для читателей старше 18 лет
1. Carey, I’m home…
— What a beautiful necklace! — said the old woman to the girl who was sitting opposite her with hoping to distract the girl from bad thoughts. But nothing smarter than what she just said, she could not think of.
— Yes beautiful, — the girl agreed, fingering the bead behind the bead, — It belonged to Carolyn…
Old woman sighed heavily.
— Sorry honey. –she said. — I did not know.
— Don’t worry granny. Everything is good. — sadly the girl answered her. — You know… The day after her funeral, I found it in my casket on the chest of drawers. Strange… These were her favorite necklaces. She never took it off. At least I have never seen her without these necklaces. Well… Maybe only a couple of times… I think all the time, how could it be in my box?
— She probably took it off and put it there. And then she forgot it. That’s all. — suggested an old woman.
— Maybe… Maybe… But I don’t remember her taking off her necklace in my house. And why did she do it?
The girl looked at the interlocutor. The old woman just shrugged in response.
— When I found it here, — continued the girl, — At first I was surprised, but then I thought the same thing. That she just took it off and forgot here. But when I began to remember that evening…
The girl fell silent. Her eyes clouded with tears.
— That evening … — she squeezed out and could say nothing more.
Covering her face with her hands, the girl sobbing and whispered:
— Oh, God… What a nightmare… What a horror… How could this happen?! I do not understand! But why? Why?
The old woman got up from the chair, coming up to the girl and hugged her tightly. The girl buried her face in her dress and burst into tears.
— Why? Why did she die? Why? And for what, for what sins, she suffered?
— I do not know, dear… I do not know … — An old woman answered her and squeezed the girl in her arms as tightly as she could. She squeezed so tightly that it was difficult for the girl to breathe. But at the same time, the girl felt some relief. And after a minute, completely calmed down. Then the old woman pulled her granddaughter a little away and looked into her tear-stained blue eyes.
— Carolyn in paradise, — she said, — She looks at you. And I’m sure she doesn’t like at all what you cry.
— Yes… — breathed girl. — I even know what she would say to me…
— And what? — asked an old woman.
— She would call me a crybaby and ugly.
— Ugly? — surprised old woman.
— Yes, — nodded girl and smiled. — When I cried, Carolyn always said that I’m ugly.
— Oh no, — said old woman, — No you are not ugly! You have such a beauty! Even when crying! But do not cry! — she said and threatened her granddaughter with her finger.
The girl looked into the gray, clouded and very kind eyes of the old woman and smiled.
— I love you, granny. Love very much. –she said.
— And I love you, my dear girl. — an old woman answered her and once again hugged her granddaughter.
— Thank you. — whispered girl.
— You’re welcome, my dear, — the old woman answered her, lightly patting her on the back, — You’re welcome, my dear Miranda.
The old woman released her granddaughter and gently held her soft wrinkled hand on the cheek of the girl. Miranda kissed her hand and asked:
— Granny, do you want some tea?
— Sit, — she said and headed towards the door, — I’ll be back soon.
— Grandma, where are you going? — asked Miranda.
— I’ll make hot tea for you and me! — an old woman answered her and opened the door.
— Ah, Grandma! — getting up from the couch, the girl was outraged. — Here you are always like that! You sit down! Have a rest! I’ll do everything myself!
— Rest? — surprised old woman. — From what?
She crossed her arms over her chest, frowned and looked at her granddaughter.
— Or what is this, in your opinion, I am so old that even tea is not able to brew?
— Granny … — said Miranda, — What are you saying! I did not mean it at all!
— Okay! Okay! — old woman waved her hand. — I know. And don’t worry about me. So who needs to relax here, it’s you! Sit down! I’ll do everything now.
— Thank you, — smiled girl.
As if accepting gratitude, the woman nodded her head and disappeared behind the door. Miranda was left alone in the room. She carefully sat on the edge of the couch and looked around. Everything around was the same as a week ago. Nothing changed. “And why should something have changed?” She thought. “After all, no one has been here all this time!”.
Miranda did not want to believe that her beloved friend no longer exists. And looking around, she still hoped that at least something had changed in her familiar surroundings. “Carolyn was always moving or shifting something here.” — thought girl, — “The book does not lie in its place, or a vase… Something else…”.
These, in general, imperceptible movements of essentially unnecessary things, always irritated Miranda a little. But now she hoped to find anything lying in the wrong place. She hoped, but in her heart she knew that this would not happen. She knew that Carolyn was gone. But she still hoped that everything that had happened to her friend was just a bad dream. “How I would like to wake up now and find out that you are alive! And it was just a nightmare!” — thought Miranda.
