That day Oleg was happier than ever: Albina finally accepted his courtship and agreed to a date. The slender beauty was inaccessible for a long time and only his persistence won her heart.
Oleg constantly made some surprises for her, gave gifts, sent flowers. Albina graciously accepted all the signs of attention, but she always responded to requests for a meeting:
– I can’t do it today, let’s do it another time!
And Oleg waited. Patiently and stubbornly.
– Son, the mother said to the guy, – well, isn’t it time for you to think about your wife? After all, he is no longer a boy, he recently turned 28. And you have your own business, and a good income. And you keep pulling.
– Mom, I’m waiting. The most beautiful, the most intelligent, the most beloved.
«You’re a fool, son,» the mother shook her head, «you have to look for a kind, hardworking and loving one. That’s the only way happiness can be with such a person.
– Oh, come on, Mom! And don’t worry, I’ll bring you a daughter–in-law soon- you’ll be rocking.
– Yeah, that’s what I’m afraid of…
In general, Oleg lived separately from his mother, his apartment in the city center was new and modern. Maybe that’s why when he asked his mother to move in with him, she refused:
– What else did you invent! No, my son! Thank you for the invitation, but I will live out my life here. This is your father’s apartment, where we lived with his parents as a big friendly family. From here they all left, just like your dad. I want to die here too, remember that. No hospitals! It’s so nice here! And you were born and raised here. No, Olezhka. My whole life is within these walls.
Memories, nostalgia, warmth and kindness. I’m the boss here. And there, at your place, I’ll be a hanger-on, always getting in the way.
– Well, what are you saying, Mom? Am I going to let anyone hurt you?
«It doesn’t matter, son,» Tamara smiled. – Do you think why I didn’t let you decorate everything here in a new way? Because every thing is dear to me. This is a real museum of my life. I like it here.
And Oleg retreated from his mother, but he constantly called her and came several times a week, brought food, household chemicals, when it was necessary, accompanied her to the market or to the store. And now, after visiting her, he hurried home to have time to clean up before meeting with Albina.
Oleg said goodbye to his mother and, without waiting for the elevator, ran down the stairs. On one of the flights, he could not resist and turned over a bucket of water, which rattled and rolled down the stairs. Oleg barely restrained himself from falling and began to apologize to a woman in an old faded robe and scarf who was wringing out a rag.
«I’m sorry, Auntie, I didn’t mean to.
She straightened up wearily, wiped her forehead with her hand and looked at Oleg. He was embarrassed and blushed: in front of him was a young girl who was no more than twenty years old. She could have been called beautiful, if not for the curved scar that ran across her cheek from her temple to the corner of her lips.
–Nothing, uncle,» she grinned. – No need to apologize. Get down carefully, it’s slippery.
Oleg muttered words of regret again and hurried away from the awkward situation. Until he got home, he thought about this girl who had hooked him with something. But the meeting with Albina overshadowed everything, and he forgot about the unpleasant adventure.
Affectionate gentle Albina drove Oleg crazy, he felt good with her, and he hurried the girl with the wedding. Now she often stayed the night with him, giving him nights of love, and bewitching him more and more with her beauty. For this, he forgave her everything: her inability to cook, and her unwillingness to take care of the house.
– Do you decide, dear, do you need a cleaner and a cook or me?
– Of course you are. I just thought that one thing doesn’t interfere with the other. I really missed a normal home-cooked meal.
– Fine, I know one restaurant, it’s called «At home». They also have delivery. What do you want to order?
– Borscht, dear. Simple borscht. And pancakes with different fillings.
– Ugh, it’s not healthy food. Although, as you know…
Oleg sighed and thought more and more often that there is no perfection in this world. One Sunday his mother called him and asked him to come, and this angered Albina very much.
– I thought that we would spend this day together with you.
– Alya, well, I can’t refuse my mother. especially since she doesn’t ask me for anything so often.
– How many times have I asked you, don’t call me Alya. Am I some kind of collective farmer to you? I am Albina. Could you have already remembered, or do you like to upset me? There were tears in her voice and Oleg, embarrassed, kissed her on the nose.
«Oh, come on. You just woke up and now you’re going to clean yourself up for three hours. That’s enough time for me to check on my mom, and then I’ll come back and you and I will go somewhere. Ok?
– Okay, – Albina pouted sweetly and reached out to Oleg for a kiss.
Only half an hour later he was able to free himself from her embrace and hurried to the car, leaving a smiling Albina stretching in bed.
