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**It is the 1917 in the heat of the Russian Revolution. After a particularly bitter fall out with Borya, Natasha finds herself in the arms of another man.**
On a cold December evening in her snug, warm apartment, Natasha set three paintings together against the wall and took another look at them. She had been working on them for a couple of months, and was finally feeling satisfied with the results. With less than a week before the exhibition, she was fully confident they were ready to hang among the other pieces of art in a show at the Pushkin Gallery. A local art club had organized this event and Natasha was flattered to have been asked to show three of her paintings depicting her bold, abstract animal designs. She was hoping to see Kazmir, the talented and flirty avant-garde painter, there as well. She had always meant to meet up with him one day, but Borya’s jealousy and tendency to keep tabs on her had dampened her plans.
Nevertheless, art was as big an interest to her as was the cause, and she had invited many people to attend this special evening.
About a week before the show several party members were in a meeting to discuss various appointments to committees for the new year. Natasha took notes as Borya went down his list, assigning comrades Dmitri and Julius to tasks involving drafting of the new laws. Alexandra Konin was to be sent to speak with peasant women in order to secure party backing, and several others were to be involved in labor union reorganization.
When the meeting was adjourned, Natasha followed Borya into his office and handed him her set of translated notes to be approved.
Borya sat down in his chair, dropping her notes on the table and rubbing his head the way he did when he felt a headache coming on.
“Natasha..I’ve decided to send you to Brussels to speak at the International Socialist conference.”
A request like this was not altogether unusual, so she casually asked when.
“I realize it’s short notice but I’ll need you there on Friday.”
“The day of the art exhibit opening?”
Borya picked up her notes and started thumbing thru them.
“Yes, December 21st.”
“Well I can’t go. I am displaying paintings in that show.”
Without looking up, Borya replied. “There will be other shows, Natasha.”
“I’m sorry but I can’t go.”
Borya gave her a look, then went back to the notes.
“This is important. You are going in my place as I cannot leave the capitol. You are the only one I trust to speak for me in my absence.”
Her tone began to harden a bit.
“Well then…you are going to have to find someone else. I am planning on being at that reception. It is very important to me.”
“Nonsense,” he replied, his eyes still on the notes. “Our advocacy for revolution across Europe demands that we continue the spread of agitation and propaganda. You’ll do far better than anyone else keeping your head, especially if met with any objectors.”
Natasha sighed and took a couple of steps forward. He still didn’t get it.
“I’ve invited many people to this event. I’ve worked on my pieces for the last six months for this show. It is a huge honor to be asked to be part of this.”
“This is not the time to challenge me, Natasha. The train tickets have been purchased and accommodations made. You’ll leave Wednesday evening.”
“No I won’t.”
At this, Borya looked up.
“I’ve got another terrible headache coming on, Natasha. Don’t be unreasonable.”
“Someone is being unreasonable and it’s not me.”
With that, she turned and headed towards the door, not interested in getting into it with him. She had always sacrificed everything to come running to his aid, taking on dangerous cross border assignments, getting out of bed to meet him at some odd hour, standing in for him when a speech was bound to get jeered. But this time, he had come up against something equally as important to her as party obligations…her independent life as an artist.
“Natasha, please…” he said, trying to get her to stop and reconsider. “You’re the only one that-“
“No Borya,” she said firmly, grabbing the door handle. “No. I can’t do this. Please respect that.”
Immediately his temper flared.
“Exactly what ARE your priorities?” he said, his brow furrowing in frustration. “To choose an art show filled with bourgeoisie nonsense over your duty to the revolution? An outrage!”
“Are you accusing me of being disloyal to the party?” she asked incredulously.
“I accuse you!” he shouted, standing up. His hand quickly went to his forehead and he winced with pain.
“It can’t always be about you,” she said firmly.
“It’s not about ME!” he barked. “It’s about the revolution! The engine must keep moving at full force! You have chosen a very inopportune time to put your hobbies at the forefront.”
“The revolution continues regardless of an art show, Borya,” she said, trying to keep calm despite her rising anger. “Find someone else.”
“ANARCHIST!!” he shouted, loud enough for people in the next room to hear.
“SPEAK FOR YOURSELF!” she shouted back, looking illegal bahis into his eyes, growing wide at her insolence.
