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Faces: Chapter 2

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"Vasya! Vasya!"
It was midday in March, and Vasily was walking down the street, when a young boy about 10 years old came running up to him.
"Ilya! How good to see you again! How were your classes today?" Vasily hugged him and patted his head, and so they walked together down the road.
"It was alright. Arithmetic is still hard though. There was a test today, I don't think I did so well."
"Ah, that's too bad."
"But you know what was capital today? My sister came to town!"
Vasily started. "Oh did she?"
"Yeah! She's going to try to find work in the city after all, she had no luck in the outskirts."
"I see..."
Vasily knew Ilya ever since he was very young. They had met in the church they both went to, and ever since Vasily became choir director, Ilya instigated a friendship with him. Ilya loved music, and Vasily became his mentor, teaching him what he could. Although Ilya professed difficulty in arithmetic, he was very smart, and very talented too, already taking piano lessons.
"I wanted to find you so you would come meet her!" Ilya was saying.
"Is that so?" Vasily was taken back. "Since when did you know that I would... that--"
"You liked her? Haha! I've known it for a long time, Vasya!" Ilya grinned.
Vasily blushed a little and turned away.
"I wouldn't be afraid now, though. She remembers you."
Vasily could only stare at him.
"So, do you want to meet her?" Ilya looked up at him eagerly.
"... Not yet."
"Aw come on! There's no need to wait!"
"No need to rush either," Vasily muttered. "I'll tell you what. Tell your mother I will call on you all tomorrow night, if she doesn't mind."
"Oh, she won't mind at all! I'll tell her right away. And I'll tell Irina too!"
"No wait! Don't tell her," Vasily looked at Ilya pleadingly.
"Oh, you mean to make it a surprise?"
"Well... not as much of a deal is all. I'll drop in, have conversation, and that can be all it is."
Ilya cocked his head to one side. "Ok then. Well, I'll see you tomorrow!"
"You too Ilya!" The young boy ran off home, while Vasily went to his own home.
Grim and tense emotions rose up within him while he was alone.
Irina was about 2 years younger than Vasily, and she was very beautiful. She had long brown hair, black-shot eyes that glistened, and a beautiful smile. Although not well acquainted with each other, Vasily had kept watch over her for a year while in church. Irina was very other-worldly, and never noticed him in the service, always bent on prayer and the rites. One time, she did catch his eye however, and smiled at him. She had been out of the city looking for work for 6 months, but now it seems she drew up a blank, and needed help. Her specialty was house-keeping, and no one in the country was in need of a governess. Vasily was always too nervous to speak much to her, and when she left the city, he was torn between regret and relief.
Vasily had almost succeeded in taking her out of his thoughts, but her name renewed in his mind now made everything worse. And she remembered him? She talked about him? He was anguished.
Because he knew what was keeping him back.

The next evening, Vasily arrived in his nicest outfit at the door of Ilya's home, more formally known as the Osslovsky apartment. They were by no means rich, but they were of middle class, and so lived better than he did. When Vasily knocked, a young servant girl opened up, and let him in. He looked around nervously, and saw Ilya immediately approaching him.
"Vasya's here!" he cried. Vasily involuntarily winced, and taking off his coat let himself be dragged down the corridor into the salon.
There, the Osslovsky family had just been reclining after their dinner, and were talking. Ilya's mother and father were sitting there on a couch, and Ilya joined them in his own chair at their side.
Irina was sitting in between them.
Vasily's eyes met her's, the first time in a long time, and his heart leaped. He could barely contain how nervous he was, and looked rapidly at all the other faces, trying to cover himself, but he always went back to her eyes.
Irina had an expression he had never seen her have before. She looked nervous herself.
"Vasily Sergeyevich! How good to see you!" Mr. Osslovsky spoke first for the family, and everyone stood up to greet him. Vasily bowed to them all, and took his seat across from them.
"It's too bad you didn't come for dinner, because we would love to have had you!" Mrs. Osslovsky exclaimed. "But as of now, you will just have to settle for tea."
"Oh, it's not trouble at all, madame," Vasily muttered, "I actually couldn't come for dinner because I had an... engagement elsewhere just before now."
"A musical engagement?" Ilya wondered.
"Er, yes..."
"What was it?" Irina spoke up for the first time.
Vasily looked at her directly, "I was rehearsing with a Theatre Orchestra. We have a performance tomorrow night actually."
"What if we all go?" Ilya exclaimed. "I've not yet seen him play in an Orchestra, is that fun Vasya?"
"Oh Ilya, be not so outspoken!" his mother chided.
"It is fun, but it's also a lot of work. A lot of work for... very little."
"What do you play in the Orchestra, Vasily?" Irina spoke again, gaining interest.
"Oh... bassoon. Sometimes percussion."
"Percussion?" Mr. Osslovsky exclaimed. "Now that's an exciting job!"
"Quite the contrary. Sometime I only play a few notes, well, pitches, in the whole evening. I play tympani, and it can get boring. But, I'm happy to do it."
"So you are multi-talented! I always knew you were bright, Vasily, and not just any regular musician," Mr. Osslovsky smiled.
"But it doesn't do me much for me, I think," Vasily frowned. "I--" suddenly, he had a great urge to cough again, how awkward that would be! He looked at all of them plaintively, and said "sorry," before going into a major spasm of coughing.
"Oh are you alright?" Mrs. Osslovsky furrowed her brow. "I will get you tea shortly, something hot will be better for you."
"Thank you," he eked out, sitting back in his chair. He felt thoroughly ashamed, and didn't dare look at Irina. Ilya only watched in silence.
Vasily had gone to a doctor 2 weeks before, and he got his grim diagnosis, the nameless illness which he dared not reveal here.
"Will you be alright to perform tomorrow night?" Osslovsky inquired sympathetically.
"I have no choice either way. I need this work, I can't skip it. And, well, I've done this before. Ach, I feel selfish only speaking of myself here, I want to know about how you all are... Irina, if you would please follow me up on how you've been."
"I'm doing well," she said softly. "But not as well as I like. I really need a job right now too."
"I see. I hope you do find one quickly."
"Yes, thank you."
All of them spoke a little bit more, but Vasily was suddenly feeling fatigued, and he bid to take leave of them.
"Do return, Vasily Sergeyevich! We would love to have you visit us much more! And we will come tomorrow night to your performance if you don't mind. Where is that?" Mrs. Osslovsky asked.
"It's at the Karagin Theatre, about 3 blocks north of here actually. Thank you for coming."
Irina only smiled lightly and bowed when Vasily said farewell to her. She seemed rather distant from him.
Vasily walked home again in the gloom, thinking of her. He didn't do anything particularly nice for her this evening, no extra attention. If he knew better, he likely just gave a casual, friendly impression on them all, and not a really interested one. Irina did seem a bit nervous. But what from? Because she liked him too, or didn't? Vasily simply couldn't tell.

He did not look forward to the next evening.