The Real Stories

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***A film frame***

Darkness, thick darkness. I was shaking, the autumn cold completely enveloped my body. In the total darkness I heard classical music. Somewhere in the distance someone played the grand piano. It echoed loudly and I felt as if I were in a deep cave. I couldn’t see anything but I followed the sound. This place was like a space, it had no walls and boundaries. The music was gradually getting louder as I was getting closer to its source. After a while a door of the room, from where the music was coming from, opened and I found myself in a cinema. It was spacious, with dim lights and without a single soul. Since childhood I dreamed of being in a cinema alone. I wanted to sit in the middle and let my emotions flow while watching a movie.

Behind that door stood an elderly man who looked more like a butler than a security guard or a movie theater employee. He wore a top hat and a monocle. With a gesture he invited me in and with great pleasure I took a seat in the middle (somehow I was sure that I was the only guest) and stared at the white screen. The butler bowed to me and disappeared. As the lights went out and the music went down, I heard the sound of a reel and the film began.

The picture was blurry, the quality was like it was from the 90s, but after adjusting the frame I saw my parents on the screen holding little me in their arms. They were smiling and looked joyful. I was fidgeting and tried to babble something in my thin voice. This moment was so lovely and heartwarming, it made me smile.

The film frame changed, and I saw my first steps. My parents looked excited, mom clapped her hands while I awkwardly moved towards her. Off screen I heard my dad cheering me up. I think they were really happy then.

The frames kept changing one. I saw my first and last days in kindergarten and elementary school. I watched us unleashing balloons into the sky. We were so young, naïve, and happy. I saw myself standing between my parents at the university entrance with an honors degree in my hands. Mom and Dad looked proud of their only child — the hope and support of the whole family.

Then I saw my birthday party. I sat in the dark room with my eyes closed when my parents came in with a cake with candles. All guests loudly congratulated me. The atmosphere was so relaxed and joyful. I don’t remember the last time I saw people smiling so sincerely. Behind my back stood my beloved one. He tenderly hugged and kissed me. Back then I thought that he was the one.

Suddenly, bright frames of my past were replaced with dark ones. Tears and sadness took the place of smiles and joy. The pictures of alcohol started to appear more often than wonderful memories. Random people replaced the close ones. I saw myself horribly drunk without any clue as to what was going on.

The smile quickly faded from my face. The cheerful me disappeared from the screen and I saw only a dark shadow that tried to exist with a help of alcohol.

Loneliness. A sad frame where I was sitting on the floor in a tiny bathroom surrounded by various pills. I was throwing handfuls of pills into my mouth washing them down with tap water. Mascara completely smeared under the eyes. I tried to light a cigarette with shaky hands. I didn’t want to see and remember it at all.

The frames were changing non-stop: tears of my family and friends, my emotionless face in the psychiatrist’s chair, and the pills again.

But suddenly the film froze, then abruptly went backwards and stopped. I heard the wind blowing and the birds singing. I saw myself overlooking the city. I was standing on the roof of a skyscraper with my arms spread like wings. My eyes were closed. I was blinded by the sun. Calm breathing. I was thinking about my life before the last step. When I gathered my courage and felt ready, I raised my leg and…

“You shouldn’t do this,” a calm voice reached my ear.

I opened my eyes sharply, I thought there was no one around. I turned my head and saw a man sitting far away in the corner. He was reading and didn’t even take his eyes off the book to look at me.

“Why not?” I asked calmly.

“What are you aiming for?”

“Peace…” I said as I looked down.

“Are you that weak?” the blonde finally looked at me from under his brows.

“Are you that smart?” I said sarcastically. “Keep reading and don’t poke your nose into my business.”

“You’re funny. You involved me into your business and now I have to deal with it.”

In a slothful way, he got up and came closer.

“Kim Alan.” The guy introduced himself and held out his hand.

I looked at him with suspicion, but held out my hand too. Suddenly, he grabbed my hand, pulled me sharply and gathered into his arms.


He smelled like the salty sea. It was as salty as my tears pouring down my face.

“Hush, hush, it’s okay, I’m here.”

Alan spoke so quietly and calmly, as if everything what was happening was an ordinary situation for him.

These memories made me smile. If Kim hadn’t been on the roof that day, who knows what could have happened.

