Her roommate, Barbara, was glad that Emily had a brain. She told Emily that most people were lost the first week and after that things settled down.
Professor Mortenson assigned Emily as an assistant to Clifford Lane. Clifford Lane was Professor Mortenson’s Teacher’s Assistant for the last three years. Emily would replace him after he graduated at the end of the year.
Emily sensed that Clifford was a little perturbed. She wondered if it was because a) she was a girl or b) she was his replacement.
Every Tuesday evening, they worked in the lab. Clifford had to compile notes and results for the week’s work. Emily, of, course had to help.
“What is it, Clifford, a or b?” Emily asked.
“Huh?” Clifford looked up from his work.
“A or b?” Emily repeated.
“A or b what?”
“A, are you mad that I’m a girl or B, are you mad that I’m your replacement?”
Clifford thought about it for a moment. “C,” he answered.
“Yes, C. ‘All of the above’”
“Are you going the be angry all year?” Emily asked.
“Well,” Clifford hesitated.
“Well, what Clifford? We’ll have to work it out eventually. Might as well work it out now.”
Clifford nodded. “It’s just that my girlfriend, Nadia, doesn’t like me working here with you alone. She is worried about, you know.”
Emily smiled. “That’s what I mean, Clifford. That’s an easy fix. I’ll just have to meet her and she’ll know that she’ll have nothing to worry about.”
“How do you know that?”
“Really? I’m green Clifford. Most women will feel sorry for me. She’ll know with one look that I won’t steal you away.”
“I am going to see her tonight. Why don’t you come with me? I’ll introduce you and you can leave or hang out. Whatever you’d like.”
“Nadia works at ‘Svetlana’s” on Athenaeum Street.”
“Sounds like a bar. I’m a little young to drink, not that I would want too, anyway.”
“Yes you can drink tea there. Svetlana also has different teas from a round the world. It’s a great place to study in the afternoon before it gets busy. That’s how I met Nadia.”
“Maybe I will go for a few minutes.”
“That will be great, Emily!”
When the two were finished, they walked to Svetlana’s. Emily felt the chill in the air. She shivered.
“It gets cold fast here in Boston,” Clifford said. We may have snow before Halloween.”
“I’m glad I wore my sweater, I’ll have to get my heavier jacket soon,” Emily replied.
The walk seemed forever. The bar was located on the far side of the campus from Professor Mortenson’s lab. Emily peeked at the “Ivory Tower” and hoped her roommate was spying on her. The room was dark, which meant Barbara was away. She was very involved in campus life.
The flashing neon light brought Emily’s attention back to reality. The sign said “Svetlana’s” in bright red letters. The place looked nice enough, but Emily knew her mother wouldn’t approve. It’s all for a good cause, Mom, Emily thought.
Clifford pulled the door open for Emily. The room felt comfortably warm. The layer of smoke hung just above Emily’s eye level. The light was muted.
All conversation stopped when Emily walked in.
The silence annoyed and embarrassed Clifford. He looked around at the staring faces. “This is Emily,” he announced and directed her to a booth.
“Sorry about that, Emily,” he told her after she sat.
“Don’t worry, I’m used to it.”
Clifford decided to find Nadia.
Emily sat in the booth. She looked around and would occasionally find someone staring at her. She smiled back, and sometimes waved. The other person would quickly turn a way. Emily thought it was funny.
Clifford came back with a tall woman dressed as a waitress. Her long black hair was tied in a bun. Her eyes at first were very defensive and then turned to surprise.
Emily stood and offered her hand, “You must be Nadia. I’m Emily.”
Nadia stood looking a little dazed. Her hand slowly came out and shook Emily’s.
“Clifford told me how beautiful you are and I see he wasn’t exaggerating.”
“Thank you,” Nadia answered with a thick Russian accent. “He forgot to mention some things about you.”
“Men are not the most observant people, you know.”
“I know,” Nadia replied.
“Anyway, nice meeting you,” Emily said holding out her hand.
Nadia returned the handshake. Emily held her hand and turned it. Nadia looked confused.
Emily looked at Clifford and nodded. “I think a pear shape would work best for her hand. She has long thin fingers.”
Nadia pulled her hand away. “What are you talking about?”
Emily smiled. “I have an uncle in the diamond business. That’s why Clifford thought I should meet you.”
Nadia looked surprised and turned to Clifford who was bright red. She smiled and turned back to Emily. “Just make sure it’s big.”
Emily watched Nadia drag Clifford away. Where am I going to find an uncle in the diamond business? She wondered. She stood to leave.
“Emily Rogers, I believe?” A heavily Russian accented voice asked.
Emily turned and was face to face with a tall 30ish woman with long blond hair. She held in one hand a long silver cigarette holder with a long smoking cigarette. “Yes,” Emily said feeling off-balanced.
“I am Svetlana Dvernich,” the woman said.
“This is your place? It is very nice.”
“Thank you, Emily. Would you like some tea?”
“No, thank you. I was just getting ready to leave.”
“Please, let me give you some tea. I always like to chat with the new students.”
Emily felt Svetlana gently push her in the booth. Svetlana sat opposite her. Svetlana snapped her fingers and a waiter brought a pot with two fine porcelain cups.
Svetlana leaned over the table and poured the tea. It was a strong black tea, Emily noted.
“Now, Emily. Tell me about yourself.” Svetlana asked with a sickening sweet smile.