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Chapter 1

In exchange for their sacrifice, their work, their blood, sweat and tears, Elizabeth and Philip now held the distinctions of Heroes of the URSS. After their arrival, they settled definitively in Moscow, where an honorific ceremony was held in their honor days later, in the middle December of 1987.

“Would it be disrespectful if I just don't show up?” Elizabeth asks from the bathroom, applying mascara to her eyelashes.

“Yes.” he replies. “It's just a couple of hours, Liz. We can give them that after twenty-something years.”

“The questions. Goodness.”

“They mean well.”

“Yeah. As long as they don't start asking about the sex. How humiliating.”

“You could tell them about the time you were faking a threesome and I walked in with a gun. They won't ask again.”

Elizabeth chuckles in the bathroom. In their bedroom, Philip fixes an apparent flaw in his hair. And then, he stares at himself in the mirror for way too long. Everything it's so strange, yet so familiar. Some things have changed, yes, but not enough to make him believe this was a different country. Many things were still pretty much the same. He was growing his beard, he has been for days, he plans on letting it grow. And Elizabeth, he thinks, may come up with something. A way to pull herself away from the American capitalist persona she played for two decades.

Still, they will continue to call each other Philip and Elizabeth and they will continue to speak English, just because it's their thing already. Besides the faking part, they bonded together over English and their 'fake' names, so English it is. Outside, to the Motherland, they will resume their native speaking. But to them, speaking English with each other was also a way of honoring their kids. It's the only language their kids speak.

Elizabeth walks into their bedroom, and catches him standing in front of the mirror, still numb in his own thoughts. “Are you okay?” she asks. “Yes”, he replies, shaking himself out of his trance, “Just thinking”. She walks over to him, her sense of empathy kicking in, and she puts both of her arms around his body. She presses against him, their eyes meeting in the mirror, before she kisses his shoulder softly.

“If you were having dreams... or terrors. Or some of that... you would tell me?”.

He nods, slowly.

“Good”, she replies. “Because I don't want to have them, but no one knows what can happen to our heads from now on. So let's give each other a heads up, just in case, don't you think?”

He nods again.

“I'm stressed”, says Elizabeth. “Oddly stressed”.

“Because we're used to be stressed. Or, that was the normal. And now we don't have anything to be stressed about, so it's... the brain, I guess. Repeating patterns.” says Philip.


“You ready?” he asks.

And she nods, observes him while he walks away. She was never one to believe in God, and she wasn't gonna start now. But if there is something, she thinks, she begs for him not to fall into a well. Neither of them, actually. She doesn't want any of them both to fall into a well.

Elizabeth. “Nadia”, the most popular short for her name. Both are beautiful names. So is she in white silk, with her hair loose down her back. Arkady acted as an 'introducer' to everyone invited: mostly, bureaucrats and high-rank official with their families. Obviously, everyone was fascinated. Thirsty to hear from them. Dazzled with the living image of national heroes standing right in front of them. Directorate S officers: the most sacrificed officers in the entire KGB. What a life, some said to both Philip and Elizabeth, they must have had. Twenty three years, what a crazy thing.

“Did you ever think about quitting?” asked Anya, the lovely 20-year old daughter of the Minister of Production.

“Well, of course you think about it, but you don't just... do it. We were trained to give our lives if necessary.” replied Elizabeth. He stood there, beside her, preferring not to speak. She noticed, of course, but she let him. She knew she couldn't ask him to walk around giving testimonies as if he were brightly proud. Not anymore. That faded a long time ago. Anya, with big round eyes and a delicately traced jaw, with her long blonde hair and her very reserved turquoise dress, seemed to have a spark in her pupils with every question she asked. Elizabeth found her adorable and kind. Philip too, but he saw something he had seen in Elizabeth's eyes when they were young: WILL.

The will to grab a battle sword and dig it into her own abdomen if needed. Anya seemed very interested. Poor girl, he thought, don't do it. Get out of there.

While he attentively listened to Elizabeth and Anya's conversation, he felt a hand leaning over his shoulder. Arkady.

“Let's leave them alone, should we?” he asks, to which Philip nods. Elizabeth turns, and Arkady signals to let her know they're moving around. She subtly nods. “How are you feeling?”

“Good... it's hard now. I mean...” says Philip while they grab a glass of champagne from a tray in a waiter's hand.

“You have to adjust. It's totally normal to feel out of place, or uncomfortable. It will get better. And remember, we're always here for you both. Whatever you need.” says Arkady in a very reassuring tone. Then Philip looks at Elizabeth again. He just can't seem to believe the situation, to completely grasp reality. He remembers he has to ask her if she is grasping it.

“I know. Thank you.” he replies.

“Anya's lovely, isn't she?”

“Yes. She seems like a very smart girl.”

“She is. Her father raised her to be an erudite. She intends to join The Centre for training next year.” reveals Arkady.

Is she, now? Thinks Philip. Not surprising. “Wonderful. She can make a great asset for Intelligence, I assume.”

“Actually, her wishes are set to Directorate S.”

Philip raises his eyebrows in surprise. Well, faking it. “Really?”

“Yes... and I must tell you, she has everything it takes.”

“How's so?”

“I've seen her grow up. She's bold, observant, knows when you're lying to her. And she's been a great swimmer since a kid, so she has the physical strength.”

“Perfect, then.”

He observes Elizabeth again. No doubt they got along. He remembers to ask her what she plans on doing now, here, to pass time. What are they gonna do with their lives now?