Chapter 11: Departure

Damia made herself two tall glasses of coffee and drank them there in the kitchen, leaning against the counter just as she would have at home. Holding a glass in one hand, she took her phone out from the pocket of her jeans and looked through her new messages, one of them being from her father: Damia, tell me the names of three of my Facebook aliases so I know this is really you.

'Gospodin, Tata …' she muttered under her breath and sighed as she typed back: Sean O'Sullivan McFinnegan, Naseem Shekhar Patel, Batsaikhan Chuluunboldiin. She twisted her face up and nibbled on her lip as she tried to figure out how to possibly write the names in phonetic spelling according to how they sounded to her when her father told her of them. 'Tata, I don't even think I can spell these names, just to let you know,' she mumbled as she typed that to him in a message as well.

She then typed to Anatoliy that she needed him to pick her up the next day at Moscow Airport and gave him an approximate time to be there. Clicking her tongue against the top of her mouth a few times, she added in another message to her brother saying that it was urgent that he come and pick her up, assuming that it would have Anatoliy take her more seriously, or at least make him laugh since 'urgent' was a word he loved to use when saying he needed to meet with her or talk to her.

This should work, I guess, Damia thought and read the few more messages that Igor sent her, replying to them that she missed him too and couldn't wait to come home and see him.

'Are you busy?'

Damia looked up from her phone to see Sergey coming in, fully dressed and with a cup of tea in his hand. She casually put her phone back in her pocket and took a sip of coffee. 'No, not busy,' she said after swallowing.

He sniffled and cleared his throat. 'I'm glad,' he said and went over to the stove to pour himself some more tea. He reached up to the cabinet the boxes of tea were in to take out a box of sugar cubes and put two into the teacup. 'Did you find the coffee you like?' he asked as he returned the box to the cabinet and closed it.

'Good enough, yeah,' she said and took another sip.

Sergey looked to the counter where she had put the glass container of the instant coffee. 'I don't know coffee,' he said and rubbed his nose. 'As long as you're satisfied.'

'I don't want to bring that home with me tomorrow, so you can keep it.' Damia shrugged. 'Or give it to the lady who brings you food. I don't know.'

He laughed. 'No, I don't think she'd want an open jar of instant coffee.'

'Just a suggestion.'

He shook his head. 'Don't worry about it,' he said and sipped his tea. There was an odd, but but tense awkwardness between them for a few seconds. 'How much did that cost so I can pay you back?' Sergey asked, his voice cutting through the thickening silence.

'You don't have to pay me back. Forget it.'

'You're a guest, technically, and you're my wife,' he said. 'I can't let you pay for something.'

'I don't remember how much it cost. A handful of rubles, I don't know.'

Sergey rolled his eyes. 'I'll buy you something in the town to make up for the coffee and your hassle to go out and purchase it.' He looked at Damia. 'Is this agreeable to you?'


'I do have a headache after night, so please don't argue with me,' he said and drank some more tea.

Damia scanned his outfit of a white dress shirt tucked into a pair of jeans, perhaps the same ones he had worn the day before. 'You're very casual today,' she remarked, trying to lead them both into a conversation that would hopefully not twist and turn into being about whatever they had done the previous night.

'This?' Sergey glanced down at himself. 'Well, I figured we'd be leaving home sometime today because you'd get bored here.' He yawned and rubbed a hand over his face. 'Do you recall how much we drank?'

'I'm not sure.'

He cleared his throat and patted his hand on his cheeks. 'How much we drank is one thing I don't remember.'

Damia finished her first glass of coffee, put it on the counter and took her second one.

'I mean –' He stopped himself from continuing and snickered as a light pinkish tone came across his cheeks. 'No, it was nice, it was very nice. I had fun, but I think I'll have some kind of hangover for a few days following that.' He stared at her with a shy, boyish face.

'Probably just today.' Damia looked at him as he continued to softly smile at her. 'Want some coffee?'

He snorted. 'Is it that bad?'

'No, no, not at all.' She held the glass up to his lips. 'Try it.'

Holding his hand on top of Damia's on the glass, Sergey took a sip and immediately scrunched up his face once the taste slipped into his mouth. He pushed the glass away from him, taking care not to be rough and cause it to spill in any way. Looking like he was about to vomit, Sergey swallowed the bitter, milky liquid and then let his mouth hang open to make a light gagging sound. 'You told me it wasn't that bad,' he said and coughed before taking some tea into his mouth to swish around like mouthwash.

