes gently darting from one serving of food to the other. Eduard smiled and pushed his glasses up.
“Potatoes hash, corn fritters, apple cinnamon pancakes with apple butter, mushroom omelets, chilaquiles-“
“-Chila…what?” Ivan asked, puzzled by the name itself. Eduard suppressed a smile, knowing that doing so might give Ivan the impression that he thought he was stupid. That would not bode well.
“It’s a Mexican dish sir.” He said, continuing on with the list of food.
“Corn bread with molasses, orange walnut rolls and bear claws.” He said. Ivan had a confused look on his face at that last dish.
“Bear claws?” he asked, wondering which one were the bear claws. He saw no bear claws on the table. He had bear meat before and nothing on this table even remotely resembled it. Eduard suppressed a smile at Ivan’s confusion.
“It is a pastry sir.” He said, pointing to the large, glazed piece of bread sitting on one of the plates.
“That doesn’t look like any bear claw.” Ivan said, staring at the plate of pastries before him. Eduard smiled.
“I know, but that is what (Name) called them sir.” Eduard said, causing Ivan to look right at Eduard.
“(Name)?” he asked, causing Eduard to nod.
“Yes sir. After all, she is the one who made breakfast this morning.” He said, resisting the urge to smile triumphantly. Ivan’s eyes widened a bit.
“(Name)….made all of this?” he asked, allowing his eyes to sweep past all of the food as his sisters ate their portions in contentment. Ivan was simply speechless.
“Yes sir, with my assistance. But all of this was her idea.” He said, not exactly true but Ivan didn’t need to know that. Ivan looked at Eduard slowly.
“She chose to do all of this?” Ivan asked, wanting clarification. You made all of this…by choice? Why on earth would you do that? Eduard merely nodded, feeling successful that his plan had worked out exactly how he had wanted. Ivan was silent as he looked at the food once more.
“Eat Ivan, eat.” Yekaterina said, placing a fritter on his plate to start the process. Ivan snapped out of it and looked over at her, a little bashful at his behavior. He rolled his sleeves up to his elbows and reached for the plate of fritters, serving himself some as Yekaterina passed other dishes to him. Natalya looked at Yekaterina and gave her a small smirk. Yekaterina smiled back, both amused by their brothers’ reaction. He seemed a bit different this morning, almost as if he were bashful.
‘Interesting.’ They both thought in unison as they watched him take the first bite. His chewing was slow, very slow, his jaw moving in a rhythmic pattern. Then the chewing stopped and Ivan looked up, realizing that he had an audience. How embarrassing.
“What are you two looking at?” he asked, swallowing his food before speaking of course. His sisters merely picked up their forks and began to eat, completely ignoring his question. That was a little unnerving to him. He knew that look in their eyes, they were thinking about something. He shook that thought from his head and went back to eating.
‘Good God this food is delicious!’ He thought to himself, though he forced his face to remain unaffected by his meal, which was hard to do between the new flavors and smells. But he didn’t want them getting any…ideas.
“So brother, did you sleep well?” Natalya asked, lifting her teacup to her lips, her face stoic as it usually was. Ivan stopped chewing for a moment, nodding slightly as he swallowed.
“Yes, I suppose I did. And you?” he asked. She placed her teacup down, dabbing the corners of her mouth with her napkin.
“Yes, though I couldn’t help but notice that you have done nothing but work since I have been here.” She said, looking at her brother, a slightly irritated look in her eyes. Ivan smiled softly, reaching forward and patting her hand, which was placed on top of the table.
“I know Natya, I’m sorry. Things have just been very busy with my job lately. I promise that we will do something together.” He said, looking at Yekaterina who was breaking off small bits of her bear claw and popping them into her mouth.
“The three of us. It’s been a while since I’ve been able to do anything with my sisters.” A smile formed across Yekaterina’s face, frosting dabbled onto her bottom lip. Ivan chuckled, pointing to his own lower lip. Yekaterian blinked a bit and touched her lip, realizing she had frosting on it. She ran her tongue over it, removing any excess frosting from it.
“I would like that.” She said as a warm smile spread on her now frosting-less lips.
“I agree.” Natalya said, allowing only the tiniest of smiles to cross her features. Things just seemed to be getting better and better for Ivan. He could only wonder why and when this happiness he was experiencing would end. But for now he was happy, and he would cherish every moment he was blessed with.
