Boris Vasiliev: The War Began Tomorrow


The guys felt awkward, as if they had been monstrously untactful, forcing themselves to be tolerated out of mere politeness. They felt an urge to leave, but leaving just like that, with nothing told or heard in response, seemed impossible, and all they could do was exchange embarrassed glances. 
“Have you been to the cemetery?” Artyom asked. He did it so sharply, his bluntness made Iskra shiver. But that was the tone that drove Leonid Sergeevich out of his stoop. 
“Yes, I have. The fence is blue. Flowers everywhere. The bush is good. A good bait for birds, too, though.”
“A good one,” Zhora affirmed, and went on rubbing his swollen fists.
Luberetsky’s voice was constrained and colorless, he was talking briskly, and having said his words, he plunged back into heavy silence.
“It’s better we leave now,” Val’ka whispered. “We are bothering him.” Artyom gave him an outraged look, then took a lungful and made a step toward Luberetsky. He put his hand on Luberetsky’s shoulder, slightly shaking it, “Hey, look… you can’t go on like that… like you do! You can’t! Vika loved a different you. And we… we did, too. You can’t.”
“What?” Luberetsky slowly swept his eyes over the room. “Everything is wrong. Everything is wrong.”
“What is wrong?”
In the twilight of the dining room Artyom walked up to the curtained windows and pulled the ropes. The curtains flew open, letting the light rush into the room, while Artyom looked back at Luberetsky.
“Come here, Leonid Sergeevich.”
Luberetsky didn’t move.
“Come up here! Pashka, give him a hand!”
But Luberetsky stood up on his own. Shuffling, he approached the window.
“Look, there was not enough room for all of us here.”
Outside, covered in lumpy snow, the entire 9B grade was standing…
“My dear friends,” Luberetsky said in a softer, warmer voice. “My dear friends…” He glanced at Iskra as sharply as he always did, “They are freezing! Bring them in, Iskra.”
Iskra rushed elatedly to the door. 
“I’ll make us some tea!” Zina said loudly. “Can I?”
“Yes, please, Zinochka...”
…Over tea they were spoke about Vika. About the times when she was alive – from the first grade – their voices went on top of each other, each trying to add and enrich the story. Luberetsky was quiet, but absorbed every word said. And sighed, “What a tough year it’s been!”
Everyone stopped talking. And Zinochka, as was her nature, said, totally out of line, “And you know why that is? Because it’s a leap year! The next year will be a lot happier, you’ll see!”
The next year was 1941.

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