As the kettle shrieked, Florence dashed into her flat's tiny kitchen, plucking the teapot off of the stove before the noise became completely unbearable, something at which she was quite adept after years of cringing at the machine's shrill whistles. Pouring a drink into a plain blue porcelain mug, the woman couldn't help but think back to when she received the cup—Anatoly had given it to her after he had accidentally dropped her prized purple one while reaching for a plate above it in the cupboard. She smiled wistfully, remembering how he had first teased her for her inexplicably fierce attachment to the broken purple mug—but he also very quickly promised her another one.
But those days are over, she mused as she stirred in some honey. It had been months since she'd last laid eyes on the tortured, brown-haired man with whom she had had the misfortune of falling in love, and Florence didn't delude herself into thinking that that was ever going to change. Much as it pained her to admit it to herself, she knew he belonged in Moscow with his wife and daughters. But no matter how logical she tried to be regarding her former Russian lover, no amount of practical reason could fill the void his absence left in her heart. Loneliness was a bitter companion, and Florence wanted no part of it.
Unfortunately, it continued to follow her.
Walter de Courcy had promised her her father, yet that plan had fallen through and left her equally as lonely as she was after Anatoly returned to Russia. Remarkably, she hadn't seen much of Freddie since their first week back from Thailand—during that time he had hounded her about giving her another chance, but his efforts slowly petered out. She couldn't decide whether she was happy about that. Part of her longed for his company, still remembering their good days when all their conversations ran smoothly. At the same time, though, she would never forget his caustic parting shot in Merano: be someone else's parasite!
Now sitting in her living room, Florence sipped the scalding liquid slowly as her fingers idly traced the carved wooden chess pieces on the coffee table. She hadn't been able to force herself to pack up the board, and sometimes when she was feeling especially down she would pretend Anatoly was there in her living room sitting opposite her. She had never beaten him, but she still relished every game they played.
Taking another drink, her attention shifted away from the tantalizing game to a curious set of noises outside her apartment: they sounded anxious, although she couldn't make out any words. But seconds later, a new voice sent a rush of gooseflesh up her arms. It couldn't be…The voices stopped, and the woman forced her heart rate back to normal.
It sped right back up when someone knocked on her door.
The first man she saw upon looking through the door's peephole was unmistakable; she would recognize the blond hair a mile away. He stood authoritatively in front of two Eastern European men she couldn't identify in the slightest, but her eyes moved on frantically to the face she never expected to see again.
She opened the door, trying valiantly not to grin stupidly at Anatoly's presence. "Mister Sergievsky," she began diplomatically, a question raising the end of her statement.
He nodded. "We're sorry to barge in like this, but I have good news for you—well, news I hope you will be glad to hear," he began softly.
"Well, come in," she beckoned, self-conscious. What if he's left Russia again? No, then Viigand wouldn't be with him, she scolded mentally. Keep your head out of the clouds. The taller of the Eastern European men never took her eyes off of her, and his searching gaze unnerved her.
As thee four men entered her living room, Florence picked up her blue mug protectively. "Would you like some tea?" She offered feebly.
Anatoly shook his head. "Florence, I came to speak with you about Walter's arrangement from Bangkok."
"You're too late," she replied shortly. "Walter already told me that my father isn't actually alive." She mentally congratulated herself on delivering that line so calmly.
She watched in confusion as Anatoly looked pointedly to the shorter of the two strangers. "Ferenc, I think you should start translating."
Immediately, the man—Ferenc—began speaking rapidly in a tongue that Florence was almost positive she had heard before, although she couldn't understand a word of what he said. But it sounds so familiar…The other man nodded, listening to Ferenc, but his gaze remained on her. Suddenly, she was overcome by the distinct feeling that she was being left in the dark about something very, very important.
"Anatoly, what is going on?" She asked impatiently, all of her awkwardness with the other man paling in comparison to the more befuddling issues at hand.
He sighed, but kept eye contact. "Maybe you should sit down."
She tried to ignore the feelings that welled up inside her as he took her arm and guided her gently to the sofa. He stayed standing up.
"Walter de Courcy was misinformed," Anatoly said slowly. Ferenc translated rapidly in a muted tone. "I've been in Budapest for the last week, looking for our man… Gregori Vassy."
The puzzle pieces slowly began to fit together in Florence's mind, but the cynic in her stayed skeptical.
"Why would Walter lie to me?" She questioned, an accusative tone creeping into her voice.
Anatoly continued patiently. "I don't think he lied so much as he didn't know. Ferenc here helped me in Budapest." The translator nodded respectfully, and Florence wondered how much Anatoly had told him about their relationship.
"So why is Ferenc translating?" She thought she knew the answer, but she was definitely hesitant to believe it.
He paused, and she could see a firm resolve develop in his brown eyes. "He has to translate from English to Magyar, the Hungarian language. Florence, this man is—"
"Don't say it," she interrupted quickly, stopping him. On shaky legs she rose from her sofa and approached the tall Hungarian man. She was tall for a woman, she knew, but despite that she still had to look up markedly to speak to him. She took in his facial features and felt the telltale lump forming in her throat. His face brought back a tidal wave of sensory memories—the smell of burning timber, the sound of shattering glass, the screams of an anguished people… A friendly woman with familiar soft hands dragging her onto a train, watching the face fade into the smoke… That same face she was currently staring into, fully alive, a few scant inches away.
"Apuci," she croaked, unable to hold back her tears any longer.
"A lányom Firenze," he returned emotionally, opening his arms.
She flew into them, burrowing into the comforting embrace of a father she thought she'd lost for so many years. His arms held all the warmth of Anatoly's, but they contained an extra sense of pure, unadulterated compassion that she couldn't ever remember feeling from the Russian.
After twenty-five long, agonizing years, Florence Vassy was finally safe, finally home—encircled in her father's arms.
A/N: I don't normally do translation notes, but I think these are very important (and I didn't really give any context for what they mean). 'Apuci' means 'Daddy', and 'A lányom Firenze' is 'My Florence.'