The journey across the River Neva was unbelievable. Buildings on either side rose up, confronting Marina, beckoning her further into this landscape which was both breathtaking and depressing depending on which side of the river you looked. Marina was shocked at the difference between the wealthy people and the poor; wonderful buildings with intricate masonry and beautiful colours, then drab grey rows and rows of flats. She wondered what the lives of the Russians living in these miserable looking flats were like. There certainly was one rule for the rich and one for the poor here.
Glancing out of the taxi window, Marina turned her head. Surely not? It couldn’t be. In the taxi drawing up alongside her – she couldn’t be sure – but wasn’t that Ivan? No, it couldn’t be, what would he be doing going in the same direction as her? Surely that would be too much of a coincidence?
Marina shrank back inside the taxi. She was beginning to feel unnerved. How come this man kept turning up wherever she went? Maybe she should ask the taxi driver to slow down, see where the other taxi was going, but she didn’t feel confident enough in her Russian conversation to ask him to do that. No: she would just carry on with her plan and see what happened. Nevertheless, the nervous feeling she had carried inside her the whole time she had been in Russia gave her a lightheaded feeling, and she began to wonder why she had ever come.
Suddenly, and to her surprise, the taxi stopped. There before her was a building of such magnificence she could only gasp in total amazement.
“We are here, Yusupov Palace. You like it?” the driver asked with great pride in his voice.
“Oh yes, I like it,” Marina stated. “Thank you.”
She quickly paid her driver, and stared up at the enormous yellow and white building. She felt overwhelmed by her surroundings, and had no idea whatsoever what to do next. Looking around, and hoping that Ivan was nowhere to be seen, she entered the heavily carved doors of the Palace.
How could anything be so beautiful? she wondered, trying to take in the vastness of her surroundings. There was mosaic everywhere, in beautiful patterns and colours. She found herself drawn to the first drawing room which was Moorish in design. Looking around the room she had a feeling that someone was watching her and she turned slowly round, only to be confronted by Ivan. Now she knew it was much more than just a coincidence. Who was this man, and what did he want? Her uneasiness grew as he strode towards her.
“Sally! How nice to meet again,” he said. His use of the name Sally threw her off her stride, and then she remembered. Of course! She had used her middle name when they had introduced themselves to each other. She really must stop being so paranoid.