Vera Petrović: A novel

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Chapter Four

Chapter Four

“The next day, I took my bag and decided to go back to the dormitory. It turned out that there was absolutely no one on my side. I happened to be the victim, and everyone was sharpening his knife to finish me off.

“When I returned to the dormitory, my roommates were still at the university. I changed my clothes and thought thoroughly about the next step. I immediately went down to the reception desk. I called the faculty of Economics to inquire if I could register in the current term. On the other end, there was a nice woman who responded to all my inquiries and asked me to come to her office the next day. She said that her name is Vesna Dragović. I finished my call and went back to my room.

“In about an hour, my roommates came back. They asked, ‘Where were you? We were worried sick!’

“I went to consult with my family about what I intend to do.’

“But why? You had classes!’

“I mentioned the incident with the professor. Sonia said, ‘This is what happened?’

“Yagoda asked, ‘What are you going to do now?’

“I called the School of Economics today and talked to the lady in charge of registration. She asked me to pass by her office tomorrow, and I intend to go.’

“Sonia was surprised and said, ‘You wish to register at the school of Economics and drop out of the school of medicine for one person!!’

“Yes, that is precisely what I will do! I will not let anyone control my destiny, or my life, whoever it is!’

“I suggested going all out for a coffee at the coffee shop opposite the dormitory, and they both agreed. We went out and sat on the outdoor terrace of the coffee shop, which was usually taken by other customers. So this was the first time we had had the chance to sit in such a unique area. It was by far the most fascinating place in the coffee shop. The terrace was so wide open with beautiful bamboo chairs, round wooden tables covered with see-through glass tops, and beautiful shrubs. However, the most fantastic thing was that the coffee shop overlooked the streets and houses of old Belgrade. We sat for a while and enjoyed the chat and laughs, then went back to the dormitory.

“Next day, I got up early to go to the Faculty of Economics. I went straight to Ms. Vesna Dragović’s office. I knocked on the door and introduced myself as the person who called the day before.

“She said, ‘Of course, I remember you. Take this seat. I just need to finish some paperwork, then I will be happy to help you.’

“Sure, thank you.’

“After a while, the lady turned to me and said, ‘What is the reason for your late registration?’

“I had some family circumstances which held me back.’

“The one thing in your favor is that exams have not commenced yet. I will ask the person in charge to register you right away and say the delay is due to circumstances beyond your control. Do not worry. He is a lovely person and helps everybody.’

“She called him and explained the situation, and I listened to their conversation. When she hung up, she said, ‘Now you can submit your papers because he agreed on your joining the faculty.’

“The lady was extremely nice to me. She even wrote all the required documentation on a piece of paper and handed it to me. I kind of knew the required documents, yet I feared a rejection for the late registration. However, things turned out well for me.

“Next day, I was waiting for Ms. Vesna Dragović at the office door. She came in smiling and said, ‘You look quite diligent today arriving before I did.’

“Then she asked me for the required documents, and I handed them to her. She registered me, gave me the student booklet, and said, ‘Your classes will be on the first and second floors, and you can take note of the schedule from the note board downstairs or from any of the students in class when you attend. You can also ask them for the notes of the classes you have missed.’

“I thanked her and went out so happy. I went straight to the classroom after taking note of the schedule from the note board, and then I joined my colleagues.

“A female student sat next to me, and I introduced myself, ‘I am Vera Petrović.’


“My name is Svetlana Mihajlović. Aren’t you late in registering?’

“Yes, very late. I encountered some circumstances beyond my control, and they held me back. However, here I am. Can I ask you for a favor?’

“Sure, we are colleagues now!’

“Can you provide me with the material I have missed, please?’

“Sure, I will bring them all tomorrow, and you can copy them.’

“I expressed my gratefulness, and we attended the lecture. After class, I asked her, ‘Where do you live?’

“I am from Belgrade, and I live close to campus.’

“I thought you came from outside Belgrade.’

“No, I am Beograjanka (from Belgrade).’

“See you tomorrow.”

“Alright then. See you later.”

“I rushed back to the dormitory, rearranged my books, and some papers from the old faculty and decided to dispose of them. I replaced them with the new books. Days went by so fast as if there was a kind of race.

One day I decided to visit the Faculty of Medicine, I have no idea what prompted me to do this visit. I had no idea what I will do there, so I headed to the cafeteria and sat watching girls in lab coats. As I was watching them, a girl in a white lab coat approached me and asked:

“You were a student in this faculty, weren’t you?”

