Lana looked in the mirror with a gloomy face and whispered:
— The orphanage rat as it is! Only a rat has claws and sharp teeth. And I’m not going to give up without a fight.
Such statements could be explained by the girl’s past. She grew up in an orphanage. And as long as she could remember, no one showed any interest in her. Before her eyes, dozens of children found their places in foster homes. Even if some of them returned back, not finding a common language with those who decided to adopt them.
However, little Lana had excellent learning abilities. And many teachers and educators said:
— She should be a little nicer. And so a very smart girl. And beautiful.
Lana really had a memorable bright appearance, because of which many girls arranged a «dark» for her, locking her in the pantry or throwing a blanket over her head so that they could beat her without hindrance. The girl never complained to the teachers, preferring to sort things out with the offenders on her own. Realizing that it was a so–so idea to mess with her, the other pupils fell behind.
The moment came when Lana and other adult pupils were solemnly ushered into adulthood, giving them the appropriate documents in their hands. Lana has always been interested in numbers and calculations, so she chose a specialty in applied mathematics and computer science.
The first two months she was helped with accommodation. However, immediately after entering the university, there was a need to get a job. Lana was not picky and asked to move in with a pensioner who was looking for lodgers herself.
— Just make sure that there is no mess in the room! – the hostess said sternly.
The apartment was, as they say, «murdered.» But this did not prevent its owner from demanding that her property be treated as museum exhibits. For the first two months in Lana’s absence, the hostess entered the room and meticulously examined how the girl washed the bed linen, how clean it was, whether there were cigarettes and alcohol. Having found nothing suspicious, the elderly woman left, checking on the move whether there was dust on the furniture.
However, Lana did not give reason to reproach herself, so very soon the hostess became kinder and even invited the girl to have dinner with her.
— I overdid it today… I’ve prepared so much… Come on, sit down! Otherwise it will be wasted.
Lana got a job in a private clinic as a cleaner and diligently performed her duties. Arriving early, she quickly wiped the floors, dusted, changed the water in dispensers, watered flowers in the lobby and wards, washed sinks and polished mirrors to shine. The girl managed to do everything before the arrival of the administrators. And everyone was happy that she didn’t get in everyone’s way during the working day, as the previous employee did.
Embarrassed by her nondescript clothes, Lana did not go out with her peers. And they soon gave up on her.
— Yes, she’s a cracker! An ordinary bookworm! What is it possible to communicate with such a person?
All the years of study passed for Lana in the mode: study-work-apartment.
No affairs, no personal life. The girl understood that she had nothing to offer financially, so she made every effort to succeed.
Her work on programming was a great success, and several magazines offered to write articles for them designed for the general public.
— We don’t need it to be strictly scientific. We need you to be able to explain the most difficult things, as they say, «on your fingers». Can you do that?
Lana tried it. And she did it. In the most popular magazine with an audience of millions, she was given a separate column, for which she wrote articles twice a month.
Thanks to positive reviews from readers, Lana began to earn decent money. She quit the clinic and devoted all her time to mental work. During the next conference, the chairman of the jury approached her and said admiringly:
— I’ve been wanting to meet you for a long time. It’s a great honor for me!
The girl was confused. She had never heard such words addressed to her before.
At the banquet, an unknown young man approached her:
— I heard your speech today. I was just amazed! Sorry for the impudence, but I just have to meet you! By the way, my name is Slava.
Lana swallowed her tongue. She wasn’t used to having so much attention paid to her by males. Her new acquaintance literally devoured her with his eyes and enjoyed the embarrassment she felt from his words.
Slava began to call the girl often. Sometimes he came after work to escort her to a rented apartment. He turned out to be the only son of wealthy parents. He worked as a foreign language teacher at a prestigious language university. And at the insistence of his father, he was looking for a smart girl to marry.
— Son, intelligence is transmitted through the maternal line. So, don’t be fooled by a pretty face. And then the offspring will turn out not beautiful, and not a brilliant mind.
He and his wife have already decided in advance what the future wife of their son should be. The list of requirements for the daughter-in-law was impressive. Among which intelligence, good looks and good relatives with connections were in the first places. If Lana had no problems with the first two points, then there was a discrepancy with everything else.
The mother-in-law pursed her lips angrily and frowned when Lana wanted to say or do something without consulting her. Moreover, such a reaction of the woman was absolutely everything.
— Why did you buy such tea?! Yes, that’s what we drink. But you should have asked me anyway!
— Why did you change the bed linen a day earlier? I wanted to dry my coat on the balcony! I should have asked! What if it was occupied?