“NATASHA!!” was the last thing she heard as she slammed the door and fumed down the hall past the sentries and thru the secretarial room. Immediately eyes were on her as she huffed her way past a multitude of curious women at their desks. She didn’t care. What should she care if they heard them fighting. Disrespectful, spoiled man! Insulting her loyalty, her art, degrading her creative life down to some dismissible, petty waste of time.
Walking down the main hallway back to her office she passed several committee members who knew she had just come out of Borya’s office. They could see her glowering, clutching her briefcase as she strode past them. She passed Alexandra Konin, the speaker she had met when she first saw Borya speak in Paris. Natasha never totally warmed up to her. She always felt like Alexandra was watching her as if she was some character in a novel. She noted a little rise in Alexandra’s eyebrows as she passed. What story might she be creating in her head about their fights? Who cares, Natasha thought. Let the rumor mill keep churning, and Borya could go to hell, for all she cared.
The men she passed in the hallway stayed silent and out of her way as she marched by. The last thing they wanted to get tangled up with was an angry female. Especially Natasha.
Natasha returned to her office, shut the door and tossed her briefcase onto the desk. She wanted to leave for the day but it was too early, there were notes to translate, papers to get prepared for signatures. It wasn’t unusual for she and Borya to get into it, but this time he had cut too close to the bone.
After a few minutes she had cooled down and went back to work. Suddenly a knock at the door sent a jolt thru her, as she imagined a glowering Borya standing in the doorway. She readied herself for battle.
“Come in,” she said guardedly.
The door opened and Alexandra stood there. Natasha breathed out a sigh of relief, although she wasn’t entirely thrilled to see this nosy woman, either.
“Come in and shut the door.” Natasha said, figuring she wasn’t going to get out of the scene she and Borya had created without divulging some inside information.
“If you’d like a change of scenery…” Alexandra began.
“I’m going to be traveling for a while thru the country, speaking in different villages. You are welcome to use my office in the next building over.”
Natasha looked up. She could see Alexandra understood how uncomfortable things were getting with the increasing tension and responsibilities everyone was experiencing. Maybe she had been too quick to judge her, considering her generous offer. And maybe it would be a good idea to put some distance between her and Borya.
“That is a very kind offer,” Natasha replied. She then let out a sigh, letting her guard down a bit.
“He can be…difficult,” she admitted.
“Perpetually single minded despite the cost to others,” said Alexandra. “You’ve certainly proven yourself more patient than most negotiating in rough waters. But we all have our limits.”
“He wanted me to speak at a Socialist convention for him, the same day as the Pushkin gallery opening.”
“You’ve had that planned for months.”
“Yes I have. And I am going to opening night.”
“Good for you.”
Alexandra got up and reached into her purse. She took out her office key and handed it to Natasha.
“You know where my office is. It’s down the hall from Alex Volkov’s,” she said, heading to the door, then hesitated before turning towards Natasha.
“Oh, and come to think of it-he’s returned to the capitol from Germany. Hmm…well, you’ll have someone new and interesting to talk with then. And I hear he’s quite the art lover. Anyway, the office is yours if you want it.”
“Thank you, Alexandra. I really do appreciate it.”
With that, Alexandra nodded good-bye and shut the door behind her, leaving Natasha to feel a bit guilty about her presumptions. Still, she did notice that little smile playing at her lips when she mentioned Alex. Not only did Alexandra have a hearty appetite for the personal dramas and romantic goings-on of the party members, but she also had a knack for setting people up for it as well.
The next morning Natasha moved into Alexandra’s office. She worked undisturbed until later in the afternoon when Ivan, a messenger, rapped on her door and peered in.
“There’s a little celebration going on in Alex’s office, if you’d like to join us.”
Feeling it would be best to socialize a bit in her new location, she agreed and headed down the hall. Voices and laughter grew louder as she entered Alex’s large office. There were several people, including soldiers, crowded around a table with bottles of wine and some food set out. Natasha helped herself to a glass of wine, said some hellos, then stepped aside to observe for a moment. That’s what she saw Alex, People’s Commissar of Foreign Affairs, sitting at his desk on the far side of the room, busily writing. He seemed completely absorbed illegal bahis siteleri in what he was doing and almost unaware of the celebration going on around him.
