They were like teenagers the first time, fumbling awkwardly and self-consciously on Anatoly's uncomfortable bed, neither of them experienced in this. Both of them came to completion in an embarrassingly short time, still only half-undressed. Later, they drowsed uneasily in each other's arms, knowing that Freddie could not afford to be away from his hotel room all night without attracting notice. Even less could Anatoly risk his new lover's presence being detected in his apartment. Russia was changing, but not that much.
It set the scene for the next week. Someone had alerted the press-at-large to Freddie's presence in Russia. It provided a welcome opportunity for the PR boys. A charismatic former American chess player turned media star, who had come to Russian to report on the changes that Perestroika was bringing. Freddie was suddenly in the spotlight, asked to appear everywhere.
Anatoly barely managed to snatch an hour or two with him at a time. Both of them were too nervous of discovery to truly enjoy their encounters. But neither of them considered the safer option of remaining apart while Freddie was here. They had wanted this for far too long. And once Freddie left Russia there would be no telling when the two of them would be able to be together again. So they had to content themselves with hurried, frantic couplings.
Hoping, praying, that soon they could be together forever.
On the last day of Freddie's stay in Russia he was scheduled to appear at the club where Anatoly tutored young chess hopefuls. Anatoly had intended to stay away, uncertain of his ability to act in public as if this man was someone he despised, an old opponent he had once defeated, and whose lover he had seduced. But he was forced to turn up at the club by his superiors. And wait for two hours because Freddie had been delayed at some official luncheon.
He watched as Freddie appeared in a whirlwind of cameras, reporters and local officials. The children were charmed by his laughing tv personality, so different from the public persona Freddie had once projected.
As some petty bureaucrat led Freddie towards him, Anatoly was aware of the veiled and not-so-veiled stares. An air of expectation hung around the crowded room. Anatoly had no idea how Freddie would play this. As far as the American knew, Anatoly should not be here. The last time they had snatched a few minutes with each other, he had told Freddie that he would be staying away from the club.
Anatoly watched as Freddie faltered slightly at the awareness of his lover's presence. A hundred eyes observed the two men. Even the children seemed affected by the anticipation that welled up all around them. Anatoly was vaguely conscious of the general amazement, and the children's awe when this exciting American television star grabbed hold of their staid nondescript chess tutor and hugged him, giving him a brother's kiss on the cheek. Only Anatoly felt the trembling in his lover's limbs, knew how difficult Freddie was finding this.
The hour-long visit seemed both to last forever and to be over too soon. As it drew to a close, Freddie announced that he was running late, his plane was due to leave shortly, and he must leave now in order to catch it. He began to embrace the children and officials, dispensing casual farewells to people he would never meet again.
Anatoly waited near the exit, knowing he shouldn't but unable to prevent himself. He held his breath as Freddie approached him, feeling the thunder of his over rapid heartbeat. His secret lover hugged him once more. Only Anatoly was aware that it was more a caress than the fake-friendly hug that other's assumed it to be. Only he could see those beautifully expressive eyes fill with tears as Freddie brushed soft lips over Anatoly's cheek, and hear the murmured endearments.
Then he was gone, disappearing in a flurry of well-wishes and laughter.
And Anatoly was left alone.