It so happened that Ira’s parents died when she was still very young. A distant relative did not want to take another child into her house, she understood that she could not cope with two – and she herself had just had a son. That’s why Ira ended up in an orphanage.
She remembered almost nothing about her parents, so she tried to just enjoy life. The girl did not seek to get into a new family, she had good relations with everyone at the orphanage, so she thought she would stay there until adulthood. And besides, she had some kind of Aunt Veronica, and in truth Vera, who changed her name when she married an American. It was this very Veronica who refused to take a little girl to her because of her son. But by and large, they were familiar. Veronika sometimes came to the orphanage and brought Ira various gifts: from cakes to toys and new clothes. Veronica’s son, Michael, his parents named him in the American manner, did not like Ira and refused to come to her orphanage. In general, Michael was quite a spoiled and capricious child.
One day Veronika had no one to leave him with, and on Ira’s birthday she had to get to the orphanage, and the woman took the child with her. Michael whined all the way, complaining that now he had to play on an imported console with his friend, because you have to brag that Michael has such a console!
«Honey, we’ll be back soon, and you can play as much as you want,» Veronica repeated patiently.
— I want to play now! – the boy screamed, breaking down.
— Well, we’ve already arrived, — Veronica tried to ignore her son’s screams and parked the car. – Will you come with me?
— I’m not going anywhere! Michael pouted.
— Don’t you want to congratulate Irishka? She’s our relative.
— It’s raining outside! I want to go home and play the console! If this girl is so dear to you, dearer than your own son, then go to her!
«Okay,» Veronica sighed. – I’ll be back soon.
The woman took a bag of clothes, a small toy pony tied with a pink ribbon, and headed for the building. At that time, the children were in the playroom, content with a few common toys. Therefore, the woman asked the teacher to bring Ira to her.
— Hi, Irochka! Veronica smiled.
— Hi, Aunt Veronica, — Ira shyly approached a distant relative.
— It’s your birthday today, right?
— This is for you! – Veronika gave Irina a toy pony.
Delight appeared in the girl’s eyes.
— Thank you!.. – Ira took the outstretched pony and hugged her aunt tightly.
After all, the girl did not understand that this same aunt could take her to a warm and rich house, instead of bringing toys and clothes a couple of times a year.
«Happy birthday,» Veronica repeated. – And here are some clothes. Take it too. Don’t give it to other children, they chose it for you.
— Okay, thanks! – but, of course, the eight-year-old beauties were already exchanging shiny T-shirts and patent leather shoes.
However, Aunt Veronica does not need to know this at all. The girl looked hopefully at her distant relative. Ira was one of the few people visited by at least some relatives.
– Aunt Veronica, will you come into the rooms? Will you read us something?
«Irishka, I can’t do it today,» the woman sighed. – I need to take Mikey home.
«Is Michael with you?» – the girl rounded her eyes.
She had seen the boy from afar a couple of times and really wanted to meet him.
– Why didn’t he come in?
— So it’s raining outside, — Veronika replied in bewilderment, and Ira looked out the window.
A few drops dripped lazily down the glass. The girl shifted her gaze to the woman.
— Is it really raining?..
«Well, that’s scary for someone,» Veronica chuckled. – Okay, Irishe, I have to go. See you next time!..
— Until the new year … — Irina sighed softly.
…When Irina was 16 years old, she was invited to dinner for the first time. The girl did not know where so much honor came from, so she was a little nervous. It would seem that Aunt Veronica treats her quite well, but of the whole family, Ira only knew her. But there will also be her husband, her son, and some of their American snobby friends who are passing through Moscow. In general, it would be better not to go. But I didn’t want to miss such a rarity as a family dinner either. In general, this was the first time, no one had ever invited Irina to have a snack anywhere. And she wanted so much to escape from the orphanage not only for a few hours. She was at the very age when she wanted her first romantic relationship. The girl dreamed of a fairy tale: to meet her love, find new friends, get a prestigious job…
But so far it was only dreams. In general, Ira was going to attend this dinner party. She chose her best clothes, her friends helped her put on makeup, and at the same time borrowed some makeup. They lived in an orphanage, of course, not rich at all. One lipstick for 10 girls, a tube of mascara and a couple of bottles of perfume for the whole shelter. Basically, the entire budget of the orphanage was spent on food and books, of course, there were no jewelry or cosmetics, except soap and shampoo. And the teachers did not approve too much when their young pupils began to make up. But somehow Ira dressed up and warned that she was going home to distant relatives. The teachers wished her good luck, but ordered her to return no later than 10.30 if Ira wants to sleep in her bed, otherwise the guard will close the doors.