“What is the occasion?” she asked to no one in particular.
Alex looked up and their eyes met. She was struck by his intense blue eyes that flashed at her as he spoke.
“Absolutely nothing,” he replied, with a pleased smile.
Natasha felt an odd rush of intimidation and excitement. She and Alex rarely crossed paths. He had an unmatched talent for speaking passionately at rallies, stirring and inspiring the people to action. But she had never seen him at close range before, and his answer, as well as her sudden rise in temperature, had her at a loss for words.
“We stalled Germany again,” Ivan called out. “Alex refuses to accept their atrocious list of conditions otherwise known as a peace treaty. He was able to buy us more time. Thus we celebrate…absolutely nothing!”
He tipped his wine glass and took a long drink.
Natasha returned her eyes to Alex, who then stood up and came around his desk.
“I’m sorry…” he said with a smile. “I should officially introduce myself. Alex Volkov. And you are Natasha Sokolov, I believe.”
She nodded. “I am. And I have enjoyed many of your speeches. You are an excellent and inspiring speaker.”
He gave a bow of his head.
“And you have recently taken up residence in Alexandra’s office?”
“I have,” Natasha replied, hoping to avoid details.
“Domestic dispute?” he said with a hint of amusement.
Natasha looked at him curiously. She wondered what he knew.
“I understand you are a fine painter,” he said, changing the subject. “Perhaps at some point we could compare notes on some of our favorite artists? Maybe over a cup of tea later this week.”
“I would enjoy that very much,” she said, almost unable to look into those enigmatic, steel blue eyes, like the eyes of a wild animal, steady and all seeing. They peered at her confidently thru a pair of pince-nez perched on his slightly crooked nose. He had lustrous, thick brown hair with a mustache and goatee to match. She suspected he was rather proud of his good looks and kept himself well turned out.
“Now, back to work,” he said, interrupting her thoughts and returning to his desk. “If I can even get anything done over this cacophony.” He gestured with a bit of irritation at the increasingly intoxicated revelers slowly emptying out the wine bottles.
As he resumed his writing, she quietly made her way out of the room and back to her office, leaving the laughter and chatter behind. What an unusual man, she thought. These days, he was heavily involved in the Brest-Litovsk negotiations, but it was obvious he was a man not interested in socializing if he could avoid it. He seemed to only tolerate the small talk and parties that most people tended to crave to break the tension of their long days. Yet still, she thought, even at a distance behind his desk, seemingly detached from it all, he was a keen observer. Of that she was absolutely certain.
It was his eyes, she concluded. The eyes of the Volk…the wolf.
Borya stood in the doorway of Natasha’s old office, blinking in disbelief.
“I told you she moved out,” his secretary Olga said, just as surprised.
“But why?” he said out loud. “We just had a minor disagreement. Nothing different from any of the other multitude of scuffles we’ve had over the years. She is completely over reacting. Completely.”
Saying those words didn’t bring his confidence level back, as he was still faced with an empty office and the sudden absence of his lover and closest confidante. His stomach was starting to churn. This had gone too far.
He immediately turned around and walked past Olga.
“Hysterics..that’s what it is. Pure hysterics,” he grumbled, stuffing his hands in his pockets.
Borya entered the north wing and glanced into each office he passed, trying to locate her. Not watching where he was going, he bumped into Ivan.
“Where is Natasha?” Borya asked gruffly.
“Straight down this hall, last door on the left,” replied Ivan, eager to assist his leader.
“I can walk with you if you’d like.”
“No,” Borya said coldly. The way he felt, he didn’t know what would transpire once he got to her office and didn’t want any witnesses Whatever was going on with her, the game had to come to an end.
Natasha’s door was open so he stepped in. There she was, that untamable and unpredictable woman who had consumed so much of his time and thoughts, busy translating notes. When she looked up, her expression of defensive irritation was not a particularly hopeful start.
“Yes?” she said, coldly. “You’ve come to visit the anarchist?”
With that comment, she returned to her notes. Borya shut the door behind him.
“You’ve made your point, Natasha. You’re highly displeased with the situation.”
“What situation?” she said, looking up. “There is no “situation.” The matter is closed.”
