Time went by. It was my tenth winter that reigned outside, covering all around with a snow-white
fluffy blanket, as if wishing to demonstrate who the absolute master of the moment was.
More people called at shops to provide themselves with the New-year gifts beforehand, and even the air "smelled" of the holidays.
Two of my favourite days of the year – my birthday and the New Year – approached. There were only two weeks between them, so
I could enjoy their celebration without a long break.
I had been trying to worm a secret out of my grandmother for days, longing to find out what present I would get on my "special" day
this year. But she did not yield for some reason, despite the fact that before it never was a problem for me to "kindle" her silence before my
birthday and to know what "pleasantness" I was to expect, but this year all my "devices" did not work for some reason. My grandmother only
enigmatically smiled and said that it was a "surprise" and she was absolutely sure that I would love it. So, no matter how hard I tried, she was
firm and yielded to no persuasion and I had no choice but to wait.
Therefore, in order to occupy myself with something and not think of gifts, I began to make a "festive menu" which my grandmother let
me choose at my discretion this year. I have to confess that it wasn’t an easy task. She could do many culinary wonders and one has to puff
and blow to choose from such "plenty", and it was quite a hopeless business to find something that she could not cook. I am absolutely sure
that even the choosiest gourmets would find something with which to regale themselves in her kitchen! And I wanted very much that this time
our home smelled of something absolutely special, because it was my first "serious" birthday and I was allowed to
invite so many guests for the first time. My grandmother treated all this very much in earnest and we sat for about an hour, discussing which
of her special specialties she could make for me.
Now I, certainly, understand that she simply wanted to make me feel good and to show that the things which were important
to me were just as important to her. It was always very pleasant and helped me feel needed and partly even "important", as if I
was a grown up who meant a lot to her. I think that the feeling that someone truly believes in us is very important for children, because
we all need the support of our self-reliance during this fragile and strongly unstable time of child's maturing which is almost
always a combination of a strong inferiority complex and extreme risk in everything that we try to test in order to prove our human value.
My grandmother perfectly understood it, and her friendly attitude always helped me to continue my "mad" search for myself in any circumstances
At last we finished making the list for my birthday table and I went to look for my dad who had a day off and (I was almost sure) was
somewhere in "his corner" enjoying his favourite pastime.
Like I thought, he was comfortably settled down on the sofa and peacefully reading a very old book – one of those which I was still prohibited
from taking, for which, as I understood, I was still too little. Grey cat Grishka curled up on dad’s knees with contentedly narrowed eyes, inspiredly
purring the whole "cat-like orchestra". I sat down on the edge of the sofa, as I did very often, and quietly watched the expression on his face... He
was somewhere very far away, in the world of his thoughts and dreams, following the thread which the author enthusiastically wove and at the
same time placed the information he got on the shelves of his "logical thinking" in order to skip it through his understanding and perception
and after that forward it to his huge "mental archive".
– Well, what do we have here? – Dad asked tousling my hair.
– Our teacher said today that there was no soul and all talk about it was just priestly invention to "undermine the soviet man’s happy psyche"...
Why do they lie to us, dad? – I fired in one gulp.
– Because the whole world in which we live now is built on a lie... – My father answered very calmly. – Even the
word SOUL is gradually falling out of use, or rather it is intentionally ousted... Look, before we had plenty of words with the root
"soul": soulful, soul-searching, soulless etc. and now they are replaced by other words – emotional, contemplation, cruel... Soon there will
not be any soul in Russian. The language became different – poor, faceless, dead... I know, you did not notice. – Dad
affectionately smiled. – Because it had been like this before you were born, before that it was extraordinarily bright, beautiful and
rich! It was truly heartfelt... Sometimes I have no wish to write whatsoever. – He fell silent for a few seconds, thinking of
something and then added indignantly. – How can I express my self, if they send me a list (!) with words that can
be used and those which cannot, which are a "vestige of the bourgeois system"... It’s a complete absurdity...
– Then what? Is it better to study on my own than go to school? – Puzzled I asked.
