Sweet, little Veronica could adapt quickly todifferent sorts of people. She could be vivacious andcheerful in the company of friends, yet in thepresence of Miss Antonina Vladova, the owner of thetranslation agency, Veronica was a personification ofa conscientious employee: thorough, hard working andefficient. In the office, Veronica, who worked as aliterary translator from English and German intoBulgarian, was on friendly terms with her colleagues,all respectable ladies, translating to and from theother major world languages. There, she listened tothe latest gossip, at times, made discreet comments onMiss Vladova's biting tongue and outrageous behavior.
Veronica looked good, with her ethereal, small ovalface which attracted men's eyes even when she had notput on her make-up. Perhaps she was born to breakmen's hearts, make other women scream with jealousy,spread fresh scandal and win new ardent adorers. Alas,that was impossible.
Ears ago, Veronica had been imprudent enough tomarry Kiril Ivanov, a mathematician famous over Europefor his theories and software products. He was a man,who hated to make mistakes and detested talkingnonsense, a scientist always as good or better thanhis word, who admired punctuality above all virtues.Veronica had two sons, silent and punctual like theirfather, who were very clever and anxious to solve moreand more problems in algebra, physics, geometry etc.Everything in their house was arranged in compliancewith well calculated geometrical proportions as ifthere existed a thin straight axis around which peopleand objects found their permanent places.
Veronica adapted herself ideally to the perfectmathematical precision of her home. She did not evendare to think about cheating on her husband. KirilIvanov's brilliant mind had nipped such a possibilityin the bud. He had made it absolutely clear toVeronica that if any disgraceful thing happened in thefamily she'd better start packing all her belongingsand leave her sons and husband for good. He was theperson who earned big money and paid all bills at herhome. He'd always been the brains, the talent andgenius of the family, while Veronica had been only anexquisite ornament.
She had accepted that attitude towards herself withoutraising objections. By no means did she want to gowanting in the affluent security of her home. Unlikethe majority of her colleagues, the money she had ather disposal was always enough. The mathematician hadnever refused to spend an additional couple of grandin order to make his wife look like a brilliantmysterious equation with several unknown quantities inthe eyes of his co-workers, all of them mathematiciansof highest quality. Veronica had everything she neededfor her wardrobe; it was rich, tasteful and veryexpensive. He had her Christian Dior dresses, Italiansilk scarves, Belgian lace blouses and Bulgarianwoolen trousers.
She had her own masseuse and beautician who visitedher home regularly and took care of each part of herbody with the utmost meticulousness andresponsibility. Veronica liked that and wouldn'tconsider for a second the possibility of separatingfrom the famous mathematical genius. On the contrary,in the mornings she diligently took down what he'dlike for dinner and in the evenings she met him at thefront door of their apartment with his favorite aromasof lamb stew with mushrooms and toast trailingenticingly in her wake.
The only flaw in Veronica's character was her wildfeverish imagination. On rare occasions, she amusedherself by imagining she was an important person, onewho pulled the stings and ordered people around. Themost delightful picture she conjured up at suchmoments was that of her boss Miss Antonina Vladova. InVeronica's dreams, Vladova came to work at 7AM,smiling humbly carrying the translation of a shortstory she had botched up the day before. She waitedfor Veronica's approval, straining every feature ofher big flat face in order to appear nice andamicable. It was so pleasant that Veronica wished shecould dream about it for ever!
Vladova was 35; single, ambitious like an explosion,plump and wildly energetic. Although she was too fondof the sound of her own voice, she sometimes enjoyedshedding silent tears when she read some slushy storyabout pregnant girls abandoned by irresponsible orwicked men. Managing her translation agency, however,Miss Vladova was never moved by any man's misfortuneor plight which she adamantly countered by assertingher own rights and independence. She could squeeze notonly tears and emotions out of her clients, but alsotheir blood, if only for 1% increase in her profitmargin. Vladova's business was lucrative, thriving,advancing like a torrent of lava, spurting from thevolcano of her inventiveness.
No one had ever succeeded in worming themselves intoher favor. Ambitious men flopped in their campaigns towin her heart and money. Her employees were smitten bydark horrors if they even thought about asking for arise.
"But Antonina Vladova doesn't know me," Veronicawhispered one day. "She'll soon find her match! I'llshow her!"
Veronica had arrived at the conclusion that if shepreserved her image of a conscientious, algebraicallyprecise employee, she could never hope for a change inher boss's attitude. Her work would be little morethan endless drudgery, and her salary would remainfrozen untill Veronica started receiving a retirementpension. Oh, no, she was not interested in money, ofcourse. Her major motive was quite different!Veronica longed to pull a trick on that swaggering,arrogant Miss Antonina Vladova. One day the temptationwas so irresistible that she succumbed to it withoutthe slightest feeling of guilt. Sweet, littleVeronica, the ideal wife, looked forward to theaudacious adventure she had carefully planned.
