Елена Вахненко

Heart-to-heart with Destiny

Would you like to meet your Destiny for a cup of coffee? Amanda, our heroine, succeeded in this... but their conversation wasn't an easy one!

Story in Russian

 

Amanda looked around, not quite understanding where she was or what was going on. A spacious room, illuminated by the ghostly trembling light of a lonely lightbulb on the ceiling, many tables, an abandoned bar counter… a cafe, perhaps? Abandoned cafe. It seemed completely empty, and she, Amanda, was the only one to have occupied a table by the curtained window. Where did everyone go? And what was she doing here?

Brr! Amanda shivered, uncomfortable; she felt quite uneasy. What a strange memory gap! It’s just so weird to find yourself in a mysterious place without the slightest idea of how you managed to get there! What was it, after all? Amnesia?

The girl reached for the curtains, intending to draw them apart and let the daylight into the room; perhaps the landscape outside the window would tell her where she was… She hoped it’d spur on her memories and resurrect the hours (or even days?) erased.

“I wouldn’t do that if I were you,” came a cold female voice that seemed vaguely familiar to her.

Amanda flinched in surprise. Straightening up, she looked at the graceful stranger who appeared as if out of nowhere. Or had this woman stood there for a long time, secretly watching her?…

Amanda took a deep breath to calm her heartbeat. The woman at the door seemed dangerous… and intriguing. Medium height, slender, in a black tight dress, with short-cropped dark red hair, she made a strong impression. Her eyes were hidden behind dragonfly-shaped sunglasses (why would she need them indoors?), her pouty lips were covered with a thick layer of cherry lipstick. She was swarthy (no less swarthy than Amanda herself, a mulatto), sultry… and restrained at the same time. It was as if she kept the flame of her soul private and allowed only a select group of people to come close, the chosen ones, so to say.

“Why?” Plucking up the courage, Amanda demanded. In moments of confusion, she forced herself to go ahead, which she did boldly, bravely, almost desperately. And it helped. Usually, the anxiety went away. “Why can’t I open the curtain?”

The female stranger was still at the door.

“Well… if you do want to see the world of death… then, of course, be my guest… open it.” She shrugged. “But are you sure?”

Amanda withdrew her hand in horror. However, the horror was fleeting.

A Death world, really?! Nonsense! But… she shouldn’t look behind the curtain. Just in case.

“Okay,” Amanda said with feigned negligence. She leaned back in an uncomfortable chair and crossed her legs… she wanted to look confident and even cocky. The main thing was to hide the trembling in her fingers and voice. “Where am I now? To be honest, I can’t quite collect my thoughts…”

The stranger chuckled, grinning… Amanda couldn’t call this grin a smile, the curve of the woman’s lips was too risky for that.

“All in good time,” the beauty said mysteriously and walked to Amanda’s table. The latter tensed, instinctively sensing the danger emanating from her. “May I join you?”

She stopped next to Amanda and looked down at her. She was still wearing her fancy glasses.

“Sure!” Amanda shrugged; she kept pretending she didn’t care.

The woman sat across from her. She, too, didn’t seem to care… though she was probably sincere in her unconcern: she truly didn’t give a damn what those around her might think of her behavior.

“So?” Amanda said after a pause with false cheerfulness. “Maybe it’s time… well… shall we do introductions? Or whatever?”

“I know who you are,” came the casual, slightly contemptuous reply. “As for me… consider me Destiny”

If Amanda had been drinking something at that moment, she would have choked. But the table was empty, and no one was in a big hurry to offer them some coffee or maybe a cup of tea, so the girl just grunted in amazement and shook her head.

“What a weird name! Or is it a title?” She gave her voice a mocking note.

“Rather, the second. Title. Rank. Position… status. Something like that”

‘Unthinkable!’ Amanda thought grimly. She must be asleep. Yes, that was the only rational explanation… or she could go mental all of a sudden and for no reason… she didn’t want to believe it, though (and who would want to?).

