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Faces: Chapter 7

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It was November. Vasily was walking to his next rehearsal with the Moscow Italian Theater. His lungs had felt very weak that day, like he couldn't get enough air. He felt a little dizzy, but he went ahead with the rehearsal. Conducting one segment, he was looking at the score, when suddenly he was seeing spots in his vision.
"This hasn't happened before," suddenly flashed in his mind. "Do I stop them?" He decided to keep going, trying to suppress the feeling. All of a sudden the music seemed to die. This surprised him enough that he cut them off.
"Did I make an error? I meant for us to go on," he said.
"We did go on," a violinist said. "But why did you--" the voice became entirely inaudible. Vasily stared at this violinist while a great black void of tunnel vision circled around until he saw nothing. With everything black and inaudible, he lost his balance on the podium and fell backwards.
How long he was unconscious he wasn't aware. But he found himself laid down straight on the ground, with a doctor and several musicians all monitoring him carefully.
"He's awake," he heard in a muffled tone. "Check his pulse," a hand went to his neck, but everything was still very dark in his vision.
"Did I fall?" he asked weakly.
"Yes, you fainted," a musician said.
"I didn't mean to..."
"Of course you didn't. But are you alright? Your head took a sharp hit."
Vasily felt the back of his head. It was indeed sore, but what was still most disorienting was his lack of sensitive vision and hearing.
"Rehearsal is to be cancelled I presume?" he asked.
"Yes, we will do fine. But we're concerned for you, Maestro. Take a break. Perhaps you've been exhausted."
"I am... thank you," a number of people began to help him to his feet, and after taking a few breaths, he felt a little better.
But his chest had become very painful.
"I think I may need something to grab on, or to sit on, in case this happens again," Vasily told those around him.
"Consider it granted," they all nodded.
"Vasily Sergeyevich, do you have any pre-existing conditions?" the doctor asked him.
"It's not important," Vasily muttered. "It won't make anything better for you to know."
By this time, Vasily had begun to regularly dry-cough at 5-10 minute intervals, to the point everyone knew him for it. The doctor didn't take particular notice of his coughing now, which was relief to Vasily, but he had a feeling his illness was the whole reason for the incident.
In the following weeks, he kept better watch of his blood pressure and drank more, but the weather was getting dreadfully cold, to the point it would hurt him excruciatingly to breath outside. Vasily became very reluctant to walk outside now, but he couldn't afford a carriage and was forced to be outside every day to walk.
Irina couldn't help noticing this.
"Perhaps if you dismissed one position, you'll be able to relax a bit," she was telling him one time.
"That's not possible right now. I would be leaving almost a dozen engagements right now to do that. And we need to save the money."
"But what worth is it to keep going at this frantic pace?"
"It's just for a little bit, Irina. I just need to make it through one year. I am gaining important skill and connections. Then things will be better. I know it will," he coughed again.
"Vasya, do be careful," Irina put her hands on his shoulder.
"What good is it for you to keep saying that?" he said rather irritably. "I have to manage. And it will all be alright... Think for the future."
Irina sighed exasperatedly. "That's what I have been doing," she said quietly, mostly to herself.
Irina was very sensitive, and she knew that Vasily was stretching himself very thin. Vasily never told her about his fainting incident, but somehow she knew he was not well, and he was getting worse. And the harsh weather wasn't doing him any good.
Still, there was nothing she could do when his head was so bent in one direction. All she could do was pray that it wouldn't turn out as bad as it was looking.