Outside, Manny perfected the door frame on their newly built guesthouse. While he stepped back to gain perspective on its proportions, his name floated above the hills in the background. Denying what he had thought he heard, he continued working. From his tool storage, which sat easily on castors, he pulled out his final nail. The cooling Washington coast breeze tickled his cheeks softly reminding him that he had finished his project just in time for the rains. Proudly, he kissed his last nail and confidently drove it into the sturdy frame. He wiped a tear from his eye and smiled. Lifting his cell phone from his workbench, he looked up over the hill and noticed his wife bounding down it. Placing his phone back to the bench he happily took to the hill to meet her.
“Manny! Manny!” She continued screaming.
“Baby I’m right here.”
Manny climbed the hill ably. Catching her in his thick arms he held her. Her mouth opened but words did not come.
“What’s up baby?”
“Tarantino!” She managed to chirp out then burst into tears.
Confused Manny only held her and assured that it would be ok. Struggling out of his embrace Lena clarified,
“No…I…I got the part!”
Stunned, Manny did only what he could and lifted her high into the air and kissed her.
“Quite a leap from Diane Lane, eh,” Lena spoke proudly.
“Then we gotta celebrate.” He said leading her down the hill to view his finished masterpiece.
Lena nearly forgot herself when taking in the single story home. Its floor to ceiling windows made the home almost invisible in the rain forest surroundings. The pine lay comfortably and tastefully in the small three room home. Looking over the grand view of the Pacific Ocean was a modern sunken-in wrap around concrete porch. Lena found herself walking around the house touching everything like a child. She would look to the home then back to her husband then back to the home.
“Where have I been while you were building this?” She asked respectively.
“Impressing the likes of Tarantino, I suppose.” Manny smiled.
Lena looked to the ground sheepishly then spoke,
“You know all that I do – traveling and working all the time, is for us?”
Smiling down at his girl Manny kissed her mouth.
“I know baby, but we’re goddamn millionaires, there’s no need to work like you do.”
“But acting, it’s all I’ve wanted.” Lena confessed.
Lifting her, Manny carried her into the new home.
“Let’s christen it shall we?”
“Christen the porch?” Lena suggested coyly.
Kissing Lena passionately Manny turned her body to face the wall. Lifting her dress he pressed himself into her and dragged his calloused hands along her breasts and deep inside her. When entering her, Lena breathed in and out and pushed herself into him.
“God you are so wet.” Manny breathed out.
“Hard baby,” Lena demanded.
Nearly lifting Lena off her feet, Manny obliged his wife’s wishes.
“It just keeps getting better,” Lena said cuddling into Manny’s sinewy firm body.
“Reservoir Dogs, is all I can think of.”
Lena quietly nodded and continued to stare at the orange purplish glow of the sunset.
“You think you’re up to the challenge? I mean, the lead in a Tarantino film…I can only imagine the pressure.”
Lena’s almond shaped eyes narrowed at her husband’s question or was it an observation? “I’m not saying you can’t do it, it’s just that…well even you said how green you were at the audition.”
“Just once I’d like for you to believe in me.” Lena hurled at him curtly then tossed the blanket to the ground and started to head up the hill.
The birch trees danced arm and arm with the cold off shore breeze welcoming the graying sky and damp mist. It would be a cold night and the rains would greet the land by nightfall. Realizing this, Manny had to make sure the guesthouse was secure. Allowing Lena to go as she had was damaging his conscience.
With her dark eyes shut tight, Lena’s small fingers grasped onto Manny’s hand while the plane glided along the LAX tarmac. Hearing only Manny’s soothing voice, Lena slowly allowed herself back onto the plane. A couple bickered behind her about who was supposed to arrange their pick-up ride. The plane, beeped and buzzed instructions for everyone to remain in their seats until the plane had taxied to its designated gate. Blinking, Lena noticed that in LA these instructions fell on deaf ears. A large man dressed for an NBA game, stood impatiently and opened the luggage carrier. The male flight attendant, perhaps in hopes of his Steven-Slater-Jet-Blue-moment, sprung into attitude action. The large man apologized immediately and even confided in him his subtle fear of flying. Obviously disappointed, the flight attendant guided the passenger back to his seat warning him never to try such a stunt on his flight.
“We made it baby,” Manny whispered to his sweetheart.
Slowly relinquishing his hand, Lena spoke quickly.
“Just know that whatever happens today, I did it all for us.”
“Beep, beep,” the plane informed the flight that it was safe to unbuckle seatbelts and roam about the cabin.
Lena sprung to her feet and in no time was with carry-on in hand and queued with the other exiting passengers. Manny kept his concerns to himself and followed. The premature air conditioning formed tiny bumps along Lena’s tiny arms. Shivering she remained eerily silent and rushed through the terminal. Manny only made a few futile demands then realized this was not his battle. Upon reaching the pick-up area of the airport, Lena, while looking both ways down the one-way access road, finally spoke,
“There should be a car waiting for us.”
“Any idea what it looks like?” Manny asked cautiously.
“Probably a damn Caddy,” She noted matter-of-factly.
As Lena spoke a black Cadillac limousine glided slowly alongside the couple. Witnessing the car, Lena laughed out loud then spoke,
Manny stopping Lena from opening up the car door, chose his battle.
