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Chapter 4. Day two

Yet another day, even if it started like many previous ones (dinner ritual — having woken up, to have a glass of coffee together with smoking a cigarette), but acquired a new distinctive feature. In my fleeting fantasies, an image of a guy from the beach appeared over and over again. And these fantasies were filled with madness and sex, causing a smile on my face to appear.

I was sitting on the couch, at a coffee table, in my small, but cozy, rented apartment. I was holding a glass of coffee in my hand and looking at the dark surface of the drink, tried to switch to, and recall the dream that I saw last night. I spent it on the same sofa, with the TV on and bedroom door closed.

The memory flashed as if a fragment from a movie. My “invisible friend” came to me in a dream in the form of a dog. A shaggy golden retriever (much larger than a retriever in life) was sitting opposite me in a clearing in the woods, lit by the rays of the Siberian summer sun, covered with green grass and daisies.

— Riddle me that! Who can be the object of lust for many men, and not to have any passion for any of them? — He looked up to a clear sky, and as if by the way, he wagged his tail, knocking white-yellow flowers with it.

— A lesbian? — I suggested, and spread my hands with palms open, lost guessing, in case he needs another answer.

Having swallowed his silly bait, I really solved the riddle.

— Wrong. — He shook his hairy face, and continued speaking: — I’ll give you a hint. She exposes her body in front of many at night, not bothering much, and during the day she becomes a shy virgin.

— Stripper?

— Not quite right. A stripper, who is crazy in the head.

— The crazy one of us is you. — I frowned.

— We might be both right. A crazy stripper and her off the rails friend. — He put his shaggy, heavy paw on my shoulder. — Why can’t dogs laugh? Do you know?

— They do not know how to speak either, and you do. No more of that nonsense. Where did you disappear yesterday?

— Come on, don’t be angry. You perfectly managed to make a good impression on your new acquaintance on your own. — He looked at me with round blue eyes, not feeling a drop of regret. — Well, when are you going to have a date?

With sadness, sighing softly, I shook my one free shoulder.

— I understand that you are tired and confused. But I would advise you to meet him tonight. — He smiled, exposing his white fangs, his long tongue fell out of his mouth.

— May be. — I removed his paw from my shoulder. — In any case, an order might come in the evening, and I will have to go to work.

— Send the work to hell. Give it a rest! Tell them you are ill and have a date. — My “invisible friend” — dog said with persistence.

— It turns out that the break in dates did not last long? They did not lead to anything good. And anyway, you know, I’m a little scared. This Misha is affecting me in a strange way. — I looked at my friend’s pretty face and, squinting a little, added: — You keep quiet about something interesting. Yes?

— I am not keeping quiet about anything. — He explained himself. — You’d better hug me, stroke, look how pretty and soft I am today.

Sitting on his hind legs, he arched his back and proudly raised the tip of his nose to the top. The wind blew, and its long golden hair came in waves along the body.

— Yeah, the very charm. — I moved closer to him and tightly hugged his shaggy thick neck. He nuzzled my hair. — In spite of everything, I love you very much.

— And I love you so much, that it’s unlikely for anyone to love you so. — Grumbled the dog.

Well, yes, you are a dog this time, a faithful friend, — I said with irony, patting his big shaggy head. — That’s it. Let’s finish the exchange of sentiments. — And I let him out of my arms. — If he offers to meet today, I’ll agree.

Yapping and merrily wagging his tail, the dog began to run around me, treading down the daisies. He ran around like a puppy, who was finally allowed to be on the loose in an open field. He began to tumble. He screamed, because he almost twisted his neck. In the nomination for the award under the motto — “We are all fools, but some of us are especially full,” he could claim the first place of honor.

My recollections were interrupted by a telephone signal, a short melody played, announcing the message received. Of course, “Anna the naive” hoped that it would be Misha, and in fact she was not mistaken. He offered to walk along the embankment and spend the evening in one of the bars on the coast.

21.00

Having finished all the ritual associated with applying my makeup (and I tried my best), and looking at my mirror reflection, I was unhappy with the result.The traces of fatigue accumulated after a large number of sleepless nights, reflecting in the swollen eyes, and bruises under them, could not be hidden even by expensive cosmetics.

I recalled all the men who I came to amuse for their own money. They had not only a lot of money, but also a lot of girls. Each of them told me almost the same thing, literally: “You yourself do not understand how beautiful you are.” These words that came up in my memory were able to help and inspired confidence in my attractiveness. Once again I ran the comb through my long, blond hair and threw it on the shelf in the hallway, and then I left the apartment.

