After five days of Spa treatments and lounging by the pool followed by lunch and dinner with Sasha’s parents, I got a little annoyed that we seemed to have almost no time to ourselves. Whenever we got back to the room Sasha would often turn on the TV or playstation that was hidden in a drawer underneath it and when I asked him about it he would just say he was exhausted or he just needed a little more time to adjust. I mostly played on my phone or read on our balcony when he was inside coming to bed at some point watching a movie together. On the 6th night before we were meant to go out dinner with his parents again somewhere in the little city I asked him point blank „Sasha, do you think we could do something without your parents tomorrow?“. He was still in his bathrobe which was lazily tied around his waist, just lounging on the bed. He muted the TV and looked at me. „Sure, but why? Don’t you like hanging out with them?“ We were still in adjacent rooms and the balcony door was open so I was afraid that they could hear me. „No of course not, Sasha“, I lowered my voice just in case. „It’s just that I would like to spend some time alone with my boyfriend, you know?“ I let the last few words linger in the air and climbed onto him slowly opening my own bathrobe. „Oh in that case, sure.“ he mumbled under his breath while he kissed me and slowly removed the rest of my robe for me. I didn’t mind that we still had half an hour until we had to leave.

The next morning I woke up excited about our date. I endured another humiliating anti cellulite shower and a detox drink from the juice bar, which I didn’t enjoy quite has much as Irina had suggested I might. We had lunch with his parents and went to the beach by ourselves afterwards, which was a welcome change to all the days that I had spend with my tummy tucked in so I wouldn’t look like a whale next to Sasha’s mother. We strolled down the beach and got ice cream at a small truck parked on the side of the beach. Sasha looked great with a little color in his face and I could see him relaxing more and more each day that we were here. After a short swim in the ocean we went back to our room and got ready for the night. I put on a white dress with a corsage top and flowy skirt, which accentuated my tan and curled my hair. I kept the make up to a minimum, I liked my face with a tan and I didn’t feel like I needed any. Sasha seemed to be pleased as well. When we arrived at the hotel lobby my heart skipped a beat when I saw Irina and Viktor downstairs looking like they were waiting for someone. I looked at Sasha who just shrugged and went towards them. „Mom, dad, where are you going?“ „Relax you two, we are just waiting for some friends. We won’t impose.“ his dad laughed while his mother looked like she just had a whole lemon as an appetizer. I felt like I should say something but nothing came out. „Have fun,“ Viktor called after us as Sasha led me to the door.

„Do you think they are angry with me?“ I asked on our way to the restaurant Sasha had picked. „No, why would they be?“ „I don’t know, maybe because we are ditching them tonight?“ „No, I don’t think so. My mom just always wants to spend this vacation with us. She says she never sees us otherwise. I don’t know, I don’t think she is mad. Maybe she is disappointed but she will get over it. Let’s stop talking about my parents and have some fun instead.“ I could live with that.

