Beautiful woman in the park

Dad! Didn’t you find out? It’s my mom! She’s here!

Nina always wanted to be a teacher. As soon as I saw my first teacher in the first grade, and she lived in the village, and the authority of the teacher is still preserved there, I decided: and she will be a teacher!

The teacher Maria Antonovna wore beautiful costumes. Always had her hair combed. She never raised her voice. On the contrary, if something was wrong, and it was not the fault of one of the students, she quietly made a remark, and everyone felt uncomfortable.

Maria Antonovna was respected in the village. She was always passed without a queue in the store. The chairman of the village Council, when greeting her on the street, lifted his hat and tilted his head. And what a house Maria Antonovna had! Small, two rooms and a kitchen. But there were so many books! The flowers did not grow on the windowsill, but on a high metal bookcase. It turned out to be such a green corner next to the window. Therefore, the room was always bright and green, like in summer. Not like everyone else in the village, there was also the yard of Maria Antonovna: there were apple trees and cherries. No potatoes. But different flowers. Along the path from the gate to the porch. And flower beds – round, square and triangular.

Nina often thought, looking at her parents’ yard, where everything was planted with potatoes, cucumbers, onions, dill and parsley, that she would take it and change it at the behest of a pike to the same as Maria Antonovna’s. But she knew that this would not be the case Nina, as the eldest, had to look after the younger ones. However, they went to kindergarten. But she, Nina, drove and took them. Both in summer and in winter. Nina was her own mistress only when she returned from school, and she had time until five o’clock until she had to pick up the kids. And the brothers and sister were naughty. Nina tried so many times to rein them in with a quiet voice, like Maria Antonovna’s. It didn’t work. Most of all Nina wanted to go to study in the city after school. The teacher. She realized early on that to do this, she needed to have only excellent grades at school. And as she graduated from the first grade with a round excellent student, and at the graduation one of the entire graduation received a certificate with excellent grades.

And Nina will never forget her graduation. And not only because I said goodbye to school. She saw Maria Antonovna in a situation that not everyone could handle. In the break between the dances, Nina’s classmates decided that now they could do what they had not decided before: a group of guys, and almost all the guys, went out into the school yard and lit a cigarette. Someone did it already habitually, and someone with a cough, wincing, but kept the stamp. After smoking a cigarette, we returned to school. But someone didn’t completely extinguish the cigarette butt. And the grass, which had already dried in the June heat, caught fire. They saw the fire. The screaming and screeching started. Maria Antonovna was the first to run up to the fire. She tore the kerchief from her neck, and the kerchief was very beautiful, the girls noticed it immediately as soon as they saw Maria Antonovna, and began to beat the burning grass with the kerchief. At the same time, she told the boys to become a chain and pass a bucket of water. The water was in the well – then there was no running water in the school and in the village. Having received a bucket full of water, Maria Antonovna herself approached the place of ignition and poured water. Someone guessed to bring two more buckets from the pantry, where the inventory of the school cleaner was stored. The relay race with water accelerated. No one remembered how long it took to pour water over the burning grass. But the fire was extinguished…

And no one in the village knew that there had just been a fire on the school grounds. Nina often remembers how they sat with the whole class on the porch of the school and were silent for a long time. Classmates were waiting for Maria Antonovna to start finding out who was to blame. And she didn’t find out anything. She looked at everyone and said:

– Guys! How good that nothing happened to anyone! But remember that fire, fire is such an uncontrollable force that it does not count with anyone. In a word, let’s go dancing!

They parted at dawn. But Nina couldn’t sleep. She changed her clothes, took a shovel and a hoe and went to the school yard. And there were already a dozen of her classmates. And all with shovels and hoes. No one conspired – they came themselves. And they dug up all the burnt grass. Now it was hard to guess that it was burning. A little later Maria Antonovna came. I saw it all. And for the first time I couldn’t hold back the tears:

– Thanks, guys! Any teacher of our school can envy me…

Nina remembers how Maria Antonovna was appointed headmaster of the school. And Nina helped her in everything. In high school, I came to visit her. They drank tea in the kitchen and talked about everything. Maria Antonovna gave her books. Nina was the only one of the whole class who read a lot, easily navigated both domestic classics and foreign ones. She decided that she would enter the Faculty of Philology. When Nina, already knowing that she had enrolled, came home, her parents only said that she was well done, and reminded her that they would not be able to help her much – three more schoolchildren remained at home. And Maria Antonovna arranged a real holiday for Nina. And I gave her a piece of woolen fabric. I advised Nina to sew a skirt, trousers and a jacket – here, she said, there should be enough material. They went to the regional center together and ordered this three-piece suit at the atelier. We chose a classic style, as Maria Antonovna again advised. And Maria Antonovna was right: this suit served Nina for many years. It was worth changing the blouse, and the suit could turn from a business suit into an elegant one.

