The past is better left behind

My family lunch the next day was less weird than I expected. I had asked Sasha to join me but he had wanted to meet Dima for lunch instead as he hadn’t seen him in a while and wanted to run some ideas by him. I was fine with that since I didn’t know what to expect, especially since I wasn’t sure if Anna was going to be there or not. She wasn’t. Peter and Stefanie were early and already waiting for us at their favorite restaurant just outside the city. They were beautifully dressed, simple, yet elegant and my mom followed suit. My dad and I looked more than American tourists than we would like to admit. After a very warm hello between the sisters, Stefanie turned to me. „Oh Emma, look how much you have changed already.“ She held me face while kissing me on the cheek and I couldn’t help but feel like a little girl that had just been pinched in the cheek and told „Oh look how big you are.“ „Yeah, thanks.“ I mumbled. As we sat down for lunch my mom held her sister by the waist and I could see them talk fast and quietly in German. I didn’t get how my mother could be so fluent in another language and yet fail to bring me up speaking both languages. She claimed it was because she wasn’t perfect but to me she sounded like she was. I was sure they were talking about me. I tried to speed up and listen as we were about to reach our table but Peter kept making remarks about University and how I needed to make the most of my experience. Other than a couple of comments about me going MIA after I had lived with them the conversation went smoothly until the Anna showed up. She was more glorious than ever, if that what even possible. She greeted my parents and then hers and when he finally got around to greeting me she just gave me a quick peck on the cheek and sat down. „Hi.“ I said. „Hi, yourself.“ She smiled a crooked smile. „How have you been?“ I asked. „Ok, I guess.Busy, you know.“ She took the menu and scanned it quickly. She waved the waiter over and ordered within seconds.“ Since we had already finished our main course she would eat hers while we’d be busy with desserts. She didn’t seem to mind. „So what have you been up to?“ She had no menu to hide behind anymore. „Just school, and a couple of parties. Nothing really.“ „But I thought you said you were busy?“ „Yeah well. You know… Hey auntie, what’s new with you guy? It feels like I haven’t seen you in ages?“ She smiled her biggest smile as she asked my mom. I was dumbfounded. Why wouldn’t she talk to me. I knew I hadn’t been in touch so much lately but that she would blow me off like that. I wasn’t sure what had caused that. I spend the rest of the afternoon talking to Peter and Stefanie and leaving Anna to ask my parents all sorts of questions. As we said our goodbyes, it took all the courage I had to ask her what was going on. „Why don’t you ask your sweet Russian? He knows.“ She turned on her heel and left. I couldn’t even figure out what to think about that.

***

I was silent on the subway ride home. What had Sasha done? And could I ask him about it without it causing a huge fight again? „What are you thinking about hun?“ My mom asked, sitting on the seat across from me. „Nothing, I am just really tired. This was fun.“ She smiled. „Yeah it was, it’s such a shame we don’t get to see them more often.“ „Yeah it really is.“ I rested my head against the window and went back to my thoughts. What could Anna have meant. Sasha and her had never met, or had they? I remembered the first time before Sasha and I had become a couple at the bar with the blonde chick, they had seen each other then, once. But that was it. What could he have said to her that made her so upset? „I can’t ask him“ I almost said out loud. And I couldn’t. What would I base this on? Some lame comment by some girl he didn’t even know. I wasn’t sure I could let this go, but I would definitely try.

When I go home it was a quarter past six and Sasha wasn’t home yet. He was probably still out with Dima. They lunches usually turned into dinners and then drinks. Even though it was Sunday Dima always found a place that was open longer than the others or served better drinks, while better simply meant more alcohol. I put my sweatpants on a cherished the time alone in the apartment. I wouldn’t think about anything Anna said, I would simply relax and enjoy my time at home with a glass of wine. I took one of the big glasses his mom gave us as a housewarming gift when they were here, poured about one quarter of a bottle of white into it and took a sip. It was good wine, Sasha had picked it. I sat down and contemplated on what to do next. Sasha’s lap top sat on the couch table before me so before I knew what I was doing I picked it up and opened it. He had just closed it with closing any windows. I saw that Skype was still open and that he had recently been talking to Natalia, which I recognized on her stunning profile picture. I double clicked the chat and saw their conversation in Russian. I should close this immediately. This was invasion of privacy and Sasha would hate this if he knew but I just had to know what they were talking about. I copied a large chunk of there conversation and pasted it in google translate. I would delete the browser history later. My heart was pounding so hard I could barely concentrate. Nothing interesting, just work stuff. I scrolled up, but once again my copying efforts just revealed something about deadlines and meetings. I decided I was going to do this one more time and then stop forever. The first couple of sentences talked about some colleagues of theirs and then there was a name „Anna Berger“. My Anna? Could this be? How did she know them. I stopped breathing for a second before I pasted the second half of that paragraph into the translator.

