— Are you on the phone again? – Ivan (the cafe administrator and my boss) took me by surprise.
«Just one minute,» I promised, without taking my cell phone off my ear. Even in the morning, my three-year-old daughter coughed and complained of a sore throat, and it was very important to me what Alexandra Ivanovna would say about Vika’s well-being. In any case, it is much more important than a scolding from the authorities. — «Yes, yes, I understand, thank you very much. I will try not to stay late today,» I quickly turned off a conversation with a neighbor in a communal apartment. I hoped that Ivan had already left on his administrative business, but he continued to stand behind me, and his expression did not bode well. «It’s about to start… I thought. — My God, so young and so boring… Or is he supposed to be like that by his position?»
— Ira, how much can I do? — the chief began to give a bossy scolding. — There are a lot of customers in the hall, and you are sharpening your mistakes. No matter how I look at it, your mobile is stuck to your ear.
— My daughter is ill. The temperature has risen,» she explained.
Ivan changed his anger to mercy: — High? — asked anxiously. «What’s it to you? — I thought angrily. You still won’t offer to go on sick leave. And you won’t let me go home now for anything. Exploiter!»
— High. 38,5.
— I see. And who’s with her now?
— As usual. A neighbor in a communal apartment.
— I see. Well, go to the gym, otherwise customers will soon start chewing napkins from hunger.
«What did you want? — whispered an inner voice while I was recording the orders of visitors. — So that he spreads syrup and begins to show the attraction of participation? — I don’t want anything! — snapped mentally.
— Just so that Vikusik recovers faster and has more money. Children’s medicines are now like an airplane.
«Good evening,» one of our regular customers said affably.
— Good afternoon… Do you like it as usual?
This man of about thirty visited us almost every day. I ordered only 2 cups of espresso — first one, and after 30 minutes another. He didn’t sit for more than an hour, always left a good tip and in general was extremely cute. The waitresses among themselves called him a «coffee man.»
I went from the hall to the kitchen, but I didn’t have time to hand over the orders to the chef, as the cleaning lady Valentina ran in with a huge bouquet of roses in her hands.
— I was sweeping the steps on the porch, and here’s a courier… This is for you, Anyuta,» she handed me the flowers.
— You didn’t mix anything up?!
— What do you think I am, a complete fool?! — she was offended. — I can read, thank God.
The fact that a postcard is attached to the bouquet, I noticed only after her words. She turned the embossed piece of cardboard in her hands. Expensive — at least 100 rubles. How much can such luxurious roses cost in mid-November, I was even afraid to think. Is it really me? She opened the card. «To the charming Anna Karavaeva—my Beautiful Lady and future wife,» was written in a completely unfamiliar handwriting. Nothing like a statement! But it’s still damn nice. No one has given me flowers for 100 years. I wonder who this mysterious Mr. X is? After all, after my divorce from my husband, not that I had a lover, not even a single admirer.
During these thoughts, I did not even notice that I was surrounded by waitresses and cooks. They vied with each other in admiring the flowers and with poorly concealed curiosity bombarded with questions about the sender of the bouquet.
— Girls, honestly, I have no idea… I didn’t have time to finish, because the babble of women’s voices was covered by Ivan’s bass: «What’s the noise, and there’s no fight?»
— Yes, some secret admirer sent roses to Anya, — Aunt Valya launched into explanations.
«Is this a reason to beat the bucket?» The boss barked, and everyone quickly went to their jobs. I left. But first I put the flowers in the water, although the administrator’s lightning gaze almost burned a hole in my back. Actually, the roses turned out to be only «flowers» (I’m sorry for the involuntary pun), and the «berries» that followed them turned out to be not as sweet as I would like, because after the bouquet, an anonymous boyfriend just bombarded me with gifts and letters. In general, I had nothing against chocolates and cute trinkets. But the messages scared me. And more and more every day. There was no direct threat in them — only hot declarations of love, but there was some kind of fanatical anguish, too much, as my ex-husband would say. But it wasn’t even that that bothered me, but the fact that Mr. X, judging by the letters, knows a lot about me: that I’m divorced, and that I have a little daughter, and what street I live on. Was he following me?
