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Always Move Forward (Never Look Back)

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Martha never imagined this was how her life would turn out. A single mom, living in a country whose language she barely spoke (though she was getting better at it every day), with no family, no support network, and only a handful of friends. Several of whom who were paid to be her friend. That was not to say that she was unhappy - in fact, it was quite the opposite. For the first time in her life, she was content. There had been times when she thought she had all that she wanted, but she hadn't known what she was missing until she had Olya. Her daughter. Her daughter. The unconditional love of a child. The challenges and triumphs of trying to raise a young mind in this ever evolving world. And challenges there were, but there were also little smiles and hugs and just watching the wonder and joy of watching her baby become a person, and that was enough for her, and that was enough for her.

Martha doesn’t have any regrets. She can’t have any regrets. Regret eats you alive. So do self pity and disappointment. Martha had been there and was done with all of that. Those first few months, alone, realizing that she had been used, that she could never go home. It ate at her. So she moved on. Forward, onward, never looking back. That was how she survived her new normal. That was how she stayed sane. Settling into this new life of hers. This new love of family. Her love for Olya.

Actually, she did have one regret. One giant gaping hole - her parents would never know their granddaughter and her daughter would never know her parents. Her daughter would never make cookies in the apple green kitchen with Martha’s mother or learn how to ride a bike with Martha’s father cheering her on. But she didn't like to focus on that. Forward, onward, never looking back.

When she was 18 and just starting out in her career she had always imagined settling down in the suburbs with two kids and a white picket fence. She had enjoyed her job, but she never wanted to be one of those career women. She wanted a husband, kids, stability. She finally had family and stability and it was nothing like she imagined, but it was so perfect in a totally different way. She may not have that life she always thought she wanted but she learned long ago that life is what you make it.

She thought she would be more bitter, more angry about Clark. It took her some time, but with hindsight being twenty twenty, she saw the red flags and she saw herself ignoring them in hopes of finally getting her happily ever after. She had thrown caution to the wind and the wind threw her halfway around the world. Sometimes she would wonder if he ever really loved her, even just a little, or if it was all an act designed to get what he wanted. A small part of her hoped he loved her but a more practical part was confident that he cared at best. Martha hoped he thought about her, what he did to her, at least in passing. If Gabriel was telling her the truth, Clark had thought about her enough to contact her parents, but Gabriel was a professional liar so she didn’t hold much stock in what he said. Truth be told, Clark was also a professional liar. But she couldn’t think about that. Wouldn’t think about that. She was the master of her thoughts and when they strayed down the path of how she got here, she would think of Olya, her smile, her laugh, her sweet innocence. And it all just melted away.

Martha was an accidental spy. A traitor to her old life. She could never go home. Thinking about it used to upset her. Now she was surprised how little it bothered her. She had been a patriot. An American through and through. Until the day she found out she was a spy. And everything she ever knew was tested. She could have stayed in America. Faced her friends. Her co-workers. Her parents. But she let the KGB get her out. She left. She ran. She acquiesced. She saved herself.

For her troubles she got an apartment, a handler, someone to teach her Russian, a stipend, vouchers for a decent grocery store. A daughter. She saw the hardship of her new home country and compared to most, she lived a relative life of luxury. It wasn’t perfect but trying for perfect was how she ended up here in the first place. So she would take this life that was hers and embrace it.

Olya calls her “Mother,” but she pronounces it “maht.” The first time she heard Olya say that word, she cried. Not because it was in Russian, but because she never dreamed that someone would call her that. Martha calls her маленький кролик or “little bunny.” She heard another mother use it at the playground and it made her smile. She and Olya have built this life together, both orphans after a fashion, both looking for someone to love.

Through Olya, she has met other mothers, some who might even be her friends one day. They are all wary of her - an American woman with a Russian daughter living in Moscow. Some of the mothers have party ties, and she knows most suspect that she is being supported by people high up in the party. The really savvy ones may even suspect her ties to the KGB. And she thinks for that reason alone, that even if they talk about her, she doesn’t hear it.

The first day she brought Olya to school, she got polite smiles and some curiosity, though most of the other mothers tried to hide it. When the mothers talk to her, it’s about the children, the weather, upcoming things at school. But no one asks her about her former home. She knows they are curious. She can see the questions brimming on their tongues, but no one asks. One day, she hopes to be able to speak in general terms about her time in America without getting that little pain in her belly but for today, she is happy that they are afraid to ask.

As Gabriel promised, they found her a job. She works as a translator for a small newspaper. The hours are flexible so she can be there to pick up Olya every day when school lets out. It’s not a lot of money but it supplements the stipend she gets from the KGB. She has met people at work but, like the mothers of the kids in Olya’s class, they all seem a little wary of who she is and her connections. It strikes her as funny. She, the girl who could barely get a date back in America, who blended into the wall at work, is someone who people are wary off because there is power behind her.

Martha hopes to date someday. They have introduced her to men but none of them were suitable. She suspects most agreed to meet her because of her connections, her history. Maybe, if they hadn’t given her Olya, she might have settled for one of them - a warm body to come home to, but she’s glad she didn’t. Now, any man would have to be right for both her and Olya, and she’s not sure that man exists. So she isn’t looking, and life moves on.

She is Martha Hanson. Mother, daughter, accidental spy. She is okay with that.