Vaclav & Lena

Vaclav & Lena by Haley Tanner

Book: Vaclav & Lena by Haley Tanner Read Free Book Online
Authors: Haley Tanner
plop to the floor
    Once Rasia has heard all these sounds, she enters the room where Lena sleeps, and without saying anything, she goes to the corner and gets the worn-out felty blanket with silky edges that is peach with yellow blotches, while Lena sits, waiting, on the bed.
    “All right,” says Rasia. “Let’s make this bed.” She has said this every night since the very first night she walked Lena home, which was the day that Lena met Vaclav and saw the golden fringed bikini of Heather Holliday.
    Rasia stands over the mattress and holds the blanket by two corners. Lifting her arms swiftly into the air, she billows the blanket out and over Lena, and then lets it fall softly over the whole bed, even over Lena’s head.
    The first time, she did this because it was the same thing she did to Vaclav every night; it was their bedtime routine. He would climb into bed and lie very still, and she would pretend to not see him, pretend to accidentally make the bed with him inside of it, pretend to be quite aggravated by a mystery lump, and then, finally, tell a bedtime story in the hopes that it might somehow make the stubborn lump go away.
    The first night, Rasia did to Lena exactly what she did to Vaclav because she did not know what else to do, having waited for someone to pick the girl up; having decided, finally, to take the girl home; having waited too long for Ekaterina to answer the ringing doorbell; having taken too long to finally see the dread and shame on the girl’s face; having paused too long in the entranceway, staring too long at the overflowing ashtrays, the sharp edges on the glass coffee table, the clothes flung over everything. She felt frozen, and she did not know what to do, and so she did the only thing she knew. Rasia told Lena to get into bed. Lena, following orders, marched straight into her bedroom. Rasia followed her. The room was empty except for a bare mattress on the floor. Rasia stood staring until she realized that Lena was waiting anxiously for her to leave the room so that she could undress and put on her pajamas.
    Rasia waited in the hallway for a few minutes, and then she returned, saying, “Go lie on the bed,” and Lena did, and then she pretended to not know Lena was there.
    During the bedtime routine, Lena didn’t giggle as Vaclav did when Rasia said, “Let’s make this bed” or “Where in the world did this lump come from?” Lena seemed to submit to and welcome the ritual but did not ever smile. Still, Rasia had never considered altering or omitting one tiny word or gesture from the routine.
    This night, Rasia played the game with Lena because it was what she had done each night for five years. So she went about her futile attempts to flatten the lump, pulling the blanket tighter, smoothing the blanket next to, over, and around the lump, and then said, “Okay, lump. You are winning. Let’s have a story. If you can’t get rid of something, or someone, you should always tell long, boring story, to make it go away.”

    R asia sits on the foot of Lena’s bed, which is really just Lena’s mattress on the floor.
    “Okay, so here is the story.” Rasia tells Lena her bedtime story in Russian, even though at all other times Russian is strictly forbidden. Rasia does this for Lena, so that she will not have to struggle to understand, but she does it for herself too.
    “Once upon a time in the faraway land called Moscow, there lived a princess. Just so you know, in case you have heard things, Moscow today is very different from how it was then, once upon a time. The Moscow in this story is beautiful. The Moscow in this story is not full of breadlines, just people buying fresh bread from the baker down the street with real money, not money worth less than the paper it is printed on. In Moscow, once upon a time, you could walk down the street without going by a man sitting in the gutter, yelling at you as you walk by and showing you the fingers he lost in

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