“And what do I owe such an honor?” Amanda inquired, her brows drawn together. She got really angry about this ridiculous, absurd situation. “I suppose not everyone is allowed to talk… hmm… to Destiny itself… or rather, herself!”

“I have my reasons, but they’re just mine,” the woman answered evasively. “ I’m not ready to share them with anybody”

Amanda shrugged. Unwilling to share, ah? Well, fine, not a big deal! She had more burning problems to worry about. For example…

“Where am I, in fact, now?” The girl looked around. “What kind of place is this?”

Destiny ran an eye over the room as if only now realized where she was. There wasn’t much to admire, though.

Finally, the woman spoke:

“Let’s just say… we are everywhere and nowhere”

“Everywhere and nowhere,” Amanda repeated, her voice skeptical. Frankly, she was in no way surprised, for she expected to hear something of the sort… the one who called herself Destiny couldn’t give a simple explanation for anything.

“Yes, this is a special place. I won’t pretend I created it… but I found it”

She found it, yeah! Amanda wrinkled her nose and shook her head in confusion. Being nervous made her very thirsty… such a strange desire, considering that they’re “everywhere and nowhere.” How could one be thirsty in the World Beyond?

“It’s good here,” the sparkling conversationalist continued her speech while examining Amanda through her dragonfly glasses. “Nobody distracts you…”

“Yeah,” Amanda shivered, refusing to admit that she was uncomfortable in the company of a mysterious stranger. “It’s… well… really comfy here! And calm!”

“Like a cemetery!” she added mentally and asked aloud:

“But I still don’t understand… Why can’t I look behind the curtain? What happens if I do?”

“You won’t like what you see, that’s all. Actually, you’ll HATE it”

She said this with aplomb and confidence that made Amanda shudder; the girl felt a chill wave passing through her body.

No, she won’t be intimidated!

“Are we really in hell? Literally?” The girl said between her teeth. She did her best to sound contemptuous. “Interesting!”

“Not really in Hell, but looking into Nothing is rather unpleasant. Especially when you’re unprepared”.

Amanda glanced sideways at the curtained window… which began to beckon her. Obviously, these words failed to produce the effect Destiny had hoped for… and suddenly the girl found herself willing to peer into Nothing, the whole idea seemed unusually seductive.

With some difficulty, she took her eyes off the window and forced herself to focus on the woman opposite. The latter watched her with cold curiosity as if studying some rare exhibit in a museum.

“Okay,” Amanda swallowed nervously and straightened her shoulders, she felt chilly. “So… what does my Destiny want to tell me?” She tried to speak with the same irony, but her trembling voice betrayed traces of emotion.

“I’ll start from the very beginning. If you don’t mind… So… let’s face it: you had a traumatic love experience a while ago… right?”

Amanda frowned. She didn’t like to recollect those days, that ancient history. Five years had passed… the wounds had healed, but sometimes they still hurt. And the scars left were unlikely to disappear even years later. And they would continue to remind her about things she wanted to forget, about moments she wished to erase from memory… ideally, erase from life.

“Who hasn’t had sad love stories?” She said aloud, somewhat grumpily. “It’s hardly a tragedy. This stuff happens”.

“Not a tragedy, right” Destiny didn’t argue with her. “But you reacted too strongly to that story… let me put it this way: you OVERreacted to your love failure. And the consequences haunt you to our days. And they’ll affect you for a long time to come… am I right?”

Well… yes, she was right. The story was sad, especially given Amanda’s young age (she was only 18 at the time!).

Amanda closed her eyes as her thoughts drifted back into the past. And again she felt the same pain and despair… the wound had opened and started bleeding. It hurt, it really did!..

In those long-gone days, she was still a very young girl, not only in body but also in soul. Vulnerable, inexperienced in love… full of romantic illusions and hopes. Faith in a Great Feeling.