I answered: “True, but I withdrew in the first couple of weeks.”

She asked: “May I know the reason behind that?”

I answered: “I do not wish to talk about this now, especially that everything is over.”

She added: “I witnessed the situation with Dr. Miško Milanović, which made you withdraw from the faculty.”

I asked her: “are you sure?”

She added: “let me introduce myself. My name is Zora Lukić, and my father is Professor Dejan Lukić, a faculty member at the faculty of medicine. When that situation happened between yourself and Dr. Miško Milanović, I told my father about it, and he told me: “Miško was one of my students, not only a colleague. I consider him as a son, and no one knows his story but myself!”

So I asked: “does he have the right to do what he does, what about the reputation of the faculty and the faculty members who work in it.”

My father answered: “I will tell you the story of Dr. Miško on one condition; you cannot tell anyone about this story.”

I promised my father and said: “everything you say will stay between us.”

So my father said: “Miško was a freshman at the faculty of medicine, and he was very special and all professors who taught him agree on that. He was an outstanding student from the first day until his graduation. All of his grades were 10 out of 10. Therefore he was appointed as a teaching assistant at the faculty. His intelligence was exceptional and all professors predicted him a great future. His peers envied him but only one girl accompanied him at all times, and the way he treated her showed how much he was attached to her. She happened to be the daughter of a politician and he was well known. There were a number of students who liked this girl and they were powerful, so conflict surfaced between them on this girl. One day, one of these young men came with a gun and threatened Miško of killing him if he does not leave that girl alone, however, Miško was very bright and very brave, so he decided to marry this girl despite the difficult circumstances which surrounded him. He went to see her politician's father and asked for the hand in marriage. The politician asked him: “what do you do for a living?” and Miško Milanović answered: “I am a student at the school of medicine, but in three years I will have graduated.” So the father asked further: “and how do you intend to start a marriage when you are still a student?”

So Miško replied with a lot of nerves: “this is between me and her!”

her father answered: “ I am her father, and I need to make sure she will be alright! So what does your father work?”

“My father is a barber.” Miško Milanović answered

The politician said: “get out of here! I do not wish to see you or hear from you again!”

This is, according to the professor of Dr. Miško Milanović. Miško was also his research and teaching assistant, and after two years, Miško was in his final stage before graduation, he asked the girl he adored to marry him in secret, behind her father’s back but she said: “I cannot! He will kill me if I do so! He is a very important figure and nothing will stop him from killing you and me!”

Luck and coincidence played a role at this point and her father died in a heart stroke, thus Miško Milanović proposed again to the girl after a while and this time he was positive she would agree but she did not! And she simply said that she would never get married to the barber’s son!

By chance he meets the best friend of this girl at the Discotheque, Miss Ljubica Duškov, who was also a teaching assistant at the faculty of Medicine, so he decides to ask about her friend: “ why did she reject my proposal?”

Ljubica Duškov answered: “she used to ridicule you and was only seeking your help in her studies. She never liked you as a boyfriend let alone a husband!”

Miško Milanović was furious and asked: “are you serious? Or are you only ridiculing me?”

Ljubica Duškov answered: “I swear I am telling the truth!”

Miško said: “no need for swearing! There is no reason for lying! I am positive you are telling the truth!”

Miško had a behavior reaction and started having a lot of relationships and spending time with a different girl each day. His emotional adventures were the subject of gossip in the faculty until he was summoned by the dean of the faculty who directly said: “Miško your stories are the main subject of gossip everywhere. I know you lost your balance and derailed from the proper path. I warn you to stop such silly conduct, otherwise, you will be terminated from the faculty!”

Despite the admiration the dean had for Miško, he threatened him and this called Miško to stop such practices due to fear of punishment!”

I asked her: “why are you telling me this?”

She answered: “to be aware of the whole truth, and to identify the motives behind the conduct of some people, by knowing the injustice they experienced in their lives!”

I asked again: “are you saying that anyone who practices injustice on others is justified because of the injustice he experienced?”

She answered: “not at all! But I need you to know the truth, if you could forgive those who misbehaved, you could be healed and thus feel better!”

I said: “what makes you think I am suffering or need healing? You need to know that this Miško deprived me of a dream I was seeking to realize myself and to make my father happy! I will never forgive Miško who tried to prey on me while I was fragile and helpless. Can one really forgive such animals that prey on weak people? Your story was far from touching to me, on the contrary, it made me hate him even more!”

