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Tatiana Vorontsova
Setting off for parts unknown.
Wed Jul 19, 2017 13:20

Olga Vorontsova stood in the narrow center aisle of the wagon, her robes almost brushing the feet of some of the youths crowding the benches, and looked around. The vast majority of the students were unlikely to understand the disapproving remark she made to her husband, but any who were (as was more significantly more likely) looking at the adult witch in a broad hat and sparkling with large pieces of jewelry from her ears to her fingers who was for some reason on their wagon might have discerned a certain skepticism in her expression.

I am sure it is quite safe, Olenka,” said her husband Andrei, also speaking in Russian. The members of Tatiana Andreyevna Vorontsova’s family who had crowded onto the wagon behind her had a total of parts of three other languages between them – Andrei, Tatiana, and Katerina all spoke varying degrees of English, Andrei and Olga both spoke decent French which the two of their four daughters with them could understand bits and pieces of, and Olga additionally spoke German – but Russian was everyone’s first language, the one they spoke at home.

I do not like it, either, Mama,” said Katerina loyally, shying close to her mother’s side.

Tatiana, in the lead and struggling to carry her three-year-old brother Alexei as he gazed around at all the strangers wide-eyed and maintained a death grip on the necklace of small-to-medium-sized graduated black freshwater pearls around her neck, glanced over her shoulder. “Don’t worry, Katyusha,” she said reassuringly to her sister. “If it will not kill the Americans, it will not kill me.

Do not touch anything,” ordered Olga. “You will soil your gloves.

Finding an empty seat, Andrei secured his daughter’s luggage. “There go,” said Andrei, speaking in heavily accented English as Tatiana settled down. He bent his smallest finger and thumb down to his palm, leaving three extended, and blessed Tatiana again, even though this part of leavetaking had already been done at home. And at the wagon stop in Juneau, Alaska, while they were waiting for the wagon to drop by. Repeatedly. Her mother did the same, and ran her hand down Tatiana’s cheek just as she had five minutes earlier while hanging an amethyst amulet she had almost forgotten around Tatiana’s neck, the chain long enough for the pendant to disappear beneath Tatiana’s robes but part of the golden chain showing beneath her pearl necklace. Alexei began to cry indignantly as their mother took him away from his sister, which set Katerina off again, her eyes welling up as she darted in for one last hug, almost knocking her sister’s hat (forest green to match the plain uniform robes, but Tatiana had insisted on embellishing it a bit with a peacock feather, a hatpin shaped like a feather but studded with glass stones, and a green-on-green embroidered band) ajar. Olga reached down to adjust it and nearly lost an earlobe as Alexei seized her earring. Then, all at once, so fast it almost made Tatiana feel dizzy, it seemed they were all in retreat – Alexei still whining a bit from his disappointment over being taken from Tatiana, Andrei talking about Tatiana would outshine all the Amerikantsy, Olga reminding her to always be kind and obedient so everyone would love her, Katya waving and crying and promising to write all the time, but all definitely moving away from her even as they did so. She clutched her hands tightly in her lap and tried not to burst into tears.

A few minutes later, though, after a wagon take-off which made her immediately disobey her mother’s instruction not to touch anything so she could grab the sides of her seat and an adjustment to the velocity of flying, Tatiana began to take more of an interest in the people around her. She wondered how all of their mamas and papas had fit onto the wagon to tell them goodbye and help them with their things if more than one of them had ever gotten on at one stop, and whether they also had lots of siblings who were somewhere else, and whether they had understood Papa when he said she was better than them. Finally, she turned to one and spoke, careful to enunciate as well as she could in English.

“Hello,” she said to someone sitting near her, the word distinctly accented but understandable. She was very careful to keep her tone solemn and her face, framed in brown curls falling from beneath the hat, unsmiling, lest her new acquaintance think she was mocking them. “My name – is – Tatiana Andreyevna. Your first time going here also?” she asked, carefully raising her inflection throughout the last sentence to make it clear she was asking a question and taking care not to fidget with either of the two thin bracelets on her left wrist or the one on her right wrist. Fidgeting, Mama always reminded her, was rude, even if – or even especially if – it did happen to draw attention to her jewelry.

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