Read Anna’s Story Part 1 here.
Anna’s Story Part 2 of 4
Through Anna’s drooping eyelids, the bus interior faded in and out. Nightmares disturbed her sleep of the bus never stopping and the bus stopping where it should not.
Valentina shook her shoulder one dawn morning. The landscape had turned to a green she had not known before. A flicker of hope warmed her, but faded just as quickly. They continued into a city. In the glow of the rising sun, grew buildings and neon lights flickering off after illuminating the night. The bus stopped on a narrow, un-swept street. Anna stood up, disoriented. Valentina locked their elbows together.
The two girls who had sat in the back of the bus exited first, and took off running. Three large men followed after them. Anna heard the screams, the sounds of heavy dropping onto pavement.
“Be still,” whispered Valentina into her ear. Anna was led into a dim building and up a narrow flight of stairs. A middle aged man pushed her toward a closet-sized room. Anna held onto Valentina with both her hands, frantic. The man shoved her so hard she skidded across the cement floor into the wall. Click and she was locked in: no windows, dark.
Anna quit counting the minutes pass. She thought of the smell of warm bread in the morning. Matushka used come home tired, and yet still brushed her long hair and helped braid it away from her face for the ovens. They would be waiting, her brothers and Matushka. They were waiting on her. She thought of the money never arriving. Her heart constricted and she felt warm tears slide down her cheeks.
Hours passed before the door clicked open and a three people entered the room. One walked to the center and pulled on a chain. All that time there had been a bare light bulb and she had laid there in darkness. A small sleeping pallet lay in one corner.
She stood up tall. “I want my passport back. I want to go home.”
The woman laughed bitterly. She moved her fingers against her palm indicating money and pointed at Anna. Then, she moved closer and cupped her hands around Anna’s narrow waist, nodding her head in approval. Anna darted for the open slit of the door. The young man to struck her across the face. Rising up she tried again only to be struck back. This went on until she could not summon strength to stand again.
Lying on her stomach, she could hear voices in the hallway through a small gap between the door and the floor. The words spoken tangled into rhythms and sounds she did not understand. Sometimes she could make out names. The people that came to her space were Meka, Analu and Ipo.
She lay crumpled on the pallet and whispered the story of the Firebird and the Grey Wolf into the darkness as she did to her brothers each night.
…And Prince Ivan lay dead. His brothers took all that he had; the firebird, the horse and Helen. Then the crow brought the water of death and the water of life to the grey wolf. The grey wolf revived Ivan with the water. He regained all he had lost.
Days passed where she refused to rise despite their yelling and the kicking of her body. One day they brought a fourth person into the room with them. She lifted her head and folded herself into Valentina’s arms. Valentina whispered into her ear in Russian, “They will kill you. You can’t run with no passport, no money. They will find you anyway because of the debt. Be a good girl, do what they say. Down the hallway, girls share rooms. Maybe we can. These things I know. I will watch over you Anna, I promise. Stop fighting. I worry for you.”
“I want to go home.”
Anna wore high heels, a mini-skirt, red lipstick and eyes rimmed heavy with charcoal. A glass window separated her from the ogling eyes. She would not raise her head, they could not make her. The younger man, Ipo came and lifted up her chin. Her eyes grappled for the floor as she strained against his cold fingers. Every night following would pass the same.
Her tears dried up. The thought of home made her ache and she let it become dim in her mind. Empty was easier, it took all her strength to keep breathing. Sometimes, she wondered why she cared to keep on, death might be better, only she was too scared. She thought of her River Neva frozen to the bottom layer of silt. There was no more water running underneath the frozen layers, alive. No, everything lay solemn and cold. She quit whispering into the dark.
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