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Preview of my novel "Brother" from Chapter 16

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Chapter 16

As promised, Sasha went to the Thursday rehearsal later in the afternoon and took Ana Pavlovna out. She didn’t act much different from how she was at the gathering, except that she felt no pressure to fight for his attention anymore. Sasha decided to take her somewhere intimate and simple, not overly ostentatious and luxurious. Perhaps then he could reveal a different side to her. In this little tavern at twilight, he had an interesting conversation with her.
“How was it to start dancing? I’ve never talked to a dancer on the subject before,” he asked her.
“I started as a young child, and it just seemed that I had aptitude. My parents let me join for my physique, but I was enchanted with dancing that they finally accepted me to study it. I went to the Dance Academy in St. Petersburg before coming here, and here I am today as principal,” she said with refined pronunciation.
“You must be proud of your achievements.”
“I am. I’ve worked terribly hard. I sometimes wonder what would have happened if I didn’t reach the top... I would have felt so awful!” she sighed.
“You would only be happy being number 1?”
“Of course! What about you? Don’t you want to be the top of your field? Don’t you work to be that way?”
“I do work towards it, but I don’t expect great fame... though my recital showed me perhaps something otherwise.”
“Indeed! You’ve already been known in Moscow for years. I knew of you already 3 years ago with one concert I went to, not that I ever expected to meet you,” she laughed nervously.
“You go to concerts?”
“Yes, on occasion. I am rather busy in this field though. Nights are taken up with performances on a regular basis. Days are completely filled with practice and rehearsal. Perhaps you know a thing or two about working like that, being a pianist.”
“It’s true. Art is always this way these days... do you do anything else besides dancing? Reading, writing?”
“Oh hardly! I really don’t have the time,” she laughed. “I read enough as a youngster. I only read choreography notes these days.”
“I see,” Sasha frowned. “Do you like poetry though, perhaps?”
“I may, but I’m only familiar with what was taught in school.”
“I see, I see... what plans do you have in the future then?”
“Oh me? I’m staying where I am as long as I can! I probably won’t marry until much later. Ballerinas do that quite constantly.”
“Marry late? How old are you now, may I ask?”
Ana Pavlovna smiled. “I’m 28. Yes, I knew you were younger than me. But you are very sweet man...” she watched him dreamily across the table.
“You perform your daily routines with just as much beauty as your live performances,” Sasha complimented her back.
“Thank you! That is important to me,” she may have been blushing. “Anyhow... do you consider yourself ambitious, like myself?”
“A bit. I wish to please myself the most, and then my colleagues. Especially Ilya Petrovich.”
“Indeed! To get the approval of such an extraordinary genius must be what it’s all about!”
“Perhaps. Maybe then I’ll feel better about my recent failures.”
“Failures? I see no failure here!” she reached over the table and stroked the side of his face.
“Yes... perhaps you’re right... the past is in the past. I have changed! Do you want to go for a walk?”
“I would!” Ana Pavlovna held out her hand and he helped her up. They left the cozy tavern and entered the cool April air. She looked very charming all bundled-up in a fur-lined coat.
Ana Pavlovna began to take more authority of the conversation and talked of the tiresome side of ballet. She complained of too much work, not enough substantial criticism, too little pay, and most of all not enough extra tips from the ballet’s patrons.
“They are so stingy! Don’t they know how hard we work? I’d like to tell them just that, but I fear my position would be at stake. This has been the quiet talk behind our directors’ backs. If only something could change...”
Ana Pavlovna let that thought float in the air, and Sasha realized that she wanted him to say something, perhaps to pity her, but it didn’t seem right.
“Well, I would tell them then. Don’t be afraid. Just be kind, and not overly demanding. And if they say no, well that might just be how it has to be. I hate fighting too, you know, it is completely not in my nature.”
“Wouldn’t you fight for something you cared about? What if it wasn’t just about you, but your colleagues? My colleagues in this case.”
“You might as well do what you can, but don’t go overboard. I’ve seen such things happen before...”
“What, with composers?”
“And publishing. Don’t make enemies...”
“You like to play it safe? Submit to circumstances?”
“You sound like a woman,” Ana Pavlovna sneered.
