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Huilunsoittaja

Faces: Chapter 3

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The next night, which was a Saturday, Vasily shrank into his chair as the orchestra began to tune. The theatre had darkened, and all was ready for the play to go on. At least in the dark Vasily couldn't see his guests, but he knew they were there. The orchestra was to play incidental music to an Italian melodrama translated into Russian for the audience. The story itself was of little merit, with a lot of yelling and crying and such, but the music was pretty substantial. Vasily personally liked the music, and wondered if his guests did too. He only had one tiny bassoon solo, but it was charming enough.
He hardly had to cough this evening too, which he was relieved about.
Once it was over, Vasily hoped to escape unnoticed, but his guests were right there waiting for him when he went back stage to put his instrument way.
"It was a job well done, Vasily Sergeyevich!" Osslovsky cheered for him, and shook his hand. Mrs. Osslovsky and Ilya were close behind and grinning. Irina was farthest back, not saying a word.
"I've never seen you play bassoon before, Vasya!" Ilya exclaimed. "What an amazing instrument! It reminds me of singing."
"I'm glad you liked it," he smiled lightly. "It is such a beautiful instrument." He began to break it apart and put it in its case.
Musicians were scurrying all around him, trying to get home as soon as possible, and the conductor was shouting for the paychecks to be brought out. It was going to cause another mob to gather around where Vasily was standing.
"I think you all should leave, this isn't a place for audience members to come to. I'll see you all later, if I may?"
"Yes, it's getting late, and we should be going home," the family bowed, and took their leave.
And yet, they seemed to ignore that Irina stayed behind.
Vasily looked at her for a moment, wondering why she was still standing there, but not speaking.
Right at that moment, a man came out with a huge bag, with all the checks inside. The musicians all began to swarm him, although it wasn't exactly rough. They were all too tired to fight, but were insistent enough to get the money and go. Vasily turned away from Irina for a moment so he could get his. A few minutes later, he stepped out of the fray with a little envelope.
Irina was still standing there.
Vasily finally took a better look at her. She was wearing a rather nice dress, and in the dark it looked like maroon. Her hair was up, and she had a black velvet shawl around her. Irina was watching him intently.
"Did you want to see this?" he lifted the envelope to her view.
"If you would," she said politely.
He opened it, and showed it to her. The little piece of paper said 12 roubles.
"That little?" she suddenly spoke aloud her thoughts.
Vasily frowned, a little offended.
"It's what I do. I don't make much. But it's good. I'm happy with it," but this last sentence came out more bitterly than he meant.
Irina seemed embarrassed and said nothing again.
"Aren't you going with your parents back home?" he asked.
"Not yet."
"What do you---" he stopped. "I mean... you want to talk?"
"Yes, if you may," she looked down at the floor again.
They walked out of the building, and stopped by a small cafe half a block away that was still open. They said nothing all the while, but continued to watch each other. It was past 10, but they both sat down inside across from each other, and a great conversation looming ahead.
Everything broke lose.
"Oh Vasily, I'm... I'm just so confused inside, so frustrated at myself, I don't even know how to express myself! I've felt too many secret emotions for too long, and I'm just trapped inside myself. All I want is ... is... freedom," she put her hand up in the air, and then into her face.
Vasily stared at her in shock.
"You don't mean to say that... that..."
"I've... had feelings for you," she couldn't even look Vasily in the face to say that.
Compassion surged within him. But then tremendous pain.
"Oh God..." he whispered. "How much my own heart burns for you as we speak!" He put his own face in his hands.
Irina suddenly began to breath more easily and looked up at him. "But you are sad? Why?"
"We can't be."
"...No. You don't mean that. You don't! That's not true!"
"But it is. You... you shouldn't have me."
"Why ever not??"
"I... I don't think you know who I am."
Irina sat back, offended herself. "But I do! I know that you do not have much money. Is that all? You are simply afraid to love me because you are poor and have nothing to offer me? But so am I, and I have nothing to offer you! But I... I love you too much to care."
"Money is part of it, yes."
"And it shouldn't be! Money shouldn't stop us! God will take care of us, Vasily, you know that! He already has taken care of you. And He will provide for me as well. He will provide for both of us."
"But that's not all."
"What else is there?"
"Oh Irina..." Vasily winced and put his face back in his hands. "I don't want to tell you this, but you are making me. My words are going to cause you great distress."
"But I need to the truth! Truth is what counts, not my feelings. Please tell me!"
Vasily sighed heavily.
It was a strange feeling. For one moment, he felt he couldn't breath. His involuntary inhaling mechanisms seemed stop for a split second, sending his heart racing in fear. But he took a gasping breath finally, and looked at poor Irina sternly in the face.
"I have tuberculosis."
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