Natasha's Ukraine

Natasha's Ukraine

by Rob Ottesen

ASIN: B079X5T49W

Publisher Hellgate Press

Published in Literature & Fiction/Genre Fiction, Literature & Fiction

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Book Description

Natasha Dubrova is a young woman, struggling to survive in an impoverished country that may soon be facing war with Russia. Her dream is to find a man she can build a life with, but most men in Ukraine are unwilling to commit, and her attempts to find a meaningful relationship have been fruitless. Her college education is of little use in an economy that is weak and corrupt, and paying the monthly rent is becoming more and more difficult with every passing day. She must focus on her future above all else, but what if this means leaving her family behind, possibly forever?

Sample Chapter

It was ten minutes after two-o-clock, and Natasha Dubrova could smell the cinnamon bagel the man next to her was eating, which only made her hunger pangs worse. She had not eaten for hours and was desperately hungry, but she only had a few kopeks and couldn't even afford a stick of gum. The world seemed to her to be surreal because only a week ago she'd been planning a honeymoon to Dubai, a new life in Odessa, and maybe having a baby. Now she was broke, frightened, and headed home to her village of Slavne - a place too small to appear on any map – but the perfect place to hide from the man who had threatened to kill her.

She remembered his last words to her as she'd left his apartment for the last time: “You are a slut. You are a whore. You are a stupid bitch and you will never find a man as good as me.”

All the gifts he'd given, he'd demanded she return. He took her underwear so she'd never look sexy for another man. He took her perfume so she'd never smell good for another man. And he took most of her clothes, which made for a very cold October in Ukraine. Now she was left with nothing more than her old sweatpants, a cheap warm-up jacket, and a bus ticket back to her childhood home.

She discreetly scanned the waiting area to make sure she hadn't been followed. The bus station in Nikolaev was a small, dated structure with stray dogs, pigeons, and beggars scattered about. It smelled of cigarettes and hot dogs and was painted dark green and white, a color scheme that had not changed since the USSR had been in charge of the city more than two decades ago. The new Ukrainian government had never upgraded the building and it looked like a place that had been frozen in time. Fortunately, the man she feared was nowhere to be seen.

Over the loudspeaker, the bored voice of an underpaid attendant announced that Natasha's bus was ready to depart. She walked over to the platform, climbed the steps into the bus, and chose a seat by the left window near the front. She always chose a window seat to avoid the odor of men who stood in the aisle – her sense of smell had always been so very sensitive – and as the bus pulled out of the station, she breathed a sigh of relief. Natasha had escaped from Hasan.

Hasan was a jeweler from Ankora who not only owned a store in Ukraine but also dated there. Ukraine was an excellent hunting ground for him. For his age group, a five-to-one ratio of women to men gave him an advantage he didn't have in Turkey. And since Ukrainian men were notoriously unreliable and poor, many Ukrainian women were obsessed with finding a foreigner to marry so they might have a chance for a better life, which made them vulnerable to his advances. Hasan's playbook was a simple one. Pay a girl's bills, compliment her, and give her attention, and an unattractive jeweler from Turkey could date a woman that might be a supermodel in any other country. Someone like Natasha Dubrova, for example.

When Natasha met Hasan at a friend's office party, she could clearly see that he was much older than she was. He was Turkish and thin, with a well-trimmed black beard and a dark tan, and he had a large nose that was not in proportion to his face. There was a scar on his left cheek he'd earned in a knife fight, and he wore it like a badge of honor because the other man had died in the altercation. He smelled of fine cologne and was wearing smooth, black slacks and a white button-down shirt, and he carried himself with the manner and confidence of a billionaire.

He'd been married once before to a Turkish lady of high status and reputation, but the marriage hadn't lasted long. His wife had been a beautiful woman with flowing black hair that felt like fine silk and large brown eyes that captivated everyone who met her, but he'd fallen out of love with her because she'd been too good to him. She'd been madly in love with him, she'd cooked for him, she'd protected him – in short, she'd been a perfect spouse – but he'd found life with her to be mundane. Hasan's mother had imbued him with the idea that there were “good women” and “bad women” and he'd decided, quite incorrectly, that the bad ones were good in bed, and that the good ones made good wives. It was this strange notion that had prevented him from becoming aroused by his wife and had caused him to seek out a woman who could truly excite him. A woman that was, in his simple mind, “bad” in private, but still presentable in public as “good”.

Natasha stepped into his “bad girl” fantasy as soon as he met her, and after several dinners he told her that he considered her to be a good friend, which pleased her. He started to call her every evening and he always seemed to have something interesting to talk about. Her boyfriend had never given her such regular attention, and Natasha was starting to feel good about herself for the first time since she'd graduated from college. Hasan was available whenever she needed his advice or consolation, and she appreciated his ability to speak Russian, albeit with a slight accent.

