Fire & Ice

A Novel
By Glen Rothe

Content copyright © Glen Rothe.
All rights reserved
Published in
The United States of America
First Publishing Date
May, 2014


Her real name, of course, was nothing at all like Fire&Ice.  She was simply Tatjana.  Even with her limited knowledge of this strange American language, she was able to recognize that Fire&Ice was not a proper name.  It is mere whimsy - a made-up name that Andreas said Americans would find exotic and exciting.  And in that regard, if in no other, it seems Andreas had been right. 

But whenever she thought about Andreas, The Shit, she silently fumed.  She envisioned him, sitting in her little auto, enticing a parade of eager but unsuspecting and unsophisticated young girls from Balvi or Zilupe (or even her beloved Ludza!) with rosy visions of the glamorous life in Riga.  She could almost hear him, with his glib tongue, painting the same rosy pictures he painted for her.  And each time these thoughts surfaced, she fought, not always with great success, to hold back what seemed to be inevitable tears. 

Recent experience had taught Tatjana that exotic and exciting, as envisioned by Andreas, were dreams that too soon pale.  As the irony of her Internet identity became clearer to her, a month of smiling provocatively at the camera, attempting to live up to the fire in this strange name, had proven to be agonizing, even while she searched for all manner of reasons to justify the choices she had made. 

When she forced herself to be totally honest, Tatjana had to admit that she had no deep moral qualms about what she was doing.  Her early years and education in Soviet Latvia had seen to that.  But even with morality not an issue, this life was more than a shy and self-conscious young girl from Ludza could ever be prepared for.  As she attempted to adapt to her new circumstances, each day Tatjana could feel her hidden self, her heart and her soul, more and more turning to ice

*    *    *    *    *

Tatjana chose not to dwell on the sad circumstances that had brought her to Riga – but the memories persisted.  She could never forget the day that her stepfather took her aside and told her that she must leave.  In that moment, the pain that even still remained sharply etched and permanently recorded, was like a spike thrust deep into her breast.  With minimum ceremony, and with no forewarning, her stepfather had simply but painfully made it clear that she was no longer welcome in the small house in Ludza that she had shared for all of her life with him and her mother and her younger brother. 

Acceptance had been slow in coming.  Although she understood, at least on some level, the reasons behind her mother’s inaction, the memory of this day still hurt.  She knew that her mother had no other choice but to side with her stepfather.  But understanding is not the same as acceptance; and each time she thought about that day, Tatjana could feel the chill invading her soul, even as she fought back the warm tears.

Was it not possible, however, that her stepfather had really done her a favor? 

Even if she might wish to, Tatjana was unable to deny the harsh but simple facts of life in Ludza.  A small rural village, Ludza could offer no real opportunity for an eighteen year old virgin.  For some years, since she’d been old enough to be aware of such things, Tatjana instinctively understood what her prospects would be if she did not leave.  In Ludza her future would most likely be no better than a carbon copy of her mother’s life.  There would be an early marriage to a man like her stepfather - hard-drinking and brutish – followed by a lifetime filled with abuse and dependence. 

No, there had been no real choice.  She had needed to leave; and Riga - fast and glamorous Riga – was the only possible solution.

*    *    *    *    *

Within a week after the long drive in her battered little auto, her future in the capital no longer seemed so certain.  With her insignificant savings dwindled to almost nothing, and tired and depressed after yet another long day of walking the unfamiliar streets, nothing at all seemed certain to Tatjana any longer.  Sitting alone in the cheap coffee house in the Old City, listlessly stirring the large cup of weak tea, diluted more than once with a free extra helping of hot water, she considered her options. 

She was unhappy; of that there could be no doubt; she did not like being alone in Riga.  As difficult as it might be to go back, she now had to consider that perhaps it was now time to pack up her few possessions and return to Ludza.  At least there she could take her chances with the willing flock of eager young men; even though their prospects were really not much better than her own. 