‘Well…that was awkward.’ You told yourself as you ran some water into one of the frying pans, scrubbing off the bits of food that stuck to the pan. The more you scrubbed the more you tried to forget all that had happened to you over the past month. It was all becoming overwhelming for you.
‘First he kidnaps me, forces me to work for him, threatens me, saves me from a gang of thugs, starts being nice to me and now this??’ you said to yourself, referring to the strange vibes you were getting from him earlier. Not just then, but last night as well, though you did initiate the whole scenario, you didn’t have to invite him to play Super Mario Bro’s with you…okay yes you did. He had never played it before for crying out loud! That kind of sacrilege could not continue on. Still…the way he looked at you last night was the same as this morning. You were too reluctant to even consider what it meant. Not to mention all plots of escaping had almost ceased completely.
‘Oh God.” You thought, your scrubbing motion coming to a complete halt.
‘Am I getting Stockholm syndrome?!?’ That thought shot horror inside of you, how could you just accept the way your life was right now? You were shanghaied practically! That is not something one simply takes lying down! A heavy, sad sigh escaped your lips as you recalled what you had thought the night you had ran away for the first time.
‘Even if I do escape somehow, where on earth would I go? I have no money, no direction, no way of communicating…not to mention I have to watch my back for those creeps from the other night.’ You said, referring to the gang you had been so unfortunate to run into. Your life really did seem so complicated, to the point where you felt trapped with no way out.
‘I wonder if this is how the other three feel.’ You wondered, now fully understanding how Toris and Eduard and Raivis felt. A cold chill ran over your entire body, shaking that thought from your mind.
‘This is no time to get depressed (Name). Just focus on what’s important; getting home somehow. Don’t give up!’
You scrubbed the bowl a little faster, trying to get the last bits of pancake batter off of it. You wanted to lick the bowl but Eduard insisted that doing so was not good for you nor was it very ‘lady like’. Shesh, was he getting pointers from Ivan or something? You heard the kitchen door swing open. Eduard was probably bringing you the last of the dishes to clean. Not that you minded, the more time you spent in this kitchen meant the less likely it was for you to run into a certain Russian man.
“Just put the rest of the dishes on the counter, I’ll clean them when I can.” You said, running warm water in the bowl to rinse the soap off. You heard Eduard approach as you placed the bowl to your right, where the rest of the clean dishes were. The breakfast you made had made a lot of dishes to clean, but you had a lot of fun doing so. Just like old times, only your mother wasn’t here so it was not quite the same.
You reached to your left and grabbed one of the other serving bowls and placed it in the sink, wiping it down with the sponge. Moisture had collected on your forehead so you swiped your left wrist across it. That’s when you noticed that the room was unusually quiet. What was Eduard doing? Suddenly you felt someone’s presence behind you. You looked over your shoulder and jumped a bit; dropping your sponge when you saw Ivan standing there, plate in hand and a slightly sheepish look on his face. You two looked at each other, neither saying a word as the running water filled the silence in the air.
“You’re not Eduard.” You finally said, stating the obvious as it was the only thing that came to mind. Ivan remained silent, only continuing to look at you. Though it was not an intense stare as usual, his face looked relaxed, pleased even. That’s what startled you the most. His feet started to advance toward you, approaching the counter…and you.
‘Is the room getting smaller or is it just me?’ you wondered as you started to realize the space between the two of you becoming smaller and smaller. What was he doing in here? And why was he bringing his own dish in here? He never did that before! Wait…maybe the only reason he was doing this was so he could complain. Did he not like your food? Was he mad at you now for taking over Eduard’s job for the morning? Great, the last thing you wanted this morning was another lecture from him. Those were never pleasing
“Thank you.” He said softly as he reached past you, gently placing his plate in the sink, his arm grazing the top of your shoulder. It took you a moment to register what he was saying, and then the initial shock started to set in.
“You’re welcome.” You said, unaware of the small smile you had on your face. After realizing that you were looking directly up at him for longer than was needed you quickly snapped your head back to the sink and began to wash the bowl even faster. Just when you thought this morning couldn’t get any stranger, you had been proven wrong. Ivan lingered for a moment, much to your disliking, before finally leaving; his heavy foot steps giving you the only recognition that he was in fact leaving. You let out a breath that you had not even realized you had been holding in. You scrunched your brows together and placed a hand on your stomach. It felt strange as soon as Ivan came close to you, almost like when you had to get up in front of the class in ninth grade and give a presentation. Stupid presentations...and stupid stomach!
