In the mid-1980s, I studied at a pedagogical school in the small town of Borisoglebsk. Together with three girls from our group, I rented an apartment from a former teacher Irina Dmitrievna. She was a very sociable woman, in the evenings she came to our room, and we sat up late at the table, having intimate conversations.
Irina Dmitrievna treated her lodgers like a mother. She brought us up, taught us, gave life advice, tried to protect us from troubles and mistakes. After all, we were very young – 17-18 years old, stupid and naive. They did not know life as such, and besides, they came from small villages and villages where the life of young people was different from the city. Irina Dmitrievna was very worried when we had to return from school in the evenings. She always ordered us not to walk the dark streets alone, only all together, she told scary stories, the heroines of which were young women.
In the city at that time, terrible cases were vigorously discussed – when girls were lost at cards. Gamblers, professional criminals, played for blondes or curly-haired girls in red jackets or white hats. And then they killed unfortunate people who fit the description.
Even the names were lost. And they could kill those who accidentally looked back at a loud shout on the street, for example: “Tatiana!” We listened, hotly discussed these stories, but no one could imagine that it would ever touch us.
One spring, in May, when the school year was coming to an end, on a day off, as usual, I went to the village to my parents. As I remember now, I was wearing a light thin coat, a black velvet cape (then such were in fashion) and black stiletto shoes. And the day before, for the first time in 18 years, I dyed my hair brown with a copper sheen, so I went and liked myself. In the village, my fiance Yura was supposed to meet me at the bus stop on a motorcycle.
As always, there were a lot of people at the ticket office at the train station. I got in line. Suddenly someone, drowning out the noise of the crowd, shouted loudly:
Many involuntarily looked back, including me. But I didn’t understand who was shouting, so I immediately turned away. And then a short blond guy came up to me. I didn’t know him, but he leaned over and looked right into my eyes.
– Irina? the guy asked.
– No, – I shook my head and smiled, as if apologizing that I’m not Irina, and he just made a mistake.
The guy walked away and stood aside. Several times I came across his gaze. I just smiled, thinking that the guy liked me, and he was looking for an excuse to get to know me. But I loved Yura, so I wasn’t interested in new acquaintances.
After standing in line for a ticket, I got on the bus, which, as always, was full. Our village was located ten kilometers from the highway. From the bus stop, it could be reached either through a meadow or along a path by the edge of the forest. It was much shorter through the meadow, but collective farm herds grazed there, and I was very afraid of bulls and shepherd dogs, so I always walked only along the forest.
I got off at the bus stop. Yura didn’t meet me for some reason. He must have been late at work, I decided. Several young guys were crowding around the bus stop. I thought they were going to get on the bus. But no, they stayed at the bus stop. On the contrary, several other guys got off the bus, including the same blond guy who was looking at me at the bus station, and joined them. They started talking loudly, laughing, swearing. So the rest of the passengers who got off with me, slowly bypassed them and went to their own village.
I went towards the forest. On the Krasovsky Bridge over the Savala River, I paused for a moment and for some reason looked back. The guys were still standing at the bus stop, but, discussing something violently and gesticulating, they looked in my direction. And suddenly the blond man separated from the company and came to me. I thought, “Oh, he’s also our local!” Without feeling any apprehension, calmly went on. I knew all our guys. I thought that the blonde was probably from another village – Polyana. Then I turn right and he turns left. At the fork in the road, I looked back, but the blonde was nowhere to be found. I, thinking about my own, stomped forward.
I was walking along the edge of the forest, and when I rounded a small swamp on the way, I automatically looked back again. A man was running across the meadow from the highway to cut me off. He was far away, but I easily recognized him as a blond. A shepherd was driving a flock across the meadow, and I thought that the guy was running to him. Maybe it’s his father or grandfather. And I calmly continued on my way.
At the old water pump, the path diverged into two. Then I heard something behind me, either a rustle, or hurried footsteps. I looked around – no one! It seemed, probably.
Here is the forest behind. There are three hundred meters left to the village. And suddenly I heard someone running after me, out of breath. I looked around and saw that blond guy. He was rapidly approaching, and for some reason he kept one hand in his pants pocket, although it was inconvenient to run with his hand in his pocket. In two jumps, he overtook me and knocked me down. I fell on my back and hit the stone painfully. He, unable to stay on his feet, flopped down next to me, but immediately jumped up and rushed at me, not letting me get up. I noticed that he had a knife in his hand. I screamed so shrilly in fear that he recoiled for a second. I quickly jumped to my feet. The blond man tried to pounce on me again, but then a motorcycle rattled not far away. My Yura flew out of the corner. The guy, like a hare, jumped aside, hurriedly put the knife in his pocket and gave a run towards the forest.
When Yura drove up to me, I couldn’t cry or talk… I still don’t know what this scoundrel wanted – to kill, rob or rape me.
Exactly a week later, I met that blond man again at the train station. I was standing in line for a ticket again. When he saw me, he came and stood next to me. I pretended not to recognize him and even turned away. He came in from the other side, bent down again and looked into my face, trying to catch my eye.
My blood froze in my veins, but I managed, gathering all my will into a fist, to remain outwardly indifferent. He walked away in silence. I don’t know how long he stood aside and watched me. I never looked in his direction again. Since then, I have never gone home alone, only with friends. After that incident, my fiance Yura conducted his investigation, talking to the hooligan at the bus stop, and found out that it was a guy from a neighboring village. He wanted to deal with him like a man, without involving the police in these matters. But I didn’t have time.
Shortly after this incident, the blond man died under unclear circumstances. Either he was killed, or he committed suicide. Or maybe he lost my life at cards, and his criminal friends punished him for not fulfilling the condition? I don’t know. But Yura was definitely sent by God himself to save me.