“I promise you can have a good stretch of time off when you return from canlı bahis siteleri the convention. I know you’ve been working nonstop since October, as have we all. You can have time off to paint and-“
Natasha shut her eyes and shook her head in disbelief.
“Excuse me?” she said, not believing what she was still hearing. He would not let it go.
“Natasha, please!” Borya barked, losing his patience. “Certainly there are other art shows coming up. I cannot understand your refusal on this! It is crucial you be there! Are you suffering from some sort of hysteria? Perhaps you will come to your senses in a day or so…”
Her indignation flared at those words. What was he implying-that she was not in her right mind because of her menstrual cycle? He certainly was trying to deliver a low blow.
Natasha rose from her desk and walked over to Borya. She stood eye to angry eye with him, staring him down. His fury suddenly eased with her nearness, as the fire in her beautiful eyes distracted him. He just wanted her agreement, and then to reach out and wrap his arms around her there in that office and kiss her and just get this uncomfortable rift over with. But her next harsh words tore into that hope for him, however, and delivered a chilling ultimatum.
“If you say one more word about that damned convention I’m putting in my resignation and you will never see me again.”
Never had their past disagreements carried that sort of weight. He was stunned into silence. She stood looking him in the eyes, daring him to press on. Instead, he controlled any further outburst, balling his fists in frustration. Then, resigned, he dropped his head, turned, and exited the office.
Skulking down the hall back to his quarters, he heard a very audible slam of her office door, permanently ending the discussion.
Natasha laughed as she started to draw in her sketchbook.
“I’m serious!” she said. “I take it everywhere with me. I never know when I might get inspired.”
Alex looked at her thoughtfully. His eyes sparkled with amusement.
“Excellent! Then sketch your portrait of me. One day perhaps I can sell it and retire in style.”
Natasha laughed again, busily sketching. She had joined him that next evening in his office for their chat about art and theater and books, and was enjoying herself quite much. Alex was an odd mix. He was the mediator for the treaty with Germany and was set to raise an army from the ground up…yet he had the mind and heart of an artist. He was cultured with a passion for writing. He was tall, lean, with beautiful hands that seemed to belong more to a bohemian creative rather than the powerful military leader he would become. Nothing about him quite fit, Natasha thought. One moment his steely blue eyes could arrogantly penetrate right into hers as he pressed his opinions upon her, then the next, he could be a laughing, dimple faced schoolboy, full of charm. He could speak as articulately and passionately about his favorite painters as he could military strategy. It was an interesting change from the normally work obsessed Borya who thought of little else beyond revolution and the means to an end.
Borya, she thought. What had happened? It all seemed like a sudden explosion and now they were blown miles apart. How were things to proceed now that there was this angry distance between them? Her bitterness about it, however, had overtaken any sorrow, at least for now. She felt no remorse. She was a free woman and owed him no alliance beyond the duties she chose to take on. At least that’s what she kept telling herself.
“My, but it is cold in this big room,” she commented after a moment, pouring more hot tea into her cup. She needed a diversion from her dark thoughts.
Alex stood up.
“So it is. Let’s get a fire lit in here.”
His large office was an ornate room of the Winter Palace, complete with a fireplace. He summoned the help to bring in some logs, then he walked over to Natasha and gently took her hands in his. The move surprised and delighted her.
“Your hands are cold…” he said softly. “Let me warm them.”
He brought her hands up to his lips and kissed them, then began to rub them softly. A rather bold move, but this was a man who sensed an opportunity when he saw one. And Natasha did not protest. She sighed softly as he massaged her fingers in such a way to let her know he was quite able and ready to make more than just her hands feel good.
“Are you warm enough now to finish the drawing?” he asked, looking at her after giving them a few more soft kisses.
“Yes, thank you,” she replied, her heart beating quickly but keeping her composure. “Now back down you go.” She put her hand on his shoulder and guided him back down into his seat again, then picked up her pencil, settled into her own chair to continue sketching. Both were silent as she worked. Alex held still and looked at her unabashedly, solemnly. There was a tension between them, as they made eye contact again and again as she worked, becoming more and more intimate with his features, his soul, as she sought to capture his energy and likeness. She furrowed her brow and pressed the pencil harder where she sensed the drama. The spark of his blue eyes, his goatee jutting out proudly. That look in his eyes that told her he was loving the unexpected attention.
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