The retired clown was wiping down the first layer of fake smile off her face which revealed another smile, so well sculpted in her skin with several prominent wrinkles, but no wisdom lines!
She finished her showtime long ago but she kept the habit of putting some makeup on, every day at around 5 pm, after having her tea, and used to try new tricks and having a mute laugh from time to time…within the self-induced confinement of her secluded house! She was fairly tall for a lady and, I suppose, it had been an advantage for the trade she used to be in! She had no partner of any sort and her son, the result of a fling with her director who liked the company of only beautiful women, left the circus to become a solider in the Russian army and that was the last time she saw him…20 years ago!
“What a life, Vera…what a life!?” she was repeating loudly. “Nothing to make your parents proud, is there!?” carried on with a pellicle of regret but mostly sarcasm!
Vera was descending from a noble Russian family, the only child of a line that was broken and long forgotten. Her full name, Vera Aleksandrovna Yusupov, was left behind at the age of 7 when she was found by the Bolshoi Circus, begging for food where they camped, at the margins of the impetuous city that was Moscow! She was always simply know by the name Vera Ivanov and it was her son, Alexander Yusupov, to carry on the name that once was respected in the high end Russian society! He was having the same name as his grandfather and similar looks – A tall, handsome, sharp, well educated gentleman that used to awe, with his presence, the great halls where banquets were held!
Of Alexander, she used to find in the seldom letters he was sending to her! He was always somewhere different and mainly in Europe, and details were scarce and content evasive, but Vera was happy enough as it was! She was keeping all the letters in a light silver box her father gave her when she was a child, along with other documents hiding a dangerous secret! It was her gift to her son but of precarious nature, fearing for her life and her son’s life!
March 1992! The Soviet Union was dissolved and several countries abandoned Communism! Vera grew concerned with her son as little news were received of his location and well-being! It was then, that cold spring morning, when the postman dropped a letter to say her son is a deserter and that all to come in his aid were to be punished! The post man, a friend of Vera’s, knew of her son and with a subtle move slipped in a little postcard, initially instructed to have it handed to the militia, and left in a rush, looking around in suspicion that he might be watched! The postcard had a picture of Alice in Wonderland with the inscription West London Postcard Club, and an italic style writing saying “See you soon”! The rest was blank!
A man dressed in uniform came to interview Vera! She had no clue whatsoever about the meaning of what was happening and her immediate thought was that her son was in danger and that all was compromised!
“Good morning, Vera! My name is Jacob and I am here to ask you a few questions, if you don’t mind!” Said the man wearing dark trousers, dark leather shoes with a soft white sole and a white tunic-like shirt which had attached a badge with his name on it! “Your son, Alexander sent us to have a chat with you!” Jacob stated.
“My son!?…it’s been years since I last saw him…I wish he was here!” Said Vera rather nostalgic but curious of what his reply would be!
“He’s coming tonight but surely that cannot be, as he was with you all day yesterday!”
Vera was woken by a violent shaking and faintly noticed two people dragging and lifting her. She then noticed a few lights and blurry faces moving about and blubbering words that made no sense to her!
A voice from afar was pencilling a contour… “Vera Ivanov, 82 years old, born in Eggington, widowed…” Vera was stunned by what she was hearing and in the cacophony she distinguished the timber of her son’s voice saying “My sister normally deals with this…I really don’t know what’s what…”
“Good morning, Vera!” Said the postman in passing, riding on his bike, peddling in no rush and splashing the dirty waters out of the muddy puddles that were close to impossible to be avoided! She noticed Royal Mail emblem on his red bag and thought it was rather strange! She replied reverentially and carried on walking with a bucket in her hand to fetch some water from her neighbour’s well! Her well, at the front of the house, was still in good condition but it had a funny taste and she couldn’t trust it to source potable water! She had it arranged for it to be cleaned and tested but the list was forever going and her hopes for an early check were scarce! Later in the day she started putting on some makeup, doing her routine, whilst having Edith Piaf playing on her vinyl record player! “What a life, Vera…what a life!?” she was repeating loudly. “Nothing to make your parents proud, is there!?” Then she gazed at her silver box and gently opened it. She picked the ragged picture lying on top of the bunch of meticulously arranged papers and sighed, inundated by a wave of melancholy! It was her…
“Wake up, Vera! You need to have a wash!” a loud voice cried in the background.
All the people seemed rather strange that morning and her friends were not down yet, in the dining room! All appeared awkward and unusual! The walls looked mercurial, with paintings floating aimlessly like broken wooden planks from a shipwreck, the staffs were lethargic and walking backwards-like, with no eyes on their faces but worms like coming out of the back of their heads, feeling the air to guide themselves! The tables were floating and spinning so fast that, if you were not to follow their movement, you would have thought they were motionless! Her tea was just floating on top of the table, in no cup and just liquid in the shape of a cuppa, with toast twirling around the blob of tea! She, then, noticed her favourite member of staff going backwards, but forward to its destination , towards the lounges and a whiff of air raised her of the non-visible chair…”Mark” she cried! “Would you stop, for crying out loud!?”
As he was going backwards, Vera was walking facing him and tried to converse about the whole strange things but tripped and fell on her back but not really touching the ground, being continuously in a state of almost hitting the ground, just like Alice in wonderland! All of a sudden she felt pain across her back an her head felt like exploding! She then heard a voice…a familiar voice saying “Call the Paramedics! Vera’s had a fall and she is not responding!”. “What are you on about!? Of course I’m fine! Let me get up now! Enough with this silly nonsense” But no one seemed to listen to her.
“Wake up!” Shouted Alexander in desperation!”
It was morning again and Vera was heading to the well to fetch some water! It was sunny and the warm touch of the sun was a good evidence that the spring was near!
“What a life, Vera…what a life!?” she was repeating loudly. “I wonder where she is and if she’s well.” The postman stopped and asked her “Who are you talking about!? Who is she!?” Vera gazed aimlessly and said “It’s my son, Alexander! I hope he’s well!”
The sun was up again! “Good morning, mum!” Said a warm voice followed by an angelic face of a girl with long dark hair that shone in the light that barely managed to infiltrate through the dark and heavy curtains. “I know you!” said Vera amazed and closed her eyes in content! “Wake up mum…wake up”… the soft voice became loud and in despair! The call bell was sounding the alarm and the nurse entered the room, escorted by a carer. “I am really sorry but your mum is now at peace”, said the nurse whilst she gently touched her hair in compassion!
“We have gathered here to honour the memory of Vera Ivanov, a beloved wife, mother and grandmother! Vera lived a happy life married with Alexander and together they had a daughter Sonia! Vera had an interesting life as in the second world confrontation, Vera met Alexander on the field of battle where she was nursing for the wounded, and this is we’re their love sparked. They both loved the circus and managed to own their own circus for over 40 years…it was late after her beloved Alexander passed away, Vera turned ill and was diagnosed with Dementia and left her home, where she couldn’t cope, to live the rest of her days in the care of the staff at Mirkwood Care Home in….”