A warm summer evening was reflected in the shimmering water of a beautiful lake, on the shore of which there was a tourist base with small cozy houses, wooden canopies, outdoor tables and benches. Both houses and furniture made of solid wood did not spoil the overall appearance at all and fit well into the natural landscape.
This evening it was crowded here, music was playing, here and there a cheerful carefree laughter could be heard. However, the vacationers paid all their attention to a young man named Oleg, because it was he who gathered all his friends to celebrate his thirtieth birthday with them.
– My God, Olezhka, how did you just think of having a party here! The girls cooed around him. — You’re so smart! This is the most wonderful vacation!!!
– Yes, I have long dreamed of visiting here, – he smiled, – and here is such an occasion… Well, girls, shall we go for a swim?
With screeching and laughter, everyone ran to the water.
Arina, sitting at a table with a cup of tea, looked at everyone with a smile, trying to discern Valera, her fiance, with whom she came here. The girl here knew almost no one, only the birthday boy, Valera’s best friend, his girlfriend Sveta, and even Jadwiga, a beauty in whose veins flowed Russian-Polish blood. Arina didn’t like Jadwiga. They had been together in the same company more than once, and Arina managed to understand that Jadwiga was arrogant, rude and arrogant. It seemed that she would easily go over the heads, just to achieve her goal. But the guys liked her. And Arina noticed the glances that Jadwiga cast at her fiance. And although Valera didn’t seem to give her a reason, it was unpleasant for Arina. Jadwiga also did not want to swim, went up to Arina with a glass of wine and sat down next to her.
– Why are you sad? «What is it?» she asked.
«I’m not sad,– Arina replied and adjusted her glasses. – So, I was just thinking…
– About what?
– I don’t know, a little bit about everything.
– Well, okay, if you don’t want to, don’t tell me. Can I get you some wine, will you have a drink? You’ll have fun right away,» Jadwiga persisted, as if not noticing that Arina was not very pleased with her questions.
«No, I don’t drink,» Arina replied and got up. – Sorry, I’m going for a walk, I’m really not in the mood today.
– Well, well, – Jadwiga followed Arina with a mocking look, turned to the lake and saw Valera.
He came out of the water, shaking the drops from his jet-black hair, and the girl stared at his beautiful athletic figure.
–This Arina is lucky,» she thought. – I snatched such a guy…Handsome…
Despite the fact that Jadwiga got everything she wanted from childhood, she had no luck with guys. The majors with whom she usually communicated very quickly got tired of her onslaught and explosive, quarrelsome nature. They generally preferred simpler girls and Jadwiga, having tried to get married several times, received nothing but disappointment.
In fact, she did not want to start a family at all, especially to give birth to children. But everyone she knew managed to get husbands, and only she, by her 27th year, was still alone. Jadwiga was offended by this. It seemed to her that everyone was laughing at her, and she decided by all means to get married in the very near future and get a new status. Somehow she met Oleg quite by chance: she broke a tire, and he was the first one who drove up and helped her. The girl liked Oleg, and she tried not to miss the guy, but when she saw Valera, she changed her mind and decided that this handsome man should become her husband. Except he had a girlfriend, this gray, nondescript blind mouse with glasses.
– My God, what did he see in her? – thought Jadwiga and made plans how to separate this loving couple.
When she saw Valera coming out of the water, she got up, took a towel and went to him:
– Here, dry off. So what? Cold water?
– No, it’s normal. Why didn’t you go swimming?
– I can’t swim. And there is no one to teach.
— If you want, I’ll teach you, — smiled Valera. — Only first I will find Arina, she has disappeared somewhere.
— Why look for her? — Jadwiga grinned, and waved her hand in the direction opposite to the one where Arina had just left. «She went into the woods with some guy half an hour ago. She probably wanted to take a walk.
— You mean with a guy? Valera turned pale with indignation. — With whom?
«I don’t know,» the girl shrugged. — I’m not unfamiliar with everyone here.
Valery didn’t ask any more questions, pulled on shorts and a T-shirt, and hurried to where Jadwiga showed. Valery was gone for a long time. It was already quite dark when he returned to the camp and immediately ran into Arina, who was very worried, not understanding where her fiance had disappeared.
— Where have you been? — he turned on the girl.
