Chapter 9: Coincidences or elaborated plans?
They say there is no such thing as coincidences, and I truly believed that. But now, after I had found out the story of my life, which seemed to be like cut out from a movie, I wanted some fresh air. I had in mind to continue searching, even if Dalia had warned me. If they were after me, then I wanted to be a step ahead. I didn’t know where to start, but I had to start somewhere.
My job offered me access to a laptop, so I started searching on the first day. That’s how I found out that Stan Bernard is alive, and he is fifty-six years old. He has the same job: a Prime-Minister’s counselor. The only difference is that the Prime-Minister is not the same. It looks like he managed to build an entire empire based on lies. After a few searches, I’m sure that the other people who were involved in the cover-up are dead. Of old age, accidents, or even the destiny who caught up with them.
He was the only one still alive who was a part of the conspiracy that killed my parents. I want to expose him and to make him pay for what he had done. I needed justice because my life was ruined and he was the one to blame. Maybe I wanted revenge, not only justice but this I was about to find out on my way.
The internet is a good source of information, so I find out that Stan is going to speak to the press, outdoor, in front of the Parliament. Tomorrow evening, at six o’clock. He will speak in the name of Prime-Minister about a peace treaty. I smile because I know I have free time at that hour.
I quickly get used to Raisa’s shop, and I discover she had a storage too. Well, it’s more a pantry, and it’s on the back of the bathroom. She had in there an extensible chair and a blanket. As I have to lock up, because Mia has her own key, I make there a sleeping place. “At least it’s not raining over me”, I say to myself. It’s not cold either.
In the morning, I wake up before the sun rises, and I clean around, to make sure that no one sees again where I’m spending my nights. I wash my face in the bathroom and I leave on the back door. Just like Jin, she had a surveillance camera only in front of the shop.
I leave to search for some coffee, with the money Dalia gave me. I don’t use the machine from the shop because I don’t want to leave the smell in there or to make everyone suspicious. I finally buy a cappuccino and a peanut croissant. I savor them on a bench, then I decide to take a look at the clothes Dalia gave to me. I had them in the backpack, so I didn’t get the chance to look at them.
I open it and I see a blue blouse, a white T-shirt, another black one, a pair of jeans, but they are a little too big for me, a pair of sports shorts, a hoodie, and a jacket made of leatherette. What a generous person. I smile and I start packing them back, but something falls from the hoodie. A small piece of paper. I realize it is a small photograph and not an ordinary one, but one with my parents. I know this because I have seen pictures with Paul and Cassandra the night before on the internet when I wanted to know how Stan Bernard looked like. I couldn’t let the curiosity stress me, so I looked for them too. They look younger here, but it’s still them. It looks split into two pieces at its origins, but now it’s repaired to look good. I figure that Dalia had done that, to have a picture with Paul alone, not with my mother, and she put it together for me. I had mother’s brown hair and Paul’s green eyes. I’d always wondered with whom I looked alike. I show a smile followed by a sigh, then I put the photo in my pocket.
I watch the people walking down the street, and I realize that all I have ever thought about finding my family were shattered dreams. I had attached on the hope that I wouldn’t be alone anymore after I find them or I would understand something. The truth isn’t what you want it to be, and I was disappointed and terrified by the story of my life. Something wanted me alive so bad. I gulp.
I see a gaming area across the street. I have a brilliant idea and I can’t wait until tonight to use the laptop from the shop. I enter there and I sit at a table with a laptop. The technology is advancing fast, so all I need to do is to put a bill inside the machine and I have an hour to do my job on that computer. After a few clicks, I find out that Stan has a son, and that he hired him at the Parliament, of course. It’s a long and weird word next to his name, and I understand that he’s not different from a maid, in my opinion. The only difference is that he’s accompanied by two bodyguards. A lot of scenes cross my mind, about how I can get close to his father, to make him pay for everything. Then I realize he might not have a fault in this situation, just like me. Anyway, I remember his face and name: Sam Bernard.
