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My Delicious Katsudon

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“He’s beautiful, isn’t he?” Victor sighed, not taking his eyes off the handsome skater who was stretching against a wall. He was hardly to be seen as he disappeared in the crowd around him and yet he had something that caught Victor’s attention.

“Who exactly? I mean, it’s not as if there aren’t several good-looking people around here,” Chris pointed at somebody. “Have you seen him? Or her?” He pointed somewhere else. “This is a skating competition. There are a bunch of hot people here. If you want my opinion on somebody, you need to be a little more specific about it. Not like anyone in here could meet your demands anyways.” He smirked and turned towards his friend. Victor, however, hadn’t moved his gaze even for a second. The young man, nearly a boy with the raven-black hair had finished stretching. Another man with long brown-taupe hair, probably his coach, carrying his skates, ran up to him and talked intensely to him. While the coach seemed pretty exasperated, his gestures forcing the people around him to dodge, the boy didn’t move one muscle. Instead, he submitted to his coach quietly, put on his skates and walked to the rink.

Victor didn’t know what it was exactly what made him follow the boy’s every movement. It was his whole appearance, the energy he emitted. While all his fellow skaters were yearning for the crowd’s attention, he seemed as he wanted to hide behind them. Although he wore his skates, his steps were cautious. If he would walk without any shoes, he probably wouldn’t make a single sound. Instead of facing the cameras, his eyes were fixed on the floor, avoiding any kind of contact. Victor wondered what emotion would be reflected in them. Would it be nervousness? Or competitive spirit? Or could it be…? Victor took a closer look at his neck. The muscles at his throat, the sternocleidomastoid muscles, was greatly exposed. The V-shape they formed on his pale skin, letting their shadows enhance its colour even more, pleased Victor’s eyes. The boy’s whole body must be tensing a lot if this muscle was to be seen to this extent. Victor’s followed his body. From the distance he couldn’t see too well, but either the boy was playing nervously with his outfit or his fingers were trembling. He didn’t move an inch, but he emitted the aura of somebody who wanted to run away as fast as they could.

When his name was called by the commentator, he raised his head and Victor smiled when he saw it written all over his face. It was fear. Nothing but blank horror. His beautiful, round brown eyes were widened and he reminded Victor of an innocent fawn, scared by a crackling sound. The boy didn’t move until his coach, heavily gesturing, told him to do so. His whole body seemed to be filled with reluctance as he slowly stepped onto the ice. With small, insecure steps he glided towards the middle of the rink and assumed his starting pose. His arms were wrapped around his body as he wanted to shelter himself from the world outside. When the lights were shut down and the spotlight focused on him, he closed his eyes.

At first, Victor heard only the organ. It took a while for him to make out the plunking of the strings. The young mang slowly began to loosen his arms. He stretched them out, following his left hand with his eyes. His movements were small and soft, his fingers delicately extending the motion of his arms. If one could hear air flowing, the whole world would be silent if this boy was to only one move. His moved were proud and graceful, yet at the same time, he didn’t lose his shy appearance. Nobody should notice him as elegantly gliding over the ice. Everyone around him should turn away, so he could skate in piece. The rest of the strings came in and although his steps largened, he still seemed lost. His technique wasn’t flawless. Here and there, he slipped, putting too much or not enough energy in his jumps. In general, his performance was unbalanced. He wasn’t in balance. There was something bothering him. Not an actual incident. Nothing that could be put aside. It was like a shadow guiding his movements, hovering over him like a nimbus. Aside from his difficulties with the technique, however, his expression and the interpretation was stunning. The way he slid over the ice, being one with the first violin, touched Victor’s heart. The boy wasn’t a skater anymore, he was the violinist himself. The skates were his bow and the frozen water the strings, emitting the most beautiful sound as continued his performance.

In the back of his mind, Victor noticed that he must have picked the music by himself. Nobody else could have chosen a piece that depicted his twisted character so well. He must be full of pain. Every inch of his body, every movement of his fingertips was covered by a hidden heaviness. Usually, Victor would love to think about what must have happened to him, to make him this anguished at such a young age. He would have analysed him. Reading him like an open book as he did with other people, but he was too captivated. The only thing that was allowed in his mind was the music and the beautiful skater in front of him. His whole attention, his whole being was pulled towards the young man. Nothing else existed anymore. Nothing was important. All that Victor needed to live was to continue watching this twisted soul glide over the ice, spinning and turning, jumping and dancing along with the music as this was the only chance for him to express not even half of the emotions that seethed inside him.

