Chapter 28

It was a year ago, the main steamboat of our caravan moored in a small village.


Not far from that place we were planning to buy meat for our restaurant and stay for a while at the shore. About sixty kilometers ahead there was a dangerous space on our route up the river as the navigation lights were not working there and that was the reason why we could not move at night. We decided to organize an evening of recreation at our steamboat for the local youths. We started advertising through our broadcasting system of communication loudspeakers and the local radio.

The alluring white steamboat, shining with multitudes of lights, the sounds of modern music always worked to attract local youths.


In the evening almost all the young people of the village moved one after the other towards our luxurious steamboat. Usually our visitors at the beginning, especially the newcomers, like to go sightseeing. After a walk along the middle and upper decks they usually move towards our bar and restaurant. As a rule the girls enjoy dancing and the guys drink spirits.

The exceptional atmosphere of the steamboat together with nice music and spirits always excites them. Although sometimes it causes some trouble for our crew as there is never enough time for the young people and they started collective appeals asking to prolong the pleasure for at least half an hour, then again and again.

At that time I was in my cabin alone. I could hear the sounds of music from the restaurant and was trying to adjust the future schedule of our caravan movement. Suddenly I felt somebody's intent look. I turned and saw her eyes behind the glass of the window. At that time it did not surprise me as the visitors were always eager to see the steamboat cabins. I stood up and opened the window.


She did not move and continued to look at me though she seemed a bit embarrassed. I felt like I should do something for that lonely woman who was standing in front of me.


A thought crossed my mind:

“Why isn't she dancing with all the rest, maybe she is troubled?”, I suggested I would be her guide and show her our steamboat.

She bent her head silently as a sign of agreement.

I took her sightseeing. I showed her our office which used to impress our visitors by its carpeting, soft leather furniture and computers. Then I invited her to my private cabin which consisted of a bedroom-study and a living room which was also furnished with a beautiful set of furniture. There was a TV set, a video player and also wonderful carpets on the floor.

Apparently, at that time it was fun for me to impress a country girl from a remote area with the articles of a civilized way of living.


I opened a box of chocolates for her. I also filled two fine crystal glasses with champagne trying my best to impress her completely with the ostentatiousness, turned on the video tape where Vika Tsiganova, a famous modern variety show singer, was performing Love and Death. There were many other songs on that tape which were performed by my favorite singers.


She took a sip of champagne, looked at me attentively and asked,

“It is very difficult, isn't it?”

I could expect any other question from her but that. The voyage was really a very difficult one. Because of the very complicated navigation situation on the river, the crew consisted mostly of the students of the River Vocational School. Some of them were smoking "herbs" and also from time to time stealing some stuff from our store.

Very often we ran out of our schedule and could not manage to be on time at some settlements where people had been informed beforehand about our arrival. All those anxieties deprived me of the opportunity not only to enjoy the environmental beauty but also of time enough for a good sleep.

I told her something like that:

“It's all right, never mind, we shall overcomes."

Then I turned towards the window having my drink of champagne. We were talking about something else, watching videotapes almost till the end of our outing when our steamboat moored to the bank. I saw her to the ladder.

On my way back to my cabin I noted to myself,

“There was something strange about that woman and at the same time she left inside me some kind of light and bright feeling”.

That night, for the first time after many days in a row I slept like a baby.

“Dear me, so, it was you, Anastasia?”

“Yes, that's right. Over there, in your cabin I had memorized all the songs I sang for you in the forest. While we were talking they were being played. Now you can see how simple everything is”.

“How did you get on the steamboat?”

“It was interesting for me to see the way everything was taking place, your way of life. You see, I usually took care only of my dachniks. I ran to the village, sold the dry mushrooms collected by the squirrels and bought a ticket for your outing. So, now I know a lot about the category of people you classify as entrepreneurs and I know you well enough too. I am sorry, I am feel, very guilty towards you.


At that time I did not know that things would develop like that. That I could change your life and your destiny so much. I just couldn't help it as they have started accomplishing this plan. They are dependent only on God himself.