At dinner Sasha ordered a Gin and Tonic and wine for me. I hadn’t thought about it before but I realized that Sasha drank a lot less around his parents and if he drank it was only wine. We both ordered appetizers and a seafood platter to share and by the end I was so full I felt like I wouldn’t be able to get up. Sasha was on his 4th Gin and Tonic and started to slur his words a little already. „So baby, what do you think about our vacation? Do you love it?“ he asked a little too loudly. Before I could answer a hand was placed on Sasha’s shoulder causing him to whirl around with a little more force than necessary. It belonged to a small, slim woman in her twenties with huge manga like eyes that she had heavily accentuated with black eyeliner. Her hair was dark brown, falling in soft waves around her shoulders and her lips were full and stained red from too much red wine I guessed. „Shurik, honey, there you are. I didn’t think you were coming this year.“ She kissed him on each cheek holding his face in her hands, her lips leaving little red marks where they touched his skin. „Xenia, hi. It is so good to see you.“ He hugged her before he finally remembered that I was there too. „Xenia, this is my girlfriend, Emma.“ she held out her hand for me to shake. „Emma, this is Xenia, an old friend of mine. Her parents come here every year as well.“ She had giggled a little at the word friend but didn’t say anything. I wanted to ask where they knew each other from, if they had dated before, why she spoke English so well, when Xenia was clearly a Russian name but all that came out was. „Very nice to meet you.“ All of a sudden I was very aware of my stomach uncomfortably hanging over my panties as a result of too much seafood and wine. I remembered that I wasn’t wearing much make up and that I had exchanged my heels for flats on our way out, when we decided we were going to walk to the restaurant. Xenia was beautiful, breathtaking really. She was so slim, she looked like someone that needed constant protecting. Her breasts were the exact opposite of her slender figure. But it was her eyes that really drew my attention. They were so big and blue and she seemed to know exactly how to use them to look vulnerable but at the same time like someone who knew who they were. I wondered if Sasha saw all of that too. Xenia pulled up a chair and sat down next to Sasha asking him about his family, repeatedly placing her hand on his leg. The nail polish on one nail was slightly chipped, somehow that made me feel better. For some reason my mind went back to Joey. I had never felt as insecure with him as I did with Sasha, even though he had been much better looking than me or Sasha for that matter. I discarded the thought quickly, as if Sasha could hear that he was falling short in my comparison with my ex boyfriend. Still it was true, with Joey I had always known, felt that he loved me the way I was, shortcomings and all. Of course I had been Joey’s first real girlfriend, so there weren’t many exes to be jealous of but still I knew that this was about more than an ex girlfriend. It was about the way I felt, that with Sasha I never knew what was coming. I was on my toes constantly and I could never truly relax. It had been such a long time since I started going out with Joey I couldn’t remember if I ever felt like that with him. I thought about it while Xenia was still talking and it occurred to me that with Joey I had always been comfortable, relaxed and just me. I hadn’t cared about my appearance all that much and if I had a bowl of Fettuccine Alfredo too many, Joey and I had just patted each others bellies and laughed about it. I glanced at Sasha, deep in conversation with Xenia, his hand resting gently on my knee, but his body turned away from me. Like I belonged to him, and he just needed to make sure that I knew that too, but at the same time he knew that I wouldn’t be going anywhere. All of a sudden I felt sick to my stomach. I excused myself to go to the bathroom and got up on shaky legs. I felt the effects of the wine and stumbled across the cobble stone to the bathroom closing the door noisily behind me. I locked the door and sat on the toilet, inhaling deeply, trying to make the feeling go away. When it didn’t work I opened the toilet and stuck my finger so deep into my throat that I scratched it with my fingernails. I repeated the procedure 2 more times until finally my stomach contracted. When I was finished I wiped away the thin layer of sweat on my forehead and flushed twice. I felt a little better when I splashed my face with water, rinsing my mouth with the complementary mouth wash on the sink. Apparently this wasn’t the first time this sort of thing had happened here.

I returned, a concrete smile plastered on my face but I didn’t need to bother as Xenia had already left. „Are you ready to go?“, Sasha asked. His napkin lay crumbled on the floor. I bend over to pick it up. „You don’t need to do that.“ „I know“, I replied doing it anyways. „I already left them a huge tip, let’s go.“ My eyes fell on the wad of cash in the middle of the table and I knew he had been generous. Sasha started walking, stopping only when he realized I still hadn’t moved. „What are you waiting for, come on. Let’s go home.“ „Sure, I am coming.“ I held out my hand for Sasha to take, but he had already started walking again. I tried to keep up with him but he was walking faster than usual. „Sasha, can you walk a little slower.“ He slowed down but still didn’t take my hand. „What’s wrong?“, I pressed. „Nothing, why would anything be wrong?“ He looked innocent but I could see something glistening in his eyes, something that I didn’t like. „Don’t you want to ask me about Xenia?“. My stomach sunk a little and I avoided looking at him. „Should I? I mean, is there anything I need to know?“. „No, of course not,“ he smirked „but isn’t this the sort of thing you usually get all crazy about?“ I was quiet for a minute. There were new voices in my head that told me that I should just stand up for myself and tell him I had every right to be curious, and even a little alarmed. The way she had initiated some sort of body contact at all times. The way she had played with her hair when she asked questions. The way she said his name, letting it roll of her tongue with a familiarity that made my skin prickle with jealously. All this made my head spin but still I didn’t ask. I didn’t want to be that girl anymore, I wanted to trust him and be sure of him, just the way he was sure of me. And most of all I dreaded what was about to happen if I opened this can of worms one more time. Sasha still looked at me when I finally said. „No, it’s fine.“ And continued to walk home, my hands firmly holding onto my bag as if my life depended on it.


The next morning at breakfast I saw Irina talking to someone who was sitting at her table. I could only see her from behind. She was delicate, her arms constantly moving, displaying toned muscles and paper white skin. If I hadn’t seen Irina in front of her I would have thought this woman to be her. Sasha had barely spoken to me all morning but when he saw the third person at the breakfast table he took my hand and gripped it tight. „Oh fuck,“ he breathed almost silently. „What is it?“ „That’s my sister over there. And that means fucking trouble.“ Just as he said the last word his sister spun around and I was hit with the image of Irina once again. Her face was softer, more elegant than her mother’s, her eyes curious and awake. Irina always looked bored and constipated. „Shurik,“ she yelled, pushing the chair back noisily and almost knocking it over. „I am so glad that I could make it and I can finally meet your lovely Emma.“ I couldn’t help but smile. I didn’t know much about Yulia, in fact, I didn’t know Sasha even talked to her at all but here she was and she was the first one seemed to genuinely be happy that I was there. She took both my hands into hers after she had hugged Sasha quickly and forcefully. Her fingers were slim, a small ring with little diamonds on almost every one of them. Her grip was tight, her fragility just an illusion. „Emma,“ she said, her eyes locked directly on mine. „I am so glad that Sasha has finally found someone.“ I smiled at her thankful for her kindness, tears filling my eyes so I directed my gaze downwards.“ „It is good to finally meet you too, Yulia.“ She pulled me into a hug and whispered in my ear, just before I pulled away „We are going to have so much fun together.“ I really hoped that she was right.