So Nina received from her beloved teacher a lesson that can be called “How to dress properly”: it is better to have a minimum of shoes, but of high quality. It is better to have one dress and one suit, but made of expensive fabric. That’s how she dressed. And it was hard to believe that she was wearing a pantsuit for the seventh year – a scarf or a scarf made it new.

At the university, Nina was elected to the student council. So she became recognizable among the teaching staff. They were already talking to her about thinking about graduate school and starting to prepare for it. Before defending her diploma, Nina went home. She was glad to see her own, but it was more important for her to talk to Maria Antonovna. Talk about graduate school.

“Do you want to?” Maria Antonovna asked her.

“I don’t know,” Nina replied. – It seems to me that teaching at school is my thing. I will have time to finish graduate school yet.

– Then do it. Another thing is that it is not easy to find a job today. And not only in the city. But here, I think, university teachers will help you. Only they need to be told about it directly.

– I’ve already thought about it myself. I’ll come back and talk to the dean,” Nina said. And I was about to say goodbye to Maria Antonovna. But she detained her:

– Wait, Nina! I’ve never talked to you about this topic. But I see that you can repeat my fate,” Maria Antonovna said somehow not very cheerfully.

“I wish… I’ve dreamed of being like you since the first grade,” Nina replied.

– Here’s what I’ll tell you, girl: it’s true that I chose and built my life myself. And I don’t regret anything, in principle. Except for one thing: I could teach other people’s children without giving up my own… if you knew how sorry I am today that I am all alone. Think about it, Nina,” Maria Antonovna came up and hugged her.

It’s not that Nina never thought about her children, no, sometimes she did. But remembering her childhood, she believed that children should have, if not everything, then to the maximum. And she didn’t have her own apartment for a long time. Nina was afraid of mortgages. I counted only on my savings. And replenished them. When I became a head teacher at one of the best gymnasiums in the city, the salary became much higher. And savings have grown significantly. And the moment came when they were enough to buy a small two-room apartment on the secondary market. Nina washed it herself, and decided to save up for repairs too. I spent money only on the refrigerator. She had a laptop, and the washing machine “Baby” has not failed yet.

Maria Antonovna finally came to visit her. And she praised Nina, said that she had calculated everything correctly – she would buy furniture later, but for now she has a good roof over her head. And only when I was leaving, already at the train station, I asked:

– Nina, I’m sorry, but I’m going to ask a question anyway. Aren’t you going to get married?

– Not for anyone, – Nina answered immediately. And then she added, as it is fashionable to say now: – But I’m working on it.

Actually, that’s exactly what Nina wasn’t working on.…

Two years later, the gymnasium where Nina worked was decided to make a profile with an intensive study of mathematics and physics. Experienced teachers were invited to work. Several of them transferred to the gymnasium from colleges. For about a year there was lapping: the schedule was revised, the students in the classroom were shuffled, an expanded program was approved. Nina worked until late in the evening, although officially the gymnasium was a single shift. Then meetings were often held, open lessons were held – the requirements were high. And it was necessary to comply. Nina and the school principal had a complete understanding from the first day: he, a teacher with almost thirty years of experience, a historian by education, was not a conservative. I was interested in new ideas, I understood that indifferent silence in the classroom is not an indicator of the teacher’s skill, but the discussion of a particular topic, when a student not only has his own opinion, but expresses it in a reasoned manner, is much more important.

Most of the teachers at the gymnasium worked in this way. Both in elementary school and in high school. And yet, as in every collective, the gymnasium had its own leaders. One of them is a computer science teacher Leonid Nikolaevich. He came to the gymnasium from college. Leonid Nikolaevich was persuaded to change jobs in the city Department of Public Education: the profile of the gymnasium was then new, computer science too, so a high-class specialist was needed. And Leonid Nikolaevich was suitable in all respects. Nina was happy to attend Leonid Nikolaevich’s lessons. She herself willingly went to experiments, introduced new techniques and encouraged other teachers. And the computer science teacher, it seemed, did not conduct a single lesson at all according to a rolled-up scheme. And not a single student left the classroom, rejoicing that the boring lesson was over. Because boredom and Leonid Nikolaevich are opposite phenomena. Then Leonid Nikolaevich had a joyful event: he and his wife, after almost ten years of marriage, finally had a child. Girl. Nina found out about this from the secretary when she approached her, collecting money for a gift. Before that, Nina didn’t know any details about the computer science teacher’s family. She didn’t know much about the personal life of the school’s employees at all. She thought she had no right. If someone needed help, that’s another matter. And I tried not to delve into the relationships in the families of her colleagues. I learned from Maria Antonovna – she never listened, much less passed on rumors and gossip. But I was sincerely glad for Leonid Nikolaevich. He was a couple of years younger than Nina. And there was no doubt that he wanted a child. Then Nina had the first thought: I wonder what kind of wife he has? Well, it flashed and immediately disappeared…