“The last thing I need to tell you is that Miško put an end to his life last week. He hanged himself to death!” she added

I felt dizzy as she said that, got up and rushed out of the Cafeteria, the punishment could be delayed but the Almighty God gives one a break until the sinner quits sinning. However, persistence in sin would be rewarded by punishment at all costs.

I got to my room and threw myself on my bed, which awaits me every night, and is pleased to receive me despite all my burdens, and problems. I feel sorry for my pillow which blames me every night for my head which is usually heavy with concerns and thoughts! Tonight I am relieved of so many concerns that have left me for good! Every day, I believe in God more!

Days, months, and years passed by like a sweet dream, interrupted sometimes by nightmares. Nevertheless, I came to realize that nightmares are the flavorings of dreams!

Now, I am in my final stage of studies and will soon get my Diploma in Economics from the University of Belgrade. I really hope to realize this dream at a high grand point average. I got really close with Svetlana Mihajlović and she invited me a couple of times to her house. Our friendship became stronger, throughout the years of studies. As for Sonia and Yagoda, they graduated and went back home. We promised to write to each other every now and I asked them to send me letters to my dormitory address which made them wander and ask: “what do you mean by the dormitory address?”

I answered: “I might not go back to live with my family!”

Yagoda answered: “this might be better if you do not get along with them or cannot face them!”

Sonia commented: “they are still your family! Your parents whom you love! They have the right to see you!”

I was confused and answered: “I know but my father might not want to see me after four years of continuous interruption!”

Sonia said: “you do not have the right to judge things from your own perception! Try to go and if things turn out badly, you will have the right to withdraw and leave!”

In fact Sonia’s words were very reasonable and wise, therefore I approved her suggestion, and told myself, it might be the best thing to do!

We promised each other to maintain contact, but I decided to stay in the university dormitory for a while, yet I was surprised by a note by the administration after a couple of days asking me to evacuate the room. I decided to go see the person in charge and establish an understanding with them. Next day, I went to the dormitory warden and knocked on the metal door, which looked similar to that of an ancient fort of the old ages!

The door was opened and someone said: “what can I do for you?”

I said: “Sir, I have some special circumstances and need to stay in the dormitory for a while until I finalize some work.”

He answered in a rough tone: “this is illegal because upon the end of the term you need to evacuate the dormitory!”

I pleaded: “can you please make an exception?”

He answered: “unfortunately, it is not possible!”

I insisted and sad: “only for a day or two!”

He answered: “why do you need those couple of days?”

I diplomatically answered: “it is a private issue and I cannot talk about it!”

He understood and said: “if it is for a couple of days, I can make an exception.”

I smiled at him and said: “Thank you, may I ask for another thing please?”

He answered: “if it is legal and reasonable.”

I said: “I might receive some letters on this address, can you keep them for me to pick up after I evacuate the room?”

He clarified: “I can write a note to keep them for you! But please do not be late in picking them up, because according to the regulations they dispose of them when they know that the recipient has graduated! Thus you need to pick them up before they find out and dispose of them. As I said I will write a note so that the team in charge knows about that.”

I gratefully said: “Thank you loads sir”

He answered without turning around: “close the door behind you please!”

I went out of the office knowing that my friends’ letters will be safe. Then I thought, I need to leave in a hurry and decided to head to my family’s house. I have not done so in my four year period of study except for a couple of times, so I decided to make them happy with my achievement!

I lost all sense of time and got my Diploma in Economics from the University of Belgrade. I was proud of my achievement and had an excellent GPA. My friendship with Svetlana Mihajlović got much closer, and she invited me a couple of times to her house. We established a solid bond, and she became my closest friend. As for Sonia and Yagoda, they graduated and went back home. During my studies, I never paid a visit to my parents’ house, so I decided to go back and surprise them with my achievement.

“I arrived home and remembered that I had lost the key. Therefore, I knocked on the door, and my sister opened to say, ‘you again! After all these years?’

“Her words were so cruel to me! I intended to respond, but something held me back. She did not even say come in as if she wished me to do so. However, I did come in, and my mother and brother were having coffee. My mother looked at me with contempt and said, ‘Why are you here?’

“I was surprised, but I thought she must be mad because I did not come back home for four years. Therefore, I ignored her words and asked, ‘Where is the father?’

“She answered with grief, ‘Your father passed away after grieving for a long time because you stopped contacting him. You killed him!’

“Are you referring to me?’

“Yes, you! He died of sadness because he had no idea where you were!’

“You all knew where I was!’