Time passes fast and I can’t find any other connections with the two of them. Stan’s wife had died of cancer. “Karma”, I think without being sorry. I take my backpack and I head to the Parliament. It’s past lunchtime, and it’s a lot until six o’clock, but I plan on walking there to clear my head. It’s a long road until there, and if I walked it would have taken me a few hours.
On my way there, a shop with fishing stuff catches my attention, so I get inside to take a look. No, I wasn’t planning on going fishing, I wanted to buy a pocket knife and sunglasses. I don’t really know what I’m going to do with that knife, but I guess I’m about to find out.
I continue walking until I’m almost in front of the Parliament. I can see it and, like a psycho, I’m staring and counting the windows, the floors, and I imagine where Stan has his office, and where was my father’s too. I wake up from the state of dreaming when people start gathering around me. I keep the knife hidden well, in my shoe. It disturbs me when I walk, but my plan doesn’t include walking around for now.
It’s past six o’clock for some time and Stan’s late, as an important person as he thinks he is, while people are waiting for him. The area is filled with police and security officers. A couple of gorillas wearing suits sit in a row, a sign that the car is close. The journalists are gathering and pushing each other to take a picture of him or to hear a word. I feel I’m going to throw up, and when I see him getting out of the car, wearing a costume that’s probably more expensive than his car, I just can’t control my reaction and I spit the coffee.
I look up again because I don’t want to miss anything and I see his son following him. He’s dressed just like him, expensive and elegant. They both step on the stage that was specially decorated for them.
“Good evening”, says Stan. “I have the pleasure to be here accompanied by my son, Sam, and to represent the Prime-Minister Markov Joan.”
He mumbles some words, and I can’t understand why they made a press conference especially for two parrots like them, why would they spend so much money on them, as long as the Prime-Minister is not here. I start getting angry. The journalists crowd around to ask them questions. I remain with the sunglasses on and I slip among them, trying to get closer to the stage. When I’m near to the next row, it becomes harder. Here are a lot of security officers, and I can’t get close to Stan.
He’s talking about a peace treaty, then something about some negotiations, but all that I can hear is what a big liar and murderer he is. I catch his son’s eyes, and even if I’m wearing sunglasses, I know he is staring at me. He whispers something into his father’s ear, and he’s looking for me too with his eyes. I make myself small and I sneak out of the crowd, cause their looks don’t foretell something good. Something tells me that his son knows about me, maybe a lot more than I imagined. But how did he recognize me? Maybe I’m being paranoiac again, but I still leave to be sure.
I arrive at the shop at eight o’clock when Mia prepares to close.
“Cara. What are you doing here? It’s your day off!”
“Yeah, but I forgot my agenda. Have you seen it?”
“No… I haven’t noticed it around.”
“I have a key. I’ll go inside and look for it. I’ll lock back, don’t worry. You can go.”
She confirms, and I enter. I lock the door and I get inside the bathroom, where I change into clean clothes and I wash, relaxing after a long day. I was lucky I had a place to clean up because the only thing I couldn’t stand was dirt.
I fall asleep again on the extensible chair, with the blanket on me. I hear a sound, like in a dream, but I don’t bother to wake up in the first minutes. Only when it starts being louder, I jump into my feet. “This can’t be happening! It can’t be thieves again. Not here.” I take a batten from a corner and I head to the door. The noise is louder, and I quickly open the door, with the weapon in my hands, ready to attack. From the other side, I feel splashed with something hot with mint flavor. I hear a shout, but I haven’t hit yet.
“Cara! You scared me!”
I see Raisa standing in front of me.
“Oh, God”, I mumble. “I thought you are a thief.”
But I realize that I’m acting as I’m inside my home, so I try to hide the place where I sleep, but it’s already too late. Raisa looks at me in a certain way, but not with malice or mercy. Something between them.
“Do you sleep here?”
“Yeah, but don’t worry. I’ve learned my lesson. I’ll gather my things and I’ll leave. You won’t hear from me again.”
I start packing things and putting them inside my backpack. Raisa leans on the door and she stares at me with her arms crossed at her chest.
“Before you do that, I want you to come with me somewhere”, she says.
“To the police?” I ask. “I will leave and I will never bother you again. There’s no need to involve the police.”