As soon as Oleg crossed the threshold of his mother’s apartment, he felt incredible aromas coming from the kitchen. Oh, Mommy! She always cooked just divinely and now she was waiting for him to treat him to something delicious.
– Mom, I’m home! – he shouted out of habit and saw that she was coming out of the kitchen to him.
Oleg, smiling, took a step towards her and froze in perplexity: his mother’s right hand was in a cast from the fingers almost to the shoulder and was held on a neck scarf holding her.
– Mom, Mom! What happened? How are you? Mom!!! Why didn’t you call me?
– Hello, son! I called. Only a nice girl picked up the phone and said that you were busy and you didn’t need to be disturbed. Then I tried to call a few more times, but you were always busy or the call was reset. And one day she picked up the phone again and said you were asleep. I didn’t bother you any more, I hoped that you would remember me yourself.
– Mom, honey, I’m sorry, I’ll figure it out. When was that?
– A month ago…
– Mom, what are you saying? I thought I was with you recently…
– No, my son, you’ve been with me for a long time…
– How so… Didn’t I notice it myself??? Mommy, I’m sorry… But how? How did you break your arm? And how has she lived all this time?! Without help???
– Well, why without help? I have an assistant, Dasha. Such a bright little man. That’s actually why I asked you to come. She doesn’t charge anything for her help. He just smiles and sometimes spends the evening with me. We watch TV together, talk.
Dasha says that such communication is better for her than any reward. But that’s not right. By the way, let’s go to the kitchen, Dasha has prepared so many things.
Oleg was sitting at the table and felt that the piece did not go down his throat, how could he do this to his mother? And Albina??? What is it???
– Why don’t you eat? Try it, Dashenka cooks so delicious. She hasn’t left me since the first day. And she took me to the hospital.
– Where does she live? In which apartment?
– Two floors below.
– I’ll go to her. Oleg fell silent and suddenly, unable to withstand the overwhelming feelings of shame and remorse, hugged her knees, burying his face in them. She stroked his trembling back, and softly soothed him as in childhood.
Two hours later Oleg said goodbye to his mother and went down to the apartment where Dasha lived. His call was answered by a girl in whom he immediately recognized the same cleaner with a scar on her face.
– Are you Dasha? Oleg asked, feeling timid and confused again.
– Yes, I am. Come in, I recognized you.
Dasha lived very poorly. But the apartment was perfectly clean and smelled of something baked.
– Dasha, I came by to thank you for my mom. She told me everything, and I don’t understand why you don’t want to take money for your services. You obviously need them… the girl grinned and suddenly switched to – you:
– I see. So you are Aunt Toma’s son. Oleg, if I’m not mistaken… Well, Oleg, not everything in this world is measured by money. Believe me, I know about it firsthand. I help Aunt Tom just like that, from the bottom of my heart, if you want. Or maybe this is how I try to make amends to a person who is no longer there. However, you don’t need to know about it. And… sorry, I have things to do… You probably have one too… come on, I’ll walk you out…
– Goodbye, Oleg. And take care of your mom…
Completely upset, Oleg returned home. Albina met him with a displeased look: she had already managed to get ready and did not understand why Oleg was delayed.
«Well, mi–i-ily,» she drawled, «you promised that we’d go somewhere-and–them.»…
– Albina, I’m not in the mood at all and also, I want to talk to you. My mom tried to call me many times, trouble happened to her, and you didn’t even deign to tell me about her call.
– Oh! – Albina covered her mouth with a beautiful narrow palm. «I forgot. I wanted to, honestly, but I forgot. Olezhenka, darling, don’t be angry, please forgive me! I hope there’s nothing serious there?
For an hour Albina hung around Oleg and in the end she managed to get forgiveness from him. And then they still went for a walk around the city. Stopping at the poster, Albina was choosing which movie to go to when she suddenly felt someone tugging at her coat sleeve. She turned around and wrinkled her nose in disgust: in front of her stood a little beggar, a girl of about 5 years old.
– Auntie, do you have any money? A little, just for a bun…
–Get out of here, dirty,» Albina screamed, pulling out her sleeve and noticing with horror the prints of children’s fingers on the white fabric. – You ruined my coat, you trash!
The girl’s eyes widened, she stepped back and wanted to turn around and run away, but ran into Oleg, who immediately crouched down in front of the girl. She covered her face with her hands in fright, as if expecting a blow and burst into tears.
– Well, well, stop it! No one will scold you! What’s your name?
– Yu-yu-yulk-a-a … – the girl said, sobbing and shuddering.