The noise of the street gradually went down. I thought the film was over but the frame changed again and I heard the rustle of paper.

I saw a library with high ceilings, fancy wooden bookshelves, high staircases, and large windows. Some people were meandering around admiring the beauty, the others were diligently looking for a book or already sat at the table reading the printed word.

Alan and I belonged to the last ones. We sat by the window in the far corner of the library on the comfortable chairs and read. Or at least I thought so. Now, when I saw it from the side, I noticed that only I didn’t take my eye off the pages. Kim was observantly looking at my slightly illuminated by sunlight profile.

He rested his head on his hand and chuckled slightly.

“You like it?”

“Yes, very interesting book,” I happily nodded. “Why haven’t I read before? It opened up a whole new world to me…”

I glanced in his direction and noticed that he was watching me.

“And you? Why do you like reading so much?” I put my finger on the page where I stopped and closed the book. I sat in lotus position and looked at him with great interest.

“I don’t want to leave this world with an empty head like you,” Kim poked me with his long finger and I pouted. “I think that people underestimate reading. Books help you to travel to another world: funny, sad, or scary. You can learn something new by reading a scientific book. And it always distracts you from any problems. I think you’ve noticed it already.”

He was right. I was so focused on reading that my thoughts got lost somewhere. I just had to learn how to distract myself in the right way with the right people.

“How is it going? I mean your visits to the doctor,” he put the book aside.

“It’s scary, but I think I’m doing well.” I tilted my head back.

“Do you want me to go with you?”

“Are you serious?”

“Absolutely,” Kim took the book again and hid his eyes behind it.

I was insanely glad that I didn’t have to fight alone. At least someone was on my side and took care of me. It meant so much for me. Unlike the dark memories, these were very pleasing to watch. Even the next frame from the psychiatric hospital was full of love and care.

“Sorry. I’m a bad helper.”

We sat at the table in the hospital waiting room. Alan held my bandaged arms.

“Come on, it’s not your fault.”

He pressed my palms to his warm cheeks.

“They will help you here, I’m sure! And we will go to the library again.” he pressed my hands to his lips. “I promise, I will find you the most interesting book ever.”

“Of course.”

Though my eyes appeared empty, my smile was genuine. That month was very difficult for me. It was hard to be isolated from society, to sit within four walls, and to fight for my own life. But despite it all, Alan brought me books and visited every day. We read them one after another and discussed them for hours. I didn’t even notice how fast the time flew by.

I can’t call those frames dark or negative. Every day, one way or another, a sincere smile appeared on my face. Especially when Alan occasionally touched me so gently. He treated me very carefully, as if I were a porcelain doll. I haven’t felt so special for a long time. Tears came to my eyes, oh, how I miss it.

“Where are we going?”

Walking through the forest, I looked at everything with great interest.

“You will see,” Kim tightly held my hand and led me. “Just enjoy the nature.”

The day was very sunny but cool. In the depths of the forest, the sunrays barely reached us through the high trees, so mostly we walked in the shadow. The air was unbelievably fresh, and it was simply impossible to get enough of it. Branches crunched underfoot scaring birds away. It was something new for us since almost all the time we sat in the library or in a closed room.

The wind began to blow stronger in our faces, and something popped up on the horizon. When I came to a cliff, a stunning forest landscape opened up in front of me. There was a crystal clear lake surrounded by the trees that seemed to be dark blue. From the view my eyes widened and “lit up”. It seemed that Alan, like me, enjoyed the view. In fact, his eyes were focused only on me. He smiled so sincerely at my wild reaction! Covering his nose, he laughed quietly. Then he just put his hands in the pockets and admired this mesmerizing view in front of us.

“Alan, what is this?! How do you know about this place?”

I was almost jumping from amazement.

“My parents showed me once, I’m glad you like it.”

“It’s fantastic!”

For a long time I haven’t admired any landscape so much. I wanted to come there in the summer and dive into this limpid lake. The place was magical.

It was so pleasing to watch those moments. Each new frame was happier and happier. Even through the screen I felt the atmosphere with every cell of my body. Who would have thought that a random person could change my worldview so much? This person gave me the will to breathe. He gave me the will to live.

“No!” shouted Alan and snatched a glass of whiskey from my hands, “I poured you a glass of wine.”


