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Faces: Chapter 1

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The weather was bitterly cold.

Few people were walking in the streets that afternoon. A storm was brewing to the west, and no prompting was needed to keep people indoors: wind gusts were like knives, and showers of flurries here and there felt more like fire when they hit the face.

Vasily Sergeyevich walked on. He had 2 more blocks to go.

He was returning from his rehearsal with the theater orchestra, and the heavy briefcase in his arms was his bassoon. The wind had become so cold that Vasily lifted the case to his chest and hugged it while he walked.
Not to keep him warm however. If his bassoon cracked in the cold, his career would be done for.
When Vasily finally came to his apartment, he was shivering pitifully, and his hands seemed glued to his case. He put it down gently and unlocked his door, stepping in quickly so as to keep the wind out. It was only a little warmer inside. He would need to light his stove to get it warm again.
He put his back to the door, and slumped to the ground. The case was beside him, and he stared at it with a weak smile.
"Why did I ever pick you?" he said to it in a gentle but sore mood. He put it on his lap and opened it up, checking all the parts. It was all fine.
"That's right, now I remember," he smiled to himself. He closed his eyes and leaned his head back.
All was well.
For now.

Vasily had just barely made enough money that week to pay his rent. His small apartment was rather crude, but he didn't mind. He didn't spend a lot of time in it, so it was no problem. It was comprised of a hallway and 2 rooms. One room was where he slept, and the other a small living room with a stove. The stove actually was installed inside the wall between both rooms and so could be maintained from either room. Vasily had sparse furniture, but it was nice quality, things his parents gave to him. He had been on his own in the city now 6 years, eking away a tiny bachelor's living. But it was living. And he was happy for it.
Vasily's birthday had just passed, and he was now 24. He was on the shorter side, and very thin, but he had charming brown eyes, and short cropped brown hair and beard. If he didn't smiled with his face, he smiled with his eyes. He was very quiet and gentle, but he could be very firm when he needed to speak up, especially as a conductor.
In the mail, his parents gave him some money, 30 roubles. It was a pretty substantial sum, and one of the only gifts he got in the whole year. His parents were not rich, but they loved their son, and wanted him to succeed. He also wrote letters to his parents, telling them about his latest engagements, particularly as a musician and conductor.
One thing he was leaving out though, so as not to worry them. He wasn't breathing very well lately. Coughing, wheezing, and overall chest pain. In his rehearsals and concerts, Vasily would try so hard to stifle his coughs, and then afterward break out in a cough for many minutes. He could only hope and pray that it would go away because his living conditions didn't look like they were improving any time soon.

It was soon dark, but Vasily's apartment was now warm. After eating a small meal, he went to his desk in the corner and opened a drawer.
Inside was manuscript paper.
By light of candle, so he continued his hobby. Composition.
It was his first real orchestral composition, a tone poem called the Nymphs. Not that Vasily really imagined it being performed any time soon, as he would have to make some pretty complicated deals with publishers on it, but it was his passion. Vasily loved to perform, and he loved to conduct, but composition was something especially dear to him. One day, just one day, he might hear it performed.
When the hour struck midnight, he turned in his work to sleep. But before he did so, he got on his knees and bowed his head towards his single window, which was to the back of the apartment.
"Dear God, thank you for this day. Thank you for the rehearsal I had today, and thank you for what you have given me. But please... I want something to change... I want..."
Vasily wasn't sure what he wanted. Better health? More money? More engagements with music?
No, that's not what he ultimately wanted.
"I want the happiness that you've prepared for me, Lord. That's all. In your name, Amen."
He crossed himself and went to sleep, with the wind howling outside his window.