When The Rival is silent
Author Natalia Zagrebina-Wirtz
translated by Igor Step
This was the second time that day, or rather, for the period from nine in the morning to two in the afternoon. Just think! Meeting in elevator with a beautiful stranger with her head arrogant raised. She did not even stir once and make a single sound during those 10 seconds while elevator went down! For the first time, in the morning, Lauren only shot a glance at her. But right now, having entered the elevator during lunch time, she managed, in the corner of her eye, to get a good look at her and noted to herself that she was unusually handsome. The stranger had luxurious brown hair with a golden shine of tight curls hanging like heavy avalanche down her shoulders and slightly covered her face. She had a chiseled nose, smooth alabaster skin and graceful hands.
Through the glass door of the cab, the girders of the floors were seen going upstairs: eleventh, tenth, ninth … Lauren was assailed by a longing, the reason for which she could not explain to herself. Finally, the elevator descended to the first floor and she hurried out of it. She had a lot going on tonight, and above all, a meeting with a girlfriend in a cafe. On the way, Lauren involuntarily returned to the thoughts of the stranger, contemplating all neighbours, their relatives and guests whom she had ever met in the house, trying to find an image of this beauty in memory lane. But all attempts were unsuccessful! She definitely saw her for the first time.
What to say, Lauren had causes for concern that came to her from time to time - for more than two years she was in a relationship with the popular director Nikitin, and he still did not make her a wedding proposal! The situation was complicated by the fact that he was insanely popular with women, and they curled around him like moths in the park in the evening by a brightly burning lantern. Once, without warning, Lauren went into Nikitin’s office, and saw his secretary, a young, long-legged girl, offering him coffee while sitting down on the edge of the table and bending seductively in her back. Lauren, succumbing to the emotions, instantly flew up to her, grabbed her by the thin girl’s hand, pulled her off the table and ordered her out! Later, Lauren, of course, felt ashamed of the emotions that engulfed her and her own behaviour, but this did not change the situation in any way. All Nikitin did was a laugh. He assured Lauren that he loved only her and that she was clearly overreacting and spoiled herself and others.
There was another very important and unpleasant event happened this Saturday morning. Namely, right before waking up, Lauren dreamed of a snake. She did not remember the details, but her consciousness retained only a horrible feeling of dread that gripped her at that moment. And even though the morning was sunny, she had a very clear memory of the dream. It had left her with a very unpleasant after-taste.
At 4.30 pm, Lauren had a meeting in a cafe with her friend, Marianne. They talked merrily for two hours and by the way, Lauren told her about all these unsettling events in the morning. Marianne was sure that the dream is undeniable proof of Lauren’s rival. “And this stranger in the elevator, maybe this is she, the same snake?” - Asked the girlfriend, and in her intonation sounded a statement. After listening to her, Lauren was completely upset.
In the evening, she decided to somehow cheer herself up and chill by going shopping. At nine in the evening, she was already standing in the foyer and called the elevator. When its doors opened smoothly and quietly, Lauren could not believe her eyes - inside she saw a beautiful stranger again!
“Wow! What’s just happening?!” Lauren thought indignantly privately. Turning unsuccessfully, she accidentally hit her fellow traveler, but the stranger only pulled away silently. Lauren apologized:
“Excuse me!” she said
But the stranger haughtily kept silent, remaining standing still with her head held high. Two glasses of wine drunk in a cafe did their job, and Lauren decided to speak to a mysterious woman:
“You probably just recently moved to this house?” she politely asked the stranger. And she added: “before, I have not met you here.”
But the stranger maintained her arrogantly silence
“What a random bimbo!” Lauren thought irritably to herself.
When the elevator arrived at the right floor and the doors opened, Lauren got out while flinging in stranger’s teeth:
“All right, if you don’t want to answer, then that too is, well...up to you!”
The very next morning, Lauren hastened to share with her friend the details of the distressing situation that happened to her in the elevator last night.
“I met her there again, can you imagine?!” she exclaimed.
“Undoubtedly!” said Marianna offended and confidently. “So, this is a secret love of Nikitin!”
“Really! Is that honestly what you think?!” asked Lauren her with tears in her voice.
And then, Marianna told in detail several stories when unsuspecting wives met their husbands’ mistresses in the elevator, who managed to run out of the apartment just right before the wife came home.
“And then, your dream is proof!” summed up Marianne.
“So, there is a romance between them?” asked Lauren in confusion.
“Everything is pointed to this!” answered the girlfriend with confidence.
“Oh!” exclaimed Lauren. “What am I supposed to do now? I have absolutely no idea!”
“It’s about never giving up! Be calm, and be confident! You’ve be yourself in the end! Talk to Nikitin, fling this hard evidence in his teeth!”
