Book: In pursuit of two princes



In pursuit of two princes

(If you are looking for a fiancé abroad…)

1

Natasha Galushko again looked out of the window. Somewhere, at the bottom, the Atlantic

Ocean was shining brightly. The aircraft felt as if it was motionless in the air, maybe because for

the last forty minutes the view from the window has not changed. There were three hours left

before the plane landed in Toronto and the airplane entertainment aired another movie in English

- obviously a comedy because the people around her were smiling. She learned English in high

school as part of the standard Russian education system which meant that she would

sometimes recognize familiar words but to decipher who was who and to understand the plot,

was absolutely impossible. In medical school she didn’t learn English properly, because she had

an affair with an English teacher and he always gave her the best marks. If she knew that she

would end up in Canada ...then she certainly wouldn’t have skipped her English lessons and

would have studied the language more seriously.

Natasha couldn’t fall asleep, probably due to nervous tension and oppressive uncertainty.

Thoughts of the upcoming meeting with Konstantin Sapozhnikov, a man with whom she almost

fell in love and who was her prospective groom, did not allow her to rest. Who is he really? Is he

the same man he’s been pretending to be during their last two-month of communication over the

Internet? And even during the video conference, which they had twice, he seemed like

superman… but in reality he could turn out to be not nearly as fantastic. By the way, how did she

look? For their first video date her entire beauty salon participated in her preparation. Her

col eagues gave her a classical hairstyle, and carefully selected an appropriate dress. Natasha

worked in this salon for the past five years, intentional y changing her career from doctor-

dermatologist to just a regular cosmetologist. It's funny... Maybe all of her efforts were just a

waste of time. Maybe he had deceived her. Maybe he was not forty, as he said, but fifty and just

looked good for his age. Maybe he is even a pervert or maniac. How else could she explain why

such a witty and handsome man couldn’t find someone in Toronto? He was never even married!

Although this is probably for the best and he does not have children. By the way, what about his

height? When he said that he is 5’-8”, she immediately dropped one inch from her own 5’-7”.

Well… just in case... Who knows, maybe he has inferiority complexes. Anyway, she will never

give up the high heels! Still it’s not clear why he decided to look for a bride in Zaporozhye?

Connected to his roots? Or earns a pittance. So, who needs him in Canada? There probably too

picky women. Not like in the Ukraine. Our women are logical - "Does he drink? No? Well than

he's a catch!" She is a different story! In spite of being 35 years old, she is stil slim and very

good looking (and it's not just her opinion! ).So many men flirt with her and drool over her. So

Konstantin better not think that she’s some silly girl from a provincial city and that she’l kiss his

feet because he pulled her out of their pol uted Zaporozhye! By the way, she is coming to

Canada not by his invitation and her flight tickets weren’t paid by him! She is after all a doctor!

And the Ukraine is not like India… The Ukraine is, apropos, the center of Europe! That’s al ! So

she doesn’t owe him anything! Yes! Yes... She owes him nothing. I will study his behavior ... He

is, by the way, from Zaporozhye, like me, so he shouldn’t think too much of himself! So he’s a

Canadian… Big deal! Hmm... Although, to be honest, he never showed off, only sometimes he

inserted a few English words. Usually he was very friendly, a little cheeky, but always telling

jokes of al sorts. Hmm ... He was really funny, as a student. He was in Canada for about twenty

years, but still worked as an accountant. Well, at least he’s supposed to be a senior accountant

or something like that ... Wel , I don’t know, maybe he’s the chief accountant... But stil , frankly

speaking, she immediately liked this Sapozhnikov. He had something kind about him ... Well,

let's see ... In the worse case scenario, if she sees that this soul connection with Mr.

Sapozhnikov isn’t going to work out, then she always has a reliable alternate - Victor Stein. He’s

the one who invited her to Canada and paid for the tickets. He is already in her pocket. You can

see immediately that this man is positive, gentle, intelligent and fun to be around. Not greedy.

Not a redneck. He spoke very respectfully, like a true gentleman. Hmm ... It is increasingly rare

to meet man like that in our Zaporozhye... But with all these positive characteristics, something

was wrong. There was no spark or soul connection. Not like with Konstantin! And Victor…,

this ... well, he was too boring, maybe too positive... Well, why worry in advance? Maybe, if

Natasha will not succeed with Konstantin, she will meet Victor the following week, like nothing

had happened. But to not take advantage of this opportunity would be absolutely silly! Then

she'll be regret for the rest of her life! Actually, is it my fault that I was born in the Ukraine and not in New York?! Some people are lucky to be born Jewish and go to Canada, America or

somewhere else… Why, for example, the Ukrainians in Canada do not lobby immigration from

the Ukraine? Then I would have also left and wouldn’t have needed this Viktor Stein or some

other admirer from overseas! She would come to Canada and will start working as a doctor. In

Canada, perhaps, doctors are paid a bigger salary. Not like in this pitiful Ukraine... In Canada the

patient comes to you, looks into your eyes and asks timidly: “Doctor, how are my tests?” And you

tiredly, avoiding eye contact, looking at the test and sagely mumbling some strange numbers

while the poor guy turns blue, then red and finally grows pale from the strain. Silence in the

room, and in the patient’s eyes there’s only one question: “Doctor, tell me, will I live?” Hmm ...

Yeah… And what about a beautician like me? it is I who like a poor relative, look into clients eyes

always wondering whether they will come back again or decide to save their money instead.


It al began half a year ago. Natasha had a new client, Sveta, a woman about her age. She

ordered a costly procedure, did nutrient injections under the skin and even Botox, which

removes wrinkles. For three weeks the new client had spent at least two thousand dollars, which

was completely at odds with her “village” manners and primitive vocabulary. Actually she was a

classic “red neck”. According to her appearance, Sveta even close wasn’t looks like a prostitute,

even as a cheap one. And to suspect her in obtaining a multimillion Booker (literature) award or

an Abel (mathematics) award – was also very hard. When the two women became better

acquainted with each other, Galushko, with interest, learnt that Sveta picked up some Russian-

speaking German, Gena. He’s been living in Stuttgart since 1988. Gena was a widower and

older her on 12 years. They met online and it became apparent to Natasha that there was a

special Russian-speaking dating site, and that former USSR citizens from al over the world visit

this site. Anyone can join and it's absolutely free. Gena came to Zaporozhye from Germany and

they immediately realized that it was a fate! Now Sveta was put herself in order (for the wedding)

and in two weeks she will fly to Germany. To say that Galushko felt envy wouldn’t be entirely

true. She just flipped out!

- Honestly, this Sveta - the classic farm girl with no brain, - Natasha indignantly shared with her

best friend Nadia, - no pretty faces, no clean skin, just one corny anecdote! Maybe on a desert

island, somebody could become interested in her ... but just as another source of meat! Yellow

teeth, and the last time she had manicure was in high school ... And here you are! She caught a

real guy, not some drunken trucker from her level. I saw his picture. He is a pretty good looking

guy. Not Brad Pitt, of course, but relatively OK. And me, a doctor, with my good looks and

inelegance can't find anyone

- So, find out what site your Sveta visited. You have a computer at home, - Nadia pointed out to

the corner of the room, - I'll send my son over. He is just 14 years old, but he already

understands computers better than Bill Gates! We will take a proper picture of you, remove a

couple of years from your age, and could catch any guy you like! These foreign men also have

their own interest. Local women are not stupid! If anything is wrong they immediately run to

court. Not like our silly girls... working like horses, cooking dinner, washing, dragging bags from

the groceries...

- And you think it’s different there?

- Yes, everything is written in the contract! What man has to do, and what his wife has to do.

Well, you know these fascists! They keep everything in order! Not like our men! There are only

rogues, thieves and alcoholics on the Ukrainian market… In short, I’m sending my son over. He

will connect you to the internet and explain everything.

The next evening, Nadia's son spent twenty minutes scanning Natasha’s photos (from three

years ago), and registered her on a dating site. By the way, he’s been a member of this site for

over a year and asked Natasha to keep this secret from his mother. And dating business started

to move.

Letters to Galushko began to arrive from all over the world! She had no idea that Russian

speaking people can be found everywhere in Japan, Botswana, Jamaica, Bhutan, and other

exotic countries, which she never even heard of. But frankly speaking there were also some

assholes and people who were seriously deranged who were probably suffering from mental

il ness. Sometimes there were even children posing as adults. These potential "Grooms" from

her city (Zaporozhye) were the most repulsive and persistent. After just twenty minutes of texting

they would bluntly ask her to come over, demand her phone number or would unceremoniously

ask her name a price. After about a month, Natasha got lucky and met a former

Zaporozhyenian, now a citizen of Norway. His name was Sergei, and he was the same age as

Galushko. On the second day of their correspondence he candidly told her that he would be

coming to Zaporozhye to visit his parents in four days and that he would remain in his hometown

for about a week. He did, of course, want to stay longer, but the ship on which he works as a

mechanic, sails away for a month, so he only has a week. Therefore, he admitted, he has no

time to court her but his intentions towards her were very serious. He confessed that he doesn’t

speak Norwegian well (or at al ) and that local women were not interested in him. Natasha liked

Sergei. He was a mechanic, a real man, with oil on his hands, an easy manner and a good

sense of humor.. Every morning, he helped his sick parents, and in the evening he would come

over to visit her with a bottle of expensive wine and flowers.