During her first week in the city, Tatjana had gradually discovered the disheartening but inevitable consequences of her country’s economic misfortunes.  Never a wealthy nation, for the most part, Latvia had been left impoverished and insolvent following the dissolution of the Soviet Union.  As a result, the sad truth was that a seemingly never-ending supply of young girls, all seeking a better life, arrived in Riga each day.  They came from innumerable small villages and towns that dotted the landscape of a country that boasted only one truly cosmopolitan city.  Even in her naiveté, it was almost immediately apparent to Tatjana that there would always be more girls than jobs; she was just one of thousands in Riga, all with similar stories - and all with limited prospects. 

As she looked around the crowded café, trying to size up her fellow customers, Tatjana wondered if they were able to recognize her as newly arrived and a stranger in their city.  She would have been surprised to learn that most of those now in the café, or for that matter in the entire city, had they even bothered to notice the attractive young woman with the slightly out-of-date clothing and unconcealed look of bewilderment, would have never even given her a second thought. 

The dreary evening, barely visible through the gray and dingy windows of the café, matched her mood perfectly.  After the week’s assorted dead ends and false job leads in this dour and unsympathetic city, Tatjana was thoroughly miserable.  It had become apparent that Riga offered no more opportunity than Ludza.  Her visions of establishing a new life in the city had been far more rosy than real. 

And that was when Andreas miraculously appeared. 

With no real desire for the company of others, Tatjana always chose to keep to herself at the café.  Often depressed and mostly preoccupied since arriving in Riga, she’d chosen to eat her meager meals alone.  This evening, sitting as always at a partially hidden table near the back of the café that was located just down the street from her small flat, she’d not at first noticed him.  But when Andreas appeared, bowing and speaking in a soft voice as he asked to share her table, the vision of the suave and handsome young Russian momentarily lightened the heaviness in her heart.  And in that instant, loneliness overtook caution. 

Always too busy, scouring the streets of the city from early morning ‘til dusk in her futile search for work, she’d had no time to make friends.  Now, however, the attentions of the tanned and sleek young Russian gave Tatjana the first glimmering of hope since arriving in the capital.  In no time Andreas’ charm and sophistication had totally overwhelmed her. 

All of the week’s fears and uncertainty seemed to melt away as Andreas painted the most breathtaking verbal pictures of the new life that was possible for her in Riga.  And what at the time had seemed best of all, Tatjana sensed that Andreas immediately understood all of the pain and sadness she’d been feeling.  It was really no wonder that her usual level-headedness and natural defenses so rapidly vanished. 

By the time that the lengthening shadows finally slipped from the time-worn buildings of her poor neighborhood on the edge of the city, all of the week’s frustrations seemed to have disappeared with the sun.  It was then that Tatjana did something that was remarkably uncharacteristic; she tentatively invited Andreas to accompany her back to her small rented flat, located only a couple of blocks from the café.  Full of an inordinate amount of excitement and nearly bursting with anticipation, Tatjana would later be unable to remember the short walk with the handsome Russian at her side.

Just like in some long-forgotten fairy tale, Andreas, with his good looks and effortless charm, was able to magically transform what till then had been only lonely nights in Riga - and Tatjana’s rosy visions slowly reappeared. 

For what seemed considerably longer, but in truth was only several days, all was nearly perfect.  Although he was not much older than she was, Tatjana marveled at Andreas’ superior knowledge of the world.  His glib tongue proved magically seductive, creating tantalizing images of how wonderful life could be in Riga.  And even though he himself appeared to have no visible means of support, Tatjana was not at all suspicious when Andreas proposed a ready solution for all of her money woes.  It was only when, on their third day together, and then only after Andreas had presented her with the contract, that the glorious images of the future were slightly dimmed. 

Taking his time, always slow and patient, he explained what was possible for her.  All the while, however, he conveyed a subtle but persistent sense of urgency,

‘There really wasn’t much time.  Countless young girls, each as eager and no less beautiful than Tatjana, were coming to the city each day to seek uncertain fortunes.  If she wanted to pursue her dreams, then she must sign immediately.  Only with her signature on the final page of the contract would her future be guaranteed.’

It had all seemed so simple. 