– No, my little one, you should go to school. – And giving me no chance to object, he continued. – School gives you
"grains" of your foundation – mathematics, physics, chemistry, biology etc, which I would simply not have time to teach you at
home. Unfortunately you will be unable to grow your "mental harvest" without these "grains". – Dad smiled. – Only at first you will
have to "sift" these "seeds" very diligently to separate husk and rotten seed. And the quality of the "harvest" you have in the
end will depend entirely on you. Life is a difficult thing, you see. Sometimes it’s very difficult to remain on the surface without sinking to
the bottom. But there is no other way, right? – Dad tousled my hair again. He was sad for some reason. – So, you can choose: whether to
be one of those who are told how you should live or be one of those who think independently and search their
way... It is true that they constanly get hit on the head, but in return they always will hold it proudly erect. So, you should think
pretty hard before you decide what you like more...
– Why then when I say at school what I think, the teacher calls me a parvenu? It’s so offensive! I never try to be
the first to answer, on the contrary – I prefer when I am left alone... But if I am asked, I must answer, right? For some reason they don’t like
my answers very often... What should I do, dad?
– Well it’s the same question again – do you want to be yourself or do you want to say what you are required and live calmly?
You must choose again... They don’t like your answers because they don’t always coincide with those that they have already
prepared and are always identical for all.
– How is that – identical? I cannot think the way they want. People cannot think in one and the same way!
– You are wrong, my Light one. It’s exactly what they want – that we all think and act identically.
– But it’s wrong, dad! – I was indignant
– Look at your school friends more attentively. How often do they say what is not written? – I was confused... he was
again right. – It happens because their parents teach them to be just exemplary and obedient students and get good marks. But they
don’t teach them to think... maybe, because they did not think either... or maybe because fear has already absorbed them... So, stir
your brain, my Light one, to find on your own what is most important to you – your marks or your own thinking.
– Is it really possible to be afraid of thinking, dad? In fact nobody hears our thoughts. Why be afraid then?
– Well, they certainly won’t hear... But every mature thought forms your consciousness, my Light one, and when
your thoughts change, then you change too... If you have correct thoughts, they can displease somebody very much. You see, far
from all people like to think. Very many prefer to shift it onto the shoulders of others, like you, and only be "performers" of other
people’s desires for all their life. They are lucky, if "thinking" people do not fight for power, because in this case it is not real human
values that go into action, but lies, braggadocio, violence and even crime, if they want to get rid of those who think otherwise...
Therefore thinking can be very dangerous, my Light one. Everything depends only on whether you will be afraid of it or will
prefer your human honour to fear.
I climbed onto the sofa and curled up next to dad, imitating our cat Grishka which was not very glad because of it. I always felt protection
and peace being next to dad. It seemed that nothing bad can get to us or happen to me when I am next to him. Disheveled Grishka also adored
the hours he spent with my dad and hated any kind of intrusion. He hissed at me and showed me in every way that I’d better go as quickly as
possible. I broke into laughter and decided to leave him to enjoy the company of my father and went to stretch my legs a little and play
snowballs with neighbouring guys.
I counted the days and hours to my tenth birthday, feeling almost "adult", but to my huge shame I was unable to forget about
my birthday "surprise" even for a minute, which certainly, lessened my "adultness". Like all children in the world I adored gifts. And now
I spent days guessing what it could be that in my grandmother’s confident opinion I would "like very much"? I just had to wait a little bit
more and soon it proved true that it was worth doing.
At last my birthday morning came. It was cold, sparkling and sunny, just like a real holiday should be. The air was so cold that it seemed
to "burst" with coloured little stars and almost "clinked", making pedestrians move quicker than usual. Every living thing exhaled steam
which funnily looked like multicoloured locomotives hurrying in various directions...
After breakfast I could not keep still and followed my mother like a "tail", expecting that at last I would see my long-awaited "surprise".
To my greatest surprise we went to the neighbour’s house and my mother knocked at the door. I was puzzled – our neighbour was a very
nice person, but what she had to do with my birthday?
– Aha! Here is our "festive" girl! – The neighbour said merrily on opening the door. – Let’s go, Snow-storm waits for you.
I nearly fainted. Snow-storm was an amazingly beautiful horse which my neighbours had and very often allowed me to ride. I simply
adored her! Everything was beautiful in this noble animal – her appearance, her sensitive "horse" soul and calm and reliable temper. As for me,
she was the most beautiful horse in the world! She was silver-grey, dappled with light-grey and white spots, and had a snow-white long tail.
