I waited a whole hour outside Dima’s office before finally catching up with him on his way out.
“Darling, what brings you by?” he breezed like a soothing autumn day and the gazillion things that interposed our latest meeting that morning, flooded my mind, electrocuting every attempt to speak to him in an orderly fashion.
I spent a minute, silently gazing over his tired but familiar face. I noticed that the lines framing his magnificent, imposing eyes were deeper than ever before. He looked older.
“I’m sorry for barging in to your office…”
“What are you talking about, Bella, didn’t barge in at all…” He pulled me closer and used our proximity as an opportunity to lean his head against my shoulders, momentarily.
“You know how I hate coming here, Dima,” I whispered, only to be met by his welcoming lips.
I continued to babble through our joint mouths, “I mean, sorry for even coming up to the Tower. Fuck… this is…” Dima pulling away only when I bit his lower lip.
“What’s the matter? You’re shaking, Bella.”
I tried to compose myself. To keep a strong face.
“Something, happen?” He was alarmed. Gone was the retiring evening.
God knows I didn’t mean to scare Dima. But I couldn’t. I felt as though my self-protecting cloak had been invaded. I was exposed. Even more so, when Dima insisted that I revealed the cause of my evident panic.
“Here, let’s go back inside,” he murmoured. “Let me call Joe to let him know that I’ll drive us back home, later.”
“No! Joe should stay with us.”
Dima’s stare was a mixture of shock and bewilderment. This time round, I was too scared to ease his concerns. Terrified to think about anyone but myself in this situation.
“Bella, it’s ten o’clock in the evening. Joe’s probably tired.”
“Have a look at this.”
I slipped into his hands the creased blue piece of paper that had me shaken to the core. Then, for the first time in my life I actively fought back hyperventilation.
“What is this?”
He peeled the note open and read it, in silence.He ran his fingers through his feshly trimmed hair-he’d been to the barber’s only the day before-then turned up to see me with a stormy look on his face. Similar to the type of anger and fear that had been brewing inside me ever since I laid eyes on that note.
“How do they know such intimate details about you, Bella?”
“Is that the issue here? How the hell should I know?”
“Where did you get this?”
“Oh but that is exactly what’s made me scared beyond belief, Dima. Get this, I walk to my car after Russian class at the University and the note is neatly folded in between my car glass cleaners.”
“This happened today?”
“Five hours ago to be precise. I thought it was a commercial at first, some sort of leaflet or something. I was about to throw it away but then the paper seemed quite thick and shiny so I opened it up. And I read this nonsense…”
“Five hours ago? You waited five hours to tell me that there’s a pervert out there who wants you like this?”
“Like I would’ve interrupted your meeting with the head of state for this, Dima. Come on…”
“I don’t care who the fuck I’ve got a meeting with. This is serious stuff, Bella. This is…unbelievable… No more driving alone, Bella. You’ve done it, you know you can do it, from tomorrow Joe will be driving you everywhere.”
No matter how hard I tried, there wasn’t going to be an end to Dima’s over-protectiveness. I was frightened by the prospect of someone following me and waiting for the right time to bring his vile thoughts into reality. But I wasn’t willing to give up my freedom in exchange for a life lived in fear. Not just yet.
“Let’s talk about this, Dima. Let’s go home first, and then we can decide what to do, what course to take next.”
“There’s nothing to talk about, Bella. You’ll steer clear of public places for a while until we manage to catch this fucker who thinks he can threaten us like this and then you’ll continue to move around with Joe. End of story.”
Only it wasn’t the end. It was the beginning of a different story. That of lovebirds, gone stray.