Lena watched from the balcony as the movers unloaded the van and brought furniture and boxes of different sizes into the entrance. New residents came to their house. She returned to the kitchen and heard rustling coming from the hallway. Panic covered her, there was nothing to breathe, her heart began to beat anxiously in her chest. She shrank back against the wall in fright. But Alexander came into the kitchen.
– What are you scared of? It’s me. He came over and kissed his wife, comforting her.- And we have new neighbors. They’re moving right now.
– Have you seen them?” Young? With the kids? Lena spoke hurriedly, but her heart was already beating more steadily.
– A young couple without children, as I understand it. But I didn’t ask. Then we’ll get acquainted. How delicious it smells! – Alexander sniffed the air and closed his eyes.
Lena smiled and, finally calming down, began to put the plates on the table.
At the weekend, a new neighbor came to get acquainted. She was a pleasant young woman, smiling and talkative. She asked who lived in the apartment before them, warned that they would make noise, do minor repairs. Her husband urged her to wait and move in after the renovation, but she couldn’t wait to become the mistress of her own apartment as soon as possible. Before that, they lived with Mom. That the husband is an avid fisherman and went to the lakes. So she decided to brighten up her loneliness and get to know her neighbors.
They were drinking tea and, leaving, Rita, that was the name of the new neighbor, invited them to pay a return visit to visit when they were settled.
And indeed, all day long they knocked, drilled, moved furniture behind the wall. Lena worked at home, the noise interfered and got on her nerves. She didn’t go out alone, without Sasha. So I took the headphones and turned on the music.
One day she decided to go outside, take a break from the noise. She couldn’t stand the cramped space of the elevator car, so she went down the stairs. A man was rising to meet her. Lena pressed her back against the wall, letting him pass, and turned away so as not to meet his gaze. My heart was fluttering in my chest like a trapped bird, a trickle of sweat crawled down my spine. Lena squeezed her eyes shut. The man looked at her in bewilderment and ran upstairs, jumping three steps at a time. And Lena rushed headlong down.
It was only when she was on the sunlit street that she was able to catch her breath, regretting that she had left the safe space of the apartment. She was walking until she met her husband at the house.
Three weeks later, Rita invited them to visit. Lena put on her favorite beautiful dress, pinned her hair into a high hairstyle, tinted her eyes and lips.
– How beautiful you are with me. – Alexander carefully adjusted the earring caught in a curl of hair. – Are you ready? Let’s go. We won’t be long, don’t worry.
Lena took a package with a housewarming gift and followed her husband. Rita opened the door, and they smelled the aroma of stewed meat mixed with the smell of vanilla, fresh pastries.
– Seryozha, meet our neighbors Lena and Alexander, – Rita introduced, coming forward.
A large young man got up from the sofa. Alexander took a step towards him, preparing his hand for a shake, and Lena came out from behind him… At the sight of the man, the smile slipped from her face, the package fell out of her hands, she staggered, clutched her throat with her hand, as if she could not breathe, and in a panic rushed to the door. With trembling fingers, she could not cope with the lock, pulled the handle… It went dark in her eyes, and Lena felt that she was losing consciousness.
– Lena! – her husband’s strong arms caught her in time.
– What happened? Is she sick or something? – Sergey asked indifferently when Rita returned to the room, having let the neighbors out.
“She seemed perfectly normal to me. Rita shrugged her shoulders. – I don’t understand anything. Maybe the smells made it bad? Exactly. She’s probably pregnant and has toxicosis. I’ll go find out how she is.
The door was opened to her by a frustrated Alexander.
– I’m sorry. Is your wife pregnant? Did the smells make her sick? It happens. And I, as luck would have it, cooked meat,” Rita chattered, apologizing.
– No, my wife is not pregnant, – Alexander said in an unfriendly tone.
– And what happened then? Why did she get sick? Is she… sick? Rita lowered her voice, looking with sincere sympathy.
“Are you sure you want to know?” You won’t like it. Your life after what I say will not remain the same. Alexander sounded frighteningly serious.
– What are you talking about? Rita pushed Sasha aside with her hand and resolutely entered the room.
Lena was lying on the sofa in her smart dress, facing the wall.
– Lena, I’ll tell her. Then we will decide what to do. – Alexander was ahead of Rita.