‘Shut up brain!’ you yelled in your mind, refusing to acknowledge anything that had just transpired. There was NO way you were admitting anything. No way.
“Men, my plan worked perfectly!’ Eduard said, boasting to Toris and Raivis as they huddled in the laundry room.
“What happened?” Toris asked, fiddling with his hands; Raivis hanging on Eduard’s every word.
“That reminds me.” Eduard said, looking directly at the two of them. “Why weren’t the two of you at breakfast this morning?”
“We were sent away by Ms. Yekaterina. She just wanted it to be the three of them at breakfast I suppose.” Toris said, earning a hum from Eduard.
“Well, regardless. The two of you missed quite the show. You should have seen the look on his face when I told him who had made breakfast. And, he even took the initiative of taking his own dish into the kitchen! Probably to thank her no doubt. This is perfect! If we keep this up we’ll all be living easy in no time!” Eduard said, cracking a smile. Toris and Raivis both nodded happily, however Toris’ smile disappeared soon, replaced with a guilty look,
“Do you think it's right?” he asked, causing the other two to look at him “Meddling with things like this?”
“Do you want to be micro managed under an iron fist for the rest of your life?” Eduard asked, slight irritation present in his usually cool features. Toris looked at him in surprise, Raivis as well.
“Eduard-“ Toris tried to say but was cut off.
“-In case you didn’t already figure it out Toris we’re not going home. In fact we are probably never going to see out homes again so excuse me for trying to make our shambled lives a little bit better!” Eduard’s outburst surprised everyone, even himself. After realizing what he had just said he looked away from the two of them; their eyes far too painful to look at.
“I…I didn’t mean it like that.” He said quietly, feeling regret over what he had just said. Raivis placed a sturdy hand on his shoulder, causing the Estonian to peer down at him.
“We are going home Eduard. Never forget that.” Raivis said, not stuttering even once. This shocked both Eduard and Toris. For Raivis to speak so confidently…it was something they had never seen before. A small smile spread across the Estonian’s face. Toris placed a hand on Eduard’s other shoulder.
“He’s right. We will get home. One way or another we will.” Toris said, the atmosphere in the room calming down immediately.
“I’m sorry” Eduard said, pushing his glasses up.
“No need to apologize.” Toris said, removing his hand from Eduard’s shoulder, Raivis doing likewise; the bruise on his face had almost completely disappeared by now as well as some of his fears.
“I understand if neither of you want to continue on with this whole idea...” Eduard said, feeling shame that his idea was not working in everyone’s favor. Toris thought for a moment before looking at Eduard.
“I suppose…we could try it for a little while longer.” Toris said, earning a raised eyebrow look from Eduard. Toris shrugged his shoulders.
“What? I like it better when Mr. Ivan is nicer like this too.” Toris admitted. The three of them burst into laughter. Never in their wildest dreams would they ever imagine seeing Ivan Braginsky as a calm, mild tempered man. This fact alone was humorous to them, almost unbelievable. Eduard straightened up.
“So Toris.” Eduard said, catching the Lithuanian’s attention.
“It’s your turn.” A smile spread across Eduard's face while a dreaded realization spread across Toris’. It was his turn? Crap, he was never really that good at coming up with plans. He’d have to think of one and quick.
“Just dance~! Gonna be okay~! Da da DO DO~! Just dance~! Spin that record babe~! DA DA do do~! Just dance~! Gonna be okay~! Just, just, just, dance~! Dance~! Dance~! Ju- ju- ju- just dance~!” the speakers blared, making Lady Gaga’s voice penetrate every corner of the house. Meanwhile you were dancing in the kitchen as you helped Yekaterina and Natalya make some cookies. Yekaterina said it was an old family recipe that they always made throughout the cold winter months. You shrugged and complied, enjoying the fact that you were doing something you actually enjoyed. The bathrooms could wait just a little longer. Who knows, maybe if you made enough cookies Ivan wouldn’t care if the bathrooms were cleaned everyday.
‘Just as long as they aren’t anything like those last cookies I ate.’ You told yourself, memories of waking up with a major hangover and a mysteriously swollen ankle replaying in your mind. A shudder ran down your spine at the thought.
