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Boris was an acclaimed jeweller who had built a name for himself through his skills as an artisan and successful merchant. Famous actors and royalty were among his regular clients.

Boris learned the craft from a great Russian craftsman named Alexei, who descended from a lineage of several generations of goldsmiths. Boris and Alexei met in Russia, where Boris spent his childhood. Their meeting was at a fair with a medieval theme, where Alexei’s family taught the public the way jewellery was worked in the Middle Ages. Boris was fascinated by seeing the fire and molten metal, and from there began a lifelong friendship. Alexei taught him the art of working with metals and precious stones.

Over the years, their friendship grew so strong that people thought they were brothers, since Alexei was barely two years older than his friend.

After a while, Boris’s family left Russia for Africa and in the same way Alexei settled in Canada, however, they did not lose contact thanks to Alexei making continuous trips to sell his jewellery. When each of them married and formed their own family, communication grew distant, and they hardly spoke.

One night, Boris received a call, and the voice spoke to him with a strange accent:
“Are you Mr. Boris X?” the voice asked.
“Yes, it’s me, who’s speaking?” Boris replied.
“Do you live in Xxx?” the voice continued.
“Yes, correct, but who am I talking to?” Boris insisted.
“We are calling you from the Xxx Police (an Asian country). We need someone to do the reconnaissance of Alexei X’s body. We found a note in his wallet that says, ‘If you need it, call Boris X’ and your phone number and address are noted” answered the voice.

Boris thought it was a joke, but no, it wasn’t. The policeman kept talking, but Boris no longer heard anything.

“… And we need you to come to close the case,” the policeman finished.

Boris, with hardly a breath, answered:
“Agent, um…, give me a chance to assimilate the news and get the flight tickets. If there’s no problem, I’ll be there shortly” Then he wrote down the contact number and hung up the call.

He did not utter another word throughout the night, and the next day he said goodbye to his wife, saying:
“I’m going to be away for a few days, I have to say goodbye to my friend” and saying this he departed.

After a couple of stops, he finally arrived at the place. Several agents were waiting for him at the airport to take him directly to the morgue, where they would examine Alexei’s body, certify his death, and proceed to cremation. Within a few hours, Boris was sitting on the edge of the bed in his hotel room, staring at what lay on his nightstand: the urn with his friend’s ashes.

Long hours passed motionless. When a ray of sunlight fell on the metal of the urn, Boris realized that it was dawn and woke up from his stupor.

He hastened to call his friend’s wife to tell her that he was going to visit them since he would be travelling in that area… on business. Alexei’s family did not know anything. Boris was to give them the news in person and deliver the ashes.

Boris’s meeting with Alexei’s family is something I won’t narrate. But I will say that Alexei had a black cat, which also passed away a few days later.

Alexei’s wife gave Boris a package containing a book that her husband had borrowed from a local library and read over and over again. It was written in Russian and was a copy of traditional tales from ancient Russia, similar to the one the two friends read in their childhood. The book was a bit old and worn, which helped convince the library workers to sell it to Alexei’s wife, who bought it as a gift to Boris as a thank you.

Boris returned to his house, but never opened the package.

Months later, on an autumn afternoon, Boris was thinking about his friend when he looked at his cell phone and said to himself,
“Today is his birthday!”

He remembered the package. He searched for it and pulled out the book. Seeing the cover, memories of him flooded into his mind. He opened the book and a piece of paper fell to the floor. Picking it up, he read it and a chill ran down his spine. It was a library receipt that had the exact date of that day. Shivering, he took the beer bottle from his side, reached out his hand and said with cracking voice:
“To your health, my dear friend! Happy Unbirthday!” And burst into tears.


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