Photo by Scott Webb on Unsplash
‘ Do you really need it ? Is one not enough. There are so many televisions you can watch. So many cars you can drive at any one time. Only so many clothes and shoes you can actually wear, at any one time ‘.
It was the beginnings of yet another shouting match. She was just about adept at understanding the accent. Another draining, exhausting, no win all out argument. Just one more reason to hate and detest her. Just one more reason to run as far away as was humanly possible. She knew it was pointless to argue. For no matter what she said, it would as usual be twisted, and turned, into words and meanings that were not true, or even uttered, in the slightest.
‘ You do know of course, your Grand Father will never stand for it. I will certainly tell him. He will ground you for at least two weeks. I’m sure of it. I’ll make damn sure he does ‘.
She marched off at speed, the high heels clattering, throughout the glass and marbled temple, that was masquerading as a shopping mall. Glamorous handbag, gripped tightly under her arm.
She had no choice but to follow. Her head low. Staring at the floor. Wishing by some miracle it would swallow her up. Hoping against hope, that none of her school friends had witnessed yet another of the skirmishes she had with her new step mother. People nearby had noticed. Stopped and stared. Slightly shaken by the loud, overly loud foreign voice. Discretion not one of her traits. Being center of attention. Now that she enjoyed. She was hard to miss. An incredibly elegant walk. Striking blond hair. Clear, yet perfect skin. Light grey, clear, healthy eys. Cat like. A proud posture, made her stand out wherever she went. It’s how they were brought up in the Ukraine. To be a proud people. Whether they were rich or poor. Even if it was very embarrassing for her step daughter. She didn’t care. Didn’t even like her. She was only an impossible encumbrance. Taking her newly found husbands attention, and funds away from her.
She needed those funds. Her overly large family and various relatives back home, in the mainly poverty stricken streets of that small village in the Ukraine, badly needed her assistance. She was glamorous beyond a doubt. As many women from that part of the world are. Tall, slim, and very pretty. High cheekbones. Knowing how to dress to impress the foolish Western men who came looking for Russian brides. They may not have being considered wealthy men by Western European standards. But to the improvised females in the Ukraine, they were, in comparison, millionaires of great stature. The competition to capture one of these men was intense. Bitchiness ruled among the contending women. It did not reached the stage of hair pulling and female wrestling. But came more than close of more than a few occasions. Only for the intervention of the interpreters and tour reps, the assembled group of women would have looked quiet differently, when they meet the coachload of possible husbands, at the nightclub, that early Saturday evening.
He of course was too old, by far. Wrinkled forehead and skin. A tanned and leathery face, and not just because of all those days outside in the Californian sunshine. He dressed way too young for his age. All in black. Large gold cross dangling from his chicken like neck on a chain. Like an older, but more tanned version of Johnny Cash, the country singer, who could not really sing at all. He quiet possibly would have being a cause of much mirth and laughter, back home. But here in the Ukraine, he was out to impress. To capture a striking woman’s heart, and take her back to America, and make her his wife. He had the funds. The big house. The successful business. The only slight barrier, may be his grand daughter, whom he was forced, well coerced to look after. It was written into her will before she died. If he wanted ownership of the vineyard, which he did. He had to agree to look after his grand daughter, until she was twenty one years old, and to set her up financially for life. He knew that had he reneged on that signed agreement. That her Rottweiler of a lawyer would see to it, he would loses the vineyard, and all the wealth associated with it. The vineyard that had being in her family for generations, since her grandparents arrived from Italy all those years ago, now. It was too healthy a business to let go.
Had any back home known he was here in the Ukraine on a wife hunting mission. How they would have laughed. Well perhaps behind his back. Why Ukraine, why now. He had tired of American, Western women, and there insatiable never ending demands. Outspoken, career driven women. Women with attitudes and strong views, he could well do without. What he wanted was a poverty stricken, desperate, stunning woman, to become his wife. Quiet and submissive. An easy life into his old age. That’s what he came searching for. He stood out from the other misfits, or should I say travelers. Appearing halfway normal. Confident, and well travelled.