It was the applause that rouse Victor from his rigidity. For a moment, he was confused by his surroundings. Watching the skater felt like a dream. A dream that was going to slip away from him as the young man left the ice.

“Vic? Are you alright?” Victor turned to his side. Chris was looking at him a little concerned.

“Yeah, I guess…”

“So what do you think about him? I really wonder how he made it to the finals. His skating is not bad, but he really has to work on his technique.”

“I think, he was just beautiful,” Victor whispered. He was still caught up by the memory of what he had just witnessed. In a long time, nothing had touched him as much as this performance. For a moment, he wondered what had drawn him so much to this boy, but then he shook his head. It must just have been his beauty, no doubt.

Chris still looked confused, but he didn’t ask any further questions and changed the topic. Although Victor wasn’t sure sometimes if his friend owned something like a sense of tact or shame, or empathy in general, he gave him credit for learning how to handle him over the last years.

“After they handed out the medals, I’ll meet some people I want to introduce to you.”

“Not any potential patients, I hope.”
Victor loved his job. He enjoyed invading other people’s minds, digging up their deepest and darkest secrets. He had always been attracted by the weird, the sick and the twisted. For a few years now, he had his own office and every single day, he was thankful that he was his own boss. His income was to his utmost satisfaction, allowing him to keep up all of his selected hobbies. But as a harpsichord didn’t keep its good condition on its own, he also had to treat patients that were rather boring. Victor wasn’t interested in the daily lament of a rich housewife. He didn’t care about burned out company owners and yet he needed them as they were willing to pay horrendous prices just to chew his ear off.

“No, no. Don’t worry. They are just friends, people I know from work. Some of them are quite boring, but I’m sure you will find some of them amusing. And they have contacts that could be of use to you.” He smiled knowingly.

Victor sighed. Most of Chris’s associates he had met in the past had been pretty uninteresting. At least, the ones of his past career. Chris was Victor’s oldest friend. Thinking about it, he was the only one Victor would consider a  real friend. Like his hobbies, his taste and his clients, he was quite picky when it came to the people he cultivated with. Not many fulfilled his standards. Even Christophe kept dancing on the edge of his good will, but he valued him as a companion who had followed him through darker times.

“I see. And I guess you already invited them over for dinner.”

“How could I not? When I told them I knew the famous Victor Nikiforov, they begged me to get invited to one of your dinner parties. But don’t worry, I told them you needed time to prepare everything so they will come over tomorrow night. And there will be just two of them, so it’s not a big deal at all.”

If Victor wouldn’t have liked Chris so much, he would have killed him. Not only that he had to meet and talk to those insincere, plastic folks, he also had to welcome them in his house. It would take him hours to clean up after they had left, to get out the smell of their cheap perfume and their superficiality. Victor preferred to watch people from a little distance. Humans were weird creatures to him, so he rather observed them than to interact with them. Only if he got the chance to lay his fingers on a special specimen, someone who caught his interest and woke his intrinsic curiosity, that he usually hid behind his professional façade, he dared to move a step closer to peek into their psyche. Teasing out their darkest secrets was already fun, but holding their pathetic existence in his hands, entrusted with the decision to raise them up to the light again or to toss them back into the wicked claws of their minds, gave him an incredible feeling of power.

Hopefully, one of them was useful to Victor to recompense him for his expenses. Over the years, he had learnt that a wide network of people was the key – to a flourishing office and to get in contact with people who knew to satisfy any need he might feel.

 

During the award ceremony, Victor didn’t pay attention to what was happening at the rink. He had never been in favour of the idea to honour a certain selection of people, in sports or in other disciplines. Who were the judges of any jury in the world to gauge a piece of art, no matter of its nature? Was it their experience that allowed them to divide the world in good, bad and in need of improvement? Was it their knowledge of the subject? Was a former artist in the position to judge a new, unknow type of painting? Can they evaluate the brush stroke if they had never held this new brush in their hands? Can they assess the yet unknown technique they had never tried before? Can writers judge a poem of a language they had never read before? Can a musician judge the sound of an instrument they had never heard before? Probably not. So why did artists of any kind keep on insisting on being evaluated by people who are the most oblivious to true beauty as they are stuck in their traditional and their probably outdated way to see things? Why did they allow them to judge their piece of art that is not made in the past where the rules the jury had learnt still applied, but in the present were laws are written in the second as the brush touches the canvas, as the bow touches the string, as the skater touches the ice?