‘It was possible for him to set Tatjana up as a glamorous Internet model.  He could provide her with all of the expensive technical equipment required for such a venture.  He could create an electronic chat room for her.  He would find a suitable location, where she would be comfortable and secure, and able to concentrate on her work.’

And to Tatjana, with eighteen years in Ludza as her only experience of life, none of what Andreas described seemed any stranger than Riga itself. 

Having so easily convinced her, and no longer needing to be slow or patient, Andreas quickly explained the intricacies of computers and the Internet.  Tatjana, more clever than well-informed, easily grasped all of the required concepts, even though she’d never before been exposed to even the barest minimum of technology. 

So with visions growing ever more rosy, and with Andreas’ steady and calm but persistent encouragement, she signed the contract - and Fire&Ice was born. 

In only a few short days, Tatjana found herself posing nervously for distant strangers in America.  While her childish dreams of excitement and wealth in Riga slowly but surely disappeared, they were quickly replaced by harsher realities of life.

*    *    *    *    *

A month after arriving in the capital, now spending each day in front of the camera in her tiny cubicle at the back of The Baltic Club Casino, all of her glamorous visions seemed only like distant memories.

What had she done? 

That Tatjana would never again be the eighteen year old virgin from Ludza was certain.  For better or for worse, she was now Fire&Ice - the ‘glamorous’ Internet model. 

And what of Andreas? 

Although perhaps still not totally certain about all the consequences of what she herself has done, Tatjana had no doubts about Andreas.  Andreas was gone; and she was certain she would never see him again.  The charming and persuasive Russian had disappeared so swiftly, that not only was Tatjana left without her virginity – she was left with even less pride than the little she’d arrived with in Riga

And adding insult to her injury, her little auto had disappeared along with Andreas.  With all that had happened, Tatjana had no choice but to accept that her childish visions of a prince on a white horse were no more real than all of her other dreams. 

Tatjana was surprised to feel no real remorse about her virginity, having convinced herself that it was about time.  She was only sorry that she had so freely given this away to Andreas.  She was, however, considerably less ambivalent and decidedly more angry about her little auto.  Gone with the battered little auto went what small measure of independence she’d felt in the city. 

As with so many other worldly things, Tatjana’s experience with the complex legalities of vehicle registration and licensing had proved to be woefully lacking.  Only after her little auto was gone had she begun to consider such formalities.  The auto, bought from her best friend Natasha only days before leaving Ludza, and for which she had nearly depleted all of her modest savings, was no doubt, just like Andreas and her virginity, gone forever. 

She’d never even considered the need for proper legal papers. 

Why should she? 

Not even her stepfather had ever owned an automobile.  But now, too late, she realized that without proper documentation she had no way to ever prove that the auto was once hers. 

She might as well have presented the auto to Andreas as a parting gift.  After all, didn’t she owe him something for all of the ‘joy’ he’d brought her?

Each time she contemplated her foolishness, she reminded herself that even with the proper papers, she still had not the slightest idea of who would or could help her recover her auto.  She had no confidence in the trustworthiness of the police in the city.  Tatjana’s suspicions, nurtured by a lifetime with a stepfather who’d always lived on the fringes of the law, were that reporting the loss of the auto would likely create even more problems for her than for Andreas. 

With each passing day, and with constant remorse, she had come to better understand that, although he had disappeared with her auto, Andreas had left her with something that was, regrettably, considerably more important.  Tatjana was now stuck with the contract. 

Lacking sophistication, or even minimal experience with many lesser things, she had certainly never before read a contract; and so this contract at first seemed nearly impossible to comprehend.  It was only after many readings that she gradually began to grasp its true significance.  The more she understood - the more disheartened she became, and the more angry were her thoughts about Andreas. 

After reading and re-reading the contract, for what seemed the hundredth time, she finally realized that the small payment she received each week for her work as an Internet model would be so paltry that she would barely be able to afford rent - even for her tiny flat.  By this time, having worked for several weeks, she had no choice but to face the cruel reality; she would never become rich as an Internet model.  In fact, each night, struggling to fall asleep on the flat’s lumpy bed, she worried that the contract had locked her indefinitely in the little room at the back of The Baltic Club Casino.  She feared that she was destined to toil there forever, alone with her meager hopes and childish dreams.

