Authors: Ani Alexander
Their first months together were reminiscent of classic romantic movies. The scenes were ideal and perfect. The fact that they had only one tea cup to share, only two spoons to eat ice cream with, only one plate and two coffee cups to start their morning with, emphasized the level of their intimacy. They spent most of their weekend afternoons in bed at home, going to wild parties at night.
It seemed as if they were living at two different extremes. They enjoyed their cosy, minimalist apartment, and treasured their intimacy with no one around. At home the quiet atmosphere, the sounds of music filling the air and their unspoken but meaningful words had become their company.
On the other hand, when they went out, they embraced just the opposite. Parties were wild, people around them many, music loud, laughter not often genuine so much as artificially prompted by alcohol and drugs. That is how they lived: in harmony and extreme quiet during the week and in a crazy, extremely dangerous way at weekends.
Memories of those times come like different snapshots: Annika with tousled hair and Stefan's shirt on her naked body... Stefan - coming back home with a present... That happened very often and the presents varied from clothes, sunglasses and perfumes to flowers, or simply strawberry-flavored ice-cream on a stick – her favorite... Stefan painting the apartment doors, while Annika was trying to hang their first photo on the bedroom wall… Stefan teaching Annika to cook and the pair of them covered in flour making pizza, both laughing like kids...
Mainly they met Stefan's friends out, because they both cherished their love nest and didn’t want to share it with anyone else. It was something intimate, too precious and important to open up to others. It was theirs alone, and that was the way they both liked it.
With each day, they created memories. Memories they would both recall year after year. Those bitter-sweet memories would follow them for a long time.
He taught her to cook: she taught him to care. He taught her to be brave: she taught him to share his fears. They both taught each other a lot, and they both grew up together. They both found out what real, pure, unconditional love was. It was a nice discovery and an amazing experience. What they did not realise at that stage was that such love never lasts. It is so intense that it is doomed to burn out fast.
Besides all the love, devotion, warmth and passion, Stefan was also extremely caring. Maybe that is why Annika never missed her previous home, or even her parents. She felt protected and adored.
Stefan knew that Annika ate too little and he made her breakfast every morning, making sure that she ate everything up to the last bite. He ate much faster so, when he finished, he’d put his hands under his chin and watch her eat with a smile on his face. Every time Annika wanted to leave a piece on the plate, he would raise his eyebrows and pretend he was disappointed and annoyed. Then they’d laugh and she had no choice but to finish it all up. Sometimes he would even feed her with a spoon or fork. At moments like those, she felt like a tiny, helpless girl who had finally found her saviour.
Annika was due to graduate in a few days. She really hoped that she would find a job soon because she could not imagine her life without her patients.
On the last day of her internship, the big boss asked her to come and see him in the morning. Annika entered his office around ten, thinking it would be a warm, good-bye, good-luck kind of conversation. But what she heard was so much better.
“Annika, we’ve all been very happy working with you. You are very responsible, professional and mature. You have a special gift: your character makes patients trust you and become friends with you. I sincerely hope that you too think that this past year of working together has been positive for both of us?”
“Yes, it has been. I’ve really enjoyed working here,” Annika had a pang of regret in her chest. Too bad it's over, she thought.
“Does that mean you wouldn’t mind working here? I mean for real this time. A real job, with a real title and a real salary,” the man smiled, knowing the answer in advance.
“Then consider today your first working day. And like any other doctor, you will have your own patients. Here are their cards. Your first patient will be coming in an hour.” The man took five cards from the drawer and handed them to Annika. “From now on you will not deal with burns only. You will get new patients once these get better.”
“Thank you.” Annika couldn’t find the right words, but she was over the moon. She felt extremely happy.
Annika held the patients' cards like a precious gift and walked down the corridor. These were her very first patients and from now on she was not an intern helping doctors. Now she was a doctor herself and it felt really good. She could not keep the smile off her face.
The other doctors, now her new colleagues, had known the news since the day before. All of them liked Annika and were glad that she was joining them. That is why they had arranged a small welcome party, with cake and juice, in the doctors’ quarters. Annika was so touched that she even shed a few tears of happiness.
Annika's first patient was coming in few minutes and she was waiting impatiently. She had decided that it would be better to receive the patients, see what they would say and then check their card records. Besides it would be interesting to see if her intuition would let her guess who the patient would be – male or female?
Someone knocked twice on the door.
“Come in,” Annika shouted.
The door opened slowly and Stefan came in.
Both looked at each other in amazement.
“Hi. What are you doing here?” Stefan asked, not yet realising what was happening.
“Waiting for my first patient,” Annika told him, her eyes sparkling.
“Dr Jordanova? It never even occurred to me that it could be you!”
“It all happened so fast, I didn’t even have time to call you up,” Annika replied.
The nurse knocked and came in to pick up something from the room. She looked at both of them and suspecting something, asked
“Do you guys know each other?”
Instead of replying Annika and Stefan burst out laughing and it was quite a few minutes before they finally managed to calm down. Starting from that day, Annika was not only Stefan's friend and lover, but also his doctor.
Annika was at work one day when Stefan called her before lunch.
“Hi babe. I’m afraid we can't have lunch today. My friend Dick, remember the one from the US? He’s back for a few months, and I’m meeting him now.” Stefan’s voice was very excited and happy.
Annika knew that before Dick had left for the United States, he and Stefan had been really close friends. That was before Annika entered Stefan's life, so she had only seen a few photos of Dick. In any case she was glad to know that Stefan was in a good mood.
