Here’s another chapter of Vladimir Putin fan fiction to keep you warm during these long winter nights! (But only if you print it out and fashion it into some kind of blanket.) Note that what it lacks in brevity, it makes up for in being extremely, extremely long.
Chapter 3: Putin on the Ritz
When you open your eyes, the sun is already high in the sky. You are alone in a lavish guest room, tucked into a large, canopied bed. Looking around the unfamiliar room, it takes you a moment to remember where you are. Then, all at once, your memories of the day before come flooding back.
It was the middle of the night when you arrived in Gelendzhik, a resort town on the northern coast of the Black Sea. You tried to stay awake during the drive, wanting to savor every moment of being alone in a car with Vladimir Putin. But in the end, you couldn’t help it, and the steady hum of the Lada Kalina’s engine combined with the soothing sound of Putin reciting lines from The Matrix eventually lulled you to sleep.
You stirred a little when you felt yourself being lifted by two powerful arms and carried up a long flight of stairs. Thinking it was a dream, you curled in toward the warm, hairless chest supporting you. You can recall someone slipping off your shoes and gently tucking you into bed, but the memories are hazy and intermingled with a dream you were having about cupcakes. Thinking back, you acutely regret that you weren’t able to wake yourself up to fully enjoy it.
You get out of bed and look down at your rumpled button-up shirt. You are still wearing the clothes you had on yesterday—the clothes you wore to your job in the Kremlin mailroom. If you had known that you would be leaving the office early to be swept away on a romantic, cross-country road trip with Vladimir Putin, you probably would have chosen your outfit more carefully.
There’s a large armoire across from your bed and, to your surprise, you find it stocked with dozens of pants, shirts, and dresses, all in your size. You try not to dwell on this improbability. Not wanting to waste any more daylight, you throw on a pair of jeans and a silky blouse, and you set out to find Putin.
As it turns out, finding Putin is not so easy. His house, which he called his “country cottage,” is a 250,000 square-foot Italianate palace. After a good 20 minutes of searching, you finally locate Putin in a light-filled breakfast room. He’s sitting alone at the head of a long wooden table with a bowl of porridge in front of him. Behind him, there’s an elaborate buffet set with every Russian breakfast food you can imagine. (Which is only like three things, and they are all gross. But still!)
Putin looks up at you and smiles.
“There you are, sleepybones,” he says. “You were asleep for so long, I thought that maybe you had been poisoned by a jealous kitchen-maid!”
You laugh a little uncertainly, and then pause.
“Wait, is that actually a possibility?” you ask.
“Oh, probably not,” says Putin, “but who knows!”
Before you can respond, you hear a loud crash coming from the hallway. You turn around in time to see a large, brown bear lumber into the room. You scream and leap behind the table, but Putin just laughs.
“Don’t be frightened,” he says. “It’s only Stepan!”
“That bear is named…Stepan?”
“Of course. Stepan lives here. He’s like a brother to me. Aren’t you, Stepan?”
“He’s also my Minister of Trade.”
You look over at Stepan, who is helping himself to a tray of cottage cheese dumplings.
“I met him when I was vacationing on Karaginsky Island many years ago. The first time he saw me, he took a swipe at me,” Putin chuckles. “It turned out that he was guarding his favorite crowberry bush.”
“So you two became…friends?” you ask, still feeling uneasy about the presence of a nine-foot bear in the room.
“Well, not at first,” says Putin. “Actually, I shot him in the arm. You see, I too wanted those delicious crowberries.”
Stepan, having eaten all of the cottage cheese dumplings, is now messily lapping tea out of Putin’s “World’s Greatest President” mug.
“But eventually we worked out our differences,” Putin continues. “I remember saying to him, ‘Anyone who gets shot in the arm and can still ride a unicycle is OK in my book!’”
“Er…how did you know he could ride a unicycle?”
“It was just a hunch.”
There’s a pause while you take this in.
“But we’ve had some good times together,” Putin adds, with a mischievous look in his eye. “Why Stepan, do you remember that casino in Minsk?”
Stepan roars and, with one swing of his paw, upends the dining table. The tea service flies across the room and shatters against the far wall.
Putin laughs again and turns to you. “Never mind him. Come with me—there is something I want to show you.”
The rest of the day is a whirlwind of activity. It turns out that what Putin wanted to show you was an indoor hockey rink built into the east wing of the palace. You sit in the stands and clap politely while he shoots 87 goals into an unguarded net, loudly shouting “GOOOOAL!” after each shot.
Then Putin wants to show you his favorite motorcycle, which turns out to be two motorcycles stacked on top of each other. Finally he has you sit on the balcony and watch while he extinguishes a forest fire by dropping water on it from a motorized hang glider.
“That was quite a show,” you tell him afterwards, coughing heavily from all of the smoke. Now the sun is setting behind the mountains, and the sky has turned a beautiful purplish pink color. Putin suggests that you change into something more formal for dinner, observing with distaste that your clothes are covered in soot.
Back in your room, you choose a green velvet dress from the armoire and slip it on, fumbling a little with the zipper. All day, you couldn’t help but get the sense that the president of Russia was, well, showing off for you. Even at lunch, he insisted on showing you his dominance over borscht by eating a very large amount of borscht. Thinking about it makes you blush. The day was so packed with activities, you didn’t really have time to feel shy around Putin. Now, the thought of sitting down to dinner alone with him makes you feel like your insides are rising up into your throat—it’s the same feeling you get during the downward acceleration of a rollercoaster, or that time you fell down a well.
