It was raining all day, prolonging into the night, just like the day before. The night was freezing even though it was already the month of May. The charming attic in which Nina lived was advertised as a “spacious, attractive studio-type apartment”, but in reality, that could hardly be considered justified even in a state of maximum benevolent optimism with illegal to drive percentage of alcohol in the blood. Unfortunately, Nina was not able to be picky, and the attic apartment with dubious documents was the only thing she could afford since the company she worked for started to fail and the salaries of the employees became much smaller. She had savings, along with some inheritance money, and she had to use that to buy herself an apartment as soon as possible, so that she wouldn’t have to spend more money from that already small sum to pay for the rent. Buying an apartment in the summer is a bad idea because the buyer has no clue about the problems they might have in the winter. Dampness in the walls, a soggy, leaky ceiling, the harsh cold that seeped through the numerous gaps and leaks in the poorly made insulation, burst pipes, she realized all these problems during the first long and very cold winter in the new apartment.
In the beginning, since she finally had her own apartment, however bad it was, Nina was engaged in joyful idea dream that she could design it nicely and pleasantly, placing flowers around the apartment, pictures on the walls, small decorative objects in the rooms, bookshelves, and cushions. Even at that point, everything went wrong. The paintings did not react well to the moisture in the walls, and unfortunately, neither did the books, and the figurines and decorative items she had acquired, in that gloomy environment, looked kitsch, gathered dust, and made cleaning more difficult. The furniture was old, mostly impractical, too massive, beautiful only providing that you like massive, antique things whose damage can no longer be repaired. She didn’t choose it herself, she got it from various relatives and friends who wanted to help her furnish the apartment. She appreciated the help, but to be honest, it was just a pile of old, unmatched pieces of furniture. She had only one plant, which she persistently watered and which constantly looked like the herbal equivalent of a terminally ill patient. It was almost as icy in that isolated attic apartment as it was outside.
Wrapping herself in a duvet, she got out of bed and headed towards the “kitchen”. The “kitchen” was a just an improvisation of kitchen. Obviously, the builders of that building did not initially anticipate that someone would live in the attic space, so the kitchen was just a corner of the attic into which a stove, a small refrigerator, a shelf, and a small table with four chairs were crammed. Of course, there was no running water in the kitchen, so the dishes were supposed to be washed in the bathroom. The bathroom, although built into the attic, was not physically separated from the rest, so instead of a door, it had only a curtain that obscured the area of the bathroom and the toilet. This was supposed to be a temporary solution until Nina gets the money to make a proper bathroom and maybe a kitchen too. She put the pot of water on the stove and sat down on the chair. She draped an old, red blanket over her back like a poncho and sat in the semi-darkness of her apartment listening to the rain pouring down outside. This could be a pleasant, cozy feeling, if only it weren’t so cold and agonizingly lonely. Under the light of a single lamp, the attic looked romantic and exotic. Semi-darkness, the sound of the rain made it feel soothing and familiar.
She was sitting there for a while with a freshly brewed cup of tea in her hands. Sudden loud, unpleasant, squealing sound made her shudder. It took her a while to realize it was a messenger from her laptop. There was still no phone connection in the apartment, she didn’t have a cellphone, so wireless internet was replacing all ways of contacting people. The speakers, carelessly turned loud, had just signaled that someone was trying to contact her on messenger. She turned on the monitor. It was about half past one in the morning. The messenger said “From Tsohg“. It said, “What are you doing alone at this time of night?”
She quickly typed the answer, bored enough to answer: “Your username isn’t really original.“.
She had no idea who could be hiding behind the alias Tsohg, but she had a hunch that it could be someone who knew her. She did not put online her address, phone or any information, but she put her real name and a small photo, so it was possible that someone who knew her personally found her and tried to talk. However, that “Tsohg” didn’t upload a photo, name or any information about themselves. It was intriguing, a little childish, fun and certainly harmless. Since she felt so lonely why not engage in harmless online flirtation?
“I don’t know what that means,” it was the answer, “I’m still learning this type of communication.”
“Really?” she typed, amused, “me too.”
“Does that mean you can’t talk?” Another message from ”Tsohg“.
Already tired of this not so interesting futile conversation, Nina tried to change the subject.
“How do you look? Are you male or female?”
“None” came the reply.
A little disappointed that the other party rejects to engage in harmless online flirting, Nina opened the browser to check the news on the Internet. Soon a new message appeared.
“I want to meet you.”
Oh God, Nina felt bothered, and closed the chat box with the disturbing user. She was already over the idea of flirting.
“You live with me, and it’s time. Nikolina, Nikolina, I can see you. Black, long hair, a red cloak around your shoulders.”
She closed the conversation window again and clicked on “block user”. A split second before the screen closed, she saw their next message: “I’m behind you.”
When the speakers beeped again, she was so tense that she jumped and the blanket fell off her shoulders, knocking the speakers off the table in the process. She lifted the blanket, picked up the speakers from the floor, and turned down the volume. Behind her, dark shadows were dancing under the unstable light, but she could see no one. She was indeed alone. This time the message was from Urosh.
“Kitty, can’t you sleep?”
“I don’t like what they reported on the news last night. It made me nervous.′
“Do you want me to come to you?”
“Might as well.”
She smiled. Well, if something goes wrong like everyone feared, she better not be alone.
“I’ll come tomorrow then.”
“Come now,” she wrote.
“It’s late and it’s stormy, and my car is at the mechanic. Nina, I will come tomorrow first thing in the morning.”
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