‘Never again.’ You swore, cracking another egg into a separate bowl, whisking it into submission. Meanwhile Yekaterina was busy making sure the oven was set to the right temperature while Natalya was busy cutting up a few apples. She seemed to wield the knife with grace and expertise. It made you wonder. Then again it seemed fitting for her personality. This fact only made you happier that you were on her good side…sort of. It’s not like you two were BFF’s or anything, but she stopped with the nasty remarks and cold looks. No, it seemed that she was indifferent. Or maybe that was just her way of being nice. Either way, you wanted to remain on this side of Natalya…whatever that may be.
“The oven is ready~!” Yekaterina chimed out, almost barely heard over the music. While it was your choice of song, Natalya was the one who turned it up without saying a word. Who knew she was a Lady Gaga fan?
“Almost done with the batter!” you cheered, slowly adding the dry ingredients in with the wet ingredients. Thankfully you were already wearing an apron, Yekaterina and Natalya snagged a few from one of the drawers. Yekaterina’s was a light blue with small white polka dots all over it and a frilled edge bordering the whole thing. Natalya’s was a dark brown with a gold ban tied around it; a perfect gold bow resting on the small of her back. You had to admit it; you were having fun.
“You almost done with those apples yet?” you asked, turning your head in Natalya’s direction. She held up the cutting board with one hand, presenting a pile of diced apple chunks that would impress any five star restaurant. She walked over towards your bowl of batter and slid the apple pieces into it. You stirred them into the batter until they were evenly dispersed. All that was left was dropping the batter onto some cookie sheets and voila! Cookies.
“Natya, hand me those spoons.” Yekaterina said, speaking to her little sister in their mother tongue. Natalya responded with her own words, handing Yekaterina the spoons. Even though you couldn’t understand what they were saying, the way their words sounded still fascinated you. Then again maybe that was because it wasn’t your native language. Maybe they thought English sounded captivating? Who knows?
“All right (Name), help me with this.” Yekaterina said, handing you one of the two spoons. You gripped it in your hands, your white gloves hidden within your apron pockets.
“Now, you scoop a little batter like this and drop it onto the cookie pan!” Yekaterina instructed, demonstrating it as Lady Gaga continued to blare in the background. You nodded and repeated her movements. It wasn’t that hard, after all it’s not like you haven’t made cookies before. Yekaterina turned to Natalya who stood leaning with her back against the counter, her head slightly bobbing to the music.
“Must that music be so loud?” Yekaterina asked. Natalya slowly turned her head towards her older sister.
“Yes.” She stated simply, her face unchanging. Yekaterina sighted and went back to placing batter onto the cookie sheets. Once those were done and popped into the oven for half an hour the three of you decided to hang around in the kitchen with a cup of cinnamon tea to warm you up. Between the spicy smell of the tea and the sweet smell of the cookies baking, you didn’t want to leave the kitchen. It was then that the three of you received a guest. Ivan popped his head into the kitchen, a confused look on his face.
“What is with all the noise?” he asked. He cringed a bit from the loud music. Natalya reached over and turned the volume knob down a bit.
“What did you say? I couldn’t hear you.” She said in a flat voice. Ivan sighed in relief and came into the kitchen some more.
“I asked what all the noise was about. Why are you blasting that noise in my house for?” he asked, rubbing his left ear to emphasize his point. You smirked a bit behind your cup.
“What’s the matter? Don’t you like Lady Gaga?” you asked, trying hard not to laugh at the look on Ivan’s face. It suddenly turned into a slightly disturbed look, like when someone sees a very large man walking around outside without a shirt on for all to see.
“No. She kind of scares me actually.” He admitted. For some reason the image of him dancing to this music popped into your head. You almost choked on your tea. Suddenly he began to sniff the air, turning his head this way and that like a dog trying to locate the scent. Finally his head turned towards the oven. He walked closer, bending down and sniffing some more.
“Is that what I think it is?” he said, grabbing hold of the oven door handle to take a peek inside. Yekaterina swatted his hand away, earning a pathetic look from her little brother.
“No peeking! It’s a surprise. Besides, you’ll let all of the heat out.” She said, crossing her arms over her rather large chest. Ivan gave her the most heart wrenching puppy dog look it even made you want to go ‘Awww!’. But you refused. Yekaterina however would have none of that.
“You may have your ‘treat’ when they are done. Now shoo little doggie!” she said, shooing her little brother out of the kitchen.