Her feelings for him were growing stronger with every passing day, and she soon found herself visiting his apartment. It was a decent rental on the fifth floor of an old “stalinka”, a refurbished structure that had been built originally to house residents of the former Soviet Union, and was in one of the nicer areas of town. There was only one bedroom, one bathroom, and a small kitchen, but the lack of space was not a problem because she and Hasan were seldom there; they took long walks, visited cafes, and talked on park benches for hours on end.

Although she was initially embarrassed to be seen with a man who wasn't as handsome as she'd like, his smile and warm eyes eventually melted her heart and she found that she no longer cared about his appearance. Their many long conversations were leading to something more for Natasha. She was feeling something that she thought might be love, if such a thing could exist in her country, so she was warming to the idea of having a relationship with him when they returned to his apartment after a long night of bowling, shopping, and drinking at Stepanek's Pub near the central park. They watched television for a while, he put his arm around her while she watched Ukrainian game shows, and she nestled comfortably by his side.

And then, during one of the commercials, he kissed her. Not tenderly, not soulfully, but abruptly, roughly, and without her permission. It was more like an assault than a kiss - quick, unexpected, and without context. Natasha pulled away and was visibly upset. Hasan had caught her completely by surprise, and she felt betrayed because their friendship had seemed so secure.

“What's wrong?” he asked.

“I don't like it when you kiss me that way,” she said.

“But that's how a grown man kisses,” he said. “With passion, and strength.”

Natasha was embarrassed and confused. Although she hadn't expected to be kissed that evening, it was also true that she'd enjoyed his company for weeks and she was curious to see where their relationship might lead. So she decided to return his affection. She matched the pressure of his lips and tongue and took in the scent of his aftershave, and soon his hands were all over her. He teased and aroused her, but did not try to undress her. This excited her even more, and she could feel his experience with every move he made; she could sense his confidence and strength, and she decided at that very moment that no matter how the night might end, she would not regret it.

They didn't have condoms and she didn't care. Natasha begged him to make love to her, and as he obliged she discovered that his appearance did not match his skills. She would have never thought that such an unattractive man could be so good in bed, but she climaxed as never before and felt the stress of a thousand concerns leave her body as if by magic. There was no doubt in her mind that she had made the right choice. The line between friend and lover had been crossed, and she was happy with her decision.

Natasha decided to stay overnight and nestled her head on Hasan's chest as he gently stroked her hair. He sensed her contentment and basked in the glory of the moment as he lit a cigarette. In Hasan's mind, his latest conquest had been one of his best. Natasha had moaned and touched him like a sexy woman from an American movie, and yet she seemed so sweet and innocent. He wondered if he could trust her; so many Ukrainian women were just after his money. Yet, somehow, Natasha seemed different.

“Well, how was it? he asked. “Did you like it?”

She smiled. “Of course. I had no idea you were such a good lover.”

Hasan grinned like a little boy who had just received a passing grade on a school exam, but what Natasha hadn't told him was that she was feeling guilt as well as contentment. Natasha still had a boyfriend named Sergei. She hadn't seen him for weeks because he was working on a construction job in Kiev, but she was sure his interest had been waning because he hadn't been keeping in touch. As far as she knew their relationship was over, but the fact that they hadn't officially broken up made her feel like she was cheating on him. She pushed these thoughts aside and enjoyed Hasan's warm embrace and the fine, silk sheets of his soft bed. It felt good to enjoy such simple comforts for a change.

The next morning, Hasan made Natasha a cup of fresh coffee and heated up a cranberry-walnut muffin for her. He had an Italian espresso machine that he loaded with regular coffee grounds to make a delicious cafe crema, and it was the finest cup of coffee she'd ever tasted. Hasan served it in a bone china cup with a silver spoon, and as she sipped the coffee and thought about the coming day, she realized that she had nothing to wear.

“Hasan, I have to go back to my apartment to do some laundry – I need some fresh clothes. Would you mind walking with me?”

“You need fresh clothes?” Hasan thought for a moment. Natasha had a great figure, and he decided that he would enjoy seeing her in a silk blouse and a mini-skirt. “We don't need to go to your apartment to get clothes,” he said. “Let's go to City Center. This sounds like an opportunity to do some shopping!”

She gave him an incredulous look. “You are joking, right?” No man had ever offered to take her shopping before, and Natasha certainly hadn't expected it.

He shook his head. “A woman needs to have a extensive selection of outfits to be presentable. One pair of sweatpants isn't enough.” He leaned forward. “Let's buy you some dresses and get you some nice things. Come on, it will be fun!”

Natasha clapped her hands in excitement. She'd always admired the nice outfits worn by the wealthy women of Nikolaev, and had always wondered what it would be like to visit one of the finer department stores. Hasan's generosity touched her deeply. “Well, thank you,” she said. “I can't wait to see what we find!”

