Dinner interrupted

I had nothing to wear, and I realized this about 20 minutes before Yulia wanted to come and pick me up. „Sasha will you help me with my clothes?“ He was lounging on the bed, changing the channels on the TV from sports to news back to sports almost by the minute. The game wasn’t starting until 9 so he still had time. „What do you want me to do about that?“ „Just tell me what to wear, please.“ „Come on babe, seriously?“ „You know your sister better than I do. Where will we go? What does she dress like?“ „Like a slut, so don’t do that,“ he grinned. „Here what about this one?“ He got up and pulled out my leather dress that he had bought for me. I had brought it in case we would want to go out clubbing. „You don’t think that that is too sexy?“ „No, that’s fine,“ he kissed me quickly and turned his attention back to the TV. I was ready to go just as I heard a knock on the door. „Have fun babe,“ Sasha pulled me to him and kissed me gently. „Thank you, you too.“ „Oh I will,“ I heard him laugh as I closed the door behind me. Yulia’s dress was short but not shorter than mine. Her face was heavily made up which made her look less like her mother. „You look nice“, she said as she took me by the arm and lead me to the elevator. „Thank you, you too.“ „Was Sasha ok with you leaving with me?“ she asked innocently but I thought I detected some sort of plot for me to say something bad about Sasha. „Sure, why wouldn’t he be?“ I replied, keeping my voice light. „I just know my brother very well,“ she laughed. It was the second time I heard this and it once again made me wonder if anyone in this family knew him at all. She changed the subject quickly and talked about the restaurant we were going to have dinner at. She paid for the taxi and ordered for me. In a way she way like Sasha with me. But in another she was the exact opposite. We sat down outside. The terrace was basically on the street, bikes and small cars going by only once in a while, but we had a beautiful view over the ocean. „So Emma, I am sure Sasha has told me a lot of stuff about me, stuff that I wouldn’t necessarily want people to know, right?“ I stammered a little bit but finally found my voice „No, actually. He hasn’t said a lot.“ It wasn’t that far from the truth. Apart from some name calling and general badmouthing there was nothing substantial that I knew of her. „Well, I know you are not entirely telling the truth, but that is ok. I know my brother and I also know myself and a lot of the things he said are probably true anyways,“ she took a big sip from her wine, putting it down carefully. „I know I have been somewhat of a pain in the ass for my family and I have done things I am not proud of…“ her voice trailed off. I wanted to ask her about those things but took another piece of bread instead. I played with it for a bit before putting it back down on my plate. She looked at me, question marks in her eyes. „I will tell you if you really want to know. I feel like I need to start being honest and maybe that will change the way my family feels about me.“ I nodded, not knowing what to say. And then she told me. She told me about the many times she was caught drunk and on drugs outside her boarding school. The many times she had to go back home because they wouldn’t deal with her anymore. The many times she was sent to the next school, because her mom felt the same way about her. She told me about fellow students, drunken threesomes that she didn’t even remember and just knew about because pictures of them would circulate the next day. Pictures she could only forget by drinking more, numbing her inner voice that told her to stop what she was doing. She told me about the times, when Sasha had picked her from strange men’s apartments and dragged her back to school. And she told me about the look on their faces each and every time something like this happened, how the hope that she had finally found her footing had turned into disappointment and then rage. How her mother and her father alike had repeatedly told her she wasn’t their daughter anymore. When she was done I hugged her. She looked empty and broken, and I couldn’t believe that any of what she had just said to me had been done out of spite. I could see a lonely little girl that only wanted to be held, so I did exactly that.

We sat like this until she finally wiped the tears from her cheeks and squeezed my hands tight. „Thank you Emma, I feel like I can actually talk to you. I am not sure how Sasha found you, but I am sure glad he has. He hasn’t had the easiest childhood himself.“ „I know,“ I whispered softly. I felt that if she could open up to me like this I owed her to do the same „You know,“ I said, leaning in closer „it’s hard with him sometimes. He is so fragile and angry sometimes. I always feel like I am walking on eggshells with him.“ She nodded. She seemed to be in her element, her eyes sparkling again with newfound energy. „Yes, that he is. I can tell you, you are not the first one to tell me this.“ „Oh you mean his ex-girlfriend, the one he wanted to marry?“ I didn’t want to sound too curious but the words just fell out of my mouth. She looked confused „What do you mean Emma? Sasha has only ever had one girlfriend and that was Xenia. And they were never serious.“ I looked at her dumbfounded when a loud crash behind us made us both spin around. It was Sasha who had walked into a waiter, arms full of empty plates. And Xenia was right by his side.