Nina saw Leonid Nikolaevich’s wife under such circumstances that it’s scary to imagine. The whole city was buzzing about the tragedy that happened in the city center right at the traffic light. What happened there could be called anything. And the result was the same: a young woman died. Her killer was a car whose brakes failed.

…Young parents gathered at the children’s polyclinic for a routine examination of their six-month-old daughter. They stood in front of the zebra and waited for the green light to turn on. Usually mom crossed the road, rolling an empty stroller in front of her. And the father was carrying the child in his arms when crossing the street. The green light just lit up. There was enough time to cross the street. Yes, and this path was mastered by young parents. But a tragic accident intervened: a jeep was rapidly moving towards pedestrians. And it seemed that he was picking up speed on purpose. It will then turn out that the driver was struggling to brake. But the brakes turned out to be faulty, and the slope on this part of the road only increased the speed. With superhuman efforts, the driver managed to turn the steering wheel a little. And it saved a few pedestrians. Several…

But they did not include a young woman crossing the road with an empty stroller. She died on the spot. And from hitting her husband, who was holding a child in his arms, they were separated by just a few centimeters. And Leonid Nikolaevich, it was him, and remained with the child in his arms, not having time to take a step. He then replayed in his head a hundred times what would have happened if he had walked from the side from which his wife was walking with a stroller. Days and nights he thought about it…

Nina saw Leonid Nikolaevich’s wife on the funeral portrait on the day of her funeral. The coffin was closed. It was said that her face and head suffered the most. And in the portrait there was a young woman with a short haircut, beautiful eyes and a charming smile…

For some time, computer science classes were not held at the gymnasium – Leonid Nikolaevich was looking for a nanny for his daughter, was dealing with some documents. And then I went to work. Outwardly, he did not give himself away. Only the stoop appeared. Nina learned from the school secretary that Leonid Nikolaevich did not give the girl even temporarily to the baby’s House. He stayed with her. And he didn’t take time off from lessons – they all went according to schedule. Only a few months later, both he and several teachers were at the court hearing when the investigation ended, and the perpetrators of that accident in the city center at the pedestrian crossing were determined…

With the consent of the director of the gymnasium and with the full understanding of the entire team, Leonid Nikolaevich did not work during the winter and spring holidays. Well, summer holidays – it goes without saying, it was his official vacation. He was with his daughter all the non-working hours. To hold out, as the same omniscient secretary said, he needed a little more than a year. Then the girl will go to kindergarten. His former colleagues have already taken care of a place in kindergarten. And then it will be possible to refuse the services of a nanny.

Nina, having met Leonid Nikolaevich at recess or in the teachers’ room, many times wanted to approach him and say some words. But I didn’t dare. She thought about him often. I sympathized with him. Never having seen his little daughter, I felt sorry for the child. But she couldn’t say that she sincerely sympathized. Although, to be honest, I didn’t know how. She considered herself, figuratively speaking, living, buttoned up. She guessed that her colleagues thought the same about her. No, Nina knew that she was respected at the gymnasium. But they also consider it callous for sure.

Before the new school year, Nina went to the village to her friends. I was glad that everything was fine with them: now there is both gas and water in the house. Of the three children, only the younger sister remained with her parents, who will graduate from school this year. Two brothers served, got married, live in the city. One has a son growing up, and the second has two daughters. Nina kept in touch with them. They visited her as well. It’s Nina who still won’t get out to them. But he’s going to. After handing out the gifts, Nina got ready for Maria Antonovna.

“Go, daughter,” said Mom. – Maria Antonovna has news too.

