Long black hair floats dazedly behind the steps of a young woman named Marja. Marja’s footprints sink into the sand, heavy and burdensome. The cold autumn wind wails in her ears, frigid and miserable and lonely. A single grey leaf falls from a forlorn maple tree on the path which Marja treads. She hesitates. A pale, white hand gently lifts the little, grey leaf. The hand places the leaf into the pocket of a woolen coat, and the heavy footsteps trudge onward towards a rectangular and ordinary looking house.
She diverges onto a main road, lined with neatly trimmed shrubberies and perfectly painted, pristine looking homes. As she continues down the familiar street, she sees the neighbors peeking outside their curtains disdainfully. She stops at the end of the street at a house exactly like the rest, the number ‘10’ neatly painted beside the door. She marches solemnly up the drive, pausing only a moment to check the storm gray mailbox that sits to the side of the front entrance. There is a small, yellow envelope within. Scowling, Marja shuts the lid of the mailbox without a second glance at the letter. She pulls a bronze-colored key from the same pocket that now holds the leaf and unlocks the door, quietly stepping into the house so as not to disturb anyone who might be home. Quietly stepping into the house so as not to scare her mother, who she hoped would have returned from her grocery shopping expedition.
As Marja roams the many rooms, wondering if anyone is home, she realizes she will have no such luck. She finds herself in her mother’s room. The bed is neatly made, with the corners folded in and under the mattress, and nothing is out of place. The lamp on the bedside table is placed in the center of the tabletop somewhat meticulously, and all of her mother’s cosmetic products are arranged on her vanity dresser in order of size and color.
An overwhelming sadness suddenly grasps Marja, and sweeping a layer of dust off of her mother’s bedspread, she sits down. A single tear rolls down her cheek, splashing onto the grime that coats the table beside her. Across the room, she notices a single picture frame lying in the middle of the floor. She doesn’t remember the frame being there before. Marja stands, straightens her mother’s mattress, and kneels beside the frame, delicately running her fingers over the surface before picking it up and turning it over in her palm. Marja sees her mother, smiling and radiant standing side by side with two young girls. One of the two is dark, with pale skin and jet black hair in pigtails, while the other is fair, light haired and beautiful.
‘All of them look so happy,’ Marja thinks.
The picture is clear, yet the colors have begun to fade, making the words ‘I’m sorry’ barely discernible. The words are written in thin black ink, so small that Marja would have missed them were she not looking closely enough. She stands, photo frame still in hand, and flings it against the wall in a sudden motion that makes her arm scream in protest. The glass frame shatters, and the picture of Marja’s mother and the two little girls drifts to the floor, landing facedown against the musty carpet.
Having taken off her coat and put some water on the stove for dinner, Marja sits in the old rocking chair by the front window and waits. She does not know what she is waiting for.