"Irina Ivanovna, may she rest in peace, was one of my best friends, but at first she was my enemy," Tanya began her narration.
"When I was in school, she was the math teacher. I got 'fives' in all of my classes except Algebra, and it was because of my mother. My mother was on a committee for a cooperative that distributed food, and she did not do favors for Irina Ivanovna, who at that time only gave 'fives' to those students whose parents gave her credit 'po blatu' -- bartering their services for hers. That was the way people survived back then, you know. When Irina Ivanovna, with her long nails and big bosoms, handed me my grades and I saw a 'two', I thought I would hate her forever.
"Then, when I had finished my courses at the institute, I was sent to a job where she was the supervisor. I was scared at first, when she called me into her office and grilled me with questions about my political point of view, etc., but when she was done, she smiled and told me that my views coincided with hers.
"That was only the first hurdle in my joining this collective. When I began working, I noticed that my colleagues did not like me, because Irina Ivanovna was giving me more responsibility than they had, even though I was new. They treated me badly, glaring at me and saying bad things behind my back. I told them: all I want to do is work, just let me work, I'm a hard worker. Because I was.
"Irina Ivanovna must have noticed what was going on. She called me into her office one day, when she did, I was again apprehensive, and stood there waiting for some kind of punishment. The other women sympathized with me, saying they hoped everything would be all right. I said again that we just need to do our job, that is the most important thing.
"Irina waved me into her office, and then asked me to step into a closet with her. Once in the closet, she pulled out a bar of Swiss chocolate and some ice cream and offered it to me. It was delicious. I realized from that point on that she was my friend and ally.
"When I walked out of the supervisor's office, the other ladies gathered around me, and I screamed, 'Blya!!!' as loud as I could (insert your favorite expletive). They understood from my manner that I had barely survived the altercation with the boss, and I warned them, 'We'd better get right to work, so nothing more like this happens.'
"After that, the relationship with my colleagues was totally normal. And Irina Ivanovna and I became great friends, we always had the best discussions. But once, she came to my place after I had been drinking a lot and demanded, as was her way, a haircut. 'I have a conference tomorrow, I need a haircut.' The more I protested, the more firm her demands became. So I cut her hair as if she were getting a military crew cut, as if she were a man, and then she had to wear a wig to the conference. She was mad about it later, but I explained how tipsy I was, and that she had kept insisting while I refused. She said she didn't for a minute notice that I'd been drinking. In spite of that we remained friends. Even after I left for America, she held my job open for me, just in case I might return, until her death.
"Your turn, Zaika," announced Tanya at last.
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