Now, for a while, you and your family are going to go through great difficulties and misfortunes but later on everything will be fine”.

I did not realize what exactly Anastasia was talking about.


Although at that time intuitively I felt that something was going to happen which would go beyond the realms of our regular imaginations. That something would have something to do with me. So I asked Anastasia to specify and tell me exactly what she had in her mind. I tell you, at that time while I was listening to her I could not even suspect the exactness on her prediction and that it would start to come true.


Anastasia's story had brought me back to the events which took place a year ago.

“At that time on the steamboat you showed me everything, even your cabin, treated me to chocolate, suggested champagne then accompanied me to the ladder. I did not leave the bank of the river. I was standing there behind the bushes and I could see through the lighted windows of the bar the dancing youths who were having fun.


You took me sightseeing all over the boat except the bar. I guess the reason was my clothes. They did not correspond to the situation. I was twisted around into the shawl. I had my simple knitted jacket on and too long a skirt. Although I could take my shawl off, my jacket was clean and tidy, my skirt had been carefully pressed with my hands before I came to the boat”.

She was right, I did not take her to the bar because of her strange looking clothes under which as it has now come out this young girl was hiding her dazzling beauty. This kind of beauty would have singled her out from the other people.


I said to her,

“Well, Anastasia, did you really need that bar, would you have danced there in those galoshes of yours? And don't tell me you know how to dance modern dances”.

“Sorry, but at that time I was not wearing galoshes. When I was changing mushrooms for money to buy a ticket, I also took from that woman a pair of shoes. Although they were rather old and tight for me but I had polished them with grass and as far as dancing's concerned... you know, I just need to have one glance at those who dance, — that's all. Believe me, I can dance better than you can imagine”.

“Sorry, did I hurt your feelings?”

“No, you did not. Although if you had only invited me to the bar, I don't really know for sure whether it would have been good or bad, but the events could have taken a different course. Everything that has happened would never happened. Anyhow, right now I am not sorry. Whatever happened, just happened”.

“Well, what exactly has happened? Has anything terrible happened?”

“After having seen me off you did not return to your cabin. You called to the captain and you went to the bar together. When both of you came in, the audience was very impressed. The captain was wearing his uniform and he looked very smart. You also looked very elegant and respectable. You were well known to many people in the environs, the famous Megre, the owner of an exceptional caravan. Both of you realized perfectly well the impression you were producing on the surrounding people.

You sat down at the table where three country girls were sitting. They were only eighteen years old, they had just finished school. The waitress brought you right away chocolate, champagne and crystal glasses of better quality than those the rest of the people were using. You took one of the girls by her hand, bent towards her and started to tell her something into her ear as far as I could understand... they call it "compliments".

Then you danced a couple of dances with her and never stopped telling her something sweet. The girl's eyes were shining. She had an impression of being in wonderland. You took her out on deck and showed her the steamboat, exactly the way you did to me. You took her to your cabin, treated her to the same stuff you did to me: chocolate and champagne. Although your behavior was a little different, I mean not exactly what you did with me. While with me you were serious and even a shade of sadness was present. In her company you were full of joy. I could see it perfectly well through the lighted windows of your cabin. Maybe, at that time I wished I were her”.

“Oh, did you feel jealous, Anastasia?”

“I don't know what kind of feeling I was experiencing at that time but it was unfamiliar to me...”.

I recalled that evening, those young country girls who were trying their best to look older and stylish.


Next morning the captain of the steamboat Alexander Ivanovich Senchenko and I were laughing together at our night adventure. At that time when the girl was in my cabin I realized that she was in the state of mind when one is ready for anything...


I did not mean to take possession of her, so I told Anastasia about it and she replied,

“Still you had taken possession of her heart. You came out on deck, it was drizzling. You threw your jacket on the girl's shoulders and accompanied her back to the bar”.

“What about you, were you standing all that time behind the bushes, in the rain?”