“Not to the police.”
“Look what. You’ve done a sleeping place from my pantry. I gave you a job, and you saved my purse. I believe that you have a moral debt to pay now because you didn’t tell me what you were doing in my shop. So, come with me. It won’t take long.”
I couldn’t trust her, but if she had said she wouldn’t call the police I put my backpack down.
“Take that too”, she says.
Now I’m sure that I will never be back here, so I drag it disappointed with me. She locks the shop and squeezes the car’s key. The small and white car starts shining like the Christmas tree.
I gulp. She’s probably taking me on some field to punish me for making a sleeping place from her shop. Then I start wondering why on earth I had got inside her car. Bad idea.
“I was looking for something sweet at the shop. That’s why I was there. I use to eat sweets in the night and I couldn’t find anything in the house.”
“Where are we going?”
“You’ll see. Stop being panicked. If I wanted to take you to the police you would be there already. And if I wanted to beat you up, I would have taken out the pale from under the seat. Now relax.”
I google my eyes because I see a version of me talking right there, only she’s richer. The character is the same. Raisa stops in front of a big house. It has one floor, it’s bright on the outside, and there are some big and black gates around it. She gets out of her small luxury car, and I follow her. We walk on a narrow path, but we don’t head to the house, and we turn left.
“This way”, she says, then she turns on the lights.
I see lighting in front of me a little house, quite shattered I might add, and I continue to wonder what are Raisa’s intentions. She opens the door and she asks me to go inside. I remain in the doorstep.
“Go inside. It won’t bite.”
I take another step, shamefacedly, and I take a closer look at the room. There’s a big bed in the middle of the white room, and the blue curtains gave that place a relaxing sensation. Raisa opens another door and I can see there’s a bathroom, where’s a large bathtub. On the right side of the room is an electric stove, and next to it a wardrobe with blue stripes.
“It’s not much. I moved things in here after I made some changes inside the house. It used to be a barn, but now it looks better.”
I keep staring at her with googled eyes, waiting for an explanation.
“Cara, this will be your home if you want to.”
I put my hand on my mouth to cover the shock. I wanted to ask her if she was mocking me and if this was my punishment.
“It’s not a joke”, she says as if she was reading my mind. “Just say yes, and you can keep your job too! I can’t have you as an employee if I know you’re sleeping there! Just accept it!”
“Why are you doing this for me?”
“Oh, you’re too suspicious. Because of that night on the bridge, I know that I saw a kind soul, a trustworthy person, and I want to know your story. You’re an interesting and beautiful person, Cara.”
I think about this for a second, then I put my backpack on the floor.
“I accept, but I need one thing…”
“What do you need?”
“An alarm clock. I want to sleep in peace, without the stress that I won’t wake up for work or that someone may find me.”
Raisa laughs and approves me.
“Done! I’ll get you one right away. Just make yourself at home.”
I sit on the bed, but I jump up right away because I don’t want to dirty it with my clothes. I get inside the bathroom to take a shower, and when I get out I see Raisa sitting on the bed.
“I’ve brought you pajamas and some other clothes. They are all yours now. Here’s the clock too. Now get some sleep. You have four hours left and your shift starts”, she laughs. “Or I can talk to Mia to go instead.”
“No. I’m good. Good night. Thank you, Raisa.”
She walks out smiling, and I remain staring at the ceiling. I was shocked that I’ve accepted her proposal, but I was finally feeling fine. I put on the pajamas, which had a pleasant smell of roses, and I crawled under the pillow. It was good to sleep in a real bed.
For the first time in a very long time, an alarm wakes me up. I jump and turn it off. I had slept only four hours, but it was the best sleep. I stretched into the large bed and a sharp sound came out of my mouth, then I got up on its edge. I feel like it’s a beautiful dream and I’m going to wake up in some ghetto, in the back of the train station or worse, in a coma in a hospital.
What’s happening seems unreal for an unlucky person like me. But I get up, I head to my personal bathroom, I take a cold shower, I arrange my hair with the hairbrush that lies near the mirror and I see a smile on my face. I breathe out released. Everything is real. I put on Raisa’s shirt, which is now mine, a pair of black trousers, then I grab a pair of slippers near the door and I get outside. I see Raisa waiting on the terrace with a cup of coffee for me.
