*

That night Serge and Alex returned with threats and a pregnancy test. They gathered from Nina’s appearance, that their guess was right. They wanted money, whatever Richard had or they were going to call the police on him. He said go ahead. Serge asked him if he really knew how old Nina was. Richard said, “twenty-two.” They laughed at him. “Tell how old you are Nina.” Nina told them to shut up and they should just leave. “Tell him,” said Serge. She couldn’t look at Richard. “Go get her passport,” Serge told Alex. He grabbed Nina by the arm, and Nina relented. She brought it out and gave it Richard. He opened it. Richard had to do the math in his head. All the blood drained out of Richard’s face. He looked at Nina for an answer. “I’m almost sixteen. July 2,” she said. “It’s true.”

He started to breath heavy and they had to give him a glass of water to calm down. She was worried that he might have a heart attack and die right there in the middle of the foyer. Nina started to cry and said how sorry she was.

Nana (who was present at this matter) suggested to Nina that Richard go to church and confess his sins. Nina translated this to him, and Alex said that he was going to hell, and if he wasn’t going to pay them, they would call the police and Richard would go to jail. She translated this as well.

Richard said, “It doesn’t matter. I love her anyway.” Serge called him “stupid. Nasty stupid.”

Serge came up with a solution which Nina translated, and a few bastardized English words slipped in here and there. Richard would pay them $50,000. $25,000 each immediately. As penance, Richard would attend Church every Sunday and pray for forgiveness, which he was told would never ever happen in this lifetime. It was either this, or they would go to the police, and he would end up being a sex offender, and if that were to happen he’d lose everything and should probably just commit suicide, unless he wanted to serve time in prison in isolation lest he be beaten to death by the inmates who would surely hate him. It would also destroy Nina’s life completely and since Richard had so wronged her, he would have to make it up to her each and every day of his short and pathetic life. He would never tell anyone that Nina was so young, and if anyone asked, he was to tell them that she’s a nineteen year old au pair from Belgrade. When she was legally old enough, he would properly marry her before God. Richard would have to then pay them another $50,000 and then each year after that, pay an additional $10,000 until her child is eighteen. This would buy their silence. Richard would have to see that Nina is well provided for, and would work only as a fashion model (this Nina put in herself), but would also pay for her education and her clothes. The other option was that Alex kill him slowly, by knife, flaying his body and feeding him his own genitals. Alex showed him the knife he would use for effect. Richard agreed to this, but only if Nina did. She did (thankfully). He said he would pay them, but told them he couldn’t get money out until Monday when the bank opened. He would give it to them after work. Then they told him to shut up and go to his room. Serge and Alex watched soccer (football) and women’s tennis all weekend. Not once did they see Richard. Nina slept in her grandmother’s room all weekend.

Before work on Monday Richard went to the bank. It took a full hour to arrange to have that much money taken from his account. He sat all day at work with the briefcase beside him. His secretary, Lisa thought he looked very sad.

He gave the money to Serge and Alex, and they gave Nina a few thousand to spend (it was only right). He thought they would leave but Serge told him that they would leave once the World Cup was over. He asked when that would happen. Nina said that it had only been on for four days and it wouldn’t be over for a month.

The summer days went by. Everyday, Richard would leave to work, pray for death, and come home. On Sundays he went to church with Nana. Nina would sulk on the couch watching repeats between tennis and The World Cup. She would remark how she wished she was dead and hated children so much that she aimed to sell it to some barren woman. By now her tan was rich and dark.

Richard spent most of his time whenever possible at his office at work. He started to long for companionship with his secretary Lisa, and almost told her what was going on, but stopped short. He thought he would rather be in jail than with Nina’s family.

July 2. Nina’s birthday. After work Richard walked to a shoe store. He bought the most expensive pair they had, a pair of Christian Louboutin’s in size six and a half. Nina was so grateful for the shoes and said she loved them. Absolutely loved them. She went to kiss him, but Serge saw her, and she stopped all together. Nina crept into Richard’s office at night. He was curled up in a makeshift bed on the floor. She woke him up, kissed him, then left.

The next evening Nina walked around the pool in her shoes and in her bikini. She loved watching the reflection of the crimson heels in the glass and in the water as she strutted. The boys were watching football. She could see Richard peer out of the little bunker window above. She smiled. She continued practicing walking. She could hear Serge and Alex yell at the TV. Their voices grew louder and louder with each play until the final goal was scored. She excitedly turned quickly toward them. Serge and Alex shot up, screamed, hugged, jumped up and down. They came out, and she ran toward them. She didn’t notice the dog mess (which the backyard was full of since no one but Richard would clean it up), she slipped along the pool, broke a heel and badly fell to the ground. She broke her ankle and that night had a miscarriage.

Secretly both Nina and Richard were deeply relieved, although Nina was appalled that she wrecked her shoes.

The next day, Nana died. There was a funeral, and Serge and Alex left for good.

*