American man falls in love with Russian woman who is married to the high-ranking Russian officer
'If you need a break, why don't you go to Yalta for a few days', Deneil said to Robert McCabe. They were in the Caribbean Club and it was half past one in the morning. They had met by chance in the club and were drinking together at the bar. 'There's a flight tomorrow afternoon,' he continued 'and you would be in Yalta by five o'clock. You could stay in the Hotel Ariadne on the promenade. It's a nice time to go. I was there about this time last year. There are not too many people. They call September the velvet season.'
They sat on the bar stools and looked out the small dance floor and
the girls dancing to the South American rhythms.
So the next day Robert boarded a rickety thirty-four seater Antonov for the afternoon flight to Simferopol, the nearest airport to Yalta. On the flight he had a table for himself and the stewardesses plied him with Ukrainian salads and cold meats and he had his first taste of Crimean wine and cognac. It was like traveling on a private plane. He enjoyed himself immensely, gazing down through a blue sky at the huge plains and the majestic Dneaprt River meandering its way to the Black Sea. The plane landed in the early evening and as he stepped down onto the tarmac there was a scent of rosemary and oleander in the evening air and he could hear the crickets chirping. 'The south,' he thought, 'why have I been away so long.'
Robert hired a taxi for the seventy-mile journey to Yalta. The road climbed laboriously up through the high mountains of the Crimea, passing vineyards where workers were busy getting in the crop of grapes. At sunset, the taxi reached the top of the pass and below lay the velvet-coloured, mirror-smooth Black Sea. 'That's why they call it the velvet season,' Robert thought, and as the taxi wound down the mountainside, the lights of Yalta came into view twinkling like a string of pearls along the coast.
That evening he was sitting on the terrace of the Hotel Ariadne, looking
out across the bay watching the after-dinner strollers on the promenade.
There were a few noisy families taking advantage of the uncrowded late
season. Groups of newly affluent young men from Kiev trailed girlfriends
in the shortest of miniskirts. Romantic couples were holding hands and
staring out at the light of a golden half moon reflecting off the sea.
And he noticed a rather beautiful, green-eyed, blonde woman in her late
twenties. She was wearing a long, cream dress and white summer hat.
She was seemingly alone. Later the same evening he decided to walk along
the promenade and he passed her sitting in one of the cafes eating an
ice cream. She was by herself and he nodded to her as he went by, as
if she was someone he already knew.
Robert McCabe was an American, in his late thirties but still unmarried. He had come to Kiev some five years earlier to open a representative office of an investment bank and despite difficult economic circumstances he had, through his personal dynamism, built up the operation to nearly one hundred people employees. He had arrived in Kiev with his long-term girlfriend. She had also a forceful personality and their relationship was stormy but overall they seemed to suit each other and all their friends thought it was only a matter of time before they got married. But while Robert loved the challenge of building up an investment bank in this frontier of capitalism, his girlfriend found no suitable opportunities and was too restless and ambitious to live the typical, leisurely life of the expatriate's wife. She had begun to pine for the more normal environment of her native Boston. Their relationship grew stormier and it became obvious it would not work out. She packed her bags and left for Boston.
This experience changed Robert. He was not really made for the bachelor life and emotionally he felt he had been cut adrift. When his male colleagues were discussing women in his presence, he invariably contributed some rather cynical remarks. In his experience no woman he had an affair with ever gained his respect. But all the same without the company of women he would have been bored within a few days. With men he was slightly domineering, constantly joking and rarely let down his guard to reveal his true personality. But in the company of women he felt more at ease. In general he felt he could trust them and he knew how to behave with them, when to flirt, when to be serious. Even when silent in the company of women he experienced no feeling of awkwardness.
He was attractive to women and he knew it. He was tall, good-looking, with blond hair and pure blue eyes. He had a presence, an awareness of his authority. Women turned to look when he entered a room. And he had a dynamic but complex personality. They could sense his passionate nature behind the façade and there was something charming, almost little boyish about him. He was aware of his charm and in turn was drawn to each woman who showed interest in him as if by some irresistible force.