By and large the rest of the group were sad and comical in the extreme. Socially inadequate and awkward. The tour guides and interpreters happy to take their money. Secretly laughing at their desperation. Their failure to meet a woman by normal means. Rather meeting there possible prospective wives at what amounted to cattle calls in the local nightclubs of the towns and villages they visited. As they perused the females paraded in front of them. As if viewing possible purchases at an animal market in the west. It was excruciating, embarrassing, and cringe making for the women. Not so much for the men. For they could not see it for what it was.
It was eight months since she had arrived in America, and settled into her position at the ranch. She attended to her wifely duties, with obvious distaste, with the wretched elderly man she called her husband. A price she was willing to pay, for a short time. She slipped easily into the position of the wealthy wife. Something she believed she was born for. The shopping sprees. The lavish dinners. The constant sunshine. The new found friends. Such a lifetime, a world away from her previous life. America was turning out just as she had always dreamed and wished for, aside that is from, that annoying young grand daughter.
She was not of course in love with him. It was for both a marriage of convenience. Both got what they wanted.
He wasn’t really fond of his grand daughter, Chloe. She was his ticket to a comfortable life. All he had to do was look after her and see she was financially set. When they did speak, which was not that often, he struggled to be civil. She was an unwanted, but necessary milestone around his neck. He encouraged her to study at a University far away. She had expressed an interest in the law, and he encouraged her interest. Anything to get her away from the ranch. He did not need an interfering family member getting any idea of what he was planning.
Chloe had often watched them from afar as they walked together, arm in arm, examining the vine in the comfortable heat. She in that light colored dress she worn to please him. He dressed as usual in the slightly worn cream colored shirt and khaki and light grey sunhat. She never took to her, from the day she arrived. An interloper, an outsider. A damn foreigner, from a country she did not even know.
As they walked around the vineyard. Tatiana had plans for the future. Which did not include her aging mealticket, well husband. But her husband also had plans. Being fickle. His tastes and desires changed fairly quickly. He had fulfilled his desire for a pretty eastern European wife, but had now began to tire of her. Her lavish spending, which was a price he was willing to pay initially. His inability to hold a intellectual conversation with a woman who could not be bothered to improve her language skills. That was frustrating in the extreme. Tatiana preferring the social company of others, similar to her. Some would call them foreign gold diggers. Out for a better, more abundant life in America. Those who spoke her own language, when they met, and laughed at the foolishness of the American men who believed they had purchased a foreign wife, like one purchases a commodity.
The physical manifestations of her violent anger, that he had seen and come to dread, when he refused one of her many ongoing requests. She was turning into a liability, and an expensive one at that. Her increasing vitriolic demands that he sponsor and pay for some of her aging relatives to America. Of course looking back he should have listened to his lawyer, who cautioned against rushing into marriage. Especially without the benefit of a pre nuptial agreement. But in his fear, lust and excitement, Alex ran headlong into a marriage he believed would last through to the end of his days. Of course he should have invested her background more thoroughly. Learned more about her, and her sleazy relatives. Had he known…..
He had come to resent her withholding sexual affection, well any affection whatsoever. To compound it all, he had employed that quiet, brooding Mexican, as a ranch hand, at Tatina’s request, and cajoling. He was the complete opposite of Alex. Young, muscular, dark skinned. Black slicked back hair. Alex referred to him, as a slime ball in his own mind. He had the aura of un-trustworthiness, and dis-honesty about him. Not to mention, a seething violence surrounding him. Unspoken, but tangible, palatable. He was beginning to be suspicious of a burgeoning affair between the Mexican ranch hand and his Russian wife. His life was slowly becoming a war zone. Aside from the now infrequent times when he and his wife got along. She of course only being nice to him, to gain whatever happened to be her wishes at the time. A brief interlude, from there ongoing increasingly bitter war. She was beginning to turn out as predicted by the few friends he had told, about how they had met. A self seeking, selfish, manipulative woman. Temperamental, and abusive in the extreme, and untrustworthy. Using her beauty to manipulate and use other’s for her own ends.
He was trapped like an animal. A possible looming expensive divorce on the horizon. Possibly the loss of the ranch. He knew she would never file for divorce, but could see her plan. To make their marriage and his life intolerable, so eventually he would file for divorce, and she would reap the financial rewards. With a smart lawyer to portray her as the simple, innocent victim, from a foreign land. Easy,… right.