With understanding came the realization of just how bleak her future truly was.  The terms of the contract, at first confusing and unfamiliar, slowly became clear enough for Tatjana to appreciate that she had unwittingly agreed to a number of things that Andreas conveniently avoided explaining when painting his glorious verbal pictures. 

Her space in the back of the cluttered old casino had been leased in her name, along with the camera and the computer, and even the sparse and shabby furnishings in the tiny cubicle.  What’s more, with harsh experience, gained slowly during the previous month, she now realized that each week, after the modeling agency fees were paid and the deductions were withheld for the leases, she could only barely hope to exist on her earnings. 

Hope?  There really is no reason for hope! 

The contract required that she appear in front of the camera in her cubicle, six days a week, ten hours each day; and she must do this until all of the terms of the leases had been met.  As far as she could see, the contract was like a lock on her life.  It was a lock with no key; a lock for which she had neither the knowledge nor the power to open.

More tragic still, although Tatjana was not yet quite ready to admit this to herself, ten hours each day as Fire&Ice was slowly but surely eroding all that was previously pure and true within her soul.  Her self esteem, already inconceivably low when she’d arrived in Riga, had at last sunk to the lowest level imaginable; even lower than the day that her stepfather told her that an eighteen year old girl, of no use to his household, must leave.



Her first day in the little cubicle at the back of The Baltic Club Casino, Tatjana mostly cried.  She wished she had never met Andreas.  She wished she had never signed the contract.  She wished she still had her little auto.  And in those few brief moments when she was totally honest with herself, she wished she had never left Ludza and come to Riga.  All of her glamorous visions had disappeared along with Andreas. 

That first day it soon became apparent, even to someone still fresh from Ludza, that ‘model’ was in reality only a refined name for someone with such distasteful duties.  The more she understood about what was expected of her, the more she felt as though she was now little more than a harlot - no better than the painted women she regularly saw walking the streets along the canal in the Old City. 

If it had not been for Margo, her heart might have ruptured and her soul died that first day.  Margo too had a little cubicle in the back of The Baltic Club Casino; but Margo had been in Riga for nearly a year, and the facts of life in the big city were no longer so fresh nor so painful for someone with her experience.  Finding Tatjana sitting in her cubicle that first day, and seeing the tears streaming down her cheeks, Margo had at first been impatient. 

When Tatjana explained what she was feeling, Margo told her: “You must not think this way, Tanya.  Everyone who works in order to live is in some way a whore.  We all sell a part of ourselves to survive.  Some people sell their minds, some sell their creativity and some sell the labor from their hands.  And yes - some even sell their bodies.  But you?  You sell nothing really.  You do not sell your body or your soul to these men.  You sell only a fantasy.  It is a fantasy that allows lonely men to feel better about themselves.  It is a fantasy that requires you to give up nothing.  You only play a game with these men - and you create a fantasy - that is all.  And if you play this game well, you win; you survive.  You earn enough money to live.  There is no shame in this.  We all must survive; we all must live.”

Barely older than she was herself, Margo seemed to Tatjana to be perceptive beyond her years as she explained the ins and outs of life as an Internet model.  Even still, Tatjana didn’t at first truly grasp the significance of all that Margo told her.  It was only gradually, during that first week, as she cautiously came to trust Margo, that Tatjana began to recognize the truth in what she was being told.  At the same time that Margo’s attitude was noticeably softening toward her, Tatjana’s heart and resolve were hardening.  Her tears gradually diminished - at least enough to allow her to continue with her work.

Whenever they talked, Margo explained more about why this job was a game, and each day it became clearer to Tatjana that Margo was someone worth listening to.  So much more adult than she was herself, Margo unquestionably understood the way in which this game must be played. 

“Always remember, Tanya, this is not the real world.  This is all only a fantasy.  It’s nothing more than a game between you and the men who come into your chat room.   You must never forget this.  It’s a game both for you and for the man; but you can never let the man understand that you know it is a game, honey.  A man does not want to think you are playing with him.  He wants to think that only he is playing this game.  For you, he wants everything to be real.  But you should never forget about what is real and what is not; because truth be told, nothing here is real.  But it isn’t so important what is real, because this is a game where everyone can win.  No one needs to lose, Tanya.”

