Vassa in the Night

Vassa in the Night by Sarah Porter

Book: Vassa in the Night by Sarah Porter Read Free Book Online
Authors: Sarah Porter
it’s unlikely that he has much emotional investment in my survival.
    To be more precise, he doesn’t talk while I’m awake. Which leads me to the next ludicrous hope that I observe in myself, in my sneaky reality-warping brain: that I can fall asleep soon and dream of him again. Continue our conversation.
    I deserve a good smack in the face. Something to bring me to my senses.

 
    INTERLUDE IN FUR

    FIVE YEARS BEFORE
    It wasn’t working out . That was clear to him, but he couldn’t have said what it was exactly. He was still handsome enough to get his way much of the time, and if there was a noticeable erosion in the scope of what he could get away with it wasn’t yet all that bad. He believed that he loved his wife—as much as she could reasonably expect, anyway. She wasn’t always reasonable, though. She wasn’t going to deal well with his plans when he told her about them, and if he weren’t such a fundamentally honorable man, he would just disappear without telling her a damn thing.
    As he stepped out of the old furrier’s shop to the chiming of electric bells he congratulated himself on his courage and decency. The furrier, anticipating that his client might find things unpleasant at home, had offered to let him sleep on the sofa in back. He didn’t need to see Iliana at all.
    He’d just handed most of his savings over, in cash, to the furrier, pressing the bills into the man’s wrinkled claw. It was a not entirely human-looking hand, and he’d noticed as well that the furrier’s feet were on backward, toes flapping behind him in split shoes when he walked. He’d met a few such people before, in Zinaida’s company—her family had connections with them stretching back to their days in the old country —and if they made him squeamish, well, he had to concede that they usually knew what they were doing.
    Good people, Zinaida had called these disquieting friends, with the sideways smile she reserved for speaking of them. True gentry, persons of quality. In that case he couldn’t understand why they were so seedy and had such dubious personal hygiene and always lived in the most wretched corners of the city. After the revolution they either didn’t fit in, or they fit much too well, if you know what I’m saying. He didn’t. Smile and nod and try not to inhale. Even some of the witches had to emigrate. It was my great-grandparents who helped my godmother Bea get out. Whatever he was, the furrier was happy enough to pinch the stack of hundreds between his streaked brown nails, to curl one talon in a repetitive, scratching caress. Roland Lowenstein winced and reminded himself that money would be no use to him in his new life.
    The cash was a deposit on services not yet rendered; it would pay for the preparations, for the well-oiled, supple, and glossy hide, for the very special thread that would be used to stitch it shut. For that kind of money he expected a luxuriant coat and sharp, pearlescent claws, clean fangs, and a healthy, lolling tongue.
    He felt just guilty enough to stop on the way home and buy Chinese takeout for his wife and the girls. He ordered extra egg rolls for the two younger ones, whom he thought of as the twins even though they had different mothers and looked nothing alike. They were twinned in his mind largely by the fact that they were both unwelcome accidents, foisted on him by chance at just the same time. The oldest girl was not technically his concern—not even his daughter—but he bought her dinner, too. And then he walked up the stairs to their apartment, feeling intense gratitude at the realization that it was for the last time, and smiled brightly at the pale one, Vassa, who furtively slipped something into her pocket.
    â€œSuppertime, sweet pea!” He didn’t actually think she was sweet. A morose little sprite of eleven who was taking far too long to adjust to her new home and

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