And then Ivan began to find fault with me more often than before: it was obvious that he was annoyed that the courier was bringing presents. «You would tell your boyfriend to send gifts to his home address,» the administrator once angrily gave out.
— I would say, but I don’t know to whom…
— The legend is fresh, but it’s hard to believe, — the chief grinned. — In any case, personal matters need to be handled at home. And here — to work! Maybe at another time I would have kept silent — I valued my place too much, but then such anger suddenly rolled over…
— Ivan, why are you always clinging to me? I blurted out in his face.
— Here the guy comes for Inga every evening, he’s waiting for her right in the hall, and at least once she was reprimanded. And I’m like some kind of scapegoat!
— This is a completely different matter! He comes to take her home. It’s dangerous for girls to walk alone at night…
— I will gladly exchange all the flowers and sweets for the groom with the car. By any chance, can you help me with such a barter?
The boss shrugged and walked away, and I took Mr. X’s last letter out of my pocket and reread it. «My beloved! You’re going to be mine anyway! I will marry you, adopt your beautiful Vikusha and serve my Queens! A normal man would never write like that about someone else’s three-year-old child. He’s clearly not right in the head! My palms were sweating with fear. It was aggravated by the fact that lately, as soon as I went outside, I immediately had the feeling that I was being watched. I often looked around, trying to figure out my pursuer, but I didn’t notice anyone, but I constantly felt someone’s gaze on my back.
«A little more and I’ll start to get paranoid. — I thought ironically. We managed to cope with the panic, but the fear remained. I took a tray with orders and went to serve customers. Just at this time, the courier brought another bouquet. I was in such a state that I put the flowers in the trash in my heart.
If this psycho is in the hall, let him see that I don’t care about his flowers!
«You don’t like roses?» — asked the «coffee man» when I put the first cup of espresso in front of him.
— I love, but from people I know!
«You’re right,» the guy smiled. «After all, there are normal guys… — a thought flashed. — If this one invited me, for example, to the cinema, I wouldn’t hesitate for a second — such a handsome serious man. Not like crazy Mr. X.» After 3 hours, tired, cold and hungry, I walked along a deserted night street, dreaming only of that. to get home as soon as possible. No one was following me for sure, but some kind of car was driving. She moved so slowly that, just in case, I crossed to the other side and walked along the square. I didn’t hear any footsteps behind me—obviously, the one who was lying in wait for me in the dark was hiding behind the trunk of one of the trees. Someone’s hands suddenly closed on my throat like flares, and a whistling whisper pulsed in my ear: «Why don’t you like flowers, my queen? Don’t you love me?» The grip suddenly loosened, one of the attacker’s palms moved down and slid under my jacket and sweater. I wanted to scream, but the terror completely paralyzed me. Suddenly — headlights, blinding eyes, screeching brakes, heavy trampling, and some unknown force threw a terrible black figure away from me. I fell on all fours from surprise: I hurt my knee, but I finally regained the power of speech. «Help!» she screamed hysterically.
«Don’t yell! Someone ordered sternly in a voice… Ivan. — Better call the police.» A few minutes later, the patrol picked up the attacker — a «coffee man». Then, for about an hour, I told the department about the frightening courtship of the detainee and wrote a statement. All this time, the chief sat next to him with a gloomy look. «Let’s get in the car,» he said when we went outside.
— Thank you, no need. I myself…
— No, I’ll take you home…
— Listen, how did you get here? I asked, unexpectedly switching to you. — After all, you live in the opposite direction!
— My job is to save employees from maniacs, — Ivan said with pathos. Maybe it was a defensive reaction, but we laughed so hard that we both started hiccupping from laughter. Then they sat for a long time in the car at my entrance and chatted about all sorts of nonsense. And when we were saying goodbye, Ivan suggested that on Saturday the three of us (together with my Vika) go to the cinema for a cartoon. «And he’s not boring at all…» I thought happily as I got into the elevator.