Lada pulled out her notebook. A small, black notebook slightly smaller than a traditional tarot card, but just as powerful. It’s texture skin holding inside its smooth, creamy pages. In was the important thoughts that passed through Lada’s mind, her accumulative knowledge of tarot, as well as every thing she, or her mother, wanted in a house. And while her $70,000 inheritance from her estranged father wasn’t enough for an eighth of what Annika, or Anna as she preferred, demanded in a house, it did put Lada over her savings goal.
Nick had almost hit the floor when Lada had told him her plan. They had been saving for a house of their own, having outgrown their one bedroom apartment the previous year. Settling himself he looked at the table there was solyanka, sour soup with a hint of spice, and kvass, a fermented beverage. Classics his mother had taught Lada to make before she passed, he should have known she had a plan. Usually her plans involved random cities, far off travel, or working for her mother’s first husband, Vova, at his construction firm, not giving away $20,000. Trust me, Nicholai. He melted like her homemade chocolate morozhenoe.
A week later they invited Anna over for dinner. Fried chicken, fried greens, and butter with a side of potatoes; vastly different from Lada’s last dinner extravaganza. Over balls of deep fried ice cream Nick and Lada gave Anna the news. The house she went off about last month, should it still be on the market could be hers. With $20,000 she would be able to reach her a 20% down payment. The rest of the money Lada would invest in the home repairs. The electrical system needed work, the plumbing, and an exorbitant amount of cosmetic work which took precedent in Anna’s mind.
Anna couldn’t be bothered to pretend should her daughter and her mudak boyfriend change their minds. She hadn’t asked where the funds had come from. She didn’t think Nick had any family or any family money, Vova was still alive, and Anna wasn’t sure if Lada even knew who her father was, let alone whether or not if he was alive or knew about her. If there was paperwork to be signed she would have used the grease from her fingers to lock in such an offer.
Lada packed up the leftovers for Anna, with it, cementing a date and time for them to visit the bank and Lada’s old college roommate and now prominent attorney, who Anna texted regularly for freebie advice. There were funds to be transferred, formal paperwork to be written up, and finally, an official will for Anna. Now she had something to lose, something people would want to steal from her: a house! Or at least she would, sooner rather than later if she had her say.
Say, she had. She had wanted to leave the house to her mother, so Nicholai couldn’t steal it, but the attorney explained how that could prevent Lada from inheriting it, if her mother died without a will, in debt, or if she left it to one of Anna’s brothers. In the end, Anna left it to Lada. Plus now no one could say she was a bad mom.
Wallpaper peeled and carpet dissipated to dust within two months. Anna had gotten very busy with work and shopping with her mother. Curtains, linens, and towels were on sale at Needless Markup. After years of waiting, Anna deserved nice things for her nice house.
Cutting costs and making the last $10,000 of her inheritance work, Lada had asked to apprentice with the usual guys Vova had on the team. Coffee had come out of his nose when she brought it up. Anna struggled to lift a finger to flip someone off, let alone do manual labor. Nick had started making his own dinners, leaving her a plate in the microwave and a packed lunch in the fridge. At least we know we can get a fixer-upper, he’d tease as Lada regularly came to bed late smelling of soap and determination.
Here they were reviewing the plans, and getting ready to put the final touches on the house. The plumbers and electricians had come and gone. They had passed inspections. The floorboards were locked into place and ceiling fans hung in every room. There were a few things remaining, but in the past six months Lada had learned a little bit of everything. Enough that she was certain sparks would fly when Anna saw what they had done for her.
Anna put up a fight saying she wanted to see the house completely done, with all of her touches in place before she would step inside. Lada drew the line. “You come, you look, you say thank you. Then you finish moving yourself in,” she said sternly.
“Fine.” Anna shrugged off her daughter’s warning. She was getting a house. Her house, the house she always wanted. Nothing was going to stop in her way, not even her daughter’s inability to be helpful. They walked through together; it was a dream. Within two months Anna had moved herself in.
There were a few things she wanted changed to better suit her needs, but they were small things. Like the switches to the ceiling fans. A refrigerator with the an ice maker. All tiny things that Lada could do. And she did them. Small things here and there.
She and Nick had just sat down for dinner. Another Russian specialty from his mother when Lada’s cell phone rang.
“Oh God,” Lada said into the phone. “We’ll be right there.”
Nick ran over to her, “what happened? Is everything okay?”
“It’s Anna,” Lada said turning toward him. “She’s in the hospital.”
“Come on. Let’s go.”
Nick drove them, the whole way Lada wondered what could have gone wrong? What happened that Anna ended up in the hospital? They had barely made it outside of her room when two officers were there to tell them.
“Ms. Agafonov?” The first officer asked.
“That’s me,” Lada said.
“Your mother is Anna – ”
“That’s me,” Lada repeated. “She’s my mom.”
The second officer stepped closer, taking his hat off, he held her eyes, “She passed. It seems she was trying to do some wiring and something shorted.”
“What?” Lada bit back a laugh, “this has to be a joke. My mom doesn’t like to manually turn on a light. She wouldn’t – she would never just. . .” Lada’s voice broke, giving way to tears.
“Any reason she would start trying now?”
Nick’s arms wrapped around her. “Forgive her. I think she’s in shock. It’s true, that Anna couldn’t be bothered to do anything manually related, but she also didn’t like being told no. Since she got the house, she’s been complaining about a few of the switches. Lada explained to her countless times it couldn’t be fixed. Anna had it stuck in her head it was just switching one or two wires.”
“Can I see her? Is she still. . .” Lada looked toward the hospital room behind the officers.
“She’s been brought down to the morgue already. But we can take you if you’d like to say goodbye.”
Lada nodded. Wrapping her hand tightly around Nick they made their way to the morgue for their last goodbyes.
On the anniversary of her mother’s funeral, Lada’s grandmother, Vova and Nick were seated at the kitchen table. Lada put down the last of the serving plates.
“You do too much,” Vova said.
“I tell her that all the time,” Nick laughed, “but does she ever listen?”
“I just wanted it to be a nice meal. The last time we were all together was for Anna’s funeral. I just though this was a nice way to you know. . .”
“It’s lovely sweetheart. You made this house a beautiful home for you and Nicholai. He gave you a beautiful ring, and will now give you a beautiful future. It’s a fairytale. Your mother would hate what you did with her house, but she always leaned toward cold and uninviting.”
Lada choked back a laugh and a tear at the same time
“It’s true,” her grandmother said shrugging. “С аппетитом!”