And, indeed: in the house of her beloved teacher, news was waiting for her, which Nina did not even imagine – Maria Antonovna took custody of a twelve-year-old girl. I had to run and persuade to be allowed to take custody. Formally, she did not meet the requirements: age and without a husband. But Maria Antonovna had an impeccable reputation and good conditions for an orphan. In short, she was allowed to become a guardian. The girl, and her name was Polina, was pretty, but not very brave. Which, however, was easily explained: she had never seen her family in her life. She moved from the maternity hospital to the baby’s House, from there to the boarding school, without leaving it either on holidays or on holidays. Not immediately believing that she was being taken away from the boarding school, Polina did not leave Maria Antonovna’s side. And she liked it: she then straightened Polinka’s hair, then hugged the girl, then involved her in a conversation about the puppy, who now also appeared in the house.

Nina saw a completely different Maria Antonovna. And something aching appeared in the soul. What to call this feeling, she did not think. It just appeared and remained. When Polinka went to bed, they sat on the porch. And Maria Antonovna, without beating around the bush, said to Nina:

– It was too late for me to decide on custody. Now I’m afraid that suddenly there won’t be enough strength to lift Polinka. But if anything, there’s only one hope for you, Nina: don’t leave the girl! And more. It looks like you haven’t found your other half… or didn’t want to look. I’m not your guide here. Just make sure that it doesn’t happen like mine, when you live with the fear that you won’t have enough time or strength to put an orphan on his feet…

Nina listened to her teacher and thought for some reason about Leonid Nikolaevich, about the fact that he was alone with his daughter. What is she like? Nina has never seen it.

On August 25, there should be a pedagogical council in the gymnasium – it was always like this before the new school year. And the night before, after preparing clothes for tomorrow, Nina remembered that she had not entered two versions of lessons in parallel fifth grades into the trial schedule. It was possible, of course, to enter tomorrow, in the course of the pedagogical council. But Nina is used to preparing everything in advance. And she went to the gymnasium. The door was closed. Nina rang the bell, and immediately the watchman Petrovich appeared. He missed her, either by asking or by saying:

– He doesn’t stay at home, does he, Nina Ivanovna?

“I forgot to do something,” she replied.

“Well, you’re not the only one who can’t sit,” Petrovich smiled. – There are still others…

Ignoring the words of the watchman, Nina went up to the second floor to her head teacher’s office. I entered two options into the expanded schedule and began to leave. But closing the door, I heard strange sounds coming from the classroom at the end of the corridor. Nina Ivanovna went there. The sounds came from the computer science room. It seemed like someone was singing in a child’s voice. The words were indecipherable. And Nina opened the door…

In the computer science room, Leonid Nikolaevich laid out sheets of paper with some text in front of each computer. But he didn’t sing, that’s for sure. Seeing Nina Ivanovna, the computer science teacher blushed deeply and nodded his head, greeting the head teacher. He was about to say something. But then a little girl in a red sundress and a white lace blouse came out from under the table, because her height allowed. In her hands was a hare with a drooping ear and sly eyes. The girl looked at Nina Ivanovna for a minute or two, and then trotted with small feet in red shoes straight to her. And immediately hugged Nina Ivanovna:

– Are you my mom? – the girl asked happily.

…Nina will never doubt the words “freeze in place” again – she now knows that it happens and how it happens. And she was not the only one who froze: Leonid Nikolaevich froze three steps away from her. And the girl was already pulling Nina’s hand, wanted her to bend over. And Nina leaned over to the baby. The girl immediately grabbed her by the neck…

Later, when the three of them left the gymnasium, Leonid Nikolaevich managed to explain why he came here with his daughter. Tomorrow he takes her to kindergarten for the first time. And he was afraid that Tonya wouldn’t let him go right away. And he wanted to invite teachers to his computer science office after the pedagogical council to start teaching colleagues how to work on a computer. That’s why I came to spread out short memos, so as not to waste time. Tonya had no one to leave with. So he took her along with his beloved hare with him.

“I’m sorry, Nina Ivanovna,” Leonid Nikolaevich said confusedly.

– I do not know why she rushed to you. Usually Tonya behaves with strangers with restraint, often even hiding behind my back.

The baby, it turns out, not only heard everything, but also undertook to explain to dad. She pulled his arm, stopping him, and said, pronouncing every word:

– Dad! Didn’t you find out? It’s my mom! She’s here!

…If someone says that this does not happen, then he has never met this family. A family where two no longer very young people, restrained and tactful, who have experienced a lot in their lives, threw out a white flag in front of sincerity and faith in the good, with which the little girl’s heart was overflowing. Yes, they didn’t just start their relationship. The same restraint interfered. And it took a whole year, and this, as Leonid Nikolaevich later clarified more than once, 365 whole days for both to understand: there are now three of them in this world. This is now their family of three people, who were united by little Tonya.


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