Saturday, 8:24 AM Chernihiv Main Bus Terminal, Ukraine
In the blink of an eye, Hannah’s life story turned a corner. Her ideas began to reshape, some things made more sense and a lovely peace settled upon the small world in which she had always lived.
Hannah no longer had any pain. Why that pain had come and gone, an issue that had consumed her yesterday, no longer held any value at all. Maybe pain had been her constant companion for decades upon decades. But right now, it mattered not even a small bit that once she had pain and now she did not.
What mattered now was why. Since she had lost the pain, she had memories returning to her consciousness that seemed impossible, but were more real in Hannah’s mind than the last 40 years had been. That was enough to think about and figure out. More than enough. And now that she had some calm, she knew where to seek her peace and quiet. And in that peace and quiet, she believed she might figure things out.
Hannah looked at Misha’s face on the notepad screen. A 12-year-old boy had grown up, become a man she had not recognized, and was now talking to her in a voice from nearly 50 years ago. Maybe she now recognized the boy in the man, and that allowed her to know the voice, but it all still remained an unsolved puzzle, but the truest memory she had yet come across.
Then Misha stopped speaking in that voice and began using the voice of the boss, a man Hannah knew to be as American as she had been. All of it, an undone puzzle, sitting in front of Hannah, waiting to be placed back into order. Today, right now, the puzzle was important. The past 40 years was not.
“I need your help,” he said. “You, only, from all of us at folga zdaniye, the tin foil building, the factory that wasn’t a factory, only you still have your ability intact. Do you remember, Hannah? It was not a factory. We joked, all of us, that it was a talent factory. There were others, Khanna malyshka, and they need your help.”
“I have much to think about, Misha. I cannot make plans beyond thinking.”
“Hannah, please. It’s urgent. We are all getting older.”
“Most likely, you have been helping me for a long time. But this is all very new to me.”
“Khanna. Come home.”
She stuffed her hands into the sagging pockets of Anton’s coat.
“What if I am home, Misha?” said Hannah.
Saturday, 8:30 AM Chernihiv Main Bus Terminal, Ukraine
Good morning. Dobre utra. They had said good morning to each other. Simple words, spoken in Ukrainian, or perhaps Russian, but to Cleo, the mystery was revealed.
The two spoke the same way Hannah had spoken with Anton. The link between Hannah and Anton included her big boss. Somehow John Smith was a part of this interaction. And Cleo knew that the personal reason that brought her professional agency into this event was explained. Hannah, John Smith, Ukraine. The details of the mystery may never be explained to her, but her ending was already in place. Cleo had done her job.
She had never heard the boss’ voice like that. He was not speaking a foreign language. His voice slid back into sounds that were more comfortable than Anton’s ancient garden gloves. John Smith was speaking to Hannah in his mother tongue, and calling her endearing childhood names. Khanna malyshka.
It seemed that whatever explanation Hannah would offer now for all the things that had passed in the last few days was out of Cleo’s hands and into a whole new realm that hardly involved her. At least it did not require her to make decisions that were beyond her comfort zone.
But that zone had been widely expanded. Cleo knew she had developed skills for growing her repertoire.
For instance, being able to make a decision on the spot. The encounter that was playing itself out on the screen of her notepad was not for her, and she didn’t feel the sting of being left out. She felt, in fact, a moment of freedom. Whatever was going on in that conversation was for someone else to understand.
She ran a hand though her newly-metallic hair and passed the notebook computer to Hannah. Cleo pointed to the clothes store she had seen standing hopefully alongside the travel agency, then spoke.
“Odezhda.” Clothes. A word Cleo had heard repeatedly during her shopping in Kyiv. “The clothes store is calling. Poka.” Bye.