— I’ll be back, I think. It is unlikely that they will leave me there and spend the night,» the girl shrugged.
— Have a good trip, — the teacher sighed.
It was only on the way to Aunt Veronica’s apartment that Irina suddenly wondered: why wasn’t she taken home?
No one hurt her in the orphanage, but it was still a shelter. There was bad food, poor education, clothes that didn’t quite fit. Aunt Veronica was trying to provide Ira with just that, so if she was spending money anyway, couldn’t she take her away? Was she afraid that Ira would eat too much? That too much money will be spent on it?.. The girl felt very hurt. But so far she did not want to spoil relations with her aunt, after all, Irina was already old enough to think about what she would do after the orphanage. Financial support certainly would not be superfluous.
Aunt Veronica’s apartment was in the very center, in a house with security. Irina was ordered to be let through, and the guard did not too willingly step aside. Apparently, he guessed from his appearance that Ira was not the «cream of society» at all. The girl went up to the right floor and rang the right doorbell. Veronica herself opened it for her.
— Hello, — Irina smiled. «Am I too early?»
— Oh, good evening! Veronica broke into a smile. – No, no, not at all. Come on, get undressed… Here, the wardrobe is here. Put on your slippers and come into the living room.
Irina undressed and looked around the apartment. Everything was in bright colors, expensive equipment was everywhere. Fragments of speech were heard from the audience; they were speaking in English and Russian. Irina was embarrassed: she knew English very poorly, if Veronica’s husband and his friends do not speak Russian, then she will have to feel awkward all the time.
— A moment of attention! Veronika said, leading Irina into the spacious hall. – I want to introduce you all to my niece, this is Irishka.
The guests reacted differently: someone smiled warmly at Ira’s modest smile, and someone looked her over from head to toe and returned to the conversation with his neighbor at the table.
— Come on, you’ll sit here, — Veronica pointed to the place next to her own.
On the other side of her sat a dark-haired man with a touch of gray, a kind of British lord from the stories. And next to the «lord», a young man was playing a mobile console, in which Ira recognized Michael.
«Hi, Ira,» the «lord» spoke up. – My name is John, I’m Nicky’s husband.
— Hello, John. Very nice, — Irina smiled.
— Where are you from? John asked.
His voice, by the way, was ordinary, not at all aristocratic.
«From here, from Moscow,» Irina replied.
— Fine. And I’m from New York. I came to Russia to sign a contract with a partner, and I liked this wonderful city with this wonderful metro so much that I decided to stay here,» John grinned. – And then I met Nicky. And I already knew for sure that I wasn’t going anywhere.
«How nice,» Irina sighed. – I would like someone to say that about me someday, too.
— Oh, everything is ahead! John laughed. – So, I recommend starting with a salad, and then try the steak.
Dinner was going great. Contrary to Irina’s fears, of course. The girl chatted sweetly with Aunt Veronica and her husband John, practically not talking to anyone else. Time flew by pretty quickly, and I didn’t really want to leave. At some point, John decided to go out on the balcony to smoke a cigarette with his friends, and Irina was left without an interlocutor – Aunt Veronica went to call the cleaning company and arrange for cleaning the apartment. Of course, it’s not a business for the rich to wash dishes.
— Ira, tell me, is it true that you are from an orphanage? – a woman turned to Ira as soon as the owners of the apartment left the hall.
— Really, — the girl nodded.
— hm. I wonder why you were not taken to live here? Did you have something bad with your parents?
— I don’t remember my parents, — Ira tensed up a little. «But I’m sure they were wonderful people.
«In Russia, it’s either good or nothing about the dead,» another woman echoed Irina.
— Yes, yes, very interesting. But it seems to me that a healthy child would be taken to his home,» the first objected.