“It was all right. The rain was very light and comforting though it was preventing me from watching. I did not want my shawl and skirt to get wet. You know, they belonged to my mammy. I was lucky to find a plastic bag on the shore so I took them off, put everything into it and hid it under my jacket”.

“Anastasia, why didn't you come back to the steamboat since you did not go home and, moreover, it was raining”.

“I couldn't as you had seen me off and yet you had other worries so I did not want to bother you. The bottom line was that everything was coming to an end. When the party was over and the time came to say "Good-by", you at the request of the girls and mainly at the request of that girl who was with you on the steamboat, allowed the crew to stay by the shore a little bit longer.

Everything was in your power including their hearts and you were intoxicated by that power. The local youth were thankful to the girls and the girls in turn felt themselves gifted by the power through you. They forgot absolutely about the young people who were also in the bar and though the same time they were their friends and former schoolmates. The captain and you accompanied the girls towards the ladder. Then you went to your cabin and the captain went to his bridge; the steamboat gave a hooting sound and slowly, very slowly started to cast off.

The girl you were communicating with was standing on the shore among her girlfriends watching the beautiful white steamboat moving away. Her heart was beating strongly as if it was ready to break away. Her thoughts and feelings were messed up. Behind her back there were the dark shapes of the country cottages without lights. Before her there was the steamboat of her dreams leaving the shore forever.


It was shining with multitudes of lights lavishly pouring charming music all over the river and the dark quiet shore-Over on that magic boat there were you. The one who told her so many beautiful words which she had never heard before, such alluring and charming words. All that magic was moving away from her forever. A decision came to her and in front of everybody... the girl squeezed her fingers into her fists and screamed desperately: 'I love you, Vladimir!' Then again and again. Did you hear her screaming?”

“Yes, I did”, I replied.

“It was impossible not to hear it and the people from your crew could hear it too. Some of them came out to the deck and were laughing at her. I did not want them to laugh at her. And then as if they had realized something they stopped laughing. You did not come out on the deck and the steamboat was moving slowly away.


She thought that you did not hear her and continued chanting, 'I love you, Vladimir!' Then her girlfriends joined trying to help her. It intrigued me, I wanted to know what kind of feeling was the one which they call "love". Because of that feeling man could lose control over himself or maybe I wanted to help that girl. Anyhow I shouted together with them, 'I love you, Vladimir.'

Somehow, at that moment I forgot that I could not pronounce words like that without meaning it. The words should always be supported by feelings, awareness and trustworthiness of natural information. Now I know how strong this feeling can be. Sometimes even the mind is not able to control it. Later on that country girl started wasting away, drinking spirits and I could hardly manage to help her.


Now she is married and involved in everyday routine. I had to add her love to mine”.

The story about the girl touched my feelings a little.


Anastasia's words brought back the memory of that evening very clearly and in detail. Everything had happened exactly the way she had described. It was so real. Though Anastasia's rather peculiar declaration of love did not occur to me at that time. Even later on when I had learned and seen a lot of her way of living and got acquainted with her world, she still seemed to be an unreal being, though she was sitting next to me and I could reach and touch her easily.


My consciousness, having been used to operate with different criteria of evaluation rejected taking her as the one who is existing in reality. Although, at the beginning of our meeting I was , attracted to her but later on I did not experience former emotions towards her.


I asked,

“So, it means, you think that the new feelings which appeared in you were occasional?

“They are longed for”, answered Anastasia, “they are even pleasant but in return, I would like you to love me the same way I do. Though I have realized that on learning about me and about my world better, you would not be able to perceive me as a regular person. Maybe you could even get scared of me sometimes... You know, actually it has happened that way. It is all my fault. I have made a lot of mistakes. I don't know why but all the time I got nervous. I was rushing, trying to explain and failed to do it. Everything looks foolish, doesn't it? I need to correct myself”.

While saying those words she was smiling with a shade of sorrow.


She pressed her hand against her breast and I recalled right away something that had happened one morning while I stayed at Anastasia's.

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