However, most of all, the mother-in-law was angry about the fact that colleagues called Lana and invited her to various meetings and scientific round tables.
— My God! As if it’s impossible to hold a table without this zamukhryshka! – the mother-in-law rolled her eyes. – If they knew which dump she came out of, no one would want to know her!
Slava preferred to pretend that nothing special was happening and everything was going as it should. It was hard for him to be torn between his wife and mother. But soon he began to move away from Lana.
When her mother-in-law once reminded her daughter-in-law that she was from an orphanage and was unlikely to be able to raise her child normally, Lana replied with a smile:
— I’m fine, from an orphanage. But our baby has you: grandma and grandpa. You have such a close-knit family! They gave me such a wonderful husband. Can’t you help with raising your own grandson? To grow up as worthy a man as his father?
The mother-in-law froze for a second, then, licking her lips, said clearly:
— And do not hope! We will not consider this geek as a grandson. How do we know in which cesspool and with whom you conceived him?
Lana turned pale. Then she blushed deeply with anger. Slava froze when he heard his mother’s words. But he did absolutely nothing to extinguish the conflict, and retreated to the balcony. Allegedly, to urgently close the window that has opened wide. His cry came from there:
— Lanka! What’s frozen? What kind of window did you open when the mesh broke here? The midges will eat at night!
— The window? Midges? Lana stared blankly at her mother–in-law, who was enjoying her triumph.
— You can’t even think of such things yourself! – the mother-in-law gloated. – And where did my son dig you up? Is it really so cool to live in garbage dumps? It’s even a shame to show you to your relatives. Rootless!
Lana realized that she had had enough. However, she wanted to hear the opinion of her husband, who, judging by his behavior, was terrified of his mother’s reaction. And soon the young woman heard:
— My mom never just says that. It’s your own fault that you can’t find a common language with her.
— So the fact that she insults me, practically calling me a street slut, doesn’t bother you a bit? Lana asked. – And that we are talking about our common child with you is also not a problem, right?
— What are you clinging to? Slava shouted. – It’s her business what she says. You should just say that you agree with all her words, and do your job further.
— OK. I’ll do my job. I’ll file for divorce tomorrow,» Lana replied coldly.
Life in an orphanage has taught her not to complain and to make quick decisions. Let it be hard for her at first. But she will live in a quiet environment where no one will wipe their feet about her.
This thought gave strength and confidence to the expectant mother. And the next day, with an unwavering hand, she wrote an application for divorce.
Returning to her husband’s parents’ house, she packed all her belongings in a suitcase and called a taxi. Before that, Lana managed to find a rented room for herself and gave an advance to the hostess.
The mother-in-law kept a sharp eye on what the daughter-in-law put in her suitcase. After making sure that she didn’t take any of her personal belongings with her, the woman silently left the room.
Slava was at work. And Lana had to carry the bulky suitcase outside alone without anyone’s help. She wasn’t going to ask her mother-in-law and father-in-law for help. She dragged the luggage to the taxi and left.
When Slava returned home, he found his mother extremely pleased with herself.
— Thank God! Gone is this rootless beggar. Don’t worry about it. There are a lot of women. Hundreds will flock to someone like you. Just have time to choose.
Slava shrugged his shoulders and went to wash his hands. He never understood how he really felt about his departed wife, and went to the registry office only to complete all the formalities of the divorce process.
The mother was pleased:
— What a blessing that this beggar did not pull money from us for the maintenance of her cub. It hurts us a lot of honor: to know some kind of orphanage! Without a family, without a tribe!
The mother-in-law began to search hard for a new wife for her son, whom she considered the height of perfection since childhood.
— My boy speaks four languages. Very homely, calm. You can talk to him on high topics,» the woman excitedly said, praising the Glory. – He was so unlucky with his first wife! Horror. How had he managed to get into her clutches?
Well, at least she left herself when she realized that she would not be able to enter paradise on our hump.
Acquaintances politely listened to Lana’s former mother-in-law, nodded sympathetically, but were in no hurry to provide the ideal Glory of new candidates. Everyone knew about, to put it mildly, the complex nature of a woman who had worked in leadership positions all her life, and the methods by which she sought promotion.
Blackmail and flattery were formidable weapons of Lana’s mother-in-law. And she is not used to her words being ignored. She was annoyed by the silence on the part of her former daughter-in-law. After all, according to the woman, Lana had to come back and beg on her knees to forgive her, give her a second chance, and serve faithfully to their whole family. However, this did not happen.
After the birth of her son, whom Lana named Efim, the former daughter-in-law stopped all communication with everyone who had to do with Fame. Gradually, rumors began to reach Fame that his ex-wife was successfully continuing to write works for magazines, managing to look after the baby at the same time.
