Part 3, Mail Order Romance
His brother’s wedding is coming up, the situation gets heated. Will Raya want to get married and will Stan let her?
Stan’s brother Manuel had invited Raya into his home, planning to spend the rest of their lives together. But then Cupid struck and Stan kissed Raya. Where would this lead? A chance encounter with Stan’s ex confused Raya. Would this blight their budding romance?
Stan opened the greeting card with a frown on his face. He didn’t expect anything. Maybe one of his cousins had another baby?
His heart sank.
The card was an invitation to a wedding. His brother’s wedding. To Raya. The next day. This couldn’t be happening! Of course, he had known this was bound to happen, but not so soon. He hadn’t gotten the chance to talk to his brother about his feelings for Raya. And what he guessed were her feelings for him. He stroked his fingers through his hair. This had to be solved — today. But how?
His heart still racing, he went over to his brother’s house. He was supposed to pick up Raya so she could continue work on the mural. He had no idea if she would want to work on it today or maybe never again. He couldn’t consider that option. Most of all, he wanted to know what she thought about their cooperation, her feelings about the upcoming marriage, about him?
The moment she opened the door, her look of sadness was unmistakable, even through her smile. Her eyes were red-rimmed and swollen as if she had cried for hours.
“Hey Raya, good morning. Are you okay?”
She nodded while sporting an even braver smile.
“Do you want to paint today?” He asked while he mimicked the words.
She shook her head.
“I understand. Big day tomorrow, right?”
She looked back with an uncomprehending gaze.
Stan reached past her and picked up an invitation like the one he had received. “Tomorrow.”
Raya burst into tears.
“Oh no, Raya, don’t cry. I’m sure Manuel will be good to you. He is a kind man.” Stan pulled the distraught woman into his arms and stroked her hair.
She spoke in Russian, but he had no idea what she said.
“Shall we go for a walk?” When he pointed to the door, she nodded in relief.
Stan brought her to his car. He drove a short distance off, wanting to be away from Manuel’s street. People were probably talking enough as it was. He parked next to the Best Western hotel, since he knew the gardens next to it were perfectly suited for walking and talking.
Stan and Raya walked in silence for the next ten minutes. Stan pointed to a bench, and they both sat down.
“Tell me, Raya, what are you thinking? Chto vy dumavete?” He had taken out his smartphone and looked up the translation.
“Grustnyy,” she replied while pointing to herself.
He hardly needed to see the translation to know she meant ‘sad.’
“But why, Raya? Manuel is a good man. Manuel khoroshiy chelovek.”
She brushed away an angry tear as she shook her head. She got up and stalked off.
“Raya, wait.” Stan followed her. There was more to this story, more than she was letting on, but he didn’t know what. Or rather, he hoped he knew, but if that were the case, it would only complicate matters.
“Ya ne mogu zhenit’sya.” She typed furiously into her phone and showed him the words in English.
“You can’t marry? You won’t marry Manuel? Or is something else going on?”
“Manuel…you” She let out a frustrated moan.
“Raya, I’ll still be your friend. Priyatel.”
She scoffed and repeated the words while shaking her head. “Home. We go home.” She began marching back to the car.
Once inside, Stan again stressed Manuel was a good man. He wasn’t violent, he was a calm, kind man, and they would have a promising future together.
Raya merely stared out the window while shaking her head. “Home,” she whispered.
Stan couldn’t tell if she meant Manuel’s place or if she longed to return to Russia.
He brought her home to Manuel’s house. “I’ll see you tomorrow at the wedding.”
He could be mistaken, but what Raya uttered next sounded a lot like a swearword.
They were in quite a pickle with a mail-order bride who didn’t want to get married. This was not going to end well for either of the parties involved.
The following day Stan woke up with a nasty pain behind his eyes. It took a few moments to sink in why he felt so bad, before realising today his brother was going to marry the woman he had invited from Russia and who Stan had fallen in love with.
Stan got up from bed and began the day as usual. Cup of coffee, light breakfast, all the while glancing at the mural Raya had made. It wasn’t finished yet, but it was a fond reminder of their time together. He wasn’t wearing his suit. He had decided to attend the wedding, but he doubted the guests would be wearing official attire. He even questioned whether Raya would be wearing an official bride’s dress, since it was happening at such short notice. No, Stan’s shirt was clean and had been ironed; that would have to do.
Stan arrived at the city hall right before the ceremony began. The staff had been helpful enough to show him the right direction. He took a seat in the back row. There was no need to sit in the first row. This wedding would be disastrous enough; no need to see it up close. But why was the group so restless? There were roughly twenty people in the audience, but they were all talking amongst each other while glancing nervously at the entrance.
After another five minutes of this unrest, Manual strode over to Stan. “It’s you, isn’t it? You set her up to this!”
Stan rose from his chair. “Manuel, what…I don’t know what you’re….” Before he could finish his sentence, Manuel punched him on the jaw.
“You son of a bitch! Not only did you steal my lover, but you also convinced her not to marry me! Where is she? Hiding in your love shack?” Manuel spat at him.
Stan rubbed his afflicted cheek. “Manuel, no. I’m here to attend your wedding, not break it up or hinder it.”
“Oh yeah? Then where is Raya? Where is my wife?”
Stan had no answer for his brother “I don’t know, Manuel. I wish I knew. Didn’t she come here with you?”
“Yes, she did, but she needed some time alone to prepare. At least, that’s what I think she said. I never talked with her the way you did.”
“Want me to see if she’s still back there?” Stan carefully asked.
“Be my guest. Can’t do much marrying here without her, can I?” Manuel rubbed the fist he had used to punch his brother and stepped aside.
Stan left the room and asked the staff where the bride and groom had prepared. They showed him the way to the changing rooms. As he had expected, they were both empty.
Stan went to the reception desk. “Did you see the bride leave? Long dark hair, blue eyes, really pretty?”
“Yeah, think so. Ten minutes ago, or so? Didn’t look too happy.” The receptionist shook his head.
Where could she have gone? Stan hurried outside and checked the benches in front of the city hall. No Raya here. He walked around in the vicinity. She couldn’t have gone far.
Suddenly he spotted the Best Western Hotel where they had walked the day before. That could be where she was!
He increased his pace and quickly went over to the park. Soon enough, he indeed saw Raya seated on a bench, sobbing.
“Raya!” Stan exclaimed before running to her and pulling her close in his arms. He stroked her hair. “I was so worried. Manuel misses you.”
Like the day before, she spat out a string of foul words before repeating the name ‘Manuel’ with a sour face.
“Calm down, calm down. You’re with me now; you’re safe.”
Her breathing evened as she became quieter.
“Ya ne khochu vyyti za nego zamuzh.” She spoke the words with such force Stan could guess their meaning. “Interesno, chto dumayet Aleksey,” she added softly to herself.
“I know, love. I understand you don’t want to marry him. But what now? Will you return to Russia?”
“Njet!” She exclaimed this even harder.
Stan’s stomach was tied into a knot. She was in so much pain; all he wanted was to relieve it. “So what do you plan, my love? What now?”
She grasped his hand. “No, Manuel. You.” She looked at him with her bright blue eyes, and it was as if their souls connected.
That one word held the possibilities of a lifetime of joy. Would he be able to withstand his brother’s wrath? Could they really follow their hearts and live in harmony together? Forever? After all, they hadn’t been acquainted for long. And how much did they know of each other? All he was sure of was that Raya wasn’t keen on marrying Manuel and didn’t want to return to Russia. But now what?