— I walked a little along the shore, but almost immediately returned, I didn’t want to go far. And where were you? Why did he leave without saying anything? I’m worried!
— Why are you making a fool of me? Who were you hanging out with?!
— Valera, — Arina asked calmly, — don’t talk to me in that tone. I’m telling you again, I didn’t go very far, and no one was with me. I don’t understand the reasons for such distrust at all. You know how much I love you. And you know about our baby too!
— All I know is that I work like hell all day to raise money for our wedding. And don’t tell me about the baby. I asked you to be careful, I explained why it’s too early for us to have children.
— Oh, that’s it! Say thank you that I don’t want to spoil Oleg’s birthday. But our conversation is not over yet, — Valera turned away from her and hurried to his friends, and Arina went to the house where they were supposed to spend the night, lay down on the bed and turned away to the wall.
Since Valera found out about her pregnancy, their relationship has completely deteriorated. He, always kind and affectionate, could now easily be rude to her, offend her, as if not noticing that his words hurt her. And now. He was swimming, she did not bother him, took a little walk and again remained guilty.
The door to the house opened slightly and Oleg appeared on the threshold. He obviously came to change clothes, and, not noticing Arina, pulled off his wet T-shirt. She turned and gave a little cry. Oleg looked at her in confusion, then spoke:
— Oh, I’m sorry! I think I got the houses mixed up. I’m leaving now! — suddenly he looked closer and asked in surprise:
— Wait, are you crying? Has anyone offended you? Just tell me who, I’ll deal with him right away!
It was funny to say that Arina involuntarily smiled:
— No, no, don’t do that!
— Well, then let’s go to everyone. It’s such a wonderful evening, and you’re sitting here alone. You can’t do that! Well, give me your hand, get up!
Oleg leaned towards Arina and at the same moment suffocated from a strong blow. Enraged, Valera attacked him, a fight ensued. Arina screamed and a few minutes later other guys rushed in and broke up the fighting. Wiping his bruised lips, Valera turned to Arina:
— Get in the car quickly, we’re leaving! Well, what are you standing for???
The girl ran out of the house, and five minutes later they were driving along a country road, returning to the city.
Arina was crying, Valera barely restrained himself from shouting at her.
It was getting dark very quickly. The road wound through the forest, there were no signs and pointers in sight, but Valera confidently drove the car, feeling everything inside him bursting with rage. And the way was a long way, about 200 km, and to let off steam, the guy stopped and got out of the car. The headlights illuminated his figure, but already three meters away from him, under the shade of the trees, there was an impenetrable darkness. Arina suddenly felt scared. She opened the door and called Valera, but he didn’t answer. Then she went out to him.
— Valera, let’s go home, I’m afraid…
— Home? Did you say home? Can I take you to Olezhenka? I’m interrupting you, am I not?!!!
Arina could not stand it, and shouted at Valera, reproaching him for unfairly offending her.
— There was nothing between us and could not be! Oleg knows that you and I are together!
— Well, go and make him happy that this is no longer the case!
Valera pushed Arina away, got into the car and took off, leaving the girl on the road. Stunned by what had happened, and not believing that he would leave her like that, Arina ran after him, but, stumbling in some hole, she fell, breaking her knees and elbows on the gravel. During the fall, the glasses slipped and flew off to the side. The frightened girl began to look for them, but with her poor eyesight, and even in such darkness, it was not easy. Suddenly something crunched under her foot — Arina gasped and lifted the crushed frame. The girl sobbed and suddenly the forest responded to her voice with thousands of sounds. Arina turned cold with horror, and somewhere very close, under someone’s foot, a dry branch.
And Valera went further and further away, not at all thinking about his act. On the contrary, his irritation gradually passed, and he thought that he would not mind meeting with Jadwiga. Especially since she seems to have shown interest in him, too. Of course, Jadwiga was a spoiled girl, she was born into a rich family, never needed anything and would hardly consider him, Valera, as a partner for a serious relationship. But even just spending time with her would be very nice, especially for him, an ordinary manager who never had enough stars from the sky.
After 2 hours, Valera was at home. He took a shower and went to bed, continuing to dream about the beautiful Polish woman. And the next day I called her and offered to meet.
– Valera? That’s the news… I didn’t think you’d call.