But going down the stairs, “Anna the uncertain” began to feel doubts again. This time, doubts about the attire chosen and about the shoes selected to match it. Perhaps it was not worth wearing high heels sandals and a short red dress. Perhaps, I looked vulgar, because this dress almost did not cover the body, although, on the other hand, Misha might like it, and he will experience the feeling of admiration. He will pay attention to my long legs, thin waist, under the tight-fitting fabric of the dress, and my outfit will suit his taste.

So, I thought, having stopped and holding the door handle of the glass front door, it seems that I really like this Misha if I go through all these options in my thoughts. Having gathered my courage, I opened the door, lifted my head proudly and walking with a firm tread, shaking my hips to the beat of my heels headed to the meeting with the guy from the beach.

He was already waiting for me, being mine, at least for today, a tall, attractive, healthy athlete, wearing dark worn jeans and a T-shirt, emphasizing his tight torso. He was standing on the sidewalk by the road, watching what was happening around him with a restrained and impenetrable gaze. Anyone in my place would believe that his professional activity has something to do with the protection and maintenance of order.

The feeling of embarrassment and desire to search for my shortcomings, fell on “Anna the uncertain” with renewed vigor, transforming into a sense of childish shyness. All that was left to do for her cheeks was to flash red with embarrassment, here you are, the standard situation of the girl on the first date.

Having stopped next to Misha, I smiled sweetly. So sweetly, that it seems to me I overdid it.

— Hi, — he leaned and he briefly kissed my cheek, near the corner of my lips, and, kept standing very close, looking down at me.

— Hello, — I said, unable to move, once again, as if I had swallowed my tongue.

I couldn’t fail to notice the weirdness of his look. It swept across my face, lingering on its outlines for a split second, and then stopped. Misha began to peer into my eyes, and a smile flashed across his lips, almost imperceptibly, with a bit of regret. Honestly, I felt somehow uncomfortable. He seemed to have seen a familiar person in me, a person he had known for a long time, and could not believe that we met again, apologizing deep inside for the innumerable amount of time that separated us with an abyss of long years.

How could I understand this? I have no idea, it might have seemed to me. I have not heard the words of my “invisible friend”, confirming the accuracy of my assumptions.

— Well, shall we take a walk to the bar? — He spoke in his low voice, full of calmness.

— Let’s take a walk, — I agreed, once again, beaming with a smile.

***

We took seats at a wide wooden bar counter, in one of the cafes on the sandy beach of Bat Yam. A refreshing sea breeze searched around the open log-in porch lit by colorful lights. Foot tapping club music was making its way through the hubbub of the visitors.

Misha moved so close to me that our chairs stood close to each other, thus increasing the distance between him and a young, dark-haired Israeli woman sitting next to him. While waiting for the bartender, she seemed to touch Misha accidentally several times with her elbow and knee, trying to attract his attention.

Yes, the majority of Israeli women never lacked the impudence and audacity. And just try to object at least one of them, she will instantly bring down a squall of nervous cries, even if she is not right, even if her arguments are stupid and not substantiated, she will still thoroughly throw mud at you. I usually resolved similar difficulties quickly and easily. While working in a striptease, I often encountered the attacks from snooty Israeli strippers. As for beauty, they, of course, were inferior to girls of Slavic appearance, so, the richest visitors of the club were more interested in us (the Russians and Ukrainians). They shared their generosity — we were treated to drinks, they gave their tips just to extend the minutes of our communication. All the Israeli women could do — was to show their hot temper, to us, in order to intimidate us. Over the years of work in the club, they learned how to move competitors aside. On each regular customer they hung, an imaginary label — “private property”, and the Russian girls tried not to linger with such clients for a long time

Their system worked well, but (How to destroy the system? — To break it!) a few clashes with battering were enough to ensure that these impudent girls did not bug me anymore. The strippers were mainly fighting for the pieces of paper with indelible paint, and I was steadfast to my principles, but it turned out that I still protected these pieces of paper.

Having thrown a short glance behind Misha on his vulgar neighbor, (who was sitting now not so close to him), I imagined her long nose hitting the bar counter with a crunch, you just had to press her head down sharply and firmly. Moreover, all these thoughts, associations and memories flashed so quickly that in real time everything took about five seconds. Possessive instinct sparkled in me. And to whom? To a man who I did not really know.