-When I’m at sea, I won’t have internet or phone connection. Even the captain doesn’t have one,

- he said to Natasha on the day of his departure, - but I'l write to you the moment I return.

- Okay, I'll wait... she replied

She didn’t wait too long. Three days later, Galushko was delayed at a housewarming party of

a distant relative. Her relative’s house was far from downtown, where she lived, and she decided

not to take the risk and order a taxi. To her surprise, the taxi driver was Sergei the sailor! On his

hand she immediately spotted a wedding ring, and from the windshield hung a sign: "Driver

name: Nikolai Gromov". After an awkward chuckle, Sergei, or rather Nikolai, apologized for his

"joke".

- To put simply my wife and children went away for a week to visit the in-laws, -He said honestly

with a smile, obviously enjoying himself. - Well, and you believe that you’re not a bastard?!

Nothing but a cheap bastard!

- Look, I said, I was sorry and… By the way, you better forget my real name and how I look like.

To be fair, I won’t charge you for this ride.

Dropping her off, close to her house, he stared into her eyes and said

- You know what? Don’t think that I'm kind of quiet guy. If you’re going mess with me and my wife

hears about this, I will rip your fucking legs out and stick them up your ass! I have no patience

for whores!

Natasha jumped out of the car as if she’d been burned by a frying pan. When she entered her

apartment she immediately grabbed a cigarette, in spite of quitting four years ago. Afterwards

she took a shower, because the whole incidence left her feeling as if someone dumped a bucket

of slop on her.

For a ful week she didn’t go on the dating site, but eventual y curiosity got the better of her.

She calmed down and began answering the letters which seemed the most promising. She

stopped believing everyone she met virtually and through some seemingly innocent questions

she learned how to crack down guys like Sergei the taxi-driver/ sailor! Natasha was no longer in

rush, and eventual y got lucky!

Luck’s name was Victor Stein. He was a Canadian citizen, not married, forty years old, and

seemed like an overall nice and intelligent man. He didn’t have a university education, he just

completed some courses and worked as a programmer, but he was a very well-read and widely

diversified person. He knew a lot about art and music, wrote poetry and was making some kind

of electronic devices. After talking to her for about a month via the Internet, Stein asked for her

phone number. His voice completely matched the image that Natasha formed in her head during

their communication. Finally, Victor decided to come for a visit, he even ordered the tickets, but

his company suddenly received a rush order preventing him from going. Victor’s boss, who knew

about his plans and his personal situation, offered a compromise. Victor will receive a one-time

bonus of $2,000 and will invite his girlfriend, to Toronto. Natasha was extremely excited by the

idea and the groom began to gather al necessary documents. Galushko even instal ed a web

camera to her computer, and started communicating with Victor practical y in person.

And then, final y, she received a Canadian visa! Stein bought her flight tickets, and she was

scheduled to travel to Toronto in six weeks - on July the 15th. Victor certainly would have liked

Natasha to arrive earlier, but the airline had a fantastic promotion that offered discounted flights

in six weeks. Wel , big deal, what are six weeks?!

But in these six weeks a most interesting development transpired. A new man suddenly

appeared on the dating site, Konstantin Sapozhnikov. And most importantly, he was also a forty-

year bachelor and lived in Toronto, like Victor! No wonder that the people have a saying - either

a feast or a fast. This Konstantin was a much better looking guy, not balding and overweight like

Victor. Sapozhnikov was handsome, well built and more importantly extraordinarily funny. After

talking to him via webcam a few times, Galushko simply fell in love with him. If with Victor she

was constantly conscious of trying to look amused or interested than with Konstantin it was the

exact opposite. She truly enjoyed hearing his jokes and funny stories. And Sapozhnikov laughed

loudly and openly, dramatically throwing back up his still curly head of hair. She was sincerely

relaxed and received a lot of pleasure from chatting with him. Once, during a Skype

conversation, Natasha deliberately said that pretty soon she will be coming to Toronto, to visit

her friend, and if Konstantin was interested, they could meet. Of course, Sapozhnikov was very

interested, especially since he wasn’t doing anything special. Moreover, he offered to meet

Galushko at the airport and even suggested that she could stay at his place. The idea

immediately took root in her mind! Natasha said that she will be arriving in Toronto on July 8th

(not 15th) and it will be her pleasure to stay at his place. Konstantin immediately sent her his

phone number and home address.

Natasha ran to the travel agency and paid $100 in order to change the date of her departure

andthe ticket was changed to the 8th of July. That's it! Oh, how well it al turned out! She’l kill

two birds with one stone! If she hits it off with Sapozhnikov then, she could call Victor and

apologize. And when she’ll move to Canada as a permanent resident, she’ll pay Stein back for

the tickets. On the other hand, if Sapozhnikov doesn’t work out, and she’ll see that he has no

intention of marrying her, she will tell him “bye-bye” and a week later will go to the airport, to

Victor, as it was planned originally! Maybe it was not very nice, but not use this opportunity will

just be plain stupid! This sort of thing happens once in a lifetime...

2

Natasha felt an unpleasant pressure in her ears as the plane began its slow descent. She

opened her purse and pulled out a mirror. The flight only deepened her small wrinkles, which

appeared a few years ago. Yes, 35 years - is 35 years. Sighing heavily, she resolutely started to

work on her make-up applying shadows to the eyes, treating the wrinkles, tinting the eyelashes

and putting on a bright lipstick.

Walking through the long airport’s corridors, she cursed herself for wearing expensive 5 inch

heels and a black miniskirt to show off her beautiful legs. Even the glances of interested men

glances did not compensate for the l inconvenience of pulling her damn suitcases in such an

outfit. In addition to this, Natasha just wasn’t able to bend and therefore each time had to squat.

“I wanted to wear jeans! –Galushko thought angrily - But Nadia convinced me that I have to go

dressed as a queen! She said that the first impression is the most important! Big psychologist ...

I will recall it to her!”

Having done taken a lot of unnecessary turns and walked around in circles, because al the

signs were in English, Natasha final y made her way to the waiting room to wait for her potential

groom.

There weren’t a lot of people in the waiting room. She looked around for somebody with a

sign or at least with a bouquet of flowers but saw nobody. It was absolutely impossible to miss

her. Usual y people dressed like that when they were going to the theater. She inspected the

waiting room one more time, but the welcoming Mr. Sapozhnikov was nowhere to be found.

Galushko suddenly felt very tired. At the same time she felt dryness in her mouth and felt

extremely thirsty. But there were no benches in the waiting room. In a closest café she saw a

chubby black woman behind the counter. Natasha realized that this woman unfortunately

doesn’t speak Russian. In addition, Mrs. Galushko was alone, a rather big inconvenience as it

was absolutely impossible to leave her huge suitcase unattended. And so she was forced to

carry it around. Another twenty minutes passed. Natasha wanted to use the toilet. It was very

stuffy and her skin began to sweat and itch under a thick makeup. This whole situation was

clearly out of her control and our Ukrainian tourist was absolutely unprepared for this scenario.

"Surely he will be here any moment, - she tried to stay calm, - She was told once that Toronto

has terrible traffic. I'll wait for another fifteen minutes, and then try to call him. After al I have his phone and address. Or maybe he didn’t like me? No! That’s nonsense! Quiet... He’s probably

just late; he will show up soon..."

After an additional half an hour, Natasha, could no longer suppress the desire to go to the

washroom. She, sadly, rolled her suitcase in the direction of the restroom. Her feet hurt and

even started to swell a bit from the high heels. After visiting the washroom she returned to the

waiting room. Nothing happened. The desperate” bride”, hesitantly went to the cafe, hopelessly

dragging her suitcase behind her.

-Water please, - she said confidently upon approaching the smiling black woman. The woman

uttered an incomprehensible a reply in English and pointed towards the refrigerator that

contained the water bottles.

-Water, water, - again repeated Mrs. Galushko, pointing her finger at the water bottles.

The black woman said something again making Natasha nervous. She pulled out a $10 bil from

her purse and handed it to the saleswoman. She took the bill and with an honest smile said

something again pointing at the water cooler.

-Do not understand! – Said the Ukrainian tourist, who had exhausted her entire English

vocabulary and started speaking in Russian, -you took my money, and didn’t supply me with

water! Is this the way you greet tourists in Canada?

The saleswoman finally realized that Galushko doesn’t speak English. She came from behind

the counter, opened a refrigerator and got the water bottle.

-Yes. Yes, - nodded Natasha happily.

Taking the change, Natasha was surprised to find out that a single bottle of water costs $3. For

half a liter of regular water! But in Kiev, in any supermarket, this same bottle is ten times

cheaper! She only had about seven hundred Canadian dollars! Or more accurately, she only had

$697! And what am I supposed to do if Konstantin does not appear? More than two hours had

already passed. He wasn’t going to show up. I must do something. It’l be dark soon where will

she go!? She also, somehow, has to survive for a week. This was not a really funny

development... So, stop, stop, stop… And where will I stay tonight? Well, a ... Hmm ... Hmm ...

should I call Victor Stein and surprise him? Play the fool and tel him that I changed the arrival

date to surprise him? No. No, no way! Then I may lose everything and remain with nothing. Devil

pulled me to this Toronto! This Sapozhnikov is such a fucking bustard! He probably just forgot!