Irina tried to mentally distance herself from this unpleasant topic. Why are they discussing the girl like she’s not here?
— Ira, how do you like dinner? Michael asked deliberately loudly, and Irina grabbed onto him like a lifeline.
— Fine, — the girl smiled. – Everything was very tasty.
— of course. It’s not your orphanage trash,» Michael chuckled.
Irina stared at the boy. Meanwhile, Michael went to the table against the wall and looked for something in the pile of cakes.
– And here, just what you can afford. We are not a charity organization.
With these words, the guy put a nibbled honey cake into Ira’s plate. The girl looked at this action with tearful eyes. There were chuckles from all sides, Michael was standing next to him and smiling impudently. Irina blushed deeply and got up from the table.
— I think it’s time for me to leave, thanks for dinner again. Goodbye, — the girl walked briskly into the corridor.
— Mom! There’s your ragamuffin leaving! Go see to it that you don’t steal anything! Michael shouted.
— Oh, you little… — Ira swore through her teeth.
How she would like to be far, far away from this place right now. Everyone laughed at her. From the very beginning, everyone laughed at her, looking at how she awkwardly handles appliances, does not know what a particular dish should taste like, refuses expensive coffee, choosing cheaper tea, and so on.
«What’s the matter?» Is it time for you already? Veronica came out to her.
«Don’t worry, I’m not going to steal anything,» Irina sobbed.
— Yes, the boy was just joking that you were so offended … — Veronica spread her hands in bewilderment.
— And he was joking when he gave me someone’s half-eaten cake? I’m sorry, but I don’t understand such jokes. If you invited me just to entertain your rich friends, then please don’t do that anymore. Do not contact me at all in this case!.. Never!..
— Girl, you’re hysterical. Go and calm down. If you can’t understand my son’s harmless joke, then perhaps it’s really better to stop our communication,» Veronica said sternly.
Irina did not answer anything and went to the door. She returned to the shelter long before 22.30. The teacher noticed Ira’s sad face and hurried to find out what had happened.
«Irochka, what…» she began, but Ira interrupted.
— Elizaveta Semyonovna, everything is fine. I just don’t want to talk about it yet.
— I see. Are you sure you’re okay?
— Yes, — Irina closed the door to the room.
Teenagers often returned from relatives in upset feelings. Because relatives began to throw mud at the parents of these children or pointed out to the children their imperfection. So Ira was no exception. One trip to relatives who refused to shelter the girl turned out to be a crushing blow for her. Since then, Aunt Veronica has not come back and has not even called Irina. At first, Ira reacted painfully to this, but a year later she somehow forgot about Michael’s rudeness, and indeed about his whole family. People are evil, that’s what the girl learned from that dinner.
Ira was preparing to become a lawyer, diligently studied before exams. Although she had a privilege to enter the institute, Irina still worked on textbooks. As a result, she passed the exams perfectly and was able to enter the institute. The girl studied very hard. I didn’t miss a single lecture. By the age of 22, she received an apartment from the state, and a year later she graduated from the institute and received a law degree.
At the graduation party, Irina was approached by her classmate, Roman. He had already paid attention to Ira, but the girl was busy studying.
«Hi,» he smiled. – Aren’t you busy studying today?
«Haha, not today,» Irina grinned.
— Then what do you say about a walk under the moon, after the party?
— hm. I don’t see any obstacles,» the girl agreed.
Roman and Irina started dating. Ira has not thought about the wedding yet, she would like to resolve the issue with her place of work. Of course, she is unlikely to be hired as a private lawyer right now, but it is quite possible to try to get into state organizations. And then the road will be open to private owners.
In short, Irina had a clear plan for her own career. Her boyfriend, Roma, started with an internship at his father’s firm. There, senior mentors trained him, showed him some interesting cases, and only then Roman felt that he was ready to try himself as a businessman. The guy talked about everything with his girlfriend, she supported the idea, and then Roman, with a little help from his father, opened his own small law firm, which expanded its staff every year.
After a few years of work, Roman invited Irina to a restaurant to celebrate the anniversary of their relationship. By that time, Irina knew perfectly well what a good tiramisu should taste like. Remembering that nightmarish dinner, the girl just grinned. All this was in the distant past…
Now she is already quite a successful and accomplished person who knows exactly how not to behave.