— Carey! You were for me more than just a friend! You were like a sister to me! — the girl said out loud and looking at the chair in which Carolyn often sat when she came to visit her.
— Honey, did you say something? — asked an old woman who had already entered the living room at that moment.
Miranda looked at the old woman.
— What granny? — she asked.
— Did you say something to me? I did not hear well, — the old woman asked again.
She put a tray of tea and cookies on a small coffee table next to the sofa and, waiting for an answer, looked at her granddaughter.
— Oh no! No! Nothing! — smiled girl, — I was talking to myself!
— With yourself? — the old woman was indignant, and having put her fists on her hips, — You do not need me?
In response, Miranda smiled sweetly.
— Oh, — old woman playfully threatened with a finger. — Okay my dear, — she said, — Let’s drink tea!
Miranda took the cup and looked around again. A sofa, two armchairs, a coffee table, a chest of drawers, a floor lamp, shelves with books and all sorts of trinkets… Everything was as it was a week ago. Then, when she left this place in the hope of at least a little to relax and forget about what happened.
Miranda prepared a guest room for her grandmother. Dismantled her suitcase. Went to the grocery store and cooked dinner.
— Mmmm… Delicious! — moaned old woman, — You’re so cool! Your fiance should be happy because he has you! Lucky boy! — she praised her beloved and only granddaughter.
Miranda was embarrassed, but said nothing. In fact, she really liked when her grandmother praised her.
— Oh, by the way! — suddenly said an old woman. — And where is your handsome fiance? Why did not he meet us?
— Granny, I told you! Aiden has a lot of work.
— Oh yes… Work, work … — old woman shook her head. — And when will he honor us with his presence?
— I do not know, — Miranda shrugged. — I called him before leaving. He was very apologetic, but… He really couldn’t meet us. And, as I understood, today we will not see him. Maybe tomorrow…
— He will not spend the night at home? — asked the old woman.
— Most likely no. He will stay with a friend with whom he works. From there it is much closer to work. They need to finish something…
— But tomorrow I will have to leave you, my dear, — interrupted her grandmother, — You know, your grandfather can’t even live a day without me!
— I know, — Miranda smiled. — And so I do not understand why you went here?!
— Just wanted to make sure that… well … — trying to find the right words, mumbled old woman.
— That I can be here after what happened? — girl helped her.
The old woman nodded. Miranda moved closer to her and, taking her hands in her, looked into her dim eyes.
— Granny, everything is fine. — the girl said convincingly, — True! You can not worry about me!
— Are you sure about that?
— I’m sure, granny. Do not worry. All is well. So tomorrow you can safely go home to grandfather.
— If you want, I can stay with you longer, — old woman offered.
Miranda shook her head.
— No! — she said, — I mean… I love you very much, but… You really need to go back to grandfather. He loves you so much! He will go crazy without you! And I… I need to be here alone for a while. Try to get used to the idea that Carey is no longer alive. Honestly, I even asked Aiden to stay with his parents for a couple of days. I need some time to put my feelings in order. To…
— Ok, ok, — the old woman interrupted her, — I understand everything, my dear. You don’t need to explain anything to me. But, if you need something — call me! I will definitely come!
— Ok, — Miranda smiled. — I hope I don’t need anything.
— Is it because you don’t want to see me? — narrowing her eyes, the old woman asked jokingly.
— Oh God! What a bore you are! — waving her arms, the girl said and laughed.
Knocking on the door quietly and not waiting for an answer, Miranda looked into the guest room. An old woman stood near the window and looked out into the street.
— Are you sleeping? — Miranda asked her.
Old woman turned.
— Of course I sleep! What else can I do when I standing on my feet?! — she said and laughed.
— Granny, –Miranda said. — Enough! You’re laughing at me all the time!
— What? I already can not laugh?
— Here we go again! — the girl threw up her hands.
— OK OK. Do not be angry. I won’t do that anymore!
— I’m not angry, but… Thank you, — Miranda smiled.
— At least… Today, — grinning, old woman mumbling.
Miranda smiled and shook her head.
— My dear, did you want something? — asked an old woman.
The girl looked questioningly at her grandmother.
— Well, what are you looking like this? Did you come for something? And, by the way, you knocked, but actually you should to wait for an answer before you entered.
— Granny… I’m sorry … — Miranda uttered guiltily and lowered her eyes like a little naughty child.