“No, we did not! Your brother asked about you and could never find you!’

“How could that be? He asked and never found me?’

“This is useless, everything is over!’

“These words had broken me and left me speechless! I looked at her and sighed. I wept, went into my room and cried a lot. The dearest man to my heart was gone. The big heart and the greatest love, my backbone, my everything, why did you have to go, Dad? To whom did you leave me? Who will console me and pat my back? Who will remove my hair from my face and tell me everything will be alright? My great father! You left me alone in a difficult time. Life will be bland without you! Days took us apart, Father, but I am sure dreams will bring us together again. Why, Dad, did you leave me alone? I wish you could come back so that I could regain my strength! I am the victim of separation. I miss you dearly. All that is left for me are tears, and tears manipulate me now. I am tired, Father and tears have conquered me. No separation is easy, but one’s father? The pain is unbearable, and your death has locked me in a prison of tears! I curse tears. I can only pray to God to have mercy on your soul.

“I sat alone late at night thinking of all the moments, hours, and beautiful years I lived with my father. I felt he was looking at me with a lot of blame and a lot of pain in his heart. I could smell his aroma which used to always find its way to my clothes. I felt his kindness and his sweet words and love. I thought of him, and suddenly my sister came in and asked, ‘Are you going to stay here for long?’

“I felt goosebumps and rage, and said, ‘This is my father’s house, and I have every right to be here. So please pick your words carefully when you talk to me. Otherwise, you will hear things that will upset you, do you understand?’

“I left her and went to see mother and asked, ‘Mom, my father is gone, and you are all that is left for me. Why do you treat me with such cruelty as if I am not yours? Is there a reason I am not aware of?’

“You are the reason! Your father was really pissed off and got depressed, and you added insult to injury by not coming back home and never checking on him. He was concerned something might have happened to you and always thought of you. This is why!’

“You have always hated me since I was a child! I sensed it and saw how you held grudges against me because my father used to talk to me for hours and spend a long time playing with me. I always felt that you saw me as a rival, sharing my father with you. Now it is your time to take revenge on me, but you should know better that no one will help you when you age and become vulnerable but me. My father saw that in me alone out of my siblings! I will leave in the morning, but you should all know that I will never come back to this house because the person I used to care about is gone. I know the last thing you want is for me to stay. However, I do not care!

She answered in rage:

“These are only illusions, no mother hates her daughter or is jealous of her. This is nonsense by which you try to justify your father’s death as he was upset with you! I am upset too! Aren’t I?”

I responded nervously: “I need you to know that I am very aware of the reason, and you are too. There is no need to bring it up. As for my father, I am positive that he died loving me and very pleased with my achievements. I know my father, his feelings, and his sentiments in this house!”

I withdrew then of the room without turning towards her, went to my room, put my head in my pillow, and cried my eyes out, I felt as if I was suffocating as if there were evil spirits haunting me! Is this the family I was hoping for? Is this the family that should experience everything together, life, death, happiness, and sorrow? I honestly thought nothing will bring us apart!

“I will leave with a lot of painful memories and with a big wound in my heart. My leaving needs no bags. It only requires pride and courage. You should be aware that you will never see me again because I cannot take it anymore! Words are futile, and tears are useless. It is too late now! I leave in silence, in pain and wounded in my heart but with dignity and without a goodbye!’

“The next day, I left home early intentionally. I did not want to see anyone so that I would not hate them more! I went out of the house of the man I adored, the best person in my life! Tears were pouring down, but they were not over what was left of my family, nor the old days. I cried for losing my father and the beautiful days I lived with him! I went back to the dormitory, but in summer all students must leave so that they can start hosting the cultural exchange of students from different nationalities. Yugoslavia was part of the cultural exchange program. I found a note at the main door which requested students to hand in room keys as soon as possible! Another piece of paper on the external gate that clearly stated we should hand it the keys as soon as possible! Although they allowed me two days! Maybe it is due to a lack of coordination! I went to the dormitory warden but he was not there. His office was locked, so I went to the reception and asked him who is in charge next to the warden, so he asked me to see Mr. Radovan Karadžić. I went to see him and knocked on his door, then I tried to open the door but it was locked from inside despite the sounds behind the door. Therefore, I decided to knock again, a sound said: “wait a moment!” then the door opened. Mr. Radovan Karadžić answered as he was trying to settle his trousers and tuck in his shirt! “How can I help you?” I answered: “sir, I was wandering if you could give me a couple of days until I find another dormitory, please. I spoke earlier to the manager and he allowed me two days, therefore, can I leave tomorrow please?” He looked at me and said:

‘What is the price?’