Of course, Amanda remained a virgin back then. She intended to surrender to Prince Charming from the Fairy Tale (so to say). To someone who would be able to appreciate her greatest gift… she was by no means a fool (even in her 18). And she understood that her Chosen One, her first man, wouldn’t share her whole life with her. However, rare love stories ended as quickly and crushingly as in her case.

It all started out great. There he was, the One and Only, almost a Prince. He even had a white horse, or rather a white jeep (Amanda didn’t know much about cars). He was attentive, generous, gallant… who knew it was just a game? A well-thought-out scenario? “This dolly bird wants a prince… I’ll become one.” And he played his role skillfully!

Just one thing the “Prince” didn’t take into account: he was her first man.

“If I had known I would not have touched you,” he said with a note of regret after everything had happened. “You do surprise me! Today girls become women at 16, sometimes at 15! And you’re… what? 18, right? A bit late don’t you think? Why did you keep dragging this sex thing out?”

“I was waiting…” she whispered in bewilderment, still not realizing that everything was over. “Waiting for you”

“No, not for me,” objected the false prince.

Then there were tears, pleas, declarations of love on her part, and gloomy reproaches — on his. Yes, he managed to find what to blame her for. “You should have warned me in advance,” he told her. “And you chose to keep silent… It’s not my fault, it’s yours!”

Yes, of course, it was foolish of her to hide everything and keep silent. But Amanda wanted to give him what she thought was a pleasant surprise. Alas, the effect wasn’t quite what she expected.

5 years had passed since then. And all these years, Amanda was single. There weren’t even lovers in her life. She trusted nobody… nobody! So, in fact, that fleeting night of love remained the only one in the bank of her intimate memories (except for earlier experiments with the innocent hugging thing and passionate kisses; now the very thought of any physical intimacy frightened her, so she made sure no one could get close to her).

“I will definitely meet someone”, Amanda told herself with fake confidence. “Sooner or later there will be a man whom I can trust”

Amanda took a deep breath and opened her eyes, returning to reality (or where were they now? Could this weird cafe be called reality?). With displeasure, she gazed at the one who proudly named herself Destiny. Why wouldn’t she take off her stupid glasses?! Too afraid to look eye to eye?!

Destiny seemed to have read her thoughts (or had she really read them? Amanda no longer knew what to believe in).

“I’m sorry, but I won’t take off my glasses just yet”.

“The gaze of death?” Amanda snapped. Although she was hardly amused…

“You could say that,” Destiny responded with hidden satisfaction as if mentally trying on the role of a basilisk with its famous deadly gaze. “So, let’s recap: the traumatic experience of a young age, and now you are alone… unwilling to trust anyone”.

Amanda pursed her lips.

“Sex is hardly the most important thing in life! I’ve found a great job in the marketing team, I have cool prospects, and I…”

“I’m not just talking about sex,” the woman interrupted her. She was clearly uninterested in Amanda’s career success. “I’m talking about the emotional bond. Love. Human warmth. Don’t say it doesn’t matter either”

Amanda got angry. She was unable to change her past and undo certain deeds; whatever was done is done. And a heart-to-heart talk, even with Destiny herself, would have little effect on changing things.

“You mean to say I am a wreck?!” The girl asked, her eyes blazing with anger. “I don’t think so. I’ll be fine. I’ll pull myself together”.

“You’ll be fine, yes. And I can say right now that you have 3 options for the course of events. By the way, do you believe in fate? Predestination?”

Amanda wrinkled her brow, thinking. Perhaps she did believe in it… at least, partly and with some reservations.

“I believe that some global events are beyond our control, they just happen, for example, a war or something like that…” The girl said, trying to find the right words to voice her opinion. “All these things are really fate. Otherwise, we are more flexible and can get control of our lives… more or less. Within certain limits”.