“Did you sleep well?”
“It was the best sleep in my life.”
“I’m glad to hear that.”
I sit at the table and take a sip from the hot coffee. Some cookies with jam are looking so good on the table so I grab one. Then I take another and I see Raisa smiling.
“Some might say that I can’t cook”, she explains laughing.
“I’m ready. Shall we go?”
She looks down at my feet and starts laughing.
“Not before I give you something to put your feet into. You can throw away these ragged shoes that you have, and you certainly won’t go to work wearing slippers.”
She opens a small closet and hands me a pair of shoes.
“Here you go. They fit you.”
When I put my foot in one I feel like Cinderella, when she finally finds her long lost shoe. I start laughing at this thought, and I get up.
“Now I’m ready.”
We walk to her car, where I sit and put the seatbelt on.
“I want something from you”, she suddenly says.
Then I realize that the hospitality is never free.
“I will pay rent and I will contribute to the shopping from my first salary. When I’m back on my feet I will go on my way.”
“I didn’t mean it like an obligation. I just want to know your story. I’ve told you before, you’re an interesting person. This, of course, if you want to share it with me.”
I smile. My trust in her starts to gain some shape, and I begin telling her my childhood, then the rest of my life, until the day Daniel had attacked me. When I reach this part though, I feel a restraint, but I’m lucky that we’re already in front of the store. I’d left behind the part where I felt followed and where I was paranoiac, but I made sure I slipped into the story the parts where I was almost killed by “accident”. I don’t give any names in my story because I don’t want to cause her any trouble.
I get out of the car, but I see she’s not moving.
“You’re not coming?”
“I just dropped you. See you tonight”, she says and drives away.
I unlock the store’s door, but I don’t get to feel too comfortable because the first customer walks in. A tall police officer, whom I haven’t seen before. He asks for a coffee and sits outside at the table. I serve it to him with sugar and a cup of milk, and then I start arranging things on the shelves. I like this new job, and I hope I can keep it. I really want to make it work because I don’t want to let Raisa down.
I feel a lump into my throat though, when I see that cop sitting at the table, and I think about Dylan. It’s been a while since I haven’t thought about him. But what was the point? I could never ruin his perfect life with my messy and complicated life. I’ve always been a pain in the ass. Maybe this is the reason I deserve to have no one by my side.
No customer comes inside in the next hour, so I grab a piece of paper and a pen and I start putting down my thoughts. I begin again to write my book. I start telling my life’s story, and I begin with my childhood, in the same way I’d told Raisa that morning. As I can’t tell anyone about Stan and my parents, I start writing it down to calm myself, changing the names of the people.
Time flies when I do what I please, so it’s two o’clock soon. The bell, which announces the door opening, makes me get out of that state. I get up from the chair and I see a young mom with a little girl, who is looking on the shelves. The girl rushes and grabs some chocolate bars and put them on the counter. I can see by a quick look at her clothes that they don’t really have money. She’s wearing slippers and a time-worn pair of jeans, and under the dirty hood, she wears a white T-shirt, full of dust and dirt. The woman is dressed the same way, but she doesn’t have anything to put over her dirty T-shirt. She approaches carrying some bread, a bottle of cheap milk, some eggs and a bag of flour.
I scan her things, and the chocolate bars, but I see her struggling to find more money in her pockets. She doesn’t have the money to pay for them. She opens the mouth to tell me, but I already know how she’s feeling. I put the sweets inside her bag.
“Have a nice day.”
“It’s fine”, I say.
The woman thanks me, and I take out of my pocket the money I have left from Dalia and pay for the sweets. I go back to my writing and I notice a green light moving around, from the left corner of the shop. This is the moment I realize that camera was turned off when I first came here, and that’s why I haven’t noticed it before. I know now that Raisa had seen me from the first night, and her plan was to bring me into her warehouse all along.
