N.B. A note to any of our American cousins who may be following this outlandish fantasy tale. In some of the following chapters there may appear to be a negative attitude to some US institutions, or cultural icons. It's a story - get over it. This is just illustrating a reflection of how the attitudes and world media coverage in some countries portray the USA. On a personal note I get along fine with most folk, but in general I have no interest in local political machinations, and even less interest in world politics (or sport) - my only fervent hope would be for less conflict in the world - as young girls might get hurt.
Shortly before their parents were preparing to leave for diner, Valya showed up with the boys from their burger feast, and hustled them into the bathroom, then she asked Ella about their routine and bedtime stories, settling any doubts she may have had.
The meal that evening was at the restaurant overlooking the river, the maitre d' welcomed them back, turned to Anna saying he was pleased she returned so often, lapping up the attention, she asked if they could have two of their menus in English as she and her sister liked to practice, he said it would be no problem, and that he had the corner table reserved this evening for them, with the best views along the river.
During the meal Ivan said he would send a truck with two men, in order they could move whatever furniture or belongings back to Kiev when they were ready, and just to give him a day or so to make arrangements. Igor admitted there was little in the way of furniture that would suit the new house, it would mostly be sentimental family heirlooms and personal belongings, and they would try to help out some of their neighbours by passing things on.
Ivan advised them where to purchase furniture and bedding, then suggested to Ella when looking for curtain fabrics, to speak to the ladies in the dressmaking department, as they would help measure-up, show her the best suppliers, and then make them by the following day, in order they could get settled in as soon as possible.
Igor said how grateful they were, for all the help and consideration they had been shown, to which Ivan assured him they tried their best for all their models, and the girls families.
He went on to say how Igor and Ella were doubly blessed to have two such talented daughters, and he expected the girls would both have long successful careers, therefore Ivan would exceed his normal bounds to ensure they were happy to stay with the studio.
Although toasting and drinking at nearly any event was common neither of the men drank much, Igor out of habit due to accidents he had seen with workmen who got careless, and Ivan wanting a clear business head, and wishing to lead by example.
The next morning Anna, Marta, and Valya went over to the other apartment for cereals and tea, although Igor liked a more substantial breakfast he was in too good a mood to make any complaint. He was in a way relieved he was now in a position to get out of his current employment, and start afresh, he had recognised a few of the companies for which he had letters of introduction, and looked up some of the others in the local trades telephone book, to find they had quarter or half page banner listings, indicating they were major companies each in their own field.
Not knowing anyone else who was local, he asked Valya about the six various businesses and if she had any contacts who knew anything about them. As luck would have it the husband of her neighbour worked in accounts at one company, and she knew they did maintenance mostly for large chains of shops, and most of the local school buildings, and she got the impression it was a good place to work.
Valya called her friend, then made a few more calls, and with the information she was able to gather, Igor thought the first company they talked of, plus two others were the ones he would make contact with initially.
They were all returning home today, Ella had managed to borrow a case, big enough for weekend essentials, but there was no room for the additional smart clothing Valya had got for them, but Valya said they could leave anything at the apartment they didn't need back home, as they could stay here when they returned while getting the new house in order.
They were all quite weary when they got back on Sunday evening, and had eaten at a café next to the station before heading home so that Ella wouldn't need to cook.
On Monday morning Igor set off to work, he clocked-in then went up to the supervisors office to break the news, but before he had a chance to say anything, his boss in grave and apologetic terms informed Igor he would have to let him go at the end of the week, but he would get another two weeks pay as severance. Igor stifled his laughter in a choked coughing fit, meanwhile his boss being even more contrite about the situation, saying he feared more of the workforce would soon follow, even doubting the safety of his own job.
Workmates thought for a man who had lost his job, he was taking it very calmly, but Igor was not sorry to go, for he had no real friends at the company, they were just people he worked with, it was what he did to feed his family, or had been until now. That evening they called Ivan, then Valya with the news, and a moving crew were set to turn up the following Monday, so they had the rest of the week and weekend to sort out what they would take.
On Tuesday Nana Olga and Gramps were invited over for lunch, and they were told the news, it was a bitter-sweet moment, for although the old folks were glad of the family's good fortune, they would greatly miss having their surrogate grandchildren around.
Ella said how much she and the children would miss them too, and they would write often, as the old couple had no phone, and she would arrange a visit soon after they had settled in their new home. What Ella hadn't made clear was that she intended to send them return rail tickets in order they could have a holiday in Kiev that she would organize for them.
On Wednesday the girls had arranged to meet Svetlana and her current charges from the studio at a park café near her home, after the initial greetings, Anna took the surprised teacher off for a walk while the others talked as she and her sister had planned.
