A thousand million heartfelt apologies from me, my patient and loving readers! I've resolved to finish this novelfic no matter what, and I finally believe I have the skill to do it correctly. Thank all of you for hanging in here with me, and please, let me know you're still a reader!
Toris had exhausted himself already, in almost every way possible. Sleep seemed like an impossible feat at the moment, the events of the past few days behind him and his task in front of him. He had thought himself prepared, but now he wasn't so sure. Seeing his mother again was supposed to be the easy part! He wasn't naïve, he knew that there were issues that wouldn't be resolved, but it was something he had been mulling over for years now. Even now Toris was scolding himself for being so foolish as to think that he had it all under control. For believing that one meeting would be all it took to clear away all the cobwebs of shame that covered up his painful memories, locked tight within their boxes in the back of his mind. Put away for a later date and not to be disturbed.
The house had been the first straw, but nothing as simple as a physical place should break you, should it? Everything is inside your mind. Those were the words that he had spoken to Ivan, which the Russian had given back to him over the phone. It was all a part of therapy. It wasn't a place or an object that hurt you, but a person. Even if that person exists somewhere, you could heal. It wasn't houses that held memories; it was the mind that connected them. Therefore, logically, Toris could deduce that going to the house had simply uncovered memories that he wasn't prepared for. In fact it had been easier to lock away those thoughts and emotions within that house, leave them behind like boxes in the attic. Though the house's walls had witnessed every sordid family secret, they could never tell. They had neither voice nor memory of their own; there was nothing there to silence.
Forcing his emotions to catch up with his logic was quite the feat. For his mother, the house remained a shrine. Perhaps he should have suggested that she see it one last time. Everything had happened so fast that she hadn't had the time to properly say goodbye. Though it hadn't helped Toris to find any closure, it hadn't hurt him either. A reminder of what you left behind wasn't bad; it reminded you of where you are now. Then again, perhaps that was a type of resolution. Seeing the empty and dust-covered house had helped to reinforce the fact that he had moved on. Though the house still stood, it was not the same home that he had once been trapped inside of.
The plane to Moscow was nearly full, leaving Toris crowded and trapped in his window seat. The portly woman that he sat next to was kind, but she only spoke Russian, and Toris was still rather rusty. Still she prattled on, and he managed a small nod and a tense smile now and then, wishing he could have even a moment of silence to himself. He gathered that she had three children and two grandchildren, that her husband had passed, and that she was still working. Thankfully she took a nap about mid-flight, and Toris took the opportunity to slip his headphones on. Resting his head against the small round window of the plane, he allowed his eyes to close. It felt like a split second later that he was woken by the ding of fasten seatbelts sign flicking on, and they were informed of their descent into Moscow.
Opening the flap covering the window, he stared down at the tiny buildings down below. It seems the announcement had roused the woman next to him as well, as she tapped his arm quickly, motioning to the window and speaking quickly. Toris was at a loss before she motioned with her hand, and he realized that she wanted to him close the window cover. With a small nod he did just that, though he was actually a little sad. He'd never been to Moscow before, and how many times did you get the chance to see a city from above like that? Any bitterness he had was gone the moment that he saw her hand grip the arm of the seat upon the plane shuddering in slight turbulence. He was almost ashamed of himself for being upset at all, offering her his hand to hold. She gripped it tightly, and he could feel her pulse racing. His own was racing too; but as she was coming home, Toris couldn't be farther from!
It was late afternoon when Toris reached the hotel, and though his feet were dragging and his eyelids were heavy, there was still so much to do! He double and triple checked the papers in the folder, called Yao to check in, and then Antonio to steady his nerves. He chewed his lower lip as he listened to the phone ring. There was a three hour difference from Moscow to London, and right now it would be around lunch there. Finally there was a click, and Antonio's cheerful voice came over the slight static of the cell phone.
"Hola, Toris! How was your flight to Moscow?" Antonio asked. Toris' voice caught in his throat for a moment, and he gave a small cough. "Oh, are you alright?"
"I-I'm fine, sorry. The flight was… alright. I wish I had studied Russian a little more, though." The Lithuanian laid out on the crisp sheets of the hotel bed, crossing one ankle over the other. "Good thing English is practically the world's second language." Toris murmured. Antonio chuckled in agreement, and Toris could hear the creak of the psychiatrist's terrible office chair. "I'm not interrupting am I? I know it's about lunch there, and you don't usually have a session…"
"Toris, Toris, please. If I was busy, I would tell you! It's no bother at all; I was actually just going over some forms. I'm glad you called. Yao tells me that you spoke to Ivan the day before yesterday?"