Damia laughed. 'What are you doing?' she asked. 'It's not that bad. I've had much worse.'

Sergey swallowed the tea in his mouth. 'This and kachamak. I don't know how your taste buds bear the assault you inflict on them.'

'Not the kachamak again …'

He laughed and finished his cup of tea. 'Be so kind as to remind me when we see each other again to never take a sip of anything you categorise as «not that bad».'

She nodded. 'Sure.'

They finished their drinks and got ready to go into the town, where they casually spent the day going to a few small shops and having something to eat at a restaurant. They then went to walk around again, talking about a horrible trip they had taken to Budapest in the 1890's, before returning to the house. Having forgotten to buy her anything special in the town, Sergey said that he owed her and promised to get her something nice in the future, admitting that Belozersk didn't exactly have the broadest variety of interesting items to choose from. Damia said nothing, except that it wasn't necessary to do that, and after Sergey insisted that he was going to buy her something special, they both dropped the subject to avoid any sort of argument.

The evening was rather dull and slow, but in a comfortable sense. Unlike during the past few days, there was no tension, no confessions and no hidden-away feelings between the two of them. Nothing exciting happened and nothing irritating happened. They simply existed together, participating in activities together and sharing the same space. It was an odd medium that they had slipped into after living a few days with their emotions battling each other's and battling inside themselves. They did, however, both return to Sergey's bed when winding down to go to sleep, playing in a silly, childish manner with his stuffed animals and sharing a couple pipes with «War and Peace» playing on his computer in the background.

Damia had set an alarm for the next day to be sure that they both were up by 11m since they did have to get a driver to take them to Cherepovets for her return flight to Moscow in the late afternoon. Her f light was at 4:45pm, meaning she had to arrive at the airport at 3:45 to go through any security and be certain she wouldn't miss the flight. In order to get there on time, she and Sergey would have to leave Belozersk in the car at 2:30 at the latest.

While Damia used Sergey's computer to complete her online check-in, he used his phone to book the car for the required time. After they were both finished, Sergey went over to Damia, holding one of his toy Siberian husky dogs. Smiling and snickering, he pressed the dog's nose and snout to Damia's face as if it were kissing her.

'The puppy wants to know if he was a good companion,' he said.

'The puppy was very nice,' Damia replied, amused by what he was doing.

Sergey brought the dog's mouth to his ear, as if able to listen to it tell him something. He waited a couple seconds and then nodded. 'The puppy is glad to hear that. He thought he disturbed you because he barks too much.'

Damia laughed. 'He barked, but only a little when he wasn't used to me being here.'

'And …' He looked at the toy in his hands and then back to Damia. 'Was the puppy a good boy?'

'Yeah, I would say so.'

Sergey smiled warmly and pet the toy dog's head with a couple of his fingers. 'Did you hear that? She said you were a good boy,' he said to the dog, blushing as Damia started to laugh. He looked at Damia with soft eyes. 'Does the puppy get a kiss?' he asked.

'The puppy or his owner?'

'The puppy, and then a kiss for the puppy's master.'

Damia bent over a little to kiss the toy dog on the top of its head and then stood up straight. She put her hand to Sergey's cheek and gave him a kiss on his lips. 'How was that?'

'Let me consult the puppy.' Sergey looked at the dog. 'Puppy,' he said in a deeper voice, as if trying to sound playfully serious. 'Did you like the kiss from your master's wife, Damia Ishukova?' He paused. 'Oh, he barked,' he continued in his normal speaking voice. 'Did you hear? He has an answer for us.' Sergey brought the dog's nose and snout to his ear again and nodded a couple times as he pretended to listen to the toy speak to him. 'Oh, do you want me to say that to her?' He turned the dog so that its head was facing Damia. 'He's panting, so that means yes.' He held the dog in his arms, cradling it almost as if it were a baby. 'Puppy said that he doesn't need another kiss because he still doesn't know you too well, but that he thinks his master will request a few more kisses before his beautiful wife goes back to the city.'

Damia laughed. 'The puppy said that.'

'Yes. The puppy said that.'

She gave him another quick kiss. 'That's for the puppy.'

Sergey snickered and while still cradling the dog, bent down to kiss it on the top of its head. 'Puppy wants to return to the bed and sleep because he's still tired but he wishes you a safe and pleasant journey to Moscow.'

'Thank you, Puppy,' Damia said and lightly petted the toy on the head.

