Romance Fiction Gay

(CW: mentions of sex)

It was September of 1932, Moscow. Maxim was walking through a park, his head down. If he had looked up, he might notice that the leaves had changed considerably since he last took a walk through that particular park, or that brown leaves littered the ground and walkway. He might have also noticed that there were a surplus of ducks in and around the water, bothering old babushkas on the bench up the path for breadcrumbs. But he didn’t notice. Maxim had a problem, and he was trying to figure out a solution. It wasn’t an easy task.

He was a violin student at Moscow Conservatory, and his roommate Vadim studied engineering in a different part of the university. He and Vadim knew each other since they were kids. They grew up next door to each other, playing by the heater in each other's apartments when it was too cold to play outside. Throughout the years they grew closer, and they were like brothers. But within the last few of those years, other feelings had surfaced for Maxim. He loved being close to Vadim. Neither would think twice if they sat close to each other, shoulders, arms, or even legs touching. He got a sort of satisfaction from it. In fact, he’d try to make some sort of contact with him often, and he found that Vadim did the same. It was… special. They did almost everything together if they could. Naturally they ate breakfast together since they lived in the same apartment, and they would also walk to school together. They also had dinner every night. If they needed to, they’d go to their designated grocery store and get whatever food they could (a little stale bread, some sausage) and make up some food for themselves at home. If their store were out of stock, they’d go to their favorite bar and eat there with a meal voucher. It never got old for Maxim. 

When they got the apartment there was only one bed. But they found no problem with it, they simply slept together facing opposite directions. However, on some occasions they would wake up in odd positions. An arm would be draped over another’s chest, legs might get tangled every once in a while. One time they did find each other snuggling, however it was an extremely cold January night. It was easily brushed off, but Maxim still remembered it.

He knew for a while he was oblivious to these feelings, but the more they showed up, the more he thought about them. And the more he thought about them, the more he realized what was going on. He liked Vadim, more than his brother or his friend, and he had felt this way for years. But what was he to do? At the time, homosexuality was technically legal. But the taboo which could follow him if the secret was divulged would be too awful to shake off. It was tricky, very tricky. And who knows, the next day Stalin could up and say it was illegal once more. And both he and Vadim could be sent to jail.

What was he supposed to do, just tell Vadim? What if he didn’t feel the same way? He’d move out for sure. Then no, he couldn’t tell him. Maxim let out a deep breath and plopped down against the base of a tree. This was ridiculous. Of course he had to be a homosexual. It had to be him, didn’t it?

He picked up leaves, crunching them in his hands and letting the breeze whisk them away. He didn’t know how long he did this for. But eventually the pile next to him dwindled, and he started to see the dead grass which had been hidden underneath. And there was something else there.

Underneath one of the last leaves of the pile was a ring. Somebody must’ve lost it, he thought, picking it up. It was a plain gold band, nothing too striking about it. It was shiny enough. He closely examined both sides. A small engraving, almost illegible in cursive, was on the inner part of the band:

And now, my heart, in fascination

Beats rapidly and finds alive:

Devout faith and inspiration,

And gentle tears and love and life.

I think that’s Pushkin. He slipped it on. It was loose, so he put it in one of his pockets. Might as well keep it. Not like there’s a name on there to contact whoever lost it. Shame. Might sell for a good amount, though. He got up and brushed off any debris that hung onto his wool coat and started walking back the way he came. It was getting dark and he was feeling more lousy by the minute. A frown set in on his face and he lowered his head against the growing wind, a hand keeping his hat from flying off his head.

He decided that he needed a drink. It was slightly out of his way from the park, but he walked the extra few blocks to the bar he usually frequented with Vadim. 

The bartender knew them. He looked up, greeted Maxim with a wave, and continued rinsing cups and filling other little glasses with vodka. “Where’s Vadim?” he asked after filling up the glasses of a group of guys at the front. He and his roommate were always together when they came to this bar.

Maxim leaned against the countertop and took off his hat. He held it in his hands and looked into it, as if it would give him the answer to his problem. “Back at home. I had some errands to run and he had some studying to do. How’re you, Zory?”

“Just fine. How about yourself? You seem down.” Zory took a bottle of vodka and took out a glass, silently asking in a gesture if he wanted it.

He nodded, and in a second the glass was in his hands. “Aren’t most guys when they come alone to a bar?” He downed it.

Zory refilled it without hesitation. “I guess. Feel like talking about it?”

“I don’t know…” He sighed and put his hat on the counter, grabbing a seat in the process. “Let’s say I like… someone. Love someone. And I know it for sure that I do, but not that they do. And if they don’t feel the same way, then I might never see them again, only we’ve known each other for years and I don’t want this person to leave so suddenly.”