“That’s right”, nodded Destiny. “And you, too, can get control of your life… and choose one of the three directions of its possible development. I suggest you take a look at them”

“What can I look at?” Amanda asked, surprised. “I don’t get it…”

“I’d like to show you your prospects and opportunities… all of them”

“Nonsense!” the girl snapped irritably. “Like that’s so easy!”

“Am I saying it’s easy?” The lady with dragonfly glasses raised her eyebrows. “On the contrary, it’s very difficult… but possible”.

“And you’ll show me my fate?” Amanda specified, her voice sounding incredulous. The more she heard, the more she became convinced that she was sleeping and having a bizarre dream.

“Yes. I’ll show you.” A faint shadow of a smile flashed across the woman’s plump lips. “Don’t you want to take a risk? Don’t you want to see what’s ahead… and influence the course of events?”

“What’s in it for you?” the girl asked suspiciously. “I mean… what’s the catch?”

She didn’t believe in selflessness. Everyone always has a goal, a purpose of some sort. And Destiny (ha, ha!) could hardly make an exception.

“No catch… I have my reasons to do what I do. But I don’t feel like sharing them with you right now”

It sounded insulting. Amanda felt offended not so much by the meaning of the words themselves as by the dismissive tone in which they were spoken.

“If you don’t want to see what awaits you, just say so,” Destiny uttered as if tired of waiting for her answer. “I’ll be disappointed, but nothing more”.

“Okay… let’s do it,” Amanda finally made up her mind. She felt aroused and excited, and her heart was beating in anticipation of new unusual impressions.

…Yeah, the impressions were new and VERY unusual.

She seemed to have entered some secret dimension… the future world, perhaps? In this mysterious land, she saw another Amanda. And while observing what was happening as if from the sidelines, the girl (the real one!) could feel the same as the main character of the scene (her, Amanda, future version?) did.

“It’s like watching an exciting movie! And the story is so fascinating that you literally become its main character while it’s still on.” The girl thought, satisfied by this not-so-bad analogy… and continued watching “the movie”.

She was in a light airy room, decorated in pink and white tones with a rare splash of silver. “Amanda from the future” sat by the body-length mirror at the dressing table and thoughtfully studied her own reflection.

This Amanda was in her early 30s, and she was easy on the eyes, attracting the attention with her sultry, mature, juicy beauty: smooth golden skin, a sparkling shock of dark curls falling on her round and velvety shoulders like an iridescent waterfall, a large, thinly contoured nose. The young woman was dressed in a satin nightie and her face hadn’t been touched by makeup yet… and there was a special charm in such nudity of both body and face.

“My dear baby,” said Amanda, without turning around. “Are you still sleeping?”

Behind the dressing table was an impressive double bed covered with a pile of linen. The silk sheets and bedspreads stirred, and a pretty, blond, white-skinned head popped out. A young lady of about 20 years old looked at Amanda with elongated, sleepy eyes and purred sweetly:

“Amanda honey… You woke me up!” The girl sounded offended in a somewhat childish way. And she did resemble a child, a very charming one…

Amanda turned her head and looked at the beauty with feigned severity.

“Listen, Sophie… It’s time to get up! It’s almost noon, I have to leave. I’m going to be late… again”.

Sophie snuffled indignantly and covered her head with the blanket. Everything indicated she didn’t want to get up… which meant she wouldn’t.

“Just one more minute…” She moaned from under the covers.

Amanda smiled fondly at her and turned back to the mirror.

Well… she looked quite good in her thirties. Youthful. That’s right! Why deny the obvious and pretend to be modest?

And anyway… who would have thought 10 years ago that all this could happen? In those years, she had no idea she was bisexual! And now look at her: there are almost no men left in her life (or rather, they are there, but not as partners for pleasure in bed). Women are much better when it comes to love, tenderness, affection… and, of course, sex. After all, they know what foreplay is (unlike men who believe that his kissing a woman’s breast a few times makes the girl ready for more… which is hardly the case).

And as for men… one could have fun with them too… just for a change… and only from time to time.