“No ‘but’. You’re on pills. You can only have a glass of wine. Otherwise, something might ‘click’ in your head.”

I pouted my lips but had to admit that he was right.

I sat on the mattress that was on the floor. The atmosphere was fabulous. The room was decorated with garlands and pillows were lying everywhere. It was clear that we were going to watch something as the projector was placed behind us.

Alan knew how to surprise me every time. He just put a video of beautiful landscapes and calm music. I rested my head on my hand and waited for him to join.

“Tell me something about yourself, Al.” I looked at him. He was so homey and simple like never before.

“What do you want to know?” He slightly raised an eyebrow and sipped a bit of whiskey that he took from me.

“Well, we spend so much time together but I still don’t know anything about you.”

I clinked my glass against his.

“Since childhood, I’ve been interested in medicine. My father had a small library in his office. There were so many books and I loved to read them. I always dreamed of becoming a doctor.” Kim smiled sadly.

“Why don’t you study then? I can bet that it’ll be easy for you.”

“Maybe in the next life.”

“Why not now?”

“It’s too late.”

It was very strange to hear that from him.

“Where is your father now?”

“He died of cancer.”

I instantly regretted starting this conversation when he looked at me. I could see so much pain in his eyes.

“I’m sorry, Al… I’m really sorry.”

I put my hand on his shoulder. That’s all I could do then.

“It’s okay.”

Kim put his hand on mine and it felt like he was actually comforting me.

“Despite my father’s illness, my life was full of love and care. And as long as I can I’ll support my mother,” he lowered his head.

“Hey,” I lifted his head by the chin. “You know that I’ll always be by your side and will help you as you help me?”

“Of course, silly,” Alan ruffled my hair.

That evening was magical. We watched films and talked. When I first met him, I thought that Kim was a bookworm and a bore who didn’t know how to have fun. Although my idea of fun was very distorted then, I believed that getting drunk was everything. But, thanks to Kim, I realized that you can relax and have a good time without alcohol, and I liked it even more.

We fell asleep on that mattress. Alan held me tightly and his scent of the sea lulled me to sleep. In his arms I felt safe and I knew that no one can disturb my sleep so I peacefully entered an exciting world of dreams.

The next frame I saw made my eyes fill with tears. I was standing in the doorway saying goodbye to Kim after our cozy evening.

“Thank you for a wonderful evening, Al,” I threw my bag over my shoulder.

“Listen, I want you to remember that I will always be with you — right here,” he poked his index finger into my chest.

“I know it. Why are you telling me this? It sounds like the last goodbye…” I pinched Kim’s cheek.

“I just wanted you to remember it,” Alan hugged me and patted on the head. “Bye, silly.”

On the screen in front of my eyes, the door closed and I jumped up from my seat. As foolish as it was, I tried to open this door again. There’s so much left to tell him! I haven’t told him how wonderful he was and how much he did for me. I wanted to hear his sweet “silly” one more time and hug him at least once! But the door quickly disappeared from the screen.

The following episodes were empty, but still bright. I tried to reach him on the phone, I knocked on the door of his apartment, but no one opened the door for me. I didn’t know any of his friends or relatives to ask what city he was from. I spent days in the library in our spot reading books. Like before, the sun was blinding me and I enjoyed it.

The next thing I saw was what happened three months after Kim disappeared.

I remembered that Kim recommended I read The Master and Margarita by Mikhail Bulgakov, which I kept putting off because I thought that I wasn’t ready for this book. I was wandering among the shelves with Russian literature and ran my finger through the books searching for that one. Found it. I took it and an envelope fell out right at my feet. It said “For My Silly”.

“If you are reading this, you finally decided to read the book that I chose for you while you were in the hospital. I think you will love this book just like I love with you. Unfortunately and most likely I am no longer alive, as I lost my battle with cancer.

I’m sorry I didn’t have courage to tell you that in person. I am incredibly glad that I was on the roof that day and could save at least one life. Remember, silly, that I am always in your heart.

With love,

Kim Alan.”

The ground fell out from underneath my feet. Why did I find this book so late? But did it matter? Would it have changed anything? I couldn’t find him for three whole months.

