“Fire. There is a fire in the kitchen. Please leave,” a timid voice stuttered after she opened the door to our cubicle. I looked at Molly, she looked back at me: we both stared at the embarrassed privacy intruder and waited for the punch line. I looked beyond the member of staff towards the café’s window. There, I saw the reflection of the flames in the kitchen. This was no joke.Molly and I abandoned our drinks and snacks in the cubicle. We made our way towards the usual exit. En route, we caught a glimpse of the fire in the kitchen. It was quite bad: the flames stretched from the gas hob to the running extractor. The staff were unable to extinguish the fire themselves; it got too big.The chef was already evacuated to the street below and receiving first-aid for burns. A crowd of onlookers gathered at the bottom of the first-story café. The residents living in the block above the café were only beginning to evacuate, to the sound of distant sirens.Out on the street, Molly made our first ever physical contact by hugging me. I believed that it was more from shock than love. However, the hug felt comfortable and it soon morphed into an embrace. At that point, I said to myself in my head: ‘She’s mine’.“Molly,” I felt bold, invigorated by the physical contact so I made a suggestion, “would you like to come up to my apartment?”After a short while, she responded with: “Okay.”My apartment was two blocks from the café. The most efficient way was on foot, along the estuary’s promenade. The footpath was meandering, and of a regular sinusoidal shape. On our right, three-story apartment blocks with a side street every two buildings. On our left, was a body of brackish water, with black mud making up the shoreline, tiny waves, no higher than a few centimetres lapping at the shore. Behind us the sirens, blue and red lights flashing and a lot of commotion.I had a smallish bachelor flat, on the third floor. Effectively, it was a single room with en-suite bathroom and an open-plan kitchen. The bed was folded into a sofa during the day. The view from the balcony was nice beyond the three bridges crossing the estuary. The closest rail-bridge ran just a few meters from the property’s boundary. The rail bridge carried a triple-track long-distance standard gauge line. The two bridges beyond that carried the six-lane A2 highway, with a four-ramp, Parclo interchange biased to the west.Beyond the transportation network was the nature reserve. I could see clearly the confluence of the three rivers into the brackish estuary. At the two o’clock position, was Claire River. At the twelve and eleven o’clock position two minor rivers. The minor rivers cut valleys over the millennia. The road, which had its interchange with the highway, climbed the hill in the distance. The street of the apartment crossed under both the rail and highways and ran directly to a gate of the nature reserve.I made her a cup of herbal tea, with a dash of lemon and one sugar. We have been on three previous ‘dates’ at ‘Café Introvert’, so I had learned what she enjoys. Incidentally, her taste in tea matched mine. She went all quiet on Yakacık escort bayan me inside my apartment. I gave her time and space to get used to the new environment.After twenty minutes, she still didn’t relax. She was still sitting on the edge of the sofa stiff as a plank. That’s when I lost it and said some nasty words:“Relax! If I wanted to take advantage of you, I would have done so by now! You are more valuable as a friend than an elaborate fuck.”“Thank you for your honesty. Good Day!” she responded with a sense of offence in her voice. After that, she let herself out of the apartment. I didn’t have time to apologise.“Damn it! I blew it,” I said to myself lying on the couch with teared up eyes. My mind started to reminisce about how I met Molly:I was a mediocre story writer with a vivid imagination for geographic locations. My personality leaned more towards the rational rather than the emotional. This was reflected in my writings, where the feelings were not described in any great detail.Molly made a comment on one of my stories. She liked the descriptions and the extent of the fictional geography which I came up with. I responded with a kind “Thank you,” but for some reason, she found some sort of attraction towards me. Hence, we started to exchange private messages online.We collaborated on stories: I would supply the world, she would supply the characters. She called me teasingly “cold and impersonal”, to which I replied: “warmth is your department”. For months, this was our running joke. Teasing aside, our collaborations were getting rave reviews online.I had a fairly decent job as a software developer on the Dusty Continent. The company lost a significant contract and millions in revenue. I was made redundant, with about five months’ worth of pay. Job-hunting was not a full-time occupation: I only spent one to two hours per day scouring the internet. I had time on my hands; hence I drew maps of my fictional world. After each district, I wrote a short story set in that district.One morning, I did my usual routine. One of the tasks involved checking last night’s lottery results. To my surprise, the app decided to circle all my numbers: Jackpot! I verified with an alternate source: the same result. Eventually, I called the number at the back of the ticket, and I was a millionaire.Through my private messages with Molly, I learned that she wanted to study literature at the University of Tænnið Beach. It is the city where I was born; a city that I have plans to return to. I would be uprooting once again, and fleeing the brewing political conflict in my adopted home country. I would migrate, just like my parents did some thirty years earlier.With money, not an issue, I could finally move away from family. In the adopted country, I was coerced into signing a bond on a house with the family. There, I was stuck (with ‘them’) for a number of years. With the lottery money, I bought myself out and was free to live the way I wanted.An apartment on the edge of Tænnið Beach caught my eye. It was the right size for me, and me alone. It was Escort Atalar overlooking nature, and transport networks. The apartment was in an affluent area, but not overrun by beach-loving