Three-year-old Alyonka happily ran out to meet her grandmother Katya, who came to pick her up from kindergarten.
– My granny! Where’s Mom? They’ve already taken everyone away!
– Mom has left, Alyonushka, but she will come soon.
Grandma wiped away a tear. What could she say to her granddaughter? That her daughter Tatiana, Alyonka’s mother, ran away with her lover, forgetting about the girl? Katerina Vasilyevna only threw up her hands when she heard the indignant voice of the teacher in the phone, who scolded her for forgetting the child. From that day on, Tatiana was not heard of, not a ghost.
Only six months later, my grandmother received a letter in which Tatiana described how well she had settled in the capital and when it would be even better, she would take Alyonka to her. She didn’t apologize, didn’t make excuses, didn’t ask how they were doing, nothing at all. There was no return address either.
So Alyonka grew up with her grandparents. The old people raised their granddaughter on their pension, brought her up as best they could. Alyonka, cheerful, sociable, always tried to help grandma and had not asked for a long time when her mother would arrive. She just forgot it.
Tatiana showed up when Alyona turned 10 years old. She arrived dressed up, happy with life. Katerina only threw up her hands when she saw her on the threshold, went to call her husband, but he did not want to see the prodigal daughter and demanded to tell her to get out of his house.
– Oh, Mom, well, Dad, as always, is in his repertoire, – Tatiana said indifferently.
– And where is Alyona?
– At school. He’ll be here soon.
– Well, at least pour some tea. I just got off the train, I’m dog tired. I’m fine,” she began, as if not noticing her mother’s silence, “I’m married. I live with my husband and his daughter, she is the same age as Alyonka. Don’t think, I wanted to take her to me, but my husband is against it. What can I do? I myself live on everything ready-made. I don’t invest a ruble. How can I bring him a freeloader?
“So your daughter is a freeloader?” And he’s not?
– Of course. Mom, you just don’t know the rhythm of life. Sveta, the daughter of her husband, does not have a single free minute. Clubs, school, tutors. She already speaks two languages, can you imagine?
– You’d better be so proud of your daughter.
– What should she be proud of? She’s ordinary. No makings. Probably, she took after her wayward father. Yes, she can’t compare with Sveta at all.
–You’re shameless, Tatiana,” Katerina began, and suddenly, hearing a rustle at the door, she turned around.
Alyonka was standing on the threshold. She stared at the well-groomed, elegant woman with all her eyes and did not believe that it was her mother. And she also heard her last words and understood their meaning perfectly.
– My daughter, how you have grown! – Tatiana looked at Alyona and got up to hug her, but the girl, turning around abruptly, rushed away and sat by the river until evening, throwing pebbles into the water.
Granny found her here. She quietly approached, sat down next to her and hugged the girl, sighing heavily. Both were silent for a long time, then Katerina said:
– Let’s go home, granddaughter. We have to cook dinner.
– I won’t go while she’s there.
“She’s gone…” the old woman sighed again. – I told them not to wait any longer.
– Then let’s go. Granny, I’m so hungry.
Again, one year followed another. Alyonka was in a hurry to grow up to help, to please her old people. But I didn’t have time. The grandfather died first.
Lonely grandmother and granddaughter stood at his grave, crying, hugging each other, and their return to the deserted house was bitter. And two years later, my grandmother died.
Seventeen-year-old Alyona sobbed, burying her face in the pillow, but Katerina could no longer come and comfort her granddaughter, Alyona would never hear her gentle voice again, feel the soft touch of warm hands.
The neighbors helped the unfortunate girl with the funeral, but Tatiana did not appear, did not say goodbye to either her father or mother.
A year has passed. Alyonka closed the house she inherited, asked the neighbors to look after him, and went to the city, studying at a technical school.
Alyona studied diligently, comprehending the culinary art and hoping that one day she would be able to break out into people. And she really needed that. Alyonka was the poorest of all the students. She wore old, badly worn things that her grandmother had once bought her, starved because she simply could not buy food for herself and one day, crossing the road, she simply fainted, falling under the wheels of a car.
The girl who jumped out of there looked at Alyona in fright, helped her to get up and sat her in her car.
– Well, how you scared me! I thought it was me who hit you. Are you sick?
– No, it’s all right. – The darkness in front of Alyona’s eyes parted, and she saw a pretty face of her age in front of her.
– My name is Sveta, and we will go to my place now and put you in order. I don’t like the way you look at all.
– No, don’t. Everything is already fine.
– Don’t argue. I am, after all, a future medic.
After 10 minutes Sveta and Alyona drove up to the big house. A smiling woman who seemed familiar to Alyona came out to meet them:
– Svetochka, where have you been for so long? I’ve already had lunch ready for a long time. Dad is waiting, let’s go quickly.
The woman did not pay any attention to Alyona. Her figure was too pathetic.
– I’m coming, Mom, – Sveta answered and led her guest after the departed woman.
They entered a beautifully decorated room, where a man who had begun to turn gray was sitting at a covered table. At the sight of a strange girl, he got up and politely invited her to the table.
Sveta told about her strange acquaintance with Alyona, and Ivan Nikolaevich shook his head, correctly assuming that the girl was simply malnourished. Strong thinness and shadows under the eyes frankly told him about it.
At this time, Sveta’s mother came and began to put food on plates. Alyona ate without looking up, but no matter how much she tried not to hurry, she couldn’t do anything, and she emptied the plate much faster than the others.
– Tatiana, offer our guest supplements. Alyona felt like an electric shock. Tatiana! That’s it! It’s her mother! Only now did she recognize her and, accepting the plate, said softly:
– Thank you, Mom! Tatiana dropped a carafe of water and it hit the floor and shattered.
