That wasn’t so bad, Marta thought as she sat in her little three room home at the officer’s dwelling next to the barracks at Archangel.
Her wedding night was unexpectedly not horrible, it was uncomfortable and he was as kind as could be. It was a wife’s duty after all, if only she had loved him, she was sure it would have been entirely different.
Today, he was off — duty calls. She was left behind to do nothing. What was there to do? Oh tomorrow there will be clothes to wash and food to prepare but today there was nothing. No food in the house, no clothes that desperately needed washing. There was no money to go to town and shop.
I am all alone.
She began to resent the selfishness of needing a wife, one you pull out for special occasions and tell everyone how much you love her but, what about in the meantime?
He left no instructions, he barely said goodbye. She thought she would go outside and see if there were any other wives she could talk to or someone like cook who she could learn something from.
When she returned hours later, Phillip was there a little upset with her.
“Marta, where have you been?”
“Oh, hello Phillip. I have been out looking for a friend or someone to instruct me on what my duties are around here.”
“Your duties are to me.”
“You left me this morning and gave me no instructions, I cannot sit all day waiting for your return.”
“That is exactly what you are to do.”
“Phillip, now you are sounding like the man I first met in the carriage, not at all like the man on our wedding day.”
“Marta, I heard you were outside, knocking on doors and making a nuisance of yourself.”
“No one complained, I just needed to connect with someone.”
“What will we do for our meal tonight?”
“I already ate, at the officers club.”
“And am I not to eat this day?”
“I’m sorry, I didn’t think of you, my dear.”
“Am I to go hungry?” tears began to flow. “Why are you so heartless? Didn’t you think your wife would want to make you something for dinner and talk about your day? Isn’t that what couples do?”
“Oh, Marta it’s not bad as all that. Tomorrow we will have dinner, I will let you fix anything you want.”
“Where is the market? Where is the money? I have never cooked a meal, I have helped to put bread in the oven, stir a bowl of stew, is there anyone who could help me?”
“I don’t get paid until the end of the month.”
“What am I to do? I am hungry.”
Phillip was so upset with himself that he left and went to the officers club and drank.”
Marta stood in the darkness of their home. She vowed she would never go hungry again, she would never rely on Phillip or any man to take care of her.
That night Phillip came home completely drunk. She rolled out of bed and saw that he had a bundle that he placed on the table. She tried to engage him in conversation, but he was useless. She opened the bag and saw it was a roll, a small block of cheese and a bottle of wine.
Now if he wasn’t so drunk she could talk to him about what her life had to be. She could tell him that she was going out in the morning to find work, even if she had to walk a mile to the next town. She helped him up and brought him into her room. She sat him down and took off his boots. He tried to haul her into his embrace but she pushed him back and proceeded to take off his jacket and swung his legs onto the bed. She covered him with the single blanket and closed the door. She hung his jacket on a hook in the pantry which was more like a closet and placed his boots near the hearth.
She curled up in a chair and slept.