Nataly looked at the computer screen and smiled. Finally she had got a reaction from him. What had taken him so long?
Oh, probably he had just been playing his crazy computer games she had never understood. Rob could spend days at his desk, using his notebook, without ever going online. This had always been a problem between them while they had still been an item. He would be late for appointments or still shoot at pixels when they were meant to be somewhere entirely else.
The relationship had lasted for about four months, and then Rob had decided he would not "put up with her nagging and the envy and all the questions any more". That was what he had said, anyway. Nataly strongly believed that he simply hadn't been ready to make a commitment. But maybe now he would be, who knew?
She had been desolated at first, but fortunately she had lots of really good friends - comforting, telling her what a complete asshole Rob had been (never giving her flowers and all), redirect her attention to other guys who couldn't wait to go on a date with her. Like Tommy, that muscled guy who worked in marketing, just down the office hallway. Sure, he never talked to her or greeted her or even reacted when she told him a joke, passing him during lunch break, but the other office girls had been absolutely sure. He had the hots for her.
But Nataly had not wanted Tommy. Oh well, he looked tasty and all, but she wanted Rob back. He had been stupid for leaving her, but she was all prepared to forgive him.
Svetlana had come up with the perfect idea to get his attention back. She had never been active in online communities till now, but they took a great photo of her, sitting on her pink bed, surrounded by her stuffed toys, in her silk pajamas, and created accounts wherever Rob was (and Nataly, too, of course, but Rob had blocked her from seeing any of his details or communicating with him). Svetlana had looked hot, and within days she had had lots of friendship offers from all kinds of guys, but she had declined. She hadn't been interested.
(Nataly had suspected Svetlana was a lesbian and did it all just to get into her pants, but she was used to this kind of attention.)
They had started an online conversation, with Svetlana obviously worried for her friend who was publicly indulging her lover's grief and threatening now and again to do something stupid. Other friends had started participating, asking her what was wrong and showing all kinds of sympathy for poor Nataly.
At first Rob hadn't reacted, and then he had gotten very angry when Nataly started hinting to the (not absolutely true) fact that he had betrayed her and behaved like a male asshole in every expectable way. That had been when Rob wrote to Svetlana (whom he didn't know because he was still a university student, while Svetlana and Nataly were both working at the same enterprise and had not been close friends while Nataly had still been seeing him). He had written her a long explanation, going on about how Nataly had controlled his every move (which wasn't true) and how she had started acting like a spoiled child (why, only because she had insisted he pay a little attention to her?) and that he had finally been fed up with obeying every whim of a "simple-minded, overweight, escapist little chick". But, he had written, he would swear every oath that he had not betrayed her in any way.
The girls had rejoiced. Finally a life sign of him. Obviously this worked. So while Nataly had gone on about how tired of life without Rob she was and how she could not stand to go to work anymore, she had also remarked on one occasion or two on how Rob had been rude to her. She had even conveyed that not only had Rob been rude to her on many occasions, but that he also might have hit her one time or two.
Friends had written to her, telling her how they had written hate mail to him - and one girl who went to the same faculty as him had posted pictures of his demolished bike out on the street - and Nataly had instantly felt better. She had exaggerated a bit, maybe. But that surely was not a problem, and they would sort it all out once they would be reconciled.
Rob had kept writing to Svetlana, begging her to help him stop all this, going on madly about how Nataly was obviously lying (which she wasn't, or not really), and they had come up with new details about how miserable Nataly was without him again and again. Svetlana had developed great stories about Nataly, depressed in her flat, not eating a thing, simply staring out of her window at work. She had been a great story teller, with an overflowing imagination - her stories were much better than the daily soaps and telenovelas the girls would watch together while coming up with new ideas and plans.
Then they had come up with the suicide plan. This had been one of Svetlana's best ideas. They would make up Nataly's death, stage everythng neatly, take pictures and send them to Rob. Then he would surely realize how much he had loved her, and when they told him it had all been a a stupid error, he would surely forgive them and come back to her.
Nataly had instisted that Svetlana play the dead body. She was taller, curvier in the right places and slimmer everywhere else and would look gorgeous in Nataly's favourite blue little dress she always wore on special occasions. Their hair was about the same style and colour (they went to the same hairdresser, after all), and if they hid her face no one would notice. Besides, Nataly had remarked, she knew much better how to handle the camera. Which was true.
They had taken several bottles of ketchup to the old railway bridge and cleaned an area right beneath the bridge thoroughly, because Svetlana was afraid of slugs and spiders and all kinds of creepy little creatures. Then she had layn down in the grass, and Nataly had begun smearing ketchup all over her. There had been rocks lying around, which would explain perfectly why there was so much blood.
"Isn't that enough?" Svetlana had asked, shivering.
"Hold still", Nataly had replied. "I have the zoom lens with me, and I'll take the photo from the bridge. We want every detail to be absolutely right, now don't we?"
And Svetlana had nodded and layn still again. Or she had tried. But since it was photography, no one would see her little movements anyway. Hopefully. If the camera would only choose the right shutter speed.
Nataly had climbed up the steep bank, prepared the camera and leaned over the balustrade to get a good shot. The camera had zoomed in, the picture gotten sharper - and it just hadn't looked right. Svetlana had still looked too - alive, for lack of a better word.
Nataly had thought about this for a moment. She had looked around. Ah, there! The solution to her problems - the only thing that would bring Rob back into her life. She had lifted the heavy rock, aimed and thrown it over the balustrade.
Svetlana, lying on her stomach, hadn't seen it coming. There had been a crack and a wet sound. Nataly had looked through the mirror-reflex-finder again, and this time it had looked just right. You could clearly see the dent in the head. She had scooted down the bank and carried the fallen rock away, because there had been blood (and other sticky things) all over it in the wrong places, and this would look strange in this scene. Instead, she had taken another rock and placed it right beside her friend's head. A little ketchup, and now it would look exactly as if the girl had jumped off the bridge and unfortunately hit her head against the hard material.
From the bridge, Nataly had taken maybe a dozen pictures and gone straight home. She had uploaded the pictures to her computer, opened Svetlana's personal network account and prepared a message for Rob. She had included two of the pictures - the best ones, where you could see the blood glisten and even steam a tiny little bit in the cold night air. Then she had waited.
A few minutes later she had received an urgent message from Rob, at which she was staring now happily. If this was just a crude joke? Of course not, she wrote back. She switched on the TV. Telenovela time. But watching them was much less fun alone. She only waited for that little PING sound that let her know there was another new message in Svetlana's account. Which was her account anyway, because Svetlana would never have created one on her own and hadn't used it except to help her.
PING! If they could meet somewhere? He felt terrible for all that had happened and how he might have misbehaved after all.
Nataly gave him the directions to a romantic little restaurant she had always wanted to try out. She would be there in an hour, she wrote. She didn't say that she wanted to look her best for him, no stains on her hands or anything like that. He agreed. He would be there.
Nataly was happy. If only Svetlana could bee with her now to celebrate! What a stupid accident it had been.