…And here she was again… sitting at a table in a cafe… in the company of “Destiny” (calling her by that name, even mentally, seemed ridiculous). And her heart was still pounding wildly…

“What was that?!” Amanda whispered in horror, pressing her palms to her flaming cheeks. “It’s some kind of joke, right?!”

“Why a joke?” Destiny seemed to be amused. “Are you homophobic?”

Amanda straightened in indignation and squared her shoulders.

“Are you kidding me? I have a lot of queer friends! Of course, I’m not homophobic… but I myself belong to the hetero team, that’s all”.

“Many women are potentially bi-oriented,” the woman said. “They can remain heterosexual until their death, not knowing that the role of a lesbian would also be to their liking”

“But… but I don’t want this…” Amanda said in confusion. “I’m not like this…”

“And what doesn’t suit you?” The woman asked mockingly. “Quite an old-style reaction! You’re lucky no one hears you… except for me. But don’t worry, your secret is safe with me”

“It’s comforting,” Amanda grumbled, eyebrows knitting.

The girl didn’t understand what frightened her so much. She always supported gay people! Always! She took them as they were. She was friends with many of them! But… being friends with members of the LGBTQ community is one thing, and being its PART is quite another.

“It doesn’t make me homophobic,” Amanda told herself mentally. “I just didn’t expect… all this”

“Do you want to look at the second version of your life?”

“Is the second option as frightening as the first?” Amanda asked without the slightest enthusiasm.

“You’ll see for yourself,” the woman replied evasively.

“Well… okay then”.

…They were now on the street. The morning sun was shining brightly, the weather was spring-cool. Winter was a thing of the past, but dreaming of summer was too early either.

A luxurious brand-new Audi in a steel-silver color had stopped near the posh business center. The passenger door slammed and Amanda emerged, followed by the driver. He was a middle-aged man of average appearance, in the uniform of a hired worker.

“I don’t need you until noon,” Amanda said coldly. “You can rest”.

“Yes, madam,” the man responded indifferently and got back in the car. The vehicle started smoothly.

Amanda watched the Audi drive away. Max was a good worker, an excellent driver, he did as asked, but the expression on his face sometimes pissed her off… made her crazy.

“I’ll give him one last chance,” the woman decided, straightening the bag over her shoulder. “And then… then I’ll probably get rid of him”

Amanda could read other people’s faces, and Max was a simple “book”. Even primitive.

He thought she was a cold, calculating bitch, that’s for sure.

Amanda wouldn’t argue with his verdict, actually. Yes, she was a bitch. And she didn’t need Max to open the car door for her (every new driver tried to do this at first, but she always stopped them). She didn’t need a “man’s shoulder”. She was a strong, wealthy, confident woman. Extremely successful. The owner of a small marketing company (small but prosperous!).

Amanda suppressed a sigh and headed for the stairs leading to the business center.

This version of Amanda was at least 40 years old… maybe more. She still looked pretty good, her age not reflected in her skin (youthfully smooth), body (slim as in her 20th), or hair (thick and dark). Maturity was indicated by her gaze and facial expression.

THIS Amanda was a bit mannish… or rather, less feminine: a strict business suit, tamed curls (trim haircut), narrow glasses hiding her eyes, nude, almost invisible makeup… and of course a confident gait, sharp gestures.

This Amanda needed no one’s approval. She didn’t care about other people and their opinions… none of them mattered.

…Five minutes later the woman was seated at the wide oak table in her personal office. Outside this tiny little world, people, her employees, bustled about. They were constantly on the alert to be aware of the movement of their strict lady boss (and Amanda WAS strict… sometimes tough, but never cruel). As soon as she was nearby, they would leave the smoking room or the kitchen (or where else were they loafing during the time she paid for?) and pretended to be hard at work. Nice try! She saw through them, saw their attempts to give themselves some importance, win her respect.

