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Fractured Souls: Chapter 11


There are two cartons of milk inside the fridge. The regular one and one that’s fat-free. Pasha usually buys only the regular full-fat milk. I squeeze the fridge handle and glare at the cartons sitting there so innocently on the shelf. They mock me.

It’s fucking milk!

A palm caresses the small of my back. “Problem with the milk?”

“Yes,” I say, staring the damn things down. “Was there a two-for-one special on milk at the store?”

“Nope. I bought skim this time too in case you like it more than the other one.” Pasha stands behind me and touches my elbow, then trails his hand down my forearm until his palm presses over the back of my hand. Slowly, he lifts my hand to the shelf where the milk cartons are. “Which one do you want?”

“I don’t know.”

“Of course you do.” He moves my hand a little further until my fingers touch the top of the first carton. “I’ve never liked skim milk. It tastes almost like water. You?”

“I don’t like the skim one, either.” I blurt out without actually thinking about it.

“There. It wasn’t that hard.” He moves my hand to the other milk option. “We’ll go with this one. You can make some oats cereal for me, too.”

His hand falls away, leaving mine hovering just over the cartoon. I grab it and take it off the shelf. “Last time we had it, you said it tasted like cardboard.”

“I’m ready to give it another try.”

I turn around and look up at him, enjoying seeing him clearly through my new glasses without having to squint to gain focus. The ability to take in every line of Pasha’s face surpasses the satisfaction of being able to see everything else around me in striking detail.

A few strands of his wet hair have fallen across his forehead. I try to sweep them away, but they keep sliding over his eyes.

“You need a haircut,” I say as I try one more time.

Pasha cocks his head to the side, regarding me, then pulls out a drawer on his left. His eyes remain locked on mine while he rummages around in the drawer and pulls out a pair of scissors, placing them on the counter. They’re huge, with white plastic handles. I use them to open pasta packages and other stuff.

“Those are paper scissors,” I say, staring at them.

“I know.”

He wants me to cut his hair. I move my gaze back to his striking gray eyes. “I’ve never cut anyone’s hair, Pasha. What if I mess it up? Don’t you have a hairdresser or a barber who could do your hair?”

“I do. But I’d like you to do it,” he says and brushes my cheek with the back of his hand, “Will you?”

My heart skips a beat. I put the milk down on the counter and pick up the scissors. Pasha turns and leaves the kitchen. Two minutes later he comes back carrying a chair in one hand and my pink comb in the other. He places the chair in the middle of the kitchen and sits down with his back to me.

I walk toward him on shaky legs while my heart accelerates to double time. When I’m behind him, he lifts his hand, holding up the comb. I bite my bottom lip, accept the comb, and start passing it through the dark blond strands. His hair is not very long, I would just need to shorten the part on the top of his head that’s grown out a little. Instead of starting the cut, however, I keep brushing his hair. Pasha doesn’t move a muscle, but I hear his loud inhale when I use my other hand and push my fingers through the strands. I pull up some of the longer hairs, cut off half an inch, and continue running my fingers through.

“I need to go out for a few hours,” he says in a clipped voice and leans his head slightly back, closer to my touch. “Yuri’s funeral.”

“Okay.” I nod and make another cut.

“I’ll need to wear a suit. I’ll change in the other room. You can stay in the bedroom until I’ve left.”

I bend my head slightly and inhale his scent before I shift my hand to the next patch of hair. “Were you close? You and your friend?”

He doesn’t reply right away. When I look at his face, I see that his eyes are closed and his lips are pressed into a thin line. “In a way,” he says finally.

I finish the last cut and set the scissors and the comb on the counter. Pasha is still sitting with his eyes closed. Leaning forward, I rest my chin on his shoulder and brush his cheek with my own. “I’m so sorry you lost your friend.”

His hand comes up and cups my cheek. “Everybody leaves, mishka. One way or another,” he says, stroking the side of my face with his thumb. “It’s only a matter of time.”

I watch him as he stands up and leaves the kitchen, carrying the chair with him. There was a very strange tone in his voice when he said that last sentence. As if he was referring not only to his friend who died.


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