"Of course, dear,” Yelena answered. “I just want to hear from my baby. How you doing? Where are you now?"
"Having fun with you rich-kid friends?” her mother teased.
“Not everyone here’s rich, Mother,” Yulia chided.
“Let’s see…” Yelena mused.
“Well, my best friend here is Lilly Thompson,” Yulia defended herself, “and she’s got no money at all—she’s a hardworking scholarship student.”
“But she come from very old, good family,” Yelena informed her. “Thompsons use to have money—use to be big in retail. Then something bad happen; I don’t know what. Hey,” her mother changed the subject, “how you brother?”
Yulia knew that Yuri never called their parents. “He’s fine,” she assured her mother.
“How his girlfriend?” Yelena pressed.
“She’s fine, I suppose,” answered Yulia, indifferently. “I don’t really know.”
Her mother picked up on Yulia’s dismissive tone. “Why you no like Rebecka?”
“Let’s see…” Yulia said. “Perhaps because ... she’s a money-grubbing golddigger?”
“You no like Yuri's girl because she got no money and want to have some?” she challenged her daughter. “That not fair. It not like Rebecka lazy—she do good job on island house...."
"And she give Meadow solid business advice on farmstand. And she get Kevin verrry good deal on engagement ring for Chloe. And,” she continued, because her daughter had not uttered a word, “if you brother love her, and want to marry her, then it okay with you father and me.”
Yulia talked to her mother for a few more minutes, then hung up, troubled.
“Is something wrong?” Lilly Thompson asked Yulia, in her breathy, little-girl voice.
“She was asking about Rebecka,” Yulia explained, “and I just loathe that girl, and I don’t even really know why. It’s just a feeling I have about her.”
Lilly looked sympathetic.
‘Ugh,’ Chloe said under her breath as she read the Music and Culture section of the morning paper.
“You got it,” Chloe replied grimly.
“Let me see,” Tosha said impatiently, grabbing for the paper. “I’m actually amused reading about her shenanigans these days, now that she’s someone else’s problem.”
Maria Ivanova had graduated from college the previous spring and, during her senior year, had been the dance partner of Tosha’s fiancé, George. Maria was now embarked on her professional career at City Ballet and, though she was a very junior dancer at the company, she was managing to create a fair bit of press for herself in the local newspapers via her outlandish public behavior.
“Oh for heaven’s sake!” Tosha snorted, reading. “She threw a hissy fit because she didn’t get her favorite table at a restaurant? Give me a break!”
“You reading about Maria’s latest escapade?” asked George, as he plopped down beside Tosha on the sofa. “It’s all anyone was talking about in Movement class this morning.”
“Maria’s pretty over-the-top for a new member of the company,” Tosha observed.
“That’s exactly why she behaves as she does,” George explained. “A dancer is at her peak for only a few years, and Maria’s trying to get the public interested in her so that City Ballet—which after all is a business, with its eye on the bottom line—will notice she has drawing power and will cast her in bigger parts—sooner rather than later. Maria’s doing what she can to raise her profile early.”
Once Tosha had left the room, Chloe gave George an uncomfortable smile.
“And I’m going to put off telling her as long as possible, believe me,” George replied.
“Hopefully,” Chloe echoed, but privately she doubted it.
One night mid-semester, Yuri was abducted from Pinenut Plaza, his hands bound behind him.
“My sister's never going to believe this!” he exulted.
Yuri was very happy to have the opportunity to spend time with Lilly, who for 3 years had rejected his many advances. “So,” he asked brightly as they were playing chess one evening, “how about going out with me this weekend?”
Lilly frowned and rubbed her forehead. “We’ve been through this several times, Yuri--you have a girlfriend. And even if you broke up with Rebecka to go out with me, that wouldn’t make you someone I’d feel comfortable dating.”
“George, that’s terrific!” Rebecka squealed into the phone. “Thank you soooo much for thinking of me!!”
“George’s former dance partner, Maria Ivanova, needs an interior designer for her new apartment, and he recommended me!” Rebecka reportedly happily.
“I thought she was living in one of the City Ballet-owned apartments with three other ballerinas,” Derek said. “That’s what George told me, and I didn’t think there was much decorating you could do in such a place.”
“She’s apparently found some way to afford a place of her own,” Rebecka said. “I’m going over there tomorrow to see what I can do for her. Even if it’s a small job, and even if I have to do it for next to nothing, it’ll be worth it, because I should at least be able to wrangle a few introductions to higher-ups in the City Ballet, and you know all their trustees are absolutely loaded!” she announced with glee.
One evening near the end of fall semester, Yulia looked up from her studying and asked her brother, “Where the heck’s Rebecka? I just realized I haven’t seen her in weeks.”
“She’s finishing up Maria’s apartment,” Yuri answered. “She works night and day, whenever she’s not in class. Even I haven’t seen her in weeks—whenever she’s got a project, she sure gets independent. She promised to drop by tonight, though, and we’re going to go out and grab a bite.”
“Hi, you two!” Rebecka said with forced gaiety, as she collapsed onto the sofa next to Yulia.
“How are things going with your job for Maria?” Yulia asked politely. She was trying to be nice to Rebecka, having taken to heart her mother’s reprimand.
“Oh, just fine,” Rebecka answered, somewhat unconvincingly.
“As a matter of fact,” Rebecka replied, “it will be done in a couple of days, and Maria is throwing a party next weekend to celebrate, and you’re both invited. And Derek, too,” she added, turning to Yulia.
“Is it a housewarming?” asked Yulia. “Should we bring her some sort of gift—a coffeemaker, a blender, something like that? She must need stuff for her new apartment—everybody does.”
“Um, that won’t be necessary,” said Rebecka slowly, obviously uncomfortable for some reason that was not apparent to the twins. “She seems to be doing fine all by … umm … herself….”
NOTE FROM THE AUTHOR: Join us next week for "Maria's Party."