Shurik: Yeah, I know Anna. She is Emma’s cousin, I think.

Nata89: I see her a lot for my project. She has asked some questions about you.

Shurik: Like What?

Nata89: How you are? If you are nice, that sort.

Shurik: So?

Nata89: Well you know the saying? Keep your friends close but your enemies closer?

Shurik: Haha, yes I know.

My mouth was so dry I couldn’t swallow. What was that supposed to mean? Was Anna the enemy? Or was I? What was she trying to imply? That Anna was asking to many questions or that she was asking so many because she was interested in Sasha. I couldn’t believe Anna had never told me that she knew someone that Sasha knew. Then again we hadn’t been speaking much but still. She could have called and asked me. Unless she had some ulterior motive. My hands were shaking as I deleted the browser history and closed the computer. I sat it down on exactly the same place Sasha had placed it earlier even though I was sure he wouldn’t remember. It was not even 8 but all of a sudden I felt the need to go to bed and rest for a couple of minutes, just to wrap my head around what I had just read. I finished my wine in 3 gulps and went to brush my teeth. When my head hit my pillow I finally found the sweet relief I was looking for.

I woke up around 6 in the morning to Sasha snoring soundly beside me. I looked at him. He was my boyfriend, why was I so unsure about this. Why would Anna try to be with him? Or why would she try to undermine me? And if Natalie and he has some sort of thing going wouldn’t he reply a little differently than just „Haha, yes I know.“ and then go back to some lame work story. Maybe I was reading too much into this and I should really let it go, just as I had planned to to last night.

I got up and made some breakfast and texted my parents to see what they were up to. They were up already and told me they were going for breakfast at their hotel and then probably to the Zoo or something similar as the weather was so nice. Without thinking about it I texted back that I would join them. I wrote Sasha a note, hopped into my jeans that were still on the bathroom floor where I had left them, brushed my teeth and combed my hair. I put on some make up and grabbed my keys and hoped that this would bring the distraction I so desperately needed.

***

I had a wonderful day with my parents at the Zoo. It made me feel almost like being back home, just having fun, not thinking about anyone or anything, not even about where to go for lunch. My parents were taking care of everything. When I returned home late in the afternoon I was so happy I hummed as I put my key into the door. „Honey, I am home“. I hadn’t heard from Sasha all day, but since he had to work I wasn’t worried. I hung up my jacket and found Sasha in the living room in front of his lap top. „Hey baby.“ I said again. As he still didn’t answer my heart flipped. Had he realized that I had been going through his stuff? „Hey.“ he finally said. „What’s up? „I was worried about you.“ „I left you a note.“ „Yeah, you did.“ „So why were you worried?“ „Why didn’t you call?“ „I was with my parents. I told you were I was, why would I call. I was going to see you tonight.“ „Oh and you can’t call because you will see me in the evening? What kind of bullshit is this? I miss you when I am at work. And I worry, when I don’t hear from you. Apparently you don’t feel the same.“ He slammed his computer shut. „No it’s not like that. Sasha come on, you know it’s not like that.“ „What is it like then?“ He looked me directly in the eye. „Come on baby. I had a nice day with my parents. Do you really want to spoil that?“ I asked softly. „Oh so I am spoiling your fun then? I am so sorry.“ he almost spat those last words at me. „No I meant spoiling it with an argument.“ I was running out of things to say to stop this from going out of control. I had one last straw I was desperately trying to hold on to. „Sasha, what is this really about?“ If I had played my cards right, I could make this about his feelings and not his rage. And sure enough he folded. „Look Emma, your parents want you back with Joey, how am I supposed to feel if you spend your entire day with them and don’t invite me. It feels to me like you are choosing him over me.“ „Thats bullshit.“ I didn’t even try to sugar coat it this time. „Oh thanks for calling what I feel bullshit.“ Sasha got up forcefully and stormed out of the room. I followed him. „No, please, come on. I meant…“ But Sasha was already at the freezer taking out the Vodka. „Yeah, what is it?“ he looked at me as if he loathed everything about me. „I meant, that I love you, not Joey. And my parents do to.“ My voice was small, like a child’s. „Really?“ Sasha reciprocated. „Really.“ I kissed him and he tasted like Vodka.

***

I enjoyed every minute with my parents until they left but once I drove them to the airport and we waved our goodbyes I was relieved and happy that they were gone. I had missed them a lot and I had really cherished their being here but the whole time they were here I felt like I was playing a role even though I couldn’t quite put my finger on the why of it. Before my parents had always been my safe haven. The place where I didn’t have to pretend to be anything or anyone because I knew they loved me just the way I was, flaws and everything. But now it felt like I needed to show them I was happy and I was making the right choices all the time. I wanted to just blame it on the process of growing up and growing out of old behaviors, just like you grow out of old sweaters, but I knew that that was not the whole truth.

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