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Finisher Medal. Goodie Bag. Overall Awards Top 3 Men and Women. Please arrive early if you prefer close proximity parking! Anton drained his glass of wine and then helped himself to a second glass, scooping up another handful of the Brazil nuts. Americans are—we are—a tolerant nation. How smug this sounded. Hadley paused, not knowing what she meant to say. The dark wine had gone quickly to her head. First is declared the enemy , then the war. Anton laughed, baring his teeth. Chunky yellow teeth they were, and the gums pale pink. This was insulting, deliberately so. Of course he knew.
She opened her mouth to protest, then thought better of it. Surreptitiously, she glanced at her wristwatch. Only P. Her guest had been inside the house for less than half an hour, but the strain of his visit was such that it seemed much longer. Still Anton was prowling about, snooping.
Hadley laughed again, uncertain. Was Anton Kruppev mocking her? He was peering at her, as at her art objects and bookshelves, with an almost hostile intensity; yet she could not help it, so American was her nature, so female, that she was still anxious that he like her, and admire her—if she could be sure that he did, then she would send him away in triumph.
In middle school, they had seemed pitiful—objects of sympathy, charity, and condescension, if not derision. There was a drivenness to them, something that the complacent Americans had initially mistaken for weakness. In his soiled wool socks, Anton seemed more childlike than aggressive. Hadley supposed that his own living quarters, in university-owned housing, were minimal, cramped, somewhere in the row of subsidized apartments along the river.
This is solar room? But now the room was dark and shadowed, and the bright festive colors were almost invisible.
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Through the vertical glass panels shone a faint crescent moon, entangled in the tops of the tall pines. You are so very lucky, Hedley. You know this, yes? For so few people. On each acre of land, it may be one person—the demographics would show.
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A brash sort of merriment shone in his eyes, widened behind the smudged lenses of his wire-rimmed glasses. He must know, then, she thought. Someone at the co-op has told him. America is the land of opportunity—all that is deserved is not always granted. Anton peered at her closely. It was as if the biologist were trying to determine the meaning of her words by looking at her. A kind of perverse echolocation—was that the word? Except that Anton was staring.
Hadley saw that the pumpkin seed—unless it was a second seed, or a bit of pumpkin gristle—still glistened in his wiry hair, which looked as if it needed shampooing and would be coarse to the touch.
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She felt a reckless impulse to pluck the seed out, though she could not risk the intimacy. As if Anton had heard these words, his mood suddenly changed. His smile became startled, less strained. No more.
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I am trained. You smile, Hedley, but it is so. More firmly, she thanked Anton and told him she had to leave soon. Anton took a step closer. I would be happy to do this, Hedley. You know this—I am your friend Anton—yes? Hadley began to lead her guest back out into the living room, into the lighted gallery and the foyer near the front door.
He followed in her wake muttering to himself—unless he was talking to Hadley, and meant her to hear, to laugh, for it seemed that Anton was laughing, under his breath. Anton had returned the next morning, and when he was again told no he demanded to speak with the provost—and the university attorney. Their offices were near one another in the administration building. He was not such a fool, not to know this! Anton had become excited and someone had called security.
He did not yet have his American citizenship—. During this long, breathless, disjointed speech, Hadley had been staring at Anton Kruppev in astonishment. That after all my work, my effort—I am most hardworking in the lab—our supervisor exploits my good nature. To be used —that is our purpose, to the institute. But you must not indicate that you are in the know. That is good word, good joke, eh?
The institute is saying my contract will not be renewed, for the federal grant is ended. And my supervisor has not ever got around to aiding me with my citizenship application—years it has been. Of course, I have been dialtory myself—I have been working so hard in the lab. Yesterday morning it was, the decision came to me by e-mail. You—you must not smile, Hedley!
That is very selfish. That is very selfish and very cruel. The indignant man loomed over Hadley, his angular face hardened with strain. His jaws were clenched. A sweaty-garbagey smell wafted from his heated body. Behind the smudged lenses his eyes were deep-socketed, wary.
I mean. To dinner in town. Her mistake was in turning away to lead him to the door. Insulting him. He looped an arm around her neck, and in an instant they were struggling off balance. He grabbed at her, and kissed her—kissed and bit at her lips, like a suddenly ravenous rodent. Both their wineglasses went flying, clattering to the floor. She thought he was trying to strangle her, then it seemed that he was still kissing her, or trying to. Panicked, she jammed her elbows into his chest, his ribs; his mouth closed over hers and she thought that he would bite off her lip.
With a kind of manic elation, he was murmuring what sounded like You like me! You want this! Grunting with effort, he straddled her, his face flushed with emotion; their struggle had become purely physical, and urgent, enacted now in near-silence, except for their panting. In a paroxysm of desperation, Hadley managed to squirm out from beneath him, like an animal crawling on hands and knees, and in that instant she almost believed that she might escape Anton Kruppev—but he had only to lunge after her, seize her ankle in his strong fingers, laughing and climbing over her, straddling her again, more forcibly this time, closing his fingers around her neck.
You asked for this. You have no right to laugh at me. This is wrong. She seemed to see herself in that instant with a strange stillness and detachment, as she had during her marriage when while she was making love with her husband her mind had slipped free and all that was physical, visceral, and immediate was at a little distance. I want to be your friend, Anton. I will help you. He disengaged from her roughly and got to his feet, looming over her, his shirt loose, splattered with blood. In a voice of anguish, rage, incoherence, he uttered something that she did not understand, then staggered away to the front door.
Then—to her astonishment—he was gone. She lay very still, her heart pounding, her body bathed in sweat and the smell of him, her brain blank, oblivious of her surroundings. After several minutes—it may have been as many as ten or fifteen—she understood that she was alone.
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She managed to stand. She was dazed, sobbing. She leaned against a chair in the hall, touching the walls, then stumbled to the open doorway and stood, staring outside. The front walk was dimly illuminated by the moon overhead. There was a meagre light, a near-to-fading light. She saw that the pumpkin head had fallen from the step, or had been kicked. It lay shattered on its side. She could see that the innards had been scooped out, but negligently, so that seeds remained, bits of pumpkin gristle.
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She stepped outside. She wiped at her mouth, which was still bleeding. She would run back into the house and dial She would report an assault. She would summon help. For she required help, badly; she knew that Anton Kruppev would return. Certainly he would return. On the front walk, she stood gazing toward the road—what she could see of the road in the darkness. There were headlights there. An unmoving vehicle. It was very dark, a winter dark had come upon them. Who is it? She supposed she was meant to laugh.
Did you carve it yourself? You think—you will buy? How much. Trying too hard, Hadley thought. The sign of the foreign-born. Hadley was sure it was not. To set here. Her husband had died and abandoned her. Now other men would drop by the house.