That January morning a barely discernible knock on the door startled me:
‘Sveta, open, please’.
I looked into the peephole, and saw an old lady struggling to talk. I was paralised with fear.
My apartment was on the ground floor of the ordinary five-storey building with the windows facing out onto the back yard of the large hospital complex with all amenities and facilities. Outside people hurried back and forth, tucking noses in the scarves or covering them with the mittens to stay warm. A huge water pipeline engulfed the whole area and served as a shelter to homeless folks.
I used to see that lady among them during those severely frosty days …
The voice behind the door continued:
‘Sveta, sweetheart, open, please. It's very cold in here’.
For a moment I was puzzled. -‘How could she know my name?’
I overcame my fear and opened the door. The woman came in.
Great was my surprise to recognize my elder cousin’s sister Nadia in that old lady, who I hadn't seen for months, if not years.
Time severely changed her: swollen face, bruises, tough-skinned and, exuding the sour stench of booze. She finally smiled, and I saw that open-hearted look of the silly girl from my childhood-<