Sergey sighed, smiling at her. He gazed at her for a moment with a shine in his eyes and then sighed again. 'You should go downstairs, get dressed and make sure you've got everything packed into that backpack. I'll get dressed myself and make some tea and boil the water for that horrible instant coffee you are damaging your taste buds with.' His smile grew a tiny bit larger.

'Ha. Ha. Ha.' She rolled her eyes.

He started to bounce the dog in his arms. 'In one of those containers in the ice box I have vareniki with blueberries, and I still have some of those sushki you brought and the varenye. If you'd like, we can share them. I can heat up some pel'meni too and put it back in the container for you to eat before your flight.'

'But then I can't give the Tupperware container back to you.'

'Don't worry about it,' he said, continuing to lightly bounce the toy dog in his arms. 'I'll do that for you and give you some utensils wrapped in a few serviettes. You can keep it. Don't worry about it.'

'All right,' she said with some hesitation. 'If you're sure.'

'I'm sure.' Sergey leant forward to give her a kiss on the cheek. 'Go get dressed and pack yourself up. Take your time.' He took the dog and pressed its nose against Damia's other cheek. 'A final kiss from the puppy,' he added with a boyish snicker.

'Okay, I'll do that.' She smiled. 'See you, Puppy,' she said and waved to the toy dog before leaving the room.

Damia went downstairs, changed and packed, thinking on and off about Sergey's fooling around with the Siberian husky dog and snickering about it. She didn't understand why he felt he had to do that, but thought it was amusing and even cute. The more she thought about it, the more Damia remembered that Sergey had a collection of stuffed animals even as a child. She remembered during galas at his parents' house in Moscow that they used to play with his stuffed animals, at least until they were about 10 years old and Sergey wanted to make the impression to her that he didn't sleep with toys anymore.

The stuffed animals resurfaced when she moved to the estate with him, Damia remembered, and that he used them to comfort her when the nightmares about being killed in Königsberg were a regular, nightly occasion. During the first few years they lived there, they had amassed so many stuffed animals that sometimes their bedroom felt like a plush zoo. At the time, however, it did help divert her attention, and it did make Sergey feel generally more at ease to have the childhood toys he never got rid of surrounding him in bed.

Of course, all of that had been destroyed, and when they fled they couldn't take even one of the smaller toys with them. It was really like their entire lives had been ripped away. Damia acknowledged that and had felt that way too after they escaped. She understood why Sergey was so traumatised by what happened, and she didn't blame him for never forgetting it and never fully being able to let it go. The problem was that he allowed the brutally forced change onto their lives to control him and take him over, instead of taking the time to mourn what they had lost and then stepping forward into a new life. He connected his possessions and his lifestyle to be one with his identity as a person, and he was never able to reclaim or recreate that identity, except for eventually buying the former guest house in Belozersk from the government. In essence, Sergey allowed the Bolsheviks to defeat him, instead of fighting to not be destroyed by them. At least, that was what Damia believed, and her father even agreed with her, but neither of them would be foolish enough to say that to Sergey.

Once she was done and double-checked that nothing was remaining left behind in the bedroom she was supposed to be using during her stay, Damia looked back into it and stared at the decor. Even though the bathroom was, to her relief, modern, she as glad to be leaving and returning home to where she wouldn't be seeing any 19th century decor – neither at the apartment she rented with Igor, neither at her father's house, neither at Igor's old apartment that he still owned, nor at Anatoliy's place. Walking through the house towards the dining room served as a reminder surrounding her and encompassing the air she breathed that she and Sergey were incompatible and lived in two different worlds. His lifestyle alone easily brought her to the conculsuion that even if she were available for a newfound permanent relationship with him that it would not last very long before they would be at each other's throats. The moment the burst of passion and lust would disintegrate into the antique furniture and wallpaper would serve to be the moment in which only coarseness would flow between them, much alike to when she first arrived.

And no, that wasn't the life she could possibly tolerate to lead. And someone who could not compromise, believed he was always right and existed in a psychological realm trapped in the past was not someone with whom she could associate the word «love».

When she reached the dining room, Sergey had everything prepared. On one of the ends of the table were a plate of blueberry vareniki next to a small bowl of smetana, beside which lay the remaining sushki on an other plate and the unfinished strawberry varenye. At the side of the table in front of two seats were two plates, one of them paired with a cup of black tea with a couple sugar cubes to the side and the other one paired with a glass of instant coffee with milk added to it. Sergey, dressed in a pair of grey trousers and a dark blue seater with a white turtleneck underneath, came over to her and pulled out the chair in front of the plate by the instant coffee. Damia looked at him and sat down as he gently pushed the chair in. As she took a casual inhale, the scent from the lavender cologne he wore sped up her nostrils. She tried not to scrunch up her face to react to it, but couldn't help but ask herself why he had sprayed so much of it onto himself, as if he thought he stank and needed to cover up the odour.

