The Russian Girl by William Falo

Katarina looked into the window of the night club on Nevsky Prospekt and watched the life she dreamed about taking place on the other side of the pane of glass. The vision shattered when an angry man started yelling in English. He made wild gestures with his hands while talking to a well-dressed lady. Katarina understood some of the words and knew that the man was upset because a girl from a distant village failed to meet him. The man turned toward her and she spun around causing her red scarf to fall o f. He picked it up and twirled it around in his fingers before holding it up to his nose. When she started to back away, he held it out to her. The gesture made her pause, until he stepped closer. She ran down the street, running with her hand covering the scar on her neck, and tears running down her cheek.

No tourist would dare to follow her there to the empty building where she lived. The crunching of glass under her feet was only broken by the deep breaths of someone inhaling glue in a corner.

Alexey came out of the darkness. “You’ re back early," he said.

“I feel sick."

He looked down and saw the bruises on her arms. “A rough one."

“Yes. I was afraid he was a trafficker."

“Damn, Katarina. You are going to end up being sold. You have to be careful."

“Careful means starving."

“I know. Maybe this will help." He handed her the bag and she breathed in deeply. The room spun, and she saw her parents before her. They smiled at her when she slumped down, and she closed her eyes until Alexey rubbed her arm.

They climbed to the roof, and looked onto the lights ofthe city. Golden domes ofdistant cathedrals sparkled in the starlit night. “Sometimes it looks beautiful."

“That’s what the tourists think. They don’t see the side streets," Alexey said.

“I saw my parent’s faces," Katarina said.

“Hallucinations. That’s all."

“Maybe, I know they put me in an orphanage after I got sick." She paused. “I wonder when I will die." She rubbed her neck.

“Maybe not for a long time."

“No, I have a sickness. See the scar. The orphanage doctor told me it could come back despite the operation."

“Then you ran away."

“Nobody wants a sick orphan?"

“Yesterday, I thought about going home, but I know my step father would beat me again," he saidand rubbed his eyes.

The lights of the city failed to illuminate the darkness around them. “I have a plan," Katarina said.

“What is it?"

“There’s an American looking for a bride."

“Pervert. Old man?"

“Not too old. I want to pretend to be the Russian bride he is looking for."


“Thanks for the compliment." She hit his arm.

“I’ll steal clothes and makeup. We’ll make the man give me all his money, or take me to America."

"You’re not old enough."

“I’m old enough to have sex. That’s what they’re looking for."

“But." he looked away. Other street children returned from begging or selling and talked dwonstairs.

“Alexey, don’t tell anyone else. I just want to feel what it’s like to be normal even if it’s just this one time." She hugged him, and he smiled at her and then kissed her. A sliver of light reflected o f of a pane of broken glass and sparkled in his eyes. It hypnotized her, until they fell asleep in each other’s arms against a crumbling wall in the abandoned building.

She stole a short red dress from a dryer in an apartment complex, remembering the red scarf she dropped and how the man twirled it around his fingers. The lipstick came from a loosely guarded pocketbook. When she walked by a window, she stopped and turned around because she thought someone was standing behind her. “You look like a real woman," he said.

“Thanks, I hope so," she said, and laughed.

“Don’t go. It’s too dangerous," he said. She hugged him, and walked onto the streets of Saint Petersburg.

He was outside the place she saw him the night before sitting alone outside at the Café Siberia. Alexey watched from a distance while she approached the table. She sat across from the man causing him to gasp. He looked around and fiddled with his shirt buttons.

“Hi," she said. He stared at her unable to speak then reached into his pocket.

Without taking his eyes o f of her, he pulled out the red scarf. “Yours?" He asked.

“You keep it." She smiled and rubbed her neck.

He folded it and placed it back into his pocket. “I’m Johan. You?" He said and held out a hand.

“Katarina," she said and took his hand. It felt warm, and she held it longer than she wanted to. “Nice name. How old are you?"

“Eighteen," she said and blinked rapidly.

The man ordered her a drink. He sni fed the air, and she knew that she smelled bad. There was no way to shower and perfume was rare in the streets.

“Are you with the agency?"

Yet the lies came easy. “Why did you come to Russia?"

“I’m divorced. The women here are beautiful. It’s a beautiful place."

She wanted to comment on the street children, but couldn’t translate all the words. The man kept looking at her with penetrating eyes. She kept sipping the drink and spinning the ice inside it.

“Here comes, Olga," he said and pointed toward a woman walking through the maze of tables.

Katarina felt her head buzz. She recognized Olga from the night before, as she approached them. “I need money to stay here, or I have to go back to the village."

Alexey made frantic motions with his hands in the distance. “Please," Katarina said and stood up.

“When will I see you again?" Johan asked.

“Tonight," she said, and he handed her money.

