Chapter 1 (Ten years later)
“Vat are you doubting about this product, Mr. Kramer?”
“I’m just thinking if it’s a good deal or not.”
“Where else are you going to find a pain killer?”
Huffing loudly at the lack of concentration, I swiveled around in the counter stool and turned to examine the argument. One of my father’s clients, one that was new to the business, stood rubbing the wrinkles on his young face, a face that exhibited stress and a strong sense of conflict. The sunlight that emitted from the restaurant’s nearby window bounced off the client’s shaved head as the thin man turned to his young wife. She was an attractive woman with long, bleached-blonde hair tied in a high ponytail, eyes the color of chocolate gleaming in the light. She clutched the tiny hand of a daughter who resembled her to a T.
Setting down my copy of Frankenstein, I took a step off of the stool and stood next to my father. “Vat my father means to tell you is that you are in pain, no?”
The woman nodded a bit and her husband rubbed her nearest shoulder. “I’ve had terrible headaches since my second child was born, my one-year-old. The doctor told me to just sit it out; the only time they can give me anything is if I’m dying.”
My head nodded in response. “Yes,” I said hoarsely, my thick accent ringing through the room. “And you are not going to get medicine like this anywhere else, especially not like this.”
The couple turned to look at each other before the man shook my father’s coarse hand. “We have a deal, Mr. Novikov.”
It was a few minutes past nine when the couple left the restaurant that was only a block north of our apartment. The bright sunset exploding in the colors pink and orange changing to a dark backdrop that was sprayed with fog and a late spring chill. Back home, I stopped in front of my bathroom mirror and ran a hand through my shagged blonde hair, bangs laying just above my light eyebrows. I took a sip of my father’s homemade vodka, the sharp taste deciding it would linger in my throat for awhile. Fixing my v-neck that was an olive-green color and grabbing my glass of vodka, I shut off the light in the bathroom.
“Where are you planning on going tonight, Andrei?”
I jumped at the sound of my mother’s gentle voice speaking English, probably to practice. I spun around to find her cleaning one of the counters in the kitchen. Her curled blonde hair flowed down her back lightly as she looked at me with warm eyes of a hazel color. She wrapped her slender arms around her waist.
“Out with Vincent.”
“Where?” her accent was light and calm. I shrugged. “Vell, do not be out too late, okay?”
I nodded and cracked a smile, wrapping a burly arm around to squeeze slightly, kissing her on the cheek before setting the vodka glass down and stepping out the door.
The Novikov family restaurant in Engels went out of business in the year 2020, months after I reached twelve years of age. The customers began to diminish into less and less until almost all of them left due to problems with the Russian economy.
My father paced around the corridor of the grimy establishment, hands covered in calluses rubbing together from being frustrated. His boots equipped with steel toes clicked against the old linoleum as he waited for my mother to emerge from the apartment above.
“It will be good for us,” he mumbled in his native tongue before giving me a weak kind of smile. The wrinkles on his weathered face deepened as his blue eyes began to settle on the floor. A burly man resembling a brick wall, he ran a hand through his short hair that was colored a crisp shade of grey. “You will have many opportunities in America that you cannot have here.”