***
My heart was beating frantically. Yulia caught my eye and took my hand. „Let’s go“, she whispered. „What? Where?“ „He doesn’t need to see us here. You of all people know what is going to happen if he does.“ I didn’t know and I needed to know what was going on with him and Xenia. Why wasn’t he with his dad. Where did she come from all of a sudden. I looked over at them and yelled, „Sasha!“ like I was reprimanding a child. I could see Yulia rolling her eyes and sitting back down out of the corner of my eye. Sasha had finally managed to get himself together and looked at me, like he had a hard time placing who I was. He said something to Xenia, who laughed and then slowly made his way over to us. „Why did you do that?“ Yulia hissed. „Why not, he is my boyfriend. I should be able to ask him what he is doing here.“ „You will regret this, don’t forget I told you so.“ She looked almost amused now. „Oh, who do we have here? My lovely girlfriend Emma and my wonderful sister.“ Sasha had a hard time pronouncing my name and it came out as „Ma“. He had managed to get drunk in a very short amount of time. I almost didn’t hear him as I was too focused on Xenia. She was smiling, the smile of a girl who doesn’t care that she has just been caught with another woman’s boyfriend because the only thing that matters to her, that she is with him. It would have been sweet, really if it wasn’t for the fact that this was my boyfriend she seemed to feel this way about. „Sasha, what are you doing here? Weren’t you going to watch the game?“ I turned my body slightly away from Xenia to look at him. I kept my tone light, trying to clear all accusations from my voice. I must have done a lousy job. „What am I not allowed to meet with my friends anymore?“ he spat. Yulia shot me a look as if to say „I told you so.“ „Sasha, let’s go home,“ she said in English. „You don’t get to tell me what to do, slut.“ he mumbled through gritted teeth. Xenia eyes widened. It seemed to be the first time she saw him like this. „Babe, come on. I want to spend the rest of the evening with you. Let’s go home.“ I tried again, gently laying my hand on his arm. He pulled it back. „But I don’t. You made the choice to come here with her. And to dress like this. You are just like her. I don’t want to go anywhere with you.“ he turned around and almost bumped into another waiter who was quick enough to get out of his way. „Are you coming Xenia?“ Xenia just stood there, looking from him to us, not knowing what to do. „Uhm, no Sasha, actually I am going home I think,“ she said, her voice small. I almost applauded her. „Fine, you are just like them too. Go then, but don’t think you need to call me again ever,“ he finished with some Russian slur words and walked off in the dark, letting the uneasiness linger between the three of us.

The first one to speak was Xenia. She said something in Russian to Yulia who just nodded and then turned to me. „I am sorry Emma, he told me you knew. I am sorry. I am going to go now.“ I just nodded and stared at her blankly. What was I supposed to know? That they dated? That they were out tonight? I couldn’t admit that I didn’t know anything. When Xenia was gone Yulia took my arm „Let’s go home.“ „But I need to find Sasha, I need to make this ok.“ She seemed angry now „He will come home. He will be fine. Fuck him. He has always been like this. I actually like you, so don’t get sucked into his bullshit. He will be sober tomorrow and then you can talk. Or you can’t. Either way, tonight you will only make things worse. As much as I didn’t want to admit it, but I knew she was right. I followed her to the taxi without questioning her again.

I slept in Yulia’s room that night. We didn’t talk about him anymore, we didn’t really talk at all. It seemed to be implied that I couldn’t sit around in our room and wait for him so she just unlocked her door and pulled an shirt and short from her suitcase and handed them to me. I brushed my teeth with one of the complimentary tooth brushes you didn’t even have to ask for in this hotel and went back to the bed room. „You can sleep in my bed if you want“ „Uhm, sure.“ I didn’t see a couch to sleep on so I figured we would be sharing. She climbed into bed next to me without removing her make up or brushing her teeth. She turned to face me. „Emma, don’t worry too much. It’ll be fine. You know how he is.“ As I drifted off to sleep I was beginning to wonder if I did know anything at all.

Yulia was already in the shower when I woke up the next morning, so I had an opportunity to check my phone without her commenting on it. As I suspected I had no new messages. This wasn't new. I knew Sasha hardly ever reflected on anything while he was in that drunken haze, so I had stopped worrying. If I really thought about it, it was more because I had seen Xenia’s shocked expression. I was sure he wasn't with her. I was half tempted to get up and check our room when I heard the shower turn of. Yulia came out of the bathroom wrapped in a towel, her wet hair limply hanging there like overcooked spaghetti. „How did you sleep?“ She asked while looking for clothes in her, still not unpacked suitcase. „Well it has been worse.“ I try to smile. She doesn't even seem fazed by my comment and I realize she isn't surprised that this sort of thing happened before. Suddenly I remember what she said last night about Xenia being Sasha’s only girlfriend. „Yulia, can I ask you something?“ „Sure.“ she had put on underwear and a dress while I had been staring out of the window. She sat down on the bed opposite of me. „Last night you said that Xenia was Sasha’s only girlfriend, what did you mean by that?“ „Well I don’t know what he told you, but he hasn't been great with girls, well at least that I know of. He has had his share of affairs and random women that hung around for a couple of weeks for the money but he hasn't actually dated anyone for a longer amount of time. What exactly did he say to you?“ She leaned forward a little, as if to get some juicier information out of me. All of a sudden I didn't feel like talking about it anymore. I didn't want to tell on Sasha and give his sister anything on him. I didn't know why I felt this way, why I wanted to protect him, as more than anything at all I wanted to know why he had lied to me in the first place. Still I couldn't bear the thought of her asking him about it. „We hadn't actually talked about it. I think I might have misunderstood..“ I wasn't very good at making up for what I had said the night before. Yulia just shook her head and shrugged „Tell yourself whatever you want, but if you want to ask me anything, you know where to find me.“ She got up from the bed and took a towel out of the closet. She threw the towel at me. „Go take a shower so that we can look for that lover of yours. I am sure he is still sleeping it off somewhere“.


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