Escaping a thornful life for my gain,
I'll reach a home of peace that has no pain.
~ Peace At Last by Lena Winfrey Seder
~ Peace At Last by Lena Winfrey Seder
Anton And Elena
Anton and Elena Ivanov had decided to collect Danil from school together that day.
It was a bright Autumn day and they decided to take a detour and walk through the park.
They walked hand in hand and giggled like a couple of newlyweds.
Anton and Elena walked past a smartly dressed man walking his dog and a couple kissing on a park bench.
An older woman smiled at them as she walked past them.
Then the couple stopped by the lake and kissed.
Suddenly it started to drizzle with rain and they ran under a large oak tree for cover.
Elena's blue eyes were dancing as she laughed and tossed back her smooth blonde hair.
Eight years of marriage dissolved in her pretty laugh and suddenly they were two teenagers in love again.
Two lost Russian souls in a foreign land.
A struggling artist and a waitress.
Making ends meet.
It was Anton and Elena against the world.
The rain quickly stopped but Anton and Elena were still kissing beneath the tree.
Finally they hurried out of the park and Elena sprinted on ahead - laughing all the way.
Anton was laughing and running to her.
The whole world was laughing with them.
Elena ran into the road and slowly turned to Anton.
Then she blew him a kiss.
She never saw the car.
It appeared from nowhere and hit her from the side throwing her up in the air like a rag doll.
Elena twisted and turned like a fish caught in a net, as she tumbled across the bumper of the car and lay motionless in the road.
Then the car screeched away.
Anton watched in mute horror from the side of the road.
Everything had suddenly gone into slow motion.
The world had stopped turning.
Anton's life was over.
The world had stopped turning.
Anton's life was over.
Then someone screamed.
And the nightmare was real.
"No!No!No!" Anton Ivanov was shouting over and over again as he pelted into the road.
A crowd of people had already gathered around Elena - offering comforting words.
Now Anton was kneeling beside Elena and gently cradling her bloodied head in his lap.
One man ran back into his shop to call the ambulance services.
Elena was still groaning as blood began to trickle out of the side of her mouth.
"I love you"
Elena Ivanov looked up into Anton's distraught face and traced the outline of his face with a quivering finger.
She looked so small and fragile.
Like a wounded sparrow.
Anton was sobbing into Elena's hair.
He kissed her forehead.
"Ya lublu tebya milaya" Anton whispered tenderly.
Several people were weeping where they stood.
Anton held Elena until her shaking body finally went still.
The entire street had become silent.
Two weeks passed quickly.
St Barbara Russian Orthodox church was an old and elegant church in a quiet part of the New Acres suburb.
Regularly filled every Sunday - the church was at the heart of the Russian community.
Today it was so full of mourners that many people were standing outside in the rain.
Most of the New Acres Russian community were attending the funeral that day.
Sincere expressions of sympathy and empathy had been shared by family, friends and strangers alike.
But Anton was too lost in his own grief to notice what was going on around him.
One of his hands was placed on his son's shoulder.
All day the sombre little boy had fought not to cry.
He could not fully comprehend what was happening.
One moment his mother was with them and the next she was gone.
Now Elena Ivanov was lying in an ornate coffin in a dimly lit church as the priest's chanted and incense swirled around them.
Kara Lee was watching the service from the back of the church.
She lived in the apartment opposite Anton and his son in the little Russian enclave known as Moscow Towers.
Sitting beside her was Yana Entin.
Entin had taken the young woman under her wing and immersed her in Russian culture.
She had also become a second mother to Kara Lee and also to Anton and his family.
Yana Entin had been widowed for twelve years without any children.
But she had countless surrogate children across New Acres to satisfy her deep maternal instincts.
Now the older woman was carefully explaining the order of the service and carefully translating everything into English for Lee.
But Kara Lee wasn't really paying attention anymore.
Her concerned eyes were fixed only on Anton Ivanov and she couldn't see or hear anything else.
Entin knew she loved that man but she wisely kept her own counsel.
Time passed in a haze as it continued to rain relentlessly.
The sun would not show it's face.
Now they were all standing in the huge cemetery.
Elena's coffin looked so small as it was finally lowered into the ground amid the wails of the mourners.
Anton Ivanov clung to his son as tears streamed down his face.
And Kara Lee fought not to rush over and embrace the man she had secretly loved from the moment she first saw him five years before.
The rain continued to lash harshly against the grief stricken assembly.
Everyone huddled together that melancholy day, stealing themselves against the gathering storm.
Six months passes quickly when you are not really living..
Time no longer had any meaning to those in perpetual mourning.
Anton must have fallen asleep as he did not hear the sound of banging on the door.