He is an irresponsible idiot! Or maybe he already got a new girlfriend? Just a second… Oh, what

a fool! I have his phone number and address!

Finally realizing that nobody was going to meet her, Natasha went to the bathroom to unpack

her suitcases and change. She put on jeans and sneakers and removed the thick layer of

various creams and other cosmetics from her face. After that Galushko went to look for a public

telephone. However, this turned out to be a dead end because some English-speaking woman

seemed to have picked-up the phone on the other side. Natasha repeated several times,

"Konstantin, please", but every time the woman replied something in English. Finally, Natasha

hung up. During this short conversation Galushko clearly heard children's voices in the

background. Now all that remained was the address. Wel , and if this address is also phony –

the only choice would be to cal Victor and make-up some story. In any case, staying at the

airport for much longer did not make any sense.

The taxi driver looked at the address, which Natasha wrote on a piece of paper and began to

ask some questions. Natasha could only smile stupidly back and shrug her shoulders helplessly.

The taxi driver took a deep breath and began to type the address into his GPS. After that, he

again began to explain something to her. From his explanation, she realized that this address is

not in Toronto.

-Do you speak Russian? - Tiredly asked the taxi driver.

-Yes! Yes! – with happiness answered Natasha, naively thinking that this driver studied in the

USSR.

-OK. I can drive you to the Russian area and you can ask there, - friendly added the driver.

There was no choice, and Galushko resignedly nodded. In the middle of the road, she suddenly

recalled that she didn’t ask how much it will cost, but after some thoughts, she decided that she

had no other choice anyway.

After half an hour of driving the taxi stopped in a large square. Natasha was relieved to see that

many of the shops had Russian signs. The driver took her stuff out of the trunk and charged her

$50. He left Natasha in the middle of the Russian-speaking district of Toronto with a large

suitcase and without any plans for the following week.

Night was falling and Galushko suddenly felt very hungry. She looked around with interest and

immediately noticed a supermarket with Russian advertising. Moving through the narrow aisles

with some difficulty, and not paying attention to the comments about her suitcase, Natasha

involuntarily overheard a conversation between two women approximately her age. They spoke

Russian, like all the customers in the supermarket.

- Is it not enough to that I work like a dog, and for such a low salary, apparently I stil have to

listen to complains! –said one of the women with angrily. .

- Yeah, it’s not fun... - soothingly replied the other woman.

- I have calluses on my knees and al my muscles are sore. Oh, I do not need this kind of life. It’s

probably time to go back to Belarus. My eldest son will finish college soon which will immediately

reduce then our costs. Except for that there is nothing holding me here.

- Me too. But I told to myself that I won’t go anywhere until I earn enough money to buy a condo

in Belarus. It is real y hard and you come across all sorts of different clients. I recently had one

client, a grandpa, at first he was nice but then he turned out to be exactly like the rest! Natasha

examined, with interest, these two women. They looked about forty, slim, but very tired. Short-

cropped fingernails, blue jeans, no rings, no jewelry... By Ukrainian standards, they evidently

weren’t prostitutes.

- Has he molested you or something like that?

-Oh no! He’s just a senile bustard! He loves to watch me when I work.

- Yes, It’s not always easy to clean after old people. They have nothing else to do that’s why

they are so picky. Wel , Valentine, I have to run.

Galushko bought two deliciously smel ing sandwiches and big bottle of water. To her surprise,

the water cost only one dollar.

Once she was on the street again, she ravenously started eating the sandwich. When almost all

of it was eaten, she noticed one of the cleaning ladies whose conversation she overheard, on

the doorway of the shop.

- Excuse me. Do you know where I can find a nearby hotel? Well... or maybe a dorm...

- A dorm? Ha-ha. Ha, you’re really amusing, - the woman was laughing honestly. What, are you

student? Why do you need a dorm for?

-Why? I need somewhere to spend the night.

-Have you just arrived? Are you looking for a job?

-No, not exactly... I've got a week to spend somewhere... there’s been some unpredictable

hassle...

-Come on! You can tell me. I’m also a partisan

-Who?

- Wel , I’m not in Canada legally. Where are you from?

- From Zaporozhye and you?

- Oh! I'm from Dnepropetrovsk! Hel o neighbor.

- So, what about the hotel?

-What you are talking about? Who are you, a millionaire? A hotel will cost you at least 80 dollars

a day. The basement, where I live, will only cost you $500 a month and there’s a room that just

became available last week. And by the way, this price includes Russian TV and laundry.

- But I only need a week...

- Hmm. Well, we could ask the owner... Maybe he will agree to charge you $150 a week.

The new friend, Valentine, did not live far away. Luckily the owner was at home. After a long

negotiation, the owner, who was no more than thirty, had agreed to take $150 per week and

temporarily took an additional $150, in case something breaks or if Natasha doesn’t clean the

room before checking out.

The room was in the basement. It was quite clean and there was even a smal kitchen. After

showering and unpacking her suitcase, Galushko knocked on her neighbor’s door, to thank her

once again for her assistance. With pleasure, Valentine invited Galushko over for tea and a short

chat. The new friend was a little over forty. She looked better than in the store, but when she

was smiling, the absence of her two front teeth immediately became apparent. In

Dnepropetrovsk, she worked as a history teacher and lived with her husband and son in her

mother in law’s condo. After the divorce, she had to rent an apartment and the shortage of

money became a real problem so she opened a business trading socks from Turkey.

Unfortunately, her booth in the market was robbed after a year and a half leaving her with no

money, not even enough to bribe the cops who kicked her out of the market. They found some

official reason, like her license was not legitimate. In addition, she had to pay back the loans she

took from the bank as well as from her friends and relatives. The bank had a semi-gangster

background and bank’s representatives had a very “serious” talk with her, said Valentine while

raising her upper lip to reveal the absent front teeth. Her son was sent to the province, to live

with her cousin with the promise of sending $150 every month. She then rushed to her ex-

husband for help. Since the divorce he has become a “rich guy” with connections and money. It

is not known how, but in two weeks Val got an international passport, and a phony job offer. She

visited the Canadian Embassy in Kiev, and got a visa for two years. Her ex-husband bought the

tickets and in exchange Val signed documents refusing any alimony. Her life in Canada was not

so bad, just, God forbid, if you get sick! Then al of your savings evaporate in a second. She was

waiting for the moment she could embrace her son again... On average she can save about a

$1000 per month. And in a provincial town, where her cousin lives, you can safely buy a good

two bed-room apartment downtown for 30 thousand dollars.



Natasha, in spite of the skeptical comments of the new friend, told her story, and even brought

the address and telephone number of the potential groom. At the end of the story, Val put the

phone on the table and handed it to Galushko.

- Wel , if everything is so romantic, like you told me, then just call your Victor Stein. Moreover, if

the address is not forged again, it is about fifteen minutes away on foot.

- What do I tell him? How do I explain to him ...

- Don’t worry, I'll cover for you. I would say that, it was all part of the plan, and that you intended

to stay in my place but that a last minute business trip is making me leave town early.

- And he will not guess...

- Just call him and we will figure it out. To be honest, everything about your story seems a bit

strange.

Natasha heard a long beep. After a while the answering machine turned on.

-Hey, Val, they are saying something in English. Could you translate?

After listening to the message, Valentine started to talk confidently.

- Oh, Victor, hello. This is Natasha's friend. I asked her to come early so she could stay in my

place for a while, but due to unforeseen circumstances I have to leave immediately on a

business trip. Please call me back... at any time. Natasha and I are waiting for your call.

After hanging up the phone, the partisan from Dnepropetrovsk looked at Natasha and said

thoughtfully

-The phone number indeed belongs to Victor Stein. Maybe he just went out for walk. So, I hope

he will call you back. If everything works out – you’ll owe me a bottle.

- Oh, thank you. I don’t even know what to say. I am so grateful for your help... I’m in this deep

shit because of this Konstantin.

- Wel , to be honest, in the beginning I didn’t believe your story... too much Bollywood…

- Hmm… Why I would lie to you?

- How should I know?! People tell “strange” stories all the time! I had heard so many psycho

stories, I’m even ashamed to repeat them. Someone told me that she was abducted by aliens

from the street in Bryansk (200km from Minsk). After they did al sorts of experiments on her,

they parachuted her near Toronto. And what a miracle - in her purse she found a passport, a

diploma, a thousand Canadian dollars and a birth certificate! What can I say? It’s all so logical. I

mean, it is understandable because, in Bryansk nobody leaves the house without these

documents.

The women talked for a half an hour, occasionally glancing at the phone. When it was past 11

Valentine said she had to wake up early and couldn’t wait any longer.

Next morning Galushko woke up late. After strol ing for a bit in the neighborhood and looking

at two-story houses with green backyards, she went to the same area, where the taxi driver left

her last night. After walking through different shops on the plaza, Natasha went back to the same

Russian supermarket and bought a small cake, a loaf of fresh bread and an assortment of

sausages - so as not to visit Val empty handed later this evening.

