Full Circle Ch. 02bytens©
A note on Russian names for readers: Russians often call people they are close to (family and friends) by the diminutive of their first name. You might think of it as a nickname. For example, Jim and Jimmie are diminutives of the name James; Chuck and Charlie are diminutives of the name Charles. In this story, Marusya is the diminutive of Maryia, Vanya for Ivan, and Vasya for Vasily.
When Russians address or announce one another, they use the first name and the patronymic name -- a derivative of your father's name that kind of serves as your middle and last name before your family name. The character Vanya would be addressed as Ivan Kirillovich and the character Lina would be addressed as Akilina Kirillovna as they are both the children of Kirill.
If someone is a close family friend, you oftentimes refer to them by their patronymic name only. For instance, Vasily is often referred to as Viktorovich.
If you find it distracting or confusing, all featured Russian words can be plugged into a good online translator. Feel free to e-mail me if you have questions or suggestions.
It's a longie; thanks for reading.
September 23, 2012
It had been another soul crushing night in the library. Persephone gathered her books, ready to hit her bed and pass out. She was glad her housing was so close to the main library, her favorite place to study. Thankfully, the autumn season wouldn't roll in until the end of the week. She'd walk home quickly and comfortably in shorts and sandals.
As she exited the library she realized how dark it was. How long had she been in there? The quadrangle's lampposts were lit and only a couple of students were making their way to one place or another. Persephone realized it wasn't the greatest time to walk home, but the campus shuttle wasn't due for another half hour. She could make it home in nine minutes if she hustled. Clutching her large, heavy tote to her side, she began a brisk walk toward her apartment.
She made it to the darker end of the quad. It was a shame the café there was closed. She could have done with a late night snack. "Lord knows there's nothing in my fridge," she scoffed to herself. She could take care of that tomorrow night. What would she need from the store? Cous cous, plain yogurt, whatever was on sale from the seafood section, tomatoes, tuna, eggs, chocolate, milk, kale, chick peas, ground beef--
Persephone's listing was interrupted by a pull on her tote. By some miracle, she maintained her footing against the rough jerk and managed not to fall on her ass. Before she had time to locate the source of her imbalance, a hooded young man was in her face, pulling on her bag.
"Where's the money, bitch?"
Bitch? She wasn't a bitch! Why would he say that? He was pulling on her purse. It wasn't his, why was he doing this?
"Look, just stop okay," Persephone said firmly as she kept a hold on her tote. Her young assailant was pulling even harder now, getting closer to her face.
"Come on, bitch!"
They were now engaged in a tug of war of sorts, granted Persephone had to use two hands. She didn't care what it took, she wasn't going to let this asshole take all her notes. She was so engaged in winning their struggle, she didn't see the perpetrator reach into his dark hoodie and pull out a small handgun.
Persephone glared at him as she pulled back and noticed a look of uncertainly on his face. Perhaps it was fear. Was he ready to give up and leave her alone? She realized the reason for his trepidation when he pressed his weapon against her jaw.
An alarm of anger and distress went off in her head. "Stop it!" she gritted out. She unconsciously maintained her grip on the tote and turned her face away from the cold metal that pressed against it.
"Let go, bitch, come on." He pressed the gun into her mandible. It was a timid and warning gesture that didn't involve the infliction of pain -- only insistence.
At that moment, the gravity of being face to face with a potentially loaded handgun handled by an unsure teen weighed down on Persephone. She was risking the lower half of her face over her fucking purse. She immediately let go and the mugger sprinted away.
Help. She needed help. Her phone; she didn't have her phone; it was in her bag. Someone had to hear her, had to help her.
Persephone let out the most the alarming scream she could manage. She would wake the whole fucking university if that's what it took. She paused only to take a deep breath that gave life to another gut wrenching shriek. That second one made her dizzy, but she had to something, the bastard was getting away!
As Persephone began to suck in air for yet another wail, she saw a large figure tackle her mugger down to the soft grass of the quad. He threw the gun away, yanked up her offender by his lapels, and began delivering sound punches to his face. Persephone couldn't quite identify the emotion that was overtaking her. She was wound up so tightly; the adrenaline that rushed through her during her encounter began to rise again as she watched the youth get pummeled. Fear and anger were being replaced by rage and elation. Trembling, she edged closer to her large defender.