— Oh, my dear girl, do not apologize, — the old woman smiled, — You know, you can come to me without knocking. So what did you want?
— Nothing, granny. I wanted to wish you good night.
A little old woman came up to the girl. She raised herself to her toes and kissed Miranda on the cheek. The girl in response firmly hugged her.
— Thank you, — Miranda said softly.
— For what? — grandmother asked her.
Miranda looked into her dim eyes, taking her face in her hand and said with a smile:
— For the fact that I have you!
— Oh stop it, — the old woman was suddenly embarrassed. And, after a short pause, she said:
— My dear girl, go to sleep. It’s late.
— Good night granny, — Miranda said and kissed her soft, wrinkled hand.
— Good night, my dear. And… If you suddenly want to talk, or you can not sleep, do not be shy, come to me.
— Okay, — the girl nodded her head. — But I’m going to sleep tonight. And I will sleep until the morning!
— That is great! — the old woman said approvingly.
Miranda once again wished her grandmother good night and left the room. The girl closed the door behind her and pressed her back to the door. She touched the necklace with her fingers, Necklaces that were hanging around her neck and which once belonged to her friend Carolyn. And whispered softly:
— Oh, Carey… Well, I am at home…
In the morning, after breakfast, Miranda’s grandmother started getting ready to go.
— Granny, are you sure you don’t want me to escort you to the station? — asked the girl.
— Sure, — old woman answered her. — Why do you need to go to the station, and then go back? Are you afraid that I will get lost and not get to the train?
— Are you starting again?! — Miranda shook her head.
The old woman took her small bag and put the belt on her shoulder.
— Don’t bother yourself, honey. I already called a taxi, — she said.
— Oh, granny! It’s not hard for me!
— I know, honey, I know. But do not do this. So much time will be wasted!
— Will not be wasted, — Miranda said. — We can talk to you about something along the way.
— It’s only there… And back? And you still have not talked enough with me? — the old woman smiled.
The girl shook her head.
— No, — she said.
— Don’t insist, honey. I still think that you should not go back and forth. And we can talk to you when I come home and call you. Better go somewhere…
— Yes? Good. And where will I go so early?
— That’s it! It’s too early! — suddenly the old woman said loudly, — Better get back in bed. You are very pale. Probably did not sleep at all!
— Slept, granny, slept. And i slept well the first time in the last two weeks!
— You’re not lying? — narrowing eyes, asked the old woman.
— Did I ever lie to you? — Miranda offended.
— Always, — grandma laughed.
— Oh, stop it! So someone will hear you and believe!
— Well, stop talking, — old woman waved her hand. — Or I’ll be late for the train! Better close the door behind me and go to sleep! You look like a… Rumpled.
— So… You know what?! — Miranda got a little angry, — I, perhaps, will accompany you!
— I will go without you.
— Enough! The conversation is over! Wait five minutes! I’ll just change clothes. And do not dare to go anywhere!
Miranda threatened her grandmother with a finger, turning and wanted to leave, but heard how the old woman quietly hissed:
— Well, yes, of course, I will stand here and wait…
— Did you say something? — turning sharply, Miranda asked her.
— No no! Nothing! It probably seemed to you! — An old woman replied to her and made such an innocent look that Miranda could not restrain a smile.
— Oh yeah! Of course! Come on, give me that! — said the girl and grabbed the bag that the old woman was holding tightly.
— Oh no! My bag! Why do you need it?
— Come on, come on! I know you! Now I will leave, so you will immediately run away!
— Run away? Am I a criminal? — the old woman was indignant.
— Not! I will be a criminal if I let you go alone!
— Oh! Oh my God! What is the problem to get to the station, — slamming her hand on her leg ironically said the old woman.
— Stop you bicker or you’ll really be late, — muttered Miranda and quietly pulled the bag.
— Yes… It’s no use arguing with you! You are the same as your mother!
— Yes! Which is the same as her mother! — narrowing her eyes, said Miranda and the old woman finally gave up.
— Okay go change clothes, — she said, — I will wait for you. But only five minutes!
— If you are not going to leave without me, then be so kind…
— What else?
— Do not hold the bag!
The old woman opened her fist. The girl quickly left with her grandmother’s bag and returned a few minutes later.
— Ok! I’m ready! — she said loudly, — Let’s go!
— Come on, let’s go. It was already time to get out! — said the old woman and opened the front door.
Miranda accompanied her grandmother to the train station. Said goodbye to her and put her on the train. Old woman left.
