Their apartment smells of lavender. Mrs. took it upon herself to place lavender sprigs in every corner of the house — six sprigs bunched in the bottom of the children’s toy chest, a sprig in each bathroom, a bouquet on the kitchen’s preparation island, lavender spread across the dining room table. Martina, despite having entered their apartment every day — for what? three years now, always found herself suspended by quietness of blossoming. It reminded her of being a child and getting lost in the fields of Water Mouth with her sister and brother. Of purple-blue skies, and of the stream that ran through the field; the shiver, pricking her ears up, as crisp water met her tongue.
Mr. and Mrs. would awake within the hour, the children within the next hour and one half, so Martina hid her belongings in a small closet, reserved for her and proceeded to the kitchen — to put on the coffee, decide on the morning’s meal, catalog the children’s activities before and after school, remember all of the chores and errands assigned from the day before.
Mrs. emerges first, still wrapped in downy sleep. Although generous with passing smiles, Mrs. speaks out of the necessity of speaking, fully understanding the economy of language and silence. Martina, for fear of exposing an unspoken truth, or an embarrassing platitude, assents to quiet. She serves Mrs. coffee.
“This is just what I need,” says Mrs.,”Did you see the list I left for you?”
Martina gestures to it.
“The children have a half day, and their extracurricular activities are canceled. You’ll have to pick them up for lunch and occupy them for the rest of the day.”
Martina says yes.
Mr. lacks the shrewdness of his wife, a glutton for waste. Though slim in frame and lacking in height, he barrels through the apartment. He speaks to himself, to others, with others. He speaks to fill all the silences that punctuate his life. He speaks to bring about a stir. For that, the children openly prefer him: ask him to take them for walks with Martina, scurry to his side of the bed when nightmares awakened them. Fortunately this causes no tension between Mr. and Mrs., as their marriage is cemented upon understanding and acceptance rather than compliance, with the latent expectation of change.
“Good morning,” he nods to his wife. “And good morning to you, Martina.”
“Good morning, sir.”
“How is it? Beautiful out? Did you have any trouble on the subway? No kids to hassle you.”
“No, none. Thank goodness.”
“Glad to hear it. Some days are better than others, let’s hope this day isn’t hiding anything sinister. We’ve got work to do.”
“We are always at work,” says Martina.
Mr sits next to Mrs. and speaks with her quietly; Martina leaves the kitchen to wake the children.