My friend Judy Gosnell, who has visited Russia six times(!),
took the original photo for this illustration.
She has, very kindly, given me permission to use her work here
Have you missed any of the
Previous Journal entries
for Russia Bound Time Travel?
Part 1: Trip Planning
I found my old spiral notebook from Russian class when I was cleaning out my closet today. Gospadee Boza Moi! Isn’t that what we used to say? It’s been over thirty years and I’ve forgotten so much of what I learned. That notebook had a Peter Max design on the cover. I’d forgotten how much I loved him when we were in college. Remember the poster of his we put up when we were freshmen, and what that gross boy down on the second floor wrote on it? I’m so sure he’s either incarcerated or else working for the prison system now.
Jan 13, 2011
Part 2: The Samovar’s Story
Note To Self:Keep a low profile. Do not cheese the Empress off.
* Part 3: The Winter Palace: Russia Bound
I put up one hand to the gaping bodice of my Worth-like costume, in almost a parody of feminine modesty, feeling suddenly breathless, and not only from the corset. It was as though an electric current had passed through me with the entrance of this man.
* * *
Part 4: My Heart Beats Faster in Past Times
"Bozhe moi, it's only you Vasil!" She smiled at me. "Goodness, I mean. I thought my fiancée had walked in on us, and he knows nothing about what I do for Period Pilots. But instead this is my brother, Vasily. He knows all my business."
The big man walked slowly forward and bent low in a courtly bow. "It is only her brother, Vasily Fyodorovich," his voice was low, a basso profundo I thought, "who knows all about everyone's business." He straightened up and smiled down into my eyes. His were almond shaped, and bright green. I returned the stare, for a little longer than normal. What could there possibly be in a pair of eyes and a deep bass voice to make me feel a sense of immediate connection to a man I knew nothing about. The cool air of the church hammered against my lungs.
"Sergei is out in the church, Alina. And he's asking if I know where you are. Perhaps you might waylay him while I help out here?"
"Oh, I haven't seen Sergei in two weeks!" His sister's cheeks were flushed with excitement. "Could you help out Larisa here? She just needs her dress fastened behind. Don't worry, Lariska. Vasil is an expert at hooking up. He's done it for me a hundred times." Before I could protest, my tour guide had scurried out to meet her beloved.
I felt a flush of my own mount as Vasily moved around and began to fit the hooks into their eyelets. "So, Larisa Aleksovna, I read all about you before you came. I know your name in your own time, and your profession. I know that you live alone, except for your dog who is being well looked after while you are gone. You are a balletomane with a great admiration for "The Sleeping Beauty". In fact you've gone to see it danced seven times in the past few years. I also know that you read a great deal of history and that you sing and play the cello."
I doubted that my closest friends at home knew that much about me. "And you Vasily Fyodorovich. I know nothing about you, except that you have a sister and both of you have something to do with Period Pilots. Do you help all the women travelers like your helping me now?"
He stopped placing the tiny hooks and tapped one finger gently against my back, causing a pleasant frisson to migrate gently down my spine. "I keep house with my sister, but I am not engaged nor", he paused, "do I presently have an, er- connection to a woman in any time. Second," another large finger caused the same lovely sensation, "I too sing, and my instrument is the french horn.”
He moved in closer and something pressed hard against my backbone. I didn’t move away. He stepped back. “I afraid I must beg your pardon. I keep putting this in the wrong pocket.” There was a thunk as he laid a pair of pince nez down onto the table nearby and moved back to resume his position behind me.
“I am also an admirer of ‘The Sleeping Beaut’y. Thirdly," I held my breath, waiting for the next finger to do it's job, “you are the first of Alina's customers to need my attentions. I don't work for my sister's employer. I have matters to attend to here." Large fingers fumbled with one of the hooks as he resumed his task. "They are matters that her employer helps with however."
"Matters that have to do with the Romanovs?" I felt bold speaking this way to a man who was attending to my clothing in such an intimate manner.
He paused in his work and was quiet for a moment. "I have an occupation, of sorts. There are things I do that might make a difference for one or two people in the times to come," he admitted.
"And so, you are here, for now, Lara Aleksovna." Again the soft low timber of his voice sent a tremor throughout my body. It seemed to resonate in every part of me.
"I am, and perhaps you could tell me how I can help you tonight, in your work to help those one or two people."
He laughed deep in his chest, and the sound sent another funny sensation through my body, that had nothing to do with corsets.
"Malodetz! Good for you!" He finished fastening the dress and turned me around to face him. I found we were standing very close together and that his large hands were still holding me gently, but firmly, by my whale-bone constrained waist. All thoughts of experiencing the reality of court life suddenly vanished. Only a pair of brilliant green eyes seemed important.
"You wish to help me? Do you have a good understanding of the political situation at this time?"
"Well not exactly. You see back at the university-" I was interrupted by a melody floating through the great chamber outside.
Vasily dropped his hands and stepped back. "The evening bells mean that the courtiers will be assembling. You and my sister need to go." He stepped over to the door into the darkness of the church. "Alinska!" he hissed. There was a flicker of a glance from the green eyes. "But we will meet again, quite soon." And then Vasily Fyodorovich was gone and I stood waiting for my guide to present me to the Imperial Russian court of 1896.