I looked through the peephole and saw the sweet face of the neighbor from apartment 10. I wondered what she wants from me. We had a nodding acquaintance and sometimes greeted each other with apathetic "Hi" since she moved to live next door to me nearly a month ago.
I opened the door and blinked with surprise. Her arms were encased in plaster up to the armpits. The tips of her fingers were peeping above the cotton padding, twitching slightly from time to time. She smiled nervously and started stomping on the spot like a gull.
"Oh, Galia! What has happened?"
"Well ... I had an accident."
"I'm so sorry!"
"Can you help me? With these arms of mine I'm no good for anything."
"Yes, of course. What can I do for you?"
"Come in, please!"
She slipped into her apartment and I followed her.
"Could you close the door, please?"
While I was closing the door, she kicked off her slippers and shuffled along the tiles, barefooted, her paces slow as if she was an old lady. It seemed she had a slight limp. She headed toward the kitchen, I followed her.
On the kitchen table there were two slices of bread, bowl of soup and a spoon.
"Nick, I feel very awkward, really. I wish I had someone else who could help me right now but ... my husband is abroad, on business trip ... and without him I'm like a...
"Don't worry. Just tell me what you want."
"Well ... I managed to heat the soup, managed to pour it into a bowl but just can't ... Let alone that it's difficult for me to hold the spoon only with the tips of my fingers but I just can't bring it near enough to my mouth. Horrible situation! I haven't tasted food for two days.
"You want me to feed you?" I asked, feeling uneasy.
"Oh! Yes! If you don't mind."
She settled at the table and folded her casted arms before her breasts, then fixed her moist, expectant eyes on me. I drew a chair, sat beside her and started feeding her. My hand was trembling slightly so the spoon sometimes missed her hungry mouth but I was diligently wiping with a napkin the trickles dribbling down her chin. Several times the spoon clattered on her teeth. I even managed to spill soup on her bare thigh but she accepted it with a smile and simply nodded toward the napkins. It was an awful lot of wipe but I had a chance to acquaint myself with the gentle curves of her legs.
I tried to satisfy my curiosity.
"What kind of accident it was, Galia?"
She sighed deeply, half-closing her eyes and said:
"I have a moped, maybe you have seen it. I was driving at no more that 30 mph, when a little girl crossed the street, running after her ball. I had to turn right, toward the sidewalk. I hit a garbage can and flew over it, landing on my arms, as you may have already guessed. It's lucky I didn't break my neck.
"But your arms..."
"Broken. The left one in three places, the right one – two places."
"What a pity! When does it happen?"
"Three days ago. And to top it all ... my husband is abroad, ten thousand miles from here ... So goes the world, shit happens."
She sneezed, turning to her side and, due to the jerky movement, a long dark-blond lock of hair dropped before her eyes. She tried to brush it away with her plastered wrist but without success – she just could not reach it.
"Fuck! I can't even do that!" she hissed, staring maliciously at the limply swaying lock. I reached out and carefully tucked it behind her ear. "Thank you. I didn't do my hair this morning, nor did I brush my teeth. Disgusting! I surely look awful!"
"Just the contrary. You look quite well. Do you want me to comb your hair? I could brush your teeth too.
"It would be very nice of you," she said as she gave me a dazzling smile.
Her hair was quite tangled and the comb often got stuck. Carefully, so as not to tear her hair, I was unraveling the knots with my fingers. Her head tossed back, her eyes half-closed, she seemed to enjoy the procedure. I leant over and sniffed her pate. My nostrils filled with the pleasant fragrance of a ... of ripe melon.
"Thank you. I think I'm sufficiently combed already," she said, looking over her shoulder, where some torn hair strands hung. I picked the strands and threw them into the bin.
"And now the teeth," I said.
She nodded, then lowered her head thoughtfully.
We went into the bathroom and stood before the mirror. There was a toothbrush on the shelf above the sink. I took it and squeezed paste on it.
"Galia, you should open your mouth."
She glanced at me, then managed a smile and gaped obediently. Her teeth were small, white and even, and her breath scented of mint. I warily poked the brush into her mouth and started rubbing. I was eyeing her cheek, which bulged and shrank in the rhythm of my movements. On her lips appeared froth, that subsequently dribbled down her chin?
"Clench your teeth so I can brush the incisors," I insisted. She complied.
After the job was finished, I ran the water and rinsed the brush. Galia waited until I withdrew my hands, then spit into the sink. Thin strand of saliva trailed from her lower lip. I wiped it with the palm of my hand.
I was about to pour her a glass of water but she just bent over, sip from the tap and gargled to rinse her mouth.
After that we got back into the kitchen.
"I'm dying for a beer. You?" she asked, then stared at me, her head cocked to one side.
I took two bottles of beer from the fridge and poured them into the mugs I found in the cupboard, indicated by Galia. We sat at the table.
"I know I'm a bore but I won't be able to drink by myself. I don't have straws."
"No problem. When you want a sip of beer, just sniff."
"Our signal, uh?" she asked, arching her eyebrows.
She giggled, then sniffed. I immediately grabbed the mug and carried it to her lips.
"There is a pack of crackers over there."
I brought the crackers.
"When I stick my tongue out, you give me a cracker, OK?"
She propped her elbows on the table and cast a scornful glance at her immobilized arms. I glanced at them too. It was obvious that under the plaster were hidden nicely shaped feminine muscles.
The fingertips of her left hand were twitching spasmodically.
"What?" She flinched and looked at me with uncomprehending eyes.
"Do your arms hurt?"
"No. Actually ... yes. Especially the left one. The doctor somehow managed to set the bones so I avoided surgery.
"Are you on painkillers?"
"Yes. Two hour ago I took a pill, chew it in fact. Though I had troubles removing the cap of the bottle."
"It's not an easy life."
"Uh-huh." Her eyes gradually darkened, then moistened. "No more tears! It is stupid to cry. Everything will be fine, and very soon too," she said and burst into tears.
I shifted nervously in my chair.
"You sniffed. You need a gulp of beer I presume. Here. Drink!"
She smiled through tears and drank. But her chin was still trembling pitifully.
"It could have been worse."
"Yea, you should be positive," I said, then thought that my words sound like a cliché.
She nodded enthusiastically and several teardrops landed on the casts.
"Positive, positive, but I need to go to the toilet.
"What will you..."
"I have to pee, silly thing. We are drinking beer, remember?"
"I will help you, no problem."