"I… Yes. I-I would have called, you, but…" Toris admitted quietly.
"Oh don't worry about that. It's perfectly fine, I understand. Most importantly, did it help? Ivan seemed rather happy."
"D-did he?" Toris had to smile, feeling a bit of weight lift off of his chest. "It did help. More than I thought it would, actually…" He gave a quiet laugh.
"May I ask what it was about? Ivan was rather tightlipped about the whole thing, and oh boy did that make Yao irritated!" Antonio laughed, and Toris gave a small snort.
"He really is loyal isn't he? I mean, about keeping trust. Sometimes I feel like he has unreal expectations about it, but he holds himself to those same rules. I think he would keep a secret even if it got him into trouble."
"Oh, of that I have no doubt." Antonio agreed.
"About your question, my mother wouldn't see me at first, but the nurses gave me a folder. Something was miscommunicated apparently, and the house wasn't sold. Against my better judgment, I paid it a visit." Toris took a deep breath, letting it out in the form of a heavy sigh. "I don't… know what I expected, you know? There was nothing good for me there. Even the good memories were overrun by the bad ones. It was kind of like walking through water with every step. I just got overwhelmed, and so I had to talk to the person I knew would understand me the most, not just talk me through it. D-does that make sense?"
"Of course." Antonio assured him. "Group therapy has the same concept, you know. We can talk to one person for so long that we feel familiar with them, but we need to know our feelings are truly understood at times. We don't always want advice; we seek empathy." Toris chuckled, reaching up to cover his eyes with the back of his wrist.
"Of course you'd understand. I really should be paying you."
"We're friends, Toris; friends who just happen to know a lot about the human mind and how it works. Just because we sometimes know what to say to help one another, it doesn't mean anything more than that." Antonio chuckled again. "If you want to pay me back, come over for a beer again some time."
"As soon as I get back; I promise."
"You said your mother refused to see you 'at first' didn't you? That means you saw her?" At that question Toris felt his heart skip a beat, and he swallowed hard. Uncovering his eyes, he stared up at the plain white hotel ceiling. Unlike his own in London, there were no cracks or water stains to capture his attention.
"I did. She was the same. It was as if time stopped for her the day my dad died. I won't lie, it hurts like hell. I left her in the hands of people I didn't know and I expected them to 'fix' her. It feels arrogant when I think about it like that, but it's what I did. I felt so guilty all this time, but the way it is now, I don't think it would have made any difference if I had been here with her. What could I have done? Visited her every week to tell her that my father wasn't the hero she made him out to be?" He took a deep and shuddering breath, letting a cold smile twist its way his onto expression."Isn't it sad that I feel like the better person for never telling her the truth?"
"The truth?" Antonio asked curiously, and Toris felt a cold shock run through him. It wasn't that he had made a mistake in saying it; simply that he'd never said it out loud to anyone before.
"I didn't tell you before, because… I wasn't ready. Maybe I wanted to believe it was karma, not a choice. A choice meant it wasn't a punishment. At his funeral I overheard his friends passing around the truth." Bitterness slipped into his tone of voice. "That he was driving drunk wasn't anything new, so that alone wasn't enough to prove it. It was little things. He'd put his affairs in order, so to speak. Called the friends he was closest to, stretched out his goodbyes." Toris closed his eyes. "I didn't know the signs back then, but it didn't take long to put it all together. He even said his goodbye to me. I felt as if he was trying to make me feel guilty for hating him. Like he was trying to say 'I wasn't all bad.' It wasn't an apology."
"Would you feel better if it had been?"
"No." Toris sighed, opening his eyes to glare at the ceiling again. "I feel as if it was his final abuse. He didn't give a damn about any of us. Not my mother, my brothers, and definitely not me. You can't do that to someone! Make their life a living hell and then just leave. As if money could make everything better, make up for all the pain and suffering you put them through. And my mother still loves that man. I wanted to tell her, to say, 'he left us, he left you.'"
"Why didn't you?"
"Because," Toris' voice grew quiet again, and his expression fell back into apathy. "It wouldn't change a thing. It might even make it worse for her. Right now she thinks he loved her, and that a terrible accident took him from her. If she knew he killed himself, what does she have left? On the off chance that she's even capable of feeling guilty over how she behaved towards my brothers and I, it would crush her. What do you think is better? To live in a lie, or to realize that your life has been a lie and that everything you did was for the wrong reasons?"