tourists. It was located on a fairly quiet street, running along the estuary. It was sandwiched between the rail bridge to the north-west and the old main road to the south-east. A grade-separated interchange accessed the two-kilometre bridge to the town centre. Prior to the construction of the highway, this was the main route to the west.Soon after moving in, I discovered ‘Café Introvert’. It was on the first floor, removing it from the hustle and bustle of the street. It overlooked the Claire River Estuary, at that point about two kilometres wide. The café offered introverts like me a quiet place to get away from the world outside.Décor inside ‘Café Introvert’ was hipster-style. The café had lots of single-person seating scattered all over its floor area. Seating quality varied from couches and bean-bags to carpeted cubicles. There were many nooks-and-crannies to literally crawl into. They had a few multi-person cubicles where one could actually interact with other patrons. Most had Japanese-style sliding doors for added privacy.Their economic model charged a modest fee per hour. In that hour, you were free to ‘introvert’ as you wanted. The coffee and biscuits were usually on the house, but ‘donations’ were welcome. Peace and quiet were demanded by all patrons. Patrons were expected to help themselves to all the items on offer, be it a book, a magazine, coffee or cake. Café was lightly staffed and policed by introverts. The kitchen provided hot meals to order; these were charged separately. Their food was wholesome, healthy and delicious.Molly braved the visit to ‘Café Introvert’ only after a few invitations. I made it quite clear that it is a public place with privacy. We normally took the cubicle. There, we sat on the carpet and caught up with each other’s frustrations of the world. We never talked ‘business’ at the café; we used e-mails and social media for that. In total, we had three ‘dates’ there. Even though we spoke freely with each other over social media, I longed to meet Molly in person. She was quite tall, fairly slim. Her hips were not pronounced, but subtle. Her chest I estimated at a 34A, just the right size for me. Other men ignored her based on her small breast size; I was fine with that. Her long flowing brunette hair was her most attractive feature. Light glasses gave her a slightly geeky look.On today’s ‘date’, that fire broke out. At my apartment, our first fight broke out. I was saddened that a cruel slip of the tongue drove her away: “I made my move. She made hers. I don’t think she’ll come back”. I was just falling in love with her. A week later I receive a text message from her:‘Thank you for the time to think. May we talk in person?’I was gobsmacked. She still cared about me! With no hesitation to allow her back to my life, I replied:‘Of course yes! Come on over!’A half hour later, the doorbell rang. There she was. We were on opposite Kadıköy escort sides of the threshold when she gave me a deep embrace. At that stage, I didn’t care if any of my neighbours would see us.‘She is mine!’ I said to myself as I allowed her to hold the embrace for as long as she needed to. Once she was done, I gently pulled her inside and closed the door to the apartment.That time, she was far more relaxed than the first time. She went on to apologise for her behaviour on the previous visit. She simply wasn’t mentally prepared for a visit in a non-public environment.With the formalities out of the way, I proudly showed her my virtual, fictional world. It was that same world that we had so many stories set in. She was awe-struck by the amount and quality of detail available on my map. She randomly selected items on the map, and I was able to justify them to her. She was quite impressed by it.We spent about two hours outlining our latest collaboration. We debated ideas backwards and forwards. It was like a mental sparring match. It appeared we both enjoyed the process. Once we had ‘enough’ of each other, we hugged each other goodbye.The next visit was on a Friday afternoon. She didn’t bother with social media or messaging. She phoned me. In the background I heard lots of noise; Molly was on the brink of tears. She wanted to study for Monday’s exam. Those ‘damn extroverts’ were having a birthday party for one of their more popular friends.Thirty minutes later, Molly was at my door wearing a backpack. I set her up on the breakfast table, where she studied her material in peace and quiet. I converted the sofa into the bed. There, lying on my stomach, I continued to work on my maps.Eventually, I got hungry. Molly moved onto the bed, with her books on her lap. I needed to use the breakfast table as a counter in order to prepare the meal. Eventually, the smell of the food lured her into the kitchen. Over that meal, we spoke for the first time during that visit. The timing was perfect, as we watched the sunset over the hills from the balcony.After a short break, we resumed our individual endeavours. Both of us completely lost the concept of time that evening. I was back on the sofa-bed, while Molly was on the bar-stool in the kitchen. I watched her study; I didn’t have the heart to disturb her. She realised that she needed to go home at around eleven p.m. The last bus was at ten.It was too late to return to the campus: she got locked out. Her dormitory had a curfew between eleven at night and five in the morning. No-one could enter, no-one could leave, barring for a medical emergency. We made a joint decision that she would sleep at my apartment.I loaned her a pair of boxer shorts and a t-shirt. I had a matching set, so we decided it would be fun to dress alike. Molly even allowed me to take a picture with us, dressed exactly the same: grey t-shirt, red boxers.It felt awkward to lie next to a woman: something I haven’t really experienced. Also, I already offended her once; I already told her that I wouldn’t “fuck” her. I just hoped that I could spend the night without touching her. She also felt uncomfortable with sexual contact.Molly fell asleep within minutes. My mind was a hive of activity, envisioning various scenarios with Molly. Eventually, the scenarios in my head started to become twisted and weird. I was dreaming. If I’m dreaming, that means that I’m sleeping.