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Faces: Chapter 8 (Part 2)

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It was a night in early January when the great production came to the Maly Theatre. It was the premiere of a French play that was booming with popularity wherever it was played, and a sell-out crowd was expected that night. Those of the Middle Class were on the floor, and the Aristocracy was in the balconies. The Maly Theatre is exceptionally gorgeous in its design, and filled with intricate inlays of gold.
Irina had use to come to the Theatre occasionally with her family in the past, but of late, it had little interest to her. The only beautiful buildings Irina had been in were Cathedrals for the longest time. Their powerful stature made the greatest impression on her of all things, because it reminded her of the Paradise to come, and that it wasn't here on Earth. But buildings such as the Maly Theatre made her cringe: they seemed to be the corrupt temples of Man, glorifying this world, and not what was to come. Vasily never noticed these things that Irina did, but she kept these ideas to herself.
Irina walked in alone to her balcony seat that night, a lone soul among all the couples and groups around her. She wore on her new fur coat which successfully covered her rather plain dress, and her hair was made up as it normally was, not anything special. Irina always had a natural beauty, but she always seemed to suppress it. Vasily had always hoped that she would change and gain more of a self-esteem, but in whole 2 years they had been married, she did not.
Fully out of her normal environment, she began to turn very self-conscious in a different way. Irina wondered if it would look bad for her to be seen watching this play, as it was normally something ultra-secular in theme. As the time for the play neared, she sank further into her chair.
She only wanted to see Vasily.

Vasily was in his usual outfit, a black suit with white collar. For this performance, he actually felt a little more nervous than the other ones. Plus, he had built up a fatigue from sleep-deprivation and work from the following week. Taking a drink of water, he calmed himself with slow, even breaths.
It felt unusually hard to breath tonight, and Vasily held his chest. He had been walking in the freezing cold several blocks to get here, and his lungs had already felt like they were on fire. Vasily knew of no medication for this pain, except alcohol, which he avoided like the plague. He knew where alcohol would lead him to.
"I can do this, I don't need a drink," he said to himself. "I will be ok. Yes, I will..."
The play was 4 acts long. Mainly what Vasily had to do was conduct the entr'actes, but there were a few bits of incidental music per act with cues so that he had to be perfectly aware at any time what was happening. It was going to be a long night.
But much longer than he expected.
About half an hour into the production, Vasily started getting a headache. It wasn't severe, but it didn't help to calm his anxiety. He had water with him, so he drank what he could, but overall, he felt very stifled in the room. He was desperately hoping not to faint that night, which would be the worst incident of his career. No doubt the show would have trouble continuing if not for him.
"I must go on, I must, I must," he continued to say to himself.
At intermission after the 2nd act, some of the front row players approached him.
"You seem a little pale, Maestro. Do you want anything?"
"I'll have more water (cough cough). That's all." Vasily looked up into the balconies. He saw Irina sitting alone where she was. They met eyes.
"A little longer," he thought again, and nodded to her. She reciprocated.
The performance itself hardly could have been better, and Irina actually enjoyed the music and story line. But while she watched Vasily, she couldn't help noticing how fatigued and gaunt he seemed to get by the minute. She prayed earnestly for his strength.
It was between the 3rd and 4th act that suddenly Vasily felt very chilled. He was sweating, and still having his headache. It was definitely a fever now, but how strong, he wasn't sure. Although he had been able to stifle his coughs well before, it was becoming extremely unbearable. He coughed mainly when the audience clapped, and each time he was in more pain. The whole theatre seemed to close down upon him, choking him. All Vasily could think about was getting out of there.
He seemed to be on his last leg when the pay was about to end. With one arm, he gripped his podium so as to keep him steady while he used the other arm to conduct. He felt absolutely miserable.
"Why is this happening to me??" Vasily screamed in his head, and gnashing his teeth. "After everything, why do I succumb like this?? Oh God, please help me!"
Vasily hadn't thought about Him for a while.
When the play was finally over, and the audience was clapping and cheering loudly, he sunk to his knees, coughing heavily. He literally couldn't breath, and felt like he was suffocating.
"Vasily! Are you all right?!" the concertmaster immediately came to his side, and also those in rows closest. Vasily couldn't speak at all.
For one moment he took a breath, and glanced at his pale hands which he was coughing into.
They were bright red with blood.
"Oh my God, he's coughing up blood! Quick! Get him out of here!" the concertmaster cried, and a number of people rushed to Vasily's aid, getting him to his feet, and taking him out of the Orchestra pit to the backstage.
Vasily felt someone touch his head, and heard someone say, "he's burning up!" but he barely could remain conscious. Everything went dark.

Irina saw everything that happened from her balcony. She nearly shrieked when she saw Vasily fall to his knees, and she rushed downstairs to get to him. The crowd was so thick that she was barely able to get through, but her cries to be allowed through were heard, and after much effort she arrived back-stage.
Irina found him in a back room laying on a sofa. Musicians crowded the doorway but she demanded to be let through. Two doctors were at the scene, one checking his fever, and another his chest with a stethoscope. Both had very grave faces and were speaking softly to each other.
"Madame! Thank goodness you're here!" the concertmaster approached her, but seeing her white face refrained from touching her. She gaped at her husband laying so motionless on the couch.
"Vasya!" she suddenly screamed, and ran to his side, breaking into tears. "Oh Vasyaaaa!"
Vasily seemed to hear her scream, and woke to consciousness.
"Irina..." he eked out, and started to cough again.
"Don't speak! And don't cough!" the doctor checking his breathing scolded him vehemently. "Every time you cough you are shredding more of your chest to bits! Be silent if you want to live another day."
Vasily began to weep silently.
"I assume you are his wife, madame. Did he exhibit these symptoms before? please tell us," the doctor checking his fever spoke up with a softer tone of voice.
"Not like this," she sobbed. "He's been ill for 2 years, but not like this!"
"Ill for 2 years? Was he ever diagnosed??"
"Yes, with early stage tuberculosis."
"Mercy! Did you ever get medicine?"
"We tried some but it didn't work! Oh God, save him!" Irina wept bitterly. Both Vasily and Irina were weeping and all the other musicians looked on in anguish.
"This is not good at all," the doctor with the stethescope spoke up more quietly but graver than before. "He is terminal stage. I give him a few days."
"What?! No!!" Irina screamed. "No no no! He can't die! He can't! He's everything to me, everything!!"
"I'm so sorry madame, there is little to be done but to treat his fever while he last."
"Then treat it I will!" Irina cried, and took out a small handkerchief from the pocket of her fur coat. She wiped Vasily's hands and mouth which still had some dried blood on them.
"I don't think it's as severe as that," said the second doctor. "His fever is relatively low, and I have medicine to give him for that. As long as he's kept very stable, he will heal, though slowly."
Irina softened her sobs. "Thank you sir. We'll take whatever you have."
"I suggest we get him back to his home now, but in very careful circumstances," the second doctor continued. "He cannot speak, I suggest 3 days, and must stay in a warm temperature at all costs. Cold weather like this will further inflame his lungs. He is in very critical condition."
Irina nodded. She looked to Vasily who was barely comprehending what was being told, but he nodded too.
All Vasily could do was stare at Irina in abject misery and guilt.
"So this is what it's like to die," he though to himself.
He lost consciousness again.