Romanian born and bred, somewhere in the center of Transylvania, Mira coquetted with the idea of writing for a long time; however her fear of rejection made every attempt to publish fold. Finally, she imagined that if she could face randy teenagers everyday as an English teacher, she could face not making it on a top spot. Obsessed with what made people tick, she’s portraying characters that catch her eye.
The little block of flats had been erected somewhere after the Second World War and displayed a sedated architecture. It had avoided the modern, post-modern, and neo-classical style and found itself harboring the traditional style that was outdated at the time.
It was hidden behind some old oaks and some bushes whose name I can’t remember for the life of me. It boasted only six little apartments but they were all filled with so much life that it was like it was busting at the seams.
The financial worth of the lot beneath the building tripled its value in the last five years and it became evident that the owner was thinking about selling it. Its value was higher than the entire building.
Besides all of that, the building had become a money eater. Plumbing giving in and walls screaming for repairs and new paint were only just a few of the money pits dancing in front of the owner’s eyes, who would grind his teeth thinking of what was expected of him.
He’d just inherited the building: there were no connections and no memories. People inside were just names on the renting contracts and those contracts were due for renewal in a month but he hadn’t given them a thought. He was dreaming about a fat bank account that would fuel a trip to the tropics, where he’d buy a beautiful cabana somewhere near the beach and drink, swim, and sleep his days away, chasing a female now and then. Heaven on earth, in his peanut-sized brain dosed with the mirage of wealth.
Meanwhile, life was flowing in the little building, hidden by the curtain of trees, sheltered, not a part of the changes that came and went on the principal artery, just a few feet away.
On the second floor, there were three families. They’d been there for almost half a century and had let the changes pass them by.
The apartment on the right hand was inhabited by a seventy-some-old couple. They had moved there immediately after their wedding day, exactly a decade and one day after the end of the big conflagration. They’d been young at the time and many had even said they’d been too young to marry and that the marriage wouldn’t last. I guess they’d proved them wrong. Their marriage had already celebrated the fifty-eighth year of marriage and they’d brought up together a passel of children that gave them another passel of grandchildren.
Their days were quiet. They’d wake up early in the morning and had their tea with a slice of bread and jam on the balcony, listening to the birds and breathing the crisp air that came with the dawn. They wouldn’t say a word. In so many years, everything had been said and what they needed they could convey with their eyes or a gesture or a sigh. They’d linger on the balcony for a while. He would read the paper and she would just watch the trees in front of the balcony, deep in thought. She’d probably think of her children or of her grandchildren or of something that had happened long, long time ago, far too long for her to remember accurately. After a couple of hours, they’d go out heading towards the market, even if they needed anything or not. It was like a physical exercise for them, to keep them going. They’d have lunch always on the balcony, just a soup or sometimes a soup and a sandwich. She’d cook the soup just before lunch so that they’d eat something fresh. After lunch, they’d sleep for a couple of hours and then they’d go for a walk but in the opposite direction from the market. There was a park nearby, somewhere in the area of 800 feet. They’d rest on a bench for a while and then they’d tour the park. They’d go back after a couple of hours because they never knew when one of the kids would visit and those were the most precious moments of their life. They’d wait at home, in silence, each one reading something and waiting. When night would fall, they’d go to bed to start everything all over again the following day, without thinking that they might not have too many nights left to be spent there.
They’d sleep without hearing a peep even though the apartment next to them was quite a noisy one. The building was solid, though, and isolation good.
The middle apartment on the second floor was rented by a couple in their mid-forties. They’d married about fifteen years before, for the first time. They’d divorced after the first two years and had had a very quarrelsome interlude for about a year when they’d decided to get married again. They’d fought like crazy for about five days a week, screaming at each other and throwing things. Luckily, none of them had been very good in reaching the target so there were no wounds to deal with, but of course they’d had to buy new dishes twice a month till they agreed to buy camping dishes, those made of metal that would withstand the vicious meeting with a wall. The other two days of the week had been the make-up days, when they’d have sex with the same vivacity they used for fighting. The neighbors would have been grateful that the walls were so thick, had they heard what was going on.
The second marriage had lasted a little longer. They’d tried hard and managed to stay married for five years. Then, one day, just because he’d left the toilet lid up, she’d decided it was too much and thrown him out of the house, literally, opening the door and pushing him out. His clothes followed through the window. She asked for a divorce the following day.
The ink hadn’t even dried well on the divorce papers, that they found out that they were so in love that they couldn’t live one without the other. They’d left the court and flew to Vegas, and in three days they got married again.
