White River, Bulgaria, 12 January 1978
Tonka got out at the doorstep of the worn-out village house carrying in her both hands a big kettle full of hot water. It was Tuesday, a day when she was doing her laundry. She poured the water into a big bathtub, put it under the tap to fill it with cold water and pulled herself up, fixing her red headscarf which surrounded her face and sticking it’s ends inside.
“Ljudmila!” she cried from the top of her lungs. “Where are you, dear neighbor, to talk to me for a while!”
The door of the next house, which was divided from hers only by a fence from branches and waste, opened and her neighbor Ljudmila got out on the doorstep. Her face was also wrapped into a headscarf, only blue one. She stepped very near the fence, and even climbed the branches a bit.
“I see it’s your laundry day, Tonka” said she “Fine work it is you are doing today.”
“So it has to be, dear, what can I do, all clothes are dirty and my Bogdan will not have his long johns to wear tomorrow. What’s up? I see you are not in your yard. Did you visit Penka last night?”
“I did, dear, and she said lots of awful things. All night I couldn’t sleep and I was thinking. I got worried so much.”
“The girl from our village Frosina. She seems to be pregnant!”
“Aha, I know her. She fell so much in love with master Kostadin’s son Vanjo. Such a silly girl! Like there is only one man in the world. I’m sure he doesn’t love her at all. When I go digging in the mornings, I always meet him court another girl. He can have anyone he wants, he wouldn’t be carried away by her rags. He just wants to get her pregnant, and when he does she will jump in the White River to drown!”
“His father hired her to peel corn and she told one of the girls!”
“She hopes she will marry him that way, but it is all in vain! Is that what she is doing right now? Last summer she dug potatoes at their farmland! I don’t know what is that girl imagining when she tries to court a man! Since the world exists, everybody knows a man marries when he wants, and a girl when she is wanted! She is just chasing Vanjo around. Vanjo can not marry her even if he wants to because his father will never let him do it! He will marry some rich girl. “
“Oh, I just remembered, that is the new stuff, Tonke! Vanjo is getting married.”
Tonka opened her mouth and widened her eyes. The water started pouring over the edges of the bathtub and she jerked and started to turn the tap quickly.
“What are you saying, Ljudmila! Master Kostadin weds his son?”
“He does, and the wedding is in three weeks. We are all invited.”
“Oh, me and Bogdan are going!”
“Ljudmila, and what about Frosina? You say she is pregnant!”
“Oh, don’t be silly, Tonka. Who knows is it really true? They all say don’t take my word for it, please don’t let it turn out that I said so!”
“Yes, yes, you are right. Let’s mind our own business. She will find her resource. Anyway, who made the stupid girl do those things when she is not married?”
“Yes, yes, you are right. It is none of our business.”
“Let me finish my laundry. Ljudmila, your onion started to smell. It will burn if you don’t check on it.”
“I was going to say the same!”
And Ljudmila entered her house, which was even more worn-out than the next one, and closed the door behind her.