Luda smoothed the shirt on the hanger and hung it in the closet. Her eyes lingered on no particular spot there, just her family’s clothing bunched together, a row of hangers clutching a pole: her husband’s good suit, her good dress, and little Mia’s weekend outfit and alternate school uniform, all hanging limp. It was early afternoon but the clouds outside were so dense and full with rain that it felt much later. She sighed and closed the door.
The sounds of the youngest school children began wafting up through the large concrete yard, through the open window in the kitchen. Luda put the kettle on and cut a slice of bread, spread goose fat on it and waited for Mia. She had started first grade a week ago and no longer required her mother’s company.
Luda adjusted the pins in her hair and wiped her hands on her apron. The door unlatched and there was Mia, her red hair wild and bow askew, red-cheeked and breathless.
“Hello little devil,” Luda said. She resisted the urge to scoop her up and give her kisses. “Come here and have a snack.”
Mia shut the door and went to the table. Luda poured her some tea and Mia swung her legs as she chewed on the black bread. She chattered about her day between bites and Luda reminded her to swallow before opening her mouth to speak. Mia finished her snack in silence (still swinging her legs) and Luda adjusted her bow.
A few hours later Matei came home. Matei was a tailor. He shared a shop with another tailor and he often brought home his work, which Luda helped with. Usually they would exchange a kiss and have a quiet dinner before setting down to work. They would sit side-by-side, mending and altering, taking turns at their major investment, the Singer.
Today, however, was the fifth anniversary. Luda could not look at Matei. She looked above him, beside him, at his forehead, his nose (growing a hump beneath his square glasses), at his ears. She looked at the corners of the kitchen, her fork, her spoon, her soup, the table. She wondered if he noticed this behavior, and its steady yearly recurrence. If he did, he had the tact not to say anything. The tact or the fear. She wasn’t sure. She worried that he knew and did not say, but perhaps he knew that she thought he knew.
After dinner Luda checked on Mia’s homework and put her to bed on the cot in the living room. Then she went into the bedroom and lay down. She stared into the darkness and listened to the stuttering of the Singer. She listened to the rhythm of Matei’s work, as well as the silences, and wondered if in those pauses, he was looking up, staring at no particular point on the wall and thinking of her. She smiled at this image, then put her hands on her belly and cried.