Instead of listening to the commentators voice shouting unimportant numbers and scores through the speakers, Victor returned to watch the young skater with the black hair again. He was standing far away from the others as if he wanted to make them forget he was even there. He nearly faded into the wall he was leaning against. If somebody had turned their gaze away from the winner’s podium, they probably wouldn’t have noticed him. His aura was aloof,  blending in with his surroundings. Even if somebody would notice him, they would be repulsed by the grey cloud that was hovering over him, cloaking him in a dark shadow which ate up any happiness and any joy.

Yet, Victor was strangely drawn to him. He was the only person to really see him. He would have loved to step a little closer to him in order to read he expression of his face. He urged to see every muscle-contraction, every flutter of his eyelids, every tremble of his fingers. Following his gaze, Victor looked up to the big screen displaying the scores as they were announced. He smirked. The boy had placed second. Normal people would pity the skater as he was supposed to present himself in front of the crowd once again. But Victor wasn’t normal. He delighted in his widened eyes, in his expression of pure panic. Now that he was forced to step into the middle of attention while he wasn’t able to hide behind his skating and the music, Victor would hopefully see his true face.

Although his name had been shouted through the speakers, the young man didn’t move an inch. Instead, he seemed to tried fading into the wall even more. Victor observed with a smirk on his face how his coach came running towards him, dragging him forcefully to the winner’s podium. With all his might, the boy was trying to free himself, probably in order to run away, but his coach didn’t let go of him. He even nudged his trainee into the commentators arms who led the boy to his position on the podium. Now that the spot light was on him again, Victor had the opportunity to examine him. When he had been skating, Victor had only been able to watch his graceful movements and his expression, but now he could examine his features in detail.

In contrast to his dark hair, his skin was pretty light, even slightly pale. His features, his eyes and his nose were shaped in an Asian optic. Probably Japanese as Victor assumed, assured from the sound of the boy’s name. As he had combed his hair back, he revealed his light forehand that make his beautiful brown eyes stand out. They were big and around and Victor loved the shimmer of fear and their constant movement to look around. His body was tensed to the max. Every muscle contracted, revealing his beautiful, well-trained shape. He reminded Victor a little of a painting by Gericault. A young man, trained, every muscle, every vein exposed to the viewer. A beautiful sight to the eye, the picture and the skater. Victor was sure that below his shimmering blue outfit he was hiding a similar beauty. For a moment, he allowed himself to be swept away by the imagination of what kind of sensation his skin would leave under his touch. How would it feel like tracing the outlines of his muscles, from his upper body to the defined butt, Victor could already see, covered by the black fabric? How would his skin beautiful his skin if a red strain from his own blood would run down his pale back? If his insides were as mesmerizing as his outer appearance? They probably were unharmed, innocent like the rest of him, never touched by filthy, dirty hands. Closing his eyes, Victor imagined how he would taste, who he would make Victor’s tongue melt in pleasure.

The man in the picture by Gericault was obviously appealing yet his face was turned away as if he wanted to hide his true nature from the public, maybe even from the artist. Had the man been ashamed? Was shame a well-hidden cause for the skater’s behaviour? On the first sight, the only emotion he emitted was fear. If something would scare him, like the sound of a shot, he would run away like a fawn. In general, he reminded Victor of an anxious animal, maybe a rabbit or a mouse, that was surrounded by predators, ogling at him not hiding their desire to eat him alive. The predators in his case, were the crowd that kept on applauding as the commentator bestowed the silver medal on him. There was only a short moment when he touched the young man’s skin, but that was enough to sent a shiver through his body, like a lightning had struck him. His lips trembled and Victor was sure that his eyes watered. So he wasn’t only afraid of being watched by other people, he was also not able to touch them.