When her workday was over she walked home. Stefan had come home to change his clothes and wait for her before they went to a party and he finally introduced his big love to his best friend. He was really excited. Annika kissed him and went to take a quick shower to be at her freshest after a hard day’s work at the hospital.
“C’mon babe, hurry up,” Stefan shouted through the door of the bathroom. They were going to a party at a friend's villa and he was becoming impatient.
In a few minutes Annika came out wrapped in a towel. Her long, slender feet were barely covered and she looked terrific with her long, wet, wavy hair hanging down to her shoulders. In general she had a very nice figure but, hidden behind her usual jeans and T-shirts, not many people would notice. She was not the kind of girl who used all sorts of different tricks such as high heels, wonder bras and makeup in order to look attractive and desirable. Maybe because she had plenty of other attributes and had neither the time nor the inclination for such wiles. At work she had her doctor’s white coat and, besides, Stefan liked her the way she was, so stylish clothes and uncomfortable shoes were not part of her life.
That is why it took her only a few minutes to put on her clothes and pick up her handbag. She came out of the bedroom and moved towards Stefan. Annika hugged him tight and kissed his lips.
“We can go,” she said with a smile on her face. She was sure that, as always, they were going to have a great time and she was happy to go.
They drove for almost an hour to get to the place. The car stereo was on and both sang along to the songs. They did not talk much. Annika loved it when they drove along the highway in the dark. She found something mystical and exciting about it. No matter how ironic it might sound - especially remembering how they met - Stefan was a good driver.
When they got there, the place was already packed. The music was loud and there was a constant flow to and from the kitchen where people were getting their drinks. Smoke, and not just from cigarettes, was already filling the room.
Dick and a few other friends sat on the sofa. Stefan went over, hugging Annika with one arm. Dick jumped up and ran to Stefan. They gave each other a hug and no-one would think they had not seen each other for ages. In fact, before they’d met that afternoon and spent a few hours chatting and eating together, they hadn’t seen each other for two years.
Dick looked at Annika standing behind Stefan's back and whistled.
“Wow! You were right, she really looks great!”
Annika smiled, but it was simply because she was polite. From the moment she saw Dick, she did not like him. Intuitively she had the feeling the guy was exactly what his name said, if you turn it into lower case. There was something about the guy that made Annika feel tense and expect potential danger.
Flame was among the friends sitting on the couch. Feeling the tension, he got up, took Annika's hand and led her to sit next to him.
Flame was the nickname of Stefan's other best friend. He was a tall, slim guy who always wore ripped tight jeans and different black T-shirts. Flame had long, black curly hair, which he tied back. He was one of those creatively crazy people, who aren’t always understood and most of the time aren’t taken seriously. It just happened that Annika and Flame had a very “special” relationship. Flame always wanted to protect her, always wanted to know her thoughts and feelings, and really enjoyed pushing things too much with her. Annika, on the other hand, was a bit scared of him, since he was someone she could not understand at all, and as a result she could not even decide whether she liked or hated him. But one thing was for sure; he knew Stefan and Dick very well and understood the whole situation much better than Annika did.
Flame sat next to her and whispered in her ear,
“Don't let him provoke you. He’s rude, arrogant and cocky. Just ignore him.”
She hoped she would manage. The guys chatted nonstop. They recalled different incidents and stories from their past. Every once in a while the couch would shake, they were laughing so much. Annika was no part of it all, and she felt as if she were merely an onlooker. Stefan's whole attention was focused on Dick; this was the first time Annika had felt neglected and she longed for Stefan to notice.
As Flame had correctly predicted, Dick tried to pick on Annika throughout the evening.
“Hey Annika, did Stefan tell you that we used to share his or my girlfriends?” His question was followed by a loud guffaw.
“He’s joking, Annika,” Stefan said, looking and sounding strange.
Maybe that was because of what they were smoking. Annika knew the smell of marijuana, since they used it from time to time to relax. This was something else. It had more intense smoke and had a sweetish smell. Dick and Stefan were smoking it. Flame squeezed her hand, as if to tell her he was there and she shouldn’t pay any attention. Provocative comments kept coming and Annika was feeling really furious. Dick was acting like a dick, Flame was a guy she could not quite trust and her “one and only” had turned into someone she no longer recognized.
Dick sipped his whisky and, looking straight into Annika's eyes, and knowing how much it would hurt her, asked:
“What have you been doing with Stefan? He’s only got happy now he’s smoking the magic I brought him.”
That was the last drop. Annika stood up, looked down at him and shouted
“You're such an asshole! And I’m sure you are still one even when you are not high, so what you smoke does not change you at all.”
She walked out and all Stefan did was to look after her without even trying to get up. Flame ran after her instead.
“Hey Annika, wait!”
Flame looked concerned and Annika suspected that it was not about her. There was something else. Annika felt tired and really wanted to go home and go to bed. Tonight she was sick and tired of Stefan's friends and didn’t feel like going back at all, if that was why Flame had come after her.
“Look, I know how you feel and I know you’re confused. I also know that Stefan will kill me if he finds out I've told you but there is something you should know. Dick is a drug addict and if things carry on the way they’re shaping up now, then most probably Stefan will get smooched into it too. So, run baby, run.
Before it's too late.”
Annika looked at Flame and said
“As I see it, Stefan thinks he has two best friends but in fact he hasn’t even got one.” She turned away and left.
Flame stood there for a few minutes with a sad expression in his eyes, then sighed and went back in.