Vladislav stood alone near the nearly buried grave, longing clutching his heart. Everyone who had attended the funeral and the burial of his wife, Elvira, had already slowly gone away, but Vladislav could not bring himself to take his eyes off the small mound of Earth inside the freshly painted fence with a small temporary monument covered solidly with wreaths. Here and there, from the ribbons around the wreaths were the words Love, remembrance, dear Daughter, beloved Spouse. Thoughts were confused, interrupting each other and disappearing unfinished. Vladislav sat down on the bench, sat at his wife’s grave.
Why is it so, Aleshko? Why? Why have you left me? How can I wake up alone and fall asleep without you? How can I survive the day without hearing your lively, infectious laughter?
Why, your caressing hands will never touch my hair, and never again will you embrace me with a smile, relieving me of all my sorrows and hardships. It’s not right, Aleshka. You shouldn’t have left before I did. The man lowered his face into his hands and wept bitterly, just like when he was a child, when he lost his mother. Gladyslav and Elvira met back in the Institute, where at first sight they felt they were one.
They met in the Institute canteen, found themselves at the same table, and never parted again. After College they had a wedding, a cheap student wedding, but noisy and fun. The couple got a small room in the dormitory of the company where they were placed after graduation. But the newlyweds were overjoyed because they found each other from the start, not by trial and error. It was just a kind of fate that decided to take a shortcut to happiness.
Elia busied herself vigorously with arranging things, and Slava worked, but he worked hard and diligently and soon achieved considerable success. It had become customary in their family that Slava was the breadwinner and Ilia was the hearth of home. The husband himself insisted on this arrangement. It was important for him to come home to a cozy, newly received flat where everything was shining with cleanliness, and there was always a table laid with lunch and dinner prepared by the caring hands of his wife, where he was always met at the threshold by the beautifully dressed Elia. She helped him take off his coat.
They sat at the beautifully laid table. His wife questioned him about the day, and he relaxed completely, surrendering himself to the power of warmth and love. He never said no to his wife. He bought expensive jewelry and made nice gifts. Fortunately, at work a man has reached a high position in what he has helped by the rear arranged by caring wife.
Vladislav was confident in his wife, as in no one else. Their family served as a model of loyalty and family welfare. Even when there were long business trips where Ilia could not go with him, the man did not doubt in his wife at all. She would call her husband several times a day, reminding him what to eat, advising him on what to wear to a particular event. Such touching care amused the man.
A little Aleshka. Well, it’s funny, really. I’m a grown up man. I can take care of myself somehow. What a grown up man?
Laughed. Ilia, do you remember the pictures you brought from your last business trip? My grown up husband is sitting at the table among serious people, and different colored socks are peeking out from under his trousers. At times like this, Vladislav was embarrassed to make excuses. Well, that’s enough.
Once in the dark, he got dressed and that you cannot forget. The only thing that really upset the man was the fact that he and his wife did not have children. Things weren’t working out. They visited all kinds of specialized clinics, but with no results. Then Vladislav offered his wife to take a child from the infant home, but suddenly they always meet.
Elvira abruptly refused. Why? Elia? Said her husband in amazement. They’re the same children.
Little helpless in need of parental love and tenderness. Even more needy, they were unlucky from birth. No, the wife stubbornly refused. I only want our baby. I will not accept someone else’s.
The child must have your and my traits of appearance and character. I must see it as an extension of you and me. I won’t agree to anything else. His wife’s categorical refusal surprised Vladislav, but he accepted it and has never proposed adoption again. Now the couple lived, devoting all their love and attention only to each other.
Everything would have been fine, but trouble came from where they weren’t expecting it. Navarro was diagnosed with a malignant tumor, unfortunately, the last stage of which had been neglected and could not be surgically removed. It was as if life had come to a halt for Vladislav. He no longer noticed what was happening around him. At work, in the city, in the world, his sick wife became the center of the universe.