Anna explained to Svetlana how Marta needed to talk about 'secret fashion world politics', and rumours of takeovers, and how it shouldn't take long. As they went round the park they held most of their conversation in English, Anna curious as to the new girls progress, and Svetlana pleased when Anna said the lessons were helping her career, and how more girls should follow, who may have some basic coaching before they arrived.
The teacher was more surprised when the ringing sound from the girls backpack turned out to be a mobile phone, and it appeared the secret talks had ended, so now it was time to join the others to order tea and cakes.
While Anna had been on her walkabout, Marta told the girls about her 'talk to the models forum', and how when Sasha heard of it from her mum, it was a new idea they were working on, and it still needed more work from the tech people, which is why no one needed to know about it yet. When the buzz on that settled down she spoke about the full English dialogue video Anna had done the previous week, and if any of them wanted her to write them a script, they needed to work hard on their lessons.
Secret studio business over, Marta phoned her sister to gasps of envy and surprise from the three other girls at the table. At the walkers return, they placed their orders, then kept to safe subjects, including how there were now weekly deliveries of several American teen magazines, and some newspapers that came from the U.K. and how the two countries using the same language had different spellings, fortunately they sounded alike, well apart from their strange accents.
Anna settled the bill, and Marta suggested the girls might like to speak to her sister about the latest gossip, they caught on, and realised they had been dismissed, as Marta wanted to talk alone with Svetlana.
Svetlana had a feeling there was more going on than she was being told, but she did not want to say or do anything to upset the gravy-train that had pulled her out of debt, and gave her a better income than she had ever previously had, or frankly ever expected.
Marta explained how pleased the studio people were that she and Anna were better able to understand and converse with their foreign business partners, and it would help keep the work in this country. When they saw how useful it was, they wanted to accelerate the programme by using teachers in Kiev, but she had argued they continue with Svetlana for the intensive residential instruction course outside the distractions of the big city, and just use the teachers in Kiev as a primer.
Svetlana thanked Marta for intervening on her behalf, but was curious as to how Marta had gained so much influence, at which Marta explained she had made a few suggestions how to make the company better than their rivals, including of course learning English. The teacher still thought that was a lot of additional expense just to produce a children's clothing catalogue, but it was money in her pocket, and decided to ask no more questions.
Some distance away Anna was describing the video she had just made, and explaining the naughty dialogue her sister had written for it, explaining how they had 'innocently' used all the double meanings. They were impressed, and each wanted to follow in her footsteps if the release of the video was as successful as they expected it to be, and when Marta was mentioned, Anna told them that her official title was 'Development Consultant & Natasha's manager', and that she had her own office, and her own staff, 'of one', that bit she left out.
The two groups merged for a while, and the teacher and current brood seemed enthused to increase their efforts, Svetlana bemoaning the fact none of the local newspaper vendors would get any U.S. magazines or publications, so Marta said she would have someone send regular parcels from Kiev. They said their goodbyes and headed home swapping tails of the conversations they had each had, with the accompaniment of much laughter, as they came to the conclusion they had both grown in status, and gained a measure of respect from both their peers, and elders.
Not wanting to use their phones on the bus, out of fear they would be stolen, they waited to call about the magazines until they got home, and Valya said she would increase her order and get Tanya to post them.
Nana Olga had been spending every spare moment at their apartment, and sometimes Gramps turned up as well to help sort and box the things that would go or stay.
Igor had told their much loved neighbours that they could have first pick of any furniture or belongings that they were not taking to Kiev, and Marta said Olga should have the curtains she had admired, for their windows were the same size, and Marta and Anna would clean them before hanging them for her.
By the Sunday a large portion of the children's clothing had been given away, and other items had gone next door, there were some things they would leave in the street the following day that would soon disappear if left unattended, which would help them clear the apartment.
On Monday Nana Olga kept everyone fed and topped up with tea, and as promised a truck with two strong men had arrived early to load up for the move, and Gramps kept watch outside over the things people could have for free, and the things going onto the truck. Igor and the two men did the lifting and moving of the big stuff, the girls doing the small boxes, and Ella directed, as the boys 'helped' Nana Olga in her apartment.
Shortly after lunch there was a tearful farewell, as they boarded the hired SUV Ivan had arranged for them in order to drive to Kiev, following the truck which would park overnight at the studio complex, then unload into storage the next day. The plan was that Valya would show them to the apartment block were they had stayed the previous week, where they would lodge spread across the two units while they set up home in their new house.