City Center in Nikolaev was a contemporary indoor shopping complex, painted red and white with round windows on the outside. It had a cinema, a bowling alley, restaurants, and several department stores, and was a favorite place to visit because it offered a taste of western glamor and glitz in an otherwise depressing, impoverished city. Natasha and Hasan visited two of the finer department stores and enjoyed looking through the racks for something that might fit her, and as they searched, Natasha learned more about Hasan's taste. For one thing, he seemed to prefer form-fitting clothing that showed off her figure, and was less interested in color than style. Whenever she held up a dress that was girly or fluffy, he shook his head and walked away, but after an hour of searching they finally came across a classic black dress that he approved of. It was tight, and when she looked in the mirror, she couldn't deny that she looked sexy and sophisticated. He also bought her a sheer white dress with a set of platform sandals to match, a mini skirt, and a few new blouses. Natasha was delighted. She could never have afforded to buy such fine clothes herself, but as soon as the outfits were put into a shopping bag, she found herself feeling guilty.

“You shouldn't have done this,” she said as they left the shopping center. “These clothes are too expensive!”

Hasan took her hand and kissed it. “Don't worry about the money - it's my pleasure. You spend all of your time with me, so it's the least I can do.”

“Well, I enjoy our time together too, but I don't expect any reward.”

“I know. That's exactly why I'm kind to you. Plus, I wanted to show you how a real man treats a woman. I doubt any of your ex-boyfriends took you shopping for dresses.” He cradled her in his arms. “Look, I'm your friend, and I don't mind helping you out. I don't know where this is all going, but I do know that I like you. You're good company and you're very attractive – I just don't think that you've ever been properly appreciated.”

When she heard these words, Natasha couldn't help but compare Hasan to Sergei. Sergei was a typical Ukrainian man who had never seemed willing to commit to her. He'd been a good lover and a great friend, but he'd never provided for her or offered any hope of marriage. And someday, Natasha wanted to be married. She'd always loved Sergei, and she was sure he loved her back, but Ukraine was a harsh country and survival was constantly on her mind. And for most Ukrainian women, survival meant marriage. Making ends meet was simply too difficult to do alone.

“You're right,” she finally said. “Ukrainian men are oblivious. They just don't take their women seriously.”

Hasan studied her for a moment. “It sounds like you have someone in mind when you say that.”

She nodded. “Yes. Sergei,” she said, deciding to be honest with him. “His name is Sergei. We've been together for more than two years, but he ignores me most of the time.”

“You mean, he doesn't call you? He doesn't stay in touch to see how you're doing?”

“No, not lately.”

“Well, that's bullshit. If a man is in love and is serious about a woman, he'll call or text no matter how busy he is.”

Natasha sighed. It was difficult to admit, but the writing was on the wall, clear for her to see. She'd made all sorts of excuses for Sergei but it was finally time for her to move on. She felt melancholy as she realized this, and Hasan sensed her mood.

“Let's get some coffee,” he said. “That's the best way to end a day of shopping.” He took her for a walk down Sovietskaya Street, past the McDonald's and the old townhomes that had been built a century ago during the time of the Romanovs, and found a cozy alcove in a cafe where they could just sit and enjoy the afternoon. They talked about Sergei and about how Ukrainian men were usually drunk and non-committal and how frustrating it was to be a single woman in a country where there was so little hope, and Natasha appreciated Hasan's attention to her story. He seemed interested in every detail.

Later that evening he took her back to Stepanek's Pub for a nice steak dinner. She wore her new black dress and high heels and Hasan couldn't take his eyes off her. Natasha felt beautiful and special and was having a wonderful time, but as the waitress brought them their meals, her cell phone vibrated. She immediately felt uncomfortable because she hadn't been expecting a call, and she knew who the caller probably was. She glanced down at the screen and confirmed the worst. It was a text from Sergei: Hi sweetie. How are you?

She ignored the text, placed the phone in her purse, and cut into the juicy tenderloin in front of her. Then her phone vibrated again: I miss you. Can we meet?

Hasan frowned and his eyes flashed in the candlelight. “Who's texting you?” he asked. “You look upset.”

“Just a friend - my flatmate. It's nothing important. I can call her tomorrow.”

Natasha felt guilty for lying, but she didn't want to ruin their dinner. Her phone vibrated again and she excused herself, went to the restroom, and texted Sergei a reply with trembling fingers: It's late now, and I am already in bed. Let's talk tomorrow. Then she turned off the phone and placed it deep into her purse before returning to the table.


Excerpted from "Natasha's Ukraine" by Rob Ottesen. Copyright © 2018 by Rob Ottesen. Excerpted by permission. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher. Excerpts are provided solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.
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Author Profile

Rob Ottesen

Rob Ottesen

Rob Ottesen is a resident of Florida and works in the financial industry. His hobbies include writing, painting, and travel. After visiting Ukraine, Rob became fascinated by the political, economic, and social realities of that country, so he decided to write a fictional novel about a Ukrainian family living through the chaotic events of the 2014 revolution. He hopes this story will help readers better understand Ukraine and the challenges faced by its people.

View full Profile of Rob Ottesen

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