The Red Box

The Red Box

A Chapter by Natasha Zoya
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Leninia gets a present without a name but will be the beginning of her destiny.

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The Red Box

 

My body was healing from syphilis but it doesn’t feel that way. Lying in bed, fingering myself stings. At least, it didn’t feel so bad when I moved out of my apartment. The first time it felt like a knife slowly sliding in and out of me, now it just feels like a needle. I sit up in bed, crying, “Damn it, why can’t I get better faster!” The despair only lasted a moment than I closed my eyes and told myself, “It’s going to be alright, Lenya. Once two months has past than you can go to the Red Light District in Moscow and ride the hottest Stallion for the night. Just make sure to bring some condoms.”

“What about condoms?”

I look up to see my sister, Olga, peeking her head out my door. I pulled the covers up to my neck. “Sweet Justine, can’t you knock first?”

“I’m sorry,” said Olga, laughing. “Tell me when you get dressed.”

Once she closed the door I immediately pulled up my pajama pants and pulled down my shirt. Sitting up in bed while smoothing my hair back, I said, “You can come in now, Olya.”  Olga opened the door and walked inside. I can tell she looked ready to go to church because of the modest purple dress. If Olga was going to a place like the Red Light District she would wear something more revealing. Any other day, Olga would wear pants and a shirt. In her gloved hand she carried a couple of letters and a red box with a yellow bow. One of the letters was already opened.

“I’m sorry again, Lenya,” said Olga. “I was about to knock but then I heard you say, ‘condoms’ and I got excited.”

“Excited about condoms?” I asked. Olga sits on the bed next to me. She puts her hand on my shoulder. I can smell her lavender perfume.

“I just thought you got better and you were ready to have some fun.”

“I wish I can have some fun,” I said. “It stings like a b***h. Now I know how you feel, Olga.” Olga’s lips curled back and made a hiss through her teeth. Four years ago, Olga and I went to the Red Light District out of celebration for two different reasons. For me I was accepted into Kazan University, for Olga it was her sixteenth birthday and she wanted to gain some experience. I remember giving her some condoms before she gave money to a man named Charlie Horse for his services and then gave syphilis is return. I didn’t know about this until I got a letter from Olga in the dorms saying that next time she’ll listen to my advice.

“Oh, don’t remind me, Lenya.”

“Sure, sis,” I said, I turn my gaze to the letters and the red box. “Are they mine?”

“One’s a letter to me from Volva,” said Olga, the joyous squeal in her voice made me giggle. Volva’s full name was Vladimir Veranova Chernyshevsky. His aunt is Nicole Chernyshevskya, author of my favorite novel What Should Be Done. I’ve read that book so much that the spine is beginning to break. I would love to meet her in person but she’s serving time in a Siberian prison which is where she wrote the story. I wonder if the unopened letter on Olga’s lap is a response to the mail I sent to her? More importantly, I wondered what was in the red box?

Olga re-opens her letter. She begins to read. “Dear Oli, I love it when he calls me Oli, Seeing your presence in church makes the boredom of sacrament more bearable. I wish I can sit next to you and hold your hand in mine.

“That’s not the only thing he wants to do with your hand,” I joked.

Olga shoves me lightly while laughing. “Don’t be silly, Lenya, he’s a virgin.” She continues reading but I stopped listening. I know it’s going to be more fluff. My main interest was on the letter and the box.  “With Love, Volva. Oh, he’s such a sweetheart!”

“I’m sure he is, Olya,” I said, taking the letter and the box. The letter disappointed me. It wasn’t from Nicole Chernyshevskya like I wanted. Instead I got what feels like the umpteenth ‘I’m so sorry, take me back’ letter from Henry Gogel. I didn’t both to open it up because I already knew it would be full of begging and pleading or blaming and insulting me on written paper.

“F*****g doesn’t have the balls to tell me in person,” I said, ripping up the letter. The pieces of paper scattered like snow on the ground. I pushed away the strays off my lap to be with their fallen brothers. “Is that from him too?” I asked, pointing at the box as if it committed murder.

Olga shook her head, “There’s no return address but judging from the red you might have another secret admirer.”

“Oh Sweet Justine, not again,” I said, my hands covering my face. I lie back down on the bed. “This would be the third time this happened.” I know I’m a beautiful woman and I can be intimidating with my presence. I have long raven hair and eyes to match plus I’m taller than most of the men in my town. My skin burns when I stay too long in the sun so I’m always mistaken for a vampire which I hate for a very specific reason. I can understand that I might be a frightening tiger but I’m very sweet as a kitten if the man in question is nice to me back.

