The Nevsky Wall
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Chapter 7   -  The Traveling Show

August 25

Alex knew that the time of waiting was drawing to a close. It was the sense one had just before a late summer storm – the electric charge in the air, the sudden smell of earth, when the worms crawl out from the dirt and into the light of day.

On his way to the studio, he saw a couple dressed for dinner, strolling the Prospekt as if nothing had changed. The better restaurants, like the Astoria, kept their doors open, but the patrons were forced to dine at an unfashionably early hour to meet the ten o’clock curfew. The quality of the dishes declined as well, but there were few complaints. “There’s a war on, and we will eat our Salade Victoire,” the patrons would say with pride. Besides, those with connections could still find the best sterlet caviar, and the wine cellars were well-stocked.

When Alex walked into her dressing room, Larissa was applying the last of her makeup. She was in slacks, with a cloth draped over the collar of her blouse. Seeing the reflection of her face in the mirror, he felt once again that baffling, brief moment of pure desire that kept drawing him back. He had seen her infrequently since Maxim’s Party had been shut down, but he dutifully came when summoned like some expectant schoolboy.

“Darling. Come in, come in. I’ll be ready in a minute. I’m glad you could go on this little excursion with me. We’ll finally have time to talk.” She finished off a glass of vodka and touched up her lipstick. “It’s been a long day.” She motioned to a sequined dress hanging on the back of the door. “Could you be a dear and grab that for me? The car is waiting.”

A black Mercedes with a driver in military uniform met them at the entrance to the studio. The driver opened the door for Larissa, and Alex, dress in hand, let himself in on the other side. It was a warm early evening, wet from a summer rain, and he could see the barrage balloons looming in the sky over the Admiralty. The Lenfilm lot was unusually active for the time of day, full of trucks being loaded with costumes and equipment and filing cabinets.

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Chapter 7   -  The Traveling Show

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