Danielle Steel: Zoya

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Zoya: краткое содержание, описание и аннотация

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“Joy seems so happy now.” She watched the dog playing at her feet. “How are the puppies?”

Marie smiled a secret smile, and shrugged an elegant shoulder. “Very sweet. Oh, wait….” She dropped the long braid she had made of Zoya's hair, and ran to her desk to get something she had almost forgotten. Zoya assumed instantly that it was a letter from one of their friends, or a photograph of Alexis or her sisters. She always seemed to have treasures to share when they met, but this time she brought out a small flacon and handed it proudly to her friend.

“What's that?”

“Something wonderful … all for you!” She gently kissed Zoya's cheek as Zoya bent her head over the small bottle.

“Oh, Mashka! Is it? … It fe!” She confirmed it with one sniff. It was “Lilas,” Marie's favorite perfume, which Zoya had coveted for months. “Where did you get it?”

“Lili brought it back from Paris for me. I thought you'd like to have it. I still have enough left of the one Mama got me.” Zoya closed her eyes and took a deep breath, looking happy and innocent. Their pleasures were so harmless and so simple … the puppy, the perfume … and in the summer, long walks in the scented fields of Livadia … or games on the royal yacht as they drifted through the fjords. It was such a perfect life, untouched even by the realities of the war, although they talked about it sometimes. It always upset Marie after she had spent a day with the wounded men being tended in the palace next door. It seemed so cruel to her that they should be wounded and maimed … that they should die … but no crueler than the constantly threatening illness of her brother. His hemophilia was often the topic of their more serious and secret conversations. Almost no one except the intimate family knew the exact nature of his illness.

“He is all right, isn't he? I mean … the measles won't …” Zoya's eyes were filled with concern as she set down the prized bottle of perfume and they spoke of Alexis again. But Marie's face was reassuring.

“I don't think the measles will do him any harm. Mama says that Olga is a great deal sicker than he is.” She was four years older than either of them, and a great deal more serious. She was also painfully shy, unlike Zoya or Marie, or her two other sisters. sighed as Marie rang for a cup of tea. “I wish that I could do something wonderful with it.”

Marie laughed. She had heard it before, the dreams of her beloved friend. “Lake what? Be discovered by Diaghilev?”

The two girls laughed, but there was an intense light in Zoya's eyes as she spoke. Everything about Zoya was intense, her eyes, her hair, the way she moved her hands or darted across the room, or threw her arms around her friend. She was tiny but filled with power and life and excitement. Her very name meant life, and it seemed the perfect choice for the girl she had been and the woman she was slowly becoming. “I mean it … and Madame Nastova says I'm very good.” Marie laughed again, and the girls’ eyes met, both of them thinking the same thing … about Mathilde Kschessinska, the ballerina who had been the Tsar's mistress before he married Alexandra … an entirely forbidden subject, to be spoken of only in whispers on dark summer nights and never within earshot of adults. Zoya had said something about it to her mother one day, and the Countess had been outraged and forbidden Zoya to mention it again. It was most emphatically not a suitable subject for young ladies. But her grandmother had been less austere when she'd brought it up again, and said only in amused tones that the woman was a very talented dancer.

“Do you still dream about running away to the Maryinsky?” She hadn't mentioned it in years, but Marie knew her well, well enough to know when she was teasing and when she was not, and how serious she was about her private dreams. She also knew that for Zoya it was an impossible dream. One day she would marry and have children, and be as elegant as her mother, and she would not be living in the famous ballet school. But it was fun to talk about things like that, and dream on a February afternoon as they sipped the hot tea and watched the dog gambol about the room. Life seemed very comfortable just then, in spite of the current imperial epidemic of measles. With Zoya, Marie could forget her problems for a little while, and her responsibilities. She wished that one day, she would be as free as Zoya was. She knew full well that one day her parents would choose for her the man that she was to marry. But they had her two older sisters to think about first … as she stored into the fire, she wondered if she would really love him.

“What were you thinking just then?” Zoya's voice was soft as the fire crackled and the snow fell outside. It was already dark and Zoya had forgotten all about rushing home for dinner. “Mashka? … you looked so serious.” She often did when she wasn't laughing. Her eyes were so intense and so blue and so warm and kind, unlike her mother's.

“I don't know … silly things, I suppose….” She smiled gently at her friend. They were both almost eighteen, and marriage was beginning to come to mind …perhaps after the war … “I was wondering who we'll marry one day.” She was always honest with Zoya.

“I think about that sometimes too. Grandmama says it's almost time to think about it. She thinks Prince Orlov would be a nice man for me….” And then suddenly she laughed and tossed her head, her hair flying free of the loose braid Mashka had made for her. “Do you ever see someone and think it ought to be him?”

“Not very often. Olga and Tatiana should marry first. And Tatiana is so serious, I can't even imagine her wanting to get married.” Of all of them, she was the closest to their mother and Marie could easily imagine her wanting to stay within the bosom of her family forever. “It would be nice to have children though.”

“How many?” Zoya teased.

“Five at least.” It was the size of her own family, and to her it had always seemed perfect.

“I want six,” Zoya said with absolute certainty. “Three boys and three girls.”

“All of them with bright red hair!” Marie laughed as she teased her friend, and leaned across the table to gently touch her cheek. “You are truly my dearest friend.” Their eyes met and Zoya took her hand and kissed it with childlike warmth.

“I always wish you were my very own sister.” She had an older brother instead and he teased her mercilessly, particularly about her bright red hair. His was dark, like their father's, although his eyes were also green. And he had the quiet strength and dignity of their father. He was twenty-three, five and a half years older than his sister.

“How is Nicolai these days?”

“Awful as usual. But Mama is terribly glad he's with the Preobrajensky Guard here and not off at the front somewhere. Crandmama says he stayed here so he wouldn't miss any parties.” They both laughed and the serious moment passed, as the door opened quietly and a tall woman silently entered the room, watching them for a moment before they became aware of her presence. A large gray cat had followed her into the room and also stood watching beside her. It was the Empress Alexandra, fresh from the sickroom where she had been ministering to her three other daughters.

“Good afternoon, girls.” She smiled as Zoya turned, and both girls immediately stood up, and Zoya ran to kiss her. The Tsarina herself had had the measles years before, and she knew there was no danger of infection.

“Auntie! How is everyone?”

She gave Zoya a fond hug and sighed with a tired smile. “Well, they're certainly not well. Poor Anna seems to be the worst of all.” She was speaking of her own dearest friend, Anna Vyrubova. She and Lili Dehn were her closest companions. “And you, little one? Are you well?”

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