Trusting no one to take care of Elia, the man took a long vacation from work. How many doorsteps Vladislav knocked down during these months, trying to find a remedy for her condition, and how many times he persuaded, begged, and insisted Ilvira to agree to the surgery. Ilya, honey, I found a hospital in Germany that is willing to do the surgery. Let’s go, Ellie, you and I have a small chance. No need, smiled his wife, tiredly.
Be patient. I do not have much time left. It’s a pity to leave you alone. It’s such a non, self sufficient, unadaptable one. At such moments, lattice laugh turned away from his wife so that she could not see the tears running down his face.
One day the man was reading aloud an old novel sitting beside his wife’s bed, and he somehow imperceptibly fell asleep. Suddenly he woke up in a cold sweat and grabbed Elliot’s hand. Elliot, Darling, I suddenly dreamed that you were gone. He tried to smile with trembling lips. Elia did not answer.
She had already left him quietly in her sleep. It was as if snoozing. He caught her last breath. Now Vladislav wept bitterly, sitting by Elia’s grave, and there was no way he could bring himself to go home. She would stay here underground, his kind and sweet Aleshka, his beloved wife who had devoted herself to his care.
Finally the man got up heavily and slowly walked towards the house, turning around every now and then and looking for a fresh grave. At home it was empty and cold, just as at heart, without undressing, Gladyslav went into a bedroom and lay down on the side of his wife with his shoes on and live for a long time, breathing in such a beloved smell. It became quite dark. He sat down on the bed, turned on the nightlight, and took a framed photo in his hands. How cheerful and funny they were here.
None of them had thoughts of death. As Wollen said in The Master and Margarita, human beings are mortal, but that’s all right. The bad thing is that they are sometimes suddenly mortal. Now these words cannot have expressed his condition better. He had never imagined that he would lose his beloved wife so soon.
Suddenly his fingers felt some incomprehensible thickening in the frame. The man took the frame apart, removed the glass, and saw another picture behind theirs. The old photo showed an unfamiliar baby. Understanding nothing, Ladislav turned the photo over and read a mysterious inscription. Vitali, Vladislavovic and the date.
No more explanations. The man spent a long time turning the photo in his hands, trying to understand what it all meant while the child’s patronomic was his own. Why the date when they had already been married for several years, and why, after all, did his wife keep the picture and also to keep it a secret from her husband? The most unbelievable suspicions began to come to mind. Impatient, Vladislav took off his outerwear and went to his wife’s dressing table.
Pulling out numerous drawers, he came across a stack of letters. It was Elvira’s correspondence with her childhood friend from out of town, Veronica. Picking up the last letter and running through the Greetings and gossip. The man, chilling with an unpleasant premonition, read, Elia. I visited Vitalik so grown up in two months, while I haven’t seen him.
And what a beautiful boy. You should see how he squints funny, just like his father. Vladislav’s heart quickened, squinting like his father, he had a habit of squinting his eyes when he talked, too. It couldn’t be. He began to open all the letters in a row and read from the first to the last word.
Lines and letters ran before his eyes and formed a definite picture. But what was it? It was something unheard of vile and shameful disgraceful to his beloved good Elia, whose decency he had never doubted. It turned out that one of his long business trips. His wife had carried and given birth to a child, his son, and gave up the baby at the maternity hospital, signing the necessary papers.
It turned out that the boy was born with a congenital heart defect, and the doctors advised to leave the newborn. Convinced the boy would not live long, Vladislav grabbed his head and groaned. What have you done, Elia? Why didn’t you tell me everything? This is our son.
How could you do this? We betrayed the baby by abandoning him. Unable to cope with the grief that overwhelmed him, the man went into the kitchen, poured himself a glass of vodka, and drank in a gulp. And so he sat in the kitchen, drinking and not getting drunk without turning on the light until morning came. At the first rays of the Sun, Vladislav got up, called a taxi, and went to the hometown of his late wife to that very friend Veronica, a sleepy Veronica opened the door to Vladislav, who pressed the Bell button and wouldn’t let go of his finger.
Slava. She was frightened by the man’s disheveled appearance. What is the matter with you? Why are you here? Why are you dressed like that?