A Russian Summer

by James Keogh


My torments began from that moment and though I racked my brains for some reason, any reason, I found none. For one brief instant we were close and nothing else seemed to matter, I had found a new force and confidence within myself, but it was not to be. Konstantin avoided me, despite what I viewed as our mutual declaration of love for each other. Was I mistaken somehow? I kept watch for his arrival at the Gabrelynovs, but his visits were less and less frequent. I grew more and more agitated and did not know what to do. One day I saw Vyacheslav arrive alone and I accosted him, demanding to know where Konstantin was, if he were ill or had some misfortune befallen him.

Vyacheslav was not a good choice, he asked me why I was always hanging around the Gabrelyanovs and seeking out Konstantin. "You should be studying and working, not wasting your time. What are you doing?"

I resented his remarks and told him, "You don't know what work and studying I do at home." No doubt my feigned offence was easy to see past, but I could not hide my irritation.

"Well," he stopped to appraise me, "whatever work you might do, we both know that is not what you are thinking about."

"I don't understand," I replied.

"You don't understand? That is not a good start. I see that I should warn you. I am not much older than you, but I know a thing or two that you don't. You are still a tender youth and believe me when I say you put yourself at risk. Not from us, his friends, but from your neighbours and from Konstantin himself."


The question sounded like a petulant cry.

"Answer me this, how are you now? Are you happy? Is everything normal for you? Is all this good for you? What are you feeling?"

"What am I feeling? You don't know what, why do you ask these questions?" I was defending myself against a non-existent enemy. I knew I needn't fight with Vyacheslav.

"Oh my friend, young man, what use is such pretence when everything you feel is written across your face. Your heart is an open book. I should not come here myself, because nothing good will come of it, but I am a fool to myself. You, however, are intelligent and thoughtful, so why is it you don't see everything going on around you?"

"What is going on?"

I genuinely wanted to know. I wanted him to say.

"I tell you the air here is not good for you. You like it in the greenhouse, it's hot and full of exotic plants, a nice, sweet place, but you can't live in it. You should content yourself to wander in your own garden, the one you know."

At that moment Princess Anoushka appeared, she came strolling towards us with an air of annoyance.

"What are you doing? Have you all the time in the world for yourselves that you would keep me waiting. And where is Konstantin?"

Where indeed? That was my purpose and what I had demanded to know, but with little success, because Vyacheslav was wont to talk in riddles.

"I am here to not disappoint you." Vyacheslav addressed the Princess.

"You already have," she said. "Come, as you are here anyway."

She turned ready to walk back to the lodge and as she did so she lent Vyacheslav her arm, which he took a hold of.

"It's bad for you, this atmosphere," Vyacheslav told me once again in parting.

I watched them stroll back to the lodge, arm in arm.

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