When he had first seen him, his experience had told him that this was an interesting person, but seeing him so fragile, allowing himself to be honest with his feelings for just a few moments, awakened the interest of the psychiatrist in him. What must have happened to him to be so afraid of social encounters? What trauma had corrupted his pure soul so much he couldn’t stand the slightest accidental touch? Oh, Victor would love to invade his mind, uncover his dark past and his well-kept secrets. How would he react when Victor drowned him in his past, bringing up every single painful memory? How would his face convulse? Would his eyes look even more beautiful when they were filled with tears of horror?

“Hey, Vic, are you still here or have you already lost yourself in this skater’s ass?”

Victor shook his head, letting the stunning pictures in his mind slowly dash away. “Um?”

“If I didn’t know better, I would assume that you were eating him up in your mind,” Chris laughed.

“And what makes you assume I’m not doing this?” Victor examined his friend curiously, his left eyebrow lifted.

“You’re not interested in young boys. He might be handsome, but look at him. A personality like yours would outshine him. He lives in the shadows. No, he is a shadow. All the people I’ve seen you with in the past had had more… charisma, you know? They were more, how can I say that, present. How could you make use of such a timid and weak person?” He laughed and got up. “But enough talking about him. Let me introduce you to some people.”

Victor sighed, but followed his friends down the podium to a group of people that was gathering at the boards.

“You have no idea, Chris. You have no idea,” he murmured to himself.

 

 

The next day, Victor wasn’t in the mood at all to welcome guests. Especially those guests. Meeting Chris’s acquaintances had been tiresome. As he had predicted, they were just superficial folks, talking a lot of nonsense. Their stupidity had caused him physical pain and yet, he had invited two of them over for dinner. Mostly, because Christ hadn’t left him a choice. Victor knew he was right, he had to keep up his charming and polite façade and what could increase his desirability more than presenting a perfect dinner on a perfect table in a perfect house to tattling fools, searching for attention wherever they could get them. Victor was well aware of the perception of his dinner parties in the high society. Most people would cut their leg off just to be welcomed in his home. Although he looked down on the majority of his guests, he enjoyed their naïve conversations. It was amusing to see how blunt they were. So in hope to be at least entertained tonight, Victor got up from his bed and stepped into his ground-level rainforest-shower.

While the warm water was pattering on his shoulders, Victor thought about the dream he had had last night. Usually, he didn’t dream. The last time something like this had happened was already more than 15 years ago. So just the fact that an event had affected him so much that he needed to process it in his sleep was already extraordinary enough. It hadn’t been a bad dream, probably the most far away from a nightmare as possible. Still, it was it was more the dream itself that bothered Victor than its actual content. Dreaming was an activity that was mostly related, but not exclusive to REM sleep. In these phases, the brain was quite active, especially in the visual and limbic areas of the brain. The reason why people dreamt, however, was still to be discovered. Several hypotheses were made. Dome more, some less based on biological explanations. From his scientific point of view, Victor understood that either incidental activation of memories could have evoked a dream. Alternatively, it could have been caused by the coordinated activation of higher processing areas. But that didn’t explain, why would this happen just now? For years, no such “incident” had taken place. The other side in him, the therapist awakened and reminded him of what he used to say to his clients. Dreams could be the window to our deepest wishes. In an environment where nothing was impossible, people were able to substitute the desires that couldn’t be realized in the real world. But what desire could have been awakened by the skater who had caught his attention yesterday.

He and the young man had been sitting in a void, around them only endless white. Both of them sat on wing chairs, covered in red velvet. Facing each other, they had just been looking at each other. Neither of them had talked. Much to his nuisance, Victor didn’t remember whether there had been a situational context, he didn’t even know whether he had thought anything. He only remembered a connection between them. Like the pole of a magnet, he had been pulled towards the skater and somehow he had known that the latter had felt the same. At the same time, he had been pushed back and kept on a distance. So eventually, both of them had been forced to stay where they were, too far separated, but at the same time way too close.

Trying not to give this dream too much thought, Victor stepped out of the shower and towelled himself. A look into the mirror made him flinch. Most people wouldn’t notice anything as they were superficial and only interested in themselves. Victor, however, who was looking at this face for so many years, remarked the change instantly. He had light shadows under his eyes. Hardly visible to an unfamiliar, but Chris would surely become aware of them. Nothing about this dream had been causing him to wake up unrefreshed, so why did he look like as if he had only slept for 4 hours? Throwing some cold water in his face, Victor just begged that his friend wouldn’t interrogate him tonight and walked towards his dressing room. Today, he decided on a dark grey three-piece suit combined with a dark purple dressing shirt and shoes in the same colour. If there was something more important to Victor than to treat his palate, it was his appearance. He loved to wear suits. He felt comfortable in them and he was well aware of the fact that he looked irresistible in them. People were so easy to be deceived by clothing. Just dressing like an authority made them act correspondingly to their believe. Of course, Victor prided himself in being the most sophisticated person he knew, but amplifying his excellent traits with a neat and fashionable look had never been to his detriment. Swallowing down the last memory of his dream, he left his house, got into his car and drove to his office.