Since his girlfriend had left he had gone out with a series of beautiful
and attractive 'friends' in Kiev. He had few problems finding them and
they remained remarkably faithful to him, tolerant enough to accept
that one woman alone would not keep a hold on him. He did not treat
them well, did not try to hide his growing lack of satisfaction with
their friendship but this only seemed to make them more determined to
please him - they allowed him to bully them slightly and express his
rather dominating personality and seemed even to take pleasure of his
The next day in the afternoon he was having lunch at a restaurant on the promenade when the woman dressed in the same cream dress and white summer hat, walked in and took a seat at the table next to him. The way she looked, dressed and wore her hair told him that she was from a good family, well educated, and that she was somewhat bored. He understood it was coincidence that she had seated herself at the table next to him but covertly looking at her, and seeing the curve of her breast gently rising against her cream, muslin dress he was suddenly visited with the tempting thought of a quick, fleeting no obligation holiday affair. The idea took possession of him.
He was wondering how to begin a conversation when the woman started
speaking as if to herself, but he saw she was addressing him.
She didn't answer and they continued eating in silence like strangers, but after lunch he suggested they walk together along the promenade and she agreed. And as they walked they fell into a light, natural conversation of two people who have just met each and have no obligation to each other. They talked about the different shades of green of the vineyards and the cypress trees and pine trees stretching up the mountains behind Yalta, and how wonderful it was that the mountains were so high, and the air so fresh and clean. They talked about the little steamers that plied from one village to another along the Crimean coast and how delightful it would be to take a day trip on one of the boats. Robert told her about his position as head of the bank in Kiev, and that he had grown up in Boston and was a graduate of Harvard. She was suitably impressed. From her he learnt that she had spent her school years in Kiev, and her parents still lived there but she had moved to Moscow to study and work. She had met her husband in Moscow and they had married only two months ago, that she was staying in Yalta for a week and her husband was supposed to join her but had been delayed. He found out that she had a master's degree in Physics from Moscow University and her conversational English was considerably better than his Russian, despite the fact that she had never traveled to the west, while he had been working in a Russian-speaking environment for the past five years. He in turn was impressed. About her husband's work she would say nothing except that he worked for a private company. Her name was Tanya.
Later when he was sitting watching CNN in his room at the luxurious
Hotel Ariadne, he could hear the sound of the waves lapping against
the promenade and his thoughts turned to her. He did not know where
she was staying but he felt sure they would meet again the next day
and he rather regretted he would leave so soon. As he went to bed he
remembered her face in repose, her slender, elegant neck, long, sensitive
fingers, beautiful green eyes - and the curiously haunted, slightly
unhappy expression she wore when no one was looking at her.
The next day passed and he did not see her all day. The sun had disappeared and the wind blew dark storm clouds over the mountains, and squalls of rain prevented people from going out of doors. The sea became rough and changed colour to an angry purple. The weather calmed down towards evening and the sun came out over the bay and drew a shaft of light along the still turbulent water.
Robert spent most of the day sitting on the covered terrace of the
hotel reading the papers and drinking fruit juices but he walked out
to watch the arrival of the little steamer that plied the Crimean coast.
There were a lot of people milling around at the pier and in amongst
the crowd he recognized Tanya. He greeted her and they drifted together,
anonymous among the crowd. They watched the steamer manouvering its
way towards the pier. The water was still choppy and the steamer engines
were churning madly to avoid being pushed onto the rocky outcrop beyond
the pier. There was a lot of shouting and the sailors on the steamer
were running back and forth issuing instructions to the shore before
they threw the heavy ropes but finally the steamer was secured and the
people began to get off it. Robert and Tanya watched the people leave.
It was already growing dark and slowly the crowd dispersed. They found
they were still watching the steamer when it had emptied and looking
around realized they were the last people on the pier. The music was
blaring from the promenade cafes and dancing had begun.
She agreed and they walked towards the park. Once inside the park, it was darker than they had expected. The sun had almost set and under the shadows of the trees they could barely see the pathway. They were walking slowly and chatting when suddenly Tanya slipped and would have fallen except that Robert reacted quickly and pulled her up by the arm. After that she linked her arm closely in his to avoid falling again and they walked on. The first physical contact between them was electric. When she put her arm in his, Robert experienced a feeling he had never felt before - he felt that the arm linked to his was something enormously important, and that he mustn't let it go and if he did he would be lost, drowned - it was his lifeline, his future happiness, his sanity. He dreaded her taking her arm away and slowed down deliberately to prolong the experience. 'Did she have any idea what he was thinking' he wondered. 'Did she feel something similar?' No, don't be stupid. She was a happily married woman waiting for her husband to join her. This was no time to act like a foolish adolescent with a crush.'