Tatjana liked that Margo called her Tanya.  It had been years since anyone had called her by this name.  She was only ten when her grandmother died, and her grandmother had always called her Tanya.  Since her grandmother had passed, she had always been only Tatjana.  She was not so naïve as to overlook the fact that Margo had grown exceptionally hard and callous after only a year of playing the game in Riga; nevertheless, for reasons she did not fully understand, Tatjana had almost immediately liked her.  If Margo wanted to call her Tanya, it was just fine with her. 

Perhaps Margo could be a genuine friend?... as good a friend as her grandmother had been? 

Deep in her heart and in her soul, Tatjana understood how important this was for her - to have a friend; possibly more important than ever before in her life.  Those first days, which slowly turned into weeks as their friendship germinated and grew, Tatjana began to feel a closeness with Margo; something she hadn’t felt with anyone else since leaving Ludza and coming to the capital.  She sometimes missed her childhood friend, Natasha - her friend since they began school together; and Margo was, of course, not Natasha.  She would never be so close with Margo as she was with Natasha.  But still - Margo was becoming a friend. 

After working nearly a year in her own small cubicle in the back of The Baltic Club Casino, Margo could still remember how strange everything had seemed when she too had been new.  But she had learned; since coming to Riga she had learned much about the job, and even more about the world.  She understood that this girl, Tanya, sweet and fresh, as though the scent of farm and woodland were still close to her, had much to learn if she was going to survive.

Each day Margo explained more, and each day Tatjana understood more.  Although she did not necessarily believe nor agree with everything that Margo told her, she understood.  Most important - she understood that she must live.  She would learn from all that Margo had learned,  and she would  survive

Margo told her everything she herself had learned about how to be successful as an Internet model.  She described for Tatjana how to tease a man with nothing but flirtatious chat; how it was possible to never say too much, but to always say enough to entice a man.  She explained how Tatjana must always pretend that she wanted nothing more than to be with this man; how only with such a special man could she be happy.  And each man must believe that only with him was this possible. 

What had proven most difficult for Tatjana - Margo had told her that she must smile; she must appear always to be happy, no matter what she might feel in her heart and in her soul.  When she was happy, with a happiness that seemed possible only with this special person – that was when a man would feel truly proud of himself.  He would be so proud that he had made her happy - that he had pleased her - only then would he open his wallet for expensive private sessions.  It was during these private sessions when Tatjana could earn real money – enough money to do more than survive.

Although Margo’s view of the world seemed so much more cynical than her own, Tatjana had to acknowledge that in most instances Margo was right.  Tatjana must never forget that this was really all a fantasy - a game.  It was a game where to win meant to survive – and more.

*    *    *    *    *

Tatjana knew she would never have survived those first cruel weeks without Margo.  But she did survive.  And she learned.  She learned very well.  She learned how to attract and to hold the interest of the men in her chat room.  She learned how to entice these men so that they would request private sessions with her. 

Although she often despised these men - at the same time hating herself - she always remembered what Margo had taught her the first day.  She must survive. 

After only one month, and even though she sometimes wondered if survival was worth the price, her chat room had become popular.  With her blue-eyes and perfect features, enshrouded in luxurious golden hair, all comfortably complemented by a lean but satisfyingly rounded torso and shapely long legs, it should have been no surprise that men would be attracted to her.  It was characteristic of Tatjana, however, that she would attribute her popularity as a model to Andreas’ selection of the name Fire&Ice. 

With child-like modesty and her sad but understandable lack of self esteem, it had yet to occur to Tatjana that her sweet and wholesome presence could be the real reason that men congregated in her chat room.  She found it difficult to believe that her charming chat, typed in broken but deliberate English, could be so enchanting to visitors from America.  When measuring herself against the hardened dancers (to whom she regularly nodded her head when entering the darkened backstage corridor of The Baltic Club Casino), with their drooping breasts and age-lined faces, Tatjana still couldn’t help but see herself as an unsophisticated imposter.