 

Victor was relieved when his last client had left his office. Today, the most exhausting patients had cumulated as if they had conspired to make him loose his patience. Victor had stayed professional all the time, although he had wished to wring one or two people’s necks. Instead, he had had to smile and act like he understood them, like he acknowledged their problems to be valid and reason enough to bother him. Of course, not all his clients there like that. All sorts of people came to him and as different as their characters were their troubles. Victor loved to dig into people’s minds, especially when they owned a certain type of personality, but there were also clients he was dedicated to help. Patients suffering from all sorts of diseases and disorders – anxiety disorders, mood disorders, schizophrenia – visited his office and some of them really deserved to be cured. Yet the clients that had consulted him today where nothing like that. People from the upper class, their world circling around themselves, enough money to live a comfortable life and too much time to spent, but not interesting in doing something useful. Victor had wished for a glass of his 2016 Domina from Franconia as soon as the third client had stepped through his door. Just a sip of its dry yet fruity taste touched by the memory of wild berries would have made him forget about the irritation that had built up inside. His client had been a well-situated house wife, her only job to look good next to her husband when they attended the gatherings of the high-society. If he would have been forced to hear the constant lament about her increasing fear that her husband would cheat on her for one minute more, he would have pulled the horrendous bodkin out of her hair and stabbed her. If she talked to her husband the same self-pitying way she did in her sessions, Victor would be totally understanding if he was to consider divorce. Instead of trying to find a sense in her life, something useful she could put her energy into, she preferred to complain how boring her life was.

Closing the door behind his last patient, a manager in his forties, had been the moment, Victor had waited for the whole day. He wasn’t particularly looking forward to the guests who would infiltrate his home, but he couldn’t wait to return home after his grocery shopping and to finally start cooking. Preparing the most delicious dishes was his way to true inner peace. There was no other place he could let his mind go and give himself up to a mediation like state like his kitchen. Already buying the ingredients eased his thoughts and filled him with calmness. Victor was a picky person, but whenever it came to cooking, he only chose the best of the best. He could spent hours in the small store that sold only organic vegetable and fruit, choosing the perfect condiments. For tonight’s dinner, he had chosen a relatively basic garnish, due to the great meat he had been able to acquire. He also had already decided on the wine he would serve today. A dry Italian red wine would complement the main course perfectly.

When he came home, Victor placed his shopping bags on the worktop. Rolling up his sleeves and putting on his apron, he went through the checklist in his mind. He knew exactly when he had to take care of what. His plan was flawless as usual. Only one step was missing before he could begin his piece of art. Music. Victor needed music to be fully able to give himself into the beauty of cooking. He looked up and down his enormous collection of records. After turning it over in his mind, he chose the “An Alpine Symphony” by Richard Strauss. The programme of a day in the alpine mountains, following a mountain climber starting at night right before dawn up to the summit and back down again, fitted the idea he had in mind when he had planned this evening. He took out the record, put it into his phonograph and returned to the kitchen.