In the evening Lauren had a serious conversation with Nikitin - she was speaking, he was listening. At first with interest, then, unable to resist, he yawned several times. Then he completely got up from the sofa and went to the bedroom.
“Why are you leaving?!” Lauren exclaimed. “You do not just want to say anything for yourself?!”
“It’s already late, my dear, it’s bedtime” Nikitin yawned.
“So, it’s true?! You and this woman? Admit it!”
Nikitin, who had settled himself in bed, mumbled muttered sleepy:
“I don’t even know who you’re talking about. It is true that she is really so nice? It gets interesting to me...”
“Oh, so! I was right! It means that all my suspicions are true!” Lauren exclaimed, sobbing.
But Nikitin did not answer her. He was already fast asleep, rolled on his side.
“What did he tell you?” Marianne asked her friend excitedly. “Did he confess?”
Lauren sniffed and held the phone closer to her ear, wiping the tears from her eyes.
“He said there were all kinds of people in the elevators, and he didn’t have to know them all. And that my suspicions were all nonsense…”
“Well,” said Marianne, “I knew it would be so!”
“Did you know?” Lauren asked uncertainly.
“Yes, I suspected he wouldn’t admit it! Men never admit an infidelity!”
“Yeah, I guess this is the case,” Lauren said with lingering sound while sobbing.
“You should talk yourself to this insolent schemer. You have to find out, finally!”
Emboldened by support of a fellow woman, Lauren was ready for action.
She spent several days under considerable stress and with fight face on. She imagined she saw everywhere the beautiful stranger from the elevator. Lauren imagined she would face her in the foyer, or on the steps at the entrance to the house, or again, in the elevator. But the long-awaited meeting still did not happen. Until one day, going along the foyer, she looked into one of the boutiques located there. Judging from the advertisement, it was a fashion boutique, that would be open in a few days. The door was half-opened, and Lauren, dying of curiosity, eased the door open a little way and peered inside. It was dark inside, and only the pale blue light fell in wide strips on the floor from the tall windows. And then, Lauren cried out in surprise – the conniving temptress of Nikitin was there, inside. She stood turning to the window and watching the snowflakes swirl through the glass, emerging from the blue haze and disappearing into it.
Oh, she was beautiful indeed! – She stood with the same proud posture and slightly raised head. A cascade of gorgeous hair covered her shoulders and blades. She seemed to be thinking about something. With bated breath, Lauren was watching her rival. She was afraid to betray herself. “How can I talk to her without being funny from the start?” - thought Lauren. Suddenly, she had come up with an excellent idea! She threw herself into the apartment and, after searching the pockets of Nikitin’s jackets hanging in closet, she finally found a pack of cigarettes and a lighter in one of the pockets. Just as quickly, she dashed down the stairs, stopping at the entrance to the boutique. No, she would not give Nikitin away like this, simply and without a fight, to this brazen seductress! Lauren had the courage and stepped inside the boutique. The woman was still at the window. Lauren stopped about five meters away from her rival and began to open a pack of cigarettes with trembling hands. Finally, she lit a cigarette, coughing a little, since the last time she did it was at the institute.
The stranger stood motionless, and did not even turn to look at her unexpected visitor.
“You know, I remember you!” Lauren said. Her words sounded unexpectedly harshly for herself.
“We met in the elevator… last Thursday”, she continued defiantly.
However, the rival was silent. She was looking thoughtfully into the distance, as if Lauren’s words had nothing to do with her.
“You can keep quiet, but I know everything! About you and about Nikitin!” Lauren exclaimed.
The woman passed the question in silence again, and only her eyebrows were raised mockingly, as it seemed to Lauren. It was as if this mysterious woman was making it clear that she did not understand at all what and whom she was talking about.
“You’re trying to seduce him for nothing! He has me! He loves me very much and tells me about it every day, just so you know!”
The stranger grinned incredulously and slightly shrugged her shoulders.
Lauren was shocked at rival’s imperturbability.
“Yes, you are beautiful!” she agreed, “but beauty isn’t all a man wants. The other day, he proposed to me and soon we will have a wedding! And you, you will simply disappear, like a completely meaningless woman to him!”
It needs to be said that Lauren never was a good liar. At the thought that her rival might have been privy to her and Nikitin relationship much more than she had previously assume, and that she might well have known that there had been no marriage proposal from Nikitin, Lauren felt terribly hurt and very sad. She suddenly realized that she had lost this battle for the man she loved, and she wanted to cry terribly. If this woman was so cool and calm, then there must have been some good reason for it, Lauren decided. She felt a lump approached her throat and she was about to burst into tears.
