The Bronze Horseman
Author:Simons, Paullina

Tatiana did not get out of bed. “Latvia, then? Lithuania? Byelorussia? Didn’t we just help ourselves to them, too, after the Hitler-Stalin pact?”

“Tatiana Georgievna! Stop it!” Her mother always called her by her first and patronymic names whenever she wanted to show Tatiana she was not in the mood to be fooled with.

Tatiana pretended to be serious. “What else is left? We already have half of Poland.”

“I said stop!” Mama exclaimed. “Enough of your games. Get out of bed. Daria Georgievna, get that sister of yours out of bed.”

Dasha did not move.

Growling, Mama left the room.

Turning quickly to Tatiana, Dasha whispered conspiratorially, “I’ve got something to tell you!”

“Something good?” Tatiana was instantly curious. Dasha usually revealed little about her grown-up life. Tatiana sat up.

“Something great!” said Dasha. “I’m in love!”

Tatiana rolled her eyes and fell back on the bed.

“Stop it!” Dasha said, jumping on top of her. “This is serious, Tania.”

“Yes, all right. Did you just meet him yesterday when the bridges were up?” She smiled.

“Yesterday was the third time.”

Tatiana shook her head, gazing at Dasha, whose joy was infectious. “Can you get off me?”

“No, I can’t get off you,” Dasha said, tickling her. “Not until you say, ‘I’m happy, Dasha.’ ”

“Why would I say that?” exclaimed Tatiana, laughing. “I’m not happy. Stop it! Why should I be happy? I’m not in love. Cut it out!”

Mama came back into the room, carrying six cups on a round tray and a silver samovar—an urn with a spigot used for boiling water for tea. “You two will stop at once! Did you hear me?”

“Yes, Mama,” said Dasha, giving Tatiana one last hard tickle.

“Ouch!” said Tatiana as loudly as possible. “Mama, I think she cracked my ribs.”

“I’m going to crack something else in a minute. You’re both too old for these games.”

Dasha stuck out her tongue at Tatiana. “Very grown-up,” Tatiana said. “Our Mamochka doesn’t know you’re only two.”

Dasha’s tongue remained out. Tatiana reached up and grabbed the slippery thing between her fingers. Dasha squealed. Tatiana let go.

“What did I say!” Mama bellowed.

Dasha leaned over and whispered to Tatiana, “Wait until you meet him. You’ve never met anybody so handsome.”

“You mean better-looking than that Sergei you tortured me with? Didn’t you tell me he was so handsome?”

“Stop it,” hissed Dasha, smacking Tatiana’s leg.

“Of course.” Tatiana grinned. “And wasn’t that just last week?”

“You’ll never understand because you are still an incorrigible child.” There was another smack. Mama yelled. The girls stopped.

Tatiana’s father, Georgi Vasilievich Metanov, came in. A short man in his forties, he sported a full head of untidy black hair that was just beginning to turn to salt and pepper. Dasha got her curly hair from Papa. He walked past the bed, glanced vacantly at Tatiana, her legs still under the sheets, and said, “Tania, it’s noon. Get up. Or there’s going to be trouble. I need you dressed in two minutes.”

“That’s easy,” Tatiana replied, jumping up on the bed and showing her family that she was still wearing her shirt and skirt from yesterday. Dasha and Mama shook their heads; Mama nearly smiled.

Papa looked away toward the window. “What are we going to do with her, Irina?”

Nothing, Tatiana thought, nothing as long as Papa looks the other way.

“I need to get married,” Dasha said, still sitting on the bed. “So I can finally have a room of my own to get dressed in.”

“You’re joking,” said Tatiana, jumping up and down on the bed. “You’ll just be in here with your husband. Me, you, him, all sleeping in one bed, with Pasha at our feet. Romantic, isn’t it?”

“Don’t get married, Dashenka,” her mother said absentmindedly. “Tania is right for once. We have no room for him.”

Her father said nothing, turning on the radio.

Their long, narrow room had one full bed on which Tatiana and Dasha slept, one sofa on which Mama and Papa slept, and one low metal cot on which Tatiana’s twin brother, Pasha, slept. His cot was at the foot of the girls’ bed, so Pasha called himself their little footdog.

Tatiana’s grandparents, Babushka and Deda, lived in the adjacent room, joined to theirs by a short hallway. Occasionally Dasha would sleep on the small sofa in the hallway if she came in late and didn’t want to disturb her parents and thereby get into trouble the next day. The hall sofa was only about one and a half meters long, more suitable for Tatiana to sleep on, since she was just over one and a half meters long herself. But Tatiana didn’t need to sleep in the hall because she rarely came in late, whereas Dasha was a different story.

“Where’s Pasha?” Tatiana asked.