“But I just wanted a glass of milk!” Ivan said in defense, holding his hands up. Natalya raised an eyebrow at her older brother.
“Then why didn’t you call one of your workers to get it for you?” she asked, already suspicious of her brothers actions. Ivan waved off that question as if he were waving a fly away.
“I will not be questioned by something as simple as this.” He stated, walking over to the cupboard and opening it, pulling a glass off of the shelf.
‘It’s not fair. He doesn’t even have to get onto his tip toes to reach that glass.’ You grumbled in your head, watching as he waltzed over to the refrigerator and open it, pulling out a gallon of milk and filling his glass up. As he closed the door he turned around and looked at the three of you, smiling a bit before heading out the door. But just before he left he stopped and slyly opened the oven, taking the quickest of peeks into it before closing it quickly, high tailing it out of the room. Yekaterina grabbed her wooden spoon and chased him out of the kitchen.
“Bad children do not get cookies!” she said.
“Ha! So they are what I think they are!” he said triumphantly down the hall. Yekaterina harrumphed and walked back into the kitchen, pointing her spoon at both you and Natalya.
“Make sure he doesn’t get a single cookie.” She stated, like a mother speaking to her children. The both of you nodded. You laughed lightly at this childish display, who knew Ivan could be a jokester? Natalya smirked a bit while Yekaterina huffed in disappointment, placing her hands on her hips.
“That sneaky little brat…” She muttered under her breath. Yet she couldn’t help but allow a smile to spread across her face. Her little brother’s attitude was changing back to normal now. He was laughing more and smiling more and acting a little bit mischievous, just like he used to be. Where had that Ivan gone to? She didn’t care; all that mattered now was that her brother was back again. Yekaterina looked over at Natalya, who smirked all the more and nodded, turning up the volume a little bit more.
“Lucy!” Ricky said, crossing his arms over his chest in disappointment as he caught his wife in another misbehaving ordeal.
“Oh gee I’m glad you’re home, now how’s about a great big-!” Lucy began to say but upon seeing her husbands face she stopped.
“Well see you later.” She said, trying to make a quick leave.
“Lucy. Come here” Ricky said, stopping his red-headed wife right in her tracks.
“I stopped by the bank of my way home and they show me this.” He said, waving a piece of paper in front of Lucy’s face.
“What’s that?” Lucy asked in confusion.
“Your check to the Beauty parlor.” Ricky said
“But I write a check to the Beauty Parlor every month.” She said in defense.
“Yes I know that, but they don’t always have a little note in the back, like this one: Dear Teller, be a lamb and don’t put this through till next month.” He said, looking at her in an un-amused way “Now what are you going to say for yourself? Lucy looked at her husband.
“That’s why the call them Tellers, they go around blabbing everything they know.” She said.
“Lucy, now look I’m serious. I don’t know what’s the matter with you. Every month, every single month your bank account is overdrawn. Now what is the reason?” Ricky said, sticking his hands in his pocket as he waited for his wife to give him an explanation. Lucy thought about it for a moment before she turned to her husband.
“You don’t give me enough money?” she said with all seriousness.
“I don’t give you enough money?!” Ricky exclaimed, causing Lucy to take a step back.
“Well we both agreed that must be the reason.” She said, earning an un-amused look from Ricky yet again. You chuckled as you watched an old rerun of ‘I Love Lucy’ in one of the sitting rooms. You figured that a person as wealthy as Ivan should at least have a TV somewhere in the house. You just so happened to find one, a nice flat screen TV with surround sound. You flicked through the many channels to find something to watch, you couldn’t understand what anyone said on the channels as it was all in Russian, though you stopped for a few minutes to watch a Russian soap opera just to laugh at the corniness. Looks like cheesy soap operas weren’t just something you found back home. Then again you watched Spanish soap operas back home too…
You had managed to come across I Love Lucy. It was dubbed in Russian but that was okay with you, you had watched so many episodes of I Love Lucy that you practically knew every line of every episode by heart.
“Oh Lucy, you’re ridiculous.” You said as you laughed once more. You almost couldn’t believe your luck at finding this show on air here, then again I Love Lucy is pretty much aired everywhere in the world. After all, who doesn’t love Lucy?
“I’d like to see you do our job then!” Lucy said as she held her ground about switching places with Ricky; she would find a job and he would do the house work. You had watched this episode a thousand times, yet it still made you laugh every time you saw it.