Everything Natasha saw was clean and beautiful, but the Ukrainian tourist expected to see

something special. Is it that really al there is to Canada?

At 5 p.m. Natasha began listening attentively to noises outside her door to determine whether

her neighbor returned. At 8 p.m., she started to get nervous and went out into the corridor every

10 minutes to check whether Val was back already. During one of these excursions outside of

her apartment, Galushko came face to face with the owner of the house, who happened to

descend into the basement for some tools.

- Hi, - said the owner of the house indifferently, - do you need something?

- Hi. I just wanted to see Valentine...

- Today is Friday, so she’ll probably be back after 11:30 p.m.

- How come she’l be back so late? I mean, I real y need her…

- Haha, she probably found herself a nice Canadian guy who’s helping her ‘improve her

English’… in bed! In any case, maybe I can help you. I’m Anton as you probably know…

- Yes, I do. I’m Natasha. Yes…, there is something you can help me with... I would like to cal

someone...

- No problem, give me the number, - Anton eagerly pulled out a cel phone from his back pocket,

- if it's here in the city, it’s no problem at all.

- Oh, thank you. Just a second, I have the phone number in my purse.

Taking the phone number of Victor Stein, Anton vigorously pressed the buttons of his cel phone

and gave it to Natasha. Unfortunately after four rings the answering machine turned on again.

Returning the cel phone to its owner, Galushko noticed that the glance of the landlord has

changed. His eyes openly inspected her and were focused on her chest.

- Thank you, - she said coldly, returning the phone.

- Hmm. Maybe you’d like to join me up upstairs for a cup of coffee?

- Thank you, but I‘m not interested.

- What the problem? I’m free and you're obviously not busy.

- I’m sorry but I’m just not in the mood.

- Did something happen?

- No, everything is fine.

- I’m not going to bite you, you know. It’s just a cup of coffee and short talk…

- You know what, Anton... Sorry, but I'm not… not what you think I am.

- In the beginning Valentine also spoke very disrespectful. Is it just part of the Ukrainian style?

Did I offend you?

- No, no I’m not offended. But still, I’d like you to leave me alone.

- There’s no need to be so defensive. I’m just trying to...

-I got it. Goodbye.

- Wel , it’s up to you, - Anton chuckled philosophically and left the room, not even closing the

door behind him.

The neighbor came back in the middle of the night. Natasha immediately went out into the

corridor.

- Oh! Are you awake? – said Val who was genuinely surprised.

- Wel ... I wanted to check ... if Victor cal ed you or not.

-Yes, of course. Come in, let’s check.

Going into the room and briefly glancing at the phone, the partisan from Dnepropetrovsk shook

her head and shrugged her shoulders.

- And what am I supposed to do now? - The lost Galushko sat on the chair.

- What to do? Well, he’s expecting you next week, so maybe he is on a business trip or visiting

relatives. How was he supposed to know that you’ve changed your plans and arrived sooner?

-Yes, I understand...

- Wel , and now... I want to go to sleep. Come see me tomorrow after 11 p.m. and we will work

everything out.

- By the way, Anton has been dropping some dirty hints...

- And what did you do?

- I sent him away.

- That was foolish and rash decision. He’s not a bad guy. He’s helpful and fair. So maybe his

social skil s are not perfect, but... Don’t worry; tomorrow we will solve all of your problems. Go

back to sleep.

3

A week has past and Victor still hasn’t called back. This was the last day – the official arrival day

of the Madame Galushko in Canada. In the morning Natasha, as usual, knocked on Valentine’s

door. The neighbor had already learned Victor’s number by heart. Again she heard the standard

rings and answering machine turned on. There was no point in driving to the airport.

-You can call in the evening, just to be sure…

- Val, what am I supposed to do now? My flight back is in three weeks.

- Like I told you before, earn enough rent for a month and don’t spoil your relationships with the

owner…

- Yes, that’s what you’ve been saying... but I only have 100 dollars plus the security deposit I

gave to Anton of $150. And I’d have to pay $450 for the apartment and I’d need eat something in

the next few weeks.

- Like I said before, come house cleaning with me. They pay $10 per hour and you get Sundays

off. That should give you some income for the next few weeks. And about the rent - go to Anton,

cry on his shoulder and tell him everything...

-And what if he starts undressing me with his eyes again?

-Well, in that case, try running away, but friendly even flirtatious manner... Come on woman,

you’re not a child! And besides, he’s a nice looking guy and a pretty decent lover.

- Really? Then why doesn’t he have a girlfriend?

- Who knows … Once in a while somebody coming here then disappears. In Canada being 30

years old is like being 20 in the Ukraine. He came here when he was five. So, you see he’s

almost a native Canadian! By the way, did you notice that he speaks Russian with an accent?

- Did you sleep with him?

- Wel , hmm... Why do you ask?

- So you did.

- Why are you acting so surprised?

- No, no don’t get me wrong I don’t mean to offend you… I just…

- Are you judging me?

-Me? Why would I?

- I ate so much crap in the Ukraine that in comparison this Anton is a golden man! He took me to

Niagara Fal s, lent me some money when I needed it and he always translated things for me. He

even helped me with a couple of new clients…and when I was sick last year... You can’t even

imagine! I lay motionless like a dead body and there was nobody... Absolutely no one around to

help me. I was completely alone! Like somebody who’s lost in the desert… Alone in a foreign

country... Without language and without money. If it weren’t for Anton’s help, I’d probably be

dead and buried already. Yes, he is certainly not an intellectual, and works as a landscaper but

so what? He’s from a good family and is not stupid. He actual y reads a lot... and besides it’s

natural for a young and healthy guy to look at women... In any case, he helped me when I was in

trouble and did not expect a thing in return. But I don’t like feeling like I owe someone

something! I don’t think you get it, when I was young and pretty, I sent so many men to hell,

including my own husband, and now what?! Look at me, I’m away from my country, I have no

home, I’m alone - even without my son, and am cleaning someone else’s shit! - Valentine

brushed away a tear, and took a sighed heavily. Anton had a rough life as well you know. He’s

parents separated a long time ago. They started their own new families, and he was raised by

his grandmother. He inherited this house from her.

- Sorry, I really didn’t mean to offend you, especial y since you help me so much. If it wasn’t for

you, I don’t know what I would have done. I hope you're not a lesbian because I too hate being

in someone’s debt, said Natasha with a smile.

- Ha-ha-ha! That was a sharp joke... No, I’m not but it’s an option I’m considering if I start the

immigration process to Canada. I could claim refugee status as a lesbian.

- What immigration process?

- Wel , I will claim that as a lesbian I was oppressed in the Ukraine. My lawyer said that it’s my

best and most reliable option.

- Hmm, interesting… But you have a son.

- In Canada they don’t see the connection. Okay, well we have to leave soon. Go change into

something simple and I’ll call my boss and ask her for permission.

Cleaning an apartment in Canada was not an easy process. You had to learn the names of al

the different chemicals and learn how to use them. For example, the cleaning solution for the

kitchen should never be used in the bathroom and each surface, be it glass, metal, plastic or

wood, required a different cleaning detergent. Also, it turns out that cleaning process has secrets

of its own. If you were to clean diligently, like you do in your own home, you’ll never be able to

clean a 3000sq.f house in six hours. But since the owners are only willing to pay about 90-100

dollars for a house cleaning, which on average comes out to 15$/h not including the percentage

you give to your employer, you have to find the right balance between quality and earnings. IF

the quality of the work is poor the owners will refuse to use your services but if you work too

diligently work you’ll have a very low salary! But that’s not all. It is important to make the owners

believe that you’ve been working very hard! Therefore, after you finished cleaning you must shift

al the furniture, as a demonstration that you indeed cleaned everywhere. Of course, any

Russian sergeant would reveal all these little secrets in two minutes, but luckily all of these

sergeants are still in Russia.

Natasha quickly got used to this job, and by the end of the first week she felt in good physical

shape and earned 600 dollars. 450 dollars immediately left her pocket to cover the rent, but still

it was something. On Saturday, returning from work, Valentine gaily asked her:

- So tomorrow is Sunday! Do you want to see Niagara Falls?

- Of course!

- Ask Anton.

- Get out! I thought you were serious.

- Wel , as you wish, but seeing as you’re so nearby - only two hours away- not going seems ...

well frankly, absurd! You will return to Zaporozhye and your family will ask you: What did you see

in Canada? And what you will tell them? I lived in the basement for four weeks and worked as a

house cleaner?

-Fine, I’ll think about it.

After taking a shower and putting herself together, Galushko, resolutely went upstairs and

knocked to the owner’s door.

The owner of the house opened the door wearing nothing but old shorts and a beautiful pair of

thin glasses. He was holding a book and looking at her with perplexity. Those glasses made his

face look intelligent and even attractive. Natasha suddenly noticed that he was perfectly fit and

tanned, with a clearly distinguished abs and impressive musculature. He reminded her of a

Greek statue at the Hermitage.

- Wel , what do you want? - asked Anton tersely.

- Wel -a, I ... I came.

- Yes, and…?

- I was wondering if I could borrow a book?