I felt so helpless and worthless, so selfish. All this time he helped me, supported me when he was the one who actually needed it more. Despite this, Al didn’t give a damn about himself and fought to the last for my life, which is not worth a dime.

Dark frames. I was alone again and no one gave a damn about me. A few more frames of my binge, and the screen goes blank.

I felt chills on my skin from cold. On the screen was the last frame. It was a bathtub with my body lying in a pool of blood and a blade in my hand. Am I dead..?

Dazed, I looked at the screen and tears rolled down my cheeks. I couldn’t save the life that Alan tried to save so hard. I’m so ungrateful.

A single lantern that hung over a door at the back of the hall lit up. I realized that this film session was over, but I didn’t want to leave and go into obscurity. I could give anything to watch this film again, but only its happy moments.

Suddenly, the door opened and I shuddered. I closed my eyes and waited for my fate. Suddenly, someone put a warm hand on my shoulder.


I opened my eyes sharply and slowly turned. In front of me stood Alan.

“I’m sorry! Forgive me Al! I’m so stupid!” yelled I and threw myself at his feet.

“I missed you.”

Kim squatted down and hugged me, leaning his forehead against mine.

“Let’s go?” asked Al looking into my eyes.

With him I was no longer afraid of anything. I nodded with confidence and we walked away.

***At the bottom***

It’s cold, insanely cold. I’m in a vacuum and don’t want to open my eyes. All sounds are muffled. It’s incredibly difficult to move. Probably my heavy clothes don’t let me move freely. Am I sleeping? Why is it so cold then? My mind is clouded and I don’t understand what’s going on. My lungs are running out of air and I try to take a breath. I can’t. I have to open my eyes.

They’re stinging slightly and everything I see is very blurry. It took a few seconds to realize that I’m underwater. I move from side to side trying to find any source of light and I find it. It’s so tiny, it’s incredibly difficult to get to it considering that I can’t swim. I try to get out but I’m under the ice. There’s all this damn ice over my head and a small light source from an ice hole. In a panic, I strive with all my strength to get to it. I notice the silhouette of legs surrounding the hole. Am I saved? I hear familiar voices.

I begin to flounder and greedily gasp for air, trying to attract the attention of my friends. They have to help me! I splash the water and try to hold onto the icy edges but my hands are numb, I have no strength anymore and I slide off. I still can see their legs but they didn’t even take a step. I feel a heavy look on me and start drowning again. I can’t move anymore. I clearly hear my friends laughing. I close my eyes.

                                    * * *

I felt a breeze and the burning summer sun on my skin. I hear joyful children’s laughter everywhere and screams of worried parents. I open my eyes and see my laughing friends splashing in the water. Seeing this lovely view was more than enough for me.

Suddenly, cold drops of water fell on my shoulders. I turned towards the irritant to express my disgust, but Finley immediately began to apologize and sat next to me. He looked at me as he squinted one eye and smiled softly.

After such a smile, it’s simply impossible to get angry with Min Finley. He pushed his wet hair back and I looked away as I caught myself staring at him. I asked timidly about his girlfriend. He tried to sneer and said that she was at the same place as my boyfriend, then raised his hand and with graceful long fingers pointed in their direction.

“Accidentally”, he put his palm on my little hand. The moment was rather awkward but I didn’t even twitch, I kept looking at the water. Min didn’t even think of taking his hand off and we sat in silence admiring the view. The lake we were at was in a magical place. It was surrounded by a forest from where we could hear the quiet singing of birds.

I started to feel uncomfortable and was about to say something, but suddenly I heard my name. I saw Dylan and jerked my hand away from under Finley’s fingers. The young man approached us and asked if I missed him.

Kim shook his wet head and splashed cold water on me. I closed my eyes and sighed heavily. The guy touched my face and kissed me. Min muttered something and went towards the lake. He waved his hand and I smiled sweetly.

Dylan sat next to me and asked why I wasn’t joining the others. The question was stupid since Kim knew the answer perfectly, so he hastily interrupted me when I tried to answer. He knew that I was afraid of the bottom because I didn’t know what might be there.

I was madly scared of the person next to me. I didn’t have any feelings for him anymore, I was only used to him. Unfortunately, a few years ago I couldn’t see who this sweet and charming guy really was. I learned to put up with everything that happened within the walls of our apartment. I wanted to share my worries with someone but the fear that no one would believe me held me back. So I lived quietly with a stone in my heart.

