TITLE: Amid the Alien Corn
GENRE: Commercial Fiction
The bus stopped in the middle of the woods. She clutched her Russian phrasebook to her chest as if it held her heart in, and searched for a sign that this was where she would find her baby. While trying to dispel the hummingbird's wings in her chest, she descended the wide, dusty steps of the bus -- against which her white sneaker was nearly aglow. Outside, rows of trees that resembled prison bars obstructed a simple white-washed house.
A dark-haired man emerged with arms extended. “X-hello,” he said in a thick Russian accent. “Welcome to Detski Dom.”
Ten children stood in line facing a rusty jungle-gym, like little soldiers awaiting their orders. She hoped her smile hid the trembling of her lips as she went down the line. A girl whose smile was framed with baby fat, a boy whose freckles were washed in meandering tracks of sweat. Next, a beauty -- with messy auburn ringlets and winking dimples.
But her attention was riveted on another girl. She was slim and taller than the rest, with long blonde hair knotted from sleep. She had chiseled features, tender pale skin, and brooding sage eyes. Unlike the others with strained smiles, this girl's lips were down-turned. Her mind was elsewhere, perhaps suffering. This girl needed something; on her face was a call for help.
Was this the long-awaited sign?
She spoke the foreign, well-rehearsed phrase: “Kak va zavoot?”
To her surprise, the girl answered in deeply-accented English. “My name is Lena.”