– And I thought about you and couldn’t stand it. So are we going to meet you?
– Of course, what are you asking?
That same evening, Valera arranged a romantic dinner for Jadwiga, they finished it in bed and fell asleep in each other’s arms only in the morning.
A month later, Jadwiga’s parents arranged a gorgeous wedding for their daughter. Valera’s head was spinning with success and joy: he had finally caught the bird of happiness and now he was waiting for a carefree, secure life with a beautiful wife.
Seven years have passed. Valera’s hopes for happiness collapsed already in the first year of marriage. Jadwiga got bored of him very quickly, and she didn’t hide it. No matter how hard Valery tried, he could not match the level of rich people. In any society, puzzled glances were drawn to him, because behind his attractive appearance there was an unfilled void. He couldn’t keep up conversations, because he didn’t study anywhere except school, wasn’t particularly interested in anything, and didn’t even think about self-education. It seemed to him that money should flow to him like a river simply because he was so extraordinary. But I soon realized that full security does not always bring joy. He became a shadow of Jadwiga, was forced to follow her, to please her in everything, and she laughed at him, insulted and humiliated him, not being ashamed of the presence of parents or even strangers. Their relationship ended in the fifth year of family life, when returning home, Valera found Jadwiga in their bed with some guy. She was not at all embarrassed, calmly got up and poured herself some wine.
– Why are you looking at me? «What is it?» she asked. – Come on, shout, make a scandal. Well, do something.
–Oh, you trash,» Valera said, feeling the floor wobble under his feet.
– Oh, good! Jadwiga said sarcastically. – At least some emotions! You’re a rag, a jerk! You’re not a man! And I’m terribly tired of it! Pack your bags and get out of here! I’m filing for divorce!!!!
– Jadwiga, – Valera fell at her feet, – please… I’ll forgive you everything!
– Idiot! I don’t need your forgiveness! Get out! Get out of here! Out!!!!
And Valera left.
..For two years he had been working as a gas station attendant, living in a small apartment, which he managed to get from Jadwiga in exchange for agreeing to a divorce. Over the past few years, he has tried many times to find out at least something about Arina’s fate, but he failed, she disappeared, disappeared forever. None of her friends knew about her, phones were unavailable, other people lived in her apartment and could not say anything about her former mistress. He also thought about the child, which Arina, of course, gave birth to, she could not do otherwise. And this means that his son or daughter grew up somewhere.
– Oh, Arina, – thought Valera, – forgive me…I’m sorry, please, I’m sorry…
He had no idea what had happened to Arina that evening when he left her on a remote forest road, among impenetrable forests…
And she herself remembered that night forever. Frightened by the night sounds of the forest, someone’s screams, the crunch of dry branches, Arina, restraining deep sobs, hurriedly walked along the road, afraid to run and look back. And in the pitch darkness it was impossible. She fell, got up, walked again, lost her way many times, tried to get back on it again. But the girl’s strength left her and she staggered and fell into the roadside grass. Closer to dawn, a long wolf howl was heard somewhere nearby…
Arina was trembling all over from cold, fear and a premonition of terrible death. But then the headlights of the car flashed, and Arina raised her hand with the last of her strength:
– Valera…Valera…I’m here…
The car drove past, but a minute later it came back in reverse. A man came out of there and cautiously approached the unconscious girl lying on the floor. He picked her up and carried her to the car, and she, barely moving her lips, whispered:
– Valera…Valera…You’re back…
Arina came to her senses and realized that she was in someone’s bed in some unfamiliar house. She stirred and stood up. Immediately a male silhouette appeared nearby:
– No, my name is Misha, Mikhail. And you?
– Arina, can you see me?
– Practically not. My eyesight is severely impaired, and I broke my glasses there on the road.
– Arina, tell me, what were you doing there?! It’s so dangerous… after all, the forest… wild animals… And you can’t expect anything good from people nowadays. Poachers, some scumbags… Such a wilderness. You never know who can get lost there.
Arina shuddered, thinking again about the dangers that could await her there.
— Misha, I’ll tell you everything, but first tell me who you are and where we are now.
— Willingly. You already know my name, I’m a local gamekeeper. I work one for two districts. I live in a small village, in a house left over from my parents. By the way, here we are. Maybe you’ve heard about the village of Kalinovka?