Usually when I came, she always greeted me, touching my shoulder with her very soft nose, as if saying:
– Look what a good horse I am, take me to ride!!!
She had a very beautiful and very elegant muzzle with enormous, soft and kind eyes, which understood everything. It would be a real
"crime" not to love her.
Our courtyard was quite large and always full of various domestic animals, but we never could have a horse for one simple reason, that
being we could not afford it. The price of an Arab stallion was too high for us, because my dad did not work full-time in the newspaper at
that time, because he was engaged in writing plays for the Russian drama theatre and we did not have too much money then, although it
was time for me to learn to ride a horse. So, the only possibility to do it was to ask to ride sometimes on Snow-storm which for some reason
liked me too and was always glad when we rode together.
But lately Snow-storm was very sad and did not go out, staying in her courtyard. To my huge regret, I had not been allowed to ride her
for more than three months. The thing was that her owner suddenly died three months ago. Most likely it was too hard for his wife to see
Snow-storm with somebody else, because her husband and Snow-storm were very attached to each other. So, the poor horse spent the whole
days in her stable (although very large), infinitely missing her beloved owner who suddenly disappeared somewhere.
It was exactly that wonderful friend to which I was taken in the morning of my tenth birthday. My heart almost jumped out of my chest!
I could not believe that now my greatest child's dream came true! I remember that since I managed to climb onto Snow-storm for the first time,
I endlessly entreated my parents to buy me a horse, but they always said that "it’s not a good time for this and we’ll do it, of course. I just
had to wait a little".
Snow-storm greeted me in a very friendly way, just she always did, but I saw that she had changed in some way over these three months.
She was very sad. Her movements were slow and she was not too eager to go out outside. I asked the owner why Snow-storm seemed so
different. She answered that poor Snow-storm, apparently, missed her owner, and that she was very sorry about it.
– Try, – she said, – if you can "revive" her, she is yours!
I simply could not believe what I just heard and swore to myself not to lose the chance! I carefully approached Snow-storm and tenderly
stroked her moist velvety nose and began to talk gently to her. I told her how good she was and how much I loved her and that we would get
on very well and how much I would take care of her. Certainly, I was just a child and sincerely believed that Snow-storm would understand
everything I said, but even now, after so many years, I still think that this amazing horse truly understood me... Anyway, she tenderly touched
my neck with her warm lips, as if telling me that she was ready to go for a ride with me.
At last I climbed onto her – being extremely nervous, I missed the stirrup several times. I did my best to calm down my agitated heart
which almost jumped out of my chest and we moved from the courtyard, taking the familiar path which led us to the forest where we both
loved to stroll. The unexpected "surprise" made me shaky and I could not believe that all this was truly happening! I wanted to pinch myself
and at the same time I was afraid that I would wake up from this wonderful sleep and all would be just a beautiful festive fairy-tale... But time
went by and nothing changed. Snow-storm – my favourite friend – was here with me and I lacked just a tiny bit in order for her to be really
That year my birthday fell on Sunday. As the weather was truly magnificent, there were a lot of people outside. The neighbours strolled
along the street, stopped to share the latest news with friends or simply breathed the fresh winter air. I worried a little, knowing that in a short
while I would be an object of general attention, but despite my anxious state I wanted to look confident and proud on my favourite beautiful
Snow-storm... I brought my "disheveled" emotions together in order not to let down my wonderful friend and quietly touched her side with
my leg and we trotted out through the gate... My mother, father, grandmother and the neighbour waved, as if it was an incredibly important
event for them too... It was very kind and funny and somehow helped me to relax at once, and we calmly and confidently went further.
Neighbours’ children came to the street too, waved and shouted greetings to us, making a real "festive fuss" which cheered up all the neighbours.
The forest appeared soon, and on turning to the well-known path, we passed out of sight. And here I gave free rein to my yelling of joyful
emotions! I squeaked like a happy puppy, kissed Snow-storm’s silky nose one thousand times (which amazed her greatly), loudly sang some
ridiculous songs, all in all – I rejoiced as far as my happy child's soul allowed me...
– Please, my dear, show them that you’re happy again. Please! And we will ride together a lot again! As much as you want, I promise you!