"Oh, Toris." Antonio said with a sigh.
"Wh-what is it?" Toris paused in his bitter pondering, frowning a little.
"Those are very deep questions for someone so young." Antonio lamented. "You just know so much for your age that it hurts to listen to you. The truth is, we'll never know. It's different for everyone. Some of us want to know the truth, and some of us can't handle it at all. If confronted they're retreat into their minds, journey back to a safer place in life. I can't tell you how many times I've seen it happen. Have you spoken to her psychiatrist the truth about your father's death, or does he know?"
"No, I've never told anyone. Not even my brothers."
"Well then that's your first step, should you choose to say anything to anyone. He'll know what's best for her, or decide when to tell her. I know right now you're hurt and angry, but ask yourself this: Can you forgive yourself if you just let this go?" Toris hesitated for a moment, swallowing hard.
"No." He answered finally. Antonio gave a small sound of agreement.
"I didn't think so. And Toris, it doesn't matter what you think your reasons are. You want her to know the truth, and you think that's bad because it would hurt her, right?"
"Y-yes." Toris never failed to be a bit surprised at how insightful that Antonio was.
"That's not wrong, and you shouldn't feel bad for it. She's hurt you, and the only way that she can understand that is to know why what she has done was harmful to you. It's completely natural to want that kind of resolution." At Antonio's words, Toris felt tears burning his eyes, reaching up quickly to wipe them away. He couldn't answer right away, but the other didn't press him. Surely he could hear the sniffle the Lithuanian gave, and the line went silent for a few moments.
"Thank you." Toris said quietly.
"Not at all. Thank you, Toris, for doing all of this. What we asked of you is almost too much. Though it was your choice to stop by in Lithuania, your 'mission' so to speak, is only halfway over. I know you enough to be sure you'll pull through. You'll push your own emotions down for as long as it takes to step up for another person's wellbeing. Though it's not the healthiest of methods, it's a skill that can come in quite useful for this job." Toris sat up to grab a tissue, giving a small, sad laugh.
"I thought it was only dysfunctional."
"It's a defense, Toris. You're not cut out for this line of work if you don't have them. Sometimes what's best for someone will seem to hurt them. We have to remain objective at all times. We have to remember that it's all about them, and that we have no room to be selfish." Antonio explained, and Toris sat up to grab a tissue from the bedside drawer. Wiping his nose, he managed a small sound of agreement. "Good. Is there anything else?"
"Sure, but I do plan on getting a little rest before I have to go to the institution. Something tells me that I'll need it. Time to push it down, right? Remain objective." Toris said with a sigh, throwing the tissue into the bin.
"That's right. Take care, Toris."
"Thanks. You too." Toris said with a sigh. Exchanging a quick goodbye, Toris ended the call.
Sleep came in short bursts. Toris turned on the TV for the sound, thinking that he could drown out his thoughts by listening to the Russian that he barely understood. But with each shift in volume that came with commercials, he found himself waking up with a start. Only when his stomach growled loudly in protest did he find the courage to stir, but it was only to order a bit of food. Rising to sit at the table by the window, Toris sat with his forehead against the cold glass. It was such a shame that his first real traveling experience had to take place because of such a thing. And alone, at that! Though he had the evening to himself, it wasn't likely that he would be setting foot outside of his hotel room if he could help it.
It wasn't really a question as to whether he was ready, or strong enough to do this kind of thing. He had to be, and so he was. If he hesitated for even a moment, he might falter. Fixing things for other people was just so much easier than it was to take a long, hard look at yourself. But this wasn't for just anyone, either. Pulling his gaze away from the city on the other side of the window, he settled them onto his bag. He supposed he should call Ivan, but how could he? Ivan had no idea that he was in Russia, and telling him now would only cause an upset. Toris bit into his lower lip, pulling his feet up onto the chair and turning his face back towards the city street.
He was free, now. Free as he could possibly be, that is. Guilt had always been a pin in his stomach, keeping him stuck in the middle of his turmoil. He'd covered up the pain with pills, self-soothing skills, and most of all with schoolwork. But meeting his mother again had jerked that pin free. Of course it hurt; how could it not? It wasn't the resolution that he'd hoped for, and yet it was the one that he had expected. 'Why did I wait so long?' he'd admonish if he dwelled on it too long. 'I wasn't ready, I wasn't ready.' Well, he should have learned his lesson in childhood. Something about bandaids and feeling better if they were taken off quickly, or something of the sort.