Sergey sat down next to her and cuffed up the sleeves of his sweater a couple times. He looked at Damia and down at her thighs, letting out a relieved sigh that she was wearing jeans and not the shiny leggings he had anticipated she would wear. He then cleared his throat and reached for the serving plate of blueberry vareniki. 'Half for you, half for me,' he said and began to fill both of their plates. 'I assume no smetana for you,' Sergey added as he took a large spoonful of the smetana and put it on his plate.

'You know me very well,' Damia said and reached over to the sushki to break a couple off of the string they were strung onto.

Sergey chuckled. 'After 75 years of living with you, of course I do.' He broke a sushka off of the strong and dipped it in his cup of tea. 'For 55 of those years, it was just you and me alone. It would have been impossible for us not to learn each other's innermost secrets, most shameful poor habits and, of course, exactly what appeals to each other.' He paused to eat the sushka. 'I don't think anyone knows you as well as I do, Damusia.'

'My father knows me better than anyone,' she said.

He waved his hand back and forth in front of his face and shook his head. 'No, no, he doesn't count. He doesn't know you as a regular person, he knows you as his child. It's not the same.' He laughed. 'Your father, from my recollections, wavers between behaving as if he were your older brother and treating you like a five year-old. It was very, very funny in that Bulgaria to see just how often he would try to scold and discipline you as if you were a small child.'

'Do you mean when he thought I was eating too many figs and took them away?'

Sergey lightly snorted. 'Yes. That.' He put the sugar cubes into his tea and took a sip of it. 'I remember that he told you, you were allowed to take one more fig, and you took two or even three.'

Damia snickered. 'Oh, that. That's normal. I did that when I was small, too.'

'You did?' he asked, sounding a bit surprised.

'Yeah, I mean, he never got angry,' Damia replied casually. 'It was a sort of tease, I guess, between the two of us. My father wouldn't care if I didn't listen to him on something trivial like figs. But I knew not to find where he took them to and sneak some more. A couple times I asked him to bring them back but he just did this –' She reached over to Sergey and flicked her thumb to the side of his head. 'And told me no.'

Sergey nodded and took a deep breath. 'Well, my point was that his relationship with you doesn't count because he knows you in a different way than someone like I could. But I think, too, that I know you much more intimately than he does, and I can read you without the bias he holds towards you.'

'The bias?'

'That you're his little girl and can do no wrong,' Sergey said. 'Let's be honest, Damia. You could be a mass serial killer and somehow your father would pardon you, say that you're innocent and not place the slightest blame upon you.'

Damia was silent for a moment. 'No, I understand what you mean.'

'Even your mother would defend you in that case.'

'My mother …' Damia moved the vareniki around the plate, looking down at them.

Sergey looked at her. 'Am I making you uncomfortable?' he asked.


He took a deep breath. 'I'm sorry.' He tenderly rubbed her shoulder. 'It wasn't my intention.'

'I know. It's fine.'

They ate in silence, the tension from the conversation swirling around Sergey and pulsing through his head. He nibbled on and off on his nails as he ate and rubbed his nose more of ten than he normally would have. Damia noticed that he was anxious and repeated to him a couple times that she wasn't angry or irritated with him, which he claimed to know was true. When they both finished eating, Damia helped him pick up the plates and glasses and bring them to the kitchen, the tension lessening with their moving to a different room and not remaining seated beside each other.

Sergey told her to just leave the plates and glasses in the sink and not to worry about cleaning them. He then took out the Tupperware container of the pel'meni from the refrigerator and opened it to pour the food into a glass dish to cover and put into the oven to heat up. They began to wait, and Sergey stared at Damia in the eyes for a moment before he gently placed his hands on her waist and slid his arms around her to pull her into an embrace. Damia put her arms around his torso as well and held him snugly against her as they shared the long, tender embrace. They then moved apart enough so that they could look at each other's faces and lightly rubbed their noses and lips together in a silly action that was similar to a kiss, but not quite a kiss. The contact with Sergey and seeing his boyish, pleasant smile looking back at her made Damia feel like a tickling electric shock jolted throughout her body. The two of them eventually started to giggle and chuckle a little while beginning to nudge each other's cheeks with their noses, and kept on doing that until the pel'meni were heated. Sergey then let go of Damia, giving her one last rub to her back above her waist, before he took the pel'meni out of the oven and put them back in the Tupperware container. He said that they probably wouldn't stay warm for when she would decide to eat them, but that they shouldn't have the chill on them from the 'ice box'. He then took a few napkins to wrap up a fork, knife and spoon and handed them to Damia with the Tupperware container and told her to put it in her backpack.