— Is it far from the regional center?
— Decent. A little more than 150 kilometers.
«Won’t your wife swear if she sees me here?»
— It won’t. We have been divorced for 4 years. She found herself a rich guy and went abroad with him. Seems happy. However, I didn’t recognize it. We didn’t have children with her, she didn’t want to, she said it was too early, that she wanted to live for herself. Now she lives,» Mikhail sighed, «we broke up with her the day I found out she had an abortion. I don’t know why I’m telling you this… Actually, I’ve never told anyone about it. Even relatives… But, Arina, frankness for frankness. What were you doing on that road anyway?
Arina, hiding nothing, told Mikhail about what happened to her.
— Arina, I see that you are a good girl, don’t let anyone treat you like that. Now let’s have breakfast and I’ll take you home.
— Shall we have breakfast? But it was already morning…
— That’s right, you slept for a day… And, I think, very hungry.
— A day?! Arina repeated in amazement. — It can’t be! and then she added: «Thank you, Misha, for everything. You are very calm, and you are kind, which is probably why I intuitively trusted you…
A couple of hours later, Mikhail took Arina home, said goodbye to her, and left. But he returned three days later.
— Arina, I found out, you can get your eyesight back. In the region, such operations are performed.
— I know, Misha, but it’s very expensive.
«I had some savings. I brought them to you. How much do I need alone?
— Misha, why do you need this?
«I just want you to see me one day.»..
— Misha, you should know, I’m pregnant with Valera’s baby. And I will definitely give birth.
— That’s good. Moreover, you will have to see how your child grows.
— Oh, Misha… Arina said. «I thought there were no men like you.»
Arina made laser vision correction. And nine months later, Mikhail, with flowers and gifts, took his wife Arina from the hospital together with his newborn son.
…Once a big black jeep stopped by Valera’s gas station. He immediately recognized the car of his former father-in-law and approached him to find out about Jadwiga.
–Ahhh,– he drawled.…You don’t look good.
– How is your daughter, – asked Valera. «Can I see her?»
– I don’t think that’s a good idea. I don’t know if I need to tell you this… She is currently undergoing treatment at a drug treatment clinic. Everything is very bad. You couldn’t handle her. And he was also a husband…
– Andrey Vasilyevich…
– Okay, that was it. I spoiled her myself… now I’m paying for it.
After filling up the car, Jadwiga’s father left, and Valera watched him for a long time, thinking that everyone in this life gets their own.
– It serves her right, the reptile! Ruined my whole life… Separated from Arina… eh, Arina, Arina…Where are you now? How I would like to know and see you…
The next day, Valera, passing by the shopping center, saw a beautiful well-groomed woman. It was Arina. She was standing there, obviously waiting for someone. And next to her was a boy… her son. No, his, Valera’s son. Of course, there could be no doubt about it. Valera froze in place, unable to move and stared at his beloved and small copy of himself with all his eyes. Suddenly they both turned and looked directly at Valera. The boy jumped up joyfully on the spot and rushed to him, arms outstretched:
– Dad! Daddy! We’re here! Dad!
Valera choked with happiness, another second and he would catch his son, hug him, cover him with kisses and ask for forgiveness from both him and Arina for a long time. She has always loved him and will definitely forgive him. They will be together! And he will do everything to become happy.
– Dad! – a black-eyed boy ran past Valera and fell into the arms of a tall man who was holding a girl of three years old on one arm.
– Hi, son! And here we are! Well, did you buy tickets to the cinema?
– Yes, they’re at Mom’s! Let’s go quickly!
They passed by the bewildered and disappointed Valera, and he watched as the man greeted his beloved with a gentle kiss. Then they went to the cinema.
«Arina didn’t recognize me,» Valery’s heavy heart was pounding in his chest. – Of course, she can’t see that well. And now without glasses.
But Arina suddenly turned around and looked Valera straight in the eyes. And he realized that she recognized him, recognized him, but did not come up, did not call, did not call to her, did not introduce her son. He, Valera, was an empty place for her and now, lonely and useless to anyone, stood on a deserted sidewalk and thought that many years ago he had lost something that a person does not give twice: true love and happiness that only she can give.