A Russian Summer

by James Keogh


The next day my mother announced she was returning to Moscow. My father and mother had a long talk together in her bedroom, but no one knew what was said, however, my mother stayed in her room and did not leave throughout the day.

Having decided there was nothing I could do at home, I went in search of Spartak. I thought I should put whatever was going on between my patents out of my mind, because after all, it changed very little except with my mother absent I would not be subjected to her ever present criticism. A hot day was presenting itself and walking through the gardens I quickly forgot any troubles and thought only about going swimming in the lake, spending another carefree day with Spartak. I soon found him, he too had been out looking to find me, and we set off across the meadow to the lake. When we arrived on the shore we wasted little time stripping off our clothes and racing each other into the water. The sunlight glinted off the surface like a reflection in a mirror, until we shattered the peace and calm be splashing water at each other. Finally, having exhausted our combat, I swam out into the deeper water and called to him to follow. He was at first a little reluctant, but eventually started swimming towards me, we met and I congratulated him, "Huh! You're a real swimmer now," I told him. He was breathing hard and quickly turned to regain the lakeside.

"If I confide something to you," he said, as we stretched out side by side on the grass, "will you promise me not to be upset?"

I propped myself up and looked at him, the little drops of water on his skin sparkling in the sunlight. "I don't know, it all depends on what you say, doesn't it?"

"You won't like it." He sat up and looked off into the distance as if searching the lake for something.

"I promise I won't be angry with you simply for not liking what you have to say. Is that fine?"

He stayed staring at the lake not making any reply.

"Are you about to make some kind of confession, share a confidence, why would I be upset?"

He took a deep breath. "My sister is your father's mistress!" he blurted out, not looking at me.

I fell on top of him grabbing his arms and pinning him back into the ground. "That is not funny," I said angrily, but when I looked into his eyes, he stared back, and I saw this was no poor joke. He was scared, but he was not lying, I was certain. I leapt to my feet and looked down at him. "How do you know that?"

"I overheard my sister, talking to your father. She asked him what they should do."

"My father was visiting the lodge?"

"No, they were in the garden. They were talking together. Your father kissed her and told her he would take care of things and not to worry about the money."

"The money?"


"Don't you think you are imagining more than really happened?"

Spartak looked at me in the same way his sister, Princess Anoushka, did. A beguiling regard that captivated you and left you not able to resist or say no, his expression answered my question.

"I thought when you said you wanted to confide something, it was something rather different than what you have said."

He smiled and I knew he understood.

"I believe you," I told him. "You are quite probably right. My mother announced she is returning to Moscow and my parents were arguing over a loan. I doubt she would stay in her room and leave over a loan, there had to be more, and you have helped put the pieces together."

"Will you go with her?" He asked solemnly.

"No," I smiled, "you will still have me with you until the end of the summer. At least, should my father not also decide to leave."

When I returned home my father was not there, only my mother, who had quite obviously not yet departed for Moscow. I did not want to broach the subject nor enquire as to where my father was, and so we ate supper in silence and retired each to our rooms. I lay on my bed and contemplated what had happened, I wondered if, as I now felt certain, it was my father's habit to hold secret rendezvous with the Princess in the gardens at night. Was it not also what Vyacheslav had hinted at in his own peculiar fashion, and perhaps Konstantin was aware, although I was not sure he was. One thought I could not get out of my head, was how the young Princess, whom I thought of as a close friend, to whom I was her confidant, and who was surrounded by suitors, how she could allow this to happen. My father was not a free man, what could she possibly hope for. Money! Perhaps she had been put up to seducing my father to procure a loan. It made sense, but seemed a terribly extreme step to take, had not Radomir's family, Vyacheslav, or Konstantin got money. It couldn't be they were in love, I found the idea difficult with such a difference of age. What would happen now? It troubled me that my parents found themselves in this situation, but it troubled me much more when I realised I would probably never come back here for another summer. This would be my last summer and I would not see Spartak again, nor Konstantin. Once that thought struck me it tore a hole in my heart, I felt sick, I determined I had to see him.

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