“Do you like this show?” you heard a deep voice say behind you, causing you to jump a foot in the air before whipping your head around quickly only to be faced with someone’s shirt. You craned your head up to see Ivan looking down at you with a calm expression on his face. You gave him a small smile before nodding.
“It’s one of my favorites.” You said before turning your attention back to the screen. Lucy and Ethel had just gotten a job as a candy maker; a chocolate maker to be exact. You watched as Lucy sat down and attempted to make small talk with the other chocolate maker next to her, failing in the process. You laughed as she tried to make her first chocolate. You also heard a slight chuckle from behind you. You turned to see Ivan watching the show with you with a smile on his face. He looked down at you and his smile quickly faded into an insecure look. He looked away and turned slightly.
“I’ll leave you be” he said as he started to head for the door. You suddenly felt a twinge of guilt that he felt the need to leave. He didn’t have to leave. In fact he could stay and watch the show with you if he wanted to…
“Hey.” You said, catching Ivan’s attention as he turned to you slightly, his amethyst eyes shaded by the lack of light in the room. You bit your lip and hesitated before speaking again.
“You don’t have to leave…you could watch it too, if you wanted to.” You said, after all this was his house and his TV, why should he leave? Ivan stood there for a moment, not moving an inch. First you offered to play that game with him, you make breakfast and now you were practically asking him to watch this show with you? If Ivan didn’t know any better he’d assume you were trying to be nice to him. But why?
He looked down for a moment before slowly walking towards the couch, sitting down slowly in the spot right next to you. Though he made sure to give some space between the two of you, you still had not expected him to sit right next to you! It was quiet for a moment before Ivan spoke.
“Do you understand what they are saying?” He asked, turning his head to face you. You smiled as you looked at the TV screen, shaking your head.
“No, but I know this episode by heart so I don’t need to understand what is being said.” You stated, laughing as Lucy tried to squish a fly that landed on the other chocolate maker’s face with her chocolate covered hand. You heard another deep chuckle from the man sitting next to you which made you feel a little more relaxed for some reason.
“Do you like this show?” you asked, looking at him slightly. You saw his mouth turn into a thinking gesture as he thought about it.
“I don’t know…I have never watched it before.” He stated, causing your jaw to almost fall to the floor in disbelief. First he didn’t know what Super Mario was and now this?! You could not believe it! Everybody knew who Lucy was! Everybody! Ivan chucked at your reaction, bringing his index finger to your chin and pushing up gently, closing your mouth for you.
“Careful or you’ll get flies in there.” He said, chuckling lightly as he brought his hand back down to his lap, turning to face the TV screen. A small smirk crossed your face, was he cracking a joke here? You shrugged mentally and turned your head back to the TV screen. A few minutes passed by between the two of you, neither saying a word. Then, out of the corner of your eyes you saw Ivan moving a bit. Curious, you looked over and saw him eating what looked like a cookie.
“Hey, I thought you weren’t supposed to get any of those.” You said, catching Ivan’s attention. He brushed a crumb away from his lip with his thumb and swallowed, placing a finger to his lips.
“I snuck some while no one was looking.” He said, a devious smile playing across his face. You rolled your eyes at him but laughed a bit.
“Don’t worry; your secret is safe with me.” You said, holding out a hand to him, he furrowed his brows and looked down at your hand.
“Share.” You stated. Ivan raised an eyebrow at you.
“Who said I was sharing?’ he asked. Now it was your turn to smile deviously.
“Share or I’ll tell your sister that you stole a cookie.” You threatened. Ivan, from what you would assume, pouted a bit and handed you a fresh cookie while looking away in defeat. You gave him a toothy grin and snatched the cookie from him, biting into it and sighing softly in happiness. Between the apple pieces and sunflower seeds these cookies were to die for; you didn’t blame Ivan for stealing them.
Another episode of I Love Lucy came on, followed by more laughter from the both of you. This continued on for quite some time before Ivan started to notice that it was just him laughing at one point. He glanced over to find you asleep, your head rolled over to one side as your hair fell over your face. The steady rise and fall of your chest, not that Ivan’s eyes were lingering in that spot though, let him know that you were sound asleep, a few cookie crumbs sprinkled on the corner of our mouth. He chuckled lightly and reached over gently, brushing off the crumbs with his index finger. He glanced down at his Rolex wrist watch and realized that it was getting late.