Only let them see that you are all right. – I begged Snow-storm.
I felt absolutely fabulous with her and hoped very much that she would feel at least a tiny part of what I felt. The weather was amazing.
The air almost "crackled" – so pure and cold it was. The white forest cover sparkled with millions of little stars; as if somebody's large hand
generously strewed fairy-tale diamonds on it. Snow-storm friskily trotted along the path trodden out by skiers and seemed quite satisfied,
beginning to come back to life very quickly to my enormous joy. My heart rejoiced. I was about to take wing with happiness, anticipating
the joyful moment when they would say that she was at last truly mine...
In a half an hour we turned back to avoid any additional anxiety for my family which worried about me constantly. The neighbour was
still outside, apparently wishing to see with her own eyes that everything was all right with both of us. My grandmother and mother ran
outside at once and then dad appeared, carrying a thick multicoloured lace which he gave to the neighbour. I easily jumped from the horse
and ran to him with my heart fervently beating. I hid my face in his chest, wishing and fearing to hear such important words for me.
– Well, dear, she loves you! – The neighbour said and warmly smiled. She tied the coloured lace onto Snow-storm’s neck and solemnly
brought her to me. – We brought her home for the first time with the same "lead". Take her. She is yours. I wish happiness to you both...
Tears glittered in my neighbour’s eyes, apparently even the kind recollections still wounded her heart worn out with sufferings for her
– I promise, I will love her very much and look after her very well! – Choking with agitation, I babbled. – She will be happy...
All around smiled and this scene suddenly reminded me of another one I had seen earlier. The only difference was – a man was
handed a medal. I merrily laughed, firmly hugged my amazing gift and swore in my heart never to part with it.
Suddenly it dawned on me:
– Wait! Where will she live? We don’t have such a wonderful place which you have. – I asked my neighbour, being slightly disappointed.
– Don’t worry, dear. She can live here and you’ll come to clean her, feed, look after her and go for a ride – she is yours. Just think
that you "rent" a house for her here. I don’t need it anymore, because I am not going to have horses. So, you’re welcome to use it. And it
will be a pleasure for me that Snow-storm will continue to live here.
I thankfully hugged my kind neighbour, took the coloured lace and led Snow-storm (now mine!!!) home. My child's
heart rejoiced – this was the most wonderful gift in the world! And indeed it was very well worth the wait.
By midday I came to myself a little after such a stunning gift and began to make "spy" sallies to the kitchen and dining-room. It’s better
to say – I tried, but even my most persistent attempts to penetrate there, unfortunately, failed. This year my grandmother definitely decided
not to show me her culinary "works of art" till the time of "celebration". I was dying to look, even out of the corner of my eye, what she had
worked at so zealously for two whole days, accepting nobody’s help and keeping everybody out.
Finally the long-awaited time came at last and my first guests began to appear at about five o’clock in the evening. Eventually I could
admire the festive table. When the door into the living room was opened, I thought that I had got into a fairy-tale garden! My grandmother
merrily smiled and I dashed to her and threw my arms around her neck, almost crying with the gratitude which overfilled me.
The whole room was decorated with winter flowers. Enormous cups of bright yellow chrysanthemums looked like numerous suns which
made the room light and merry. And the festive table was a real work of grandmother’s art! Stunning smells came from it and the variety of
dishes shocked. There was a duck baked until it’s crust was golden, in my favourite pear sauce where the halves of pears stewed in cream
and cinnamon floated, and a juicy chicken filled with nuts and white mushrooms teased our nostrils with the tenderest smell of the mushroom
sauce and made our mouths water. There was a huge pike in the middle of the table, baked whole with juicy pieces of sweet pepper in
lemon-cranberry sauce. And the smell of thick, succulent turkey legs under a crust of cranberry mousse made my poor stomach jump.
Garlands of various smoked sausages cut in thin pieces and beaded on the thinnest small twigs like shashlicks decorated with
pickled tomatoes and cucumbers "killed" with the smell of famous Lithuanian smoked food, not yielding to stunningly smelling smoked
salmon around which there were small merry groups of juicy salt milk mushrooms in sour cream sauce. The golden toasted round
pirozki puffed hot steam spreading a delicious "cabbage" aroma. This abundance of my grandmother’s most skilful "works" shocked
my "hungry" imagination, not to mention the sweets, the top of which was my favourite tender curd pie whipped with cherries! I looked at
my grandmother with admiration thanking her from the bottom of my heart for this fairy-tale, truly royal table! She smiled, being content
with the produced effect, and began to enthusiastically invite my guests to the table, numbed as they were by such plenty.