The sound of a fist banging on the door awoke the Lithuanian with a start, and he nearly slipped from his chair. Shakily he rose from it, using both hands for balance, heart racing. "Y-yes, coming!" He called out in Russian, heading for the door. The spot on his forehead that had been against the window felt numb from the cold, and he rubbed it as he grabbed the cash from his wallet on the desk. He only realized how hungry that he was once the bag was in his hands, and he thanked the man, closing the door and breathing in the scent of it. One thing at a time. First, he would eat. He'd let the taste of it linger with each bite, focusing only on the flavor and texture. No matter that it wouldn't last very long, it would be a few moments of peace.
Anxiety was many things, but rational wasn't one of them. It had been a long time since Toris' anxiety had made him pause to question it. The overpowering sensation of being stuck was nearly suffocating. He felt the urge to get it over with, and yet he had the desire to hold back. Clutching the manila folder in both hands, he stood alone on the sidewalk, barely registering the scent of the cab's exhaust as it pulled away. The whole area carried the same industrial, barren smoke smell, without a hint of life. Faces as gray as the buildings littered the streets here and there, all bundled tightly in their scarves and coats, none of them sparing one another a glance. It was as lonely as the cold stone buildings on all sides, reaching up to the sky to block the solitary rays of the sun, casting impossibly long shadows to cover the smaller, neighboring buildings.
There wasn't a hint of individuality in the buildings here. It was all so uniform, cookie-cutter, if you would. A true Soviet era relic. Taking a deep breath, Toris turned his eyes to his target. It was a tall, wide, beige building behind solid walls. Barbed wire coiled over the top of that wall, and together with the bars on the frosted windows, it almost seemed more like a prison than an asylum. He wouldn't be surprised if perhaps it had once served that very purpose. Exhaling slowly, a white cloud appeared in front of him. He waited for it to fade before he took a step, heading for the building. The closer that he became, the more imposing that the structure appeared to him. Toris wasn't sure if it was the atmosphere of the silent streets, the prison-like quality, or the stories he'd heard about this place that made him so nervous. Coming to a stop at the iron gates, he cleared his throat as someone approached. The man was dressed in uniform, so Toris assumed that he was a security guard. The simple fact that the man carried a gun was a bit unnerving, however. Should someone have a gun in a place like this? It seemed dangerous. "What's your business?" The man asked gruffly.
"I, I have a," Toris struggled over the words, "A meeting, with Dr. Altan?" He'd tried to remember the word for 'appointment', but he could only do so well on the spot. The man regarded him with one raised eyebrow and an apparent scowl, and Toris raised his head a little, straightening his shoulders. "I can call,"
"No," the man muttered, "He told us to expect you." He made a motion with his hand, and the gate began to clank and groan. It slid aside, and Toris passed through quickly. "Inside." The man waved his hand, and Toris didn't need to be told twice. He crossed his arms over the envelope, holding it to his chest as he headed towards the front doors. Toris couldn't help but feel a tug at his chest when looking at the barren and broken concrete yard. To the right there was a ten-foot tall chain-link fence which sectioned off a great deal of it. More barbed wire resided on top of it, as if that was necessary. He could see four men of various ages lingering around behind it, all with the same pale blue coats. The coats displayed varying stages of wear on them, from perfectly clean to filthy and patched. Two of the men sat on the ground, while one favored an old wooden bench, picking at the already chipped paint. The third stood facing the fence, staring at it, but not past it. Toris shuddered, pressing on.
The metal handle was so cold that it almost hurt to touch, and the door took a bit of force to pull it before it would jerk free of the latch. The weight of the door was enough that Toris had to heave a little to pull it open, stepping through in a hurry. It closed much easier than it had opened, sliding back into place and giving a hollow clank which echoed in the empty hallway. The floor was bare and grey, while the walls were egg-white, and both surfaces were surprisingly spotless. But then, even that felt alien to him. Yellow light shined down from up above, stretching on down the hallway and around the corner. Heading forward, the only sound that he could hear was that of his own heart pounding in his ears, and the soft pad of his shoes against the floor. Rounding the corner, he finally spotted a sign of life. There was a room not unlike the Safe Room back at the Kirkland institution, sitting behind wire-mesh sandwiched between two sheets of acrylic glass. A middle-aged man sat behind that desk, visible through the only area without the mesh. The man seemed to be watching tv on an old snowy set, the warped sound carrying through the slot where papers could be handed through. Stepping up to the desk, Toris cleared his throat. Getting no reaction, he reached up to tap on the glass. "Excuse me," Toris paused when the man turned his head towards him, bushy brows pulled into a frown.
