It is the leeward side of night, when all is quiet, except for the occasional crashing noise as chunks of ice and snow fall from the roof. He wishes the house was better insulated but there's no way in hell he can afford to have the work done.
The dog ls laying down in the hallway, licking a patch of the floor that probably tastes like something that was spilled there a long time ago.
He is lonely. The bed is a weird combination of too cold and too warm, with a dozen pillows tossed around so that he has something to snuggle against in the middle of the night when he dreams.
Is this all there is? he wonders.
"Yeah, pretty much."
The voice startles him, and he spins around. A beautiful woman is standing in his bedroom doorway wearing a black bikini top and hot pink tiger-stripe pants. He stares, blinks; she stretches and looks around at the piles of dirty laundry, the stacks of unopened mail, the porn DVDs that lie unopened on the shelf.
"Nice decor," she says. "You hire someone to do this for you, or you do it yourself?"
"Who... who are you?" he asks. "How..."
"Svetlana," she says as she walks toward him and extends out her hand, "patron saint of lonely middle-aged men. You can call me Sveti."
Her smile is like a million-watt light bulb, and he realizes that he's naked. He hastily tries to cover himself up, and a pile of magazines cascade to the floor. She starts laughing.
"Oh, please, like I haven't seen you naked before. Hey, you gonna eat that?" She reaches for an apple that sits precariously perched by his elbow, takes a bite, her eyes closed in ecstacy. "Oh, god, that's delicious. I haven't had an apple in a hundred years. Have to watch my girlish figure, ya know."
He regains his composure slightly. "What are you doing here? Why are you here? Am I..."
"Are you what?"
He looks at her, fear in his eyes. She looks back, intent. A car passes by outside in the street.
"Boo!" she says, and he almost leaps out of his chair, screaming. She starts laughing. "No, you're not dead. Not yet anyway. I just came because I was bored, and you were lonely, and I haven't really had anything exciting to do for a very long time."
She leans over to him, and breathes softly in his ear, her skin brushing lightly, warm on his neck. "I came to grant you three wishes. Well, two now." She looks down at her outfit. "This was the first one. Nicely done, don't you think?"
He just stares and nods.
"I have to admit, I'm kinda surprised. Most guys give me these huge boobs that just get in the way of doing anything. I end up looking like some sort of comic-book wench. These are just nice." She takes a few steps and strikes a supermodel pose. "Me like."
"Sure, other guys," she says as she sits on the bed. "You didn't think you were the only lonely middle-aged man in the world, did you?" She leans back on the bed, then sniffs the blankets. "You really should wash these."
"I dunno... I just thought... this is all kinda new to me."
"Well, essentially it's this. When I appear to you, I take the form that is most appealing to you at the time. Gotta say, this is kinda nice. I've had some really weird ones. Really weird." She looks up at him for a second, and says "You don't want to know."
His mind begins to race. "You said something about three wishes?"
"Two wishes. Okay..."
"Not so fast," she says, "There are some rules." She counts off on her fingers.
"One: as much as I'd like to, this form isn't corporeal, it's just your imagination. So no hanky-panky. Yes, I know, disappointing. Me, too if you must know. It's been a long time.
"Two: The wishes can't affect anyone else. Violation of causality and all that.
"Three: in the morning, you won't remember any of this. It will all seem like a dream."
She stands up from the bed, throws her arms around his neck, and plants a soft kiss on his lips.
"And now I have to go, sweetie. Use them wisely."
Then she was gone.