There were a lot of "big" anniversary birthdays in my life afterwards, but none of them, even those celebrated in the most refined
foreign restaurants, could ever surpass my amazing tenth birthday which my extraordinary grandmother organized for me...
But apparently it was too early for "surprises" to come to the end this evening. In half an hour, when the "feast" already was at its height,
the air in the room suddenly began to vibrate as usual (for me) and I saw Stella. I jumped up with surprise, almost dropping my dish and
quickly began to look around – to see whether somebody else saw her. But the guests were enthusiastically busy with the "fruits" of my
grandmother’s culinary art, paying no attention to the wonder-girl which suddenly appeared next to them.
– Surprise!!! – My little friend merrily clapped her hands. – Happy big birthday to you! – And thousands of the most
whimsical flowers and butterflies began to fall from the ceiling, converting the room into a fairy-tale Aladdin’s cave.
– How did you get here?!!! You said that you could not come here?! – I asked dumbfounded, forgetting even to thank the girl for the
beauty she made for me.
– I did not know I could! – Stella exclaimed. – I just thought yesterday of those dead you had helped and asked Gran how they could
come back. It appeared quite possible, only one has to know how! So, I came here. Aren’t you glad to see me?
– Of course I am! – I hurried to reassure her, and feeling panicky tried to think of something which would allow me to talk both to her
and my guests, giving away neither her nor myself. But another surprise, which complicated the already complicated situation, unexpectedly
– Wow, th-oo many flower-th! It th-oo beautiful!!! – A three-year old child lisped, squealing in delight, spinning round and round on
his mother’s knee. – O-o-h, butterfly-th! They are th-oo big!
I stared at him stupefied and for some time was unable to utter a word. And the little one happily continued to mumble, as if nothing
happened, and break forth from his mother’s hands, which firmly held him, to "touch" all these bright and multicoloured beautiful things
which suddenly appeared from nowhere. Stella understood that somebody else could see her and happily
began to show him different funny fairy-tale pictures. The child was absolutely charmed and happily squealed in utter delight on his mother’s
– Girl, who are you girl?! O-oh, what a big bear!!! It’s pink! Mummy may I take it home? O-o-h, birds! They are th-oo bright! And they
have golden wing-th!
His blue wide open eyes shone with delight and caught every new appearance of the "bright and unusual". His happy face was radiant –
the child accepted that naturally, as if everything should happen precisely that way.
The situation got totally out of control, but I noticed nothing around, thinking in that moment only of one thing – the boy saw!!!
He saw the way I saw! So, it was true that there were such people like me somewhere! It means that I was absolutely normal and not
as lonely as I thought in the beginning! So, it was really a Gift! Probably I looked at him too dumbfounded and intently, because his confused
mother turned red and at once rushed to "calm" her son in order that nobody could hear what he was saying. She began to prove to me that
"he just makes everything up and that a doctor says that (!!!) He is very imaginative and there is no need to pay attention to him!".
She was very nervous and I saw that she was eager to leave our house as soon as possible to avoid possible questions.
– Please, don’t worry! – I pleaded in a low voice. – Your son does not make anything up – he sees! The same way I do. You must
help him! Please, don’t take him to a doctor anymore, your boy is special! And doctors will kill all that! Talk to my grandmother,
she’ll explain a lot of things to you... Only don’t take him to a doctor, please! – I could not stop, because my heart was sick for this little gifted
boy, and I desperately wanted to "save" him no matter what!
– Look, now I shall show something to him and he’ll see and you don’t, because he has a gift and you don’t. – I quickly recreated Stella’s
– Wow! Wow! What-th this?! – The boy began to clap his hands in delight. – It-tha little dragon, ithn’t it? Like in a fairy-tale? It’th red!
Mummy, look! A little dragon!
– Svetlana, I had a gift too. – The neighbour whispered. – But I am not going to allow my son to suffer because of it like I did. I’ve already
suffered enough for both... He has to have a different life.
