Alison awoke the next morning in Alexei's new house. Memories of the events of the previous day washed over her. She looked over at Alexei and saw that he was still asleep. She watched him for a few minutes, thinking about how adorable he looked with his dark blond hair streaked with white in disarray and his eyes closed. She closed her own eyes again and cuddled up closer to him.

After awhile she found her hand wandering southward until it encountered his privates. She stroked him until he was hard, then moved down in the bed until she could take him into her mouth. Within a few minutes she felt his fingers stroking her hair and looked up to see him grinning at her.

"Sorry. Did I wake you up?"

He laughed. "It is all right. Very nice way to wake up." Gently he positioned her to where her mouth was level with his and kissed her deeply. Then he made love to her again.

Later in the morning they were busy unpacking when the doorbell rang. Alexei went to answer it, and when Alison followed a couple of minutes later, she saw him talking to an absolutely stunning blonde in about her early thirties who was holding a platter of brownies.

"Hi! I'm Sally. I live next door," she said. "I saw you moving in yesterday and wanted to come over and welcome you to the neighborhood."

"Is very nice to meet you, Sally," said Alexei. "I am Alexei, and this is Alison, the woman I love."

"Oh! You're from another country!" Sally squealed. "I love your accent!"

"Yes, I am from Russia." Alexei grinned, stepping aside as Sally pushed her way into the house. Immediately she began asking Alexei questions, almost completely ignoring Alison, who tried to be patient but soon found herself becoming irritated.

Sally stayed for several hours before finally saying good-bye, leaving the platter of brownies behind.

"Whew! She is gone," Alexei exclaimed with a relieved chuckle.

"You sound happy about that," Alison commented.

"She seem to be nice, but perhaps talk a little too much." He took a bite of a brownie. "She is good cook, however."

Later that afternoon, they took a walk for a few blocks until they came to a small deli, where they bought smoothies and sat on the patio in front drinking them and talking. A small orange cat came up and began rubbing its body against Alexei's legs. Alexei scratched between its ears.

"You are cute little one, but I cannot take you home. I have nothing to feed you."

When they finished their smoothies and left, the cat followed right behind Alexei, still rubbing against his legs and mewing.

"It looks like you have a cat now, Alexei," Alison said with a smile.


The next time Alison saw Alexei, he was livid with rage. She'd never seen him so upset before.

"Just look what they send me in mail!" he exploded, shoving a paper in Alison's face.

Alison glanced at it. "Why, it looks like it's just a bill from when Darya had her appendix out."

"They make me pay just because I have to take my daughter to hospital?" Alexei was incredulous.

"Well, yes, Alexei. That's the way it works in this country. You have to pay for health care just like you pay for rent and electricity."

"But health care is basic human right, just like education! Government should take care of that for everyone, like in my country!"

Alison laughed and shook her head.

"I will not pay it!" Alexei declared, stalking away angrily.

"That's up to you, but if you don't pay it, you'll start getting nasty letters from collection agencies."

Alexei scowled.

"You really should pay it, Alexei. If you don't, it might mess up your credit rating and make it harder for you to buy things over time. If you talk to the billing department at the hospital, I'm sure they can work out monthly payments for you that won't be too bad."

"Maybe America is not such a great place, after all."

"You don't really mean that. You're just upset right now." Alison rubbed Alexei's back, and he seemed to calm down. Within moments the cat was there, staring curiously at Alison.

"Well, hello there," said Alison, reaching to pet it. "What's your name?"

"Cat's name is Sasha." The hospital bill temporarily forgotten, Alexei grinned. "For my great nephew. His name is Alexander, but we call him Sasha. His father was my nephew Petya. He was killed in Afghanistan in 1984. I tell you about him, yes?"

"Maybe you did. I don't remember."

"Anyway, I don't know if cat is boy or girl, so I call it Sasha. It is girl's name in U.S., like Nikita, right?"

"Yeah. Has Sally been by again?"

Alexei laughed. "Oh, yes. She ask me lots of silly questions. She ask if in Russia we wear those fur hats all year long. I tell her no, we do have summer in Russia, even though it is very short, and in summer we wear swimsuits just like Americans do. She is nice girl, but not very smart. She watch too many movies."

"Is she married?"

"Yes, but her husband is in Middle East, like Annie's husband."

"Does she have any kids?"

"No."

"She's probably just lonely, then."

"Maybe."

Alison felt uncomfortable about the idea of a woman as attractive as Sally living next door to Alexei, but knew that there was nothing she could do about it.