Her Russian Surrender

By: Theodora Taylor

He waited for her to preen, but his words only seemed to fluster her more.

“Thanks! So are you… I guess.” She had a soft lilt to her voice that made her words sound almost overly cheery.

“Beautiful?” he said after a moment of confusion. Even after nearly two decades in the States, his English was still not the best. Maybe he was misunderstanding her. “You think I am beautiful?”

“Yes, really beautiful,” she answered with a nod. “Good job on that front!”

Nikolai faltered a bit. Had she just congratulated him on being beautiful? Like a woman? He reset.

“I’m glad you think so. You and I have—how you say—mutual admiration.”

“Oh, well, kind of, but I mean… maybe not really,” she answered. She now looked around the room as if she were desperately searching for someone else to talk to. Anybody other than him. “I’m not really into that kind of stuff.”

English was his second language, true, but every single thing that came out of this woman’s mouth so far had only served to confuse him, making him wonder if it wasn’t her first language either.

“Beauty—you don’t like it? You are not ‘into’ it?” he posed the question very slowly just in case, like him, she was still having trouble with the English language.

She shrugged. “I mean beauty can come in handy. Like when I’m arguing with a man and he’s all hyped up and security’s not available, sometimes he won’t act as much of a fool because I’m pretty, I guess. But a few times it’s made things more difficult. Like sometimes men underestimate me because of it, and that’s no good.”

Her answer brought up so many more questions that Nikolai’s mind temporarily stalled out. Why was she arguing with so many men to the point that she had to call security? And why did she care if anyone underestimated her?

She glanced up at him. “Do you feel like that too, sometimes? Like being all hot and hunky gets in your way?”

“No,” he answered truthfully. “It only helps. Especially with women.”

“Woooow! That must be so nice for you!”

She gave him an impressed look, but it felt to Nikolai like she was laughing at him. He did not like this feeling.

“It is,” he replied. Usually, he added silently with grim annoyance.

“Your calendar’s stuffed with dates I bet. How great!”

He regarded her coolly for a second, trying to figure out if he was really supposed to respond to that. But Black Americans, he knew, could be different. His cousin, Alexei, was married to one who insisted on calling him Nikki and conversations with her were often confusing like the one he was having with this woman now.

“I do not go on dates,” he informed her, deciding to indulge the conversation topic, more out of curiosity than anything else. The woman was strange but she was engaging, and Nikolai found himself wanting to stay in her company despite the many bizarre things that had come out of her mouth over the course of their short conversation.

“Seriously?” she asked. “Why not?”

“Dates are not necessary. They are silly custom. If a woman wants one, I say to her, we are both adults, why waste time with silly custom?”

She looked enrapt now, like she was hanging on every word he was saying. “And what do they say?”

“They agree of course, and then we have very pleasurable time together.”

The look she gave him now was the opposite of impressed. In fact, he could have sworn he saw pity in her eyes.

She shrugged and said, “I guess we don’t have much in common then. When I’m working late, I’m always like, wouldn’t it be cool to be one of those people who goes on dates? Seriously, how nice would that be? To like, you know, go to dinner and a movie. But here you are with plenty of women to date, and you don’t even take advantage of all your opportunities.” She shook her head. “What a waste.”

Nikolai narrowed his eyes at her, not knowing whether to be confused or insulted or both. “You are…” he informed her, “strange. Very strange.”

“Yes, I know,” she answered with that odd lilt of hers. “But it sounds like you’ve got a little strange going on yourself. Like, is that seriously all you do? Not go on dates with the women you invite out to your balcony? How does that work out for you love wise?”

“I do not love,” he answered. “Love is another silly custom. I don’t—how you say—believe in it.”

She raised her eyebrows. “Love? Love is a silly custom you don’t believe in? You seriously just said that? How can you not believe in love?!?!”

Nikolai inwardly grunted, happy he only wanted this woman for a one-night stand. She was obviously a romantic. One who would be much more trouble than she was worth if he were the sort who took women out on dates.

He stepped closer to her and said, “Trust me, you do not have to believe in silly customs to give woman much pleasure. Come upstairs. I will show you.”

His words must have had some affect on her, because she waved a hand in front of her face, like she was trying to cool herself down.