Misha, of course, was not interested in all this; he took a packet of Marlboro light from his jeans pocket and put it on the table. He threw his hand on the back of my chair, put his arm around my shoulders, and suddenly I felt so good and warm in my heart because he was here and now, side by side with me.

— And I thought that athletes do not smoke. — I said jokingly, and took a cigarette out of the pack.

— You will be surprised, but they not only smoke. — He snapped his lighter, giving me a light. — Order the whiskey — you are an expert. — He offered and gave me the menu with alcoholic beverages.

Although not being a bartender, I really knew a lot about whiskey.

— I can do without the menu. Have you ever tried Macallan?

— No, but I’d like to try.

I decided to parade my knowledge, pointing to an expensive single malt whiskey. I have no idea how things stand for Misha in terms of his financial possibilities, but ordering even a couple of shots will cost a considerable amount. I never take my wallet to a date, and have never encountered such a situation where it could be useful.

— Two shots of Macallan, — Misha turned to the barman who approached us.

The bartender poured the golden drink twenty-five years of age into shots, Misha and I picked them up, touched their rims with the clink and drank quickly. Throwing back my head, in order to take a sip, I felt a sharp pain in the muscles of my neck. They constantly ached after the nights spent at work, because I had to twist my head so that the hair would stream as if in the wind, fly up with each movement, and fascinatingly, a little disheveled, fell on my shoulders. It seemed to me that it added sexuality. I restrained my emotions, preventing them from reflecting on my face, and the warmth of alcohol with caramel tinge, which began to spread over my body, quickly drowned out the pain.

Misha ordered another couple of shots. We talked at ease. I was listening to him with interest, asking questions, being eager to find out as much as possible about him, and to understand what kind of person he is, but he answered somehow evasively. He tried to tell jokes, and I laughed at them. He tried to flirt, and I was embarrassed when he touched me. Everything seemed to be an interesting game that I really enjoyed playing with him.

Misha ordered another couple of shots. Then he treated the bartender. The latter asked to leave a credit card as a pledge, reaching out his hand with the card to him, Misha gave his permission to withdraw the tip, specified — a couple of hundreds. And the eyes of the young bartender shone with joy, with respectful gratitude.

A dub tip, goes as it should be, fifty is already flattering, a hundred rarely happens, and two hundred is actually an exception. He might be coming off like a big shot, I thought. Now I could only continue making guesses, because my friend, still did not want to tell me anything.

— Do you want to take a walk? — Misha suggested, and I gladly agreed.

***

After midnight, the sea was smooth, Misha and I were strolling along the surf line, walking on the damp, cool sand feeling a little drunk with the whiskey I had chosen. The night beach, filled with empty plastic sun loungers with tables, was lit by lanterns that were stretching along the coast, mounted on high metal pillars. And in the darkened areas, inaccessible to light, hiding from the unwanted eyes, there were loving couples. Besides them, pretty drunk tourists, and Ethiopians, waiting for the moment when these tourists leave their clothes on the beach and go swimming in the sea, in order to search their pockets, no one else could be met.

— What else do you know as well as whiskey? — Misha asked his question.

— So you think I will just tell you all my secrets? — I jokingly answered.

— C’mon, don’t be so secretive. Everyone has their own story, for example, I am interested in yours.

The story of my life would have sounded a lie to him, made of concocted moments. I couldn’t tell the truth. I can imagine his disappointed and surprised face when I say that in fact I’m not a bartender at all and have never been one. During my time at the strip club I was friends with the barmaids, that’s why I know some features of their work. Or about the period spent under mind-blocking pills. Yes, or about the addiction to whiskey. You can actually recall much more, but I think we shouldn’t.

— Look, girls like to talk nonstop, then you will get tired of listening to it, — Walking with a relaxed gait, I now and then clumsily bumped my shoulder onto Misha’s shoulder, slightly pushing him.

— But, everything begins with communication. — He noticed unintentionally.

— Although, in most cases, a guy meets a girl not to talk. — I threw him a hint.

— I don’t argue here, — he got it quickly. — Do you want to skip the official part? — By his sly smile, it could be understood that he is not so much a supporter of the “official parts”.

— Well, I don’t know, — I answered with the air of mystery in my voice.