I don’t know if I should feel embarrassed or not, only because I had wandered around her store naked, and she probably had seen everything. I put my hand in the air and wave to the camera, just to let Raisa know that I’m aware of her watching me.
It’s almost eight when she parks the car in front of the store. She’s not a good driver because she hits the dumpster when she parks, and she pushes a bike onto the back of the car too. She lifts them up and walks mumbling inside.
“Not all the women are drivers”, she says and puts a smile on her face.
Then I notice her beautiful features. Her short cut black hair, the gorgeous green eyes, and her perfect skinny body. A beautiful woman. I wonder why she doesn’t have anyone. Or maybe she has. She doesn’t have to share with me details from her personal life.
“Come on. Let’s go home”, she says putting a tablet of dark chocolate into her purse. “This is the best. Ginger flavor.”
I reply with a smile, then I follow her and lock the door.
“So, you’ve seen me there”, she laughs.
“That’s how you knew…”
We get into the car and Raisa shows a white smile. I notice that one of her teeth is a little chipped, but it’s still part of her charm. She sings along with the radio all the way back home as if she worked there. She parks the car inside the yard, not very elegant though. I might have hit the window with my head when she pushed the break if I haven’t had the seatbelt on. I head to my room to leave the papers.
I suddenly see Raisa behind me, waiting on the path.
“Come on inside. I want to show you the house.”
“You trust people easily. That’s not good”, I say.
“And you don’t trust anyone”, she replies. “Now come on.”
I follow her to her house, which looks like taken out from the magazines. When I step inside I’m welcomed by a pleasant smell of lavender. A huge living room is in front of me and on the wall, I can see a TV. There’s a big table with four chairs on my left, and on the right side, I can see a couch and two armchairs. Behind the brown door, I can imagine is the bathroom. Raisa walks me upstairs, where she shows me three more rooms. One of them is messy, a sign that that’s her room. While I’m stepping out, I notice a photograph, but I can’t tell who are the two people in it because it’s too far. A woman and a man. I assume that’s her husband or boyfriend, but I don’t ask it from politeness. I wonder though where he is and why I haven’t seen him yet. Another room seems to be inhabited, but it’s cleaner than hers.
She shows me another bathroom there, and then we head to the living room. She goes to the fridge and comes back with a bottle of red wine and two glasses.
“Cheers”, she says.
I take a sip. I hadn’t had wine since the night I had met Dylan at the bar, so I have a restraint when I touch the glass with my lips. It tastes sweet and good. Maybe too good.
“I’ve seen you on the camera. You write.”
“Yeah. It’s my third attempt at writing a book about my life.”
“May I read what you’re writing?”
“Sure”, I say with half a mouth. “But let me finish it first. It’s just a draft now.”
“Fine. I can’t wait to read it, really. I have an artistic part too. You see this painting? I’ve painted it. I have a dozen in the repository, but I’ve never thought of selling them. They probably don’t worth anything. It’s just a hobby.”
“You can try. Someone once told me to never give up on my dream.”
“Maybe that someone was right.”
I take another sip of wine.
“Cara, I want to know the rest of your story. I’ve remained impressed by what you told me this morning.”
“Believe me, my life is not that beautiful. I find it hard to talk about this.”
“But I write about it. Some names are modified, but I’ll give you the drafts to read them”, I say thinking better about it.
She smiles and empties the glass of wine with one sip.
“I’m going to bring them to you now. I’ve written today the main ideas, until the present day.”
“You’re fast. Go get them.”
I run to the warehouse, happy that someone is finally interested in my work. Even though at a first glance I wasn’t excited about her asking for my story, now I felt good about it in a very strange way. When I get out with the papers in my hands, I see a police car stopped in front of the house. There’s no one inside, but it still makes me feel odd. I don’t want anything to do with these people anymore.
I enter cautiously the living room and I give Raisa the drafts. She thanks me and puts them on the table.
“How come you wrote those in such a short time?”
“Well, I’ve started so many times, and ended so many times, so I know the main ideas without even blinking. It’s my life.”
“I want you to give to me what you’re writing ongoing. I’m really interested.”
“I’ll give them to you.”
