The day was blisteringly hot. When Gleb woke at six that morning, his sheets were damp with humidity, leaving a clammy feeling on his skin long after he was dressed. When he descended to the kitchen a few minutes later, the wave of heat that hit him was like a physical wall and his heart sank. Mme. Dassin and Elena were both red-faced and sweaty, hair sticking to their foreheads and neck. It wasn't long before Gleb looked the same. By noon, they were rotating, each stepping out into the garden for a few minutes to cool down. Cool down was a comparative term however.
"Ugh! It feels like I'm in the oven right now!" Elena panted as she came back inside. "I checked the thermometer and it says that it's ninety-six out. I think if I brought it in here it would shatter."
"Well now you know how the bread feels when you bake it!" Gleb called from his corner.
She huffed out a breathless laugh in return and patted a loaf that was sitting nearby.
"I'm so sorry, bread. Nobody deserves this."
Henri walked in amid the chorus of laughter that followed her statement. He too was red-faced and damp with perspiration.
"Mama, what do you say to closing for the afternoon?" he asked hesitantly. "We could all go to the swimming hole and still be back in time for the dinner crowd."
There was a moment of silence and all eyes turned on the mother who considered the question thoughtfully.
"Do you think that we'd lose much business?" she asked after a moment.
Henri shook his head.
"No one's keen to move around today, let alone come here," he replied.
His mother nodded.
"Alright, let's do it!"
There was a general chorus if excitement and pleasure and she held up and admonishing finger.
"We'll go after lunch hour. I'll pack us a picnic and we can eat by the river."
"If it wasn't so hot, I'd hug you!" Marianne cried, clapping her hands. "Alright, let's get these people their food! The faster we serve, the faster we can go!"
Everyone set to work with renewed vigor and, an hour and a half later, were on their way to the swimming hole. Finding a swimsuit for Gleb had been something of a challenge since he was taller than both of the older boys, but in the end Elena had mostly solved the problem by letting down the hems on a pair of swimming trunks belonging to Henri who was the closer of the two to Gleb's size. The shirt was still too tight, but not much could be done about that. In addition to being taller, Gleb was much broader than either of the boys and still fairly well muscled considering his several month confinement. When he had first came downstairs, flushing uncomfortably at the less the perfect fit, Jean had jokingly covered Marianne and Vera's eyes and ordered him back up again.
There was the inevitable scramble before leaving when the towels were almost forgotten, Vera lost her shoe, Marianne needed a drink of water, and Henri decided to fetch his guitar. It was nearly two in the afternoon by the time they emerged from the little wooded path that led to the swimming hole. It was a natural pool, made where the river had eaten away at its bank around a turn. On the far side where the water was deeper, M. Dassin had constructed a diving board. The younger ones raced each other in and then proceeded to splash those who remained onshore until their mother told them to stop in a voice that Gleb recognized as dangerous. Even the older members of the party were not long in following the children and when Elena dallied to tie her hair back, her brothers teamed up to haul her up and throw her into the water. She screamed, making a magnificent splash that soaked them all, and came up laughing. After that, Vincent, Vera, and Marianne wanted to be thrown in too which resulted in a tossing and splash-making competition. A diving and jumping competition followed for those who were allowed into the deeper water in which Jean emerged the undefeated champion.
For Gleb, it was pure therapy. He had practically grown up on the Iset River and swimming for pleasure was something that he had not engaged in for longer than he could remember. He could practically feel the stress drain out of him as he floated or snuck up behind Elena and splashed her. The latter proved to be a very serious mistake. She had promptly dived and disappeared only to surface behind him and splash him in return. It had turned into an all-out water fight that lasted until Mme. Dassin called them in to a late lunch. Panting, dripping, laughing, they came ashore and devoured the contents of the basket that she had packed.
As they lounged, happy and lethargic, after the meal, Henri pulled out his guitar and began to play. He was a good guitarist and soon they were all singing along to the Russian and French folk songs that he played. Gleb didn't know most of the French ones, but hummed along with the others. After a while, Vera fell asleep, her head pillowed in her mother's lap. Vincent lay on the picnic blanket with his arms folded in a smaller imitation of Jean who was lying nearby. Henri sat cross-legged on the ground, his guitar cradled in his lap. Elena was slouched back, her arms braced behind her for support and Gleb sat against a nearby tree with his legs stretched out in front of him. He sighed in pleasure, crossing his left ankle over his right, and looked at the way the water shimmered as the light danced across it. In the stillness of the riverside, Henri's sudden, sharp intake of breath was painfully obvious.
"What is that?" his voice cut like a whip, shattering the calm that enveloped the small party.
Gleb looked at Henri in surprise, then followed the other boy's gaze and felt his heart sink rapidly, swallowing a curse. There, on the inside of his left calf, the black ink of the tattoo was plainly visible against his pale skin: two crossed pistols with the soviet star, hammer, and sickle underneath.
A/N: Annnnnnd I'm still late :/ Sorry, you guys. What do you think is coming next for our hero, hm?