She was on duty on Thursday and that meant that shehad to in the office by 6:00 AM when even the bakeriesin town were still closed. She had to prepare thesummary of a novel she was about to translate andreport to her boss about what she thought of theauthor's style. Veronica, however, did not dedicateher time and energy to her professional duties. On thecontrary, she gave them up altogether. She arrived inthe office clutching two bottles of cheap white wine,opened one of them with a snap of the corkscrew andstarted drinking. She tried hard to drain the wholebottle in a series of large gulps while chewing somesalty crackers in between. In fact, Veronica hatedthe cheap wine. She detested all cheap items in theworld and felt deeply satisfied that she had married aman who had deleted the ejective "cheap" from her lifeand vocabulary.
At five minutes to seven in the morning, much earlierthan her employees, Miss Vladova rushed into thebuilding of the agency with her flat nose in the air.As the clock struck seven, she opened the door toVeronica's office. But instead of the obsequious "Goodmorning, Miss Vlaodva, you look just wonderful!" whichshe expected, she was greeted with the sorry sight ofVeronica, her most diligent and thorough employee,sitting at her desk and shedding bitter tears whichfell onto the expensive keyboard of her computer. Ahalf empty bottle of wine protruded from under herarm.
"What the hell are you doing?" the iron lady oftranslation exclaimed, beside herself with anger andamazement.
"Miss Vladova!" Veronica answered, brushing away hertears with her clenched fist and unable to stopsobbing. "Today is his sixteenth birthday... and I couldnot even see him. Last year I hid behind thenewsstand and I caught a glimpse of his face..."
"Whose birthday are you speaking about?" Vladovawhispered as tense as a trigger, hungry for anastounding discovery.
"His!" Veronica sobbed. "It's so painful... oh, myGod!"
"But who's he?" The boss's imperative voice seemedto have a salutary effect on the drunken employee.
"I... I have one more son... he was born sixteen yearsago! It happened... before my graduation from ... fromthe English Language High School in Sofia... nobodyknows about him. His father was married to... to a mucholder woman... oh, Miss Vladova!" Veronica's wet faceshone with morning light entering the window."Call me Antonina," the boss said quietly as shereached out a hand to remove Veronica's hair from thelapel of her own expensive jacket. It was a miraclethat the owner of the agency did not go ballistic. Thecheap white wine had soaked through Veronica's hairand had ruined Vladova's garment that had once been ajacket.
"Miss Vladova!" the translator sobbed.
"Toni! Call me Toni!" the impressive lady whisperedas she took a packet of cigarettes from her purse."Now I'll light one for you, dear Veronica. If onlyyou had shared your problem with me earlier..."
"I haven't told anybody about him," Veronica brokedown and wept. "If my husband Kiril learns about that...Oh!"
After half an hour, a taxi came to pick up a youngattractive lady who, at that particular moment, lookedawful. Being as drunk as an eel, Veronica's hair hungdown over her face abs she swayed from side to side asthe taxi driver helped her into the car. There hadbeen another person by her side, a lady of sturdybuild and energetic gestures, who issued orders to thetaxi driver. Soon after that, the taxi disappearedtaking the soused pretty woman to an unknowndestination.
A month had hardly passed when Veronica became MissVladova'a personal advisor and soon after that theagency's business was booming, becoming more lucrativethan ever.
One evening at home, Veronica was fingering, thrilledand unbelieving, a thick bundle of banknotes which washer first new salary. The young woman was thinkingpleasant, delightful thoughts when Kiril Ivanov, thefamous mathematician, came back home from work. Forthe first time in the ten years of their married life,he expressed no admiration for the aromas of the lambstew and toast. Veronica stared at him, dumbfounded,unable to move, the freezing tremor of panic all overher back.
"I would like to meet your illegitimate son," themathematician said. He approached abruptly and facedhis wife who had really turned into an equation ofmany unknown quantities.
"Oh, I've thought up all that nonsense," Veronicasighed, relieved and trying to smile. "I concoctedthat elaborate story and as you can see, now I standin high favor in the agency. Vladova, who, by the way,is a pain in the neck, now adores me, trusts me and..."
"No! No!" the mathematician whispered. "You are asober and sensible person. You lack imagination!"
From that day on, the genius watched his wifeconstantly, trying to pinpoint the tiniest signs ofcheating or unnatural behavior on her part. Veronicahad changed, indeed! Some guys started bringing herroses and a legal advisor, Mr. Somebody, morecourageous than the rest, invited her to dinner. Soonafter that, Veronica, with her pretty, oval face thatturned heads even when she had not put on her make-up,really made women scream with jealousy. She wove a webof intrigue which fascinated both young and old,breaking a heart or two a week, and exemplifyingactivities that our Maker must have had in mind whenhe created most of the pretty women all over theworld.
About the author:
Zdravka Evtimova's short stories have been published in the USA (Antioch Review, Mississippi Review online, Metropole Magazine, Night Train, In Posse Review, the anthology The Best Fiction of Eclectica), UK (Quality Womens Fiction, New London Writers, The Dreamcatcher), Canada (Filling Station magazine and Lichen), Australia (Going Down Swinging and Antipodean), Germany, Russia, India, Argentina, Poland, Czech Republic, Hungary and Serbia. Two of her short stories have been broadcast on Radio BBC. Her short story collection Bitter Sky was published by Skrev Press, UK, in 2003, and her collection Somebody Else was published by MAG Press, San Diego in 2004.
She works as a literary translator and lives in Perkik. Bulgaria, with her husband, two sons and daughter.