Zory smirked. “Have you ever asked out a girl, even once? Give her some credit, if she’s known you since forever then she’ll probably still be there for you if she declines.”

“That’s optimistic.” Maxim finished the other little glass of vodka and put it upside down. He didn’t want more.

“Well I don’t know her, just saying though, if she’s really your friend then she wouldn’t just abandon you. If she does, she's either not worth your time or she’s scared.”

“What good is it if she’s scared?”

“Might mean she’s facing actual feelings for you.”

“Again, that optimism. How is it you’re so optimistic, Zory?”

He shrugged. “Guess I’m just that type of guy. What, do you want me to say she’ll never love an ugly dope like you?”

Maxim suddenly grinned widely. “Yes, actually. I need someone to tell the truth straight to my face.” Zory chuckled.

“That’s what I thought. You don’t want anything else?”

He shook his head. “No, I think I’m done for tonight. There’s food at home so I think I’ll go now. Is this enough?” Maxim got out his wallet and fished out a couple of coins. 

The bartender took them and nodded. Vodka was cheap, and the vodka which Zory sold wasn’t special. It got the job done, as he had said to him once before. They waved their goodbyes and Maxim left, sensations slightly duller than they were before he entered the bar. It certainly did get the job done, and that was what mattered. It didn’t really need to taste good.

So I could just tell him, he thought. And it might not end badly. Might. Is it really worth taking a chance though? He put on his hat and put his hands in his pockets. Although the vodka worked, he still felt dirty. As he walked, he noticed eyes on him. He looked over his shoulder. A woman. 

He had been seeing this same woman for a few weeks now, as he came to terms with what he was experiencing. He thought that if he slept with a woman, then he’d eventually like them more. Maybe he’d even like this woman. But he didn’t think it was working, if he was being honest.

She came up to him and hooked her arm around his. He kept his gaze straight. “I’m not really in the mood, Nina.”

“Me neither,” she said, brushing a stray golden hair out of her face. “I thought you ought to know, your technique isn’t very good.”

Maxim’s brow furrowed and he looked at her. “What do you mean?”

“I mean that you got me pregnant. That’s what I’ve come to tell you about.”


“I’m pregnant, Maxim, did you not hear me? It’ll put me out of side-work.”

His pace slowed. Yet another issue, possibly bigger and worse than the other one. “I’m sorry… don’t you work at one of the factories? Isn’t that enough?”

She shrugged. “Well sure, but that means there’s less money for my family. They're still raising kids.”

Maxim didn’t think he was able to screw up this royally. He’d done some stupid stuff before, almost gotten himself killed once, but he’d finally done it. He got a girl pregnant. He felt as if he deserved some award that said he was a certified idiot. 

He was quiet for a time. “So you’ll abort it?”

“I suppose.”

Maxim watched his shoes stepping one after the other on the pavement, as if they were interesting. “Can I help you in any way, do anything to make this easier? I am so sorry, I never meant for this to happen.”

“You could pay for the procedure?”

“Yes, I could.”

Nina pursed her thin lips and then nodded. “That would help.”

“Okay. Send me a letter when you have it planned so I can send the money. Have I given you my address?” Nina shook her head. “It’s the green building at the intersection of Tverskaya and Gazetnyy. Room 312. Here, I’ll write it down.” He pulled a scrap piece of paper from his pocket and wrote his address down. He gave it to her and she glanced at it before pocketing it. 

Nina granted him a small smile. “I thought maybe, with what you’re trying to get away from, that maybe you’d want the baby.”

He nodded. “I mean, it’s probably best if you get rid of the pregnancy. It was an accident, and I don’t want you to go through it if you don’t want to.” 

Maxim told her why he required her services on their second night together. They just got to talking, and he told her everything. It filled him with shame, but she said it was okay. She’d been with men who had the same problem. She told him it never really worked out for them as far as losing their feelings go, but he still wanted to try. Nina may have been a sex worker at night, but she proved to be much more than that. 

“But do you want it?”

He put the pencil back in his pocket. “Does it really matter? It’s not me carrying it.”

“Well, I’m asking you.”

“It almost sounds like you’re the one wanting a baby. Before I answer, you answer. Do you want it?”

A pause. Nina looked away. “Would it be bad if I said yes?”


Nina looked back, her eyes suddenly watery. “I just, I don’t think I can raise it with how my family is. There’s barely enough to feed my siblings. But at the same time, I don’t want to kill it.”

Maxim was stunned. He wasn’t sure of himself when consoling, he’d never exactly had to do it before. She wasn’t crying yet, but he was sure she would. “What are you saying?”

“Would you take the baby?” A few tears streamed down her face. She was desperate. “I know you’ve got your own problems going on, but you’re a good guy. And even though you don’t accept it, you’ve got your roommate. Maybe if things between you two worked out…”

He wasn’t so sure about that. “But what about your parents, what would they think?”