"The Doctor is busy. You will wait." He said flatly, pointing towards the left. Following that line of sight, Toris saw the two white double doors. Against the wall leading up to it was a small metal bench. Toris glanced to a clock over the man's shoulder. He was about five minutes early, but that shouldn't have been a problem.
"But, my meeting is," He protested with a frown of his own.
"You will wait."
"Please, can you call someone?"
"I'll call security." The man threatened. Toris could feel the bridge of his nose itching in irritation, but he took a deep breath, mentally counting to ten. Without a word, he moved over to the bench and plopped down with a sigh. The man went back to watching his tv, chuckling to himself, and Toris could only hope it was because something on the program was amusing to him. Setting the folder down beside him, he opened up his coat, as the air was quickly becoming stuffy. Resting his head back against the wall, he stared up at the ceiling. Surprisingly, he found his mind to be blank. The whole way here, he'd gone over the conversations that he would have again and again, leaving no room open to be surprised by any responses that he might get. Perhaps it was being met with such straight-to-the-point individuals that made him feel like this might not be so difficult. Surely they would just give him what he needed and send him on his way, right?
Time slowed down to a crawl, and Toris began to count the commercial breaks on the programs that the man behind the desk was watching. When he reached four, he pulled his phone out from his pocket. He felt a spark of heat in his chest when he saw that he'd been waiting for nearly an hour over their appointed meeting time. Standing up, he approached the desk again. The man ignored his presence once again, and Toris felt that heat grow. "Excuse me, I need to see Dr. Altan." He insisted.
"He's busy." The man said without a glance.
"How do you know?"
"He tells me."
"I haven't seen you pick up a phone since I got here. Please, can you call him?" Toris tried. The man turned his bushy frown on him again, but Toris didn't retreat. Finally the man cursed under his breath, and his chair creaked noisily as he leaned over to the phone. Picking it up, he pressed a number. Toris took a breath of relief, leaning against the counter.
"Yeah, there's a kid here for Dr. Altan. Yeah, I told him. Well send someone will you? He's pissing me off." The man snapped into the phone. Toris clenched his jaw, feeling the heat from his chest travel to the back of his shoulders, and they tensed in response. It felt as if something heavy and hot had settled there, and he began to wring his hands together in order to keep them from shaking. He couldn't care less if this man was angry with him, but it still made him uncomfortable. The phone slammed down a moment later. "Vasily will be with you shortly." He barked, returning his gaze to the tv. Toris sighed, not bothering to ask just who Vasily was. Whoever he was, he was better than no one.
"Thank you." He said, his voice tight. Moving back over to the bench, he picked up the envelope. The sharp beep from doors close to him made him jump, and he turned to face them as one side opened. A tall man stood dressed in brown scrubs, a mop of brown hair on his head to match. He appeared to be in his mid to late twenties, and his expression was refreshingly pleasant when compared to anyone he'd yet to see here.
"Mr. Laurinaitis?" He asked in accented English. Toris gave a sigh of relief.
"Toris, please. Are you Vasily, then?" He asked.
"That's right. Dr. Atlan is busy, but I can be helping you, probably. Come," he waved his hand, urging Toris to follow him. Toris stepped forward, passing through the doors and into the large room behind them. The barred windows seemed all too familiar, except that they were so frosted that you couldn't see through them. He could see now that it wasn't age or the cold, but that the glass was purposefully cloudy. There were a few tables sitting around, the chairs haphazardly placed here and there, and a few old couches. An old radio sat behind a barred case, distorting the music a bit. What was most notably absent however were the patients.
"Everyone's at lunch." Vasily explained, as if he'd read his mind.
"Oh, of course. But why are the windows that way?" Toris couldn't help but ask.
"People don't like to see them. It makes them uncomfortable."
"You mean the people outside?" Toris turned his furrowed brows on the orderly. Vasily gave a small shrug of one shoulder.
"They come, they leave problem family, they go home."