— How do you like dinner? Roman repeated Michael’s question word for word.
Irina couldn’t hold back a short laugh.
— Fine. Everything is very tasty,» she replied.
— Why are you laughing now? – the guy didn’t understand.
— Yes, just a story of bygone days, — Irina waved away.
— Well… — Roman seems to be a little offended. «You should stop hiding things from me. Do you know why?
— Because I’m asking you to become my wife, — Roman smiled and took out a box with a ring. Irina gasped. – Do you agree?
— yes!.. Of course, yes!.. – the girl was laughing, and tears of happiness glistened in her eyes.
…Roman and Irina got married. They decided to wait a bit with the children, so both plunged into work after the honeymoon. Irina was able to become a private trader, as she made herself a fairly well-known name. Of course, the price for her services was significant.
One day Irina was looking through applications on her website, when suddenly her phone rang. The girl is used to the fact that many things are not reported to her via the Internet and call her mobile to arrange a meeting and talk in person. It was a common practice. Therefore, she was not at all embarrassed when she saw an unfamiliar number.
— Hello? – the girl took the call.
— Irina Vitalievna?
— Yes, good evening, who am I talking to? the voice of the interlocutor seemed vaguely familiar to Irina.
— My name is Michael, — said the interlocutor, and Irina’s pictures flashed before her eyes.
Michael! The same Michael!
– Sorry for the late call, but I’m on important business. Um… can I meet you?
— Yes, of course, — Irina did not understand anything.
Doesn’t he remember her? Although she has changed a lot since she was 16 years old.
— Great. Only such a thing… I’m already in jail,» Michael sniffed.
— Nothing, they already know me everywhere, — Irina said a little more confidently.
He really doesn’t seem to remember her.
– Tell me, what are you accused of?
— Theft. In a large one. But I didn’t do it!
«Yes, yes, I believe you,» Irina said in an unctuous voice. – We’ll figure it out. I’ll come by tomorrow to talk.
— Thank you!
— How did you find me? – Irina asked a standard question in order to make various improvements in advertising her services. Michael was silent for a while.
— Mom told me that you became a lawyer about 5 years ago, — he said quietly. – So I thought that the person is familiar…
«Ah, so you remember me after all,» Irina flared up.
— Well, of course I remember. Although I didn’t recognize it. It won’t interfere with my defense, will it?
— Oh, come on. It won’t hurt in any way,» Irina said dryly. At least apologize so many years later! – See you tomorrow.
— Thank you…
Irina dropped the call and almost threw the phone into the wall. The only thing that stopped her was that the device was a gift from her husband. The girl sighed heavily and went to the home bar to sip wine.
— Wow, it’s only Wednesday, and you’re already good! Roman whistled when he returned a couple of hours later.
By that time Irina managed to calm down a little with the help of a whole bottle of wine.
— Can you imagine what happened here! she flared up with emotion again. – A client called me and introduced himself as Michael!
— So what? Roman shrugged his shoulders.
— So it’s that little bastard! Irina slammed her palm on the table. – Do you remember when you proposed to me, you asked if I liked dinner? I was still grinning then.
— I remember.
— So that’s it. Once I was invited by distant relatives to dinner. My aunt then brought me toys and some things, so I didn’t feel a trick. Although for some reason they did not take me away from the orphanage, but I realized it too late. So, their son, by a strange coincidence, also Michael, gave me a half-eaten cake and said that I could afford it. They say they are not a charity organization. This was our last meeting. And so, today this client, Michael, said that he remembers me, that his mother told him about me! It’s him! The same parasite!..
— Hush, hush … — Roman hugged his raging wife. – Wow. You haven’t told me about them before. Although, the reason is clear. Listen, it was fate itself that sent Michael to you.
«If you start talking about forgiveness now, I’ll go crazy,» Irina snorted. — Of course, I am a believer, but there are things that cannot be forgiven. Well, I can refuse to defend him at most,» Ira shrugged her shoulders.
— Really? Roman squinted.