‘Should I wake her?’ he wondered, glancing back at you. You looked so peaceful and calm, more so than he had ever seen you before. Maybe he should just let you sleep on the couch…
“No, she will catch a cold. Then she will be more complacent than normal.’ He concluded, rolling over more ideas in his mind. He finally decided to just wake you up. He reached over and shook your shoulder gently.
“Little one?” he said quietly, trying to rouse you from your slumber, all it did was loll your head back and forth a bit. He tried again.
“Little one?” he called out again, this time a little louder. This time your entire body slumped against his shoulder, your head resting against him. He sighed in slight irritation and shook you again.
“Get up right now.” He demanded in as serious of a voice as he could muster, still it did not wake you. You were sound asleep and there was no way of waking you up. He sighed in defeat.
“You know, you could be robbed in the middle of the night and you would never know it?” He said, earning silence from you, your cheek smashed against his arm. He allowed an amused hum to escape his lips as he shook his head.
“I guess I’ll have to carry you myself then.” He said, leaning you back onto the couch as he got up. He faced you and bent over, stringing one arm under your legs and the other supporting your upper half, picking you up carefully so as not to wake you. The last thing he wanted was for you to wake up while he was carrying you. That would be an awkward situation to explain even for him. He stood up all the way carefully, your head rolling onto his shoulder. He left the room, not bothering to turn the TV off, being that he didn’t have a free hand at the moment.
As he walked down the hallway he mulled over what had happened over the past month. It was mindboggling to him, yet he didn’t seem to mind…too much. After all it’s not like any of this was your fault, you were just in the wrong place at the wrong time while trying to help your father. It had impressed Ivan how you would so boldly up and go to a foreign country of which you knew practically nothing about all to save your father. Knowing you, you probably didn’t even have any real plan of what to do, you seemed like the kind of person who just jumped into a situation and went with the flow.
‘So careless.’ He remarked, glancing down at you for a moment. What kind of a person would do that? You had to either be very brave or very stupid to think that you would have succeeded in that attempt. He’d give you credit for trying though, you certainly had moxie that much was for certain. Something else he had admired. Not like he would admit that out loud though…
He suddenly stopped dead in his tracks, his heart froze and his blood ran cold. Your head had somehow managed to rest a little too close to his neck, he couldn’t stand that. Slowly he leaned one way so that your head rolled back, draping itself over his arm instead of where he did not want it. He sighed in relief, looking up to see that he had arrived to his destination. As he approached the door he noticed that it was slightly open. He furrowed his brows and stopped only to see Vanya poke his fluffy little head from the door, greeting his master with the usual “Meow’ Ivan chuckled deeply.
“Thank you for waiting for me.” He whispered, pushing the door open the rest of the way with his elbow, the light from the hallway lighting up your room enough so that he could see where he was going. He slowly walked into your room, noticing that your bed was not made neatly like everyone else’s. He tisked in his head, noticing how some of your clothes rested on the floor.
‘Messy girl.’ He remarked, stepping over some socks and a few unmentionables, to which he quickly averted his eyes. It wasn’t right to let one’s eyes linger on such things, or so his mother always told him. He gently placed you on your bed, your body sinking into the mattress. He stood up only to be stopped by a tugging sensation on his neck. He looked down and found your hand gripping onto his scarf. He would have given you the scolding of a lifetime but realized that you were asleep and had no idea of what you were doing. Not to mention you wouldn’t be able to understand his lecture while asleep, then again he had a feeling that you didn’t really pay attention to any of his lecturing even when you were wide awake.
He gently pried your fingers off of his scarf and tugged on the fabric, removing it promptly from your grasp. He let your hand fall on its own, resting itself in front of your face. He huffed slightly and stood up, reaching over to pull the covers over your body. You immediately snuggled into the new warmth, only the top of your head poked out from the blanket. An amused hum left Ivan’s lips as he left your bedside, heading towards the door. He took one last glance at your sleeping form before closing the door behind him completely, reaching down to pick up his cat, stroking it behind its eats. He looked down at Vanya and Vanya looked up at his master an almost cheeky look on his face. Ivan narrowed his eyes at his cat.
Don’t look at me like that.” He said, looking back at your door for a moment, shaking his head before facing the hallway.
“Come on Vanya, let’s go to bed.”