Introduction: I started this novel inspired by the idea of a young woman discovering that not only were her parents Soviet spies, they disappear without a trace while she’s in college and she now has to make her way in the world alone. She's left with more questions than answers and finds clues in unexpected places. This scene is written in present tense and left that way, since this novel is abandoned.


“Leave It to Anna”

I arrive at my parent's apartment, home for Thanksgiving weekend. Nobody answers the door, so I let myself in with my key. The apartment smells stale, like no one has been home for a while. 

"Anyone home?" I say, although I can tell no one's here. Great, I’m talking to an empty apartment.

I head to the living room and sit on the couch, kick off my shoes, excited to stretch my toes after what has already been an exhausting semester. I glance down at the coffee table before I put my feet up. Where are my fuzzy bunny slippers when I need them? Right, back at my dorm room at college. 

The latest Travel & Leisure magazine catches my eye. Did Dad say something about going to Europe? My parents tend to take spur of the moment vacations to Europe and come back smelling like cigarettes and toting those flasks of fancy liqueur you buy at the duty-free shops in the airport. Would they really take a trip to Europe without telling me? Next to the travel mag lies a copy of the Times. It’s from July and shows an American hand with the stars and stripes locked with a Soviet hand bearing a hammer and sickle, the now famous “handshake in space”. My father loves anything about astronauts and space, so I know that’s his.

I chuckle to myself when I see a battered copy of The Communist Manifesto peeking out from under the Times. Were mom and dad becoming radical? Too funny. Political propaganda is the sort of thing I see on campus, but I don’t expect it in my parent’s staid DC apartment. My parents at a Vietnam protest? Unimaginable, they are far too square for that. 

There’s nothing good to read, so I try to get comfortable. The couch is stiff and unforgiving, the opposite of what I usually like to lounge on. I turn my attention to the rest of my parent’s apartment. It has a sparse, almost Eastern European vibe now that I really look around. Stark white walls, one bookshelf, the television standing alone in the corner by the window, with a glass bottle on top. Other than that, there’s the sofa I’m sitting on, and a side table with a plastic cover and remote.

Why did I even come home for Thanksgiving? Oh right, back at the beginning of the semester I promised Mom I’d visit this weekend. Since she’d asked, I assumed they'd be here, delighted to see me and hear about my studies. Instead, it’s just me in an empty apartment wondering where my parents are. I’m tired, and there's nothing to eat. No turkey, no stuffing, no buttered buns, no green bean casserole…

I need something. I need to relax. My eyes fall on the bottle sitting on the television. Did my father leave it there? He must have, because I can't remember my mother ever drinking alcohol or leaving a bottle around. Stolichnaya, nice. I take a swig, turn on the TV and head back to the couch, and try to get comfortable. There’s a rerun of “Leave it to Beaver”. Hardly exciting, but I let it play because there’s nothing else on. I must be exhausted because the vodka hits me hard. I can feel my head getting fuzzy. My eyes gradually close and I doze off. 

I wake up minutes, or maybe hours, later. It's dark. My dream hits me, I'd been at a train station or something, and my parents were dressed like they were going on a trip, talking to me, holding suitcases. What was my father saying to me? He was saying something important, something serious, but what was it? The thought interrupts my memory, I can't remember, and the feeling I have in the dream slips away.

Dazed, I stumble into the kitchen and look in the fridge for something to eat. The fridge is mostly empty. A few unopened cans of condensed milk sit on the top shelf. I open the freezer section and it is chock full of tv dinners. So many frozen dinners! Salisbury steak, fried chicken and mashed potatoes, turkey and stuffing with buttered peas, all stacked neatly. My parents don't eat tv dinners, my mother is a great cook. Are they for me? My mother is always worried I'd get lost in my studies and forget to eat. 

"You need to eat, Anna!" I can hear her voice in my head. So, they knew I’d be home and left me these dinners, but they’re not here themselves. Nothing is adding up.

I choose a Salisbury steak dinner and pop it in the oven. That dream bugs me. What was Dad telling me? I wish I could call them, but I have no idea what hotel they'd be staying at. They are always vague on details, and it occurs to me that I know very little about my parent’s vacations. They tell me Europe is boring when I ask questions about it, and for family vacations we go to Disneyland. I love it, and I guess I am so excited for those trips to California that I stopped questioning their trips without me. These tv dinners remind me of airplane food, the neat little compartments so everything stays in place until you’re ready to eat it.

My Salisbury steak is ready, I grab a fork, and head back to the couch. My food is piping hot, but I barely notice it burning my tongue as I wolf it down. I’m distracted by how weird this all is. Before I know it, the tray is empty.

I take the tray to the trash to throw it away. The best part of these self-contained meals is there are no dishes to wash. I hate washing dishes. I toss the tray in the trash can and I glance at the calendar nailed to the wall above. It’s hanging in its usual place, but it’s from months ago— September. It's November! 

That’s when I see a white envelope taped to the wall next to the calendar. For me? 

I don’t know, there’s no name on it, but I rip it off the wall so fast it takes a huge flake of dried paint with it. I open the envelope and pull out a card with roses and gold curlicues on it. I see my mother’s neat writing inside in ball-point pen.


Never forget how much we love you.

For your safety do not try to contact us.

Everything you need is in the book.


Mama and Papa

What do they mean “everything is in the book”? Why don’t they mention when they are coming home? I can’t believe they would just leave. The apartment. Their jobs. Me? 

I go to the bookshelf, but nothing stands out. Voltaire? Jules Verne? Dickens? A set of encyclopedias from 1971? What could be ‘the book’? I must find it, I need answers. “For your safety… don’t contact us…” I can’t believe they would say that. What are they, some kind of spies?

I open book after book, but there’s nothing to explain their cryptic message. I’ve gone through the entire bookshelf, and I can’t make sense of any of it. Exhausted, I sit on the couch. My eyes fall on The Communist Manifesto still barely hiding under the magazines. Technically, it’s a book. The book? I pick it up. This can’t be it. Hesitantly, I flip through the slim volume, and I see a paper tucked inside. It has numbers on it, and as I stare at the figures, it dawns on me. It's a bank statement, in my name. With enough money to see me through college. Is this what they mean by everything I need?

I’m overwhelmed. I’m feeling so many things at once. Hurt, abandoned, overwhelmed, scared. I can't believe this is happening. My heart is breaking in two as it hits me. I don’t know my parents at all. For the first time in my life, I'm alone, and on my own. I have so many questions. 




Emily St. Marie has a bachelor's degree in Linguistics from the University of Alberta. She writes YA fiction, historical fiction, memoir, and short stories. Her first novel The Old-Fashioned Dollhouse is set to be completed in 2022; Twitter and Instagram links are, respectively, https://twitter.com/theolddollhouse and https://www.instagram.com/oldfashioneddollhouse/ . Her first book, Meet the Mermaid Babies, is an easy reader for young children available at Amazon.