We took the five-twenty train to the city. The commute was over an hour each way, but neither of us seemed to mind. Clara sketched the shoes of other passengers and the curves of empty seats. While I read, or pretended to read, between glances at her drawings. During the winter months, we left the station and returned to the station in the dark, which always made the day feel much longer.
When I first took the job, my parents gasped at the routine. They said it would be much too hard on Clara, that she had already been through so much, losing her father. But I knew we needed the change. It gave us the chance to get away from the middle of nowhere without having to completely leave, completely let go. I probably could have arranged to telecommute a couple of days a week, but partial participation just didn’t feel like an option. And then I found an incredible school for Clara, where she is challenged and excited and already knows more about art history and biology than I ever did. She just joined a program that does a series of field studies out in the rivers and up in the mountains. Clara says it’s like we get to live in two different places. We get a solid slice of the city during the week, and then we get to go home – where it’s quiet enough to hear the wind and on clear nights, you can see stars between the stars.
And then one day, near the end of March, someone followed us home. He walked into the house no more than half an hour after we had gotten home. At first I thought it was one of the neighbors, but then this man in a navy flannel and vest appeared in my kitchen. He said, Oh, Hello. Like he hadn’t expected me to be there, in my kitchen. I held up the knife I was using to trim the broccoli. He held up his hands and asked me to come sit on the couch. Clara was upstairs. When I asked him what he wanted, he smirked and dipped his head down to the left, like a twitch or he was cracking his neck. I told him he should just leave before I call the police. He held up his hands to surrender. No need, no need, he said. And then he smirked and cracked his neck again.