Damia did exactly that before finding Sergey again in the drawing room, where they talked and laughed again about their disastrous trip to Budapest until the car he had hired arrived at around 2:15pm. Sergey got the message from the app on his phone that the driver was outside and helped Damia put on her coat before taking her backpack and walking with her to the car.

He opened the door for her. 'I'll be joining you for the ride, unless you're severely sick of me,' he said.

'I'd rather talk to you about getting food poisoning from that goulash again,' Damia said with a smirk.

Sergey smiled as she got inside the car and then sat down himself next to to her and closed the door.

'Cherepovets Airport, correct?' the driver asked.

'Yes,' Sergey said and turned to Damia as the engine started. He put an arm around her shoulder and moved closer to her. 'It'll be long enough a ride, so let's get comfortable.'

'Sure,' Damia said and snuggled against him.

Sergey cleared his throat and brought his lips to Damia's hair. 'By the way, if I fall asleep here, please wake me up,' he whispered.

Damia snickered. 'Because you snore?' she asked quietly.

'Shh …' he continued in a whisper. 'It's an embarrassing secret for only you to know.' He kissed her in her hair and held her closer against him.

'What would you do if I fell asleep?' she asked and tilted her head backwards, rolling the back of her neck onto his shoulder to look up at his face.

'Watch over you and hold you tight,' Sergey replied in a gentle tone. He blushed and breathed heavier as he looked at her face. 'I love you forever,' he said quietly and kissed her on her forehead. 'Remember that. Even if we fight, or if I say something you don't like, or do something you don't agree with, remember that I love you and only wish the best for you.'

'I know that, Seryozha,' Damia said and looked into his eyes, which started to look more and more wet. She heard him sniffle and watched him squeeze his eyes shut. When he opened them again, Damia saw a couple small tears fall down his cheeks. 'Are you all right?' she asked.

He nodded. 'I'm not crying,' he said and forced a weak smile. 'Please promise me you'll always remember how much and truly I love you and devote myself to you.'

'Of course,' she said, thinking to herself that she wondered if he had come across some kind of cure to their conditions himself and was planning to use it and then commit suicide.

'Thank you.' Taking a deep, heavy breath, Sergey kissed her on the forehead and then lay his head on top of hers, staring off towards one of the windows on the side of the car. Continuing to sniffle and breathe heavily, he remained vocally silent and immersed in his thoughts, wrapping his arms a bit tighter around Damia. A few minutes later, he felt Damia put her hand on top of one of his and intertwined his fingers with hers to hold it. 'My dearest, I am going to close my eyes now,' he said. 'If I begin to fall asleep, please wake me up.'

'Sure,' Damia s aid, not quite sure what to do because she drew the conclusion that Sergey somehow had figured out how to end his life and planned to do it, which was why he also had no interest in hearing her tell him about her potential antidote in the works.

Damia couldn't help but think about the odd things Sergey had said and the strength of emotion he carried with them. She kept replaying different conversations she had with him during her time in Belozersk and even tried to remember the old letter he wrote on his computer, but couldn't find any potential answers for herself. The only things she knew for certain was that he was not interested in an antidote, he was still haunted and tormented by their experiences in the Bolshevik Revolution, that he still idolised their original time period in Imperial Russia, still claimed to love her and still loved to smoke pipes and drink. She couldn't figure him out, and although she felt some 90 years ago that Sergey's mind became twisted beyond her ability to understand him, he had definitely come even farther to exceed that point.

If he does plan to kill himself, it's not my business, Damia thought. I don't want him to harm himself, but if that's what he wants to do, it's not my place to stop him. I know that more than anyone could, with the many times I tried to kill myself in the past.

She began to hear a slight snore mix itself in with Sergey's breaths and decided she should wake him up.

Besides that, I haven't been living with him, so if I did ask him about something like suicide, he'd say that I wasn't doing anything to make his life better, She thought as she shook Sergey's arm.

