Authors: Ani Alexander
Vasko's first story was more or less like all the stories that happen to good guys. He fell in love with a bitch. No, she did not make use of him, but that is only because she did not like him. She did something worse instead. She destroyed his self-esteem, made him feel insecure with girls and left him with no hope that anyone of sane mind could ever like him. She made him believe that he was a loser and that he’d stay that way forever. Vasko believed it all and behaved accordingly...which led him to his second story.
Vasko's only interactions with the opposite sex were limited to one-night stands. That was mostly because he did not want to give girls the time to find out he was a loser, or because he just did not like them so much. There was one particular one-night stand he would not forget in a hurry.
It was Friday night; he’d gone to a party with friends and had, as usual, overcome his shyness by drinking too much. He had hooked up with Sophie. She was rather a plain girl, but Vasko had consumed so much alcohol that he found her quite attractive. He didn’t find her quite so attractive the next morning but, as usual, he just left and forgot about what had happened.
He forgot but Sophie didn't. Her fragile soul was occupied with dreams, plans and emotions. She visualized their future babies. Sophie waited for the call – but it never came. After two days, by which time Vasko had forgotten all about her, she came to see him at the university. Vasko felt uncomfortable and took her to have a coffee and see why she had come. She explained everything, without beating about the bush.
“I came to find out the date of our upcoming wedding.”
Her eyes were shining and she looked happy. Vasko's eyes became much wider than they usually were.
“What?” he almost shouted the word.
Sophie repeated the same words slower, surprised that he did not get it the first time.
“Are you crazy?” Vasko asked, already knowing the answer. He saw the look in Sophie's eyes and was absolutely sure that she was insane.
So, I guess mad women have sex just like sane ones, he thought to himself. Weird!
“Look,” he did not even remember her name, “We were drunk, we had fun, we split up. Just get over it! Forgive, forget and move on.”
Vasko stood up and left. Sophie was looking after him with wet eyes and open mouth. She was not just hurt, she was devastated. She could not understand why he was acting like this or how he could do this to her. But, no matter how strange it might sound, she loved him even more... She decided that she loved him more than life.
A few days later, Vasko received a call.
“Hi, it’s Sophie's father. We need to meet.”
“Look, I’m sorry but may I ask why you want to meet me?” Vasko did not want to meet the man. He did not want to hear how badly he had treated Sophie and how hurt she was. He did not want to know anything about her at all. That's what one-night stands are for – no second meetings, no talking and no feeling.
“Look, I'm sorry but you will find out when you come. I’ll be waiting for you at 6 sharp near the Independence monument.” The man's voice was sharp and loud.
“How will I recognize you?”
“I will recognize you, don't worry. I can smell fuckers like you from a long way off.”
Vasko spent a few minutes thinking what to do and finally decided to go and see what the man wanted. After all, he would call again or find him anyway, so the sooner he dealt with the issue the better. He never thought that even safe sex could cause so many complications.
Vasko approached the monument. He saw a middle-aged, troubled man under it. Most probably it was Sophie's father.
Vasko walked towards him.
“Hello,” he said, shaking the man's hand.
“Hi,” the man looked puzzled. To him the guy seemed quite nice and polite. He had imagined seeing a spoilt, irresponsible person instead.
“Let's go and sit in the park. We need to talk.”
“OK,” Vasko was not OK with the whole situation, but he’d been taught to show respect towards people who were much older than himself. The middle-aged man, whose name Vasko did not find out, looked sad and concerned.
They went into the park and sat down on the first bench.
“Look, there is something you need to know. Sophie tried to kill herself two days ago.”
Vasko looked horrified. He could not believe what he just heard. It appeared that Sophie was crazier than he thought and things were getting scary. Actually, it scared the shit out of him.
“Why?” Vasko whispered.
“Well, I don't know what exactly happened between you guys. And I don't think I really want to know. But she left a letter stating that it is because of you: she cannot live without you and since you don’t want to marry her, she’d be better off dead,” the man told him in one breath.
It looked as if he thought that the faster he spoke, the sooner it would all be off his chest and he would feel better. In fact he did not feel any better, but at least now Vasko knew the whole story.
“I am really sorry,” Vasko did not know what to say. He had no idea what the man wanted. Had he been in a rage, shouting at him and shaking his fist, Vasko would have perceived it as a logical and understandable reaction. But now, seeing the lost man, Vasko pitied him. The man had a crazy daughter and was supposed to live with it.
“Look, I know most probably it’s not your fault and that she is emotionally vulnerable and probably had made all sorts of things up in her mind. But I also know that most probably she may try to do it again. So, until she calms down, do you think you could maybe go out with her for a while?” The man's eyes were begging him.
“I am really sorry. I would have loved to, but in a few days I am leaving for the UK as an exchange student,” Vasko lied, with the simultaneous realisation that he would now have to do what he’d said. Now he had to call his friend, find out about that student exchange programme and enrol. It seemed the smartest way out.
