Short story: Ања

The house had that after-party smell of alcohol and the remnants of a fancy dinner. There were mostly empty glasses everywhere. People had even left unfinished drinks on the bookshelves.

She wandered from couch to coffee tables, finishing off the leftovers. By the time she got to the dining table, she was too unfocused and unsteady to climb onto the chair. She tugged at the linen cloth a little. The snifter with the amber-colored liquid came perilously close to flying off. The toddler didn’t realize how perilously close she had come to disaster. As she turned, she saw her mother’s big Larousse and waddled over to it.

A few moments later, she was back at the table, standing on a huge encyclopedia and siphoning off the leftover alcoholic drinks and eating whatever scraps appealed to her. The bread basket was still half full but she couldn’t reach it. She tugged at the tablecloth again. This time, she wasn’t so lucky. The cacophony of breaking china rang throughout the quiet house.

The little girl burped and smiled. The house was quiet again. She turned away from the table. She could see the liquor cabinet. Its doors were wide open and it was mostly empty. She waddled over to the couch to retrieve her blanket. She was cold in spite of the warm glow she was feeling in her tummy. Soon, she was walking again, in the direction of the cabinet, stepping on shards of glass and fine china. If her feet were bleeding, the child’s stony countenance didn’t give a clue. Between the alcohol and leftovers, the little girl’s metabolism was now in high gear. Her eyes were glassy. Her gait slow. She pushed the three bottles aside and climbed into the liquor cabinet. As she closed the door, she noticed the colorful drawing of cherries on a label. It was cherry-flavored Slivovitsa.

Her examination of the label was interrupted by the distinctive tempo of Ања’s footsteps. She quickly closed the cabinet doors in on herself, covered herself in her blanket, cradling the Slivovitza underneath.

Anja had just entered the home. She lost a leg during the war. Her gait was labored and her breathing heavy.  She was a very stout,  elderly woman. She was dressed in thick black clothing as was the custom for widows. She wore a black kerchief and thick-rimmed glasses. Her face was flushed, red, from the long walk from the bus stop. As was her habit on the mornings after a party, she had trudged through the snow, in the dark wee hours of the morning. It was the start of another work day.

She surveyed the living area. She silently calculated the amount of time she had to straighten the living area before her charge woke up. She was a little over two years old and a handful. She had better have most of the cleaning done before the child got up. “Another disaster,” she sighed to herself, steeling herself for another long day. Then, the color drained from her face as she let out a muted yell. She had just seen tiny bloody footprints all over the floor.

Photo credit: Mihailo Radicevic


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