The next morning Irina drove to the detention center indicated by Michael. She was grinning, imagining the prisoner’s face. And he also called her a thief…
As it was said in kindergarten: who calls names, that’s what they are called. Irina’s mood was simply wonderful. She walked past the security guard, showing her ID, and went to Michael. It was difficult to recognize him. The well-groomed boy turned into a thin, tired peasant. With a clear craving for bars. Seeing Irina, Michael jumped up joyfully.
— I’m so glad you came!.. – he said.
— Yes, now we seem to have changed places, — Irina chuckled.
— I just wanted to apologize for my behavior, then … — Michael lowered his head. – Well, you know. My parents were rich, I was spoiled. And who were you then? An orphanage girl, a poor, distant relative. Of course, I wanted to show off in front of the guests and show who is the boss in the house. That’s so stupid and joked.
— It seemed that you had been inventing this harmless joke for a long time, — Ira nodded.
«Well… so you’re not mad?»
— What are you, — how good that she knew how to lie.
Natural talent has reached the level of a polished diamond, even at the institute.
– So what’s up with your accusations?
— Well, actually … — Michael began, but Irina suddenly interrupted him.
— Listen, what happened to your parents? Why didn’t your mom call me? The right to call a lawyer, and even with the search for it on the Internet, is not given in all isolators.
— Yes, such a situation came out with my mother… Anyway, she’s in Miami,» Michael averted his eyes.
— Why aren’t you with your parents? Irina asked.
— Well… Dad found a lover, Mom found a lover. When it all came out, I was already twenty. They talked and decided to divorce peacefully. And I was studying at that time, so it was decided at the council of the former family that I was an adult boy. And I became responsible for myself. Am I used to this? When the source of money from Dad’s account was closed, I felt the horror of life. Mom was busy with herself too. So I asked for money from everyone in a row, got into loans, just not to live in poverty. When Mom found out how much I owed, she told me to forget her number altogether. Like, she nurtured and nurtured me until I was 18, but then I have to solve my own problems. Tricky, of course … — Michael swore, Irina had a hard time not slapping him in the face or at least not wincing. – Dad disappeared from the horizon altogether. Well, I had to… borrow money from a friend of one… He just sold the apartment, and went with me to wash the sale. And that would be just enough for my loan. Do you understand? And there the collectors were already waiting, I panicked! I asked him if he would lend me money? He said: yes, at least everything. Well, I took it! How was I supposed to know that this freak wouldn’t remember anything and would run to write a statement in the morning?
— Yes… I asked about my parents, but I got the corpus delicti, — Irina muttered.
— Yes, it somehow all worked out by itself … — Michael said, embarrassed. – So what? Will you help me?
— Well, it’s not too simple. There are no receipts, there is no agreement in words,» the girl pretended to think. – And how will you pay?
— I’ll borrow money from my mother or try to call my father.
— I work on prepayment, — Irina said coldly.
— But… I just told you that I don’t have any money! Not a penny! Michael exclaimed.
Irina took a bundle out of her purse and put it in front of Michael. «Then that’s all you can afford.» I’m not a government lawyer or a charity.
Michael stared in shock at the nibbled, honey cake. Exactly the same as what he put in Ira’s plate when she was a teenager. Of course, he did not admit that he wanted to humiliate the girl, but she already understood everything perfectly.
— Ir… I was a teenager… and now I’m in huge trouble! Can’t you see the difference?!
— Of course, I can see the difference. But at the same time, I can’t do anything, I don’t work on debt. Especially for those who are suspected of theft. Oh, look at that! And not a ragamuffin, it turns out, can steal something!
Irina literally rejoiced. She came out of the isolation ward with a light heart, not feeling that she could not help a good person. This man has done nothing good for her. And besides, he just confessed that he stole his friend’s money. An oral contract, and even without witnesses, provided that this contract was in general, has no weight in the court session. Surely Michael would have tried to forge evidence, and then Irina herself could have been tried. The girl did not regret for a second what she had done, she believed that she had done the right thing.
After six months of trials, Michael was found guilty. Dad never came to his aid, and neither did Mom. Apparently, they were also disappointed in this person or were busy with more important things, for Irina it did not matter. She helped people get out of difficult situations when an innocent person was cleverly framed or tried to bribe judges … but Irina did not want to help real, malicious criminals.