Fruitless efforts! She didn’t respect any of them, and there’s little chance she would ever in the future. She was ready to cooperate with the best ones… for the time being. As long as they were useful… and then it was time to say goodbye to them. And it wasn’t cruelty, no… just the strength of character, the force of personality.

Amanda cast a wary glance around her office. She had achieved a lot, hadn’t she? But was the game worth the candle? She usually thought so. However, in rare moments, especially in the evenings, she wasn’t really sure…

“Nonsense!” Amanda got mad at herself and pressed the button on the table. A frightened voice (belonging to her silly secretary, another idiot!) came out of the selector, saying:

“Yes, Madam Amanda?”

“Check my schedule for today. Send it to me by e-mail”

“Just a minute, madam”

“For the future… This should become a regular routine. Got it, Lily?”

Lily seemed at a loss. Amanda didn’t see her, but she felt the girl’s fright and bewilderment even through the door.

“So stupid!” the woman thought angrily, shaking her head. Finding the right staff is getting harder every year…

“Okay, we’ll talk about it later,” she said coldly. “Find my schedule for today. And arrange coffee for me. Americano without milk and sugar, as usual”.

Without waiting for Lily’s response, Amanda shut down the connection and turned her attention to the iPhone, which excitedly informed her of the new message.

Honey, I miss you! Cannot live without you! Cannot wait to see you!” Robert wrote to her via WhatsApp.

Amanda frowned, but not without tenderness. Robert, a sweet boy… a passionate young man, very romantic. It seemed that he really fell for her… despite the significant difference in age. A rare case… her other lovers (most of whom could be her sons) found their mature girlfriend (or, rather, WOMAN friend) sexy and hot but that’s it. It was her body (and perhaps her money) that excited their imagination… they didn’t care about her soul and feelings. And Amanda didn’t mind, she was okay with it. Affairs with boys were short-lived, vivid… with no strings attached. Without any obligations! Freedom and passion… What else does one need?

With Robert, it was different. He was from a wealthy family and didn’t need her expensive gifts. He was interested in her soul, her emotions… and it made her scared.

“Yes, it’s time to put an end to it,” thought Amanda. “Otherwise, it might bring serious trouble”

After all, one thing is a short love affair with a young boy, and quite another is a long-term relationship with one. Reputation can be seriously damaged, it’s not worth it.

…Expensively furnished office dissolved, replaced by an empty cafe. Amanda shook her head, trying to realize where she was… and who she was, in fact.

“What was that?!” The girl croaked when she finally came to her senses. “I’m… sleeping with young guys?! 20 years younger?!”

Destiny was amused by her indignation. She shrugged and smiled at the girl:

“You’re rich, successful, you don’t have time for serious relationships. And young boys are hungry for pleasure and thrilling experiments and don’t want obligations. That’s why you choose them… choose these guys”

“Nonsense!” Amanda got enraged. She was so furious she could barely breathe. “I’m not… like this…”

“The second version of your future seems to have scared you even more. Do you prefer to be bisexual?”

“Yes, I prefer it,” Amanda admitted, not without surprise. “I mean… it’s not ideal but it’s better anyway”

Wow… it turns out she lacked true self-knowledge. Interesting experience…

“Okay, show me the last option… hmm… of my life…” Amanda said grumpily after a pause. “Let’s get this over with”.

“As you wish!”

…She is again in a luxury apartment. This time, it’s not the pink and white bedroom where bisexual Amanda met her new day. And it’s not the expensively furnished office of Amanda as the businesswoman. What she sees now is the gorgeous room of the sybarite… a kind of captivating boudoir. And its inhabitant matches the interior.

Her age is difficult to guess. Something around 30–35. She is very pretty, well-groomed… perfect. Coquettishly feminine. At first glance, one understands that a team of experts has worked hard on her impeccable image: hairdressers. beauticians, fitness trainers, and many, many others. Perhaps plastic surgeons, too, have had something to do with her beauty and charm… who knows?

