Юлия Добровольская

По образованию инженер-строитель, по натуре художник. Родилась на крайнем Севере, на одном из островов архипелага ГУЛАГ, где встретились мои родители. С 1988 года живу в Минске. Пишу со школы, издаюсь с 2006-го (издано семь книг). Роман «Любовники» вышел в московском издательстве одновременно с одноимённым фильмом по моему сценарию («Пирамида», Москва). В 2017 году роман переведён на английский язык.

The Lovers






“Then why did you…” Dina did not know how to respond.

“Because!” Vera cut her off. “Because I wanted to get married, to be like everyone else… To have a husband and not to live in student housing.” She was slowly calming down, as if she had let off steam. “He courted me nicely, flowers, restaurants, all that jazz… When I told him that I was pregnant, he said that he didn’t actually want to get married. Well, I scared him a little. We got registered. Then he brought me to his two-room Khrushchyovka, with his mother, father, and brother living there. They all worked at the factory, drank, and fought among themselves. My first girl was born sickly, she would cry all night long… His dad started kicking us out… His mother managed to get a three-room apartment, which they exchanged straight away, and put us in a studio at the edge of town… Then my second one was born… Anxious, the little shit! Cried even more than the first, day and night, day and night. Well, why wouldn’t he be nervous if his Mom waits every evening to see if his dad will come home or not? If he’ll be drunk or sober?”

“When you dragged him to the Registry Office, didn’t you know whom you were dealing with? Why did you have a second baby? Why didn’t you leave? Especially if he hit you…”

“Where would I go? On the street?Or back to my home village? I thought that if I had a second child, he might settle down, the jerk… And if not, then at least we would get a two-room apartment and then I could swap it and leave… Ha! Well, we got nothing. The blasted perestroika came and ruined everything. Listen, where’s your toilet?”

Dina showed her and turned on the light. Vera again reacted in her usual manner. “Holy crap!Yeah, not a bad place to live. Clean and warm…”

Dina did not say anything.


“All right, Turbina,” Vera said when she had returned from the bathroom and sat down, “Don’t worry about it! I’ll live. Why aren’t you having any kids? Three rooms, plenty of space.”

“There are four rooms. Which has nothing to do with having chil-dren.”

“Four!” Vera whistled and uttered another inappropriate phrase. “Maybe if you pop out another child or two, he’ll divorce that woman and marry you.”

“Vera, what are you talking about? I don’t understand how you can have children for commercial reasons! Just so you can get a larger apartment! Or to get a stamp in your passport. They’re not puppies! Even puppies need love and care… A she-wolf doesn’t have pups until the den is ready… And you’re living in a one-room apartment with a drunk! Don’t you feel sorry for your children? I can’t understand you! What you’re condemning your children to.”

“They’ll be fine…” Vera was picking crumbs off her plate after she had eaten almost half the cake. “I had to put up with a lot when I was child. And I’m fine. Alive, as you can see.”

“You’re saying such awful things. Are you trying to take your difficult childhood out on your own children? I wouldn’t wish that on my worst enemy.”

“Oh, like you can talk to me about morals, Turbina!” Vera spoke languidly and coolly. “You should work your way up from a mistress to a proper wife first, and then lecture me about morality. Or per-haps,” she interrupted herself, “perhaps it’s more interesting this way? Valya and I dragged our guys to the Registry Office straight away… They were friends, so all four of us got married. We celebrated our weddings together, and gave birth at the same time. We got knocked up even before the wedding. But then… everything went off the rails. They both liked to party, and used to cover for each other. Assholes! Valya wanted to get a divorce but I urged her against it. I told her, have a second baby, maybe he’ll settle down then.”

“Did he settle down?”

“As if!Settled down, sure… He picked her up from the maternity hospital and immediately went on a bender for a week. While she had mastitis! I dragged my child over to visit her, I brought her food and drink… We used to live near each other, only one house away. I nicked stuff from the in-laws’ fridge…”

“I don’t understand why you would both cling to them and more-over, have children with them?”

“Yeah, you wouldn’t understand. You’ve got it easy.” Vera be-came angry again.“Yeesh. A mistress and yet he’s faithful! And he doesn’t drink? And he’s never hit you, not even once?”


“You can’t get my kids into the house,” said Vera. “Of course, what’s there to see at home? Dad drunk and Mom in tears.”

“So why did you decide to have a third?” Dina did not even know why she asked.

“To show Valya!” Vera announced.

Dina was not expecting this answer. She was quite tired of all this by now. She had trouble believing that what was happening could be real, and Vera’s truths seemed like an insane trick.

“Valya left her husband after their second child was born. They gave her a room in some stinking sharehouse. She can’t get any child support from her man, so she works overtime at her job, plus cleans the student dorms. She keeps trying to get me to leave my asshole. But I said, ….you! I’ll have a third and then the apartment is mine! Listen,” she suddenly changed topics, “do you live here without resi-dency registration? If you’re not married?”

“I’m registered.”


“As a subletter.”

“Well, f…., that’s clever! But how does that work… do you have rights to some of the property? What about your son?Is he registered here? Whose surname is he under?”

“My God, Vera. We’re in a completely different situation.” She wanted Vera to leave as soon as possible, and take this strange world with her, with its bizarre principles and disgusting rules, with its bra-zen aggression and the desire to steamroll anything that got in its way, anything different. “We don’t split the meters. We don’t split anything! We pool things together. Do you understand?”

“Well, of course, how can we simple beings understand your higher mathematics!”

“All right, sorry.I’m tired of defending myself, and I don’t understand why I’m doing it. How old is your youngest?”

“Why do you care?”

Dina repeated the question calmly.

“He’s eight, all right? So?”

“I have lots of good boys’ clothing. Gosha is growing really quickly and he doesn’t wear them out… I’ve got nobody to give them to. Our friends have a girl and their youngest is still a baby. You should take them.”

“I see!” Vera grimaced. “The luxurious cast-offs of an illegal bastard… All right… We’re not too proud…”

Dina did not understand Vera’s meaning at first. When she pro-cessed the words, she said calmly, “I could throw you out… I should throw you out. But I feel sorry for you and even more sorry for your children. Come, you can take the clothes and go. I don’t want to see you or listen to you any longer.”

Dina gave her the clothes, which she had lying ready for such a situation.

As she was getting dressed in the hallway, Vera suddenly said, “Do you remember that letter?”

“What letter?” Dina didn’t immediately comprehend which letter Vera was referring to.

“The letter that was delivered for you, when you went to visit your relatives.”

“Oh… And?”

“I had read it.”

“As if I hadn’t guessed.” Dina coolly waited for one thing: for the door to close behind this miserable woman, whom she could not help even if she had wanted to.

“It,” Vera swore again, “it contained such a proclamation of love that would decorate any family archive!” She was breathing heavily as she struggled with the zipper on her boot. “I nearly died when I read it. Yet I tore it up for some reason. Sorry.” She spoke harshly, without a glimmer of remorse.

“God will forgive you. Do you want money for a taxi? It’s hard for you, and a long way.”

“Sure,” said Vera.

Dina took out a fiver and handed it to Vera.

“Why are you being so nice, Turbina?”

“Because I feel like it.”

“Well, give me another ten then!” Vera stared back as a challenge.

Dina opened her wallet again and took out another two fivers.


“Such a saint.” Vera smiled crookedly but did not say anything else. She took the money, picked up her bags, and left without saying goodbye.



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