I smile and I drink the last drop of wine from my glass. When Raisa fills it again, I hear a door banging upstairs. She seems relaxed, but I jerk. She’s the same when we hear footsteps on the stairs.
If my heart was beating fast because of the curiosity and fear, it starts racing when I see Dylan coming down the stairs. I remain shocked, holding the wine glass, and I realize that he was the man I had seen in the photograph, and the police car from outside belonged to him.
I gulp because I realize that he was the “idiot” Raisa was yelling at on the phone, the night I recovered her purse. Dylan is her husband, or boyfriend, or something. Whatever. The situation can’t get more embarrassing than it already is.
“Oh, good. You’re here”, she says and rushes at him.
She kisses him on the cheek and takes his hand. Dylan’s not wearing the uniform, but shorts and a T-shirt, and I can see his muscles through it.
“I want you to meet someone”, she says.
He is as shocked as me, but he bursts into laughter. He puts his hand through his hair.
“Dylan? Why do you have these faces? Is there something I need to know?” she asks perplexed.
“Oh, you don’t know a lot”, he replies. “But all you need to know is that we already know each other.”
“Seriously? Oh, how small the world is! Cara is staying with us, in the warehouse. I gave it to her. She’s the one who saved my purse that night! She works at the store too. I’ve met her by accident two days ago. She was looking for a job, so I offered her one.”
“It took you quite long to tell me. I haven’t seen her around. In fact, I haven’t noticed that someone is staying in the warehouse.”
He seems to relax, but my heart is still jumping inside my chest. I don’t understand the calm in his voice. Maybe it was just in my head the fact that he wanted something more from me, so this is the reason that he is not worried that his girlfriend took me under her wing.
“Cara? Why don’t you say anything?” she asks me.
“How did you meet?”
“At the bar where she was working before. She knows Dominic too. Long story”, he responds instead.
“Oh, how small the world is! When you saved my purse, I never imagined that I would see you again, or that I will meet you at the store, or that you and my brother know each other!”
It was like a stone was taken off my chest, and my eyes got wet, without knowing exactly why. I put my hand over my mouth to cover my smile. I shook my head, but I couldn’t stop the words coming out.
“Brother…” I laugh. “You’re her brother…” I continue released.
“Yeah. What else?” laughs Dylan.
Raisa starts laughing.
“No! Oh, no! You will understand why men don’t like me” she laughs.
“The way she drives is one of the problems?” I laugh.
“Damn right!” answers Dylan.
And this is how I change my mood from shock to calm, and I relax. A couple of minutes ago, I was under the impression that I needed to get out of here, but I don’t really know why I felt that way. Maybe because I thought it wasn’t fair to ruin Dylan’s “marriage”. But why on earth I felt that when I was who I was and he was from a rich and educated family? I wiped from my mind the image with Cinderella, with me in the main role, which was already following me for some days, and I took another sip of wine.
“I’ll go to sleep”, I say.
“Why don’t you stay for another glass of wine?” Raisa asks me. “At least now when we found out that you know each other.”
“I would love it, but too much wine makes me talk nonsense”, I say and walk away.
I hear the two of them talking and laughing behind me. On my way to the barn, I realize the resemblance between them. It’s obvious they are brothers. Why haven’t I thought about it sooner? I’ve been an idiot to believe that they were married. I enter the room laughing alone at the nonsense that was crossing my mind.
I change into pajamas and lay in bed. The light from their living room is lightening my window, and I can see Dylan silhouette. After he leaves the lights turn off, and I remain to stare at the ceiling. Coincidence? Even if I didn’t believe in coincidences, something tells me that it’s time to do so. The purse, Raisa, the store. Then Raisa, who saved me from the dead without knowing, offering me a job, without noticing how much I needed it, and finally, giving me a home and a life. She had saved me in every possible way. She had also saved me from an embarrassing situation when she told me that Dylan was her brother.
I cover my face with my palms. Under them is a big smile, but I can’t understand this childish feeling. It’s something unique, something I haven’t felt before, and it’s funny that even if I feel euphoric and happy, I’m also terrified. My heart beats fast, and I can’t stop smiling.