Every day Mara appears in a different dress with a different hairstyle, using a different phone. Initially she doesn’t recognize her. One day she is blonde and elegantly dressed, the next she is a brunette with a rather bedraggled look. She never stops and talks. She always seems to be in a hurry, doing some errand or other, rushing away.
This time she expressly waits for her outside her flat. She knows she has to pass from there at this time in the morning. And so she does. This time Mara is wearing a black thick coat and leather boots, but the most evident items are perhaps a pair of earrings. They are gold, round-shaped and quite big. She has applied quite a lot of foundation on her face.
Mara pretends she has not seen her until her friend’s face is few inches away from her. ‘Are you all right?’ She looks at her as if she’s seen her for the first time. Her face is blank. ‘ No really… No’. It’s then when she decides to tell her everything, no matter what.
Mara had this phone call from Laura. She had missed her so much in all these years and she wanted to catch up with her. They hadn’t seen each other for – how long? – Since university she believes. Time flies by. Letters first quickly replaced by e-mails, the odd phone-call once or twice a year. Lara couldn’t put her up because she lives with her brother in this small studio flat, but she could find a nice and cheap hotel nearby. They would meet every day, remembering the good old times when they were inseparable and had so much love for each other. The pain of the prolonged separation was to be replaced with the sudden and unexpected joy of a new encounter, which would have changed everybody and everything.
All Mara had to do was to pack up her stuff and check for deals on the Internet. Daily ritual. Switch on the Mac, make some fresh coffee, stay in front of the screen until lunch. Date: 11-11-07. Time: 8:45. She still remembers it. It’s marked in her mind forever. She receives this message:
‘Hi it’s Ricky, how ARE you?’
Who’s Ricky? She’s trying to remember. Faces, names, voices, patterns, clothes. No Ricky. No. Or maybe..
‘Hi Ricky. Fine. What’s up?’
‘Nothing much. I’m not even fully up yet ;-)’
‘What do u do Ricky?’
‘I write, mainly…’
‘Oh, a writer! How exciting!
‘yeah, sometimes. at times can be dead boring.Discipline and devotion. & All that rubbish..’
‘30. Male. Prague’
‘Prague? You are joking! I’m going to Prague this weekend. I’m visiting an old friend from school.’
‘Yes. I was just about to check whether I could find a cheap hotel near the station..’
‘You found the right guy. I happen to work in a hotel right now… A nice, clean and cheap one.’
‘But you said you were a writer.’
‘I am, but my writing doesn’t bring a lot of money I’m afraid. So I need to work. Anyway, the hotel is just few minutes from the station and I can book a nice room for you if you want.’
‘I can’t give you my credit card details, you understand? There’re so many crooks around. Hope You don’t mind but thanks.’
‘No, don’t worry. I don’t want your credit card details! I’ll book a room at the hotel and then you can go directly there.’
‘ That’s very kind of you.’
‘And if you don’t like it you can always go somewhere else, right?
The following weekend she takes the train to Prague. She is excited at the prospect of meeting her dear friend and visiting the Paris of Eastern Europe. The weather forecast is good but she has taken two jumpers just in case. Ricky has agreed to welcome her at the station. She is curious to see how he looked. He could be an ugly man but at least he sounds young she thought. However, he could have lied about his age or sex. In fact, he could have lied about everything.
The station is relatively busy and Ricky was not to be seen. They did not agree on what t-shirt to wear at the end, it would be more intriguing to try to recognize each other.
‘Mara!’ A young man wearing a cap is smiling at her. He’s handsome. ‘Nice to meet you.’ He shakes her hand politely but firmly. She can’t help noticing his hairless arms. Long like those of an adolescent. She follows him forgetting for a moment the real reason for her trip to Prague. The city spins around, odours converge in her breath, cars hooting, people shouting. When they arrive at the hotel he greets the concierge without waiting for a sign back. She is shown the bar. It is then when he gives her the keys of the room. She will pay later to the senior manager. Suddenly she feels obliged to say something. The man is leaving with a polite goodbye gesture. She invites him for a drink. He’s embarrassed as if is looking for an excuse to run away. Then he looks at his watch and smiles: ‘I guess I could do with a quick drink.”
When she opens her eyes she is in the room lying on the carpet. Her stomach is sore and she has a bitter taste in her mouth. She lifts her eyes. She’s naked but for the stockings and shoes. Her groin covered in sperm. She wants to cry but the voice doesn’t come out. When she tries to get up she feels a stubbing pain in the lower part of her body.
Nobody has heard of a man called Ricky before. They kick her out of the hotel. She goes to the police and she throws up at the police station in front of an outraged young couple. ‘You drunk’ the tall cop said, ‘get out of here.’ She has no money to phone Laura and she’s lost her address. She goes back with the first train of the evening.
She’s telling her friend the guy must have performed some kind of voodoo magic on her When she sleeps she he’s watching her as he was in the same room wearing his baseball cap with hairless arms. At times, like last night, she sees herself bearing a huge wooden cross which suddenly crumbles as if it was made of dust.