And that was how he’d been living latterly. Completely passionate about his studies, unlucky with girls and quite happy in the chat room where he’d met Annika.
Annika did not
realise that her jump was symbolic of the end of her first love and the beginning of her next one. She had no idea that, by jumping from the bridge, she was leaving her story with Stefan behind. That had not happened to her as she was now, but only to her old self. Jumping off, she created a new self – a braver, stronger, better self. With no self-pity, no regrets and no questions… She finally accepted the fact that whatever had happened was in the past; it was behind her past and it had nothing to do with her present and especially not with the future.
Annika and Vasko had taken to spending the last five hours in the day, before going to sleep, chatting on the internet. By then, they’d become such friends that they could talk about anything. There were no secrets between them ... well, almost none. Annika had decided to spare Vasko most of the details about her painful past. All he knew was that she’d had a very serious relationship, which had caused her severe emotional pain and suffering. Vasko in his turn preferred to keep Sophie's story to himself. But other than that, they covered everything else concerning their lives.
“So, how was your day?” (
What are you expecting to hear? That she missed you?
“Pretty much as always...” (
You don't need to know that by saying that I always mean empty and cold.
“Mine too, but I’ve got some news for you.” (
Interesting - how she will react?
“What's the news?” (
Strange... sounds official.
“Well, I am leaving for the UK in a few days...as an exchange student.” (
Tell me you don't want me to go, please, please tell me!
“Wow!!!! Cool :) I didn’t know you’d applied.” (
It is not cool at all... clearly he doesn’t even care enough to share his plans with me.
“Well, it happened spontaneously and was not planned.” (
You don't need to know about the psyche and the rest.
“You surprise me! Don't get me wrong but spontaneous behavior is not what you’re about.” (
He is hiding something... but, on the other hand, who said he is supposed to tell me everything?)
“Yes, you are quite right. But this was one of the rare exceptions.”
“It won't change much I guess. You will have internet there too, right?” (
It would be so nice if we lived close and I could see your eyes rather than the letters on the screen
“Sure, our meeting space will stay the same.” (
Same screen, same unpleasant letters and you... so far away!
Not at all nice.. but something needed to be typed, and it was my turn.
“Do you think you will be coming back?” (
Coming back to... me?
“Sure! I don't think I will like the weather there...” (
Or staying away from you.
“Ok then, when you come back bring some really tasty British tea and I'll make cookies.” (
Don’t you dare forget you have someone to come back to...me!
Cookies and tea are worth coming back for, if you will be sharing them with me!
Annika was sad. It was stupid... he was just a friend. And actually only a virtual one, since they did not meet in person again after the jump, and the chat was all they had. But either way, it was much nicer to think of Vasko being a two-hour drive away rather than a four-hour flight away.
By the time
Vasko left for the UK, Stefan had finally stopped trying to reach Annika and either believed that she had left the country, or pretended to believe it. In any case, Annika no longer jumped whenever her mobile rang and, in her perception, Stefan was sliding into a memory.
Stefan was memory, Vasko was away. She missed both of them and she felt a huge vacuum inside... She felt empty.
Annika filled the void with books. She swallowed them one after the other. After each book she read, Annika wrote something to herself. She wrote about her feelings, memories, hopes, dreams and pain. She did not write about the future though...
Annika did not know what the future would hold; nor did she even know how she wanted it to be. Her love of adventure sometimes made her think of going off to Tibet or Nepal and spending time there to find herself again and regain her equilibrium. But Annika decided that she’d already had quite enough adventures in the past few years. So she let inertia propel her forward and all she did was stick to routine, to what was ordinary and just happened day by day.
The only bright spots to her days were the late evenings, when Vasko appeared in the chat room. He was there every single day, with no exceptions, no weekends and no days off. For his part Vasko would count the hours until he could finally get into his dorm room, close the door and “date” Annika.
Annika smiled at the screen every time the message “Saviour logged in” appeared on it. He came, and it meant he cared, she thought. After what had happened with her and Stefan, she truly believed that caring for someone was more important than loving. That is what they were both doing at this stage: they were just truly looking out for each other. Nothing stronger, nothing deeper, nothing more... yet!
Their slow-paced cyber friendship was gradually becoming cyber love. Their conversations were taking on romantic accents. So, not just caring any more. They were opening up to each other and sharing everything together. No longer were their pasts mysteries to each other. They both knew where the other one was coming from and felt that from now on they should be following their paths together. Vasko was the only one Annika felt close to. Annika was the first person Vasko could trust. Things were so different from the fast-paced, insane passion and love-at-first-sight with Stefan. Vasko and Annika were both being very careful. They were moving slowly and the long distance only made everything progress more smoothly.
By the end of the second month of Vasko's stay in the UK, they’d already said they loved each other. By the third month they were already counting the days until Vasko would be back. They couldn’t wait to meet again and they were crossing off the days on the calendars which were hanging on their respective walls.