I even jumped with surprise! It means that she saw! And knew! I was really indignant.
– Do you not think that maybe he has a right to choose for himself? In fact it’s his life! And if you were
unable to cope with it, it does not mean that he will be unable too! You have no right to take his gift away from him before he
even understands that he has it! It looks like murder – you want to kill part of him about which he has not even heard yet! – I
indignantly hissed at her. Everything inside me "reared up" because of such a frightful injustice!
I wanted very much to convince this stubborn lady to leave her wonderful child alone, but I clearly saw by her sad but very sure look,
that I would hardly succeed in convincing her of something today and decided to leave the attempt for the moment and later talk to my
grandmother, and maybe we could think of something. I sadly looked at her and once again asked:
– Please, don’t take him to a doctor. You know that he is not ill!
Her only reply was a strained smile and then she quickly took her boy and went out, apparently, to take some fresh air which (I was sure)
she needed so much.
I knew this neighbour very well. She was a pleasant enough person, but what staggered me most of all was the fact that she was one
of those people who tried to "isolate" me from their children and badgered me after the ill-fated case with "lighting the fire"!
(Although her eldest son – I would like to give him his due – never betrayed me and continued to be my friend despite all prohibitions). As it
appeared now she was the one who knew better than others that I was an absolutely normal, not dangerous, girl! And that
I looked for a correct way out of that "incomprehensible and unknown" in which fate suddenly threw me, just like she did once.
Beyond all doubt, fear must be a very strong factor in our life, if a person is able to betray and to turn aside so easily
from the one who needs help so much, who could be easily helped, if it were not for the fear which so deeply crept into one’s heart.
Certainly, one may say that I don’t know what happened to her once and what wicked and pitiless fate made her suffer.
But if I knew that somebody at the beginning of his life had the same gift which made me suffer so much, I would do everything in my power
to help or aim him in the right direction in order to prevent another gifted person "wandering in the darkness" and violently suffering
like I did... And instead of helping, she tried to "punish" me, as others did, but they at least did not know what it had been and honestly
tried to protect their children from what they could not explain or understand.
So, she came today to us as a guest, as if nothing had happened, with her little son who appeared the same way "gifted" as I was,
and who she was very afraid to show to anybody in case that somebody saw that her dear child had exactly the same "curse" as I, was due to
her professed concept. I was sure now that she was not greatly pleased to come to us, but she could not refuse the invitation, because her
eldest son – Algis – was invited for my birthday and there was no serious reason to prohibit him from coming. It would have been too boorish
and not "neighbourly", if she had done that.
The reason that we invited her was very simple. They lived three streets away from us, her son would have come back home in the evening
alone. Therefore, we understood that the mother would worry and decided to do the only right thing in this situation – invite her and her little
son to spend the evening at our festive table. As I understood now, the "poor thing" just suffered, waiting for a good opportunity to leave us as
early as possible and go back home without any incidents...
– Are you all right, dear? – My mother’s affectionate voice sounded alongside.
I smiled her as confidently as I could and said that of course I was absolutely all right. But my head was spinning from what was going
on and my heart began to sink, because I saw that fellows were beginning to turn their heads toward me and I had to gather myself quickly
and "set" the "iron control" over my raging emotions. I was "knocked" from my usual state and to my huge shame absolutely forgot about
Stella. But the little one immediately reminded me herself:
– But you said that you did not have friends, and there are so many of them. – Stella said being surprised and even slightly offended.
– Those are not real friends. They are just guys who I live next door to or we study together. They are not like you.
You are real.
Stella began to shine at once. I smiled at her in my "disconnected" way and feverishly tried to find a way out, having absolutely no
idea of how to get out of this "slippery" situation and began to be nervous, because I did not want to offend my best friend but knew that
soon my "strange" behaviour would be noticed and foolish questions which I had no desire whatsoever to answer today, would rain down
– Gosh, what yummy things you have here!!! – Stella jabbered, looking at the festive table in delight. – What a pity that I cannot try
it! And what presents have you got? May I see them? – As usual the questions poured from her.
– I was given my favourite horse and many other things. I have not looked yet, but I’ll show you everything!