Gigantor? Was it...? Yes, it was definitely him. Few men matched that built-yet-lithe frame. He straddled the teen, his large body dwarfing him. Persephone thought something was awkward and peculiar about the way Vanya hit the guy; his face seemed calm and in control. Dressed in his stylish oxford and slacks, he maintained his stoic gaze and natural poise while beating the tar out of the kid. The adjective "professional" popped up in Persephone's head.
Though she was glad the boy was getting what he deserved, she resolved that the day -- or night, rather -- was won. They could let the police handle this.
"Vanya," she said his name to no response. He was pretty into his task. She didn't want to startle him so she edged closer and slowly placed her palm on the side of his face. It seemed like a gentle way to raise him from his concentrated reverie. He only took notice of her when she spoke.
"Hey...hey, I think you got him."
She could feel that he had shaved recently, perhaps earlier that day. She got a little thrill feeling his strong, clenched jaw. He was probably as strong as he looked, more so even -- and that was saying something. Vanya finally turned to face her and looked at her as if she had grown two heads. Had he even noticed she was there? He seemed taken aback by something.
"What?" he asked somewhat skeptically.
She took that as her cue to remove her hand from his face. Did she really need to repeat herself? "I think you got him, Gigantor. We should call the cops."
He seemed to consider it only a moment before he raised his eyebrows and gave her pointed look, "Right." He wiped his bloody fist in the soft, manicured grass and lifted himself from the assailant-turned-victim. His eyes never left hers. He opened his mouth to say something but turned from her when a groan came from the ground. Vanya stared straight into the robber's face and Persephone was unable to see his downturned visage. She was sure the look he gave the teen was scary beyond measure. The kid writhed on the ground and covered his bloodied face as he looked up at Vanya.
The command was soft but stern. It didn't look like the punk was going to argue. The kid seemed to understand that Vanya meant business and was in no rush to have his nose punched completely off his face -- it was certainly halfway there already. Even more disconcerting than the teenager was Vanya's reaction. He casually pulled his cell phone from his pocket while his other hand rested on his hip. His tone was casual and matter-of-fact as he informed the campus police of the situation.
Vanya seemed completely calm to her, totally unaffected by the event that had just rocked her world. Even his indigo woven oxford shirt and khaki dress pants were wrinkleless and smooth. The only unkempt thing about him was his unruly, dirty blonde hair. Persephone kept her eyes trained on him, staring in wide-eyed awe as her heart raced. She could feel her heartbeat in her temples, in her fingertips...
She thought Vanya might have sensed her escalating emotions because he wrapped up the phone call with the campus police. Stepping over the robber's body, he came over to her and placed his hands on the sides of her arms. The touch only increased the speed of the blood rushing through her veins. The speed of her breathing grew rapidly. What was going on?
"Persephone, are you alright?" he said, bending down to come nearly face to face with her.
She breathed deeply; adrenaline and other anxious chemicals inhibited her ability to speak. Persephone was beginning to realize that something terrible had almost happened to her. Her face was almost blown off! Vanya had kept it from happening; he had saved her. Now he was in her face, looking strong and beautiful. Gigantor, Ivan, Vanya. It was suddenly too much to look at him. She was overwhelmed and certainly didn't want him to see her eyes' unshed tears.
"V-Vanya, right?" she managed to puff out, looking in direction of the oncoming police sirens.
"Ivan...well, yeah, Vanya. I'm Vanya, from Contracts."
She didn't respond. He continued to rub her shoulders reassuringly. The silence wasn't awkward and she felt he understood her need not to cry in front him. She casually wiped at her eyes and took a small step forward effectively separating herself from him, "The um...the cops are here."
The police questioning was kind of a blur to Persephone. She remembered the incapacitated teen being loaded into the back of a squad car, repeating the evening's events over and over, bystanders suddenly appearing now that there were red and blue lights flashing everywhere, and Vanya's arm engulfing her shoulders. He didn't leave her side once.
