His brother invited a bride from Russia, so he shouldn’t fall in love with her
“Are you nervous, Manny, picking up the love of your life?” Stan asked his brother gleefully while they were on the way to the airport.
“Hrmph,” was all Manuel replied.
“Does she even speak English?”
“She’d better,” Manuel replied curtly.
“I hope she does look like the picture. She still might be a catfish, you know? Or did you meet her while you were in Russia?”
“I met her. She’s okay.”
“I hope they shipped off the right one here then. This whole business still looks shady to me.” Stan rubbed his stubbled chin. “Did you prepare the guest room for her, or will she sleep in your bed tonight?” He asked with a grin.
“Guest room. Now shut the fuck up, will you?” Manuel fixed his attention on the road ahead. “You fucking moron!” He exclaimed when the car in front of him nearly cut him off.
Stan smiled to himself. His brother was more nervous than he wanted to admit. Stan stared out the window to the fields ahead. He understood his brother’s decision to find a wife online, but he would never have chosen to do so himself. Inviting a stranger into your home and life, someone even from another continent.
Fifteen minutes later, they turned into Heathrow airport’s parking lot, the short stay zone for dropping off and picking up travellers.
The two brothers made their way to the area where Raya was due to arrive.
“Do you think you will recognise her?” Stan asked his brother.
As the first passengers arrived, Manuel looked away, seemingly uninterested.
Stan watched the throng of people and wondered who the lucky one would be. One woman caught his eye. She looked around quite uneasily, and she was faintly familiar to him, possibly from the pictures his brother had shown. Due to her travels, her long dark hair was deftly plaited, though it wasn’t as tight as it probably had been initially. Her sapphire blue eyes were captivating and seemed to draw you right in.
When their eyes met, he gave her a small wave. Her face lightened up immediately, happy to meet a friendly face in this strange country.
“I guess she didn’t show. Figures,” Manuel grumbled.
“What are you talking about? She’s right there.” Stan pointed to the beautiful lady.
“Is that her? Oh, I guess you’re right.” The fact that she had arrived didn’t put his brother much at ease.
Finally, she emerged into the main hall, trailing two large suitcases and one piece of hand luggage. The two siblings stood next to each other, yet Raya dropped her luggage and flung her arms around Stan’s neck. He blinked in surprise but closed her in an embrace. She kissed him twice on his cheeks before turning to his brother, who received the same love.
“Hi Raya, how was your flight?” Manuel asked.
“Da,” she answered confidently and with a big smile.
“Was the flight…” Stan spread his arms and then stuck up his thumb. “Okay?”
Now she nodded enthusiastically. “Da.” She tapped her watch and made a bored face.
“Was it late? Or did it take long?”
She nodded understandingly.
“Well, good that you’re here. Let’s go home,” Manuel announced.
They returned to Manuel’s house. After a quick cup of coffee, Stan indicated he was leaving for his house. Raya put on a sad face. Apparently, she had enjoyed their impromptu sign language. She gave him a quick hug goodbye before he left.
Stan’s work as a marketing professional kept him busy, so it wasn’t until two weeks later that he again saw Raya again.
Their mother was actually the one who had suggested Raya come over to Stan’s house to help him decorate the living room. He had one blank wall that irked his mother. He had put up a stock poster from Ikea, but his mother complained this lacked personality. So when she discovered Raya could paint and quite beautifully, she suggested the woman go and help Stan.
Manuel brought her over, but left almost immediately since he had other business to attend to.
While Stan and Raya were drinking tea, Stan pointed to the blank wall. “Over there is your canvas. You going to make it look pretty?”
He looked up the words ‘yours’ and ‘pretty’ on Google. ‘Vash….prelestnyy?”
She looked insecure. “Ty uveren?” She picked up her smartphone and asked a few moments later: “You certain?”
“Da,” he answered straight away, making them both giggle.
Raya took the sketchpad out of her bag and began sketching. The pencil raced over the paper while she glanced at the wall, either for inspiration or for the dimensions.
She shook her head in distaste a few minutes later, turned the page and started over.
“Can I see it?” He asked a little while later, holding out his hand to clarify his question.
Still somewhat shy, she showed him her drawing. It was a stunning picture of a large motorcycle surrounded by a group of scantily clad women.
“Really, Raya? Wow.” This was not what he had expected or would have come up with himself, and he doubted it would be approved by his mother.
She shrugged and looked at the floor. “You like?” she asked.
“Da! I love it.” He quickly ran it through the translation app: ’ya lyublyu eto.’
“Yes.” He didn’t need a translation to know what she said. He told her they could pick up paint tomorrow so she could start working on it if she wanted.
Her face lit up.
Stan handed her another cup of tea and asked her how she was doing.
Her head fell forward. “V odinochestve,” she whispered.
Stan frowned when he read the translation from her phone. “Alone? But you are with Manuel. Isn’t he good for you?”
She pushed her arm out as if mimicking ‘distance.’
“I am so sorry,” Stan replied softly. “Come here, let me give you a hug.”
He rose and held out his arms wide. She stood up and accepted his embrace. It shocked him how well she felt in his arms. Her lavender scent ticked all the right boxes for him.
“I’m sorry you’re unhappy. It must be tough in a new country.” He hoped his tone would convey the meaning.
Her shoulders shook, and the tremor of her tears went through her body.
Her sadness stung him deeply. Such a beautiful woman shouldn’t suffer this much. Stan held her close and rubbed her back. That was really all he could do.
When she had calmed down, her eyes met his. As if in a dream, she tilted her head and placed her lips on his. She brushed her lips over his.
They shouldn’t. They really mustn’t do this.
His instincts took over, and he accepted the kiss. Her kiss was the sweetest he had ever tasted, and it wasn’t just from the tea. Her smell, taste, and softness in his arms; she was more than he could have imagined.
She pulled away while muttering, “prosti, prosti.”
“Raya, no wait. You can’t go. I’ll take you home. You can’t walk.”
She turned and looked at him with a pained expression.
“I take you with car.” He mimicked the steering wheel.
She nodded and stashed her sketchbook and pencil in her bag. With her arm, she hastily brushed away her tears.
Once in the car, the silence was deafening.
When they arrived at Manuel’s place, Stan both mimed and asked: “Can I pick you up tomorrow for the paint?”
Raya considered it, then nodded before leaving the car.
Stan exhaled. This was not supposed to happen, not at all. Raya was his brother’s intended, not his. But when they were together it seemed so natural. How they communicated was almost flawless without speaking each other’s language. He must keep at the front of his mind she was not meant to be his.