Once, walking with Yefim in the park on a nice spring day, Lana came face to face with Slava and his mother, walking arm in arm.
The mother-in-law did not feel well, and the father-in-law could not go down the stairs and keep his wife company because of a sore knee. The mother-in-law pulled her son out of class and demanded that he take a walk with her. And Slava obeyed. He walked with a thoughtful face and did not pay attention to what was happening around him. Suddenly, both of them heard a familiar voice:
— Yes, I have almost finished the article. I’ll send it tonight, before seven o’clock. Yes, everything is as you asked. Okay, let them call, we’ll discuss it. Great! Payment on the same terms. Goodbye.
It was Lana, pushing a stroller with a sleeping baby in front of her. The mother-in-law, frowning, looked closely at her former daughter-in-law and shook her head in displeasure. Lana was well dressed. And the stroller was clearly not cheap: with small but durable wheels and a comfortable design. The baby’s face was covered with a wide folding visor. One could only see Yefim’s legs in insulated boots with soft leather soles.
The mother-in-law, as a seasoned woman, immediately estimated the approximate cost of what was on the baby and daughter-in-law. Then I came to the conclusion:
— This little bitch can’t earn so much with her work. So, sleeping with someone for a good reward. I did the right thing by leaving. Otherwise, she would have disgraced my son with her questionable behavior.
Slava wanted to go up to his ex-wife and at least see what his son had become, but under the strict gaze of his mother he remained in place. Lana walked past him, pretending to look for something in her bag, and never looked back. The mother-in-law just chuckled:
When baby Yefim turned two years old, Lana got a call and was offered to go out for a personal meeting. Before that, Slava secretly tried to contact his ex-wife from his mother, but she harshly repulsed all his attempts.
— You didn’t say a word when your mother said she didn’t recognize Yefim as her grandson. Because she thought that I had it from no one knows from whom. So, forget about us and go under the wing of Mommy. Otherwise she’ll start looking for you all over the city with flashing lights and dogs.
Lana wanted to refuse the meeting, deciding that Slava wanted to force her to come in this way. However, the stranger interrupted her. There was a slight foreign accent in his speech, and he was persistent:
— Excuse me, Mrs. Lana. I will try not to take up your precious time. I came from Salzburg on purpose. It is vitally important for me to meet with you.
Intrigued by his words, Lana agreed to a meeting that the stranger asked her to set up in a sparsely populated place so that there would be less noise.
Two hours later, Lana entered the secluded booth of the Magnolia Restaurant and saw a man in his sixties who looked quite youthful and fit for his age. He bowed politely to the young woman and invited her to sit down.
— My name is Klaus Korn. I am Mr. Erwin Heinz’s attorney. I have been instructed to fulfill his last will, specified in the will.
— Who is Erwin Heinz? Lana asked in surprise. She did not understand what could connect her, a girl from an orphanage, with some foreign moneybags.
— If you don’t mind, I’ll tell you this story…
Erwin Heinz often traveled to Russia in his youth and at one of the parties he met a certain Arina Sokolova, a student at Moscow State University. They had a stormy relationship, which ended with the pregnancy of the aforementioned young lady. When Mr. Heinz’s father found out about this, he demanded his son’s return and forced him to marry the daughter of his business partner. Arina was left alone: in a position and without money. She had to drop out of school and return to the small town where she was from. A girl was born to her, which the young mother had to give to an orphanage.
«Interesting story,» Lana said.
Arina tried to contact young Mr. Heinz, but to no avail. From the stress she suffered, she was getting worse and worse, and she wrote a letter that she sent to the Austrian embassy. In this letter she told about the birth of her daughter and asked to take care of her. Mr. Heinz received her message too late, when Arina was no longer alive. However, he himself was unhappy in his marriage. His wife could not have children, and the relationship between them was quite strained. As a result, when Mr. Heinz suffered a stroke, he ordered to make a new will. According to its terms, his daughter becomes the sole heiress of all movable and immovable property.
— Did I mention that this is an interesting story? Lana replied, furtively starting to look at her watch. It was time for her to return to her son. – But what does it have to do with me? I’m an orphanage in general. I don’t have any relatives and never had.
— That’s what I’m getting at, Ms. Lana. You are Mr. Heinz’s daughter. This was established by letters and documents from the orphanage to which your mother, Arina Sokolova, gave you.
Lana was startled and lost the power of speech for a while.
«Are you saying that this Herr Heinz is my father?» the woman asked in surprise.
— Exactly! And you are his only heir. Three months have passed since the announcement of the will, and you can already apply for inheritance.
