(This story is for mature readers)
My Russian accent turns men on. I know this because when I am asked simplistic questions like, “Where is the bathroom?” my answer makes them linger by my side to ask even more mundane questions, like “Where are you from?” I don’t mind, though, because it makes me feel good. I give the men what they want: a timid, giggling girl. It makes them wonder if I’ll turn into something dangerous, even threatening in bed.
I try very hard to keep my appearance clean and attractive. I wear nylons so the skin on my legs always looks pristine. I wear a thick layer of eyeliner and concealer so nobody can see my flaws. I receive Botox once a month with my best friend, my mother. We have little time to spend together, and this monthly routine keeps us tight. I have had a nose job before, but it was a medical procedure that cured my obtrusive nasal passage, and the doctor told me he could make a few other arrangements while I was under. I took the hint and told him to straighten it on the outside as well. I am a very thin woman. When I bend over, my rib bones peak through my skin. I love this about myself. I used to be 180 pounds. I am down to 110 now, and I’m five foot nine inches. This is my greatest accomplishment.
I work on the fifth floor of the Flagstaff Medical Center. I am a new pharmacist here and am having a hard time making friends. Maybe it is because I receive so much attention from the men passing by our station, looking for guidance on unfamiliar prescriptions, but nobody seems to want to be my friend. Last week I overheard the women discussing after-work plans in the break room and nobody asked if I wanted to go with them. I don’t understand it because I am very friendly and am great company. I love to gossip and talk about new fashions, and all the things girls like to talk about. I keep my nails clean and am always certain they have not grown past the skin on my fingertips. If I see one line of white nail, I bite it down instantly. Other women can see I am kempt and must have a tidy home as well. Perhaps they do not want me to be a part of their circle because I am taller than all of them. In fact, I can’t even wear heels to work. All the other women wear heels, but I wear flats just for them! I don’t want any of them to feel bad because they are shorter than me, so I wear boring flat shoes instead of sexy high heels. If they knew that, maybe then they would appreciate my kindness.
Maybe it’s because I went on a date with Dr. Foreman last Tuesday. Yes, that must be it. Dr. Foreman visits our floor quite often. He says it is because he prefers the cleaner bathroom on our floor, but I know that isn’t the truth. He comes to flirt with me. I always let him ask me questions and sometimes I pretend like I don’t know the answers so he does not think I am too smart. Finally, he asked me out for a drink. I made a very big deal out of it so he could see my excitement. I told all the other women on the floor, too, because I knew they would gossip about my date and everyone would know that I was good enough to go out with with Dr. Foreman.
I met him in the bar on the East side of the Medical Building for a cocktail after work. Then, he took me to a small restaurant, where I ordered a salad and drank several glasses of white wine. I didn’t want to seem rude and eat too much, and I know men like to see their dates drink so they can touch the possibilities of what might happen. I made him laugh four times at dinner and he paid for everything. When we left the restaurant, he asked me to come over to his apartment for another drink. I said yes, of course. I would never disappoint a man. To my surprise, his apartment was right across the street! It was a fine place with dim, blue lights that shone on his art on the white walls. He had a fireplace that lit up with a remote control and windows that started from the floor and touched the ceiling- they looked over the whole city. It was so romantic; I had to let him kiss me. We kissed for no more than two minutes before he took off his clothing. I copied him and then he asked me to pleasure him with my mouth. He sat on the couch while I did my very best performance. He is a decent man. I know this because when he orgasmed, he pulled my mouth off of him and let go into a tissue. A very decent man, indeed. I gave him my best smile and put my clothing back on. I understand men do not like women sleeping over because they like their independence, so I left his apartment soon after.
Those women must be jealous. They all want Dr. Foreman for themselves and I was chosen. That is the only reasonable explanation why I am not invited to their gatherings or parties. They all look at me like I am not good enough, but it was me who Dr. Foreman chose. If they only knew how good I was, then they would see why he picked me over all of them to be his date. Even mother said so, “You are the most beautiful girl, Nadia, much prettier than all the others and most likely to marry a handsome, rich man.” I am the one who will have a handsome, rich husband, not them! None of them will have one! My nails, they are much too long now. They are showing white tips. How could I have let this happen? I never let this happen. How disgusting, how disgraceful, I must not let anyone see this. I must bite them all off…
Nadia steps into her small sedan to leave work for the day. It’s an icy night out, one that stings the tip of your nose like a mouse nibbling on a kernel. Nadia clicks both her teeth against the short tips of her fingernails so they chip down to the pink skin underneath. It stings, but she can’t tell if it’s her habit or the cold.
She drives out of the parking lot to the slippery road that eases her onto Interstate 40. To get to Nadia’s apartment, it is not necessary to get onto the Interstate, but Nadia’s only intention is to not go home, and where does one go when they only simply don’t want to be somewhere?
