I woke up around midnight to an empty bed. "Sasha?" I asked into the darkness. "I am here." He was in the kitchen in his boxer shorts drinking water from a glass. I got out of bed, not bothering to put my clothes back on. "Can I have a sip?" "Sure." I walked over to him and took the glass out of his hand. It wasn't water but I drank it anyways. The Vodka burned my throat. "Want a cigarette?" "I don't smoke." "You should try, it goes great with the Vodka." he took his pack of cigarettes from the kitchen table and lit one. I took it out of his hand and put it between my lips. I had only smoked once or twice but I didn't like the taste of it. Nevertheless it felt sexy, leaning on the kitchen counter in the afterglow. "You look hot." I smiled and took another sip of Vodka. When I caught my reflection in the picture on my wall I could see what he saw. I finished the rest of the Vodka and asked for another one.
By 2 in the morning we had finished the bottle together. We were lying in bed and he was drawing circles on my stomach with his fingers. I was dizzy and a little nauseous from the cigarettes but I liked it. I must have fallen asleep at some point because when I heard the shower running I had difficulty figuring out where I was. I glanced at my alarm clock on the table, it was 3.23 am. "Sasha, what are you doing?" I sat up and my head started spinning. "Sasha?" Either he didn't hear me or he had fallen asleep in the shower as well. I pulled his shirt on and turned the bathroom door handle, it wasn't locked. When I saw his reflection in the mirror Sasha put his index fingers to his lips to signal me to be quiet. He wasn't in the shower, he was on the phone speaking quietly in Russian. I just stood there, not sure what to do. I didn't know many words in Russian by now, but from what I could understand he agreed a lot with whoever was on the other line. Just when I decided that I was too drunk to be standing in the hot bathroom he hung up and turned off the shower. He came towards me and kissed me hard. "What's wrong?" "A lot of shit is wrong, Emma. I am in trouble back home." "What, why? And why are you talking in the bathroom with the shower on?" I seemed to have difficulties to wrap my head around whatever had just happened. "Shhh Emma, please be quiet." "But Sasha, please, tell me what's wrong with you." "I don't want to be overheard. I am in deep shit, really deep shit." "Tell me, so I can help you." "You can't help. Listen, I need to go now. It's too dangerous for me to stay here tonight. I need to get everything sorted out and then I will be back tomorrow." He pushed past me and put his pants on. "Can I have my shirt please?" I started unbuttoning it but I was too drunk to really do it. "Shit, Emma, can you hurry up?" he hissed at me. "Uhm yeah, sorry." I finally managed to get the last button and handed him his shirt. He threw it on, took his coat and the cigarettes from beside my bed. "It is very important that you don't talk to anyone about me, and don't let anyone in here tonight, no matter what. Now I don't think they will come here but still. I will call you tomorrow." He was already at the door and I followed him. "Ok." He kissed me and left me standing there, naked and confused. I couldn't fall back asleep until early in the morning.
The pounding in my head woke me around midday. My throat felt like it had been lined with cotton balls and my tongue tasted like what death must taste like. I took a sip from the glass next to my bed, realizing too late that it was the last bit of Vodka that we had left. The taste of it send my stomach in a frenzy and I barely made it to the bathroom in time to throw up. After I had calmed down a little bit I started looking for my phone. I had to know what happened to Sasha. Even though the events of last night were still somewhat blurry I knew that something had been terribly wrong and I just had to make sure he was ok. When I found it under my pillow I had no new texts and no missed calls. I needed to call him. I didn't care if he had said I shouldn't , I was his girlfriend after all. It rang 5 times and went to voice mail. Maybe he was still in bed, or wherever he had gone to last night. I tried not to panic, after all I had just woken up myself. I went into the kitchen to make myself some breakfast. I thought about making myself a Bloody Mary, because I heard that they would do wonders to your hangover but my experience with the Vodka just minutes ago still lingered in the back of my brain like the smell of onions lingers in on your fingertips days after you prepared them. After breakfast of eggs and toast I felt a little better and went to check my phone. There was nothing. I managed to take a shower and get dressed to go outside for a walk. I grabbed my phone because I wanted to call Sasha again, and this time it went straight to voice mail. He never turned off his phone. But maybe he was on the line with someone else, so it would go to voice mail as well. And sure enough only a couple of seconds my phone started to vibrate in my pocket. It was a blocked number but I was sure it was him. "Hey where have you been?" I answered happily "Uhm hi Emma, it's Joey." Damn it. He was the last person I wanted to talk to right now. "Hi Joey." "Emma, can we please talk? I really need to talk to you." He sounded miserable. "Joey, no. I can't talk to you right now. I am really busy. Sorry, but I'll call you some other time." "But," I hit disconnect. I would call him later, I promised myself, but now I had to be available in case Sasha called. I walked around the shopping district for a while not really getting into anything in particular. I had more clothes now, that Sasha regularly went shopping with me. When I saw a dress that I was sure he was going to love I snapped a picture of it and sent it to him. I waited patiently for the sending report but it never came. His phone was really off then. I forced myself to stay calm and relax, there were probably a lot of logical explanations for this. Maybe the battery had died, or he had bad cell reception wherever he was, or he had wanted to sleep and the phone had kept on annoying him. I knew I was being stupid but I couldn't help feeling more and more restless. I went back home to sleep a little and watch a movie since my hangover still wasn't gone and after all, I had a date with Sasha tonight. I put my phone next to my pillow and managed to fall asleep within seconds. When I woke up it was already dark outside. I checked my phone immediately but the screen was still not giving me the solace I was hoping for. It was already 8, where the hell was he? I began pacing about my room feeling more helpless than ever. With Joey something like this never happened. When he said he'd call, he called. When he said he'd be there he was there and he never kept me waiting anywhere. I had to stop comparing Sasha to Joey. He was nothing like him. Sasha had a life of his own and a lot of stories to tell, Joey just kind of stuck to me most of the time like old gum and the only stories he knew were the ones I told him. I called his number again. This time, the line was free and after the 4th beep there was an answer. "Sasha?" I heard a fumbling noise and Russian sounding words were finally interrupted by a long double beep. He had hung up. I was beginning to get furious. What the hell was he doing? Where was he, that he couldn't call me or answer my calls or send me a text? But what if something seriously wrong had happened to him and I was getting mad at him for all the wrong reasons. This wasn't right, I should be worried instead. I was on the verge of crying plus I felt like my mind had become one of those roller coasters that i dreaded so much. I took my laptop and checked my Facebook page. I clicked on Sasha's profile and saw that the little check mark "friends" was still there. I felt relieved. Other than that there was nothing new. I decided to try to watch a movie after all to take my mind off things I could barely concentrate. When my phone finally rang around 9.30 tears of relief started rolling down my cheeks. "Baby, where have you been?"