At first, he prepared the dessert as it needed to be cooled for a while until it was ready to be served. He had decided on homemade yoghurt sorbet topped with freshls picked wild berries in a sauce made of blackberries and a glug of fruity dessert wine, a leaf of lemon balm perfecting the composition. He had picked the berries himself a few days ago in the piece of forest that abutted on his house. Their shining colours of red and blue would make a delicious contrast to the white sorbet. After he had put the yoghurt sorbet in the freezer, he took care of the decoration and set the table. Four guests would be arriving today, two of Victor’s own friends and two of Chris acquaintances, joined by his friend himself who never let a chance slip to eat with Victor, making it six people in total, including Victor. Carefully, Victor placed each plate, each piece of silverware until it was perfectly in place, using his polishing cloth where it was necessary. As for the decoration, he had chosen red napkins that fitted perfectly to the white bouquet of flowers on the side board and the pine cone arrangement on his dinner table. In addition, he started a fire in his fireplace on the other end of the room opposite of a huge window. When the dining room was ready, he had enough time to prepare the dressing for the starter, rocket salad with caramelized and roasted walnuts, before he could concentrate on the main course – the part of the evening Victor had been looking forward to the most. Only thinking about the juicy, red meat that felt so soft under his fingers was watering his mouth. But at first he had to take care of the side dish. Victor melted a piece of butter in a pan while cutting shallots, sweating them for a few minutes. The splutter and the scent of heated butter filled the room, making him even more excited. He added some risotto rice and cooked it for a while before he poured water over it, seasoned it with salt and pepper and let it simmer. In the meantime, he reamed the parmesan to put it into the risotto later. Now it was time for the marinade. Whisking brown sugar, balsamic vinegar, cayenne pepper and a pinch of salt, Victor followed the climber in the symphony over the flowing meadows. When he closed his eyes, he could see the beautiful flowers, perfectly arranged on the grass by the arbitrariness of nature. In blue and white, they formed colourful dots on a green carpet. Mincing some garlic, he imagined the cloves to be wild flowers of whose petals would stunningly contrast to the meat he would prepare later. He cooked the garlic until the room was filled with its characteristic scent. It would be a shock for all the people that believed he was vampire to find out that he loved garlic. It didn’t only add a special taste to every dish, it was also ascribed the ability to reduce cardiovascular diseases. He mixed it with the rest of the sauce and put it to the side. After adding the parmesan and a tablespoon of walnut oil to the risotto, the side dish was ready to be served and Victor’s favourite part was finally there. Followed by the sound of dozens of violins, he stepped down the stairs to his own cold room and there it was. Beautifully hanging from the black ceiling, the red and white marbled star of his dinner. Softy, as if he could hurt the meat, Victor took it down and returned to the kitchen. In his hands, it felt like an innocent child, so soft, so untouched. From his knife block, he chose his favourite knife, a present of a very thankful client of his. It had been hand-crafted by an old Japanese blacksmith known for his exquisite work and Victor valued it with all his heart. He loved the weight of the knife in his hand. It made him feel powerful and yet, its sharp blade reminded him of how deadly it was. This was the only knife that was worthy of being used on such a precious gift. Holding onto the rips, he slowly cut along the bone to separate the meat from it.

“Hey boy, can you come here for a second?”

Every inch the knife cut through, the meat melted away like it was soft butter. Positioning it at the top, letting it slide it down in a continuous movement again and again calmed Victor down like a mantra.

The street was dark. The lamp lights that were supposed to illuminate the alley were broken. The area was deserted. Nobody came here without a good reason, so it was a good place for young folks to hide when they ran away from home. The boy he had called was alone, his skin dirty. He had probably slept in this alley for at least one or two nights. Maybe he had ran away from home, maybe he had been thrown out. Not a bit suspicious, he stepped towards the dark figure that had called out to him.

Piece by piece, chop by chop was separated from the skeleton. Victor let them rest and breathe for a moment until he had cut the final piece off.

“Sorry to bother you. I hope you can help me.” The boy came closer.

Treasuring the chops like there were his own children, Victor seasoned them with sea salt and pepper and placed them in a heated pan to sear them. The scent that overshadowed all the other smells in his kitchen, kissed his nose and wandered directly to his stomach. Just watching it fry, as mall bubbles of oil were wandering up from the ground of the pan to the sides of the slowly browning meat, made Victor’s heart skip a beat. If it already smelled so savory, how delicious would it taste later?

“It’s pretty embarrassing. I think I got lost and…” Crack! The boy had no time to realize what was happening when his neck had been broken by a skilled and fast movement.

Victor removed the chops from the pan and placed them into a large trey. With a soft brush, he brushed the marinade he had prepared on every single piece like they were paintings. Now, they had time to rest until his guests had finished the starter. Only then he would put them back into the pan and cook them until they were ready, constantly watched by his careful eyes.

The boy sank into his arms. He pulled him to his car, threw him into the trunk and drove away from the alley, without leaving the smallest evidence of his short visit there behind.

 

“Mesdames, Messieurs, your main course. Balsamic lamb chops with parmesan risotto, a pinch of rosemary and garlic.”