Whatever the real reason, there was no denying that her chat room was popular; and now, after a month of painful learning, Tatjana was able to work each day without tears.  Cheerlessly, she had learned how to put what she was doing out of her mind. 

She would survive!

*    *    *    *    *

Six days (or sometimes nights) each week, bored and brooding, yet still appearing charming and fully attentive, she waited - wondering if one of her electronic visitors would request a private session.  It was during these private sessions when Tatjana’s most conflicting emotions were aroused.  While in her chat room, participating in open discussion, she was paid nearly nothing; chat was free for anyone who logged on to the Internet modeling network.  It was only after painful experience, sparse earnings, along with coaching from Margo that Tatjana fully understood; it was only when a visitor wanted a more intimate visit and requested to go into private session that she would earn any money - and that was Tatjana’s dilemma. 

She hated these private sessions; it was during private sessions when she would be requested to perform for the pleasure of the not-quite-real (and hopefully very distant) men who could afford the exorbitant rate that the modeling agency charged.  For a young girl from Ludza, particularly for one as shy and unsophisticated as Tatjana, it was always impossibly embarrassing to read, and then to attempt to satisfy, the often sordid requests of strangers.  Whenever possible, she tried to steer the men’s desires solely toward conversation.  Surprisingly, this simple ploy often worked; and then, on such occasions, conversation alone would be enough.  But some men were persistent.  They wanted their money’s worth from the pretty young model; they wanted to see her naked - and they would be satisfied with nothing less.  When the desires of such men could not be satisfied with conversation, Tatjana would often balk.  She would tell these men that perhaps they would be happier with another model.  Unfortunately, when the man then quickly left the private session to do as she had suggested, Tatjana earned little or nothing for her effort. 

This, then, was her cruel enigma.  Even the small fraction of the client’s money from private sessions that was applied to her account at the end of each week was better than nothing.  It was what allowed her to survive.  If she too often refused what was requested, then soon she would not even be able to earn enough money to pay for her small flat.

If the men were not enticed - she earned nothing; however, if she was successful, and the men desired her, then it was likely she would be degraded and demeaned.  Only the need and will to survive allowed Tatjana to continue in the face of such a painful dilemma.   With no realistic choice, Tatjana must daily live with a quandary far beyond someone of her life experience to resolve. 

It was probably best to just  not ponder such problems. 

So, each day in front of the camera, she was forced to perform simple acts to entice the men visiting her chat room; all the time hoping yet silently worrying, that some anonymous man with money in his pocket and fire in his loins, would find these simple acts so desirable that he would want more; but not more than she was willing or able to offer.



It began on a shift when she was scheduled to work in the middle of the day - the slowest shift for her.  She started at eight in the morning and didn’t finish until six in the evening.  Although she knew that she shouldn’t feel this way, it was Tatjana’s favorite time to be at work. 

In America, that peculiar far-off place where most of the visitors to her chat room lived, the shift passed mostly during the middle of the night.  Before it was noon in Riga, most American men were sleeping soundly in their big beds within their expensive houses lying beside their beautiful wives; at least that was how Tatjana imagined it.  In any event, they were too tired to waste their time visiting an Internet chat room with an unsophisticated young girl from Ludza.  

It was after noon in Riga, and Tatjana secretly loved this time in the middle of her day when her chat room was quiet and she could relax.  Sometimes she would spend this time reading a Russian novel or magazine, but frequently she used this time to study the English/Russian dictionary – the one always at her side.  It was this dictionary that made it possible for her to converse with visitors in her room.  Without the book, she would never have been able to understand some of their more esoteric comments and questions.

Although she had lived her entire life in Latvia, which had a distinctive language all its own, for Tatjana, like nearly half of her countrymen, Russian was her native tongue.  By law she was also required to be fluent in Latvian; she had soon learned, however, that Latvian was a language not nearly so rich in the multi-hued and abundantly textured vocabulary of sex.  Early on she had decided that Russian translations from English were far more likely to provide an accurate picture of what was being said and requested.

