The store was empty. Saleswoman Natalia, standing behind the counter, glanced out the window. The same picture again! A homeless tramp was digging in huge garbage cans. The woman sighed softly and began to put the goods on the shelf. I turned away not because it was disgusting, I just didn’t want conflicts with the owner.
The trick is useless, because the store is equipped with cameras. It is only necessary for the owner to review the records and immediately reprimand. And he is a strict and principled person. I have already warned more than once to drive homeless people away from the tanks by three necks. That’s why the woman pretended not to notice anything. Maybe it will pass.
During the day she didn’t often look out the window–there was no time. There are a lot of visitors. But at night, when I had free time, I often looked out the window that overlooked the gas station. There are few cars at this time, and this homeless man visits regularly. It’s a pity for him, because a man is still. Maybe his life didn’t work out in the best way and he’s not to blame for anything. Natasha has watched more than once how he even collected scattered garbage and took it to the right place. It evokes respect. And the woman had never seen him drunk. Other homeless people, as soon as they beg for a penny, drink right away. This one doesn’t. A strange homeless man met.
A young woman’s life is also not sugar, although there is a roof over her head. That’s why I sympathized with the homeless man, even sometimes fed him. The buyer will spoil the packaging of the loaf, and she will waste it so that the homeless person picks it up. I have two children on my neck and they are getting by from paycheck to paycheck, but I saw that it is even harder for a homeless person. He looked too skinny, which was not hidden even by a huge torn jacket.
The young woman often asked to work the night shift. So she managed to take care of the children and do everything around the house. The truth did not get enough sleep at all and constant fatigue overcame.
I was lucky, I was taken as a saleswoman to the store. She worked diligently, did not violate discipline and tried not to run into a fine or reprimand.
We must pay tribute to the fact that the work is not very difficult. Sometimes at night it was even possible to take an hour’s nap. And there’s a bell on the door of the store, if anything. It happened that after twelve more than a dozen buyers were not recruited.
Separately, her duties included sorting and taking out garbage. A lot of plastic remained from the cafeteria located inside the store. All the garbage had to be packed and taken to the trash cans. And so every day.
Such a work schedule led to the fact that gradually the homeless man began to help the young woman. In proud silence, he took the heavy bags from her hands, carried them to the tanks and helped sort the garbage. With huge hands, he crushed plates and cans, rammed them and packed them neatly into bags. Natalia didn’t talk either, but she looked at the assistant with gratitude.
Like everyone around her, homeless people were associated with danger. Besides, she was afraid of the owner. He was a principled and strict man. Once he gave instructions not to let homeless people near Baku, it means that they must be carried out without question. Otherwise, you can stay without a job. And you won’t last long on a meager child benefit. So, though infrequently, but sometimes she allowed herself to pamper the children with toys and sweets.
That day Natalia was in a hurry, so she did not notice the homeless man who came up. She dragged a heavy bag to the container, not paying attention to the seller’s cap sliding down on her forehead.
“Girl, wait,” someone called her. Natalia stopped in fright. An old acquaintance was running up to her. – Don’t lift it, I’ll help.
So their communication began. Somehow Natalia became calmer. From a faceless homeless homeless man turned into a man. The stranger turned out to be a pleasant young man with a velvety voice and an unusual name.
– Vakula, – he smiled broadly and out of habit stretched out his hand, and then immediately put it in his pocket.
– Is that what they called it in the yard? Natalia smiled and held out her right hand in response.
The man was confused and looked at his hands. Then he quickly wiped them on his dirty black coat and handed them to the girl again.
– Vakula – so it is written in the passport. My parents did their best. There were believers who were called “Vukol” from the church name. It is translated from Greek as “shepherd”. They thought that I would become a big man, but it turned out,” the guy waved his hand, such a nobody. He lowered his head and began to sort out the garbage in silence as usual.
– Natalia, – the girl introduced herself, smiling, and rushed to help him. – I somehow remembered more about Gogol’s work.
From that day on, they exchanged a few words. Routine questions: “What’s new?” or “How do you like the weather?”.
– It’s very cold today, – Natalia once noted when Vakula, as usual, helped to carry bags of garbage.
– Nothing, youth will last longer, – the homeless man cheerfully declared, cheerfully rubbing his nose and cheeks, red from the cold, with his hand.
Natasha rushed into the store and brought him a cup of steaming fragrant coffee. The homeless man carefully took the dishes, like an antique vase, and inhaled the smell of the drink with pleasure.
– Wow! I haven’t drunk this in a hundred years,” he squeezed his eyes shut in anticipation of pleasure.
Natalia felt awkward. Here she happens to complain about fate: she was left a widow early, she stretches herself and brings up two children and there is constantly not enough money. That’s just on the washing machine has been collecting for five years. And how I want the children to have beautiful toys and new clothes! I forgot about myself for a long time – a year ago I was only in a hairdresser, and I didn’t see anything from traveling except apartment moves.
That’s really something to compare with when an ordinary cup of hot coffee pleases. It was nice to see that the man is always cheerful and optimistic.
– Why don’t you wear a hat? the girl asked.