“Well, you can have him! I don’t want a man who lies and cheats on me! Perhaps he will love YOU!” Lauren exclaimed and, not knowing what else to do or say in the current situation, she ran out of the boutique, completely crushed and sobbing.
She was crying and busy with packing her things when Nikitin returned from the theater and found her in the apartment. Two large suitcases were already standing by the door in the hallway.
“What’s going on?!” the man had been puzzled to see that.
“I’m leaving!” Lauren exclaimed.
“But what happened?!” director was surprised. He went to her and tried to put his arms around her. Lauren wriggled out of his arms, while digging her fingernails into his forearm at the same.
“You know better than anybody what’s going on?” Lauren screamed in the man’s face.
“I don’t know really what you’re talking about,” Nikitin mumbled something, distraught.
“I was just talking to your mistress! I will no longer be an obstacle to your meetings with her, be calm!”
“What kind of mistress are you talking about, Lauren?! Maybe you have a fever?” director asked, still confused.
“I mean the one who’s waiting for you right now, down in the lobby, in the boutique! Why do you pretend you don’t understand what I mean! I’m so sick of your lies!” Lauren exclaimed, sobbing.
“Well!” Nikitin was distraught, finally. He grabbed Lauren’s arm.
“It’s ever so slightly getting on my nerves! Come down, and you will show me my mistress, who, as you say, is waiting for me!”
He’s headed towards the door, dragging the woman behind him.
As they descended into the foyer, Nikitin exclaimed:
“Where is she, my mistress?”
His movements were fast and impulsive, and he was angry.
“So, you don’t deny it?” She’s there – in the boutique!”
Lauren looked through the half-open door. The woman still stood in the same place. It seemed kind of weird. Following Lauren, Nikitin went inside and his hands began to twitch at the wall.
Finally, there was a little click and lights flashed in the hall. It was so bright that Lauren closed her eyes for a moment.
A second later, the director burst into laughter loudly, pointing his finger at the woman standing at the window.
“How could you talk to her in the elevator and here and not understand that it is ...” because of laughter he could not finish his phrase.
Lauren stared into the stranger, turning pale more and more.
“My God!” she cried.
“Mannequin!” director said at last triumphantly.
Lauren’s cheeks went crimson red. She screamed and tightened hands on her head.
“Ugh, I am so stupid!” she whispered.
At that moment, a thin man of small stature with thick-framed glasses entered the boutique.
“What’s happening here?!” he asked angrily in a stern voice those present.
“You are not allowed! Here, there is a corresponding plate!” he added.
“Sorry! We’ll leave now” Nikitin replied to him laugh-talking, but I’ve just to find out absolutely my relationship with the dummy!
“With mannequin of mine?! - the man exclaimed indignantly. I won’t give it to anyone! It costs a lot of money! I took this female dummy specially from France. It was custom-Made over in Paris. This is mannequin of a very high quality, please note!
“Yes!” Nikitin agreed with him. “We noticed!”
He looked at Lauren. She stood with crimson face.
“Last week, some hooligans stole my dummy from the boutique and placed it in the elevator,” - the man continued. “I found it there only two days later! After that, I put up a sign here with the words “Do not enter!” But somehow you ended up here! It’s impossible! Everyone and their dog go around here! As if there is a promenade area, but not a private property!”
“Oh, what is it?” the man exclaimed, staring at the carpet. He was leaning on it, closely examining something.
“What the hell! It’s someone’s cigarette butt. These are Persian carpets! I’ve had specially brought them from far away! Who did it?! Was that you?” the man yelled, staring at the couple.
Lauren, with the bloody shame, mouthed off:
“You know, I don’t remember exactly, maybe, it is possible…”
“I beg you to get out of here!” the man uttered a roar without listening to her speech to the end. “Get the hell off! Walk away!” he repeated, showing them the door.
“I beg you, forgive us!” Lauren begged the man when she and Nikitin walked to the exit.
Finally, they returned to the apartment.
“Well, maybe now you can tell me how this ludicrousness has been occurred?” asked Nikitin, sitting down on the sofa.
Then Lauren told him about how she met a beautiful stranger in the elevator, about her dream, about conversations with her girlfriend …
It’s been a month. The wedding planning was well under way. Nikitin made Lauren swear not to believe in dreams, bad feelings and advice from her friends.
The wedding was held finally. Everyone was happy: gossips were schmoozing, enviers were jealous. However, Lauren, in a poofy white dress and bridal veil, was happy.
“And yet, why did you decide to marry me?” she asked the director one evening in a flirtatious manner.
“I thought you’d go mad if I didn’t ask you to marry me,” he told her with a smile, then added: “and because I love you, of course! But, you know, this female dummy was really very good, it’s a pity that the store owner didn’t give it to us..”
Pillow from the sofa flew towards him..
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