Secret admirers on the other hand are a different issue. The first admirer started off with flowers than it turned into terribly written love poems and then it turned creepy by writing a letter declaring he will ‘give up his soul to live forever as a vampire with me’. After that letter, the first admirer tried to kidnap me by breaking my window and trying to crawl inside my room. He never got in because I shoved a shard of broken glass in his eye. The first one was clearly out of defense, the other was intentional.

The second admirer did something similar in the beginning but much worse. The second one stalked me for months when I refused his advances. Every time I would be out with a man (didn’t matter if it was Henry or not) I would get angry letters that started off calling me a ‘strumpet’ (I thought it funny because it comes from Willma Shakespeare and only men can be ‘strumpets’) to threatening my life. He almost did try to kill me. I was walking alone at night to my dorm when I heard him walking behind me. I ran but, he caught up with me with a knife to my neck. I knew what he was going to do once he started dragging me to an ally. He had a knife but, I had a gun. First I put a bullet to his foot than I put a bullet to his head. After the attack I called the police and told them everything. I wasn’t charged with murder because a man that intends to rape is like a rabid dog.

 If I let him live I knew he would end up as either a War Hound or a Rabbit. A War Hound is a prisoner tortured as a weapon to rape anything that breathes. A Rabbit is a prisoner well fed and taken care of until Cannibal Night. Our family never participated but I’ve heard enough horror stories from my mother and father to keep me up at night.

“Don’t be so morbid, Lenya,” said Olga. I felt her put the box on my stomach. “If this one was a loon he would have sent you flowers.”

“You think so,” I said, picking up the present. I was about to undo the bow when I heard Olga opening my closet door. “What are you doing?”

“The main reason why I’m here,” Olga said. I sit back up to see her holding my one and only dress. Immediately, I knew she wanted me to go to church with her.

“Hell no, I’m not wearing that ugly thing!” It was the color of neon yellow that holds the stinging brightness of the sun. My father made me wear it on Easter Sunday because Lady Justine will be pleased that I’m a ‘beaming ray of sunshine’. My devote Justinian father would be heartbroken if he found out I’m an atheist.

“Oh, come on, Leninia,” groaned Olga. She sat next to me again with her heard on my shoulder. “I don’t like church just as much as you do but there’s this cute boy named Vladimir and I want to make him my husband and have little Olgas to pester Aunt Leninia.”

“Oh you cruel monster,” I teased. “But seriously, I’m not wearing that dress.”

Olga tried to frown but there was still laughter in her bright blue eyes. “Alright sis, let’s make a deal.” She points to the red box. “If you open this present and it’s from a loon or from Henry than you don’t have to come with me. But if it’s from someone like saaaayyyy…….Nicole Chernyshenvskya or something than you have to come to church and you have to wear that yellow dress.”

I groaned, “Ok, deal,” and we shook hands on it. As much as I wanted to be my favorite author and possible in-law I had this sinking feeling that it was yet another loony admirer. Carefully, I undo the yellow bow and put it to the side. Now is was just an unopen box. I hesitated, I was stuck between wanting to know and not wanting to know so I close my eyes. I curls my fingers over the lid, slowly opening it as if there was a bomb inside.

“I think you can open your eyes,” said Olga. I threw the lid to my side and opened my eyes to the contents inside. Thank Goddess, it wasn’t flowers or candy but still it made me wary. Inside was a folded up piece of paper with my name on it and a blank pamphlet. “What do you think it is?” asked Olga.

“I think it might be bad poetry from a loon….or Henry,” I said. Henry was always bad at poetry. It always repeated with flowery love nonsense that meant nothing. I picked up the pamphlet first to discover it wasn’t really blank at all but lying face down. The pamphlet was called Manifesto by Karla Marx. I have no idea who Karla Marx is but it’s certainly nothing a loon or Henry would bother giving me as a gift.

Once I unfolded the paper I smiled and said, “I guess you have to take me to church, Olga.” She bounced up and down on the bed squealing with joy. On the paper it read:  

Dear Leninia, I’m sorry it took me a long time to respond to your letter. I had to be very creative to sneak it past the guards. If you like my work than I recommend this newcomer to the philosophy world. I think her work is going to change the world someday. With Love, Nicole.

“Come on, sis,” said Olga, taking my hand and trying to drag me. “It’s time to put on your dress!”

“Ok, fine, I’m coming,” I said flatly but I was still smiling. I would rather wear a yellow dress that shines like the sun for a day than dread for months about a blue loon or a grey Henry.     

       

 



© 2017 Natasha Zoya


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Natasha Zoya
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Added on November 13, 2017
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Natasha Zoya
Natasha Zoya

Wichita , KS



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