- Hmm, everything I have is in English. Are you sure that you came here to borrow a book?

- Uh ... well in addition to the book…Val told me that tomorrow you'll be going to Niagara Fal s...

- Really? Do you think I have nothing better to do?

- So, no plans about Niagara at all?

- No, I’m not going.

- And maybe your plans will change? I mean… I've been here for two weeks already, and I really

didn’t see much... – said Galushko approaching Anton. Perhaps she was influenced by the smell

of his young healthy body, or perhaps it was because it’s been four months since Natasha …but

somehow her hands touched his abs and her lips stretched out for a kiss. The book fel from his

hand, loudly banging on the hardwood floor. Natasha’s cotton robe noiselessly slipped to the

ground and all of a sudden she was swept off her feet...

Finally, sweaty and tired, they came off each other, like strangers in the desert come off the

well, having satisfied their thirst. It was quiet. Natasha suddenly remembered that they did not

use a condom.

- Anton, what was that? - She finally broke the silence.

- I do not know. It was like a spark or lightning in the fog.

- Yes, I fell the same way. And we didn’t use any protection.

- Why didn’t you say anything before? I thought you were on birth control pil s or some other

safety measure.

- There was no need for it. I haven’t been with anyone in over four months.

- Strange. You told me that you came here looking for a groom...

- So what! I didn’t come here looking for sex, I was looking to get married.

- What do you mean?

- Let’s just drop it. I should probably go anyway.

- Maybe you could stay? In the morning we could continue...

- I love to sleep in the mornings.

- By the way, you wanted to go to Niagara Falls.

- Exactly. I forgot. So when can we leave?

- Wel , it is almost four o'clock in the morning. If you don’t mind, we could go now. We’ll wash up,

jump in the car, and avoiding the traffic, we’ll fly to Niagara like birds. And if we leave now, we

might make it there by dawn and watch the sun rise over the falls.

- Hmm… Honestly, I am really tired and am dying to get some sleep.

- That’s not a problem; you can sleep in the car.

Anton’s car was flying on the night highway. All around there were dark woods interspersed with

gleaming lights from small towns. Suddenly, they went onto a huge bridge, which stretched for

several kilometers. On either side of her Natasha could see the shimmering water, weakly

reflecting the moonlight. In the distance Galushko could see the lights of a big city.

-Is this Niagara? – she asked excitedly.

-No, not yet. This is only Hamilton. Another forty minutes to go. Sleep.

The sky was slowly becoming lighter, but it was a few hours before daybreak. They parked the

car and briskly walked toward the sound of water. The noise level was gradually becoming

increasingly louder. Big clouds of water spray appeared not far ahead. A few drops fell on

Natasha’s face and finally Niagara Falls opened in al its glory! Her first impression was of the

noise! A loud humming noise was pressing on her ears, like a running turbine. Anton embraced

Natasha and shouted in her ear:

- At night the roar of the waterfall can be heard for up to 5 kilometers away. It is the largest

waterfall in the world, if you count quantity of fal ing water.

Standing on the viewing platform, Natasha, as if spellbound, watched the tons of rushing water

fall down past her. The water was like a cobweb, hanging in the air, woven from the finest

gemstones. With the first rays of the sun, the web started to gleam becoming radiant. A spray of

this magical web gently descended on her face, refreshing her skin.

- So in school we were taught this legend about the Maid of the Mist, - shouted Anton in her ear,

- When the Iroquois Indian tribe lived here, they had an annual ritual of choosing the most

beautiful girl in the tribe and bringing her here as a sacrifice to God Manitou, who they believed

lives in Niagara Falls. They dressed this girl in beautiful clothing, like a real maid, and put her in

an Indian boat. They would place the boat on the water and watch as it drifted towards the

waterfall, crashing at the bottom of it. Just imagine, falling down from this height! Once they

chose the daughter of their leader, but the chief refused to leave his beloved daughter, and they

sailed over the falls together. Deprived of an experienced leader, the tribe lost several wars and

in the future decided to stay away from all this garbage, i.e. tradition. Wel , shal we go?

- Can we stay for a little bit more? Please…

- Okay, well I’ll be in that café over there having a cup of coffee. You can join me when you’re

ready.

Shrouded by a fine spray and fanned by the wind the falls were changing their shape and color.

Tons of falling water rushed over the falls forming tufts of white foam at the bottom, which

resembled a giant water curtain. She could look at this live canvas forever, falling through it in

time and losing all touch with reality.

On the way back Galushko, silent and happily, smiled. She could still feel the drops of water on

her face, saturating her skin with moisture.

- Thank you, - Natasha said fondly, and kissed Anton on the cheek.

4

The next day, after returning home from work and not even having time to wash, Natasha went

to her neighbor and briefly described the events of the last day.

- Now you see! You should always listen to the elders! - said Valentine triumphantly while lifting

up her fist.

- You were right, you were right. But that's not al .

- Wel , what else?

- Everything happened so fast... And … We even didn’t use a condom...

- Are you tel ing me that you’re ...

- Yes, that’s exactly what I’m trying to say.

- What’s wrong with you? Or is it your plan to blackmail him?

- Don’t talk nonsense. I have no intention of blackmailing him.

- And raise a child... Ok, look I understand a guy’s mentality– never mind what happens, just go

to bed. But you’re not a little girl anymore! Have you even thought about the consequences?

- Wel , I'm telling you. Everything happened so fast, like a hal ucination...

- Wel , well. She came to Canada to get married and returned to the Ukraine without a husband,

and pregnant.

- Anyway I’m flying back in two weeks. My close friend – she is gynecologist at the hospital, so I

will have an abortion. It’s not like it’s my first time.

- Okay, well it’s up to you. Anyways, I have a smal work party tonight. So feel free to join us,

especial y now that you’re seeing someone.

- What should I bring?

- Buy something from the Russian store. Just don’t spend too much. After all everyone will bring

something. Now go to your room. I stil have work to do.

Galushko tried not to think about the fact that she’s most likely pregnant. And as for the landlord,

nothing was clear as well. Should she continue the relationship with him? Should she go to him

or wait until he comes to her? Should she talk to him about their future child? Or forget about a

future with a child and just have an abortion?

Returning from the Russian store, she stopped at a pay phone and dialed Victor Stein’s number

again. Everything was as usual. Four beeps and voice mail. What a fucking life! In all these

recent years, there was only one bright spot - last night with Anton and the trip to Niagara Falls.

The company of partisan from Dnepropetrovsk was rather amusing. They were mostly women

between the ages of 25 to 45. All of them were in Canada il egally, or have already submitted

documents to obtain refugee status. They had the heavy fate of a broken life, with children and

husbands remaining on the other side of the Atlantic. All their stories, with slight variations, were

very similar to Valentine’s. But in spite their difficult lives, they remained optimistic and continued

to hope for the best. For example, they al played in the weekly cash Lottery «Lotto 6/49" or

«Super 7." Moreover, on average, each woman spent 100 to 200 dollars a month on lottery

tickets! Every party, regardless of what the conversation was about it would always end with a

discussion of “What would I do with the money if I won ten million dollars". One by one they

would each outline their dream scenario, genuinely sharing the most intimate details with their

col eagues. At the same time the others would actively participated in the distribution of the

virtual money, giving advices and providing a detailed analysis of al the possible scenarios.

- You know what I was thinking, - one of the cleaners, a chubby woman of about 45 with a rustic

good-natured face, began to develop her version - if I won a million bucks, then I will go back to

my Omsk (an industrial city in Siberia) and that al ! Expel my alcoholic husband to hel .

Immediately buy my son and daughter a downtown apartment and after that I’ll have a surgery

on my chronic hernia and suck the fat out of my bel y...

- Better plastic surgery, - someone suggested seriously.

- Why do I need plastic surgery for? Am I not cute enough?! Ha-ha. Anyway, I will buy some

pretty car from overseas, like a jeep...

- What for? You have no license anyway.

- The car is not for me. It is for my future husband. You better stop interrupting. Now where was

I? Right, if I won ten million dollars there will be no point in returning! I will sponsor my children,

and buy them each a house. For myself I will buy a luxurious apartment downtown with a lake

view. I will have surgery...

- You mentioned the surgery already...

- That was surgery in Omsk! And now I’m talking about Canada! Are you even listening to me?

Okay, let's start from the beginning...

- First of all I will fix my front teeth, - jumped in Valentine, - I am tired of being ashamed to smile.

Then I’d bring my son here... And I’ll immediately start my own cleaning company.

- Super idea Val, go ahead! Then give us a job! - Approvingly said the guests.

- Then I will buy a huge house and out of principle I’l never clean it on my own. Let someone

else come and clean it, and I'l just go around and check if they did it properly. I mean who can

fool me? I know al the tricks! And I don’t want be married anymore. Let guys chase me and I'l

choose. This one has a stomach, and this one is bald, and that other one has a bad sense of

humor...

- Bravo, Val! - Again supported her guests, fil ing their glasses with vodka.

- Wel , and what about you, my friend? Why are you silent? - Said Valentine turning to Galushko,

- or maybe you just don’t want share? What are your dreams?

- But, I do not play the lottery, - honestly answered Natasha.