The curtains were drawn and the room was unkempt.
He was functioning in a twilight world.
Anton stumbled to the door and opened it.
Standing before him was his surly landlord Yefim Bazaonov.
A portly older man with a lust for money and a modicum of good will towards his fellow Russians.
But Anton Ivanov was pushing it now.
"You're late with your rent again" Bazaonov boomed.
An easel was propped against a table and there were pieces of paper and numerous tubes of paint and brushes strewn all over the floor.
Plates were piled up in the sink in the kitchen.
|gates of the past (by hearthy deviantart.com)|
"Bloody artists ... all the same ... wouldn't know a true days work if it hit them ..."
"Have a heart Bazaonov!" Anton pleaded.
The landlord glared back at him with his cloudy spectacles and filthy cigarette hanging out of the side of his mouth.
Come on ... show some solidarity to your fellow Russian ...
"Its been six months now Ivanov" Bazaonov snorted with derision.
Anton felt a stab of pain at the mocking tone in Yefim Bazaonov's voice.
"Let her go!" The landlord finished firmly.
The sudden memory of Elena's golden face sent a jolt of desperate longing throughout Anton's whole body.
She filled his every waking moment.
She haunted his dreams at night.
"You haven't paid your goddamn rent in months!" Bazaonov announced contemptuously.
Ivanov was shaken out of his reverie.
"We can't continue like this!" The landlord thundered.
"I'll have it for you by the end of the week" Anton answered quickly.
The sad look in Ivanov's eyes softened the hardened landlord somewhat.
"I promise" The widower added earnestly.
"See to it then, son" Bazaonov commanded patting Ivanov on the shoulder.
And with that the landlord skulked off like a big dark shadow.
Anton closed the door and fell against it, dissolving into sobs.
His whole world ended the day Elena died.
But he had to keep it together for his son.
The officer must have been tapping on the car window for some time.
But Anton was completely oblivious to it.
He was sitting in his car on the side of the road, staring at the other cars as they sped past him.
Drivers were rushing home to be with their families and their comfortable and happy lives.
Leaving him far behind.
For a moment he pictured Elena the previous Christmas as they opened each others presents and Danil's delighted laughter filled the room.
Elena looked up at Anton and smiled.
Then she disappeared.
Anton buzzed down his window.
"Were you aware that you were speeding sir?" The black police officer enquired politely as he peered into the car.
Anton looked up at the police officer.
There was a look of complete desolation in his face.
Now there was a momentary hush as the two men acknowledged each other.
Only the sound of cars driving past.
"I'm sorry officer ... I'm so sorry" Anton replied finally with big tragic eyes.
Something in Anton's sad face and voice struck a chord within the police officer.
He suddenly felt a deep sense of concern and responsibility for this conflicted man in his car.
"Okay ... well just drive carefully" the officer advised stepping back from the car.
Then Anton quickly drove off as tears rolled down his face.
The black police officer watched Ivanov's car as it disappeared down the motorway.
Something told him that he would be seeing the tragic man again.
That night Anton gently tucked Danil into his bed.
He was more troubled than usual.
All the time Ivanov sang his son a Russian lullaby he wondered how he would ever tell his son that he couldn't afford to pay for his school trip to Paris that spring.
The pain of withholding from his son hurt more than paying the rent late.
Anton Ivanov momentarily looked at the framed photo of Elena on his sons bedside table.
She would have known what to do.
Then he remembered his birthday a year ago and the moonlit walk with Elena by the canal.
"I love you forever" she said looking deeply into his eyes.
Then the door bell rang.
She was holding a covered casserole dish.
Lee was an attractive brunette with hazel eyes and sympathetic disposition.
Scottish by birth and upbringing - she had adopted Russia as her soul country.
Kara smiled warmly at Anton.
"Hi ... I just made some stew and thought you might like some too" she said brightly.
"Thank you Kara ... that's really kind" Anton answered "come inside"
Lee stepped expectantly into the apartment and as she handed the casserole dish.
She was dressed in a pretty blue shift dress and her dark hair was tumbling about her shoulders.
Lee suddenly fought the urge to wipe a strand of wavy hair out of Anton's eyes.
He looked like a lost little boy.
Thirty minutes later and Anton and Kara were laughing together on the sofa.
"Life has been really tough since Elena died" Anton said sadly.
Kara stared longingly into his face and then she leaned in for a kiss.
"I'm sorry!" Kara exclaimed nervously "I really think I should go"
Anton had his back to her as she walked to the door.
"I'm sorry" Ivanov finally said with his back still to her.
Lee was fighting her tears.
At the door, Kara Lee slowly turned to Anton Ivanov.
" I forgot to tell you that Yana said that she would love to see you in church on Sunday" Kara remembered.
