"I want to go to international grocery," Alexei told Alison after they'd left Annie's house.
"Haven't we done enough shopping for one day?" asked Alison.
"I make special dinner for you tonight," said Alexei. "I make stroganoff. For that you cannot find ingredients in regular grocery."
"Why, isn't it mostly just beef, mushrooms, sour cream, and peas?" asked Alison.
"Oh, no. Much more to it than that." Alexei laughed. "You Americans do not know how to make stroganoff."
Just outside the international grocery, a man wearing an obviously expensive suit stood handing out tracts.
"Let me ask you something, sir," the man said to Alexei. "If you died tonight, do you know beyond a shadow of a doubt that you'd go to heaven?"
Alexei blinked, taken aback. "But it cannot be known that there is a heaven. No one has ever been there and back."
"You're wrong," the man said. "We can know that there is a heaven, because Jesus has been there and back. Do you know what this is?" The man held up a Bible. Alexei's eyes widened.
"This is the word of God. It tells us that there is a heaven, and that Jesus has been there and back."
"My grandmother, she was Christian." Alexei smiled weakly. "She know all about the holy days, the festivals, the saints..."
"Festivals and saints are not what true Christianity is all about," the man said adamantly. "True Christianity is about having a personal relationship with God."
"My grandmother believe in God as well, His son Jesus, His mother Maria of the virgin birth. She have Bible just like you, have to keep it well hidden of course, but she have it, show it to me once when I was little boy."
"Do you know the plan of salvation?" the man asked.
Alexei just stared, totally bewildered.
"I'm sorry sir, but we really need to be going. Excuse us," Alison said, taking Alexei's arm.
"Please read this. It tells the plan of salvation." The man shoved a tract at Alexei, who stuffed it in his pocket because he was too polite to do anything else.
"Why does he stand there and ask people if they are Christian?" Alexei asked Alison on the way back to the motel.
"He thinks that he's saving their souls, that if he can convince them to become Christians, they'll go to heaven when they die," Alison told him.
"But that is no good," Alexei said. "If people think that only life after death matters, then they don't so much care that they have good life now. They will say, I have hard life now, but it is all right, because after I die it will all be good. That is how ruling class keep working class from rebelling, they say don't worry about it, it will all be fine in the next life. That is how the Tsar was. He was Christian. It is all very wrong, so wrong."
Alison could see that Alexei was getting very upset and changed the subject.
"Little Tyson sure is cute, isn't he?"
"Very smart as well. Much like his mother at that age," Alexei said gratefully.
Moments later they were in the kitchen at the motel and Alexei was laying out various spices and other ingredients.
"Do you need any help?" asked Alison.
"Oh, no. I do all the work. You watch and I teach you." He chuckled. "After Nadya die, I have to learn how to cook myself."
Denny and Darya came in about half an hour later.
"You will stay for dinner, yes?" Alexei asked them. "There is plenty for everyone."
"Of course we'll stay." Denny sat on the sofa, and Darya sat in his lap. Instantly Alison had a flashback of herself and Alexei sitting together on the beach all those years ago and had to swallow a lump in her throat.
"Papa, Polina is coming here soon," Darya announced.
Alexei frowned. "Polina? Why she come here?"
"Just to visit me. I told her about beach, and she say she have to see for herself."
"Who's Polina?" asked Alison.
"She is my very best friend in the world," Darya told her. "She and I both try out for Olympics in 1988. She made it. I did not. She tell me, that is all right, you make it in 1992. But I am here now. Don't know if I will ever go back or not."
"Olympics?" Alison was surprised.
"Gymnastics," Alexei said proudly. "Dasha, she is very good, better than Polina, I think, but for some reason they choose Polina and not her."
After dinner Darya entertained the others with handstands, cartwheels, and other stunts.
"You're going to break your neck!" Alison gasped.
Alexei laughed. "It is all right."
"But shouldn't she at least have a mat, or something?"
"She will be fine," Alexei insisted.
After awhile Denny and Darya left and Alexei and Alison were alone again.
"What did she mean when she said that she doesn't know if she's going home or not?" Alison asked.
"Dasha qualify for student visa," Alexei said. "She enroll in college here, has permission to stay as long as she is full-time student."
"So she gets to stay and you have to go back?"
"That is correct."
"It's not fair." Alison's eyes filled with tears, and she looked away, hoping that Alexei wouldn't see them, but he did.
"Dearest, precious Alisonka," he said, reaching for her and taking her into his arms. She rested her head on his shoulder. "It will only be for a little while this time, and then I will come back for good. I promise."