Anka was sitting by the window, looking into the yard. There, sitting on a bench, were Neža and Karmen, giggling, leaning in together in laughter. It seemed to her that they were, from time to time, peering up at her window. Anka pursed her lips and her light blue eyes darkened until they almost became a little bit black. “I hate Neža and Karmen,” she thought, but apparently she thought it out loud, so that Oma heard it, who was just then bringing clean laundry into the room.
“What is it, my little Anka? Why don’t you go down to the yard? And what did you just say?”
“I’m not going outside! I won’t go out there anymore!” she said, tight-lipped, again thinking out loud what was becoming a gigantic thought, one too big for her small head.
Oma was a true grandmother, and she’d been around for a long time in this world. She went to the window, as if she wanted to adjust the curtain, and quickly glanced outside. When someone has seen much of the world, they can see very quickly what is happening in a small yard, even through she had spectacles resting on her nose and complained every day that her vision was getting worse every day.
“Come to the kitchen, little Anka, I’ve baked you something!”
“No, no, I’m just fine where I am now!” Anka stubbornly replied and pressed her nose up against the glass.
The smell of fresh apples and dough was already wafting through the apartment, and her tummy began to rumble.
Oma didn’t say anything else. She left the room, but Anka for some reason followed against her will.
In the kitchen, Oma was cutting the fresh, sweet-smelling strudel. And then she put pieces on three small plates.
“Who is that for, Oma?”Anka asked, surprised.
“Neža and Karmen are also coming, aren’t they? Go call them in. Last time Neža’s grandmother baked cookies, you told me how good they were—remember?”
Anka pictured Neža’s kitchen: the table with cookies, plates, juice, and her grandmother, along with the three girls—how they are munching on their cookies, how they are laughing and are the best friends in the world. Her dark thought wanted to stifle this picture but couldn’t, and somehow it became grey and then completely faded.
Anka ran to the window and opened it wide. The girls looked up in surprise when they heard their names, and then their mouths stretched into sunny smiles. “Oma baked strudel? Of course, Anka, we’re on our way!”
Anka pushed the button that opened the door below, and then she thought: we are up on the third floor, and there are a few too many stairs and no elevator.
“Why didn’t you come down?” they asked, panting, as they walked through the door. “It would be so much fun to play Chinese jump rope, and you jump the highest, Anka!”
The three girls were eating the strudel and giggling, drinking juice and leaning in together in laughter as Oma quietly left to finish hanging the laundry.
By Lili Potpara
translated, from the Slovene, by Kristina Zdravič Reardon
Kristina Zdravič Reardon is a PhD candidate in Literatures, Cultures, and Languages at the University of Connecticut. After earning an MFA in creative writing from the University of New Hampshire in 2010, she was awarded a Fulbright grant and spent a year in Ljubljana translating fiction. Her work has been published in World Literature Today, Words Without Borders, and Slovene Studies.
Lili Potpara is a Slovenian writer and translator. In 2002, her collection of short stories, Zgodbe na dušek (Bottoms up stories), won the Prize for Best Literary Debut from the Professional Association of Publishers and Booksellers of Slovenia.