Then she disappeared out of the apartment and out of Ivanov's life forever.
She knew with tragic certainly now that she and Anton would never be together.
There would only ever be one woman in his life.
She wept for what might have been.
|desolation (by NoiZe-B deviantart.com)|
He was as lost to her as Elena was to him.
Sitting in the soulless office the following day, Anton Ivanov was struggling to comprehend what was being said to him.
"I'm sorry Anton" Elliot Locke said apologetically as he sat back in his big leather chair.
Ivanov stared blankly at the officious young man in his Paul Smith suit.
" We are going to have to let you go" Locke added unemotionally.
They were sitting in an office in the illustration department of Salmon and Reece Publishers.
A gold fish bowl of an office.
And everything had suddenly gone deathly silent as Ivanov struggled to deal with the shock of his rejection.
"You can't do this to me" Anton pleaded.
"Anton ... lately your work has been of a ... shall we say substandard quality" Locke informed him matter-of-factly
"You have never had any cause to complain and I always deliver the goods!" Ivanov protested as his world splintered into a million pieces.
"It seems that sadly that is no longer the case" Locke quickly interjected as an apologetic smile spread across his face.
Fucking little upstart.
"But you don't understand ...!" Anton Ivanov wailed "I need this job!"
"I'm very sorry" Elliot Locke replied flatly "But you'll survive. I'm sure you'll fall on your feet"
Anton Ivanov finished his glass of lager and quietly left the bar.
He had been drinking for most of the afternoon.
He even toasted Elliot Locke.
"A plague on both your houses!" He exclaimed loudly.
It was still daylight when Anton Ivanov stumbled out of the bar and squinted into the light.
The sun was shining brightly.
But Ivanov's life as he knew it was now finished.
Anton Ivanov laughed bitterly at the dark turn in his fortunes.
And the drink had done nothing to assuage his mounting sense of despair and helplessness.
He could see Elena smiling at him in bed.
Now Ivanov staggered over to the park and stood under the same tree that he had stood with Elena on the last day of her life.
He remembered her carefree laugh that tragic day.
Anton Ivanov was entering a big dark pit from which he would never emerge.
He managed to stride the half mile to New Acres East Cemetery where Elena was buried.
Then he lay on the ground beside her grave and closed his eyes.
Ivanov must have fallen asleep for he had lost track of time.
Yana Entin would have collected Danil from school now and be preparing him something small to eat in her tasteful apartment.
The thought of his son gave Anton Ivanov the sudden urge to live.
Just then a large crow descended upon the spindly branch of a tree above him and looked mournfully down at him.
A silent mourner.
Gradually Ivanov began to consider the paths his life might take now.
He was standing at a crossroads.
And there was a fork in the road.
Then he remembered the Russian motif.
"If you ride to the left, you will lose your horse,
if you ride to the right,
you will lose your head."
And a dark pathway began to open up before him.
That night Anton watched Danil sleeping.
His son looked so peaceful.
He looked so much like his mother.
Anton Ivanov spent the remainder of the night and much of the early hours of the morning crushing every pill he could lay his hands on into a powder.
There was no time to sleep.
And there was even less time to live.
Later in the morning Anton surprised his son by taking him to the seaside.
The little boy was elated as he hugged his father with joy.
Ivanov watched with pride as Danil ran in and out of the waves.
The little boy was laughing and shouting all the way.
The beach was full of people that Saturday.
There were countless families with small children and numerous couples enjoying the unusually warm weather that day.
Everywhere the sun shone and people's faces shone with joy and hope.
But it felt as if only Anton and Danil were on the beach.
For a moment Anton saw Elena running after Danil into the surf.
She was picking him up and swinging him in her arms.
Elena laughed and beckoned to Anton to join them.
Ivanov closed his eyes.
"I'm coming home to you"
The boy turned to his father and proudly showed him his sand castles.
Again it seemed like the beach was empty.
A deep sense of peace had descended upon Anton Ivanov.
An unearthly peace.
The morning passed in a joyful lull.
Later Anton took Danil to his favourite burger bar.
The boy felt like Christmas and his birthday had arrived at once.
Ivanov sat and watched his son as he happily ate his burger and he was overcome with emotion.
"What's wrong daddy?" Danil asked in his little concerned voice.
"Nothing my son" Anton replied as his voice broke with emotion.
And he had to look away so Danil would not see that he was crying.
"Eat your burger and then we'll go and watch a movie" Ivanov finally said.
That night Anton quietly filled a little plate with his son's favourite chocolate chip cookies.
Then he poured some milk into two glasses.
Finally Ivanov surreptitiously emptied white powder into both glasses.
