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Can’t Let Her Go
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The job was simple.
Go to Russia and collect the virgin.
She was as pure as the driven snow and my job was to make sure she didn’t drift on the way back.
I didn’t really want to go. Russia in winter is not my idea of fun, but it was a break from hurting men who owed my boss money.
Also I didn’t have a choice. I owe my life to Akim and what Akim wants Akim gets.
It should have been straightforward. In and out.
But that was before I ran into this Russian chick. Breathtakingly beautiful, she was. The softest skin imaginable and…she wanted me.
Turned out winter in Russia was exactly my idea of fun.
But the next day I found out the Russian chick was Akim’s virgin.
The one that was not supposed to drift
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The old church is completely deserted. I huddle into my coat in the freezing air and slip into my usual middle pew. The wood is so cold it seeps right through my clothes and chills my skin. I try to close my eyes and pray, but it is impossible. My mind is full of a thousand whirling things.
Recognizing the voice, I snap my eyes open and get to my feet. “Good morning, Father.”
The priest beams at me. “How are you, child? You will be leaving soon for America, won’t you?”
I resist the urge to take a step back. I have never fully trusted him and tried my best to avoid him since he lifted me onto his lap when I was six years old and I felt something hard between his legs as he bounced me on his thighs. “In three days,” I answered softly.
Father Georgiou nods. “You must be very proud of yourself. It is a great opportunity for you and a wonderful thing for your parents, not to mention for our village, and this blessed Church.”
I bow my head in the customary gesture of respect. “Yes, Father.”
He fingers the cross at the end of his rosary chain. “Well, tell your parents I might pop in tomorrow at teatime. I have a special treat for them. They deserve it. They are giving up their eldest daughter for the good of our community.”
I smile politely. “Yes, Father.”
“You won’t forget us when you are in the land of milk and honey, will you?” he teases, a twinkle in his eye.
“Of course not,” I say solemnly.
“Good.” His face becomes suddenly grave. “Because your parents will be very sad if you do.”
“I’ll write back all the time and send money when I can.”
He nods and looks pleased. “Good girl. I know you’ll make us all proud.” He takes a deep breath. “Right. I better be off. I need to prepare for my morning sermon tomorrow. Continue with your prayers, child, and I’ll see you at your parents’ house.” He raises a playful eyebrow and waggles his index finger as if I’m going to turn eight and not eighteen in three days. “You never know there might be a little gift for you too.”
“Thank you, Father.”
The sound of Father Georgiou’s hard, black shoes echo in the silent church as I sit down and bow my head. The sound stops when he passes into the inner chambers.
I bow my head and make another attempt at prayer. Of course, it is a great honor and a wonderful opportunity for me. I have been told many times that I should be grateful I’m good-looking enough to have been chosen to represent my village. Once I have done my duty, I will be offered a well-paying job. To that end, I have been taught to speak English from the time I was entered into this program.
But I can’t help thinking that in three days, on Delivery day or D-day, I will be sent off to America as if I’m no more than high-end, carefully cultivated livestock. Like one of those Japanese black cows that become Kobe beef. No one will say it out loud, but that is exactly what I am. Raised to fulfill a rich man’s desire. The only thing anyone in the village knows about him is his first name. Anakin.
It’s been like that for almost forty years in my village. A girl on her eighteenth birthday is given away every five years. During other years, girls from other villages fill in the gap. I’ll be the eighth girl from Sutgot.
When I was twelve years old my parents sent pictures of me, and to their delight I was accepted into the program. Since then, they have been getting a monthly stipend which is supposed to continue for the next ten years and from that day onwards, not a day has passed when they’ve not reminded me of my obligation to remain pure and unsullied. My entire value is based on that.
I tell myself I should be happy because I am helping my parents. If not for me, it would be very hard for them. They are hoping to move away from Sutgot. They want to go to the coast where it’s warmer. My father is already thinking of sending my sister’s photo when she turns twelve.
There is a shuffling sound behind me and I look around to see someone else has entered the church.
Mrs. Komarov nods at me and goes to light a candle. She is wearing the standard kerchief around her head, but hers is silk. I suppose she can afford it since it was her daughter who had her D-day five years ago.
I shut my eyes and give prayer one last chance, but my mind simply isn’t here. I don’t think God is listening to my prayers, anyway. If He were, there would be no delivery day for me. Eventually, I slip out of my pew and head for the exit.