Sitting in a deep armchair, this charming Amanda was cooing sweetly into the phone:

“Well, of course, amigo… Louis, I’m waiting for you… yes, yes, my love… I’m always ready, you know,” she let out a charming laugh. “Yes, yes… waiting, kissing, loving. Chao, my love!”

Amanda pressed the end button and grimaced, the sweet expression slipping from her brightly-make-up face. Now she looked older… and tired.

“I’m sick of it!” thought Amanda.

Being a kept woman is so exhausting. The endless game of the Desired Object, the constant pursuit of youth and beauty… And, alas, she is no longer 25 or even 30. She is still holding on, but for how long?

And after all, no one is in a hurry to marry her… or ensure her old age in one way or another. Passionate admirers give her expensive presents (and money) and allow her to roll in luxury… but just for the time being. One day she’s going to hit 50 or 60… what to do then? In her old age?

Maybe she can talk Louis, her latest “amigo”, into starting a lucrative business for her…. can she? Not another useless beauty salon but something that really works and brings money.

“It’s worth a thought…” She finally decided and took a deep breath.

…Amanda’s heart was beating so fast it hurt. She put her hand to her chest as if trying to silence its knocking.

“It’s… it’s the worst… the worst…” her voice sounded hoarse.

Destiny raised her eyebrows.

“Oh really? You don’t like this option too, do you? But why? There is no female love, no young boys. What’s wrong?”

“But I… I act like a whore! I’m selling myself! Like… a prostitute”

“Not exactly,” said Mrs. S. softly. “Not a prostitute, but rather a hetaera or a geisha. It’s not just about sex. You give the man your full and undivided attention. Time. And you don’t sleep with everyone. You have one sponsor, and that’s all. When he gets tired of you (which eventually happens), you look for another admirer… but you never combine several men”.

“It’s still a sale!” Amanda disagreed with her logic, shaking her head ferociously. “Disgusting!”

“You see the world in black and white,” shrugged Destiny. “You’re too young… maximalist. It’ll pass. Everything changes over the years. You, too, will change and become…”

“A whore?” Amanda interrupted her. “Is that what you mean?”

“Well… if you like these juicy expressions, then yes. But you don’t have to become… hmm… a whore. There are other options”

“The others are no better,” the girl objected, mentally going through each of the stories shown to her. She wasn’t sure which of the three scenarios she liked more… or rather, which one she disliked the least. Perhaps the first was the lesser evil.

“Well, you have something to… hmm… sleep with,” Destiny remarked with a secret irony. “And think it over properly… the choice will be made by itself, whether you like it or not.”

“Does this mean our strange meeting has come to an end?” Amanda wanted to ask with a mixture of relief and disappointment… but she didn’t have time. The cafe world plunged into darkness, died, disappeared, and she, its temporary inhabitant, too.

* * *

She seems to be in her bed… yes, yes… it is definitely her bed and her bedroom.

Amanda sat up with some difficulty, her whole body aching as if she had spent the last hours not resting, but doing some hard physical work. Probably, she had been sleeping in an uncomfortable position… which should explain her bizarre dream too.

Amanda shivered, unsure what name to give her quaint sleep. Nightmare? Perhaps not… but she couldn’t call it pleasant either! Let’s say, it was a night visit to a mysterious place in the company of a no less mysterious female stranger (only a virtual visit, even an astral one, but still!). It’s time to resurrect every moment of her dream, remember the smallest detail…

“Sometimes I see real nonsense in my sleep,” the girl muttered, wrapping herself in a blanket. She was in no hurry to get out of her bed: the heating system had already been turned off, but the house hadn’t warmed up yet. “I wonder… what does my dream mean?”

Amanda never believed in prophetic dreams, never tried to decipher them… even as a joke. However, today’s sleep was another matter. She wanted to understand and unravel it… to get to the bottom of it.

It wasn’t like other dreams, erased from memory when the morning rolled around. THIS dream was more like a true fragment of her past. It was as if she, Amanda, really met her Destiny in an abandoned cafe… and had a heart-to-heart talk with her.

