In the kitchen in the middle of the night for a glass of water, I smell the garbage. It stinks of chicken bones and rotting fruit. Tying it closed, I leave it there. I leave it there because that is what people do. I will throw it away tomorrow in the light of day, when I am dressed.
When I am ready.
Monday is a holiday. Russia Day, the day the USSR went back to being called Russia. Another day of great change, or no change at all. There was a screaming argument with E's mother, with E joining in, begging to stay in my house. Her tears, her pleas mean nothing. There is a ruler, and the ruled. Decisions are handed down, unopen to discussion. The madwoman flashes her grin, her teeth, her fear tactics. She told me she reads the blog, that soon a lawyer will contact me or maybe not as she pretends to display mercy for dramatic effect. At one point, all that matters is what we believe. It becomes the truth.
The liar and the lie create a perfect circle.
There is nothing to do but scream back, to reject her madness outright. There can be no surrender. The fight is all I have to defend E. The fight is what keeps me whole.
E stares at me with giant eyes.
"Don't let her take me." She says, under her breath.
I want to tell her "the good guys always win". I want to tell her that "love is the strongest force in the universe". I want to tell her that her mother is just toying with us, as she has no friends, and no love in her life except for money. This game of tyranny is all she has left.
This is why she is so dangerous. She has nothing to lose.
"Let's learn how to make a peanut butter sandwich." I tell E, messing up her hair and nudging her towards the kitchen.
"Nutella and peanut butter." She corrects me, bouncing on one leg and following.
"First you open the nutella, and let it get soft." I tell her, pulling it from the fridge.
She nods, suddenly serious.
"If you learn to cook something, you always feel better if you are sad." I tell her. "And if you already feel good, then you feel really great."
She looks up at me, resting one hand on my elbow.
I see the garbage, tied up and leaning against the cabinet. I take it outside, and dump it down the chute. The safety pin is still there. A man smokes a cigarette in the hallway as he reads a book. He is always on this windowsill, avoiding someone, hovering for hours by the glass bottle that has become an ashtray.
Back inside, E holds the lopsided sandwich up to me.
"Do you want half?" She asks.