She never cried. It was possibly because she did not want to appear weak.She hardly ever laughed. But when she became cheerful and did laugh, everybody unwittingly was warmed to her, admiring the unassuming power and sincere joy of this young woman.
No one ever saw her gloomy either, because she told herself every day that life and sadness are incompatible. Everyone found her strange but likable.
Her husband was a tall and pale man, who stood out due to his excessive buoyancy. But the jokes, that he seemed to be filled with and which seemed to come to life instantly and effortlessly, seemedimponderably sad. They were similar to the times when on a cloudless morning the rays of the sun softly cover the land, all of a sudden the transparent air shimmers and hazes over, which becomes noticeable.
After several years of living together they have come to know each other very well. And now they can sit in silence for hours on end, only occasionally dropping colorless words, the meanings known only to them.
The inhabitants of this little town always admired this couple. At the beginning of their married life, both of them felt a little awkward. This feeling was caused in the first place by tiny dried up old ladies who crawled out of their shuttered houses to reach the fence early in the morning so they could see the hurriedness of this young couple, late for work as usual. And then the old women were silent for a long time, greedily taking everything in at the corner of the street, around whichthe desperate knocking of heels faded away.
— Heh, — sighed one of them.
— What, do you envy her? — Another old lady mumbled.
— I too ran like that once, — the third one babbled, getting involved in the conversation.
After that they slowly sailed out of their yards in the direction of their friend Ekaterina Gurieva’s place, where, sitting comfortably in a gazebo, they got completely lost in their memories.
They recalled their past easily and vividly day after day, as if they were turning page after page of a well-known novel. The inspiration for recollections had come long ago with the first signs of aging.
Ekaterina Nikolaevna, a fat old lady with tiny bulging eyes on her shiny face, was a bad conversationalist. It was not because her life flew by unnoticed and did not leave anything pleasant in the end but it was for one ordinary reason: she did not like to and could not talk about herself just like that. Only long dark nights, as lonely as herself, brought her to sincerity.
When her friends came to visit her, she would leave them for a short time to hurry to a big flowerbed in which swung the heavy heads of dahlias. The woman chose the most beautiful flowers and, carefully cutting off several of them, went back to the gazebo. Juicy red petals particularly energisedthe women and reflected in their eyes with warm sparks.
These flowers were possibly the main reason whythe old women sometimes liked to get together at Gurieva’s place. And Ekaterina Nikolaevna, who was renowned for being extremely possessive, with great joy and without prompting, would bring a glass jar full with flowers.
Her possessiveness was boundless. Once a young man, being late fora date, popped into her backyard and began to pick flowers. But his beloved nevergot to see them. The furious old woman with flowing red hair, jumped out from behind the corner, brandishing a long poker. The boy ran away and the flowers were left behind on the ground. The old woman carefully shook the dust off them and burst into tears.
Her affection for flowers was not such an unexpected addiction, which quite often can make a person a slave of his own whims. She grew up in a family of a drunken shoemaker and an unbalanced laundress, for whom all beauty of life was in the jingling and rustling of money. To tell the truth, the father did not always agree with this. During his yet another binge he was able to spend all their meager savings. Her mother was thriftier. Very soon her father became a complete alcoholic. In one of the fights someonecracked his head with a bottle. He did not suffer as he died straight away, without regaining consciousness. And a week later Katia buried her mother, who finally succumbed to tuberculosis.
Gurieva lived all her life in her parents’ house. At first she was scared of her loneliness. But gradually she got used to it, consoling herself that one day someone would become attracted to her and she would get married. But nobody was attracted to her pockmarked face and lanky figure.
One day returning from the fields, she picked a bouquet of poppies. Not far from her house a woman and a slightly drunk man overtook her. He said something quietly and burst out laughing. ‘What an abomination!’— his companion wrinkled her nose with disgust. ‘Those like her never get flowers!’ Ekaterina blushed but pulled herself together and only at home she let herself cry. Since then she never came back home with flowers. She asked her neighbor for seeds and planted them in the flowerbed.
She grew flowers year after year but never allowed anyone to pick them. She was trying to save them but she did not know for whom.
The last day of September turned out to be warm. After a long stretch of cold weather the soil began to warm up. By lunch,the drenched and yellow grass had straightened up. Ruffled sparrows were bathing in the dust. Thin webs were floating in the warm air, and clinging to the clothes of pedestrians, sticking to their faces. An Indian summer had begun.
An old lady on the sidewalk hurried with awkward steps. She first touched the ground with her stick, bent forward and only then moved her legs. In this manner she hobbled to a small veranda and through half open door peeped into the house.
— Ganna, listen — she jabbered — I looked out of the window three day ago… she was running…
The fish that Ganna was cooking got burnt. And she was waving a cloth trying to get the smoke outside. The ends of the cloth moved rapidly over the floor and, a cat of nondescript color, was chasing after them impatiently.
— Go away, cholera, — Gannastomped her foot — I wish you were dead. Who was running? A cat?
— No, the girl was running, — the old lady sighed, — that one with the husband.
— Aah, — Ganna stretched and smiled immediately recalling the tall man and his young wife.
They don’t go together any more. He was even drunk yesterday.
…They will make up — Ganna took a burnt frying pan off the stove and was about to cry. — Look, I sat down only for a moment and fell asleep…
The old lady hurried up.
— I have to run. I should tell Katya.
Ekaterina Nikolaevna was lying on a couch and was flipping through a book. She unwillingly put it aside and without getting off the couch listened to the neighbor then turning onto her back resumed her reading.
In the evening she was standing at her fence. It darkened quickly. It was raining in big heavy drops. But the old woman wouldn’t leave. She looked down the street. She was sure that she would catch a cold and would not be able to sleep at night. She felt that something was pressing her chest and interfering with her breathing.
All of a sudden she roused herself. On the road, shuffling his legs, the man who she was looking out for, trudged along.
Just as he was walking past her, she timidly called out to him and, after asking him to wait, ran into the garden.
The man stopped reluctantly and shrugging his shoulders looked in her direction. She returned quickly. In the outstretched hands she was holding a big bunch of dahlias.
He scowled even more but took the flowers.
…His wife was at home already. She was sitting, bent low over her knitting. When he came in, she did not even look up.
— Luda, — he said quietly.
She looked at him, and the needles fell out of her hands.
— What beautiful flowers! Are they for me?
He awkwardly gave her the bouquet and she hid her face in the wet petals.
He hugged her tenderly.
— Don’t cry, don’t cry, my dear… Everything is all right, isn’t it?
Перевод на английский Татьяны Варфоломеевой
Свидетельство о публикации №215111602133
Ольга Прилуцкая 17.11.2015 11:32 Заявить о нарушении