"Katya," my father called to me. It was a smile overflowing with humour. A smile that said 'damn the world, I'll do what I like and enjoy doing it too.' It was a smile that had often gotten him into trouble. My mother called it the smile of the devil. Most people still believed in the devil back then. It was a smile that had gotten him kicked out of our house barely an hour ago.
"Katya," my father said again, his eyes twinkling with delight as he moved his hand along the smooth metal finish of the Zhar-Ptitsa's wing, his plane which he loved just as much as he loved me, or so he claimed. I suspected that he loved his plane just a tiny bit more. "Do you think the Emperor ever gets kicked out of the palace because he fooled around a little with one of the kitchen maids? No! And don't they say that every man is king in his own house?"
"They don't s say that about emperors though," I murmured. "And if you think mother's going to let you back in because of that then you're an idiot."He often got kicked out of the house. He kept a change of clothes, several bottles of vodka and a revolver in his locker at the hangar just for these occasions.
Why would he need a gun in a secure air force base, you ask? The gun was for when he got drunk enough to stumble home and shout out to the whole neighbourhood that he would kill himself unless Yana let him come home again. Yana is the name of my mother. When he did this she would usually run out to him, box his ears and drag him inside by his collar, all the while hurling abuse at him. He'd just grin at her, and then suddenly sweep her into his arms and kiss her full on the mouth, saying she was the most beautiful person in the world, giving her the full intensity of his maddening grin, that could be so charming if he used it at the right time. She'd hurl him off her then, and then spit on the ground telling him that he stunk of vodka. But there'd be a secret joy to everything she did after that, a slight smile that would not go away until he let slip about some other foolish thing he'd done, or some woman he'd met far away. And if he grinned while he said it he'd be booted out of the house once more, to play this whole charade over again. My father was a fool, but also a hero of the empire, the patriot that everyone aspired to be, unless one was an anarchist. He was also the best goddamn pilot in the world.