– Tell me what? What to decide? Stop talking in riddles! Rita became nervous, unable to stand the omissions.
“Do as you see fit,” Lena replied dully, without turning her head.
Sasha took Rita into the kitchen and closed the door.
– The fact is that seven years ago… Lena wasn’t my wife then. She was returning from the university in the evening. The dormitory was located in the depths of the courtyards. It was already dusk, and the lanterns had not yet been lit. And there was no lighting in the courtyards at all.
Two guys came out from behind the house to meet her. One of them yanked her purse out of her hand. Lena clung to her, did not let go. So they dragged her into a thicket of bushes. She screamed, struggled. She was gagged. But there was no one around, and if anyone heard, they did not come to the rescue, did not call the police. She was raped, tried to strangle. Maybe someone scared her off, maybe she fainted, and they thought it was over, so they left her there. These freaks did not even hide their faces, they were sure of their impunity, that they would not survive.
Needless to say, they were not found and were not searched for. The investigator directly said that it was not necessary to go alone in the evenings, that she provoked the guys. She was treated for a long time. She won’t have any children. The psyche suffered the most. Since then, she can’t stand the dark, crowds of people, is afraid to ride in the elevator. She is terrified of men. We met at the clinic. I’m a psychotherapist.
– Horror. There were tears in Rita’s eyes. – Only I don’t understand what this has to do with us?
“It certainly doesn’t apply to you. And to your husband – the most direct. Lena recognized him. Such things get stuck in the brain in spite of themselves. – After Alexander’s words, Rita turned pale and covered her face with her hands.
“Could it be that she was mistaken?” You said she’s afraid of all men. Rita looked at Alexander hopefully.
– She’s afraid, yes, but she didn’t confuse any of them with those rapists.
– And what should I do now? My husband… I can’t believe it. Yes, he can be rude, especially when he drinks. But it never occurred to me… Sasha, what should I do? You’re right, everything has changed… – Tears were running down Rita’s cheeks.
– The only correct solution in this case is to report to the police. – Alexander spoke calmly, unhurriedly, confidently. – The criminal must be punished. You saw for yourself what they did to my wife.
– That’s not true. This can’t be happening! So many years have passed. Is it possible to prove his guilt now? Rita refused to believe it.
– You can prove it. Skin and blood particles were taken from under Lena’s nails… Lena scratched, fought back. Probably, it is possible to conduct a DNA test and so on. I’m not an expert, I don’t know how crimes are solved after many years.” Alexander paused. – Rita, you understand that Lena will not be able to live through the wall with you, with your husband. And what would you do in our place? – he remarked.
– We just bought an apartment, made repairs… God, what am I saying. Rita covered her face again.
She got up and, barely moving her legs, as if weight weights were hanging on them, went to the door.
Alexander looked after her with regret. He felt sorry for the woman who found out the truth about her own husband. But I felt sorry for Lena more. It took so much effort and time for her to start living again, to believe him. And now we have to start over. He went and sat down next to his wife. But a few minutes later the doorbell rang again, and Lena struggled in Alexander’s arms, clinging to him in fright.
– I’m nearby. Don’t be afraid. He kissed her and went to open it. Rita was standing on the threshold, crying.
– He … it’s true … – Rita tried to speak through sobs. – I came… his … things… He ran away, took his things and all the money…” She sobbed out loud, burying her face in Alexander’s chest.
He took her to the kitchen, gave her water.
– I’m sorry. By his flight, he destroyed all doubts and betrayed himself. Please write down all his details. So the police will be able to find him faster. No, you don’t have to. They will come to you anyway. Rita, it’s hard for you, I understand, husband. But it won’t work any other way.
The police initially refused to look for Sergei, citing Lena’s mental state. But after some time he was still detained. He did not admit, shouted that the crazy woman had made a mistake, that after so many years she could have confused… The indisputable proof of his involvement was his so quick escape. He didn’t recognize his victim, he was just scared, because he had something to hide and something to be afraid of.
In the end, Sergei confessed and betrayed his friend, who was currently serving time for theft. He, offended by the accomplice who escaped prison, confirmed everything.
And Lena seemed to have been resurrected. She was still afraid of the elevator, people, but more and more often she began to go outside, to the store, and not only with Sasha, but also with Rita, who remained their neighbor for the time being.