Nastasiya Vladimirivna Leshchenko
On a plane to New York, Ukrainian mother, Nastasiya’s anticipation and excitement are tempered by nervousness. Over the Atlantic her traveling anxiety is more revealed. She is not traveling on holiday, but she is going to collect her daughter’s remains. Earlier in the week the police department had called her and a translator has told her the worst thing a mother can hear.
She has had to struggle all her life. Although she would not admit it, she has a feeling of self-pity, and this is one more struggle.
After her arrival, Nastasiya explores New York aimlessly and remembers her daughter, Yeva; other people on the street bring reminders of her short life, from a baby to the young woman who went to America to study. She had a future, she had the opportunities Nastasiya never had, and that makes being New York more bitter for Nastasiya.
The appointed translator, Vera, contacts Nastasiya to go through the grim process of dealing with all the administration and to decide what to do with Yeva’s body. The following days are absorbed in rooms and understanding information and the investigation into how her daughter died. With a flood of information she can deal with the decisions and not grieve, except in the evenings, alone in her hotel, staring out to the empty office buildings.
Her story has been on the news and one day an elderly woman, Patricia Dooley, calls Nastasiya at her hotel. Patricia is from a support group, one she established after her son was killed twenty years ago. She has read about Nastasiya and believes she can help her, in some small way. Bridging the language gap is not easy but the two women forge a bond as they meet in Patricia’s apartment and drink tea with an interpreter. Out of these meetings Nastasiya decides what she will do with Yeva’s body, which she knows is Yeva would have wanted.
Piers Mandeville Bascombe
Piers, a successful businessman is driving his car too fast in the fog in the south of England. He is driving quickly to tempt fate, to test his driving skill. Despite his comfortable life, Piers is dissatisfied – he is bored, and he drives recklessly to feel experience again.
He has an appointment at an art gallery in the evening which he’d rather avoid. In the evening at the gallery he is fascinated with the art, it’s another experience, and when he meets the artist, Angela, he finds her equally interesting.
The pictures and the conversation with Angela stay with Piers for days afterwards and he invites Angela to lunch at his club. It is a stilted meeting: their worlds were too different, but she asks him to supper at her home. Piers and Angela’s second evening is more harmonious. He enjoys her chaotic studio and her sense of freedom. They begin an affair when Piers moves out of home, into his city flat. His wife does not know of the affair though she suspects.
Piers new life surprises his family and colleagues, but it is his daughters who are the most disapproving: he has broken their model of how a father ought to behave. During the summer, while Angela is in Rome, Piers wants to follow her but he is caught between what he wants and his obligations to his family.
He meets Angela in Paris to make a decision, to go on with her, or to end it. Their time together is more strained and the former excitement is harder to find. Early one morning, while Angela sleeps, Piers decides what he will do.
Soldier, Farmer, Mechanic
In an Asian city dawn breaks on a new day: victory day, after a long civil war. A young unnamed soldier, a revolutionary, lies asleep huddled on veranda with his platoon. While the city wakes, his story: the battles and hardship; the memories of his family and the life he has endured with his comrades in the long war now that the revolution is victorious are all behind him. The new day is when his life starts.
The soldier and his platoon are sent to a school outside the city to be used an administration center where people are processed and verified. It is boring work, guarding and sentry duty, and he longs to return to this family. Finally, he is given leave, and after five years his platoon is disbanded and sent home. He begins a long walk back to north on dirt roads strewn with the debris of war.
His journey is hard but returning home is almost more difficult. His father treats him as if he was still a boy, not a veteran, and they argue frequently. Everything is in short supply, hunger is still common, and the family scratches a living. He shows skill at repairing engines which brings in some money. It does not solve the fractious relationship between father and son but seems to cause even more jealousy.
His ability to repair engines, pumps and motorcycles is the start of a new business. It is thriving when the authorities shut down any private business as they seek to close all individual expression, in every sphere. He knows the peace has been harder than the war, he knows he cannot remain, he must leave. He plans an escape over a mountain range and onto a quiet port, where he takes a boat to leave his country and find something new, beyond the edge of the wide open sea.
The Hidden Bend is scheduled for publication in early 2016.
©Copyright Guy Cranswick 2015. All Rights Reserved.