– And I’m Oleg. Do you, Julia, want to eat?
– Come on, I’ll feed you.
«Don’t you fight?»
– No, what are you!
– Ole-e-eg! What did you come up with??? – outraged by everything that was happening, Albina flew at him like a kite. – Are you going to feed this beggar??? No way!!! Oleg straightened up.
– Now we will go together and feed this girl, and then we will buy her groceries and take her home.
– Are you a volunteer? Don’t even think about it, okay??? I’m not going anywhere with you!!! If you want, give her a hundred rubles and let her go!
– Albina, how can you??? – Oleg took the girl by the hand, heading to the fast food tent:
– Come on, Julia, what are you going to eat?
– Pie… with cabbage…
Oleg bought a dozen pies, several cutlets and sausages in dough and juice. All this, packed in a bag, he handed to the girl, and he turned to the seller to pay. When Oleg left the tent, he saw that the girl was nowhere to be found, but Albina was standing next to him and looking at him expectantly.
– And where is Yulia? — he asked.
– She ran away. She really needs you. So what? If the charity is over for today, maybe you will pay attention to me? I’m cold, tired, and hungry.
– Okay, let’s go home.
– Noooo! We’re going to a restaurant, especially since I’ve already called and booked a table.
Oleg had no appetite at all, but Albina enjoyed the delicacies ordered and taught Oleg about life:
– Do you think you’ve done a good deed? But in fact, the brazen girl just took advantage of your weakness. These beggars are always very vicious people, they cannot be trusted and sympathized with, otherwise, they will just sit on their necks. In this life, everyone should achieve success on their own. Otherwise, whole crowds of beggars will hang around the streets, not wanting to work. So this toadstool is also sitting somewhere right now and laughing at you, shoving pies into her mouth with dirty fingers. Ugh! How disgusting and disgusting!
– Indeed, – Oleg remarked, – it’s disgusting and disgusting to hear this from you. He stood up and threw money on the table:
– Here, this is for dinner and a taxi for you. Yes, I almost forgot: go home… to yourself. I don’t want to see you anymore.
– Ole-e-eg! How dare you???? – Albina shouted something after him, but he did not listen to her, thinking about how a beautiful wrapper can hide rot and dirt.
He circled the area for a long time, hoping to meet Yulia, but the girl was nowhere to be found and, completely upset by the disgusting day, Oleg went home, where he immediately went to bed, hoping that everything would change tomorrow.
After parting with Albina, Oleg became the same. It was as if he had come out of a pink fog and was now breathing clean air again, and not the intoxicating aroma of expensive perfumes. Now he often visited his mother again and sometimes had dinner or lunch in the company of her and Dasha.
To Oleg’s surprise, Dasha turned out to be smart and well-read, it was interesting to talk to her and generally nice to be around. That’s just she didn’t know how to smile, only occasionally grinning. And Oleg has never heard her laugh.
One day Oleg, returning with her from the store where they went shopping, plucked up the courage and asked:
– Dash, where did you get such a scar?
– The memory of the failed groom.
– How is that?
«Do you really need to know that?»
– Yes, very much.
– Okay, then listen. I was born into a rich family, in fact, I am the heiress of a multimillion-dollar fortune and now.
– You? It can’t be! Oleg exclaimed, unable to restrain himself. – Then why do you earn money by mopping floors in entrances?
– My father had his own business. I’m his only daughter. When I was eight years old, my father was framed and put in prison. My mother and his business partner did it. They had been lovers for a long time and decided to get rid of Dad.
I do not know what really happened there, because for several years I lived with my grandmother, my father’s mother. She and I were very poor. Meanwhile, my mother was enjoying life with her new husband. But one day she remembered about me and came to take me with her to a rich life.
My father had died in prison by that time. My grandmother did not want me to live with my mother, but she managed to convince me, a fourteen-year-old teenager, that she would buy me everything and I would no longer need. I left, tempted by a beautiful life. I’ll never forgive myself for that.
At first everything was fine, I thought that mom loved me. But it turned out that my stepfather insisted on my moving. He needed a maid. Meanwhile, Mom got sick. I tried to help her, to be near her, but she suddenly began to drive me away.
You know, Oleg, it took me a while to realize that she was jealous of my stepfather. Out of spite, everything that belonged to me, she subscribed to him. Six months later she was gone. And then my stepfather sold the house, property and… me.
I was seventeen then, and that man was fifty–five. I hated him and was afraid of him. He was very violent. Only a month later I managed to escape. And I went to my grandmother. – Dasha sighed and asked Oleg: – Let’s sit down. It’s so hard to remember all this.