Today, since late morning, only two men remained in her room.  Tatjana had begun to think of these two, almost daily visitors, as friends.

In her first days as an Internet model she had learned that NightOwl, who always used the same chat name, was a middle-aged man from a place called Dallas in Texas.  Tatjana had just a vague awareness of where Texas was located; knowing only that it sat somewhere in the middle of the vast American continent.  NightOwl had told her that he owned a nightclub, but, even if this was true, she did not consider this fact particularly important.  What was more important was that NightOwl seemed always to be affable, and that from the beginning he had seemed to have a strong interest in her which went far beyond that of most of the visitors in her chat room. 

Tatjana understood (from Margo’s lessons) that most of the men who came to her room were single-minded, thinking of only one thing.  But NightOwl appeared to be different, and for this she was genuinely grateful.

This man from Dallas in Texas was in her chat room almost every shift.  Some days he stayed with her for the entire time that she herself was there.  She had come to appreciate his company.  And because she frequently had the time, and because he seemed truly interested, she had even begun teaching NightOwl basic Russian words and phrases.  He seemed to delight in using these, mostly incorrectly, when conversing with her in the typed chat. 

NightOwl frequently joked about coming to sweep her off of her feet and bring her back to Dallas.  In her worst moments, when she feared that she would have no other future than to forever entertain fat old strangers with idle chatter and brief glimpses of her body while sitting in the little cubicle at the back of The Baltic Club Casino, Tatjana even fantasized that this was possible; that NightOwl would someday come to rescue her and take her to that promised land - America.

She had once seen an American cowboy movie, and so Tatjana’s total image of Texas came from this film.  Each time, when NightOwl was in her chat room, she would imagine him sitting on a horse, wearing a big white hat and sporting a shiny ivory handled silver pistol strapped about his waist.  However, although he had described himself in great detail, none of his self-description seemed to fit her mental image of cowboys from that otherwise long-forgotten film. 

In reality, Tatjana knew that NightOwl could actually look like anyone.  Even if he constantly talked about Texas with great affection, she also understood that he could easily be lying about where he lived.  The Internet was anonymous.  For all she knew, NightOwl was really one of those seedy bald men who she often saw gawking at the tired-looking dancers on the stage in The Baltic Club Casino.  Maybe NightOwl only hurried back home from the casino during the shifts when she worked, so he could gawk at her while she sat in her cubicle. 

She had no way of really knowing anything for certain about the men who visited in her chat room.  Although NightOwl could clearly see her, and even if it was possible for him to constantly compliment her on her beauty, she would never be able to see him and return the compliments.  Truthfully, she was thankful that she could never see any of these men sitting in unknown places with nothing better to do than to stare at her. 

No, she could never truly know what NightOwl looked like, or anything else about him; but surprisingly, this didn’t trouble Tatjana in the least.  She had no reason to want to know who he was, where he was, and what he was doing while visiting her on the Internet.  She never expected, in fact she emphatically hoped, never to meet any of the men from her chat room in her real life.  So it made little difference to her who they were, what they looked like or where they lived.

Although at other times there would be more ‘regulars’ in her chat room, this shift was at such an inconvenient time in America, that only NightOwl and Tekno, her second most frequent visitor, were with her today. 

Tekno was in her room almost as often as NightOwl, but Tatjana’s mental image of him was far less distinct and almost completely lacking in any detail.  From day to day Tekno could not even recall his complete chat name.  Today, he was Tekno452.  His chat name always began with Tekno, but the numbers seemed to change daily.  Yesterday, if she remembered correctly, he had been Tekno542. 

Although generally bored and never wishing to remember anything that took place in her chat room, Tatjana had been perceptive enough to realize that Tekno particularly favored Tekno69, and he used this chat name frequently.   Sometimes he and NightOwl would joke about this name, Tekno69, always conversing with rapid typing and using English far beyond Tatjana’s meager ability to comprehend.  She had never quite figured out the joke, but she was certain that if she did understand, it would no doubt be embarrassing for her.