Sitting in a taxi, the girl suddenly realized that she absolutely did not want to go back home now. It was a warm June morning, and she decided to stroll through the park near her house. Then she went to the café. Went shopping. Walked around the city a little more and returned home only in the evening. Closing the front door behind her, Miranda casually tossed her keys on the shelf in the hallway and threw off her shoes.
— Oh… I’m so tired, — she exhaled.
Somewhere in the apartment her mobile phone rang.
— Oh my God! — exclaimed the girl, — I completely forgot about Aiden and Granny!
Miranda ran into the kitchen, where the bell rang from.
— Hello! — grabbing the phone, she said loudly.
— Oh my God, Miranda! Finally! Why didn’t you answer the calls? — excitedly asked Aiden.
— Sorry, sorry, honey! I escorted Granny to the station and then went shopping… I completely lost track of time… I forgot the phone at home… Sorry…
— Uh, Miranda … — he exhaled, — Thank God you’re okay! I did not know what to think!
— Forgive me, — apologizes Miranda.
— When we meet, I will glue the phone on your hand, — said the man.
— Oh, well, you started talking like grandma! — exclaimed Miranda.
— This is all because your dear grandmother destroyed my brain today! Do you know how many times she called me?
— Yes… I can imagine … — exhaled Miranda.
— Honey, I have to work. I’ll call you later. Please hold the phone nearby. Ok?
— And call your granny! She is very worried!
— I’ll call, — Miranda said and turned off the phone.
A few seconds later she called her grandmother. After hearing from her beloved old woman the story of how much she was worried until she could get through to her, and how did she get to the house, and how grandfather met her, and many other things, Miranda completely exhausted.
— Grandma, I’m so tired … — she squeaked.
— Oh … — said old woman. — My dear, i talk too much… It’s late. Go. Do your business and go to bed. Be sure to call me tomorrow. And do not forget the phone!
— I will not forget, — Miranda assured her. — Aiden is going to glue it to me.
— It is right, — supported grandmother, — Good boy!
— Always knew you would get along, — the girl smiled.
— Yes, yes… Go, honey. Do not forget to call me tomorrow!
— I will not forget, — Miranda said and turned off the phone.
The girl went into the bathroom and looked at her reflection in the mirror.
— You’re so pale, Miranda, — she said to herself and tapped on the mirror with her index finger.
— You need to take a bath. Yes Yes! This is a good idea! A hot bubble bath is what you need right now! — she talked with her reflection.
— Today you and I will be alone here. And tomorrow… And, probably, the day after tomorrow… Although… Maybe this is too much? — Miranda thought. — I do not know… I already missed Aiden. The last time I saw him was a week ago, when he took me to the station … — she said and, taking a deep breath and opened the tap.
A strong jet of water gushed into the bath. Slightly twisting the mixer, Miranda adjusted her temperature and plugged the drain with a silver stopper.
Taking off her jersey, the girl caught a glimpse of herself in a fogging mirror. “Something is wrong…” — flashed through her head. She undid her pants and stooped to pull them off. Throwing clothes in a basket of dirty laundry, Miranda turned to the mirror and looked at her reflection again.
— Something is not right… You are strange, Miranda… What’s wrong with you? — the girl said softly, bringing her face to the mirror and wiped it with her hand.
— Oh my God! — bounced back sharply, she exclaimed in horror, not looking away from her reflection.
— How is this possible? It can’t be … — Miranda whispered and put her hands on her chest, where her heart was now beating so hard.
From the mirror, Miranda watched her startled reflection. And only one thing distinguished them from each other. She, Miranda, had blue eyes, and her reflection had brown eyes. Same as hers, now deceased, friend.
“Carey” — the girl thought and covered her face with her hands.
— I’m probably losing my mind, — she said softly and took a deep breath.
“This is a hallucination… a hallucination… There can be no such thing… Really?! I’m just tired… I just need to rest… That’s all… Everything is fine… Everything is good …», — she calmed herself. “You need to open your eyes and see… Now I will look in the mirror, and everything is as before! I am as before… As always …», — Miranda thought and finally decided to look in the mirror at the girl she knew, who looked at her a minute ago with someone else’s eyes.
Miranda slowly removed her hands from her face and opened her eyes. The mirror was completely foggy. And the girl had to come closer to wipe mirror again.
Holding her breath, Miranda looked at her reflection and exhaled with relief. A pretty girl of about twenty-five with long dark hair and blue eyes was looking at her from the mirror. Pale and a little scared, but that was her. It was Miranda. The way she was supposed to be.