He composed himself.
The next day they met early and took the first boat to Gurzuf. It was a clear, sunny day with just a few clouds on the horizon and quite soon they could see the outline of Bear Mountain, the huge rock shaped exactly like a bear leaning forward, its snout drinking from the sea, and shortly after that the steamer slipped into the bay of Gorzuf and docked.
As they walked along the pier, Tanya pointed out a white roof just
visible over a rocky outcrop.
Lying together in the long grass they chatted for a long time like
They walked quickly through the village and down to the pier and got
on the steamer. Soon they were out in the middle of the bay and looking
back at the little, white-roofed village nestling at the foot of green
mountains, which rose sharply out of the pure blue water to meet the
pale blue of the sky. There was something dreamlike about the scene
and as the steamer turned in the direction of Yalta, they saw a whole
school of dolphins swimming and frolicking behind the boat.
She held onto his arm as they made their way along the deck past the
few other passengers to the front of the boat and they stayed there
together watching the dolphins and looking at the coastline as the boat
approached the lights of Yalta.
They ate together in a rather sombre mood and didn't say much to each other. Robert was thinking - 'don't get involved with a married woman, it always leads to complications and disappointment - why did I bother?'
But as the evening grew dark and the band started playing louder they forgot their mood and began to chat more animatedly. Whatever he talked to her about, she seemed to understand before he had finished, could guess the end of it. What intelligence, what graveness, what sweetness there was in her shining, green eyes. He asked her what her hobbies were and she told him that on Thursday evenings she attended a ballroom dancing class at a private dance school on Novy Arbat, very near the Kremlin. They finished their dinner and he pushed back his chair and said, 'lets dance.'
It was a slow dance and as they came together Robert felt the incredible
lightness and elegance of the woman. 'Of course, she's a trained dancer,
he thought, 'that explains how well she holds herself.' She leant against
him and almost lightheaded from the pleasure of dancing with this exquisite
woman Robert brought his face towards her lips - but at the last minute
she turned her face down and into his shoulder. They drank and danced
some more and chatted during the evening but Robert was too wary to
make a pass at her now,
The next morning Robert woke early and had one last dip in the cold
refreshing Black Sea. What a pleasure it was to float on your back and
look up at the green, almost tropical mountains. He went back to the
hotel, showered and dressed and was fresh and ready when she arrived
for breakfast. Tanya did not look as if she had slept well and she seemed
reluctant to talk. They ordered a taxi and took the winding road climbing
out of Yalta, and then along the cliff with stupendous sea views until
the road crested the Col and turned inland through the mountain pass.
They asked the taxi driver to stop after forty minutes and they drank
strong, Turkish coffee in a little café surrounded by pine trees, resonate
with the smell of the pine trees and wood smoke.
They drove on into the dusty plain towards the city of Simferopol,
the train terminal and also the airport of Crimea. The station was busy
with new arrivals for Yalta and the coast and holiday-makers preparing
for the long train journeys back to Moscow, Petersburg and Kiev. On
the platforms the vendors were doing a roaring trade selling provisions
for the journeys, whole roasted chickens, boiled eggs, nuts, roughly-made
salami sandwiches with cucumber and gherkins, salted tomatoes, mineral
water and beer. Tanya bought some mineral water. They found her carriage
and first class compartment and put her luggage in it. Robert got up
to leave, and Tanya also stood up.
She looked at him with her bright green, almost impenetrable eyes and
he saw a slight quiver on her red full lips. He was near to her and
on an impulse he leant forwards and their lips met and they were kissing
deeply, as if they wanted to draw closer to each other, deeper into
each other - finally they drew apart.
They waved to each other as the train shunted slowly out of the busy station and he continued to wave until her white hand was a blur in the distance. A minute later the train had gone. Standing alone on the platform in the hot midday sun, Robert listened to the churring of the crickets and the rumble of other trains and the cries of the busy holiday-makers. 'What a fool I am,' he told himself, 'to have kissed her and to have got involved with a married woman, who couldn't hope to give me anything. Idiot.' he said disgustedly and idly kicked at a stone. 'I'm getting too sentimental. It's time I got back to work.'