The woman turned very pale, and then looked at the girl sitting in front of her and whispered with dead lips:
– Alyona? Are you Alyona?!
Ivan got up from his seat:
– Tanya?! What’s happening? How can this girl be your daughter? You said she died a long time ago, in childhood…
– No, Ivan Nikolaevich, as you can see, I’m alive. And all thanks to my grandparents, they raised me. I won’t tell you how we lived.
–Don’t, girl,” Ivan Nikolaevich said. – I can see everything perfectly well myself. Come on, Tatiana, let’s talk. And you, young ladies, chat here.
– How dare you lie to me for so many years, Tatiana? What kind of mother are you that you abandoned your child? What kind of woman are you?! You’re a real bitch! Look at your daughter! It was you who brought her to such a state!
Tatiana cried without saying a word. But in her tears there was pity not for the abandoned girl, but for herself, because she understood that her kind and noble husband would never forgive her for what she had done.
Tatiana wanted to arrange her personal life so much, she was in such a hurry to enjoy life that she did not remember about the baby she left in the village. Once she went to the city with her lover, but there, accidentally meeting Ivan, she realized that only with him she could be happy.
At that time, he was left without a wife, with a little daughter in his arms and suffered a lot, longing for his beloved wife. Tanya came to him as a nanny, quickly managed to gain the trust and love of baby Sveta, and through her she got closer to Ivan himself.
That’s when she told him that she had also suffered a tragedy, lost her little daughter.
– You see, Vanechka, she died right in my arms. She had a weak heart. You can’t imagine how heartbroken I was, how I wept over her grave. It was only when I met Svetochka that I realized that I could give her my love and care as my own daughter.
And Ivan believed her, felt sorry for her, took her into the house and let her into his heart. Therefore, Tatiana lived happily ever after all these years. Sveta didn’t give her much trouble. Always busy in various circles, Sveta appeared at home with her father, a professor of medicine, only in the evening.
When I grew up, I went to the preparation courses for studying at the medical Institute. Ivan was also constantly busy, and Tatiana was left to herself.
Of course, she did not like the light, but she endured and, smiling, caressed the girl, because she was the guarantor of her personal well-being. Ivan was older than Tatiana, and she was looking forward to the time when Sveta would get married and leave, and her husband, with his poor health, was unlikely to last long. And then Tatiana will be free.
Her plans did not include a meeting with her own daughter at all, and it had to happen! Tatiana could not hide her tears of disappointment, but Ivan shouted at his wife again and demanded that she immediately go out and talk to Alyona, offering her to stay with them.
When they went out into the living room, they saw a sad Svetlana sitting at the table and drawing something with a spoon on her plate.
– And where is Alyona? Ivan asked.
“She’s gone, Dad. She thanked me for everything and left. She said that she did not want to interfere with her mother’s happiness and was not going to demand anything from her. She says I’ve lived without her for so many years and I’ll live again.
Tatiana swallowed a heavy lump that rose to her throat and looked guiltily at her husband. Ivan turned away from her and went into his office, slamming the door in his heart.
And Alyona returned to her dorm and began to pack her things to go to her native village and never come back here again.
Seven years have passed. Alyona worked in the school cafeteria, having graduated from her college in absentia. She was married to a local agronomist and raised a little daughter, whom she named after her grandmother – Katerina.
They did not live richly, but quite happily. Husband Peter was kind and caring, loved both his wife and daughter, tried to please them, and they paid him the same.
One evening there was a knock at Alyona’s house. Peter opened it and saw on the threshold a woman who looked very much like a beggar. She looked at him and asked if her daughter Alyona lived here.
Peter knew everything about his wife and silently stepped aside, letting her mother into the house. Suddenly Tatiana was taken aback: her baby ran out to meet her, only not an adult, but a little one, such as she had left her once. The girl looked at the strange aunt with her huge eyes, smiled at her and climbed into her father’s arms. Peter said, turning to Katyusha:
– Come on, daughter, help me with the housework, – and went out with her. Tatiana looked after them and suddenly heard Alyona’s voice:
– Well, hello, Mom. Isn’t it too late for you to remember about me.
– I’m sorry, daughter, – for the first time in her life, Tatiana sincerely addressed her. “I came to ask your forgiveness for everything. As you can see, life has already punished me. Sveta got married and went to live in Hungary, she also took her father there. They sold the house and I didn’t get anything. I’ve been wandering around the apartments for several years and now I couldn’t stand it. Do you want to live together? I’ll help raise my granddaughter.
– No, I don’t want to. Now I’ll cover dinner, feed you like you once fed me, and then I’ll call you a taxi. You’re still young, Mom, and you’ll be able to build your life.
– I don’t have money for a taxi. And I have nowhere to live.
– Don’t worry, I’ll give you the money. But I’m sorry, I don’t want to see you here anymore. It will be easier for you to get a job in the city.
– Are you crazy? I can’t do anything.
“I’m sorry, Mom, but I won’t change my word. Yes, alas, I have not considered you a mother for a long time.
Half an hour later, Tatiana left. And six months later, Alyona came with her daughter to the children’s polyclinic, it was necessary to get a preventive vaccination. There she saw Tatiana – a woman was washing the floor in the corridor.
Alyona’s heart sank, and she stepped up to her mother to make peace, to say that she had forgiven her. But Tatiana looked at her daughter with such anger that she froze in place.
And the mother took a bucket and a mop and walked away, not looking back at the one she was supposed to love all her life….