THE MONGOLIAN GIRL - CHAPTER TWENTY-FOUR
The three of them stood huddled together on the frozen snow illuminated by orange light from the hotel doorway. Sarantuya looked up at Tom, then turned and spoke to the man in the black trilby hat. He held out his hands as he started to interpret her words:
"She says she telephoned the hotel. The receptionist assured her that she would pass the message on to you. There was a special performance for a group of visiting Soviet officials. She had to work or she would have lost her job. She was so disappointed when you didn't call again, and thought that you must be angry with her."
There were shouts from across the square as Tom blurted out, "Oh, Sarantuya, I'm so sorry."
She saw compassion in his eyes, heard her name and then jumped as a rifle was fired behind her. They spun round and looked across the road at the demonstration. One of the soldiers was standing on the plinth of the statue of Lenin, holding his Kalashnikov aloft. Tom looked to see if anyone was hurt. Then he saw the soldier take aim and fire again over the heads of the crowd.
The man spoke again in English, "I must rejoin my friends. They need me. Stay here and look after Sarantuya. See that she gets home safely."
"Yes, of course. But, who are you? What is your name? I want to thank you."
The man had already started to stride across the road, but shouted back, "My name is Boshigt."
Tom and Sarantuya watched him run through the line of soldiers and disappear into the crowd. There was shouting and then suddenly the demonstrators ran in all directions and scattered across the square, disappearing down the dark side streets. The soldiers shouldered their rifles, climbed back into the truck and drove away down
Tom pointed to the hotel entrance, but Sarantuya nodded her head. He was panic-stricken. Oh God, she hasn't misunderstood me, has she? He wanted to say, no I didn't mean that, but he just didn't have the words.
She smiled and pointed down the street: "Minee ger."
Tom smiled back. He understood. She was saying, "My home."
As they walked away from the hotel, past the big yellow building of the
They reached a bus stop and joined the end of the queue. As they stood in line, Tom desperately sought the words he needed to arrange to see her again. Two old ladies in front of them, carrying loaves of bread wrapped in brown paper, turned and gave them icy stares, then edged forward. The bus was approaching.
To be contd.