“Lena what the fuck is going on? Am I about to get into a limo with Quentin Tarantino?”
Smiling, she kissed his cheek and resumed opening the door and gracefully slid in. Manny alone on the sidewalk, again swallowed his concern and followed his bride. Sliding in next to Lena, Manny was startled to see 3 men – 2 very large, one-armed and the small one looking very serious, seated across from them.
“It’s ok love, they’re not going to hurt us.” Lena reassured him placing her hand on his thigh. She continued,
“I wasn’t really sure how else to do this so I thought it best just to cut to the chase.”
Manny quite confused and extremely annoyed tried to speak but Lena interrupted.
“Manny this is my father, Oleg Ivanov Parfentiev, Papa, this is my husband, Manuel Ortega-Vasquez or just Manny.”
Extending his small hand, Oleg Ivanov extended a friendly greeting.
“It is with pleasure that I meet the man that keeps my daughter happy.”
Manny quickly looked to Lena and accepted Oleg Ivanov’s hand. The limo pulled away from the airport and moved along the freeway. Oleg Ivanov apologized to Manny for meeting under such unsuitable circumstance and insisted that his time was valuable. Manny, explained that although his presence was of no inconvenience he was quite surprised with the revelation.
“Manny you remember me, no, from video?” Boris, the larger of the two large men, now re-enacted his gestures and same dramatic voice he used to deliver Manny’s lottery winning questions.
Confused, yet remembering that Boris had quizzed him two years ago, Manny accepted Boris’ hand. Oleg Ivanov, seemingly agitated and impatient began to fidget in his seat. Noticing her father’s impatience Lena encouraged the conversation.
“My father’s time is quite valuable so we must be quick about this.” Lena stated pleasing her father.
Manny, rubbed his head then tried to speak only to be interrupted again by his father-in-law.
“I have come to States for three reasons, one, to make sure my daughter is in movie; two, to meet you Manuel, and three, to invite you both to come to Russia.”
“Hold up, hold up…I hate to be the wet blanket but Lena when did you meet your father? And, with all due respect sir, he’s Russian?” Manny demanded finally.
Lena looked to her father then back to Manny then stared straight out the window. Continuing to stare at her Manny pleaded,
“When I speak to you of this understand that this is for family only. And since you are married to my only living relative, you are now family. I reveal myself to Yelena…” Oleg Ivanov began.
Manny interrupted, “I’m sorry sir, Yelena?”
“She is Lena; her birth name is Yelena Ivanova Parfentiev. She is my only child now that my son has been killed. You see Manny, in my business, family die for many reason – to protect name, to preserve honor, to keep secret; do you understand?” Oleg Ivanov questioned Manny.
Manny, fully understanding continued to stare at his wife.
“Your wife is daughter of the most dangerous and wanted man alive. He invent v loteryeyu to ensure daughter’s future. Oleg Ivanov is very sick man, may have 2 or 3 years to live. His only wish is that he know Yelena, that she be near him when he pass.” Boris added offering Manny a shot of vodka.
Manny refused and waited for his wife to speak. She said nothing. Putting the pieces together Manny revealed,
“That was over two years ago. Tell me you didn’t know this then.”
Lena nodded, continuing to watch the scenery. Manny, now taking Boris up on the shot punched the door panel. Finishing his shot he moved closer to his wife and spoke softly as if to keep a secret,
“Lena talk to me. Why did you lie to me?”
Oleg Ivanov checked his Rolex several times in the long seconds passing between the passengers. The silent gunman checked his phone then revealed something quietly to Oleg Ivanov. The news slightly added to Oleg Ivanov’s irritation. Disrupting the silence, Lena suddenly spoke rather curtly,
“Have you not been taken care of my sweet? Are the millions not enough?”
“Baby, all I want is you and from you the truth,” Manny pleaded.
“And with this news, you would have been fine? Accepting? My father is not some bricklayer as your father was, you need to understand the need for our covert plan.”
“Why are you talking like this? You sound like one of them.”
“I am you fool. And you need to decide.”
“So then none of this life is ours?” He asked defeated.
Lena’s eyes just followed the swift passing cars and trees blurring past the tinted windows. Taking his wife’s small hands he noticed how they resembled her father’s. He confessed,
“I can’t Lena. I won’t live at the mercy of others.”
Oleg Ivanov angrily interrupted,
“Then you will receive no mercy.”
Oleg Ivanov nodded to the gunman. The gunman lifted his gun and pointed at Manny. Lena threw herself onto Manny to protect him. Oleg Ivanov tried to stop the shot. A bullet shattered the back window. Manny threw Lena off of him and pushed his weight out of the limo. From the shattered hole, Lena watched her husband’s body bounce like a tiny rubber ball into the shoulder.
“Manny!” Hysterical, Lena screamed for her husband’s life.
Joining her in her seat, her father tried to console his daughter.
“You must be strong Yelena, like Oleg Ivanov my father, your dedushka. You must be what you are called to be.”
Drowning in tears, Oleg Ivanov was inaudible, undistinguishable; it was as if he did not exist. Lena closed her eyes and dreamed when she was Manny’s pet; she was much happier then with no mind-set.