The kitchen windows are steamed over, lines painting down the old glass like miniature rivers. I have grapefruit marmalade bubbling in a pot, with cloves and fresh ginger and a splash of cheap cognac. It is Women's Day and I have put work aside. N is shoving a vacuum into every corner. E is making piles of her drawings and a bed for her dolls.
The balcony door is open and cool air rushes around the house. The smell of bitter pith turning dark and sweeter fills the rooms.
I started the day with a walk to a new flower shop that is close to us. The women inside do not stare at me like I am a flounder. I buy tiny pink roses for N and a pot of pansies for E. They work in silence, hands assisting with a quick bow, the stapler, more clear plastic, two hundred rubles in change. Outside a taxi creeps up to me, tires cracking on the black ice. A man leans out of the driver's side window. He asks me where I bought the flowers and I wave behind me telling him it is just past the pharmacy. He thanks me, maybe even smiles a little.
Downstairs I see one of the security guards walking with his two year old daughter. He is a man of very few words, depending on nods and long looks to express everything he has to say. His daughter looks up at me, a red puffy coat wrapped around her. I recognize it. It was E's many years ago, and after going through the closets one day I decided to get rid of some of her old things. N sat with me making piles of things to never give away and things to let go of.
I stare at the little girl's pale blue eyes and the curl of blonde hair that peeks from her hat. It is so strange to see a familiar object, not in a box on a shelf but warm and useful.
There is a mound of flour on the kitchen table where I crack eggs and splash a little olive oil, stirring gently with a fork and then just my hands, dribbling in a little cold water to make the pasta dough come together. I knead it until it goes smooth, wrap it in plastic, nest it in an empty spot in the fridge.
I think of E when she was two, when that red jacket was what I pulled onto her arms before we went out. I think of her tiny face and round cheeks and eyes that stared up at me, about the sling I wore under my coat that she loved to travel in as we walked to the market. She would hold one of my fingers very tight, and then loser when she fell asleep. That was me in the checkout line, pulling for cash in my pockets trying not to wake her up, then walking home and stopping at the wine shop wandering the small place for some time until I pulled a bottle from the shelf, the owner a French man and his wife always talking with me a bit, E maybe waking up and holding my finger tight again.
I cut the dough in four pieces, rolling each out until it is as thin as a few playing cards, cutting it into long strips. E trots into the kitchen, running her finger in a stray bit of flour and touching it to her nose. She stares at me, waiting for me to lean forward to get the same.
The last piece is for her to cut into whatever shapes she wishes. This will be for the children to eat, dressed with a little olive oil and a grate of Pecorino. The rest is for N and her mother and her sister who will be here soon with tulips and cards and jackets we pile up on the bed.