He stopped, pulled me to him. He put his hands on my waist and looked straight into my eyes, so heartfelt, silently, beyond all bounds deep, which made me all perk up, immediately I wanted to cuddle up to him even tighter, with my whole body, and I embraced him tight. He lowered his head, I could fell his wavy breath on my lips.

They say, the very first kiss in your life is unforgettable. That’s nonsense. In my opinion, the first kiss with any person who you really love is unforgettable. After all, we rarely meet such people, and it is always interesting to kiss them for the first time, and that naive, the very first, nobody knows when happened kiss becomes secondary. It becomes an echo of the ridiculous moment of the past, which used to seem so significant.

Yet during our first meeting with Misha in a cafe on the beach, when he was telling me about something at sunset, I constantly focused on his lips, imagining how they would kiss me, and mind it — everywhere. From time to time, I pretended to be a kind of interested listener, thinking about other things absolutely irrelevant to our talk.

He kissed me confidently, passionately and rudely at the same time, giving all of him to me and experiencing the whole storm of emotions. He embraced me greedily, squeezing me in his “bear hug”. I could feel his wet full lips, my arms wrapped around his big neck, sliding on his strong shoulders. I didn’t want to let him go, I didn’t want to leave him and being with him I didn’t want to stop. He managed to ignite a strong physical attraction in me. He’s just a very attractive guy, I said to myself, the common reaction of hormones to a so-called tactile contact. And also he is maddening sexy, excitingly masculine, strong… Well, well, stop, that’s all, turn on the light, throw a wet blanket on me, a kick in the ass will also work, as long as my hormones stop their rage.

I stopped, Misha did not open his eyes at once.

— And what did you want to talk about? — I looked at him with calm, confident eyes, as if I had everything under control (in a simulant but convincing way, it was as easy as a pie for me to imitate many emotions in a life-like manner).

Misha grinned, he was still holding me in his arms — a situation which I really wanted to prolong.

— About anything, and as you’ve thrown out a hint, not only to talk. I’m mad about you. I’d go with you right now anywhere for a few days.

— Aha! A couple of shots of whiskey — and crazy ideas started to come to your head? — I decided to laugh it off.

— Absolutely not, — he assured me; looking at him, I realized that he was serious.

— If it’s so, then gladly. Let’s go to pack the bags, do you have money for a trip? Actually, I’m a poor bartender, — I said sarcastically.

— I’ll find some for such an occasion.

By and large, he didn’t need to “look for” it, but I still didn’t know about it (these details will became clear later).

— And where are we going?

— Wherever you want, — he said with the air that it was possible to carry out our plans without any problems.

- Could you really dart off like this?

— Come on. — He took me by the hand and led me to the chaise-longues, which stood in even rows along the coast, sat down on one of them, and put me on his knees and continued: — All of us sometimes want to do something spontaneous, how long can we do the same things every day?

— But not always what you want matches coincides our possibilities. I can’t just turn around and leave it all. But who am I trying to deceive? What can I leave? A bunch of lifeless things in a rented apartment. And in general I would like to embark on some adventure with this guy. The advice of my “invisible friend” at the moment was simply vital. It wouldn’t be difficult to find out which games Misha plays, or, just the other way about, to ascertain the truthfulness of his words. But my friend was silent today, leaving me without his very necessary hints. And he could have answered. At least something, just to speak a little.

“No, don’t you want to?” He didn’t, didn’t speak.

— I understand, — said Misha with a slight disappointment in his voice. — And when shall we meet again now?

— I have a day off in a couple of days, invite me, offer me something. I put my arm around his neck and suddenly found myself thinking that I absolutely didn’t want to spend this couple of days without him.

It was quite unexpectedly. I hadn’t had such a lust for a guy yet.

— I’ll think of something. -He laid in the chaise and pulled me to him.

I was laying on Misha, because with his complexion he occupied all the space, I was more comfortable in his arms than in my own bed, these big hands that were holding my waist… his hands, it seemed as if I had become miniature and helpless under them. Not that “Anna — the sky is the limit for me”, but the one who got care and reliability. As if my problems can now become his problems, they won’t be so difficult when shared between the two of us. And tomorrow, having woken up, I won’t have to rack my brain where to go today, what to do to keep myself busy, in order not to go back to where there’s no need to go.

Why not? At least for a few days.