“He smiled with his mustache and gave me an idiotic look with his head swerving between his shoulders and small colorless stray looking eyes and skinny body and skinny legs like those of a bird!

‘‘The price is having sex with you!’

“I spat in his face, and he slapped me so hard that I fell down. I looked at him and said in pain, “Had you the slightest level of manhood, which is not the case, you would not have allowed yourself of beating a girl in your daughter’s age. You are a helpless person and thus you allowed yourself to hit me! I can simply file a complaint against you but I am sure it won’t hurt you because you are not alone in this filth! There are your managers and superiors and they must be aware of how dirty you are and accomplices to the guilt! God will account for each of you for what you do! Life will be fair and I will get my right back one day! Angles are never touched by demons and therefore you will not touch me! The purity of my body will not be desecrated by the likes of you! Only a well deserving man shall touch me, you despicable person! I am leaving but I am sure that you will pay for what you did. You are a filthy monster. I left as if I was leaving hell to go to heavens!”

“It was almost seven-thirty in the evening, so I went to Svetlana Mihajlović’s house, which was close to the dormitory. Mrs. Jovanka, the mother of Svetlana, opened the door and said, ‘Vera, my daughter, please come in!’

“I asked her about how she was doing and where Svetlana was, and she answered, ‘Svetlana is visiting her aunt in the United States.’

“What!’ It was a shock to me! ‘How long is she staying there?’

“She was not sure but just told me, ‘Later.’

“I asked Mrs. Jovanka, ‘Can you do me a favor?’

“Yes, sure, you are my daughter’s friend.’

“Can I stay here for the night? Only tonight?’

“She answered without hesitation, ‘Sure, come. I will show you Svetlana’s bedroom, which you know as well as I do. You used to come to stay over. Please feel at home, but, wait, what is this bruise on your face?’

“Nothing much. I bumped into the wall as I got off the bus in a rush, and I was not paying attention.’

“Would you like me to put an ice pack on it to ease the pain and the blue color?’

“No, it is okay. Can I have a hot bath, please?’

“Sure, feel at home!’

“The nice lady came back later with a hot meal as if she felt that I was starving! I had not had a bite since I left my family’s house that morning. I took the food inside and ate in a rush. I felt mountains hanging over my shoulders. I was so shattered by fatigue that I felt like crying. I got myself into bed despite these bad feelings. However, once I placed my head on the pillow, I went into a deep sleep.’

“The next morning, I felt well and wanted to be productive. I got ready to leave to room to see Svetlana’s mom and dad, who were having breakfast. She asked, ‘How was your night?’

“It was great and comfortable. Thank you loads.’

“I know your family lives close to Belgrade. Are you facing any trouble?’

“No, not at all. There are some issues back home, and I left a bit upset, that is all. Thank you for your concern.’

“Her husband, Mr. Dušan Mihajlović, asked, ‘if you need any help, please ask us.’

“I tried to be a bit daring and asked him, ‘Could you secure a job for me, please? I am trying to settle down and be independent.’

“He responded, ‘As you know, I work in the restaurant business. I know this is not what you are after, but I have a lot of friends in other sectors, and I can ask if there are any openings for you. But what sort of job are you seeking?’

“I have just graduated with a diploma in Economics, so if you know anyone who works in this domain, that would be helpful.’

“He got up and went inside, and after a while, he came back with a phonebook and said, ’I have a close friend who works as a bank manager Mr. Ivan Živanović. Let me call him now and see if he could secure a job opportunity for you.’

“I felt a chill through my body and became very hopeful and happy. He made the call. The manager on the other end responded, so he said, ‘My daughter’s friend is here at my place, and she happens to be a beautiful, smart young lady. She holds a diploma in Economics and seeks a job. Would you be able to help her with that at your bank if possible?’

“The bank manager said, ‘Of course! We are currently seeking development in business at the bank and need young employees. Please ask her to come to see me today, and I will do my best to hire her. Perhaps just give her the address, please.’

“Mr Dušan thanked him and said, ‘Could you come for dinner with your wife Mrs. Branka Tošić tonight?’

“I will call you back to confirm, but thank you for the invitation.’

“Mr. Dušan hung up the phone and said joyfully, ‘You are so lucky! Although he is a close friend, I did not expect such a fast response.’ He then started to explain how to get to the bank. I knew the location well, so I thanked them and excused myself to leave.

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