Drinking her orange juice, a woman watched as the laughing boy and the girl with the red hair left the coffee shop. The woman just came back from her work at the supermarket, but before she went home, she wanted to take a breath. When she finished her juice, she walked into the street, carrying bags full of vegetables and meat. By now, her husband must have returned home, to the apartment. She hoped that he picked up their children from the kindergarten. If he forgot it again, then another argument between them would ensue. It also meant that she would go to pick them up again. She was approaching her building. With every step, her burden multiplied. She entered the elevator and reached her floor. As she came before the door, she heard the voices coming from the inside. Her family was home. She went in, and threw the bags onto the cupboard in the lobby. She was taking off her boots, the cuts from the bags eventually faded away from her palms. The wife walked into the living room and found her husband placing the plates onto the shelves above the sink and the children playing on the carpet. She sighed. Suddenly, the little boy squealed. Both she and the husband immediately turned to see what happened.
“She hits me,” the son said. The mother leaned over both the son and daughter with a serious face.
“Stop it, now,” the mother said.
“But, she…” the son uttered, pointing at his sister.
“I don’t care,” the mother said quickly and angrily.
“Do it one more time, and you’re grounded,” the father said to the daughter. The little girl emptily stared at him for several seconds, and then went back to putting small, rubber dinosaurs one next to another.
The wife brought the bags from the lobby. The husband put the frozen meat to thaw in a plate, and the wife started taking out the vegetables out of the other bag and put them in the fridge. The children shouted again. The father made one long step and hit them on their heads, first the daughter, then the son.
“It’s not me,” the daughter protested.
“Didn’t I tell you that I don’t care? Go to your room!” the mother joined in and screamed.
“I don’t want room!” the son shouted and tears filled his eyes.
“Stop it, stop it now,” the mother hissed at them. Although the children kicked and struggled, the father took them off the ground and dragged them into the room. He pushed them both onto their beds.
“I don’t want to hear a word from you before dinner,” the father said and slammed the door. The children were quiet.
“How was your work today?” the wife asked. She did not care. It was a while since she stopped caring. Though, she could not tell when it happened exactly.
“As usual, I so want to quit it,” the husband replied. He knew she was not interested.
“I know the feeling, my shift wasn’t anything special, either,” the wife replied. She had been working in the supermarket for four years. He worked as a clerk in the post office. Their salaries combined were one average salary. That was according to what the state was counting as the average. Both of them wanted better. But, what they had somehow pushed them through each month, so from that perspective, it was good enough.
“But, you know what? There might be a raise,” the husband smiled with satisfaction. It would be his first raise since he started working at the post office.
“There was something on the news about that. All employed in public services will get a raise,” the wife replied. She was not absolutely sure that it was true. It would be great, but she learned to shut down her hopes and wait until something really happened. He, on the other hand, was certain of it. She cut a few carrots into little cubes and put them in a pot filled with warm water. Then, she realized that it was strangely quiet in the apartment. There was not even a sound coming from the streets. There was no noise in the hallway outside of the apartment. It was such a rare moment of silence. It was a moment when there were no responsibilities, marriage, or worries.
But, this moment did not last for long. The children were crying. The husband and wife ran to the room. It turned out that the daughter wanted to get off the bed and stepped down badly, injuring her ankle a little bit. And as soon as the sister started crying, so did the brother as well.
“What is wrong with you two?” the father shouted.
“How can you be that stupid? How can you be that stupid and careless?” the mother screamed. The daughter confusedly shrugged her shoulders and sobbed. Neither she, nor her brother knew what they were allowed to do, or how they were supposed to act. The sister looked at the brother. There was fear and anticipation on his face. Numerous nights, the sister spent listening to her brother whimper in his sleep, unconsciously. Sometimes the boy was annoying and he was behaving badly, but he certainly did not deserve so much pain. Simply, the children could not understand why their parents did not like them more times than they liked them. The parents were holding them in their arms, and laughed with them. Still the humiliation from all the hits and wicked words was stronger than happiness. Maybe, after becoming adults, the children might think that their childhood was how it should be. They might even treat their own children the same way. But, at the moment, the sister and brother could not understand.
“Come now, the dinner will be ready soon,” the father said and the family went into the living room.
“Tomorrow, your mother is coming, so she’ll look after them,” the wife said. The children turned towards her.
“Grandma comes?” the boy asked.
“Yes, grandma is coming,” the father said.
“If you’re good, she’ll bring you something nice,” the mother replied.
“I completely forgot about that,” the man said. She was his mother, and surely he was glad that she was coming, but the last few days were intense for him, especially considering a possible raise, so he could not put up with her on top of everything else. Besides, he knew that his mother and his wife did not get along that well. They never fought, but it was stressful for the two of them to look at each other. Whenever the three of them were in the room, he would somehow end up in the middle, between the two of them. And through various forms of manipulation his mother and his wife were trying to win him over. He did not know why they were doing that. He did not see himself as a reward for anything. That is why he decided to avoid any possible trouble. His sudden plan was to take his wife to a dinner, maybe to take her to a small hotel when his mother comes. Better yet, he was going to call his father to show up, too, so that the grandparents could take care of the grandchildren. His wife and he would then have a chance to leave everything behind, at least for one night. They would celebrate his raise, the one he had not got yet.
“What are you smiling at?” the wife asked, noticing his lips stretching to both sides.
“I don’t remember the last time we were alone together. Do you?” the man replied.
“What do you have in mind?” the woman said.
“I’ll tell you, I need to make a call,” the man said. He went to take his phone from his jacket, when he heard smashing of the glass and the boy and girl screaming again.
The children must have done something, and then the parents were going to shout at them. Every night, the Latin teacher was listening to their fights and arguments. And every morning when they took their children to kindergarten, they would wake her up the same way. How could they not get tired of it by now? If she had known who her neighbours were going to be when she was moving in the apartment next to theirs, she would have searched for another place to live. There were times when they were unbearable, but other times the teacher thought how sad it all was. She did not know why they were fighting, she just wanted them to stop. She had enough of her own problems. She did not need theirs, too. Besides, she heard too many fights, and every next one made her sick. She simply did not see the point of all of that.