Victor placed the plates in front his guests. He loved the moment when they were confronted with one of the most outright forms of beauty. In contrary to art or music, food addressed all senses at the same time. The way that Victor had arranged it pleased the eye. The chops were placed in the middle of the white plates while the risotto had been formed into a half-bowl, a stem of rosemary on top. Its aroma filled the whole room, caressing the olfactory system. Once one had taken a bite, not only the taste, but also the texture could be perceived. And last, but not least, the sound of chewing that differed according to the texture completed the experience. Eating was a pure pleasure for the whole body. It wasn’t only a necessity to stay alive, but also a way of cherishing it.

After he had served everyone, he opened the bottle of red wine that had been waiting on the sideboard for its appearance. He unstopped it skilfully, smelling at the cork to make sure it didn’t have any kind of taint. The fruity yet dry scent that ascended from the cork and the bottle mixed excellently with the scent of the balsamic marinade.

“A 2016 Merlot della Provincia di Verona.” He poured wine in every of his guests glasses before he sat down himself.

“Victor, you have outdone yourself! This looks so delicious I’m not sure if I can dare eating it,” the woman on his right side praised him ecstatically.

“Oh my dear Lilia, I would be a waist if you wouldn’t.” Victor smiled at her charmingly. Lilia Baranovskaya and her ex-husband Vakov Feltsman weren’t his guests for the first time. She was a former prima ballerina in Russia, but known all over the world. Victor had seen her perform in Russia when he had been about 5 years old. Since then, a lot of time had passed and she had retired, thought he still thought hopeful young talents the true meaning of grace. Victor enjoyed her company, especially when they visited the ballet together. Her trained eye made it real pleasure to discuss the performance afterwards.

On her opposite, her ex-husband was obviously enjoying the dinner. Yakov didn’t show a lot of emotions aside from shouting at his students, but Victor knew he had nice soul. He did everything in his might to make his students shine and perform at their best. Talking to him with a good glass of wine or vodka, was welcomed pastime to Victor as he was unexpectedly interested in opera and theatre. On his right side, Chris had taken a seat, opposite to a man around their age who had been introduced to Victor as Manuel Dilietta. If he remembered correctly, he was working as a designer for skating outfits. He really wasn’t a conversationalist as he rather spend his time flirting with Chris than to join the conversations. Victor didn’t give him a lot of attention since had obviously invited him for his own enjoyment. The woman who was sitting opposite to Victor was a young woman called Alena Bloom. She appeared to be a regular as Chris’s bar and they started talking after discovering their common interest in ice skating. When she wasn’t searching for husband at night, she worked as a psychology professor at the local university. Talking to her hadn’t been as exhausting as Victor had predicted. She was more intelligent than her desperate way to get married gave him reason to expect.

“Ah Victor, before I forget,” Yakov suddenly addressed him, “a colleague of mine told me about one of his students yesterday. He said that he is really troublesome. A fine and talented young man, but his issued prevent him from giving his best performance. They will be staying here for quite a while and he asked me if I knew somebody who might be able to help him. I know that you have a lot of clients already, but I thought this could be interesting to you.”

Victor deliberated for a second. A burdensome skater could indeed be a fascinating challenge. Usually, Victor’s clients were above 35 or even older, so working with somebody young would require completely different techniques and strategies. This could finally give fresh impetus to his monotonous work.  At least, he could look at them to decide whether the case was engaging enough to take on the extra hours.

“Sure, I’ll see when I can make some time for them. Please, pass him the number of my office. He can leave a message on the answering machine. I will call him back as soon as I can.”

“Thank you, Vitya. He’ be very relieved. It seems as things got even worse lately and he was pretty desperate when he talked to be the other day.”

If Yakov assessed someone to be desperate, he must be in real trouble. Victor trusted his friend’s judgement. The coach knew that he mostly took cases that interested him, so referring somebody to him must signify that he was the person’s last resort. The more he thought about it, the more Victor’s interest grew and by the end of the evening, he couldn’t wait to welcome that troublemaker in his office.