"Out of sight, out of mind." Toris said quietly, feeling the old familiar ache in his chest. Vasily only nodded, agreeing that it was like that.
"How can I help?" Vasily asked patiently. Toris glanced down to the folder in his hands.
"This was supposed to go to Dr. Atlan, but perhaps you can do it for me. I'm here to obtain the official papers for a patient that was transferred a few years ago. His name was Ivan Braginsky, and he was,"
"I know of him." Vasily admitted with a small frown. The orderly's brows were drawn now, and the easiness of his expression had gone. Toris swallowed heavily. "I see what I can do. In meantime, you can wait outside if you,"
"O-one last request." Toris spoke up quickly. Even though his fingers and his nose still felt a bit numb from the cold, his cheeks and back were hot. "Please, can I see where he stayed?" He asked quietly. Vasily appeared to be visibly uncomfortable, shifting his weight from one foot to the other, and rubbing at the back of his right arm.
"That part of the building off limits now."
"It's not used anymore?" Toris' brows rose.
"No. But you can see. Just be quick." Vasily turned without a word, and Toris' heart leapt into his throat, following at the taller man's heels. The same grey floors and egg-white walls followed everywhere they went, all wiped clean as if they were afraid of leaving evidence that anyone had been there. As they passed a large hallway, he could hear voices from down the hall. They came to a door leading to a stairway, and Vasily pulled out a key. He unlocked it, stepping through and holding it open for Toris to follow. Closing it, he re-locked it, heading up the stairs. They went up to the third floor, where he opened another door with a different key. Toris felt a gust of cold hit him as the door opened, shuddering and pulling his coat closed around him, the folder tucked under it against his chest. Stepping into the hallway, Vasily stayed behind, holding out his hand. "You give me folder, I get papers." He stated. Toris seemed to hesitate, only to be met with a small nod of insistence. Slowly, Toris held the envelope out, allowing Vasily to take it. "Ivan was down the hall," Vasily nodded his head to the right. "Corner room. I be right back." And with that the door closed, leaving Toris locked on a freezing, and abandoned floor of the facility.
With shaking fingers, Toris zipped up his coat. Those papers were the only bit of official proof that he had of his purpose here, and he'd just handed them to a stranger. He only hoped that Vasily would do what he promised, and get the transcripts that he needed. Turning towards the direction that the orderly had nodded, Toris headed down the hallway. The floors and walls here were covered in various evidence of neglect, a stark contrast from the clean ones below. The floors themselves were different from the solid grey as well, being made of what was once white, brown-speckled linoleum. It was curled in places now, missing chips and corners. The paint on the walls was cracked, even peeling in places, and the flakes of it littered the floor. Toris passed by open and empty rooms, some of them completely barren, while others held the bare skeletons of bed frames. The door at the end of the hall was closed, and he took a deep breath, taking a hold of the chilly handle. Why was he so nervous? Nothing in here was going to change anything. It was probably just as bare as the rest of them, right? It took a few twists of the handle before the door jerked free, opening outward with a groan of hinges.
The room was eight by ten, but the ceiling was high over his head. There was a single, broken bulb hanging down from it. The only light came from the grey sky outside, but it was enough to fill the pale-colored space. The floor was white, and speckled like a sparrow's egg. The walls were the same as outside, only they seemed more yellowed in here. The white metal bed frame in the right corner of the room had flecks of paint missing, and it had been left with a thin, filthy mattress. Hanging from the side of the frame was a tan restraint. There was no padding to it, only a canvas like material and a buckle, and so it wasn't hard to imagine what the rust-colored stains were. The sound of chirping brought Toris' attention up to the window, which was a good eight feet from the floor. It was barred, of course, but broken. It seems a few birds had settled there, and they were huddled together on the ledge. Feathers littered the floor under the window; evidence that they'd been there for a while, and possibly had a nest.
Toris noted that there were scrape marks leading from under the window to the bed frame, and the spacing was consistent with the bed being moved. It was only then that he realized that the bed was bolted down. None of the others that he had seen were like that. Moving over to it, he knelt down, reaching out to touch the worn bolts of the metal plate on one of the bed's feet. Just near it, a floor tile was shifted. Not chipped or peeled, but shifted. Taking a hold of the edge, he lifted it. Stuck to the tile was part of the floor, which seemed to have been carved free by very careful, meticulous work. There was a hole under it, and so he set the tile aside. A filthy and water-damaged cardboard box sat in the hole, about the size of a shoe-box. The top of it was marked with pencil in Cyrillic; Ivan's name. Sitting on the cold floor, Toris pulled it out.