— It doesn’t matter… It’s hard to believe, — she said.
In response, Korn took out a bulky folder containing envelopes, scraps of letters, copies of documents. After reviewing everything in the folder, Lana believed.
— It can’t be! I understand that this is true, but still… It’s hard to believe.
— If you don’t mind, I’ll start the procedure for you to become an heir, – Korn bowed to her. – I don’t have much time: I have to fly to Austria tomorrow. The main thing is that I found you and made sure that you are you.
Six months later, Lana moved into a new apartment in a prestigious area, not far from the place where Slava, who was still an enviable groom, lived. His mother saw Lana from time to time on the arm of the baby, who so resembled Slava in childhood. And the mother–in-law could not stand it — she approached the former daughter-in-law and wanted to get acquainted with Yefim.
She still thought that Lana was just pretending that she didn’t want to communicate with them. Having received a decisive refusal, the woman frowned.
— I don’t understand at all why you pretend to be a touchy-feely person when you walk here every day and bother our eyes!
— I bought an apartment here. I like this neighborhood. There is a good kindergarten for my boy and a bunch of different institutions. So when I need something, I don’t have to run far. But you’re right. I shouldn’t appear too often in front of you, so that there won’t be unnecessary conversations.
— She bought an apartment! – the mother-in-law said contemptuously to her friends, telling about the last meeting with her former daughter-in-law. – I wonder how many men she needed to serve to buy herself some kind of shack. She probably walks through our neighborhood on purpose to show that everything is supposedly fine with her.
— You know, she doesn’t have a shack, — the listeners disappointed the woman. – Your ex-fiancee bought herself a real palace. Have you seen the new house? There are two apartments on one floor. She has a place there. And there is a place in the underground parking. We heard that she had a father abroad who left her a huge inheritance.
At these words, the mother-in-law jumped:
— It can’t be! What is she going to do with such money?! She has neither brains nor imagination! Where is Slavik?
And Slavik has been disappearing lately in entertainment and drinking establishments, where he felt understood and loved. However, as long as he had money with him. As soon as his resources ran out, the man was quietly put outside, and he went home to sleep most of the day.
The mother found her son in his room, where Slava was looking out of the window with a gloomy look and muttering something through his teeth.
— Why are you sitting all rumpled? – the woman attacked him. – Take a shower, wash up. We need to get Lana back! She’s raising our blood and flesh.
— Ma! What are you doing? – Slava didn’t understand. – It feels like you’re drunk, not me. What kind of fright do I need to return Lana? And why did you suddenly call her by her first name? There was no such thing from birth…
The mother-in-law rolled her eyes:
— Can’t I change my opinion about a person?
«No, you can’t,» the son grinned. «At least you have to have a very good reason for this to happen. You’d better tell me what you want to get if Lana returns to me?
The mother realized that there was no point in hiding it, and told about the inheritance.
— You gave her a son. And she should be grateful for that. Let him share it with us. We’re her only family! – she insisted, and Slava once again obeyed his mother’s will.
When he appeared near Lana’s house, she didn’t even listen to him and sent him on his way.
— Did Mommy send it again? Can you make any decision without her participation? The woman said mockingly.
And Slava answered seriously:
— I married you! Moreover, without her participation!
«And that’s why she took revenge on me,» Lana grinned. – Let’s do this: you don’t bother my eyes anymore and don’t fool my head. We’ve been divorced for a long time. You don’t and can’t have any complaints about me. I didn’t take a penny from you even in the most difficult times. And you haven’t seen your son for almost a year after his birth. So, draw your own conclusions.
Slava did not return with a salty slurp. And from that day I started drinking at home. He brought alcohol home and got drunk there while his parents went about their business. To all his mother ‘s reproaches he answered the same thing:
— What did you want? I brought it myself, so get it.
Lana, who decided to go abroad for the first time to see the house left to her by her father, met the architect Alex, who was ten years older than her. He immediately found a common language with little Yefim. And after a couple of years of continuous communication, he made a marriage proposal to Lana. The lovers celebrated a noisy wedding. And Alex’s parents were proud of their daughter-in-law.
— It is such a rarity when intelligence, beauty and decency are combined in one person! Alex was lucky to meet such a diamond as Lana.
Checking Alex’s feelings, Lana did not talk about the inheritance until the last moment. When her husband heard about her Austrian father, he just shrugged his shoulders.
— It doesn’t matter. The main thing for me is that thanks to him I met you and Fima. I didn’t just sit there either. I have my own house and cottage design company. So, even without your inheritance, we will not remain without a piece of bread.