My memories end up re-peopled. It’s as though I excised parts of certain memories because I couldn’t bear it. I couldn’t bear all the losses at once.

So I realize that the night Nata died, I wasn’t alone. I wasn’t alone through any part of it. I felt alone because I hurt in a way that was beyond what anyone else hurt, but they were there with me. It was Grusha who held me as Nata was being beaten. I thought it was someone else, but it was Grusha. Grusha was enormous, or she felt that way to me. She was something like 6 feet tall and always wore spike heels and so she towered over me, and that’s what I remember from it—being held back by this kind of giant.

And then afterward, after the girls give me dreadful, sweet tea in hopes of reviving me, the three of them are there when I take a shower. Someone rinses my clothes out in the sink for me while I watch blood run off my body into the drain. They help me find something to wear, because everything is kind of beyond me. Left to myself, I would have just stared. They go with me to the Laundromat that is miraculously open all night, even in the small, coastal town where the hotel is. They wash my clothes for me. They run them through the wash cycle five times, because the blood won’t come out.

They sit with me on the curb at the hotel and wait for my dad to come as the dawn starts to emerge in a pale, gray haze. And they say goodbye to me. They wrap me up in their arms and they kiss me three times each and they say don’t come back. They say don’t ever come back. We don’t want to see you again here. Go and don’t come back. It seems to me that they cry.

And I miss them—Evechka, Grusha, Leonya. I didn’t go back, and I never saw them again. I miss them.