Opening it was a bit of a chore, since the water had caused the lid to seal, so he had to tear it a bit to get it to open. Inside were more feathers, but they were long and clean, from a wing or a tail it seemed. There were a few seeds scattered about, from a few apple seeds to a peach pit. A little cloth doll with a blue dress and yellow yarn for hair lay folded in the corner of the box, no bigger than Toris' palm. He picked it up curiously, running his thumb lightly over the two blue stitches for eyes, and the red one for the mouth. There were pictures as well, of who he now knew to be Ivan's sisters. They were much younger, but he could recognize them from the ones he'd seen in Ivan's room currently. He picked those up along with the doll, sliding them into his right coat pocket. Lastly was a little astronaut miniature, painted white and marked with CCCP in red on the helmet. Sliding that one into his left, he closed the box. Placing it gingerly back into the hole, he slid the tile back on top.
Footsteps from down the hall alerted him, and he stood up quickly, brushing off his pants. Just as he turned to face the doorway, Vasily came into view. Toris' eyes dropped to the other man's hands, and his brows furrowed when he saw that they were empty. Seeing his expression, Vasily offered a disarming smile, lifting his hands defensively. "I got papers," he said, "Downstairs. The lady show up to get them." This took Toris by complete surprise, and he felt an icy cold hand take hold of his heart.
"Da, Ivan's sister."
"She's here? Ekaterina?" Toris' heart began to race again, almost painfully, due to the anxiety gripping him. Vasily reached up to brush his bangs aside, looking a little sheepish.
"Is it not good I gave to her the papers?"
"N-no, that's good." Toris assured, shaking his head. "Just, take me to her. Please." Try as he might, the smile that Toris managed could only be strained. He had been prepared to either do this alone, or to meet her here. But for her to come over an hour past the appointed meeting time? Just what was she thinking? Perhaps it was his own prejudice, but he felt angry with a woman that he had never met. Out of sight, out of mind. That was how she had treated her own brother, for so many years. Even if he knew he shouldn't make any judgments without meeting her first, it was easier said than done. As he followed Vasily back to the stairway, he tried to keep his hands from shaking. In his pockets were the last of Ivan's physical presence here, and with the papers that should fill in the gaps of his time here, he'd thought that Ivan could finally leave this place behind. But that was naïve.
After all, Toris couldn't escape his own past either. He had made sure that his house was sold and he'd checked up on his mother, but none of that changed a thing in the end. Though he had found a sort of closure in his mother's unchanging affect, it was simply because nothing had actually changed. If Ivan's sister chose now to care, to initiate contact after all this time, would that help or hurt? Either way, it wasn't up to him. It wasn't his place. As soon as they reached the ground floor, the sound of voices could be heard. It seems that lunch was over. Vasily opened the door, stepping through and waiting for Toris to follow before he closed it again, locking it behind them.
Patients ambled about, mumbling to each other or themselves. Their clothing was all casual as opposed to any set scrubs or anything of the sort. But it was old, all of it, second-hand and most of it in need of repair. An old man sat with his back to the wall, twisting his fingers into his hair as he smiled at the floor. A middle-aged patient approached them, hands out and speaking so quickly that Toris couldn't catch a thing he said. Vasily caught one of the man's wrists before it grabbed for Toris' coat, scolding the man and sending him on his way. "Stay close." Vasily warned. Toris didn't have to be told twice. This was… chaos.
Everything looked so clean and orderly before, but the crowded hallway was akin to busy school between classes. Voices raised, and two patients began to scuffle. Three men in brown scrubs hurried over to them, and Toris had to force himself to keep his eyes on Vasily's back as he heard them shouting. It didn't stop him from hearing the impact of someone hitting the floor, and he jumped. The large room was now filled with patients. The radio was barely audible over the chorus of voices, and Toris winced as the pieces of a board game were thrown his way. Vasily stopped to shout at the offenders, a table of three younger men, one of them smoking a cigarette. Seeing that he was getting nowhere with them, and giving a glance to Toris, Vasily shook his head and continued. Soon enough they reached the door. Vasily pulled out his key, and Toris nearly held his breath as he unlocked it. As uncomfortable as meeting Ekaterina was going to be, it was better than being on the inside of here. The door opened and Vasily stepped aside, allowing Toris to hurry through.