Stella shone being incredibly happy to be with me here on Earth, and I was more and more confused, being unable to find a solution
to the ticklish problem.
– It’s so beautiful here and everything is so delicious! I am sure. You are so happy to eat such things!
– Well, I don’t get this every day. – I laughed.
My grandmother watched me, apparently amusing herself very much with the situation, but was not going to help me for the time being,
as usual first waiting to see what I would do. But, as bad luck would have it, nothing occurred to me, probably because of today's too stormy
emotions, and I began to panic seriously.
– Aha! Here is your Gran! May I invite mine? – Stella gladly offered.
I almost shouted – No!!! – at once, but did not want to offend my little frend and with the happiest air I could make at that
moment, I gladly said: – Of course, you may!
And the amazing old lady, who I now knew very well, appeared on our threshold.
– Hello, my dearest! I wanted to visit Anna Fedorovna and it resulted in me getting straight to the feast. You’ll forgive my intrusion, please...
– Please, come in! There is enough room for everybody! – My father offered affectionately, and very attentively looked at me.
Although Stella’s grandmother did not look at all like my "guest" or "schoolfellow", dad apparently felt something unusual in her and put
all the "blame" for this "unusualness" on me, because usually I was responsible for every "strange" thing which happened in our house.
I was so embarrassed that I could not explain anything to him right now that even my ears turned red. I knew that later, when all guests
were gone, I would tell him everything; meanwhile I could not meet dad’s eyes, because I was not accustomed to hiding anything from him
and was terribly ill at ease.
– What happened to you again, dear? – My mother asked in a low voice. – You seem to be up in the clouds. May be you are tired? Do
you want to lie down?
Mother was truly worried and I felt bad to lie to her. Regrettably, I could not tell her the truth (in order not to frighten her again) and
tried to assure her that everything was absolutely perfect with me and at the same time feverishly thought of what I have to do.
– Why are you so nervous? – Stella asked unexpectedly. – It’s because I came?
– Of course not! – I exclaimed, but on seeing her intent look, decided that it was dishonest to lie to a friend.
– All right, you’ve guessed. It’s just that when I talk to you I look "frozen" to others and it looks very strange. Especially it frightens my
mother. So, I don’t know how to get out of the situation in order that everybody feels good.
– Why did not you tell me?! – Stella was very surprised. – I wanted to make you happy, not to disappoint! I will go away right away.
– But you did make me happy! – I objected sincerely. – It’s just because of them...
– Will you come again soon? I missed you. It’s so boring to go for a walk alone. Gran is lucky – she is alive and can walk wherever she
wants, even to yours....
I felt pity to this wonderful and kindest little girl.
– You come to me when you want, only when I am alone and then nobody can disturb us. – I sincerely offered. – And I will come to you
soon when holidays are over. Wait for me.
Stella joyfully smiled and "decorating" the room with mad flowers and butterflies once again, disappeared. I felt empty without her, as if
she took with her part of the joy which filled this wonderful evening. I looked at my grandmother, searching for support, but she and her guest
enthusiastically talked about something and paid no attention to me. It seemed that everything got into place and all was well again, but I could
not stop thinking of Stella, about her loneliness and how unfair sometimes our Fate could be. So, on promising to myself to come back to my
faithful little friend as quickly as possible, I fully "returned" to my "living" friends, and only dad very attentively looked at me for the rest of
the evening with surprised eyes, as if he tried to understand when and what serious thing he had missed about me.
When the guests began to leave, the "seeing" boy suddenly began to cry. When I asked him what happened, he pouted and lisped offendedly:
– Where ith the girl? And the bear? And there are no butterfly-th...
His mother gave a strained smile, took her second son who was reluctant to say goodbye to us and quickly went home.
I was very disappointed and happy at the same time! It was the first time I had met another child who has a gift similar to mine and I gave
my word to myself that I would not calm down until I convinced his "unfair" and unhappy mother what an enormous miracle in fact her child
was... He, as we all have, has to have the right to free choice, and his mother had no right to take it from him, at least
until he begins to understand something.
I lifted my eyes and saw dad. He stood, leaning against a door jamb and all this time observed me with a huge interest. He came, tenderly
hugged my shoulders and quietly said:
– Let’s go and talk and you’ll tell me what was that for which you fought so heartily...