When he woke up, he sniffled rather loudly and thanked her for waking him. He raised his wrist to his eyesight to look at his watch. 'We should be there in 20 minutes,' he said and yawned a little.

'Oh, all right.' Damia rolled her head back onto his shoulder and looked up at his face. His eyes and nose were red, and he looked rather emotionally beaten. She paused, not about to say anything to him about it, and then reached up her hand to touch his cheek. 'Seryozha, you really are a very handsome man,' she said and smiled softly at him.

Sergey smiled weakly. 'I am only handsome when I am able to bask in your beauty,' he said softly and wiped his eyes with his finger. 'You are the most beautiful woman I have ever seen. You always were, and you always will be.'

'I'm not that beautiful,' she said.

Sergey's smile broadened into a light grin. 'Yes, yes, I know this conversation. You can say that all you want, but I'll never believe it.' He kissed her on the lips. 'The puppy said that his Master would surely request more kisses from you before you leave.' He kissed her again. 'Kisses upon kisses as I try to convince you that you are beautiful.'

'And you?' She slid her hand from his cheek to the back of his head and into his hair. With a snicker, Damia lightly pushed his head forward, securing him in place for her to kiss him. 'Let me convince you how handsome you are,' she said quietly, their lips touching as she spoke, before she kissed him for a long time.

When they got to Cherepovets Airport, they had already finished the stream of kisses and were fully prepared to exit the car. Sergey told the driver to wait for a half hour and walked Damia into the airport. When they got inside, they found the information on the 4:45pm departure to Moscow Sheremetyevo, where there were luckily no delays listed, but a gate was still yet to be assigned.

'You've got everything you need, correct?' Sergey asked.

Damia nodded. 'Yup. And I already downloaded my boarding pass onto my phone.'

'I'll walk you to the security,' Sergey said and put his arm around her shoulder to walk her there. He led her to a spot to the side of the queue to pass through the scanning. He took a breath and then noticed that he still had her backpack over his shoulder from when he carried it out of the car. 'Oh, you need this, too,' he said and went behind her to gently slip it over her arms and onto her shoulders. 'Your passport?' he asked.

'In the front pocket,' Damia replied.

Sergey unzipped the front pocket and took out Damia's passport. He zipped up the compartment and walked around her so that he faced her once again. Curiously, he opened her passport and looked inside to the page where her personal details were listed. 'Ishukova Damia Ludvikova, born on the 17th of October, 1990 in Moscow, USSR,' he read. He closed the passport and handed it to her. 'October 1990,' he said. '29 years old.'

'And what's yours?' she asked.

'January 1987.'

She teasingly raised an eyebrow. 'Just turned 33 recently, huh?'

Sergey shrugged and then nodded. 'I don't know how much longer we'll be able to … you know. The changes.'

'We can handle it. All of us.'

He rubbed his nose. 'Of course.' He sniffled and cleared his throat. 'I want to ask you something before you go.'

'What?' she asked.

'The next time I leave Belozersk, I might go into Moscow,' Sergey said. 'And if I do, I'd like to know if it might be possible to stay with you.'

Damia took a deep breath. 'That isn't possible. I'm sorry.'

'I see,' he said. 'You don't live alone, then. I should have guessed.' His nostrils flared as he took a breath. 'You live with the Prague pub t-shirt friend?'

'Actually, with Anatoliy and a colleague of his,' Damia said. She watched Sergey rub his nose again. 'And it's quite a small apartment, as many of them in Moscow are,' she added. 'But if you want, you can tell me when you're coming and I can contact my father and ask if you can stay with him. He has a big house with an indoor swimming pool.'

'If you do that, will you be staying with your father too?' he asked.

She shrugged. 'Maybe. But regardless, I can ask him if you can stay with him.'

Sergey shook his head. 'No, don't bother. It's fine. If I go to Moscow, I'll figure something out. It was just a suggestion because I really enjoyed our time together and would like to do it again sometime.'

'I had a good time, too.' She smiled at him. 'So, if you do come to Moscow, let me know and we'll work something out. All right?'

Sergey nodded. 'Yes.' He looked towards the queue to the security check. 'I should leave you now so you're certain to get where you need to be on time.' He reached to her hand and held it carefully in his before bowing to her and kissing it. 'Be safe, Damusia, and I wish you a pleasant return home.'

'The same to you.'

He kissed her hand again. 'Until we see each other again.' He let go of her hand and took a deep breath.

'Bye, Seryozha. See you.' Damia nodded to him and went off to get into the queue, glancing back once more after she secured her spot to see that he was gone.