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One more thing you might like to know about me is the person I most admire. This Person is my father, Mr. Axmet Gulnaev, age 45. He is a strong Patriarch of our family, when we came seven years ago from Chechnya. In Chechnya, as you may know, we have two wars so that we can be a free country from Russia. This is what I admire most about America that it became free from Britain after much bloodshed and courage and it is no different for Chechnya. I admire Axmet Gulnaev because he was kidnaped by the police and beaten, but he took us his family, to this country. My father was
is was a mechanical engineer in Chechnya, as I will be one here. That is the other think I admire about America, that anyone who works hard will get his reward.
In the jewelry stores up and down Newbury Street, they’d taken one look at Zabet’s hijab and directed her elsewhere, hands hovering above panic buttons. That was what she told Helena.
“You think I was carrying bomb,” she said.
Someone told her about a specialist in Downtown Crossing who bought antique jewelry for private clients. They knew what she had, but they didn’t think she did.
“‘Where did you get this?’ They ask me that, and then they insulted me with their offers.”
She took the necklaces to Brookline, where she hoped her Russian would do her some good, but no one offered even a quarter of what they were worth. Finally, an appraiser told her that the market for her jewelry was in Moscow, so the Gulnaevs pooled their money and bought her a plane ticket. She had an appointment that Axmet’s cousin’s husband’s college roommate set up.
“I’d love to see Moscow again,” Helena said to Zabet on the way to the airport.
“You have been to Moscow, Galina?”
“I was there in, let’s see, 1968. With my first husband.”
“1968,” Zabet said wonderingly. “That was a long time ago.” She opened her pocketbook and checked to see that she had remembered all her documents. “Thank you for looking after Alla and Malina,” she added in Russian.
“Ne problema. No problem.”
“Oh,” she said, returning to English, “This is insurance card for Axmet. I don’t let him keep it, because he will lose. Can you remind him he have doctor appointment on Friday?”
“Friday. Yes, what time?”
“Friday at 10:00.”
“I’ll make sure he gets there,” Helena said. “I’ll take care of everything.”
She stopped at the curb outside the international terminal. She meant to wait until Zabet got inside, but a shuttle van pulled up behind her and honked. As soon as she got home, exhaustion overtook her and she lay down on the sofa. The shingling was done and she’d replaced two windows, but she’d meant to accomplish so much more, and now the summer was over.
She closed her eyes and saw Moscow, washed in Instamatic green.
Monumental plazas, fountains lined with tulips. Streets nearly empty; shop windows displaying Bulgarian canned goods in sparse pyramids. Zabet steps off a green and white electric tram. Her hair is cut stylishly short and dyed a reddish brown. She looks at the street name high up on the corner building. She shows a piece of paper to an old grandmother sweeping the sidewalk in front of a store, and follows her indicating gesture through a gate to an inner courtyard.
Zabet comes out of her appointment smiling. The envelope she’s holding bulges with hard currency. She crosses to the median island of the wide boulevard, disappears briefly behind a passing bus, and reappears on the opposite sidewalk in front of a kiosk, the kind that sells sausages and piroshki and potatoes stuffed with herring. She changes her mind, and instead, she walks a few blocks west and crosses the Borodinsky Bridge to the market near the Kievsky train station. She’ll buy some bread and apricots, and maybe some tomatoes, the kind they grow in Kizlyar: deep red, almost the color of plums. She’ll eat her picnic on a bench in the vaulted waiting room of the station. Zabet is gone.