The next weekend, Jak invited Rachel, Tanya and Peter to join him for dinner. Although Rachel had a cold, she had a double reason for accepting the invitation. She seemed to spend more time talking about school with Peter, but Jak and Tanya talked amongst themselves and jokingly regarded the two teachers in their common-room mode. Little did they know!
Jak’s life was complicated. Apart from his ex-wife and two sons, whom he saw regularly, he had many friends and acquaintances. Not many lovers though, and those he did have were usually separated by time. He hated cheating on anyone. He was looking for that special person who would love him, stay with him, and be his constant companion. When he did, he would love her for the rest of his life.
He went round to Rachel’s the next day to see how she was. He took her some flowers, just to cheer her up. But despite her Beecham’s and commiserations from him, she wasn’t up to letting him in or talking with anyone; in fact, she stood in the doorway, holding it like a shield. She had gone to bed with a “very sore head” the night before, or so she said.
– o –
A few days later, Jak and Rachel drifted amongst the visitors in a surreal world of yellowed pine beams and white plaster, carved and twisted into wild scrolls and curlicues, and through courtyards and corridors full of Revolutionary art and sculpture, until they settled down on uncomfortable high-backed chairs in one of the larger rooms on the ground floor. It was to be a chamber music concert, played on antique Medieval instruments in super-serious style.
Everyone clapped politely and coughed into their hands between pieces, until, thankfully, it was over. Just as they were leaving an older man came over and said hello to Rachel. She introduced him to Jak as Alan Boychevski. Later, behind her hand, she explained that he was just some old General whose daughter was at her school.
“I didn’t know you were into this sort of stuff, Rachel,” Boychevski said disarmingly.
“Oh, I do quite like it. It’s very mathematically precise.” She laughed. “Jak’s an Architect. That’s probably why he likes it too,” she said, nudging him.
“What? Oh, yes,” Jak agreed. “Very precise. Very particular.”
“Listen,” said Alan, “Why don’t you two come round for dinner some time? I’m sure Suzi would like to meet you.”
Jak wanted to sink into the floor as Rachel looked at him askance. He brightened up, however, when she suddenly agreed and said, “That’s very kind of you, Alan. We’d love to come!”
But his heart fell again when he realised this might be just some sort of social climbing exercise. Or did she just want to keep Alan guessing, hinting to him that she was more involved with Jak than she actually was? But of course he agreed, still hoping that they could get back together. As they left, promising to get in touch, Jak asked Rachel to come back to his house. But she declined, saying, “I don’t think that would be a very good idea, at the moment.”
– o –
The dinner party on Saturday with Rachel, Alan Boychevski and his wife, Suzi, was a strange affair. Their house was a rambling Gothic pile on the outskirts of Moscow, with extensive, rather overgrown grounds. Alan proudly showed them around the billiards room, the lounge, dining room and kitchen, and then absent-mindedly introduced his wife. At the meal, Rachel and Alan discussed problems at the Institute and showed little interest in Jak or Suzi, though the General’s wife was pleasant, in a distracted kind of way. Jak toughed it out, helping where he could, pleased that Rachel could use him in this way, but confused when they left separately for home without much of a thank you or kind word from her.
The Film Club Selection meeting at the pub in Bolshoi Parade on the Tuesday was cancelled. Maria Chokeminski had resigned from the Committee. Jak didn’t know why, but he found out later that she had decided to move back to her parents in the suburbs. Jak regretted not taking advantage of the cancellation to join Rachel for drinks. He noticed, however that Dmitri the Greek had got in first, and they were laughing and joking with Peter in the corner. They were probably comparing notes on Alan Boychevski and his self-centred ego. Rachel looked over at Jak a couple of times, but not in a very friendly way.
In fact, he thought he had blown it completely when Rachel and Peter got up to leave together. What was going on there? He knew Peter was a bit of lecher, despite his high-minded condemnation of the Government and professed liberalism.