“How much longer until we go live?”
“Good, I have time to eat this.” Vera unwraped the sandwich she was holding and began to scruff it down greedily as Diana watched, a somewhat perplexed expression on her face.
“You just ate when you first came in,” Diana said, taking out a pack of cigarettes and lighting one as she leaned against the makeup table.
Vera gave her an accusing look. “So what? I’m hungry.”
Diana watched Vera eat, puffing out small clouds of grey-white smoke. “I smoke, you eat, Igor screws everything female the moves until he’s blue in the face, Misha has developed a tic and an aptitude to spout ridiculous political junk at everyone who will listen. I think we’re all going neurotic around here.”
“It’s a stressful job.”
“A lot of people have stressful jobs,” Diana said with a shrug, putting out her cigarette.
Vera nodded thoughtfully and looked down at her empty sandwich wrapper. “I just keep wanting to ear. I thought it would go away when Timofei and I started living together but it didn’t. Now with the baby and Uloomji back… I’m turning into some sort of garbage disposal.”
“Mmmm…” Diana hummed distracted as she started to lay out makeup. Vera, recognizing the procedure, sat up straighter and faced forward.
“I mean, what was the use of suffering all of those procedures in the body alteration clinic if I’m just going to eat them all up? I can’t stop though.”
Diana opened up the base and began applying it. “Those clinics are a scam. Anything even remotely affordable will be a scam. Why did you bother anyway?”
“I was in a dark place and—“
“—I felt so pressured by the channel to…change. To be better.”
“Just the channel?” Diana asked in a hum, stroking thin, precise lines with the eyeliner.
“No.” Vera sighed. “Sometimes I just wish there was something nice to report. But there are never any good news. A plane crash here, a robbery and rape there. The Moscow streets are so jammed with traffic, no one can get anywhere they’re trying to go in any reasonable amount of time, the prices are horrible, the economy is dependant on oil prices, corruption is everywhere… Just wait until we hit summer. Then we’ll have drowned children and forest fires to report.”
“Well, what can you do? Aside from eat yourself into oblivion.” Vera gave her friend a look and Diana relented. “Or smoke yourself to death as I am currently doing. Wait, don’t answer that, I need to put on your lipstick.”
Vera watched her lips fill up and brighten in the mirror as Diana applied the lipstick. She knew she was only slightly more neurotic now than she was before. She’d gotten used to Uloomji’s constant presence in her and Timofei’s lives. She could either leave or stay and she chose to stay. Finally, after some maneuvering, she had even found a way to derive the most sexual and emotional pleasure possible from the relationship. Her and Timofei’s baby was proof of that. She sometimes wondered how her life could be different right now if the cards had fallen differently but it just made her more anxious and hungry. “Dian, how do you have sex?” she suddenly blurted out, making the blonde look up at her in surprise.
“Oh, like other people,” she said uncertainly. “Why?”
Vera, feeling suddenly silly and embarrassed, looked away, waving a hand. “Forget it.”
“No, why?” Diana pressed.
“You…” Vera bit her lip and looked up. “It’s just…you said…you loved women. Loved having sex with women.”
“Mmhhhmm,” Diana agreed, returning to cleaning up the make up and seemingly losing interests. “So?”
“I just…how do you…?” Vera tried to express in hand gestures the action of intercourse and, failing, allowed her hands to fall into her lap.
Diana laughed softly and shook her head. “There are many-many ways,” she sing-songed.
Vera sighed and stood. “I should go get ready.” She made her way to her usual seat and sat on the chair, facing the camera. The screen before her was blank now, but in a matter of minutes it would begin to crawl with print, things she would have to say with a calm expression while on the inside she battled the unsubtle urge to sink her teeth into a large, juicy, green apple.
After the day was done, Vera made her way outside with perfect intentions of going home. She wanted to see Timofei and the baby and even Uloomji. If anything, she liked his herbal teas and they relaxed her after a long day. The boys had suggested that they may be up for some fun that night if the baby went to sleep on time. If Uloomji was good news, Vara thought, it certainly had something to do with his ability and willingness to sit at home and take care of babies.
Her eyes caught on Diana who was leaning against the building wall, twirling a cigarette but not smoking it for once. “What are you doing tonight?” Vera asked, coming up to her on an impulse.
The blonde looked around, her hair glowing almost white in the bright light coming from the building. “Nothing. You?”
“I’m going home but I thought…do you want to come with me?”
There was something predatory about Diana’s smile as she agreed that made Vera suddenly feel very uncertain. But the cards had been laid out and she couldn’t take her words back. “Let’s just hope we don’t get stuck in traffic for too long,” she said instead as they got into her car.
Vera let herself and Diana into the apartment where Timofei greeted her with a large soup spoon in one hand and a kitchen towel in the other. Uloomji stood toward the back of the room, bouncing the baby on his hip. The boy instantly began to reach for his mother. “This is Diana, a friend of mine,” Vera said, trying hard to no make her statements sound like questions. “She will join us tonight.”
The two men exchanged looks then nodded slightly. “I’ll take your coat…” Timofei said, reaching for Diana’s coat. She tossed it to him with an impish grin. “I’m glad I made enough dinner for two days now.”
Vera looked to Diana and they exchanged smiles. She walked to Uloomji and took her son from him. “Why don’t you boys make dinner while I feed this one and put him to bed.” She watched Tomofei put an arm around Uloomji’s waist as they walked into the kitchen. Diana touched her shoulder and pointed toward the hall. Vera shrugged and buried her nose into her son’s baby-soft cheek as she carried him to the nursery.
If the news was always bad, Vera thought, she would just have to make her own good news.