Yes, I had an “invisible friend”, he took care of me and helped more than anyone else, but he was so incorporeal and intangible (I still had to row with oars), he existed there and I was here in my own world. The final opinion about who he is, and why he volunteered to help me, formed quite recently, I had been making assumptions for a long time. And during all this time my friend could not confirm or deny my assumptions. This topic has never been discussed.

— Why don’t you have a boyfriend or husband? And your phone is silent all the evening, and not ringing off the hook because of calls or messages? With your appearance, you should definitely have a lot of admirers. –Misha didn’t give up trying to find out the details of my life.

— I shut my phone off. — Having said that with irony, I put my elbows on his firm chest, resting my chin on my palm. — Have you shut off yours too?

He did not answer, only a slight smirk played on his face.

— In fact, I have already ceased to communicate with others, a waste of time on the people who you keep communication with, just to keep yourself busy with something and in case you need a company for the evening. Neither of them really attracted me. It’s not that. I’m bored of it. — I did not continue and was silent, put my head on Misha’s shoulder with my palm on his stomach.

“Hey! — I mentally called my ‘invisible friend’. — Look what I’ve just said. Why would I be so sincere? Where are you?” His silence had already begun to make me angry and put me out of temper. I was looking for repose in Misha’s arms, and they gave it to me, leaning closer to him, I nestled my head against his hot neck. I was waiting for my friend’s explanations, but I didn’t hear anything except the sounds of wash.

— And why are you alone? — I asked, without lifting my head, slid my nose along his hard warm neck, inhaling the pleasant smell of men’s perfumes.

— I used to be married, but lost her in an accident, — he explained and then added after a short silence: — Lots is forgotten with time, I accepted the circumstances and continued to live on. — So he used an expression, that didn’t show his feelings, and turned the conversation to what, in his opinion, I was interested in. -Shall we drink one more “Chaser”?

— Yes, let’s drink it. Just it’s so comfortable with you. I don’t want to get up. — No, I’ve already lost my interest in whiskey.

— And to me, so much so that I can fall asleep right now.

— And you will snore like a bear. — Having risen my head, I looked into his face.

— Sure, I will, — he stressed smiling tenderly.

****

We went to one more coastal bar (stretching along the beach line of Bat Yam, they are going one after the another, being only distinguished by a peculiar menu theme, signs and flowers in the interior) and drank a few more shots of our favorite Macallan. When the music went silent and the bar was closing, Misha offered to take me home. The slowly rising sun gradually lit up the clear skies over Israel and the empty streets, still not disturbed by the anxiety of people who would hurry to work soon.

I admit, I was fizzing with the desire to invite Misha to my flat under the veil of “having tea with cookies”, I wanted this guy madly. But still I decided to show myself from the good side. And it was me, who could not give a damn about the opinions of everyone around me, as well as about people themselves.

And here she is for you Misha, “Anna — then ideal girl”, positive, balanced and patient.

Misha came upstairs with me, accompanied me to the door of the apartment, kissed me long, giving me a hint that he did not want to leave, but “Anna — the ideal girl” found the strength and said goodbye. I did not go into the shower, as I liked the smell that remained on my skin. Misha’s message wishing me to see only pleasant dreams caused a feeling of warm joy. I started to imagine how he was returning home along the street flooded with morning light and still thinking about me. Sentimental nonsense, but it was nice.

Lying in bed, in the darkness of my bedroom, I once again tried to call my “invisible friend.”

— I’m with you, — he said. He finally bothered to please me with his presence.

— Oh, well, really! — I expressed my irritation. — Don’t you think you should have appeared a few hours earlier?

“I’m sorry, I couldn’t.”

— You could always do that, and now you could not? — I got up in bed, knees pressed to my chest.

“Do not get angry. I’ve been to some places, I have had a great time and you aren’t the only one to enjoy the pleasures of life. You’d better say if you like him”

What pleasures of life? He is neither alive, nor dead.

— Sure thing that I like him, but I wanted to find out who he is. Because there is something strange and insanely attractive in him. His kisses, his touches, I felt everything and did not want to imagine anything. I find it hard to believe.

“Be yourself and enjoy what you have. Unwanted suspicions only get in the way here”.

— So will you tell me or not? Don’t play jokes with me!

There was no answer. I didn’t know how to react to his odd behavior. I wanted to flare up, but quickly changed my mind, realizing that the argument with him was a useless trick.

— Great, if you don’t want to, don’t tell me. With my anger stored up, I buried myself under a blanket, drew it over my head, waiting for the effect of the sleeping pill.

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