Sickened by all unpleasantness, he went to the ranch stable, in the early morning sunshine and ordered the young Spanish boy working their to saddle up his horse. It was one of the few pleasures he now enjoyed. Where he could ride in freedom. Clear his mind. The young boy helped the old man onto the horse, and led him out of the stables. The slime ball Mexican smiled as he watched, from the darkness of the stables. The horse carried Alex away. He gently took the horse out among the fields, and from then into the sparely wooded area, by the lake. It was his favorite place. The lake. Quiet, peaceful and reflective. He sat by the lake for approx an hour, listening to the silence. Finding some peace of mind, before he prepared to return to the war zone, as he now referred to his marriage.
He untied his horse from the tree, and led it to some nearby rocks, so as to mount it. Grabbing the saddle with one hand, he put in boot the strippup and pulled himself up. At the same time he fell backwards as the leather saddle came loose from the horse. The crunching sound as his head hit the moss covered rocks, ricocheted around the empty woodland.
( Part 2 ).
At the ranch, Tataina was becoming increasingly impatient. She marched up and down the outside patio, in the late morning sunshine. Her high heals clanking loudly on the Italian tiles. Deeply inhaling on her cigarette. Her face twisted in a demented scowl. No more the pretty woman. She needed him to show up now. She did not have time to waste.
At last. She exhaled strongly.
‘Well, did you do it, is it done ?’
‘No, I did not do, and yes it is done’.
‘What do you mean ?’, the irritation evident in her harsh voice.
She did not have time to play games. This was business. This was freedom.
‘I followed him this morning when he went to the stables, and was looking for an opportunity, any opportunity. Slight perspiration formed on his forehead. He too inhaled deeply on the newly lit cigarette. ‘As I waited, she came in’. He glanced at the framed photo that hung on the wall. Her eye’s followed his to the photo,’ and cut through one of the saddle straps almost completely. Enough to ensure it would soon fail with some heavy riding. She then slipped away’.
She smiled. Now she had a hold over her. A way to blackmail her, or report her. In any case, she now had a method to either get rid of her, or keep her quiet for evermore. To add to her joy, they watched as his horse sauntered through the ranch gates, minus the saddle. The stable boy ran to the perspiring horse and patted its nose and shoulders, glanced at the couple on the patio and smiled. He led the horse back to the stable, and patted the $100 in his pocket, he had been given to look the other way.
Chloe lay on her bed in her room, and waited for news. Any news. Preferably bad. She knew it would not take that long for him to be missed and searched for. Hopefully she had done enough. If not she would certainly try again. He had, and was going to pay. Maybe his wealth and connections had allowed him to escape justice in the past. But she would see to it, he would be made to pay the price.
The loud knock on the door startled her. She quickly opened the door to be met by a surprisingly smiling Tatina.
‘Well, well well, ain’t you full of surprises’. The voice strong, triumphant and victorious.
‘What do you mean’.
‘What I mean is that you were seen this morning in the stables, shall we say ‘adjusting’ your grandfathers saddle. Now he’s nowhere to be seen. Possibly laying injured, or dying out there somewhere’, gesturing towards the thousands of acres of land they owned.
‘I don’t know what you are talking about. I’ve been in here all morning’.
‘You were seen. We know what you did, and I have yet to decide what to do with that knowledge. But whatever I choose to do. You are now mine. I control your future. Whether that be in prison, or elsewhere. It’s whatever I decide to do with you’.
With that she slammed the door, and glided downstairs triumphantly.
Chloe layed back onto her bed. Her initial fantasizing oh him meeting his maker, now perhaps not the best result she could hope for. Her body drained of energy, she lay on the bed, and considered her future. If she now had a future to speak of. Whatever that would now be.
Tantanina was on the porch, defilty playing the dramatically traumatized wife.
‘ We must send out a search party. We must ‘. Played with enough gusto to persuade the watching ranch hands, and her kitchen staff, that she was indeed, the caring, worried , and loving wife. A search party, consisting of men on horseback and some in pickups, heading out the ranch gate at speed, to the different corners of the vast expanse of land the ranch covered. Those on horseback headed towards the lake, knowing his favoured spot. It did not take long for him to be found. Still unconscious and by now straing to breath. A pick was summoned and he was quickly taken aboard, and back to the ranch.
Tataina tried her best to portray her happiness and joy at her husband been found alive, and called for an ambulance. which duly arrived and transported the still unconscious husband to hospital.
( to be continued..)