- So, you do not believe in luck! And people who do not believe in luck – they’re never lucky, -

said the cleaner from Omsk confidently, while knocking back another glass of vodka.

- No, you do not understand, - Natasha slowly waved her arms, - it was obvious that she was

relaxed bit tipsy from all the alcohol, - I do not want to win anything.

The whole room fell silent. Everyone looked at the Ukrainian tourist with interest.

- In that case, why did you come here?

- I came here to get married. Oh, get married. Ha-ha-ha, - laughed Galushko drunkenly.

- Wel that’s the same as playing the lottery! We play to have everything we dream about, and

you play to marry a man who already has everything you dream about. Frankly speaking, finding

a guy like that is like pul ing the winning ticket. It’s a one in a million chance! - explained the

cleaner from Omsk to her new acquaintances, in a motherly tone without any irony in her voice.

Natasha was astonished by the simplicity and obviousness of this logic. She suddenly realized

that whole her life, she’d been playing the Lottery. She’s no different from these rustic-looking

women who came here for happiness. And they have children and husbands while she’s 35 and

still alone...

Suddenly, somebody knocked on the door and the owner of the house came in.

- Is it too noisy? Or have the neighbors called the cops? - Asked the cheerfully tipsy company.

- Natasha, do you have a second? – said Anton without paying any attention to the girls.

- Why just Natasha? We are also nice looking women, - yelled almost everybody. But Valentine

just waved her hand, letting them know that now would be a good time to stay silent.

Galushko reluctantly got up and went into the corridor.

- Wil you be much longer? – asked Anton embracing her passionately. Once again she could

smel his body, and his breath.

- Go to your place, - gently said Galushko, and rubbed his never shaven cheek.

- I can see that you’re already pretty drunk...

- It doesn’t matter. Let’s go, let's go...

They went upstairs into his bedroom. Natasha made the first move. She hugged and kissed him,

trying to forget that she was no different from those women downstairs. Forget that nobody met

her - not Victor Stein, nor Konstantin Sapozhnikov. Forget that she is looking for a good fortune,

without ever even buying a lottery ticket. Forget that she’s 35 and that she’s probably pregnant...

Forget that she dreamed of spending these four Canadian weeks by visiting museums, going to

restaurants, looking at North-American architecture and taking a trip to Montreal and Ottawa.

Instead, she’s been working as a cleaner and discussing with strangers where she could spend

millions, which she doesn’t have.

Tired and happy they eventually unstuck from each other, falling on their backs, barely

touching hands.

- I will not go to work tomorrow, - quietly said Galushko.

- Why not?

- I have enough money until the end of my trip. Beside I’ve been here for two weeks and I

haven’t even seen Downtown.

- Wel , if you want, I could go with you the day after tomorrow.

- Of course but why not tomorrow?

- Wel , I have a business… I can’t just not go to work. I also have drive my employees to

different sites, explain what to do etc.

- I get it... How many people work for you?

- Six men.

- And what do you do?

- I’m a Landscaper.

- What is that? It sounds like a funny word.

- In the summer I cut grass, in the autumn I collect leaves, in the winter I shovel snow, and in the

spring I plant trees. It’s really not a complicated business.

- Oh, now I remember. Val told me that you're a gardener. Can I stay here today? I don’t really

want to go downstairs.

- Of course. I offered it to you the last time.

- Thank you.

- What else did Val tel you about me?

- A little bit about your grandmother and how you helped Val when she was sick.

- That was serious. She nearly died. I wanted to cal 911, but she begged me not to…

- Anton, how old are you?

- 33.

- I thought you were younger.

- It’s because of all that fresh air I breath. And how old are you?

- I’m 35 and by the way, it is not polite to ask woman’s age.

- But you asked first. What do you do in Zaporozhye?

- I’m a beautician. Actual y, I’m a doctor-dermatologist, but in the Ukraine beauticians earn more.

- What is a dermatologist? My Russian isn’t that good.

- It means skin doctor. You know, when we were drinking today, all the girls were talking about

what they would do with a mil ion dollars.

- My guys, too. Every lunch they seriously discuss this topic. It’s pretty annoying.

- But Val surprised me most of all. She said that she would open her own cleaning business and

would never clean her own house again. All she’d do is go around and criticize the quality of

someone else’s cleaning.

- That’s interesting. It seems the slave does not dream about freedom, only about his own

slaves.

- Wel said. And what a philosopher said that?

- It's written in the Torah.

- Hey Anton, who are you?

- I do not understand. I'm Anthony.

- Ah, your name is Anthony?

- Yes. So what?

- Wel , you know these unusual things.

- I just love to read. At school, I was a fool and didn’t study properly, and then, when I grew older

and learned to appreciate reading it was too late. So… I don’t even have a high school diploma.

- Did you really read the Torah?

- Sure. Sometimes I go to the synagogue.



- So you're a Jew ... But you do not look like one. Maybe if you had glasses.

- Wel , I'm sorry.

- I have an idea! Let me cook dinner for you tomorrow. When are you coming back?

- After eight. But please make something with lots of meat! I’l give you the key to the house and

leave you some money on the table.

5

Natasha woke up at about 1 p.m. and having slowly returned to her room, she put on some

make-up and went grocery shopping in a good mood. After much deliberation she decided to

make her special dish "Chicken stew with dough balls”. While searching for all the necessary

ingredients, Galushko wandered into the spice aisle. Walking down the long line of various

spices and condiments, and failing to find bay leafs, she eventually resorted to inspecting

random translucent bags of spices in hopes of identifying the desired item. She was in the

process of examining the contents of one of these bags when she noticed another shopper in

the aisle who looked like a Russian speaking gentleman. He was standing close to her and was

confidently removing a bag of spice from the shelf.

-Excuse me. Would you happen to know where I can find bay leafs? – said Natasha in Russian,

taking the risk.

-Are you talking to me? – asked the man turning towards her. To Natasha’s astonishment she

recognized him! It was Victor Stein, the man she’s been trying to get a hold of ever since her

arrival.

-Victor?! You're in town!

- Hel o, Natasha, - said "the groom" coldly, but at the same time began to scrutinize the "bride" , with interest.

-Don’t you have anything to say to me?

-And you, don’t you have anything to say to me?

-Wait a minute. I hope this isn’t some sort of a reality show: "How to survive in Canada?" Where is the hidden camera?

-What do you want?

- Why didn’t you come to meet me?

-Why did you arrive a week earlier?

-I? Uh ... Hmmm… how do you figure that out?

-I paid for the tickets with my credit card if you change the dates, the airline is obligated to tell

me, and otherwise I can cancel the payment.

-Yeah, I get it ... So; you knew in advance that I will arrive a week earlier?

-Yes.

- Did you hear the message my friend left on your answering machine?

- Yes, I did.

-Well? Why didn’t you cal back? Maybe I wanted to surprise you?

- Sure you did. You were planning on staying at Konstantin Sapozhnikov place during that first

week, and then come see me. Thank you, but I do not need such surprises, - chuckled Victor

sarcastically.

- Wait a minute ... A ... Ah ... How do you know about Konstantin? – Galushko was staggered.

- Wel , first of all, Konstantin Sapozhnikov does not exist.

- What do you mean he doesn’t exist?

- Very simple. The man you spoke with is my cousin, Boris. When I told him that you’ll be coming

for a visit and that my intentions for towards you were serious intentions, he offered to check you

out for me. In the beginning I refused, but him and his wife persuaded me saying that I was too

trusting, and that it was just a harmless test... Eventually, it turned out they were right!

- So all of this was plotted in advance? you knew all along... But that... that’s just so mean!

- You’re one to talk! I invited you, paid for your tickets, waited for you, and you decided to see

another man. Is that your definition of decency?! Wel , don’t worry, I also have a surprise for

you… so now we're even.

- So, this was your revenge?! and you didn’t come to meet me on purpose?! Well, you’ve

succeeded. I'm really sorry that I hurt you so much… but I did plan to return the money I owed

you for the tickets later. I guess it doesn’t matter now. Sorry...

- No problem. So you'll excuse me too, for my surprise. Actually it was my fault, - said Stein with

a sarcastic smile, - I was a fool to trust some... But it is OK, I learned a good lesson and I paid

for that lesson.

- I also got a good lesson...

- Only you didn’t pay for it.

- No, Victor, I paid a very expensive price. Just not with money.

-Okay, here’s the bay leaf, - Stein leaned over and pul ed a bag from the bottom shelf, - do not

cal me anymore.

Natasha came home in a miserable mood. She had a horrible headache and had to lie down on

the sofa. The groceries remained untouched on the table. It was time to start cooking but she

had no power to get up. The most annoying thing about the whole ordeal was that she couldn’t

be upset at anyone. She only had herself to blame for everything that’s happened.

"What a fool. Fool, fool! - she repeated to herself with anger, - you deserve it! You left pursuing

two grooms, and will come home empty handed and pregnant... what was I thinking looking for a

husband abroad! What a perfectly horrible vacation! Oh, why I didn’t I marry Petrenko in

University! How he begged me... on hands and knees!!… Now he’s running a private clinic in

Moscow. He’s rich, successful and married…

With some difficulty getting up from the couch Galushko, reluctantly went into the kitchen. The

desire to cook had vanished completely, but the products have already been purchased and

promises were made...