Suddenly I felt so relieved and calm. At last he will know everything and I will never have to hide anything from him! He was my best
friend who, unfortunately, did not know even half of the truth about what my life truly was. It was dishonest and
unfair... Only now I understood how strange it was to hide my "second" life from dad all this time only because it seemed to my mother
that he would not understand... I should have given him a chance a long time ago and I was glad that I could at least do that now.
We comfortably settled down on his favourite sofa and talked and talked for a very long time. I was enormously happy and surprised that
as I told him about my unbelievable adventures, his face lightened more and more! I understood that all my stories not only did not frighten
him, but on the contrary – they made him very happy for some reason.
– I always knew that you would be special, my Light one... – My father said very seriously when I finished. – I am very proud of you. Can
I help you in something?
I was so punch-drunk by his words that I suddenly started to sob violently. Dad lulled me in his arms like a little child, quietly whispering
something, and I was so happy that he had understood me that I heard nothing. I only knew that all my hateful "secrets" were behind and now
everything would be all right.
I wrote about this birthday because it left an imprint of something very important and very deep in my soul without which my story
would be incomplete...
The next day everything again seemed ordinary and routine, as if an incredibly happy birthday did not happen yesterday...
The usual school and domestic chores occupied almost the whole of my time and the little bit that remained free was my favourite time,
and I tried being very "thrifty" using it in order to know as many useful and "unusual" things in me and the surrounding world as possible...
Naturally, I was not allowed to see the "gifted" neighbourly boy. It was explained to me that he got a cold, but as I knew later from his
elder brother, the boy felt great and obviously was ill only for me.
I was very sorry that his mother, who undoubtedly had gone along a "thorny" way of the "unusual", categorically refused to receive my
help and tried to protect her nice and talented son from me in every way. But again it was only one of numerous bitter and offensive
moments of my life, when nobody needed the help I offered and I tried to avoid such "moments" as assiduously as possible...
Besides one cannot prove anything to people, if they refuse to accept it. I never considered it correct to prove my truth "with fire and sword"
and therefore preferred to let it take its course until a person would come and ask me to help.
I became a little estranged from my school girl-friends again, because lately they spoke about one and the same things – what boys they
liked most and how they could "get hold" of one or another. Frankly speaking, I could not understand what it was that so strongly attracted
them so that they could pitilessly spend such valuable free time on it and be in ecstasy over everything they said to each other or heard.
Apparently, I was not ready yet for the difficult "boys-girls" saga for some reason and therefore got a wicked nickname "The arrogant one"
from girls. Well, I think I never was arrogant. The girls were simply enraged because I refused to take part in their "doings" for the
simple reason that I honestly was not interested in them and did not consider it wise to waste my precious free time for nothing.
Naturally my schoolfellows did not like my behaviour at all, because it marked me out from the crowd again and made me
different from others, which in their opinion was "inhuman"...
This was how I spent my winter days – being half "rejected" by my school friends which did not distress me at all, because, on having
worried about our mutual "relations" for several years, I saw that in the end there was no sense in that, because everybody lived his life
the way he considered right, and what would become of us later was a personal matter. So, nobody could make me waste my "valuable"
time on small talk, when I preferred to use it reading interesting books, going for a walk to the "floors" or riding Snow-storm on winter
After my honest account about my "adventures" dad stopped considering me to be a "small child" (to my enormous joy!!!) and I
permitted to use his books which I previously had been forbidden to touch which gave me more reasons to stay at home, and combining
such a life with grandmother’s pies, I was absolutely happy and by no means felt lonely.
However, like it had happened before, I could not enjoy my favourite pastime – tranquil reading – for a long, because something
"eccentric" would necessarily happen. So, one winter evening, when I was enjoying a new book, crunching the freshly baked cherry patties,
the highly strung Stella popped in and declared in a peremptory voice:
– It’s so good that I found you. You must come with me at once!
– What happened? Come, where? – I was surprised at her unusual haste.
– To Maria. Dean is dead... Let’s go, quickly!!! – The girl impatiently shouted.
I at once remembered the little, dark-eyed Maria who had the only friend – her faithful Dean...
– I’m coming! – I fluttered and quickly rushed after Stella to the "floors"…