Fifth illustration from “Olga & Trotsky,” a short story by Katja Hofmann.

(5) But Mme Zherenkova had already stood up and drawn her black beret far down over both ears.

‘Sorry Trotsky, I’ve made other plans for tonight.’

And before Trotsky could begin asking questions, she dashed swiftly for the door, without saying goodbye either to Mamushka or Jeffrey Shulman, letting its meshed glass slam behind her, and heard the little metal bells inside the café announce her departure.

Olga Zherenkova breathed deeply and drew the icy air in through her nostrils. The August sun shimmered palely through the grey blanket of clouds. There was still no end to the sea of ice in sight, and the biting cold forced tears from her eyes.

Suddenly she heard a purr in her ears, like warm honey: ‘What’s the hurry?’ – Trotsky!

‘Leave me be! I never want to see you again! Find yourself another mug!’ Olga snorted, furious, and began her tottery skidding game over the ice, in which she reached for the security of one dead tree-trunk after another. ‘Wasn’t that enough cream for you? Sorry, I haven’t got any more. Believe me, my larder is empty.’

Unperturbed by its slipperiness, Trotsky trotted over the creaking ice next to Olga on his amply padded paws. ‘How can you be so rotten? As if I only wanted to see you because the cream! Olga sweetie, sweetest of the sweet, you know I’m a cat; you can’t hold that against me!’

Olga Zherenkova pressed her worn leather gloves against her ears. ‘Just leave me alone,’ she begged.

— Translation by Steph Morris.

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