“Hah... perhaps...” Sasha shrugged. He could tell Ana Pavlovna wasn’t happy with his answer, but made no comment further.
“Isn’t this a lovely night? To see the stars shine so faintly! The moon hasn’t risen yet, and so they are better seen than usual. Let’s go to a dark place, a canal!” she said unexpectedly.
“Very well,” Sasha took her to a canal bridge and they looked at the sky. It was definitely dark enough to see the many stars.
“Do you like astronomy?” Sasha asked.
“No, just to appreciate on occasion... it’s so romantic this way,” she winked at him.
“I was considering getting into astronomy...”
“You should! It would do you good. You’re an intelligent man, Sasha.”
“Right,” he rolled his eyes a little bit at her excessive flattering. Sasha turned her head to get a good look at her in the dark. He could see her blue eyes now shining as grey orbs, and her little fur hat covered her ears. A little lock of blonde hair fell by her cheek.
Sasha felt enormous pressure on himself now to please her. She stared at him with such expectation that it would be cruel to let the moment die into nothing. He remembered how she kissed him before.
“What do you like about me?” he asked softly.
“You are talented, besides intelligent. You are passionate, and you seem on top of everything you do. You are ambitious too, even though you are modest with me. And... you are pretty... nice...” she eyed his mouth.
“You think I’m like that? What if I weren’t?”
“How could you be? I haven’t seen any other way... you must have... so many admirers...”
“Don’t you?”
It was just then that Sasha realized that Ana Pavlovna had no idea how unsociable he really was. He had never said anything like that to her at all, so she imagined the best of him. She projected her fantasy onto him. And why not?
“Where did you get that idea?” he asked curiously.
“You talk well.”
“I do?”
“Of course! Do you take it for granted? Where did you learn to speak so... frankly with women?”
“Me? Oh... I have a sister.”
Ana Pavlovna burst out into a melodious laugh. “Yes, that probably does count for something. I never had any siblings, so I wouldn’t know.”
“I see,” Sasha smiled. Somehow that comment really encouraged him. He never realized that maybe he did have something that other men didn’t.
“Well, perhaps I should get going, since I must wake up early tomorrow morning. I am tired...” she started leaning on him more dependently.
“I’ll take you straight home, don’t you worry,” he held her at his side until they arrived at a street corner. He hailed a cab and gave him Ana Pavlovna’s street. She looked like she was in a very good mood, but still anticipating something.
It turned out that Ana Pavlovna lived very close to where Ilya was, so he figured he’d walk the rest of the way after he helped her to the door.
“Thank you for the evening,” she said modestly, her voice in her lowest register. The cab left the street and Sasha was alone with her again.
“Thank you,” he took her bare hand which was in a muff and kissed it. Looking up, he could see that she was watching him with piercing eyes, although the lamp at the door obscured most of her face. He saw her gulp.
“Would you... could you...” she stuttered.
“What is it?”
She sighed exasperatedly, but only at herself. “Please... let me kiss you too.”
“Oh?” Sasha smiled at her warmly. “But I have not played for you.”
“But you have done the same... you are so kind to me,” she bent her head to the side.
Sasha thought for a moment. “We are 2 ambitious souls... but perhaps for one moment we could forget that,” he turned her chin up. She immediately kissed him on the mouth to his surprise, but he instantly realized how pleasurable it was. He pulled her into the shadows for just another moment...

“She’s wasn’t very interesting,” Sasha mused as he sat with Ilya in the parlor that evening.
“No, I’m afraid you can’t expect very much from a ballerina,” Ilya laughed.
“Perhaps I should lower my expectations. Anyhow, that’s one down, several more to go.”
“Oh really? You plan to court several women? Does she know this?”
“No, but I doubt she wants me to continue with her. She seemed a bit more into the... short term excursion, all for fun of course. And that’s what I’m about too.”
“Be careful Sasha, certainly not all women are like that.”
“No, but women from this occupation will be. Tomorrow I will go again with another. And Saturday night, I will see your ballet again! I will bring a score this time though.”
“Oh? Where do you plan to get that, hm?” Ilya narrowed his eyes dubiously.
“I bought it,” Sasha grinned, and showed him where he had the score tucked away in his suitcase. “Was a lot, but it was worth it.”
“Hah! Yes, you will appreciate it. But are you really going just to see the music?”
Sasha put the score away and poured himself a glass of brandy and one for Ilya too. They clinked glasses.
“We’ll just say that,” Sasha winked.