Tekno was pleasant enough, she had decided, but not nearly so clever nor sincerely attentive as NightOwl.  While Tatjana believed that NightOwl saw her as a real person, with a mind and a heart as well as a body, Tekno’s interest appeared mostly to be physical.  He seemed to have little interest in her beyond what took place in her chat room.  In this regard, he often complimented her breasts or her butt - saying things, which, although not quite lewd, still made her slightly uncomfortable when she understood what was meant.  Even though she had long ago grown tired of these repetitious comments, she knew she could never allow Tekno to see her true feelings.  She always smiled and thanked him for his compliments. 

After all, Tekno was really quite harmless.

From what Tekno had told her, she understood that he was a computer technician; but in fact, Tatjana had difficulty believing this.  Even with her limited understanding of technical things, Tekno did not seem to be nearly intelligent enough for such work.   Tekno could not conceivably have the necessary brainpower to earn a living in such a technical field.  Even her few attempts to teach him simple Russian words and phrases had quickly ended when it became apparent that he was no more capable of remembering these few unfamiliar words than he was of remembering his own chat name.

Fighting her boredom now, Tatjana almost missed the new line of text as it appeared within the chat box on her screen.






NIGHTOWL:  Fire&Ice, you look tired. Would you like me to give you a massage?


FIRE&ICE:  Thx NightOwl.  That be very nice. :))




This had become their ritual.  At least one time each shift, NightOwl would offer to give her an imaginary massage.  At first, she had only wanted to go along with his whim, but to her surprise, Tatjana had soon begun to find these little breaks in her routine actually soothing and relaxing.  She carefully watched the chat box on her screen.






NIGHTOWL:  OK.  I will start with your shoulders.  Just lean back and let me rub the strain out of them.


TEKNO452:  Watch those hands, NightOwl.  Make sure they don’t stray too far away from Fire&Ice’s shoulders.  You know it’s look-but-don’t-touch here! :))




Just as NightOwl’s virtual massages had become ritual, Tekno’s vaguely suggestive comments had also become a part of this ritual.  But Tatjana didn’t mind.  Although he was not very smart, she had come to know Tekno well enough to believe that he was essentially a good man.  The single time that he had requested a private session with her, Tekno had asked that she remove her lacy bra.  She would normally have refused such a request, but she considered Tekno to be almost a friend, and so had decided that no real harm could be done if she agreed. 

For what seemed hours, she sat uncomfortably stationary in front of the camera, now zoomed on her breasts.  No lines of chat from Tekno appeared on the screen.  Finally, after what had actually been only a few minute, he simply said, “Thank You”, and then he had terminated the session. 

Tekno had never again requested a private session, and Tatjana had to admit that she wasn’t really disappointed.  Even though Tekno’s sole private session had made a necessary contribution to her rent, she suspected that he did not have very much money, and that the single private session had been a special treat – only a one-time luxury that he had allowed himself.  He had never required a second such treat.  Perhaps he didn’t need to see her breasts a second time.  After thinking about it, she decided that Tekno must have a better memory for breasts than for foreign languages or for chat names.

That single time, after Tekno’s session had ended, NightOwl had joked with him about the private time with Fire&Ice, but Tekno had refused to reply to his comments and questions; and nothing more had ever been said about it.

Now Tatjana again watched NightOwl’s words as they appeared in the chat box on her screen.






NIGHTOWL:  OK, Fire&Ice, now I am moving down your arms.  Can you feel the tension releasing?


BRAD17:  Hello Fire&Ice.  You are very pretty.




This last line jolted Tatjana abruptly back to reality.  She had been relaxing, certain she could almost feel NightOwl’s fingers massaging the knots from her arms, which nearly always ached after sitting uncomfortably for long hours in her small cubicle.  When the line of text from an unfamiliar name had unexpectedly popped up on her chat screen, she felt a momentary flash of anger that a stranger had intruded on her peaceful time with NightOwl.  Normally she watched the log on her screen that listed all of the visitors currently in her room, but in her languor, she had not seen Brad17 enter.  Although she had a good memory, Tatjana could not recall having ever before seen the chat name Brad17 in her room. 

Why wasn’t this person, this Brad17, sleeping like everyone else in America?

© Copyright 2014, Glen Rothe