- Eh! Win ten millions, hire a chef and never cook again! - thought the Ukrainian tourist

sarcastically putting on an apron.

Anton came home before eight, and immediately started hugging her with the intention of

escalating the action further.

- Wait! Let me finish, - Natasha push him away indignantly, - I cooked all day! Let’s have supper

first. Oh and by the way, do you have any vodka?

- Actually I have whiskey. Wait a second. Vodka ... Vodka ... I had some lying around

somewhere. Let me think… I probably have some in the gift set. Aha, some Ukrainian vodka!

The bottles are smal , 100 gram each. Someone gave it to me for my birthday. There are four

different types… but they’re not cold.

- Doesn’t matter, just bring it over here.

- Did something happen, or does the soul asking for?

- No I’m just in a lousy mood...

- Okay, I’ll get it.

While Anton was getting the vodka, Galushko finished cooking and set the table. Her special

chicken dish turned out perfect and they ate it heartily, knocking back a drink from time to time.

When the whiskey bottle was half empty and three empty mini-bottles of vodka were scattered

on the table, Natasha final y relaxed. In this state, she told Anton everything about her meeting

with Viktor Stein in the supermarket.

- …So basically, I’ll return back to Zaporozhye, have an abortion and immediately go to church.

When I was a little girl my grandmother always took me to church, and when I grew up...

- You started looking around for a groom! Ha-ha, - drunkenly joked Anton, hugging her.

- The last time I was inside a church was twenty years ago, - Natasha continued, without paying

attention to his comment, - it was so dark inside and when I stepped out onto the street ... A

bright light struck in the eyes... But I never prayed, I don’t even remember how...

- It doesn’t matter. You just have to be honest ... All prayers were written by people, so who’s to

say that their words are more ‘right’ than yours? Say what you mean, in any language. Besides,

if you think about it words are not really that important because God already knows what you

want.

- Listen, you're a lot smarter than I thought you were ... My first impression of you was that you

were an insolent scumbag... but it appears that my first impression was…

- It appears your first impression was wrong! In reality I'm sweet, humble and modest, - said

Anton with a wink while slowly rubbing her shoulders, - and I like you...

- Really?

- Really.

They were awoken early in the morning, by a phone call from one of Anton’s employees. It was

just before dawn and the early morning sun bathed the room with a soft glow. Despite the early

hour the birds were already singing. Our two love-birds had a quick breakfast and made their

way downtown. The city amazed the Ukrainian tourist. It was so large and bright but the

skyscrapers, that she wanted to see so badly, did not meet her expectations. Niagara Falls has

left a much more vivid impression on her. Nevertheless she liked the promenade along Lake

Ontario with its yachts and seagul s, with dozens of cozy cafes and gift shops. They even went

up the CN Tower and stood on the transparent floor. On the way back Galushko clung to her

guide and asked timidly:

- Can I spend the night again?

- Of course you can. You shouldn’t be asking. Just bring your stuff upstairs.

- Thank you.

- You are welcome, - said Anton simply.

- So tell me… did you take Val to see downtown as well?

- No.

- Why?

- She didn’t ask.

- And if she asked?

- Then I would. I don’t mind.

- Interesting. So you’re willing to drive any woman?

- Ha! No, not any woman. You’ve got me all wrong. I said I’d take Valentine, not just any woman.

- Because she’s your emergency sexual help?

- Don’t be an idiot! First of all, we’re friends and second of all she’s a good person. She helped

you when you were in need without asking for anything in return. Anyone else would have simply

left you to fend for yourself. Also, I met you thanks to her. Besides, my relationship with her

wasn’t very long. I just broke up with my girlfriend... And Val, well ... she sincerely wanted to give

me something back for helping her. It was not just because I wanted to get laid. We did each

other a favor, I helped her solve her problems and she helped me solve mine.

- Sorry. I'm probably just jealous. You’re right Val really helped me a lot.

- Yes, she did.

6

Few more days had passed and Natasha, already well settled in the house, started cooking

regularly. In the morning, before Anton went to work, Natasha would make him breakfast and

pack him a lunch box because she didn’t want him to eat any fast food. Anton, on his part,

bought her a city map with bus routes and subway stations. Every morning, our Ukrainian tourist

traveled to the city for sightseeing and by five o'clock returned home in time to cook dinner. At

dinner, the table was covered with a variety of Ukrainian dishes and a great deal of Russian

vodka. On one such evening Natasha casually asked:

- Could you drive me the airport tomorrow night?

- What?! Is it time for you to go already?

- Yes. My trip has ended. It is time to go home.

- Maybe you could stay? Technical y, you have a visa for three months, but you’ve only been

here for less than a month.

- Thanks, for the offer. But my vacation is over it’s time to go home.

- And what have you decided about the abortion?

- Wel , nothing yet ... Maybe I’l keep the child… I’ve been dreaming about having a child for a

long time… I just keep thinking that one day, I’d marry a nice man, have children... But that’s

probably not my fate …

- If you want, I'll give money for an abortion?

- No, thanks. In Zaporozhye can do it for free, if I decide that I want to do it at al . My best friend

from university is a gynecologist. But thank you for the offer.

- You know, despite of what you think, I do care if you keep the child…

- Wel , if I do keep it then you’re more than welcome to come for a visit. You could see the child,

and I'l also show you my city like you showed me Toronto.

- Okay. Could you leave me your phone number and address?

- Sure. But I don’t see why you’ll need it for?

- I do not know. Maybe when you leave I'll get bored.

- You’re an attractive guy. I’m sure you’ll find a new girl pretty fast. Someone younger… she’ll

rent a room downstairs and you’ll drop by to help her get settled in... You already have a pretty

reliably system set up.

- Why are you such an idiot?! – said Anton getting up and looking at Natasha with obvious

anger.

-Oh, Anton, I’m sorry... I don’t know what I'm saying. I'm sorry. We barely know each other, and

it’s not like we’re in love... I mean this was just mutual sexual attraction... stil … I guess I do feel

that there’s something going on between us. Oh, my God, what am I saying? This is so stupid!

I'm older than you, and... - here Galushko sighed, - oh, why am so unlucky? Why? I did nothing

wrong...

-You’re great, - said Anton sitting down by her side, - I just need a little more time. I mean we

need a little more time.

On the way to the airport, they were silent, trying to avoid making eye contact. Both thought

about their own feelings, afraid to admit that they did not want this separation to happen.

Approaching the front desk, Natasha held out the ticket and looked at Anton, hoping for a

miracle, like in the movies. But he only dropped his eyes and put her suitcase on the scales.

- Mrs. Galushko, sorry, but your ticket was canceled, - said the airline representative with an

unnatural smile.

- What do you mean canceled?! than how did I arrive here?

- Sorry, but you need to contact your travel agent but it seems that I don’t have your family name

in my system.

- And how am I supposed to fly back?! what am I supposed to do?! I don’t understand! How is it

possible to cancel the ticket without my knowledge?

- Sorry. Maybe you paid by credit card, and something happened?

- I didn’t pay, but the ticket was in my name they can’t just cancel it without my...

- My dear lady, you are very wrong, - said the Ukrainian airline representative removing her fake

smile, - please contact the person who paid you. Now please step away from the counter. You

are holding up the line.

On the way back the Ukrainian tourist gave vent to her anger.

- Damn you Victor! What a bastard! This fucking intel ectual… So, I guess this was the ‘one

more surprise’ he hinted at. Bastard, schumbag, snake!

- Looks like you real y offended the groom...

- Yes, indeed! What a piece of shit! And he planned it all in advance. He didn’t cancel the tickets

right away! No! He waited until I arrived, and then ran and cancel ed! It was al part of the plan! I

have to suffer the whole nine yards! And now what?! Do I have to go and clean houses again?!

Oh… what am I supposed to do in order to earn enough money for the fucking return ticket?

- I’ve never seen you so angry; - Anton was surprised and looked at her with interest.

- I would like to see what you look like in my situation! What do I do now?

- Nothing. I offered you to stay.

- Offered, offered... What for? To suffer even more when I leave?

- Wel , a ... I ... I thought, we were good together. Maybe we could be together a little bit more ...

I also felt that something was happening between us...

- And then what?

- Wel , then we'll see. What do you have in Zaporozhye?

- I've got friends, family, work...

- So how were you planning on marrying this Victor Stein?

- That was completely different, that was marriage! I would have all the official documents… I

could work here... start a life

- So you're so upset because you can’t work?

- Yes! I mean no. What does this have to do with a job? You don’t understand anyway!

- So, what have you decided? Are you staying at my place?

- Do I have a choice?

- There’s always a choice ... If you want, we could drive back to the airport and I'll buy you a

ticket for the next flight…

- What, you can’t wait to get rid of me?

- Ok, calm down and just take it easy. Look here ... When we get home, you should think,

without hysterics, what you want to do. You can tell me what you decide tomorrow morning.

- Yes, I already decided!

- Wel ? What’s your plan?

- When we get back I am going to find this fucking Victor and kick his ass.

7

Galushko didn’t want to sleep. Her mind was too preoccupied with horribly unpleasant thoughts .

