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Fractured Souls: Chapter 20

Pavel

Three weeks later

 

I park my car a block away from Asya’s home and head up the street.

Flying in would have been much easier. Instead, I drove thirteen hours, hoping I’d change my mind along the way and turn around. I stopped three times and almost convinced myself to do exactly that, but when I got back on the road, I just continued heading east. The need to see her again is an obsession, the only thing I’ve thought about for days. Just one quick glimpse, and I’ll be gone.

Something wet lands on my cheek, so I peer at the night sky. It’s snowing. My chest tightens at the sight of the white flakes as they fall on my face. My mishka doesn’t like snow. It’s the one thing we weren’t able to overcome.

I promised myself that I won’t keep hoping for her return. I knew she wouldn’t, not after all the calls I didn’t take and the messages I left unanswered. Yet, I still hoped.

 

Last week, feeling more miserable than ever, I dug out the box with my tattoo kit from the back of the closet. Why I’ve kept that thing, I don’t have a clue. I stopped adding tats more than a decade ago. That night, though, I sat down at my dining table, in my empty apartment, and got working on new ink. Since there weren’t any free spots on my torso or my arms, I did it on the back of my hand. When Kostya saw me the following day, he asked if it was one of those temporary things because I’d never tattooed a part of my body that was visible before. I told him what I thought of his opinion with my freshly inked knuckles.

I can see only the upper part of the house at the top of the street. Most of it is hidden behind the high gated fence and greenery, but it matches the description Dimitry was able to find. Asya’s home.

I’m still observing the house, trying to spot the light in one of the windows, when a flashy car rounds the corner and parks right in front of the gate. There’s a streetlight close by, so I step back into the shadow of a tree. The man who gets out of the driver’s side is young, probably in his early twenties. He’s smiling, obviously in a great mood. He opens the passenger door, and a woman takes his hand and steps out. She’s wearing a white coat, unbuttoned, revealing a blood-red dress underneath. It’s snowing harder now, and snowflakes stick to the dress’s feathered skirt. The man grabs her around the waist, crashing her into his body. The woman laughs.

I know that laugh. I want to turn away and leave, but I can’t take my eyes off the woman as she tilts her head and kisses the man. It’s not a friendly kiss, but a passionate one. The man’s hand glides up her back.

The gate slides to the side, and the woman untangles herself from the embrace. A moment before she disappears through the gate, I catch a glimpse of her face. She’s cut her hair. It’s shoulder-length now, but there is no doubt.

It’s my Asya.

Something breaks inside my chest. I’m pretty sure it’s my heart.

The gate closes and the car leaves, but I keep standing in the shadows, staring at the house beyond the fence.

She’s okay. I’m not sure if the man I saw is just a date or a boyfriend, but it doesn’t really matter. She’s moved on. I expected her to, but seeing it hurts so fucking much. She deserves to be happy, though. And I’m glad she is.

I turn around and head back to my car, snow crunching under the soles of my shoes. I couldn’t sleep in my own bed after she left, so I spent the first few nights on the couch, then moved into one of the empty bedrooms.

But I can’t do it anymore. I can’t be in that place or pretend to live my old life.

When I’m inside my car, I call Roman.

“Pavel?” comes his voice from the other side.

I look at the house up the street one last time.

“I quit,” I say and cut the connection.

 

Asya

 

I put down the phone and watch my sister take off her heels and head into the closet.

“That thing is awful,” I say.

“What?” Sienna turns around and juts her hip. “This is from the newest collection.”

It always amazes me how two people can look identical on the outside but have widely different personalities and tastes.

“It has fucking feathers, Sienna. How do you even wash it?”

“Dry cleaning,” she says and unzips the red monstrosity. “When are you planning on getting out of the house? We can go hiking in the Catskills.”

“Hiking?” I arch my eyebrows. The highest my sister has ever climbed was onto a stool to get the old hairdryer off the shelf when her regular one died.

“What? It could be fun.”

I shake my head and look back down at my phone. “I’m not in the mood.”

Sienna stops fumbling with her dress and plops onto the bed beside me. “You need to forget that guy, Asya. He doesn’t want anything to do with you. You should have clued in already.”

“You don’t know that.”

“You’ve phoned him over fifty times! I checked your call history,” she says and grabs my phone. “Please don’t tell me you called him again.”

“Give that back!” I jump at her, trying to get my cell. “Sienna!”

“You did! I can’t believe you.”

“I haven’t called him.” I take my phone from her. “I was looking at some photos.”

“What photos?”

I shrug.

“You never told me you had a photo of him!” Sienna widens her eyes at me. “Let me see! Please? Please? Please?”

I unlock my phone and reluctantly pass it to her. She grabs it with a squeal and starts going through the folders.

“Oh, I can’t wait to . . . holy fuck, Asya! Is this him?”

I glance at the screen, at the photo of Pasha I secretly took one morning while he was still sleeping. He’s on his back with his arm thrown over his face. The blanket is bunched up around his waist, leaving his tattooed broad chest fully on display.

“Yeah.” I nod.

Sienna flips to the next image. That one’s a little blurry, taken the day he gave me the phone. I was trying out the camera with a selfie but moved my hand too fast. In the photo, I’m leaning against Pasha’s chest and gazing at the camera. He has his arm wrapped around my waist and is looking down at me.

“I still don’t understand what happened,” I say, looking at the screen. “Why did he shut me out? Did I do something? Did he decide he can’t deal with my issues anymore?”

“Asya, stop.” Sienna takes my hand. “You didn’t do anything wrong. You hear me? He doesn’t deserve you, not after how he acted.”

“I miss him so much,” I whisper and look back down at the phone. I wish I took more photos of him.

“It’ll get easier. You’ll meet a guy, fall in love, and forget all about the Russian.” She wraps her arm around me and pulls me into a hug. “When you’re ready, we’ll go out together and find the most handsome, sweet guy for you. Okay?”

A heavy feeling settles over me, and I close my eyes. I don’t want a sweet, handsome guy. I want Pasha. Just the thought of any other man touching me makes me sick to my stomach. Acid rises up my throat, so I fan my face, hoping the nausea will pass. It doesn’t. It only gets worse. I jump off the bed and dash to the bathroom, barely managing to reach the toilet in time. Sienna runs in after me and lifts my hair away from my face as I empty the contents of my stomach. When I’m done, I slump to the floor next to the toilet and stare at the ceiling.

“I can’t even think about other men without vomiting, Sienna,” I whisper.


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