Dylan was as cold as the water I was in now.

                                    * * *

In this abyss, I felt the same way as I felt throughout my life. This cold person was the problem I was drowning in and my friends just stood there and watched. Only now, slowly sinking to the frightening bottom, I understood who were next to me all this time — people wearing masks of friendship.

A dull crack interrupted my thoughts and I opened my eyes again. The ray of light above me became even narrower. It terrified me. I had to fight for my life but I couldn’t do it alone. I really needed someone to help me. Adrenaline started rushing through my veins and I took off my heavy clothes. An incredible pain follows each move.

When you first plunge into ice cold water, it feels as if you are in boiling water. But this is a fleeting sensation. Gradually the brain realizes that you are freezing, you start to feel cramps in your limbs, and it seems that with every move, a needle is piercing every cell of your body. But despite this, I find the strength to get rid of the extra load and manage to get a little closer to a tiny hole.

I notice Dylan’s silhouette for a second but he is far away. He and the others are watching what is happening. At the last moment, I see Finley behind Kim’s back and somewhere deep inside, there remains a small hope that he will rescue me. But he is frozen in place. That hit me hard and I slowly went deeper.

My body went to an ominous bottom that frightened me horribly.

                                    * * *

I was begging Dylan to stop but my pleas fell on deaf ears. He pressed my throat against the wall.

Kim scolded me as he told me that he wasn’t happy with how often I find myself around Min Finley. He slapped me on the cheek, the same cheek which he tenderly touched only a few hours ago. He made it clear what my disobedience is fraught with.

Dylan violently threw me on the bed. My eyes and mind got cloudy. I knew what awaited me. He ripped my clothes off and I just stared at the ceiling. It’s pointless to resist. He’s stronger than me. It was easier to let him finish what he was doing and then lock myself in the bathroom.

Why was he kissing my neck and collarbone? What this unnecessary tenderness was for? For a long time, I became an “interior piece” for him. He didn’t see the person in me. All I felt was burning pain and cold.

After that, I always wanted to wash off his disgusting touch. I was standing in the shower and watching running water with my soulless eyes. Through the wall of thoughts I heard my phone beeping. It was a message asking me to go out. I chuckled and hit the back of my head against the wall. What an irony.

The pretext of going out was to smoke. Goddamn, Min was standing at the main door and smiled tenderly. The fear of approaching him even a centimeter didn’t leave me so I just lit a cigarette. A friend looked worriedly at my lip and tried to touch it but I sharply pulled away. Finley knew that Dylan was abusing me, but he didn’t want to focus on that so he just apologized.

I calmly tried to assure him that I wasn’t afraid of Kim at all, but only one thought was spinning in my head: if only I smelled of cigarette smoke more than of him. I didn’t want to experience that hell again. I asked why he called me and immediately regretted it. Finley wanted to get back to the topic we talked about at the lake. He hesitated for a second and confessed his love to me.

My eyes widened and I tried to remind him that he has a girlfriend and I have a boyfriend. What a ridiculous situation! I chuckled but nothing was fun about anything anymore.

Min had the courage to tell me the truth. Kim doesn’t love me anymore and he himself doesn’t feel anything for his girlfriend, and that it’s stupid to deny that there isn’t anything between me and him. He was almost shouting.

As in any stupid love drama, exactly at this moment, it started to rain. How cheesy! I pulled my head back and exhaled the last puff of smoke. I told Min that I have nothing to talk about with him and we shouldn’t see each other. I said I was sorry, threw a cigarette bud away, and opened the door. He grabbed my hand, turned me, and hugged.

No no no… his scent...it enveloped me from head to toe. I heard only the sound of rain. The rain drops fell on the ground and broke just like my hopes of staying alive this day. But I didn’t want Min to let me go. I haven’t felt such tenderness for a long time.

I couldn’t understand myself. Why was I running so hard from my happiness and a peaceful life? I could feel the sparks between me and Min but I desperately tried to put them out. I was scared for my life! It’s a stupid female logic and a fear of starting something new and bright. And I couldn’t help myself. Tears rolled down my cheeks but I didn’t dare to hug Finley back.