During the week even though they did some serious shopping, it only made a small dent in the account of the girls joint earnings, and as promised two ladies from the studio design team came to measure up, then helped Ella choose fabrics, paint and wallpaper for each room in the house, each armed with notebooks and samples, though the girls each got a say on their own room.
The next day half the girls in the dressmaking department were machining curtains and seemed so busy Ella retreated to the house, which required a short Metro journey followed by a fair walk or a short bus ride, so Ella chose the bus. Opening the door she found lots of guys from the studio workshop being directed by one of the designers, as to what paint went where, and what walls were to have which paper.
There were that many people working on the house they had even brought their own tea boy with them, who between brews did the fetching and carrying, and the lad offered to bring her a cup out to the picnic table in the back garden. Outside she found two workmen from a local store assembling a combination garden swing and climbing frame so the boys would have their very own park type recreation in their own garden.
Ella ran that thought again - the boys had their very own garden.
If this were a dream she did not want to wake-up any time soon.
With most of the big ticket shopping done, the girls were spending time in their office working on video scripts, Igor had gone off for a job interview, and the boys were at a summer play scheme, where they had organised games and activities each day, and Valya would be collecting them after work before returning them to the apartment.
That morning Igor had been dubious about his visit to the salon at the studio, but Ivan had insisted, so he showed up with his daughter's leading him like a man to the gallows, much to their amusement. Marta had instructions for the skilled ladies working there.
"I need his hair cut and styled, but I don't want it to look like it was done this morning, and his hands and nails, but he will be moving between work-site and office, so neat but they're not to look fancy"
"Do I get a say in this young lady" he asked, but was drowned out in a sea of no's from all of the others standing around him, and thus was resigned to his fate.
When the ladies finished with him he was just as Marta had asked, looking in the mirror, his hair was neater and better styled then it had been, but it didn't look as if he had just stepped out of the barber shop. Marta handed him a new jacket, that contrasted nicely with the fairly new trousers he was wearing, but he didn't recognise it as the one he owned.
After thanking the ladies on his behalf, she led him to the woodwork shop to get the new smell out by rubbing some fresh wood shavings on it, and so he could chat to the guys there and relax before his appointment that afternoon. His daughter's then took him to the canteen for an early lunch, where they were greeted by most of the people in the dining room as they made their selections. After lunch they took off his visitor pass as they went through reception then each gave him a kiss, and wished him luck as they loaded him into a cab, telling the driver where to take him.
On the way to the interview Igor reflected on his daughter's comments, "If you look the part and feel the part, you can be the part", when did those girls suddenly get so self confident and was it rubbing off on him, yes he could be a supervisor, he had been in charge when several guys were needed on the same job, that was close enough.
The interview went well, he and the regional manager got on, the types of work they did he was familiar with, and they were friendly and treated their staff well, and what with the company perks and benefits package, there was nothing not to like about the position on offer.
Greg and Peter were sitting on high stools at the breakfast bar in the kitchen each carefully writing a letter, to Nana Olga and Gramps when their father got back, the girls who were helping their siblings, both held a question in their eyes. A wink and a smile was answer enough for them, and they rushed to hug and congratulate him, then he sat with the boys to hear all about their day at the play scheme.
Shortly after Ella got back she reported on the massive progress occurring at the house, and how the foreman said they should be able to move in on Sunday, at Igor's doubtful expression, Ella said there were people working in every room at the same time, and they were still hard at it when she left. That evening they tried another of the takeaway menus in the drawer, and all agreed the novelty was fine, but they loved mum's cooking best.
The following day, Friday dawned bright and clear, and Igor decided to head over to the house first thing, before the workers arrived to inspect what sort of a job they had done.
He was astonished to find workers on site this early, until he discovered that was the night shift who were going home soon, Ivan had asked for a quick result, and as only so many people could work in the house at one time, they were running around the clock to get finished as soon as they could.
This was quality work, both paintwork and papering were faultless, when he got to the boys rooms, Peter's room had one wall that was painted with a bunch of friendly looking dinosaurs playing football, complete with a row of pterodactyls perched on the picture rail watching, like birds on a phone wire. In Greg's room two scenery painters were working on an airport mural, with numerous planes in flight in the sky above.
It was only someone shouting that tea was ready that broke their concentration, Igor introduced himself and said how much he admired their skills, and he was sure his sons would be really happy with their new rooms. He joined all the workers for tea, saying how amazed he was, and how much he and his family appreciated the effort they had made.
They talked of how interesting it was working at the studio, bringing the designers ideas to life, how sometimes they would work flat out for days on end, then there would be a quite spell, when nobody complained if they got on with some private jobs of their own.