Yulia talked a lot, and unlike the rest of the family she didn’t mind doing so in English most of the time. She ignored her mother answering her in Russian or Sasha reprimanding her for being too loud. I felt a lot more comfortable in her presence than I had ever since we arrived but I couldn’t help but notice that the rest of the family seemed to tense up when she spoke. They looked around more, eyeing the other guests for any sign of discomfort. I couldn’t see any, it seemed to be in their head. „You know, she isn’t as nice as she seems,“ Sasha said to me when we got back to our room after breakfast. „What do you mean?“ I was putting on my bikini bottoms to go to the beach. „I mean, she seems like she is all together, just a little loud but friendly. I am just telling you, be careful. She is a manipulative bitch, and you will never see it coming.“ I was surprised by his choice of words and also the anger behind them. As far as I knew, only his mother had had problems with her. He hadn’t told me much about her, just that she had gotten kicked out of several boarding schools. We hadn’t known each other that well then, and since he didn’t elaborate further I hadn’t asked more about it but now I was curious. „Why would you say that?“ His body stiffened. „You don’t believe me?“ „No,“ I said softly, „of course I do, I just want to understand what makes you say that about your sister. I mean, I hardly know her and I would just like to know a little more about what she did for you to hate her this much.“ He still didn’t relax. „Well if you want to, I can tell you everything she has ever done to this family. Everything about how she is a liar, a drug addict, a whore. And I know you still wouldn’t see it, because she is also a great actor. Either you believe me on this one, or you can find out the hard way. I am not going to tell you what to do. Just trust me, that whatever it is you decide to do, you have been warned.“ He kept his eyes on me, hard and sad. I wanted to believe him. „Sasha, I am sorry. I don’t want to make this harder for you. I just wanted to understand.“ my voice trailed off as I moved over to him and hugged him. „If you want to talk about it, it’s fine, if not, I will be ok too.“ He pushed me away a little but just to look at me again. „I don’t. And I would really appreciate it if you didn’t press it any further. She has caused so much pain for each and everyone of us already.“ I saw tears glistening in his eyes and I decided that this would be the last thing I ever said about it „It’s ok babe. I trust you.“

We didn’t see much of Yulia after that first day and despite Sasha’s warning I was a little sad about it. We only had a couple of days left and I did want to get to know her better. She showed up at the beach that day around 4 in the afternoon, the oversized sunglasses making her cheeks seem more hollow than usual. „She is a drug addict,“ Sasha’s words popped in my head and I couldn’t help but seizing her up against that comment. She kept pushing her sunglasses up and back down again, leaning from one foot to the other, nervously glancing around. Her voice was always a little too loud and her laugh a little too shrill, but that didn’t make her an addict. That could just make her as nervous as I was around her family. „Hey Emma, I love your bathing suit. Maybe I can borrow it some time.“ I looked down at my coral two piece and imagined her in it and almost laughed. It would fall right off her. „Thanks, and sure.“ I said despite what I was thinking. „Do you want to have a girls night tonight? There is a hockey game on, that I am sure Shurik and my dad would like to see and we could go out to dinner and have a couple of drinks after, what do you think?“ I looked over to Sasha quickly. So did Yulia. „Come on Emma, you don’t need his permission.“ „I wasn’t…“ I didn’t finish my sentence because I really was waiting for his approval and when he still didn’t say anything I asked him „Sasha, do you want to watch the game tonight?“ This would give him the opportunity to save me from his sister without me loosing my face over it. „Yeah, I would actually.“ he said instead. „Um, ok then I guess I am free tonight.“ „Great, I will come by your room around 8ish. Be ready.“ She pushed her sunglasses back on and walked back into the hotel. „Sasha, why didn’t you say anything?“ I turned towards him and sat up. „Why would I? She is right, you don’t need my permission and besides, I really would like to watch the game with my dad.“ He really didn’t seem bothered so I relaxed a little. „So you are ok with me going out with your sister?“ He put his hand on my knee „Sure babe, I told you everything you needed to know. So you know better than to believe anything she says. Keeping that in mind you will have a lovely evening. She can be very funny if she wants to.“. If that was supposed to make me less nervous, it certainly didn’t work.





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