She wiped her face on her sleeves. “Don’t worry, they already know I sleep around for money. They don’t object to it only because it helps to feed everybody. They’ve been expecting this to happen for months.”

He had to be sure. “So you’d really want this?” 

She nodded. “I don’t want to kill it. I just don’t. I’ve always wanted to have a child, and even if I can’t have it, at least it will be alive. Just promise me you’ll care for it.”

“Always. It’s my kid, too.”

And so they had an agreement. He promised to pay her in monthly installments until the baby was born and six months after that so her body could recover. He could barely afford it, but it needed to be done. He now owed Nina and her family. He told her also that if he could, he’d bring food as well as money for them. She said it wasn’t necessary, but he insisted he’d do it. “You deserve it and need it,” he said to her. “To make that baby healthy and strong.”

By the time he got back to his apartment he was considerably more drowsy, although he suspected because it was late. Eleven o’ clock, to be exact. It was unusual for him to be out that late except when he was with Nina. On those nights he told Vadim he was doing study work with some of his theory professors at the Conservatory. He’d done it before, so it wasn’t a total lie; at least, that was what he told himself.

He spun the ring around in his hand as he walked up the stairs of the five story building. After their main conversation, Nina pointed it out after he took it from his pocket. He said he’d found it in the grass next to a tree in the park. She said he didn’t believe him. It was a wedding ring with poetry inscribed on the inside of it. No one just loses that. They probably got rid of it on purpose, she said. Like an unofficial divorce. He said he was lucky it fit even his thumb. 

He unlocked the door and went inside. “Vadim, I’m home.” He hung his hat on the hook near the door and hung his coat next to it. He left his shoes next to the wall underneath it.

“What did they have you do this time?” Vadim’s voice came from the other end of the room, which happened to be their bed. He sat there over a book, underlining certain parts of the text with a pencil. The apartment was only a little over two hundred square feet. 

“I was helping younger students analyze fugues. Tricky stuff, but it’s actually quite fun when you get used to it.” 

Vadim chuckled. “I have no idea what you just said, but I’ll take your word for it. What in the hell is a fugue again?” 

Whenever Maxim mentioned specific musical terms, Vadim was clueless, but he learned fast. He had maybe told him once before about fugues, but he was unsure. So he repeated what they were.

“Well, it’s good you helped. Speaking of that, help yourself to some dinner. It’s on the table. Buttered potatoes and some sliced sausage. I think we agreed to save the cabbage for tomorrow when Babushka can make piroshki with it and other people’s cabbage for the whole floor.” 

He murmured his approval. He loved Babushka’s piroshki. Simple as they were, they were always better when she made them. He sat down and ate. Vadim moved over to the table. Better for his neck, he said. They sat in silence for a while. This was yet another thing he loved about Vadim -- how easy it was to be around him. Nothing was awkward or ‘off’ about his presence. It was just there, and it was good.

Suddenly Vadim looked up from his textbook. “Maximochka,” he said softly. “Where’d you get the ring? It’s very nice.”

Maxim had just finished his food and was taken aback. “Oh, I didn’t mean for you to see it. I found it in the park, under some leaves. Someone must’ve dropped it or something. But there’s no name on it, just poetry.”

“What’s it say?”

“Something by Pushkin…” He read it aloud.

Vadim sat back. “That’s beautiful. It’s a shame it was lost, but that’s a good ring. You should keep it.”

Maxim turned it over in his hands. “Actually, it’s too big for me. It barely fits even my thumb.”

“I guess because you’ve got those baby hands? Perfect for the violin, bad for other people’s rings.”

“I guess you’re right,” he said, smiling. Then he thought for a moment. “Maybe you’d like it? It’d probably fit you better since your hands are larger.”

“Oh no, it’s yours, you found it. I’m not asking.”

“That’s right, I am. But just try it on.” He handed it to Vadim, who hesitantly took it from his palm. He slid it onto his ring finger and looked it over on his hand.

“It seems to fit,” he said, looking up. “You’re sure?”

“Yes, it’s yours now.” 

Vadim smiled. “Thank you, Maximochka.”

November 01, 2021 04:13

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22:26 Dec 03, 2021

Lovely story... are you Russian yourself?


O.R. Corporon
16:34 Jan 08, 2022

No, but these characters were actually created for a project for my Soviet history class a few semesters ago. The professor was amazing. She made us prompts to help comprehend what we were learning about in history, just including documents and actual historical data into actual stories of our own. It was so fun. And so out of that came Maxim, Vadim, and Ilya, as well as another character named Valery who isn't related to them. I also love doing research for historical fiction so the fact that we were given assignments for that in class real...


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