I remember that evening very well. It was the last peaceful day in my life. The pleasant soothing sounds of rain, the smell of wet concrete. Somewhere in the distance a rainbow showed up in the dark sky. Rain drops were falling on my face and made me squint. Everything was so pure and real. I wanted to stop the time.

                                    * * *

The shadows above me are getting more and more blurred, the ice hole smaller and smaller. No matter how hard I tried, I didn’t get closer and my so-called friends didn’t even think of rescuing me.

I didn’t want to know who they really are. I was ready to live in the fairy tale I have always been in. The smiles, words of love, and embraces seemed real to me. I’m ready to forgive them, to get back to the fake love and fake friends. I just wanted to get out.

These thoughts gave me hope and I tried one more time. Together we could do something.

Through the pain I got closer to the ice hole. The people around are still motionless but I hear their voices. I wish I was deaf…

“How could she do that?”

“Yeah! It’s disgusting!”

“Cheated on a wonderful guy like Dylan!”

“I’m speechless…”

“She did it with a close friend!”

“Not only did she ruin her relationship, but also Finley’s.”

What? How could they? Finley, please tell them it’s not true! They don’t know the real Dylan!

“And those ugly scars on her arms…”

“Oh, she just wants attention.”

“I told her that the psychiatric clinic will not do any good. Why was she there for so long?”

“Another attempt to get some attention.”

“She’s so selfish! Didn’t even think about us.”

“What is she complaining about? It’s my girlfriend who really has problems.”

“She has a wonderful boyfriend, friends, an apartment, and a job.”

“What else can you possibly need to be happy?”

Gradually, I could hear only muffled voices. How naive I was! No one will even try to help me. Lies and self-deception. It was time to forget this pitiful ice hole and whatever remained of my hope.

One last time. My limbs are numb, I breathe in for the last time before going underwater. Green abyss envelope me again. It’s ridiculous how tiny and insignificant I am. Previously, I fled from water as from fire, but now I consciously unclench my fingers and go down to the bottom which I have always been so afraid of.

                                    * * *

A cold, unpromising evening of bad deeds. A lot of unnecessary body movements making a fuss. I didn’t understand what was going on but still took part in it. My mind was clouded but I tried my best to help, although I didn’t know how.

Finley was taking care of his girlfriend as if she was a child. Dylan was sitting in the living room minding his own business, he didn’t care about anything at all. He himself started this strange game by inviting Min, although he forbade me to talk to him. Perhaps he was just looking for another reason to beat me up and rape me.

Finley’s girlfriend was drunk and hysterical. He tried to calm her down but it only intensified the situation. My attempts to help were immediately thwarted by Min’s harsh words.

In one moment, he abruptly grabbed me by the shoulders and shook me saying, “I will never understand her problems, since my problems are nonsense”.

I carefully covered my cut wrists with long sleeves and held my tongue. Just a couple of days ago, this guy was ready to stand up for me. Now he roughly shook me knowing that I’m horribly afraid of sudden touches and screams. Finley saw me beaten up and knew how this situation would affect me.

It’s very upsetting when you try to understand another person’s problems and they don’t support you in return. Our own problems are always more important for any person but I naively hoped that Min would treat mine with respect. Most people are terrible egoists. They don’t wonder how you’re doing, they come to you only when they feel bad, worried, or bored. They come when they want to change something in their life.

Fake smiles, vacuous touches, and empty words about eternal love and friendship. All this didn’t hold me back from hoping over and over again. Every time I believed that this time everything would be different.

But no. Nothing changes, and again, I lose faith in humanity.

Kim got tired of this atmosphere and kicked out the guests. I stood in front of the door with my back against the wall. My heart was pounding, Dylan had already stood facing the door for a few seconds as if he was working on several scenarios of what could be done to me.

He sighed deeply and my heart skipped a beat. Kim turned to me and asked about what it was, but I didn’t know how to answer. I remained silent. He walked over and grabbed my wrist. I squeaked, his grip was painfully strong. Dylan hadn’t treated me tenderly for a long time.

Kim made it clear that if I do something like that again, he would kick me out of the apartment in seconds, or lock me in a psychiatric clinic. My soul ached. He didn’t even think that I needed help and support, not threats. Although, what am I talking about? Dylan didn’t care about me anymore.

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