When you reach the formal dining room (Putin wrote out directions for you on the back of a tiger pelt), you stop and hold your breath for a moment. The room is huge, and lit by the flickering flames of hundreds and hundreds of Putin-Scented Candles that cover the floor. The only furniture is a small table in the center set for two.
You take a deep breath to clear your head, but you just end up inhaling Putin’s intoxicating scent—like a mixture of pine trees and elk fur and another kind of elk fur. Your head swims. Part of you can’t believe that this is really happening. You don’t even allow yourself to blink, for fear that if you close your eyes, all of it will disappear. Then a voice comes from behind you.
“I’ve noticed that you don’t blink. That is unusual.”
“Is it?” you ask, your eyes watering uncontrollably.
Putin walks smoothly into the room and pulls out a chair for you. You follow him and sit down obediently. His manner is relaxed, but you can feel his gaze like it’s burning a hole in you.
You look down at your hands, at your napkin—anywhere but at Putin. Then, just as you are opening your mouth to tell a great joke about bagels, your eyes meet his, and you find yourself unable to speak. You sit there staring at each other, for what feels like forever. And it is, in fact, several hours.
“Do you when dinner will be served?” you finally ask.
“What do you mean? I thought that you had done the cooking!” Putin says sharply. “You are the woman,” he adds, making a good point.
You quickly try to catalog all of the recipes you know. It turns that there is only one, and it is for a beerita. You try to think of how to turn that into a meal. (Maybe by putting a hunk of meat in the beerita? Actually, that sounds delicious. You are a cooking genius!). Before you can ask Putin if he has any limes, a man wearing a black suit and dark sunglasses walks briskly into the room.
You wonder how the man is able to see anything with those sunglasses on. Then he trips over a candle, which answers your question.
“Excuse me, Mr. President,” he says. (At least that’s what you think he says. You’re not sure, because you don’t speak Russian.)
“Yes, what is it?” Putin asks, looking annoyed.
“I’m sorry to interrupt, but there is a rather urgent matter you need to attend to,” he says (probably).
He leans in and whispers something into Putin’s ear. Putin’s expression turns severe. The man exits quickly, knocking over several candles on his way out the door and spilling wax everywhere. Putin turns to you.
“I am so sorry to interrupt our evening,” he says, looking pained. “I’m afraid there is an emergency…a rather pressing security matter that I need to deal with personally.”
Your heart sinks. You are surprised by how sad you feel—by how badly you don’t want him to go. “Will you be back later tonight? Or tomorrow?” you ask. You try to sound casual. You also try to look casual, by leaning your chair back and putting your feet on the table.
“I am afraid not,” Putin says somberly. “But please, stay the night here as my guest. Tomorrow morning, my helicopter will take you back to Moscow.”
You nod, not knowing what else to say. Putin leans in close to you, and puts a single finger under your chin to lift your face up to meet his gaze.
“I really am sorry,” he says. “I will make it up to you.”
Then he walks out of the room.
The next morning, you wake to the sounds of Stepan shredding the contents of your armoire. He grunts happily while he chews on a pair of leather pants.
You get up and put on your wrinkled work clothes, half-crouching beside the bed so as not to attract Stepan’s attention. You dress quickly, suddenly anxious to get back to your apartment. You don’t know what’s going on between you and Vladimir Putin, but even though you just met, it feels painful to be separated from him. You just want to be at home, back among your things, where you can make yourself a beerita with a hunk of meat floating in it and try to feel normal again.
You tiptoe out of the room, moving quietly so Stepan won’t see you. He sees you anyway and ends up chasing you halfway through the house. You eventually lose him outside the built-in theater after he stops to attack a popcorn cart.
You’re not sure where the heliport is, but you manage to ask a maid for directions by spinning around and pretending to be a helicopter. There you you find a helicopter and pilot waiting for you. The pilot gives a friendly nod and gestures for you to climb aboard.
You spend the flight staring out the window, not really seeing the Russian countryside below, and trying not think about a certain Russian president. (Vladimir Putin.) Was there really a state emergency, or was that just his way of ending the date early? This wouldn’t be the first time you had a dinner date end abruptly because your date claimed he was needed on a matter of urgent national security. What if this entire romance is something that you just imagined in your head, like your romance with Jeopardy! host Alex Trebek?
When you feel the helicopter start to descend, you look around and are surprised to see that you are landing in the middle of a pasture. Is this pasture close to your apartment? You call out to the pilot, but he doesn’t respond. The helicopter lands, and you are still unbuckling your seat belt when the cabin door flies open.
The man standing before you is dressed all in black, with a black ski mask covering his face. He grabs you, pinning your arms against your body, and drags you out of the helicopter. You kick your legs wildly, until another man grabs you tightly around the ankles. You scream for help, but the pilot doesn’t even turn around. It occurs to you that he was in on it the whole time.
By now you are getting kind of bored with struggling, so you give up and just hang there. There are a dozen more men in the field, running around shouting orders at each other, and all wearing the same black uniform. Its only distinguishing feature is the badge sewn onto the right arm—a knight riding a white horse on a field of red. The knight’s sword is raised over his head, as if he is about to strike down an enemy.
You’ve seen that knight before. Recently, in fact. It was the same badge worn by the rebels who ambushed you and Putin when you were driving to Gelendzhik. (You didn’t mention the badge at the time, because you didn’t realize it was going to be an important plot point.)
The men carry you over to a black sedan that is waiting by the side of the road with the engine running. You are bound and gagged, and then they throw you into the trunk.