– Your appearance, Natasha, turns all the minuses of life into pluses, – he replied to the remark. – And I lost my hat, I’ll have to look for a new one.
– How could it have been lost? – the saleswoman was genuinely surprised.
– To be honest, I took the hat to the pawnshop, – Vakula shared. – I wanted to eat, but there was no cash. In a pawnshop, they took fifty with a condition of return for 100. But it’s better to buy a new one for 50 in a second-hand shop, there’s still nowhere to wash it. Such are the tricks of the homeless.
He shared the tricks of his life with Natalia so seriously that she was confused and did not know whether to laugh or cry.
Then she took a handful of small coins out of her pocket and handed them to Vakula. He pushed her hand away resolutely.
“No need, Natasha,” he said, embarrassed.
– I’m investing in a new hat, – the woman smiled. – It is not good to walk in such a cold without a headdress – the brains will freeze. The homeless man did not take the money for the hat. He turned out to be conscientious.
Gradually, day by day, Natalia got used to her accomplice. He did not allow her to lift weights and the mood from communicating with him improved. I stopped being afraid of the owner, I haven’t visited at night for a long time. And I agreed with Vakula: “If his car is near the store, leave the gas station quickly.”
At the weekend I was doing general cleaning at home and came across my husband’s things. They lived together for three years, but their happiness was short-lived. They did not have time to take her husband to the hospital by ambulance. He died on the way from a heart attack. Since then, Natalia has been raising children herself. Both she and her late husband were orphanages: no parents, no relatives.
All hands did not rise to throw away clothes, and then I remembered about the homeless. I found a warm scarf, a winter hat, a sweater and put it in a bag to give to a homeless person at a meeting.
I spent the whole night looking out of the window, but Vakula did not appear. I waited another day, and then I got worried. This has never happened before. Regularly, like clockwork, he appeared near garbage cans.
I tried not to wind myself up that she was to blame for something. Maybe he was offended or tired of helping for the pennies that Natalia gave out of pity. But she was already tearing off as much as possible from a modest budget.
Then I decided that I had found another place or appeared on the day shift when there were more customers. Maybe it’s getting colder and he has a long way to go. After all, she didn’t even ask where his habitat was. “What if something bad happened?” the girl worried.
Natalia began to ask colleagues who worked the day shift, and received a negative answer. No, they haven’t seen him for a long time either.
That evening, after another fruitless questioning, she was walking past a gas station and met a familiar driver.
– Hi, what’s up? You don’t look like yourself,” he asked sympathetically, noticing her sad face.- Looking for someone? Or just went out to get some air?
– Everything is fine, I just wanted to give old things to the homeless. There used to be one here all the time, and now it’s gone.
– Leave them near the garbage cans, they will do for someone, – the driver suggested. – If you want, carry it under the bridge, there are a lot of them living there. There was a fight between them recently. One homeless man, several men immediately retreated. I heard that they often have not only fights there, but also stabbings. Where are the police looking?!
Natalia couldn’t wait any longer. I went to the specified place myself and found Vakula there. It was scary to look at the man: his whole face was bruised and he was feverish. He was lying right on the snow, wrapped up in a battered quilt.
Natalia ran to the driver, persuaded him to take the unfortunate to the hospital. It’s good that the man turned out to be decent – he wasn’t afraid to cover up the salon. So they brought the homeless man to the hospital already in a state of unconsciousness. A little more and grief could happen. It was lucky that Natalia found him. The doctor told her so. Only to the doctor’s question: “Who do you have a patient with? – she answered indistinctly: “Just an acquaintance, he was fishing near our store.”
Doctors made a disappointing diagnosis – a pre-stroke condition. Not only was the man severely beaten, he also earned bilateral pneumonia in the cold. They were afraid that both kidneys were beaten off, but God was merciful.
Without a second’s hesitation, Natalia took the money she was saving up for a washing machine. Nothing, it won’t erase your hands. I paid for tests and a full examination, bought medicines. Don’t leave a man in trouble!
I knew that they would not treat a homeless person in the hospital for free. If there is no insurance policy and no money, should I die? The woman realized that no one else would help him.
She beat all the thresholds and settled with the policy, agreed and did not take money from the homeless person for being in the hospital. But it became a little easier, and they discharged me, they say: “Heal yourself.”
Natalia went to see the patient only once. And then a friend went on vacation, and there was no one to leave the children. Therefore, I left a phone number to the doctor, in case something was needed. On the day of discharge, she handed over her late husband’s belongings to the nurse and waited at the entrance. Patients and staff came and went, but there was still no Vacula.
Oh, my God! She recognized the homeless man only by familiar things. A neat-looking, handsome man hurried to her, in whom it was difficult to recognize a homeless man.
– I am grateful to you from the bottom of my heart! – Vakula looked at the young woman with trepidation. – I will thank you forever!
“Let’s celebrate your recovery,” Natalia suddenly blurted out, although she hadn’t planned anything at all before. Suddenly it occurred to her that it was not good to leave a person from the hospital on the street right away. – The children only need to be picked up – they are left alone at home.
I thought that she would quickly go back and forth, and return home.