"You're sure you don't need a ride home, ma'am?" a tall, middle-aged, mustachioed officer looked down on her, turning up an eyebrow. She thought the action beyond condescending.
"No, I live three blocks away, the odds of me getting mugged again tonight -- "
"I'll be driving her home," Vanya chimed in authoritatively. His statement immediately satisfied the officer who turned toward his colleagues.
That turn of events broke Persephone from her haze of shock. Who did he think he was? He was just the hot guy that sat next to her in one of her classes, not her chaperone. Now he had his huge hands all over her, taking charge of the situation...she shook her head, realizing she had enjoyed the last two things she listed in her head. Nonetheless, he was still a stranger. Kind of. She could make her own decisions, dammit!
"Look, Vanya, I appreciate what you did tonight immensely. For serious, you have no idea. But I can walk home. It's not a big deal. I live right down there."
"If it's no big deal then it won't matter if I drive you the short distance. Oblige me." He gave her another pointed look and before she could continue he swung his arm around her waist and steered her toward what she assumed was his car.
Persephone was allowing herself to be taken away in a black luxury sedan. How many films had she seen that told her this was a definite "no-no"? Countless news reports of young women disappearing or turning up dead after a night of dancing flashed in her head as she buckled her safety belt. Were her citations real or just something she had seen on an episode of one of those crime shows? It was too late now. He was starting the engine.
"Where do you live?"
"Hmmm?" She was again brought out of her daydreaming when he asked for her address. Looking into his large blue eyes seemed to assuage her growing panic. They were the same ones that glared at her for making too much noise in class. They were enticing, intent, and...familiar. Putting things into perspective, she realized he was just Gigantor. She could handle this; she could handle him.
"Your address, Persephone."
"Listen, Vanya, this nice but you don't have to drive me home."
"You're in the car now," he said pulling out into the one-way street, "Where are we going, young lady?"
She let out a huff and told him her address. What had he just called her?
"Young lady? Really?"
"You're what, twenty, twenty-one?" he kept his severe gaze on the road as he spoke to her.
"Try twenty-three. Going on twenty-four I might add. Besides, you're hardly older than I am."
"Oh. Well, I'm old enough to walk myself home, though the gesture is appreciated."
A frown marred his handsome face. It seemed like a frown always marred his face. She could tell he was debating whether he should voice his thoughts or not. It was just like their little battles of will in class. He let out an exasperated sigh and kept his eyes glued to the road.
"You shouldn't walk out on the quad alone that late at night. It doesn't matter how old you are."
"Vanya, everyone here knows someone who's been mugged. That was just a fluke!"
"Yeah, well, tell that to the little asshole who tried to blow your face off! God, I could have -- " he gripped the steering wheel and brought the car to an abrupt stop in front of her building. His anger surprised her; he was clearly agitated.
"Yeah, well... thanks." Persephone unbuckled quickly and darted out of the car. She couldn't believe he'd thrown that in her face. Deep down she knew he was right but it still pissed her off. It wasn't until she halted at the top of the steps to remove her keys from her bag that she felt his presence behind her. She turned abruptly, arching her head to look into his face.
"What are you doing, man? You nearly scared the shit out of me."
"I'm seeing you upstairs."
"Um, I'll be fine once I get through this door. You're duty is done. You've been truly chivalrous. Now you can go."
"Persephone, just let me see if you're totally in for the night and I'll be on my way." She watched as his jaws tighten as he closed his eyes briefly and sighed. He really felt like he had to do this? At this point, having him come upstairs would only serve to make him feel better.
He wouldn't be able to try anything anyway. She had a million nosy neighbors who'd be across the hall in a flash if they heard any alarming sounds. Hell, she didn't care how big he was; she'd bite, scratch, and pull until blood was drawn. As far as she was concerned he was entering at his own risk.
"I swear to god I will cut you if you try anything weird," Persephone stated simply as she unlocked the building's outer door. She could have sworn she heard him refute her with a grunt of disbelief but decided to let it go as she climbed the steps to the second floor.