Eventually Natasha decided to go down and Valentine for some advice.

- What, did you come to say goodbye? - Good-naturedly asked the cleaning lady from

Dnepropetrovsk.

- No, just to talk. Wel , and for a consultation.

- Of course, come in. After you moved upstairs, you completely forgot about me. Hot love every

night… you never even came to say goodbye.

- But you’re working during the day.

- Okay, let’s say that you found a good excuse.

- Sorry. I really ... I wanted to visit but something always came up.

- Ok fine. So tell me how come you didn’t fly back to the Ukraine?

- That bastard, Victor Stein, canceled the return ticket.

- How?!

- Just like that.

- Is that possible? How would he…

- I just found out that it is possible, at the airport! Because he paid for it, he can cancel it.

- So, what will you do now?

- Oh, I don’t know. That’s the problem. I have no plan, not even an inkling of a plan. Anton

offered to let me stay with him. To live here for a couple more months until the visa expires. And

if I don’t want to stay, he said he could buy me a ticket back right away. So I really need to

decide what I want.

- Wait, am I missing something? If he invites you to stay, why the hell are you leaving?

- What am I going to do here? If he married me that would be another story…

- And what about Zaporozhye? Do you have something to do there?

- Wel , I don’t know ... Maybe I will keep the child or maybe I’ll have the abortion and after that

get married.

- Why didn’t you get married before?

- I just didn’t find the right guy.

- A-huh. I see... and now? Where will this ideal candidate come from?

- Uh... Maybe he’l never come. How do I know?

- And what about Anton? Do you like him?

- Wel , overall, yes, but...

- But what?

- Wel , I do not see him as a future husband. I swear, I have this feeling that after two months

he’d drop me at the airport without so much as a goodbye. On the other hand, to be honest, I

don’t want to go back.

- So why did you actually come to Canada?

- Wel , hmm... to get married…

- Sounds more like you came to find the happiness…

- Yeah it seems like it.

- It seem that in Zaporozhye, there aren’t any good catches. Only in Canada you can find real

men! Smart, beautiful, gentle... and rich!

- What does ‘rich’ have to do with it? This wasn’t about money...

- Ha, of course not. You don’t understand... People, who have lived here for more than ten

years, change so much, they have an entirely different mentality. They have their own notion of

what is good and bad, their whole behavior changes and why should you or him have to adjust

yourself?

- A lot of people get married to foreigners and are happy...

- Do they? Oh, Natasha-Natasha! So we're coming back to the point from which we started.

They are so happy with somebody, because they married for money. He gives you a good life,

and in exchange you give him love. It’s the perfect "happy ending" as the locals call it.

- And you, Valentine, why did you came to Canada?

- I never hid it. I came to earn money and go back.

- Wel , but what if you find your true love here?

- Ha! Me? If you’re over forty it’s not that easy.

- Some people get married at sixty!

- This only happens in their own country.

- OK, Val. You better tell me what to do. Should I stay or leave? Give birth or not give birth. Wel ,

just advise something!

- You’re really funny… just like a child. I told you already; first have to understand what you want.

Love or money… And everything else will be solved by itself.

- What if I want to combine the two options?

- Theoretically it’s possible, but it should have been done a long time ago, in university. In the

sweet time when you both have neither money nor brain!

- It seems that Anton loves me…

- Seems that way. Money was defiantly not the trigger.

- And what if I want money?

- Then my dear, you lost a screw in your head! Until you decide what you want - nothing will

happen. You’ll just waste your time.

- Thanks for the advice. I'll think about.

- Thinking never hurts. Even for you… Just do not wait until you’re forty... By the way, did you

notice anything? - Valentine smiled broadly.

- N-no. What?

- What-what? I finally fixed my teeth! Well, how do I looks?

- Amazing! It looks so natural! Good for you.

- Two thousand dollars... But what the hell we live only once!

- You’re absolutely right. You're stil young! Okay, I should go… you have to work tomorrow.

With some hesitation Natasha opened her suitcase and pulled out a toothbrush. After that, she

started to quietly sort her stuff out. When she finished and came back into the bedroom,

Galushko suddenly realized that Anton was not there, despite the fact that it was after midnight.

After wandering a bit around the house, and not finding the owner, she sat down in the living

room and turned on the TV. Twenty minutes later she was tired of switching from channel to

channel, and called Anton’s cell phone.

After the third beep the answering machine asked her to leave a message.

- Anton, please cal home. I'm worried about you, - timidly said Natasha, and hung up.

She’s absolutely lost the desire to sleep. Natasha lived with Anton for more than two weeks and

he has never went anywhere at night. No, it was certain. There’s no luck in Canada. First of all,

those two cousins with their idiotic test… the future abortion... the cancellation of the return

ticket…and now on top of all that, Anton’s disappeared... That’s it! She made up her mind. The

moment her decides to re-appear I’ll immediately ask him to buy me a ticket back to the Ukraine.

That's it! Galushko was tired! Everything about Canada was just one continuous surprise!

Soon it was morning, but the owner of the house still hasn’t appeared. Now Galushko really

started to worry. Maybe he was upset and had an accident... Or maybe he drank too much, got

into a fight and is now sitting in a police station... How else could she explain why he didn’t cal

her back? The whole situation was absolutely awkward and Natasha had no clue what to do.

Anton cal ed at about lunch time. With the sound of a roaring lawnmower in the background he

briefly explained that they are working near a high voltage power station so the cell phone

reception is horrible and it’s very difficult to talk. Calming down, Natasha started to cook dinner.

At about seven o’clock the phone rang.

- Natasha, is that you... - said Anton uncertainly, - I’m not coming home tonight.

- Did something happened?

- No, everything is OK.

- Wel , can you at least explain to me what's wrong? Did I offend you somehow?

- No, it has nothing to do with you. Last night my ex-girl-friend called and asked for my help...

- So you want to tell that you slept over there...

- Yes. So what? It’s not what you’re thinking.

- Sure, it isn’t... Only I don’t understand why you tried to convince me to stay?

- Wel , a... I am a... So, I didn’t... I mean, I did nothing wrong.

- I hope you didn’t change your mind about buying me a return ticket?

- So, you finally decided to leave?

- Are you an idiot? Or just pretending?

- Yes, I'l buy the ticket! Especially since I already promised.

- Thank you.

- For what? I didn’t buy anything yet.

- For everything, Anton, thank you! – cried Galushko with anger in her voice and hung up.

"Wel , maybe it's better this way, - thought Natasha once she calmed down, - at least the

situation became clear. I decided to leave anyways. This is probably my fate; unlucky with men.”

Galushko wanted to share this new development with Valentine, but unfortunately she wasn’t

home.

After supper, alone, offended at the whole world, she decided go to bed, and in the morning visit

Valentine and ask for her advice.

Early morning the Ukrainian tourist with a heavy feeling sat on the sofa and checked the

"Russian" newspapers. Looking through the monotonous advertising she suddenly found prices

for flights to Kiev. Galushko sadly looked out the window and suddenly remembered how last

week one of the workers came in the evening and Anton gave him an envelope. He pul ed it out

from the top drawer. Perhaps, she could take some of that money and buy a ticket? Fly home

and forget as quickly as possible these four weeks in Canada... It would be stealing, but on the

other hand, he did promise to buy her a ticket. And if she only takes as much as she needs to

buy the ticket than it would be fair… besides, it looks like Anton is not in a hurry to fulfill his

promises. Natasha looked around with a deep sigh opened the drawer. There were two sealed

envelopes. One was thicker than the other. Natasha opened the thick envelope and saw a pile of

$50 bills. Three thousand dollars! "Definetaly enough for a ticket," –thought Galushko gladly.

She eagerly opened the second envelope. There was a letter inside. Overcoming her bad gut

feeling, she was surprised to read the Anton’s clumsy handwriting:

"I've always had bad luck with women. I guess there’s really nobody to blame for that... Natasha,

if you're reading this letter, it means you're just like the other. I spent the night at my father’s

house. Take the money. I hope it will be enough for a ticket and for an abortion. It's probably

stupid, but I thought that we could be happy together. Anton. "

Natasha was unpleasantly astonished. She thought about putting the money back and

pretending as if nothing happened. How will he know?? It’s stil possible to recover from this... I

could probably fix everything… Could I? Should I even bother fixing this? He tested me, like

Victor Stein did... if he doesn’t trust me now and feels that he should test my intentions than he’ll

probably continue to test me in the future... that sort of relationship is not for me... Val was right, I must decide for myself what I really want. Natasha knew she wasn’t looking for money; she was

looking for love... However with money, love would definitely be more attractive...but maybe it’s

worth a try either way? Honestly speaking, she has nothing to do in Zaporozhye.

Natasha sat down in confusion on the couch and dialed Anton’s number.

-I found the money and the letter, - said Galushko, - you tested me. Why didn’t you trust me? I

never lied to you.

-Don’t be offended, - final y said Anton after a long pause.

- I also wanted…I hoped that something might happen between us...

Nine months later, Natasha Galushko gave birth to twins. They were two healthy pink-cheeked

boys.

-Here are my two princes, - said Natasha smiling, - no wonder I went so far to find you.



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