She drives fast, too fast, but there is no one there to slow her down. There has never been anyone there to slow Nadia down. When she ate her way through her childhood, her mother only abused her instead of advising her. Then when she became promiscuous, her mother encouraged her behavior. She said it would take them places because Nadia was beautiful and all the men in the world want a woman like her daughter. When she went to school, it was the only time she made a decision for herself, but losing 70 pounds was still the accomplishment she prized the most.
Nadia bites her raw fingertips as she pushes hard onto the gas pedal. She doesn’t realize she’s already fifteen miles over the speed limit, or that the trees on the sides of the highway are all blurring into one.
Nadia’s teeth seep into the tender skin between her nails and the insides of her fingertips. Until this point it was a nasty habit she obtained as an anxious child, but in this very moment, this miniscule nibble of the last obtainable piece of her pinky nail sparks a shock of pain through her spine and startles the girl. Nadia jumps up from her seat and cries out in anger at herself, and in the act of doing so, she jerks her other arm, the arm guiding the wheel, and the car swerves off to the left. She grabs the wheel and tries to gain control of the sedan, but it fishtails violently off the road and into the Coconino National Forest.
Nadia’s car whips past the sign to the national preservation area, just grazing its side, sending slivers of wood flying into the air. Her hands grip the steering wheel, knuckles white and eyes wide. Her wheels can’t gain control at this point along the unpaved area. In seconds, the car goes straight into a five year old tree, not too large, but large enough to smash Nadia’s engine. This crash doesn’t kill her engine, though, but punctures her gas tank, creating a leak that quickly drips into a stream that runs down the slope, deeper into the forest. Nadia climbs out of the car, coughing and gasping for breath. Her airbag had exploded into her chest and face, knocking the wind out of her and breaking her altered nose. She crawls away from the vehicle toward the street where other cars have pulled over. Red and blue lights creep up the highway toward her. The fear comes on, but she interrupts it with the thought, It was only an accident.
As people gather around her on the side of the road and tell her “it is going to be okay” and to “just breathe”, she sees a spark drip from the bottom of her car down to the puddle of gas, streaming into the forest. A sputtering sound and a horrible blast shoots out of the engine. The crowd gasps and draws back from the exploding flames that spit directly at the trees. The dry pines absorb the fire and crumble into bright red dust, onto the floor of the forest that has quickly spread the flaming beast across itself.
Nadia feels two arms lift her from underneath her shoulders and lay her down flat. Two men hover over her and ask her questions, but all she can see is the red engines gathering around the fire and trying to gain control of it. Their efforts are failing and police begin to stop traffic to evacuate the entire area so the fireman can try to do their jobs. The men wheel her gurney into the back of the ambulance. A mask is placed over her face and oxygen starts to ease into her lungs. She relaxes and bit and takes a moment to look up at the two men at her sides.
One of them is stalky with dark brown eyes, but is wearing a ring. The other is a strong, blonde young man with tan skin and is sans ring. She smiles through her mask up at him. He looks down and removes the mask.
“Are you feeling okay?” he asks.
“Yes, thank you. You saved me,” she said through the crusted blood around her mouth.
“You’re going to be fine. What’s your name?”
“I’m Mark and that’s Ben. We are going to take care of you.”
“Thank you so much Mark,” she smiles again. Nadia then reach her hand up to Mark’s face and strokes his cheek. Mark blushes and takes her hand away.
“Don’t worry. What happened out there? I need to know, Nadia, have you been drinking tonight?”
“No, I never drink and drive Mark. It was just an accident.”
“Okay. Well relax for now. I’m going to put your mask back on and we can talk more at the hospital.”
Nadia wakes up with a stiff feeling all over her body and a bandage across her nose. She looks around the bright room to see where she is and recognizes it as her hospital room. IVs are poking out of her arm and there is something wrapped around the tip of her finger, but she doesn’t feel much pain. The television is on above her bed. She slowly turns to her side to grab the remote control and turns up the volume. A newswoman is reporting a catastrophic accident, one that Nadia now realizes was caused by her.
“A woman lost control of her small sedan and crashed into the Cococino National Forest, where a gas leak and spark from the running engine caused one of the most disastrous forest fires Arizona has seen in fifteen years…” Nadia takes out the needles and heart monitor and climbs out of her bed. She steps her bare feet onto the hospital floor and shakily makes her way to the hallway.
“Miss, you shouldn’t be out of bed,” a nurse says as she rushes to Nadia’s aid.
“I’m okay, I’m fine.”
“You probably are, but you need to rest and I can’t have you out of bed. Can I bring you anything instead?”
“Yes, please. I need to find Mark. Do you know Mark? I must see him.”
“Who is Mark, dear?”
“The man who saved me last night. He was in the ambulance. He is so handsome. Please find him for me. Tell him Nadia wants to thank him.” Nadia climbs back into her bed and closes her eyes, waiting for her man to come back to her side when she wakes up, the one that just might be the one for her. She smiles at this thought and lets it comfort her. It was an act of fate, she thinks, and quickly falls back into a deep slumber.