Olga grabbed her by the arm, and she stumbled backwards. Johan stood up, and reached out to steady her. “Johan, this is a street girl not a bride," Olga said. She then reached out, and ripped the shirt off
of Katarina.

The shirt fell to the ground, leaving Katarina standing there in a torn undershirt. Katarina ran out of the café; the sound of laughter followed her down the street. Tears fell down her cheeks causing dark streaks on her face, and she dropped the money. Alexey caught with her and ran with her back to the abandoned building. “I knew it wouldn’t work. We’re different and nobody cares about us," he said.

The karat numbed her, but she had to go back out on the street. She lost the money and the dream of being a bride when she ran out of the restaurant.

“We should go away. Maybe to Ukraine or Belarus," he said.

“It’s too dangerous. There are even more sex tra fickers."

“Saint Petersburg isn’t much better," Alexey said.

“I know." She sobbed.

“Don’t go out tonight. Let’s stay here."

“I have too. I dropped the money. We need food," she said. “I’ll go beg."

“It won’t be enough, and if you steal you can get caught and beaten by the police."

“Be careful." Alexey said with a somber look like he sensed something bad was going to happen. “Don’t worry," she said and threw him a kiss as she left.

She walked out onto the dark street toward the main roads near the metro stations. The foreigners would pay more than any locals would. A rain started to fall, and that meant more business. With fewer things to do they would look for a girl to spend their time with. The streets seemed emptier than usual, and she walked further into the city. She turned away when she neared the hotel where the American was.

The other street children gathered in the internet café; many of them played a computer game called Counter- Strike. The sounds of the war game, and the constant taunting during the game, made her feel sick, and she moved to a seat by the front entrance because it was located far away from the computer terminals.

A long, black car parked by the front door. Its tinted windows hid the driver, and nobody left the vehicle. She looked for Alexey, but saw no sign of her friend. The war game ended in a fist fight, near the computer terminals, as they often did. A short-haired, blonde boy jumped up and started hitting the other boy.

“You cheated," he yelled.

“No, you’re just not a good soldier."

They wrestled on the floor, while the owner stood up. “Stop that." Nobody listened, and they tumbled on the floor, knocking over glasses that shattered on the floor. “That’s it. Everybody out," the owner yelled. “I’m closing."

The boys stopped and slowly walked out while making gestures at the owner. They walked past the black car that remained motionless. Katarina followed them and then stopped when the window rolled down and a man stuck out a clenched fist filled with money.

“Come with me, and I’ ll give you some food, and you can take a shower." he said.

“I don’t know. What do I have to do?" The word food made her stomach rumble, and she could imagine hot water pouring over her rough, torn skin.

“Nothing, but I know someone that needs a girl to watch his children in England. It pays a lot, and it’s a nice place to live."

She looked around for Alexey, but the streets looked empty except for the shadows of other street children, moving between buildings toward their own unknown destinations. Where did the other boys go? The silence made her nervous, but she didn’t leave. Could this be her chance to leave the streets? She could come back for Alexey, and they could move to England together.

Maybe, they could get married, and have children.

Someone approached, and she saw a flash of red. The man in the car started to talk faster. “Get in the car now, and you can be odf the streets forever." She hesitated, and the man grabbed her wrist with lightning speed. The back door opened, and he steered her toward the darkness inside the car. He smelled of vodka, and when she could see, he looked much older than he appeared from inside the dark car. Despite her struggling, he started to pull her toward the open door. Her legs gave out and she fell toward the inside of the car. The man shoved her into the back seat then stopped when someone yelled in English. The sound of scu fling came from behind her; followed by a thud. Someone pulled her out of the car and the engine started, followed by the screeching of wheels.
The scratches on her legs and arms burned. The red lights of the car disappeared around a corner, and she turned around to find out who had saved her. The only thing she saw was a red scarf.

“Are you alright?" Alexey ran down the street toward her.

“No," she said and fell into his arms.

“What happened?"

“Traffickers tried to take me away, but someone saved me."


She picked up the red scarf. “I think I know." Alexey nodded his head, and held onto her like he never wanted to let go.

Katarina took off her apron, and walked out of Café Siberia. Alexey waited on a bench.

“How was your first day?"

“Not bad," she said and held out a handful of money.

“I still can’t believe the American got you the job."

“Actually, Olga the interpreter helped me get the job, but only because she wanted more men to come to her agency. He threatened to give them bad reviews, and use someone else."

“You will get another chance to be a bride to a rich American then."

“I don’t think so. Once is enough." She laughed.

A dark, familiar car headed toward them, and she pulled Alexey into a doorway.

Katarina sighed, “They’re still out there."

“I think they will think twice before messing with you," he said.

“But there will be others as long as men will pay for it," she said and looked down. Alexey hugged her. Katarina grasped his hand as they left the shadows of the old building and walked toward a flickering light that pierced the darkness ahead of them.


Previously Published by Scars Publication

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