One of the crew went on to say how every so often there was a mad dash when some new family moved into the city, and how they enjoyed working outside the studio complex for a few days as a change in routine. Another opinion at the table was that much of their work was ephemeral, just like a theatre stage set, but it was nice working on the house of one of their girls, as it meant the results of their work could be enjoyed for much longer.
As the conversation around the table continued, Igor noted a sense of belonging these people shared, and also a possessive feeling of admiration, or maybe avuncular respect they felt towards the girls working at the studio.
There was no rigid clocking on or off as he had seen at the factory, some of the men left and others arrived, some, such as the mural painters wanted to stay to get to a convenient point at which to pack up, before they left. Igor liked these people and their attitude, deciding he would find a way to show his gratitude to the hard working team of people who had spent all this time on the house, for him and his family.
He was helping to move some trestles about when one of the designers showed up with two ladies from the dressmaking workshop with curtains for the rooms that had so far been completed. Although he was very much a nuts and bolts sort of guy, he could appreciate how well they complimented the overall look of the rooms where they now hung.
Igor went round the house to say goodbye and thank everyone, then headed back to the apartment, as he had promised Ella they would take time to look around the city that day.
Later on they found themselves walking hand in hand through a park by the river, reflecting at the extraordinary changes in their lives since that fateful day of the auditions, still finding it hard to believe their good fortune. Ella was still coming to terms with not struggling to stretch the contents of her purse from one pay day to the next, it had become such an ingrained habit being frugal, that she supposed it would take time.
This was the first time Ella had relaxed since they had arrived on Sunday night, as well as selecting all the furnishings, she had visited both schools that her children would soon be attending, in each school she was expected, and warmly welcomed. This may have been due to prior phone calls from a generous local business entrepreneur who often helped them out, so they were pleased to return the favour. It was less than two weeks before school resumed but they both said the children could start, and they would sort the transfer paperwork from their old schools afterwards.
During the week Marta and Anna had helped their mum, but they had also been in the office working on script ideas for both Anna and some spare outlines that other girls could use, these they would work on when scripts were paired with models. Alina had moved to her new desk, and was busy expanding the data correlations she had been working on, and she was also looking into a models skills database, which Dmitri was helping with.
Anna managed to corner Karl to ask if he would invite her sister to play a game of chess, as Marta would be to shy to ask herself, and she would appreciate the practice after hardly playing all summer. Later that afternoon a somewhat hesitant Karl turned up on his tea rota, and asked if Marta had had a chance to use the new chess set in her office, and when she admitted she hadn't, he offered to play, if she was willing and could find the time.
While she was stumbling for a reply Anna suggested Friday lunchtime, and that seemed to settle the issue, after he had left Marta was still at a loss for words as Anna said how it showed Karl was interested despite her protests about the age difference.
Anna had, when the opportunity arose checked Karl's desk area for clues about what he was interested in, and spoken to people in the department he worked with to fill in more details, she then dropped bits of information into her conversation with her sister regarding things that might interest a boy like Karl, and then when she saw him nearby would discus with Dmitri or Alina things that her sister liked, knowing he could overhear.
Lunchtimes, and time keeping in general were not rigid issues at the studio as they were in other workplaces, and the web designer that Karl was currently assigned to had said with a wink that he needn't hurry back from lunch. As he reached Marta's office Anna was just leaving having delivered a large plate of sandwiches and some sodas, thinking that both Marta and Karl would have been to nervous about the 'date' to even remember to get any food in for their get together.
Although both parties were hesitant, each strangely thinking the other out of their reach, the date went well, as Anna had made sure to provide their favourite lunch fillings, and preferred drinks. As they played, they even had topics of conversation thanks to Anna's careful intrigues, another plus point was that they were both good at chess, and fairly well matched in their level of skill.
After a well fought game Marta won, and Karl asked if they could have a rematch soon, as he had spent too much time on computer gaming rather than chess, now the awkwardness had past and the conversation was flowing, Marta started to outline some of her ideas and some of the lines she wanted to research. Karl offered to show her the basics she needed to use the internet, and the use of search engines, going on to say what other people in the department could do to help with her computer literacy.
Later when Anna returned she found her sister smiling, gazing off into space with the video script book open in front of her, and made enquiries as to if she had had a good game at lunchtime, and if there were to be further games, making it plain it was a double entendre.
Marta was in too good a mood to be fazed by her sisters teasing, and after telling Anna of how she had enjoyed getting to know Karl, suggested they spend some time catching up on the gossip on the members forum.
Shortly after they logged on Anna gave a startled squeal of surprise, that brought Alina darting in to find out what had happened.
To be continued in chapter 14
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