"Emma, hi, listen I will come over now, ok?" "Sasha, wait, what's going on? Where have you been all day?" "I have been busy, I couldn't answer the phone. So I will come now, yes?" That was it? He wasn't even going to apologize? Or maybe he was going to to that when he came over. "Ok, I am home." He hung up without saying another word.
It should have taken him 20 minutes to get to my place after he hung up, even with traffic. It took him almost an hour.I had hurried to get ready for him, taken another shower and brushed my teeth thoroughly to get rid of the stale taste of panic. When I was ready I just sat there and waited. At 10.25 my phone started vibrating again and I saw Sasha's number on the screen. Shouldn't he be here by now? "I am downstairs, can you open the door?" "Why don't you.." but he had already hung up leaving my question hanging in midair. I pressed the door buzzer and heard him come in. I heard his footsteps come closer and opened the door before he was even there. He almost jumped into my arms. "Emma, I missed you, I am glad I am here." It felt like someone had let the air out of me as I let my body sink into his. "Me too." He finally let go of me and made his way over to the kitchen. He opened the fridge and when he didn't find what he was looking for he looked at me "You don't have anything to drink?" "Well I have juice or tea, I could make some tea if you like." "No, no, I meant something real, like Vodka." "Uhm no, we drank it all last night." "Ok, I will get some later, let's sit." He waited for me to sit down at the kitchen table and placed himself across from me. "Sasha, can you tell me what happened last night? And today? I was worried sick!" "I had trouble back home. One of my deals went wrong and I had to take care of some shit." he said matter of factly. I didn't like the way he pronounced the word deal. "What kind of deal? Business?" "Yes you could say that." It seemed like he wanted to make a joke but he hadn't told his face about it. His features remained hard and focused. "But, I mean, if you are in trouble, shouldn't I know about it? I mean I am your girlfriend now." "Are you now?" I didn't know why he was being so hostile. "I thought so." "Well ok, then I will tell you." his voice was softer now. "But I can't tell you everything, because it's not all legal what I am doing, I can just tell you as much. Last night my life was in danger, but I was able to turn everything around so you and I are safe." I couldn't be sure what he meant by that. My eyes felt like tiny little puddles, one more drop and they would spill. "But I don't want anything bad happening to you." I got up from my chair and threw my arms around him. I could feel his body tighten and then giving in to my embrace. "I know Emma" he whispered in my hair. "I know, and because of that I will quit doing what I am doing and be there for you." This is the last time something like this will have happened. I want to be a better person for you." I felt that this was what he truly wanted.
We spent the night in bed talking about my family and friends back home. "So they haven't come to visit you yet?" he asked. "Well not yet, but I mean I have been staying with my aunt and uncle and I am sure they are reporting back to them all the time." "Yes I understand that, but why haven't they been here yet?" "Well they both work and Vicky doesn't have the money right now." "Mhh." He was silent for a while and I studied his profile. I noticed some blue splotches on his cheek and I reached over to touch him. He kissed my palm. "Well are you sad about it?" "A little, yes, especially that Vicky can't come. I mean I want to see my parents too, don't get me wrong, but I will definitely see them during my break in the fall and they have been here before, but Vicky hasn't". "Maybe there is something I can do for you" he suggested. My heart took a leap "No you can't do that, I mean, you really couldn't…" "Of course I can, I have enough money to get her over here if that is what you want." "Of course that is what I want but you shouldn't to that." "When will you finally understand that I would do anything for you?" and with that he pushed himself off the bed and went grabbed his coat from the kitchen chair. "I am going to get us something real to drink". All I could do is watch him leave, not understanding what I had done wrong this time.
I was surprised to see him clutch a bottle of red wine, when I opened the door half an hour later. "I was expecting Vodka" I smiled hoping that the cold wind had also blown away his bad mood. "Oh yeah, I was going to get it, but they only had the cheap stuff at the gas station and I don't drink that." His tone was cool but not as unfriendly as before. "So where did you get this then?" "The steak house on the corner. I also brought you this." He held up a beautiful long stemmed dark red rose, which he must have hidden behind his back. He always managed to surprise me. I kissed him hard. "Thank you, baby, that is so sweet of you." "Let's have a drink then and toast to my new life." He seemed in a good mood again and for the rest of the evening I did my best not to do anything to change that.