He paused as he looked at the two glasses.
They were his passport to another life.
A life with Elena.
In his mind she was always waiting for him and Danil.
Just beyond his grasp.
Danil was sitting on the sofa in his teddy bear pajamas - the ones that Elena had bought for him.
The little boy smiled excitedly at his father as he sat down beside him on the sofa.
He had had the best day that he could remember for a long time.
"I love you daddy" the little boy cried as he nibbled on a cookie.
The words sent a jab of pain straight to Anton's broken heart.
For a moment Ivanov was too emotional to speak.
But then he tenderly cupped his sons face in his hand.
|ANGEL 1 ( by cmgrafico deviantart.com)|
He kissed the lad on both cheeks.
There was an unearthly peace in the apartment that night as Anton and his son embraced on the sofa.
Soon the pain would all be gone.
Ivanov stared at the icon of Jesus on the wall as he gently rocked his son in his arms.
The following morning Yana Entin was standing outside Anton Ivanov's apartment.
She had been ringing the door bell and banging on the door for twenty-five minutes now.
Entin was very anxious and perplexed.
In the five years that the Ivanov's had lived there, they had always answered their door on a Sunday morning.
Sometimes they accompanied Yana Entin to church and other times they politely turned her down.
But they always answered their door to her.
Something was badly wrong.
Kara Lee emerged from her apartment.
She was completely distraught.
Already she suspected the worst.
Several families had also emerged from their apartments and were talking loudly in Russian among themselves.
"I've called the police" Lee declared anxiously "they should be here soon"
"Its just not like him" Entin replied "Anton always answers his door on a Sunday morning"
Twenty minutes passed as Kara Lee and Yana Entin continued to call through the letter box.
The hall was gradually becoming full of other apartment dwellers.
"What the hell is going on here?" Yefim Bazaonov thundered at the sight of Lee and Entin shouting outside Ivanov's apartment.
He had never seen so many people congregating in the hall of his abode.
Bazaonov had been been called out of his easy Sunday morning routine to play along with this God forsaken drama.
"Its Anton and Danil" Yana cried "they aren't answering their door!"
"That dog Ivanov!" Bazaonov roared furiously "He's probably still drunk ... and if he hasn't got his rent he can pack his bags!"
Yefim Bazaonov pulled out his keys and opened the apartment door.
"Get up you swine!" The landlord bellowed through the open door.
Kara Lee and Yana Entin rushed into the apartment as a loud murmur arose in the throng outside.
Several moments had passed and there was no sound from the apartment.
"What's going on in there?" Bazaonov shouted angrily from outside in the hall.
He was getting restless - he had a life to lead.
Both the women had stopped where they stood in the apartment.
They were transfixed by the sight of Anton Ivanov and his son lying on the sofa.
They appeared to be in repose and for a moment it looked like they would wake up.
Kara Lee was convinced that Ivanov would open his eyes and give her his easy smile.
But she knew he wouldn't.
He looked so peaceful as he cradled Danil protectively in his arms.
Both women were lost for words - too distraught to speak.
Then Kara Lee started crying loudly.
She knelt at Anton's knee and looked up at the man she had secretly loved for five long years
Yana Entin crossed herself and said a prayer in Russian.
Then she knelt beside Lee.
"I knew" Entin said simply.
They were sisters in arms now.
"May they find peace at last" Kara Lee replied.
It was very quiet and still in the apartment now.
People were sobbing in the hall.
Even Yefim Bazaonov was struggling not to cry.
Inside the apartment the two women kept silent vigil beside the two bodies.
Gradually the sound of prayers began to permeate the apartment as people began to pay their respects to the deceased.
Kara Lee gently kissed Anton Ivanov tenderly on the cheek.
"How many days and nights have I longed to do more?"
Ivanov looked more handsome than ever.
Time passed as if in a dream as all eyes remained upon the father and son as they lay on the sofa.
Nobody noticed the police officer enter the apartment.
He instantly recognized Anton Ivanov and was suddenly overcome with emotion.
Yana Entin was reading comforting verses from the Bible.
Kara Lee was sobbing loudly at Ivanov's feet.
The officer looked at the two bodies.
"Like angels" He finally said.
Everything was still.
The brightest light was shining.
When Anton Ivanov opened his eyes, he was standing in a big garden.
Everything shone around him and he felt pure bliss.
Ripples of joy ran through his being.
He was free at last
And Elena and Danil were standing before him by a large fountain.
Their faces were shining like the sun.
Elena was smiling with joy and waving to him.
"Come over here my love"
Anton Ivanov walked towards Elena Ivanov and his son.
And as he did so, everything suddenly became brighter and brighter.
|Heaven (by Malleni deviantart.com)|