 

 For two long days he had had to wait. Of course, the coach who had introduced himself on the phone as Celestino Cialdini had called him first thing the following day and they had made an appointment for Wednesday evening after Victor’s last client had already left. Cialdini had already put him the picture, probably to gain Victor’s interest. In general, his student was a nice and talented young man, but he seemed to have troubles in interacting with people and engaging in social situations. When he was on the ice during practise, the boy didn’t have any problems to skate worthy of a Olympic gold medal, but as soon as strangers watched him, he completely changed. Nobody knew why he acted that way and he refused to talk about it. Not even his only friend had any idea what had happened to him. Victor was already the sixth therapist, Cialdini had send him to, but the boy hadn’t said a word during his sessions. This would be his last attempt to help his student to get over his anxiety. If he didn’t improve, Cialdini would give up on training him. He knew that this boy could achieve a lot, but he was tired of training him and seeing him fail due to his issues every time.

Everything he had said, reminded Victor of that very skater he had noticed during the last competition. It fitted his own impression too well, but he didn’t dare to hope that it was this skater, Cialdini had talked about. He didn’t want to get his hoped high, although he yearned for the chance to talk to this boy who had hunted him the last nights as well. Victor did his best throughout the day and focus on his regular patients, yet as soon as the image of that skater popped up in his head, he got uneasy in excitement. His feet were bobbing up and down nervously and his fingers were tingling. Only turning his pen in his fingers from time to time helped him to make them stop. Victor knew that this behaviour was unprofessional and totally not like him at all. He had strict standards he had committed himself to and creating an atmosphere of trust and mindful listening was one of his main requirements. Not knowing, however, if the skater he would meet later that day really would be the one he hoped for, made Victor even more nervous. He was quite concerned about his reaction towards him after only seeing him from afar, but for now, he tried to ignore it or label it as professional interest. Yet, he couldn’t stop himself from counting the hours until the appointment.

It was already twenty past 8 pm. For twenty minutes, Victor had been agitatedly waiting for Cialdini and his student to arrive. No. Actually, he had been waiting for an hour and twenty minutes. The coach had asked him to definitely make sure that his last patient had left his office before they would arrive. He feared that if somebody could see or even recognize this student, the latter would run away instantly. Victor had reluctantly agreed to work an hour longer, noting deep inside that he had never done such a thing before. If patients insisted on seeing him, they had to keep to his working schedule. Five minutes after they should have arrived, Victor started getting uneasy. Punctuality was one of his greatest values, so being unpunctual to an appointment that had been set outside his office hours was a sign of disrespect. To calm himself and to do something useful while waiting, Victor took the violin which was hanging on the wall behind his desk. He positioned it on his collarbone, took a deep breath, closed his eyes and started playing.

A loud knock on the door, that was exclusive to his clients, rouse him from his meditation-like state. He hung back the violin and walked towards the door. A look on his watch told him that it was a quarter to 9. Swallowing down his anger, he opened the door. In front of him a tall man with long brown haired, pulled back into a pony tail, was standing, a wide smile on his face. He offered him his hand. “Celestino Cialdini. It’s a pleasure to meet you, Dr. Nikiforov.”

Victor didn’t answer, but took his hand and forced himself to smile. He recognized the coach from the day of the competition. It had been the person to drag that beautiful skater to the rink and who had forced him to take part in the award ceremony. From the first moment, Victor cordially disliked him.

“I’m sorry we are late, but my student wasn’t too happy about coming here.”

“You didn’t obtain his approval first?” Victor was filled with indignation. How did this impertinent person believe that he could help somebody who didn’t want to be helped?

“I expected him to refuse your polite offer to take a look at him, so I thought it was better not to tell him. But you should talk to him and not me.” He laughed. “I don’t need a psychiatrist.”

‘Oh, I bet you do,’ Victor thought.

“I guess I should finally introduce you. Yuuri! Come here. Yuuri, this is Dr. Nikiforov who kindly agreed on working with you. Dr. Nikiforov, this is my student, Yuuri Katsuki.”

Victor hadn’t seen him at first, because he had been hiding in the shadows down the hallway, but when his coach called out for him, he slowly came nearer. There he was. In all his beauty. Victor offered him his hand, curious if he would take it. Much to his surprise, the boy took it and when their hands touched, a stroke of lighting shot through Victor. Pretty fast, he skater pulled his hand back, looking at the floor the whole time. Victor smirked.

 “Welcome, Mr. Katsuki. It’s a pleasure to meet you. Please come in.”

This was going to be really interesting.