By the Waterfall

When I opened the window to check on the noise outside, there was Bojan yet again threatening to slit his wrists with a rusty edge of a tomato can lid. His yellow eyes watched me with a mix of daring and hatred.

“Yes or no,” his lips whispered.

I shook my head no.

His friends goaded him on. “Do it Bojan. Show her how a man suffers.”

His intense eyes glued to me, he pressed the lid to the pulsing vein and gritted his teeth. My heart sank. “Nooo,” I screamed.

Bojan dropped the can. “Not this time,” he said. “I was just kidding. But I’m not giving up. I’ll be back.”

At school Bojan pretended like I did not exist. We never spoke. I didn’t know if he publicly avoided me because he was too shy and fearful of other students’ teasing or because he was deliberately hiding his pursuit of me.

A boy put his arm around Bojan’s shoulder. They laughed at the horror in my face and, arms intertwined, headed downhill towards the town center. Only moments after the suicide ultimatum, his mood had completely shifted. He seemed careless again. I watched his tall, angular body disappear behind the jasmine tree. When the last trace of his shadow was erased from the pavement and I could no longer hear the boys’ chatter, I threw myself onto the bed. I buried my head in the pillow. My heart was beating fast. This was the third time Bojan had tried to slit his wrists because I refused to be his girlfriend. He’d been following me home after school and hanging out by my window for weeks. At least my parents weren’t home to admonish me for this latest episode. They were getting annoyed with Bojan and his gang.

“Get rid of these boys Nina. Every time they come here, they steal my grapes,” my father said. “Who knew having a teenage daughter would be such robbery.”

“I tell him to leave me alone all the time, Tata. He doesn’t listen to me. What am I supposed to do?”

“I’m sure he’ll move on to some other girl soon. Just tell him to stay away from my grapes.”

My parents thought Bojan was just playing around and it was all a childish game. But I had a strange feeling about him. During the lunch break at school, I tracked his movements from the other side of the yard. He towered over everyone. I could easily spot his yellow head and gaunt face through the crowd. We were in the same year but had completely different friends. I hung out with the popular students by the school entrance. He spent the lunch break far from us, by the emergency exit with the boys from Carevo Polje village. My friends teased these boys because they ate smoked sausages with bread that their mothers had wrapped into handkerchiefs rather than pastries from the Klas bakery like everyone else. When it rained, they wore the traditional peasant rubber shoes. Other students wouldn’t be caught dead wearing those. At school Bojan pretended like I did not exist. We never spoke. I didn’t know if he publicly avoided me because he was too shy and fearful of other students’ teasing or because he was deliberately hiding his pursuit of me. Regardless, as soon as the bell rang and I headed home, he’d start haunting me.

Bojan came from an established Jajce family. His father was Vladimir Simic, a man known for running the oldest shoe repair shop in town. My father showed me their house one afternoon. “This is where that little rat lives that’s been stealing my grapes,” he said and pointed to a home perched on the hill right by the waterfall. It was a traditional turn-of the century house with white walls and a black rooftop. These houses were a historic landmark. After the war they became part of a UNESCO restoration project. His home was in a prime location. Nested among poplar and jasmine trees, it was visible on all the postcards of Jajce. If Bojan walked to the end of his garden and pulled aside the shrubbery, he’d look straight down at the waterfall. “The waterfall is my obsession,” he once told me. I could completely understand the feeling.

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