After the cafe, the woman invited the homeless man to stay with them for the time being. He did not resist much and quickly agreed. He thanked the woman and assured her that he would not bother her for a long time. He will look for a job, and then he will move somewhere.
Natalia lived with her children in a two-room apartment. The rooms are small, plus furniture – there is nowhere to turn around. The eldest Ivan was five years old, and his sister Olya was six. Children are noisy and overly active. Uncle was not allowed to be sad, but Vakula did not complain. I managed to play with the children and help Natalia with the housework. I wasn’t even proud to peel potatoes or cook soup, if necessary.
The man is already over 40. A real catastrophe happened in his life. He was married for love, worked as a chief accountant at the enterprise. And suddenly my whole life collapsed like a house of cards. The wife went on a spree and demanded a divorce. According to the contract concluded before the wedding, the two-storey house, car and all other property went to the spouse. Everything acquired by honest labor is gone. At the end of the holiday, his wife’s lover turned out to be his boss. Naturally, he was fired immediately. The man remained “naked as a falcon”. It’s a good thing they didn’t have time to have children.
So his whole previous happy life crumbled into pieces. Not only the wife betrayed, but also close friends and colleagues turned away. The man went downhill from such disappointment in close people. He didn’t want to live. And the meeting with Natalia and her selfless act restored his hope. After all, he no longer believed that fate could give him such a meeting. I didn’t hope for anything.
He decided to fight for his future for the sake of a good woman. Before that, I had been wandering for a whole year, so I did not feel confident. But he pulled himself together, got clothes with the help of Natalia, and began to actively go for interviews.
A neighbor Galina lived opposite the apartment. What a harmful woman – dissatisfied with the whole world. She always found fault with Natalia: sometimes the children do not greet her, then the mother pays little attention to them. By the way, no one from her neighbors liked her, a grumpy woman and a terrible gossip.
She was interested in who lives in Natalia. I thought that the lover was drawn, and then I found out that he used to be a homeless man. Boring people live, that’s why they climb into someone else’s life and spread rumors. They don’t see logs in their own eye, but they notice everything behind others.
Soon the neighbor tried, and the district police officer came to them, and even with representatives of the guardianship authorities. We examined the apartment for a long time, talked with the mother and her tenant. They began to scare that they would take the children away, saying that the living conditions were not at the highest level. They also found a huge minus – cohabitation with a former homeless man.
But there wasn’t much to complain about. The apartment is clean, the food is cooked and the children are cheerful, quite unlike poor orphans. The guards swirled around, and left with nothing. They didn’t find any convincing reasons to take the kids.
One evening the family gathered at a round table for dinner.
– Let’s get married? – not expecting to hear such words from Vakula, Natalia choked. – I have fallen in love with your children and I want to become a real father to them. I’ll get a job soon. I’m not a bad specialist and I know my business. You will stop going to work at night and carrying garbage on yourself.
Natalia was happy. For herself, she had known for a long time that she had fallen in love. But she didn’t want to agree, being unsure of his feelings. I thought that I decided to get married so that custody would fall behind or get a corner.
– Don’t think that I’m looking for a profit, – the man began to justify himself. – You’re like a light in a window for me. I fell in love with you a long time ago, but I was afraid to approach you. Who needs an unwashed homeless man without his own home and without a stable income? The man looked into her eyes with embarrassment.
And Natalia blushed, embarrassed. After all, she not only heard a declaration of love, but also realized that her kindness brought a person back to life. Only now he admitted that after meeting her, he began saving money for a decent suit in order to get an interview and get a job. But his homeless comrades took the money, and he was severely beaten. Such cruel laws reign in their homeless world.
No one has looked at a woman with such love for a long time, and Natalia gave her consent to the marriage. The couple applied to the registry office and played a quiet wedding. Vakula and the work all worked out. He got a good job in his specialty, and the family soon moved into a new spacious house. While in rented housing, but they began to gradually postpone the purchase of their own house.
The children accepted the man as their own father, they began to call him dad. And soon he adopted them both. He literally carried his wife in his arms. Seven months later, Natalia went on maternity leave, expecting another baby. The family lived amicably, in love and understanding.
We decided to celebrate the wedding anniversary amicably and cheerfully with the whole family. A festive table was set and the hallway was decorated with colorful balloons.
The children had fun and danced to loud music. It is not surprising that there will always be neighbors who are disturbed by music. They showed vigilance by calling the police.
By coincidence, a well-known district police officer came to them. What was his surprise when he recognized this family. I couldn’t believe my eyes. After all, it’s only been a year and a half since their last meeting in a small shabby apartment. And now, with just one glance, it was possible to determine that the family lives in love and prosperity.
So a chance meeting changed the life of a woman, her children and the homeless man himself. The district police officer wished the family happiness from the bottom of his heart and went to perform his official duties. He was genuinely happy for the new happy family.
Sometimes life seems meaningless, but this is not a reason to give up and show indifference to yourself or others. You need to enjoy every moment that an unpredictable fate gives you.
When you see how the destinies of people really change before your eyes, you want to do good. We need to believe that as long as we are alive, it is never too late to start life anew.