About two hours later, Miranda came out of the bathroom. Having poured herself a large mug of hot cocoa, the girl went into the living room. Outside it was completely dark. But she did not turn on the light in the room.
Sitting comfortably on the couch, Miranda grabbed the mug in both hands and sipping hot cocoa. She began to inspect the dark room and the chair in which Carolyn used to sit when she came to visit her. The girl wanted to see her beloved friend again. Alive… A sweet and cheerful girl with big brown eyes and a smile that always shines on her face. But no matter how much Miranda wanted it, it was not possible.
— I’ll never see you again, — looking at the empty chair she said sadly. — Ah, my dear Carey… I do not understand how this could happen… It does not fit in my head. The police said you set yourself on fire! I can not believe this…
Miranda thought and a moment later continued as if Carolyn was there, next to her, and could hear her.
— You were so afraid of fire… Do you remember? We were out of town with your parents… Do you remember? Then, in childhood, when in our tree house burning candles fell on our drawings and magazines. And we talked and laughed so much that we didn’t notice it. And then everything flashed… We could not approach the exit… And shouted… We shouted, but no one heard… And then we jumped out the window… We had to do it. You broke your leg then, and I broke my arm… Do you remember? Of course you remember… You were so scared then. You slept with me in the same bed for a month because you were scared. And then, when we returned to the city, you still had nightmares for a very long time. Fire… Fire … — the girl sighed heavily, — They said that you set yourself on fire… But I know… I know how much you were afraid of fire! I know that you never had a match or a candle at your house… But they say that you did it yourself! It’s so hard for me to believe it! How could you, such a kind, nice, beautiful and cheerful person, do that? Do I really not know something? Did you really hide something from me?! After all, you can’t just do what you did! Did you do it?!
Miranda looked at the empty chair and tears flowed from her eyes.
— I want to see you so much, — after a minute pause she continued, — So I want to ask you what happened in your life, what I don’t know about… What pushed you into what you did with yourself?!
Miranda tried to imagine Carolyn entering the room and sitting opposite her in that chair.
— You know, Carey … — the girl sighed heavily, — I do not understand what happened that night… That night… You told me about Danny and you seemed so happy! And when you left… You all shone with happiness! And… I don’t understand what could have happened… You know… All this time, that you are not alive… Oh my God, it seems that an entire eternity has passed! And it took only two weeks… Carey… Carey, all this time I have been tormented by a terrible feeling of guilt… God! I think all the time, what would happen if I did not tell you that the apartment next to me is for sale? What if you didn’t buy it? Maybe you would be alive now? You lived next to me just a month… So close… Just a few steps from me… Just a month…
Miranda dropped a mug of cocoa on the floor and covered her face with shaking hands.
— Why? Why haven’t I heard your screams? — she sobbed, — You screamed! You should have screamed! Why haven’t I heard? Why didn’t I help you?
— Miranda … — suddenly a girl heard a quiet voice, — Miranda…
The girl immediately fell silent. She removed her hands from her face, peering into the darkness and began to listen to the whisper.
— Miranda… Miranda … — someone quietly repeated her name.
“This is Carolyn’s voice” — the girl thought with horror and frightened looked at the empty chair.
— It can not be… It can not be… I’m going crazy … — shaking her head she said.
— Miranda, — suddenly someone said her name loudly.
Girl with fright jumped up from the couch.
— Who is there? — she cried out.
— I’m here, Miranda, — said voice.
Miranda turned her head toward the door and swayed in fear. In the doorway, in the dark, someone was standing.
— Oh my God! Who you are? How did you get here? — she asked excitedly and frightened.
— You do not recognize me, Miranda?! — asked the dark figure and took a few steps forward so that the dim light entering the room from the window could light up her face a little. Miranda turned white with horror.
— Carolyn? Is that you? No… No… It can not be! You … — the girl only had time to say it and her heart almost stopped in fear when the phone suddenly rang. Miranda looked for a moment in the direction from where the phone rang, and then looked again at the place where her deceased friend had just stood. But Carolyn was no longer there. The girl looked into the emptiness, and the phone rang, making loud ringing sounds. Finally Miranda answered.
— Hello, — she said in a trembling voice, — Hello! Who is this? Do not be silent!
— Murderer… — someone hissed softly in a voice like Carolyn’s and hung up.
Miranda stood alone in the dark room. Eyes wide with horror, she looked somewhere in the void. She held a handset near her ear, from which came unpleasant short beeps. And tears flowed down her cheeks.