– Dasha… – Oleg said, stunned by her confession.
– Nothing, I’ll finish it. In general, I came to my grandmother on the day of the funeral and found her lying in a coffin. Like that. Her neighbors buried her with the money collected by the whole house. The millionaire’s mother left as a beggar. And I was the same. I sobbed, I struggled on her grave. But there is no turning back time.
One neighbor brought me documents – my grandmother signed off on me. Like this… Of course, I couldn’t live there. I sold the apartment, distributed my grandmother’s debts, and with the remaining money I bought a one-bedroom apartment in your mom’s house. By the way, she looks a lot like my grandma. – Dasha sighed and fell silent.
– And the stepfather? And that… that…
– Ah, my stepfather has been living abroad for a long time, I don’t even know where. I think he changed his name. And that… I saw it only once afterwards… I got pregnant from him, but I didn’t tell him. How he found out, I have no idea, maybe he saw it on the street or somewhere else. But when I gave birth and my daughter turned six months old, he reappeared. He asked about the baby, and I said it wasn’t his daughter.
– Don’t lie to me! You’re lying to me! You’ve never had a man but me! – out of anger, he grabbed the vase and hit the mirror, which shattered into pieces.
– Was! I cheated on you with everyone, got it! – I shouted, of course, not true. But he believed me, grabbed me by the hair and threw me against the wall. I was holding my baby in my arms and tried to dodge so as not to hurt her. At the same time, falling, she ripped open her cheek, but she still hurt her daughter’s hand near the elbow. He laughed when he saw my wound:
– No one will look at you anymore! Ugly!
The baby started crying, then he grabbed her and went out. I never saw them again. I searched, went to him, waited at the house, but I didn’t achieve anything.
– Dasha, what a terrible fate! You’re just starting to live… so young…
– No, Oleg… I’m old… It’s like I’m a hundred years old,» Dasha said seriously, swallowed hard and stood up. – Come on, Aunt Toma is waiting for us. – And when he got up, I stepped up to him and looked straight into his eyes: – I do not know why I told you all this. Maybe because I’m tired of carrying this pain inside me?
Oleg did not answer. He just put his arms around her, hugging her tightly. Only for a second Dasha lingered in his arms, and then she freed herself and quietly, with some bitterness in her voice, asked:
– Don’t ever do that again…
A month has passed. One day Oleg got a call from an army friend who had come to the city for a short time. Oleg was happy to meet him, and when he was returning home, he saw a screaming gang of guys. He came closer and noticed that the scoundrels were beating a child lying on the ground. He rushed to help, the hooligans fled, and the little girl was left lying in the dust. Oleg carefully lifted her up and gasped: it was Yulia.
– Yulka, Yulechka, how are you? Alive? What hurts? She got up and whispered softly:
– Uncle Ole-e-eg … — and then lost consciousness.
Five minutes later, Oleg took her to the hospital and did not leave until he was convinced that her life was not in danger.
«She’s exhausted, that’s why she’s weak. But don’t worry, we’ll treat the baby. By the way, who is she to you?
– Nobody. I found her on the street when the guys were beating her.
– Here are the parasites. Who only brings them up. Well, in that case, we will inform the police.
Oleg visited Yulia in the hospital for two weeks, then resolved the issue with the police, who could not find the girl’s relatives. And when Oleg asked if he could adopt her, they replied: only if he is married.
Oleg grabbed his head, even thought about Albina, but suddenly remembered Dasha and immediately went to her.
– Dasha, will you agree to a fictitious marriage with me? There is a girl, I want to adopt her, and for unmarried it is simply impossible.
Dasha looked at him carefully and, without asking a single question, nodded.
Oleg obtained permission to take the girl to him after discharge and introduced her to Dasha. Yulia was wary of her and was even scared when Dasha took her to the bathroom in the evening and suddenly screamed, kissing the girl’s wet cheeks.
Oleg looked in to them, not understanding what was the matter, and only gasped when he saw a long white scar near Yulia’s elbow.
Several years have passed. The fictitious marriage of Oleg and Dasha did not last even three days – it became the real thing. A DNA test confirmed that Dasha is Yulia’s mother, but they never found out how the girl ended up on the street. However, none of them wanted to even think about it, because they were so happy.
Dasha’s scar became almost invisible, Oleg himself found a plastic surgeon for her. And Dasha gave Oleg a little son for this, who diligently gave everyone a lot of joyful troubles.