Any other day Savina wouldn’t have answered the door. She would have checked the peephole, seen who it was, and hidden. But the lack of sleep was addling her brain. So when the doorbell rang, she got out of bed, as blurry as a sleepwalker, with Luca clasped to her shoulder, her only concern that please, God, don’t let this child wake up. He had nursed most of the night. Her nipples were raw. There was bottled breast milk for Judith to help, but she had worked late again preparing for a trial and then had left at dawn. The house felt empty, terrifying, Luca a kamikaze of demand that Savina couldn’t satisfy.
More ringing. If she put him down, he’d cry till she fed him. Clutching the baby, she stumbled down the hallway and opened the front door. On the porch stood her mother with two large suitcases. Her lips were tensed in a half-pucker, as if poised to give a kiss she sensed would be unwelcome.
“You don’t look like you just had a baby,” she said in a gravelly voice, different from the way Savina remembered it. Too dumbfounded to protest, she stepped aside as her mother picked up the suitcases and brushed past. Not a word in two years, yet there she was with enough luggage to last a month.
“Where’s Pop?” A safe question. Why are you here could too easily turn into How dare you come here.
“Home. Someone has to run the deli.” The trim, sturdy figure, the fitted serge dress, impenetrable as a coat of mail—much the same. But her neck was wattled and her careful beehive more salt than pepper. The suitcases thumped against her dress as she put them down. The bigger one left a damp splotch. She walked to the grand piano in the living room. “Fancy-schmancy,” she said and tapped a key.
“Ah.” The slightest wince, but it was there. She closed the lid and sat on the couch, where she scrutinized Savina. “Skinny after [End Page 56] six weeks,” she said. “Just like my family. Once we have the baby, poof, it’s like we were never pregnant. Your father’s side, they blow up like balloons and never deflate.” She lifted her chin. “This must be my grandson.”
“His name is Luca,” Savina said. Her mother looked so small, her hands clasped like a child waiting for confession. The Rose DiCorscia that Savina knew would have taken the baby already. This still, stilted woman must be an imposter, eager to be unmasked at any hint of acceptance. “What are you doing here, Ma?”
Her mother drew herself up. “It’s my only grandchild’s first Easter.”
“He still confuses night and day.”
“Start them early with tradition, they’ll carry it with them always. Besides, you can’t ignore the holiest day of the year.” She stood and walked to the bigger suitcase. A puddle had formed underneath. “Ach,” her mother clucked. She swiped the floor with a handkerchief pulled from her sleeve. “I told the butcher, it’s a long flight, use extra plastic wrap. We’ll need a pail and some bags of ice. The meat will get tough if we defrost it too fast.”
Already she was listing demands. What could possibly need defrosting? Savina clutched Luca tighter. His eyelids fluttered. He frowned, as if deciding whether he knew her, and wailed. It seemed like he’d just fallen asleep. She glanced at the mantle, where a clock lay face down, then at the shadowed circle on the entry wallpaper. That one was in the closet. She’d hidden all the clocks. Better not to count the minutes that Luca refused to sleep. He screamed louder. Judith could get him to stop just by nuzzling him.
“Don’t look so panicked, Savina.” Her mother was beside her, prodding Luca’s diaper. “Wet,” she announced and took him.
Savina stopped herself from snatching him back. He wasn’t a wishbone, to be tugged until he broke. Her mother touched his nose and murmured. His wails faded.