Back in Kiev, it was business as usual. Running the bank engrossed
him and he rather enjoyed being a sort of star in the little expatriate
world although of course he would not admit to that. Also he was on
good terms with some of the most powerful politicians in the country
and went to London with a top delegation to renegotiate debt and extend
credit for vital infrastructure works. He loved being a banker in these
emerging markets and his managers in London told him quite openly that
he was a rising star and his future with the bank would be bright.
Another month and he thought, nothing but a memory would remain of
his liaison in Yalta. He was meeting other girls, well-educated girls
in advertising and public relations. They were cool and sophisticated
yet rather sexy. Soon he would remember Yalta and his brief encounter
as through a haze and only occasionally dream of Tanya with a wistful
smile as he had of other girls before her.
And then in the street he sometimes saw women who resembled her from behind, with the same long, floating blonde hair, the same slim figure and elegance of manner and he would walk faster and draw near and, his heart beating, he would go slightly ahead, for although he knew it could not be her, he was hoping to see some beauty. But as he turned his head he was always and invariably disappointed - the eyes were common, the mouth was thin, the nose was bulbous, and he walked on faster - until the next apparition crossed his path.
Another month went by and if anything his feelings seemed to intensify.
In one sense he was deeply happy because he, who had always been rather
cynical about women, was now in the grip of such a strong, true emotion,
it seemed to make a mockery of his former thoughts. On the other hand
he castigated himself for his sentimentality and tried to interest himself
in an affair with an attractive dark-haired advertising executive who
was obviously keen on him. They met occasionally but sometimes he seemed
lost in thought, abstracted, even sad - and one evening with a flash
of feminine intuition she said,
Winter arrived and the first snows had fallen and the ground was frozen.
One evening Robert was in the Caribbean club when Deneil came in. Robert
had drunk a few beers and was in the mood to confide in someone.
After this conversation Robert decided to organize a meeting with the
Moscow branch of the investment bank. He also made up his mind he should
at least try and see Tanya again. He knew so little about her. She hadn't
given him her telephone number or her address. He didn't even know her
last name. But he remembered she had said she went to a dance school
to learn ballroom dancing on Novy Arbat on Thursday nights. He called
in his secretary.
She thought it was a strange request, but she found out what he wanted.
He started walked along Novy Arbat and soon found the dance school. No lights were on. It was six o'clock. 'Well that's it,' he thought - 'go back to the hotel, have a meal, and get an early night,' but then he realized that evening classes would probably start later. He went to the café across the road to read the papers and have a coffee.
Half an hour later he looked up from his coffee and the lights in the dance school on the other side of the road were on. He composed himself, took his time paying the bill and then slowly walked out of the café and crossed the road. He could see the women rehearsing through the window. The room was full and the window was steamed up from the heat inside but he saw Tanya coming in and joining the line of dancers and his heart missed a beat. He realised clearly that this was no school boyish crush, no immature fantasy that had brought him here, but that no one in the world was more important to him than this woman who now filled his whole life, and was his misfortune or his joy. Watching her dance he thought how beautiful she was.
After some twenty minutes the dancing teacher called a break and he
walked into the entrance of the school. She was sitting in the corridor
talking to another girl and didn't notice him. He went forward a little
and said in a small voice and with a forced smile.
And they sat there together in the dim light of the café and Robert
felt a peace between them. She looked at him and stroked his hair and
played with his hands and he looked at her long tapering fingers and
marveled at his good fortune, that this dream was here with him, leaning
against him, so close to him - like two birds in a nest. They talked
for what seemed like a long time until she said:
Exactly seven days later, Robert was sitting in the same café waiting
for Tanya, in the same corner they had talked in. During the week he
had done some research on Tanya's surname and he knew exactly who her
husband was, indeed he had occasionally seen his face on TV. 'How was
he to resolve this situation?' he thought. 'How? But somehow he felt
that in only a few minutes when he met her they would find a solution
and a new beautiful life would begin.
'I have had to go away, my darling. I am so sorry but it is for the best. I cannot explain. I just can't. Please forgive me. I am a married woman and I find unable to deceive my husband even in thought. I believe and hope you will understand. You must not think of me anymore. I'm not worth it. You know I love you and will always remember you but we cannot be together. You will never show me your wonderful Italy. I kiss you, my darling.' Tanya.
Robert felt a spasm of pain in his side and leaned forward slightly.
As he straightened he caught sight of his face reflected in the window
and the gray, numbness of his expression.
Copyright © 2002-2006 RussianWomenMagazine.com
All Rights Reserved.