“I’ll see you tomorrow,” she said, holding up her hand and waving: open, close, open. A toddler bye-bye. She closed the door, knowing he would stand on the other side for another minute, waiting and hoping for a change of heart. There wasn’t a heart in her chest that could change.
Her eyes looked away from the door and turned to the window. Her feet followed. The hotel stood on the bank of a river. As she stood, toes on the carpet, feet moist, she imagined the river water. She watched the dirty waves, the rocks and fish and mud, and she felt. She knew her feet, black-bottomed and clutching the particles of shoe dirt picked up from the carpet, were on flat, dry land. But her body rocked as she mimicked the water. It remembered. The way a mother of years ago will sometimes stand and sway when she sees another woman cradling and rocking a baby, even if her own arms are empty. Malina rocked now. She knew that. Less alone than she was then. Or maybe not. There was a knock at the door.
“Just a moment, Love.”
She responded to the knock in her professional voice without needing to remind herself to do it. She squeezed the sight of the water from her eyes and walked away from the door and window, swaying, toward the tiny closet by the door. Inside, hung squarely on a hanger forever attached to the rod, was her navy dress. Her work uniform. A size too small now. Soon it would be two sizes. She freed it from the hanger and stepped inside it. With an arch of her back to start the zipper and a lean forward to finish it, she managed to zip it. The seams argued at the hips and protested at the sides of her breasts. But for tonight, it worked. The knock sounded again at the door.
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