Vanya didn't wait for permission to enter once she unlocked the entrance to the small, neat, one bedroom apartment. He pushed the door open over her head and entered right behind her. He quickly surveyed the living room and kitchen, stopping short of entering her bedroom. He only pushed the door open and peeked inside. At least there was one boundary he wouldn't cross.
"Satisfied?" she gave him wry smile and dumped her bag into her living room's cushy tangerine velvet chair.
He turned slowly and examined her thoughtfully, "Your place is unique. That's some chair, pretty colorful."
"Yeah, I convinced my mother to buy it when I was fifteen. It's definitely unique."
"Is this her with you in this picture?" he gestured to the framed photo on her bookshelf.
The hairs on the back of Persephone's neck went on end as Vanya gestured to the image of her with a middle-aged White couple, an old woman, and two teenagers that resembled all three adults. Margie Benson was certainly not her mother. How had he managed to weasel his way up here and start talking about family stuff? That was in the "off limits" pile.
"No." Her answer was charged and unyielding. After placing her hands on her hips she knew he got the message not to pry further.
"Ah. Right. I guess I'll be off then."
Rather than moving toward the door, he moved toward her. When he reached the distance at which she had to turn her head up to face to him, he placed his arms on her shoulders again. He began that thing; that up and down motion that seemed to calm her and make her tense at the same time. Geez, why does he have to do the thing?
"Are you sure you're going to be okay tonight? We can call Finn or I can stay a while longer."
"Finn? That girl was dead to the world at nine-thirty. It's way past her bedtime."
"Alright, then I'll stay for a bit."
It was on the tip of her tongue to say "okay." She found she'd been focusing on his thick, pink lips more than the words flowing through them. Snapping out of it, she pulled back again and he released her. How many times had they ended up in that position tonight?
"No, I'm fine. I'm going to work a little more and go to bed. You should go Vanya." Her tone left no room for argument. He got that thoughtful look on his face again. For a moment, she thought he'd try to protest, but she let out a small sigh of relief when he turned to the door.
"Fair enough. Are you going to work on the Contracts reading?"
She nearly asked him what he was talking about when she recalled her lie about doing more school work that night. Well, it wasn't technically a lie. She would be reading over the notes she'd taken earlier that evening...
"Um, yeah. I'm freaked about the exam. I know it doesn't count for much but I'm always freaked out about tests."
"Well, then we should study together next Sunday night. That way you don't have to walk home."
"We'll talk about it after class tomorrow. I'll see you then, okay?" he said casually, stepping out of the door.
"Um, yeah. Goodnight."
"Goodnight." The door clicked softly behind him. Poof. Just like that, he was gone. Persephone quickly latched all the door's locks. She thought she'd feel relieved when he left but now she just felt...flustered.
Had she just agreed to study with him? The way he asked had been so casual. He'd caught her off guard. Just like with the question about her family. Gigantor had game. Who knew?
She shook her head as she shed her clothes and changed into her favorite pajamas; an oversized
pink "Race for the Cure" shirt from a run she hadn't participated in and her candy-cane boxers. Settling in the bed after a few tosses and turns she took her cell phone from its charger to check her messages. Her eyes widened when she observed seven missed calls and four voice messages. They were all from Emma Benson. Persephone sighed as she pressed the play button.
"Hey, Persephone, it's Emma. I'm sorry I missed you. I know we haven't spoken in a few months. Please just call me back as soon as you get this; it's super important. Um...I guess I'll talk to you soon." Persephone saved the message and moved on to the next one.
"Hey, it's Em again. I bet you're holed up in the library or something. Just call back soon, okay? Bye.
"Hey, it's me. It's been, like, two and a half hours. I don't know if you're just not taking study breaks today or if you're screening your calls...you've got to call me back. It doesn't matter how late, just get back to me as soon as you get this."
Persephone sighed and ran her fingers through her hair. Now officially in full freak out mode, she didn't bother to listen to the fourth message. She thought of how Emma mentioned the possibility of her screening her calls and the hint of hurt in her voice. She dialed immediately. Had it really been that long since they'd spoken? They were both busy people; it was excusable, wasn't it?
"Hey. I'm so glad you finally called," Emma's anxious voice came through the receiver. The phone had barely rung once before she picked up.