Their life was full: rants about everything under the sun, with swearing, yelling, throwing things and resentments building up from Monday to Friday. Friday night, suddenly, everything turned into romance at first, starting with a candle dinner – funny romantic dinner with camping dishes, by the way, and ending with carnal pursuits pigmented with loud moans and screams that would have turned the neighbors’ ears red.
Of course, there was no thought about losing their apartment. There wouldn’t have been time, even if they’d known.
Unaware of the drama going on in the middle apartment, the family in the other corner apartment on the second floor was living life working hard and raising three children in two rooms. Both were hard-working people and he even held two jobs. They’d been living in that apartment since a month after their wedding when a distant uncle had found out that the apartment had become available. He hadn’t mentioned that someone had been brutally killed there, but it might not have mattered. With the rent prices out there, this had seemed like a gift from the heavens.
Their days were spent with running to work, working as many hours as possible to be able to feed the brood of children and to pay rent, electricity, and maybe, if the Lord was benevolent, to save some money for a vacation sometime in the distant future. Then they’d share chores and supervise homework and fall into bed like logs. They wouldn’t even have time to think about marital relations. Anyway, the neighbors would take care of their part too.
Being forced to leave the little apartment would have been a hardship. The rents out there were too high and they wouldn’t be able to rent anything decent. However, they continued with their hard life unaware of anything happening behind the scenes.
On the first floor, there were three other families. Maybe saying families is too much.
On the left-hand corner, the apartment hid the most mysterious tenant. Tall, broad-shouldered, tanned and dressed in well-pressed clothes, a man in his thirties would live in his own world. He wouldn’t know anything about the old couple living above his apartment or the rambunctious couple on the second floor. Hell, he didn’t even know the neighbor next to him, and their patios were separated only by a fragile, white picket fence.
He kept strange hours and would be away for days and nights in a row or would spend a few days inside going out only on the patio, to enjoy the sunlight and the breeze.
He’d found the perfect building to rent an apartment. Strangely, there were no old people minding other people’s business or women already past their prime trying to offer him either a night in their bedroom or to cook a delicious cake, stealing their way into his heart through his stomach. No one paid attention. He could practice his profession without fearing that someone might see something or hear something or might leak some info to people that shouldn’t know anything.
He was a very well-paid gigolo, making his living on the dance floors of the clubs, turning an older woman in his arms, knowing that later she’d find the perfect gift for him, or in a hotel bedroom, offering spinsters the night of their life in exchange for a monetary gift that would pay his rent and a few whims along the way. His eyes were on the money prize and lost everything else from sight. He couldn’t guess that his little slice of happiness on earth was about to go. He’d be at a loss for a reaction. He was used to things that went his way without a hitch.
The apartment in the middle of the first floor was the quietest of all, not that any of them would have been noisy. The sturdy construction didn’t allow sounds to travel too far. However, this one was quieter than a tomb that wasn’t hunted by the owner.
The renter was unknown to the others. He’d come now and then, always under the cover of night. Not even the landlord could have reached him. His application showed the name of John Smith but it was not the name he was born with or the name he’d ever use. He had too many names to count. He didn’t have a job of leisure. He was good at tracking people, learning their habits and killing them for a hefty amount of money. He’d be pissed off to learn about the landlord’s plans and he’d fulfill a contract without pay for the first time in his life.
The last apartment on the right corner of the first floor was occupied by two old women, mother and daughter. They wouldn’t speak to each other anymore and not because they’d learnt each other’s thoughts but because they hated each other with a passion. The mother wouldn’t drink or eat anything her daughter touched, fearing poisoning. After how much she managed to control and ruin her daughter’s life and her chance at a little happiness, she knew she had to be very careful.
They shared a kitchen and a bathroom. The living room would stay empty days and even weeks in a row. Each of them would spend their lives separately in their bedroom.
The mother would crunch chocolates and read thrillers, enjoying the novels where the culprit would go away without a scratch.
The daughter would spend her days dreaming of other times, sometimes reading a romance and crying watching soap operas. Spineless, she’d let her mother chase away every chance she had for a different life and when she’d woken up there was no chance left. She was stooping, her hair was thin and kept falling and her skin was paste white, spotted by the traces of the tears that had become a common occurrence in her daily life.
The mother would have been angry finding out she’d have to move out but she knew nothing. The daughter didn’t care. She was past any care in the world.
They all would go on like guinea pigs in a cage, following the paths of their lives, their eyes on tomorrow, without knowing that tomorrow would bring such a big shock that their lives would change forever. Tomorrow lay in the hands of a new owner with the eyes on the horizon, dreaming of a boat, a hut and drink covered by a colorful umbrella without knowing he was harboring a very skilled killer who wouldn’t like to have his little nest taken away.