She was much too thin and her cheeks were drawn, and her ice–blue eyes dominated her face: the very picture of a Russian model, he thought.  “You’re even more beautiful in person!” he gushed, fumbling for her carry–on bag. “I’m Roger.”

Her pout was amused but not unkind. “I’m Olya.”

“I know!”

He treated her nightly to dining delights: Italian, Korean, Mexican, Indian, fusion, Japanese, Thai, Chinese. She ate with restraint even though underfed, swallowed tiny sips of sizzling rice soup as he leaned forward like a gratified dad. “It’s nice,” she said, and patted her lips with a delicate movement that swelled his heart. “Are you sure you can afford all this meals?”

He puffed his big body. “Programmers do pretty good here, Olga.”

The honeymoon was at a Mexican resort with unlimited foods from many cuisines. She ate delicately. He tried not to gorge. She had put on weight and looked trim in her swimsuit, he hid his belly under a tropical shirt. That night, their first, she assured him that he could not possibly crush her, but he took tender care nonetheless.

“Now is time for Russian food,” she told him at home, standing ceremoniously before porcelain bowls decorated with rustic scenes and mounded with eggplant spread and cabbage salad. There was brown bread in a basket and steaming bowls of borsch.

He lowered his head to the dark–red broth, settled some in his spoon, wrinkled his nose at the earthy aroma. He looked up into her hopeful gaze, blew steam, stopped his nose. He sipped and pooled the broth in his mouth. She watched. He swallowed. “Is good?” He sensed the heft of the silver spoon, regarded the gilded bowls he had purchased, considered the expensive dining room set. “Listen, Olga. I just don’t like beets.”

She sucked in her breath. “Maybe only at first.” He inhaled, winced, and laid down the spoon. “Eat bread,” she muttered, claiming his bowl.

She served borsch again next week, and next month.

“Olga,” he said, “I don’t like beets.”

After three more years of learning English, she said with brave humor, “Nothing beats beets.”

“Olga, listen. I don’t like borsch.”

She found Russian friends and served it to them. “Olya,” they said, “your mother was a wonderful cook.”

Her mother’s death had unchained her from Russia. “It’s seasoned with tears. Her tears and mine.”

“She was too good for your father,” said Irina, who knew of the broken noses of mother and child. “This soup was much too good for him.”

“Olga,” said Roger after five years. “Enough with the borsch.”

“You eat everything else!” She stalked towards the door.

“Olya! Wait!” He slurped and slobbered, poured borsch down his gullet. His wife’s borsch overflowed his lips, spilled down his chin and onto the table, soaked his lap. “I’m eating!” he cried. “I’m eating!” he cried like Mama’s best boy.


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