Assuming that her dream was actually a memory… and she did meet her Destiny (as crazy as it sounded)… what could it mean?

“It means my life will suck no matter what!” She thought angrily.

Yeah, and her first lover, the ill-fated Jean, was the one to blame for her broken fate. And nothing to be done…

No, no, believing in such a thing is the same as accepting defeat before the game is over. She doesn’t like all three proposed scenarios of her life, and she won’t put up with them.

“I don’t want this fate!” She mentally appealed to the unknown Higher Forces controlling the universes.

Suddenly, the series Sherlock with Benedict Cumberbatch as Mr. Holmes came to her mind. In one of the episodes, a brilliant detective managed to deceive another villain by taking advantage of people’s commitment to the magic of the number 3. Like, our brain stops looking for an answer, as soon as we hear about three solutions… three ways to achieve our goal… but there can be four solutions and five ways!

And Sherlock Holmes is right. Why would she believe in the magic of the number 3? There must also be a 4th way to live her life (and a 5th!), and she’s going to find it.

So, she’ll stop hiding from possible pain and start taking risks. She won’t seek solace in women’s arms. And she won’t bury herself in the work either… instead, she’ll do her best to find a middle ground… as far as possible.

Following the middle ground means working and striving for success, but not at the cost of her personal life. This means not considering one scoundrel as a typical man. This means not choosing simple solutions like safe female love or financial support from a sponsor.

Simply put, it means leaving the past behind. Set a point and move on.

Life doesn’t have to be happy… it just has to be lived, preferably with dignity.

Of course, no one is immune from problems. But it’s hardly a reason to exist like an oyster, hiding in the shell.

She, Amanda, isn’t an oyster or a snail. She is human! That’s what she should always keep in mind.

* * *

The same abandoned cafe. The only visitor is she, the one who called herself Destiny.

She sits at a cafe table and drinks her coffee (its taste is a little unusual for a mortal being… but she is Destiny, right?). The curtain is pulled back, but it doesn’t bother the woman at all. She boldly looks out the window, and Chaos is raging outside it. There is no other way to describe what she sees: a kind of kaleidoscope of realities that intertwine with each other and change the pattern of the Universe. One can go crazy trying to separate the real world from the fictional one or existing only as a possibility.

But she is quite another matter. She has a special skill. She knows how to observe Chaos. She knows where to look… and HOW to look.

Now she (supposedly Destiny) was watching Amanda. The girl finally left her warm bed and was cleaning herself up in the bathroom. Her curls were tousled from her sleep, her cherry-colored eyes were shaded… Well, traveling into Nothing (figuratively speaking) never results in healthy sleep. Let’s hope the game was worth the candle.

“It should be worth it!” Destiny thought.

…You wanted to know WHY I invited you to such a strange rendezvous? I answer (even if you don’t hear me anymore): I called myself Destiny because I could become it, your destiny… your real fate. And I strive for this to happen… you are my only chance. I’m counting on your help…

The woman slowly took off her wig, and dark curly hair fell over her shoulders. She took off her glasses… and exposed Amanda’s face. Amanda aged 35+: still beautiful, spectacular, youthful.

The fourth version of her fate… alas, only potentially possible. And if young Amanda (the one now preening in the bathroom) fails to implement her plans… if she doesn’t keep the past where it belongs… then her night companion will return to where she came from. She will again become part of an unfulfilled world with the shadows of unborn people roaming. She, too, wandered like a shadow, unable to truly feel, truly live… and escaped by accident. And she doesn’t want to go back!

That terrible world is devoid of real colors, emotions, smells, only their vague reflections are available to its inhabitants.

“I’m counting on you…” whispered the Fourth Amanda, sipping her coffee. “Because I don’t want to return to the world of forgotten destinies and unfulfilled life stories”

Three is a magic number… but should one always rely on magic?

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