A GUST OF WIND WHIPPED against the window, the pane of glass rattled against its frame. Dina involuntarily shuddered. Already it was April and yet the weather was so foul.
"Are you ready yet?" she called to her son.
"Nearly," Marik's voice carried from the bathroom.
Dina scowled. Fifteen years old and still not able to get ready in time to catch the bus to school. Another gust of wind blasted the window, the curtains swaying with the draft. Then the rain started. The water hammered against the glass, a sudden shower driven by this incessant wind.
Marik emerged, his dark hair still wet from his morning shower.
"Haven't enough time for breakfast, Mama," he casually announced.
"You should've got up earlier," Dina said with her hands on her hips. "You know how important breakfast is."
"Yeah, I know," Marik replied in a voice that said that he had heard the same lecture too many times before. "I've gotta go, I'll miss the bus."
Marik disappeared into his room for a moment, returning wearing his long woollen overcoat. Just then, someone thumped against the door of their apartment. Dina was surprised, wondering who would be knocking at this time of morning. Dina turned towards the door and stopped. Something didn't seem right. Thumping on the door again. Dina unlocked the handle and eased the door part-way open against the safety chain, peering through the small gap to see who it may be.
Suddenly the door burst open, the chain ripped from the door frame. Dina froze as two men stormed into her home. One of the intruders grabbed Dina's arm and twisted it behind her; she gasped with the pain. He grabbed her other arm, holding her wrists tight. Holding her immovable. Pulling herself together she struggled, tried to pull her arms free, but he was too strong. She twisted and squirmed and then he hit her -- hard. The sound of the slap echoed around the room. Dina's cheek felt like it was on fire. Despite the stinging pain she tried as hard as she could to get away until he hit her in her side with such force that she staggered and would have fallen had he not been holding her. While she battled with the intruder, all she could think of was Marik. They other intruder was holding her son. Like her Marik was struggling. Like her Marik wasn't strong enough.
"Let's go," the man holding Dina said while he steered her towards the door. Dina stiffened her legs, but he kicked her knees and she collapsed in agony. Only she didn't hit the floor, he grabbed her around her waist and half-dragged and half-carried her into the corridor instead. Dina tried to look over her shoulder and see what was happening to Marik. But she couldn't, all she could hear was the sounds of a struggle, a crash from the apartment when something hit the hard floor.
Dina was dragged past the lift and towards the fire escape. Forced into the cold concrete stairwell and pushed down flight after flight of stairs. Dina twisted and squirmed and tried to pull free from his grasp, but the more she struggled the weaker she felt. It was a long way, a full five storeys, and she was totally exhausted by the time they emerged into the grimy foyer of her Konykovo home. Still holding Dina's waist with one arm, her captor used his free hand to push the doors open and she stumbled outside into the bitter wind.
Dina tried to shout, "who are you, what do you want?" but her voice left her. She was shoved towards a dirty blue van parked at the kerb. The rear door of the van was open, and the big man effortlessly tossed her inside, her knee hit a sharp edge and she screamed with the pain. She looked up just in time to see Marik still struggling. Her big son was making a last stand until both men threw him. He slid across the floor and hit his head on the metal wall. The rear door closed, car-doors slammed, the engine started and the van pulled out and away. Dina sat up, rubbing her sore knee, trying to keep her balance while the van tore around corners on its way to -- God knew where. Eventually the lurching eased, and it was clear they had joined the main road. Were they heading towards Moscow or were they heading the other way?
Marik rubbed his head and winced with pain. "Mama, what's happening?" he asked.
Dina shook her head, "I don't know," she said.
"What are those men going to do to us?"
Dina crawled to her big son and put her arms around him. "Don't worry, it's just a mistake. You'll see."
Marik looked up at her, tears in his eyes. "Are you sure?" he asked.
"Yes," Dina said. But she didn't believe a word of it.