Your Ambitions Would Break Us
written for 1sentence on livejournal / theme set beta
Based off London plot (Merano, Bangkok, and Viigand). Svetlana is an opera singer and the daughter of a high-ranking Soviet official (who fell from power). Anatoly comes from the countryside. Their son Alexei is 12 when Anatoly defects; Svetlana and Anatoly have a daughter as well, Yekaterina (age still undecided when the defection happens, leaning towards 5). I have ... a lot of backstory about these two.
The sentences cover the happier, early days of the Anatoly/Svetlana relationship all the way through to immediately post-Chess, and are not in chronological order. Expect Mood Whiplash, Overly Long Sentences/Punctuation Abuse, and Excessive Angst.
Should I have titled this You and I instead? Oh, too many applicable and quotable song lyrics, and not enough places to reference them in...
but I went on believing
stories like ours
have happy endings
"Anatoly, slow down!" snaps Svetlana imperiously; Anatoly hides a smile and stops to let Svetlana catch up (Svetlana insists she is not short, and she isn't, and Anatoly isn't quite tall either, but he takes longer strides than she does, being used to the open countryside instead of the city, and his legs are longer than hers anyways, so too often when they walk together he ends up walking in front of her and has to wait for her to catch up.)
One, two, three, one, two, three; they dance around each other, the opera singer and the chess player, neither wanting to be the first to reach out, until one day they meet in the middle.
They're where they want to be and who they want to be and doing all they always said they would, except that they aren't, not really, and they wish they could start over with everything.
Svetlana wonders if she would be happier had she never met Anatoly.
Svetlana worries that one day Anatoly will no longer care about the children and abandon them the way he left her; surely he wouldn't do that to his children--his own flesh and blood--but once she'd thought that he could never leave her, too.
Once upon a time, Svetlana sees a young, confused-looking man hiding in the corner of the reception hall, and on a whim, she decides to go talk to him.
Svetlana moves out of the master bedroom after the news of Anatoly's defection is confirmed; the room lies empty now, vacant and silent, a thick coat of dust covering everything.
8. Whiskey and rum
The first time Anatoly tries hard alcohol, he coughs and splutters it out, shocked at the taste, and Svetlana laughs at his expression; he later announces that his avoidance of alcohol is only to maintain his chess form, but she knows better.
Svetlana comes home to find Alexei using Anatoly's spare chess pieces as toy soldiers, happily banging them against each other, and lining them up to knock them down again.
Anatoly carries a miniature chess set in his pocket during his wedding.
Anatoly would be satisfied with anything chess-related for his birthday, but Svetlana persists in trying to find him the perfect non-chess-related gift.
Svetlana's father tells Anatoly that he has his blessing to marry her on the condition he keeps winning chess matches; Svetlana thinks later that that is where all the trouble starts.
Dealing with Anatoly would be so much easier if Svetlana didn't still love him; he certainly doesn't have any problems dealing with her.
Sometimes, Svetlana wants to burn Anatoly's chess set, wants to burn his pieces and burn his chessboard, wants to burn the chess out of him, but although varnished wood burns easily, love is not so easily destroyed (she should know).
Svetlana, a professional opera singer, is almost never out of breath, but Anatoly can make her lose her breath with disturbing ease.
Svetlana breaks her ties to her father to bind herself to Anatoly, and is left alone when Anatoly breaks those bonds.
Once upon a time, they really believe they can make a life together.
Svetlana dreams she is a balloon, left adrift once Anatoly lets her go.
Svetlana stands alone on the balcony of her hotel room and watches Anatoly and Florence in the garden below.
Chess is what led Anatoly to Svetlana, and chess is what leads him away from her.
After Alexei is born, it is much harder to keep the house quiet enough for Anatoly to be able to concentrate.
Anatoly offers Svetlana the white queen from his prized hand-carved chess set; it takes her a few moments to realize he is proposing.
"Do you still love me?"
Svetlana never argues with Anatoly anymore; she's tried, before, but it never was any use and it's so much easier to spend her time and energy with the children now.
Svetlana could, should, would divorce Anatoly, but she can never quite bring herself to do it.
Even now, despite everything, if Anatoly told her to jump, she'll only ask "how far".
"Why did the pawn cross the board?" asks Anatoly; Svetlana isn't sure if she should laugh or smack him.
"Horse!" shrieks Alexei, Anatoly's black knights clutched in either fist; "No, Alexei, those are knights"— "Horse!"
The diamond on Svetlana's finger mocks her every time she sees it; it is perfect, glittering, beautiful--everything that her marriage is not.
After Anatoly defects, the children are forced to learn that the world is not fair; Svetlana herself has already learned that lesson far too well.
Anatoly never smirks, much to Svetlana's relief (her father and brothers do it all the time); he's just not the type.
After the defection, Svetlana tells herself she won't cry, and she doesn't; if there are tears on her cheeks after she finishes her final aria and mock-collapses on the stage, she can pretend they're all Butterfly's, not hers.
Svetlana is an abysmally bad chess player; Anatoly assures her that he doesn't mind (but he has to work on suppressing his smile--Svetlana is very very bad, but looks so adorably lost as she stares at the board).
Once, and only once, does a young Anatoly ever try to serenade Svetlana; he learns the hard way that it is not the best idea to serenade a professional singer.
Svetlana tells Anatoly that she and the children don't mind his absences; unfortunately he doesn't catch the sarcasm then and only realizes what she really means years too late.
Anatoly's defection would be just the defection of another high-level Russian, but Florence's involvement propels it into the sordid realms of The Affair; Svetlana forgives him the defection but cannot forgive the affair.
Anatoly stands by the door of Svetlana's practice room and listens to her rehearsing her arias.
Svetlana hates Bangkok, hates the heat and the pollution, and wants nothing more than to return to Moscow, with or without Anatoly—anything would be better than staying in Bangkok any longer.
Svetlana shares her husband, doesn't claim too much of him and lets others have their share, until suddenly she can't claim any of him.
Svetlana has to adjust to having Anatoly back after Bangkok; she's lived alone with the children for so long that it's strange, having someone else in the house with her.
You can have the life you want anywhere you want it, says Molokov, but Svetlana knows she won't be going anywhere.
Svetlana pretends she doesn't have a personal stake in Bangkok, pretends her only interest is that of a wife for her husband; when she talks to Anatoly, she doesn't talk about herself, won't plead for her own sake--for the children's, yes, but her pride prevents her from speaking for herself and forces her to pretend she's a neutral player in Molokov's games.
As the years pass, the phrase I love you accumulates different shades of meaning until it becomes more of an apology than a declaration of love.
Each moment Svetlana sits in the plane takes her further and further away from her home and her children, and closer and closer to Bangkok—and Anatoly.
Anatoly doesn't expect things to go this far with Florence, doesn't expect or mean for things to end this way, but one thing happens after another, a natural progression, and suddenly there he is in Bangkok, facing the wife he left behind.
Svetlana cannot see any change coming in the way they treat each other; their broken marriage will continue, stretching on endlessly, until one or the other or both of them die.
Svetlana tries to hold the family together, really she does, but despite her best efforts, the blood and sweat and tears, the late, late nights and early starts, it all falls apart.
No one would care if Svetlana took a lover like Anatoly has, but she cannot quite bring herself to do it, though she's thought about it often enough and Anatoly wouldn't care.
Everyone is surprised when, against all expectations, Anatoly wins the match in Bangkok—everyone except Svetlana, who knows him too well.
People think Svetlana won in Bangkok—Anatoly went home with her, after all—but really she lost: Anatoly will does not love her and will never love her again.