She got a part-time job as a waitress in a restaurant shortly after they settled in this new place. The two-rooms apartment they moved in was on the top floor of a hundred years old building. The wooden stairs led the way to the attic which always seemed mysterious to her, she was up there once, it was dark and silent, some old abandoned furniture with a smell of rotten wood was left there. A chilly feeling of discomfort and fear caught her instantly, and then spread to her hands and feet. She ran down the stairs with her heart pounding . Are there any unsettled souls? Victims from WW 1 or WW2? The apartment itself was sparsely furnished and the bathroom which lacked shower facilities was to be shared with three other families. They lived there for about 4 – 5 years.
Supporting her family was a necessity for her. Being the oldest child, it was her duty, and she took the duty seriously. She did not quite fit in the class, her life was apparently different from her fellow classmates. Her after-school activity was nothing else but her job, not a particularly pleasant one but it provided them with money, not a considerate amount but it was still very much appreciated, and needed.
She always operated on her own, going school, taking the tram to the restaurant after school, and then returning home right before midnight. It was the winter days that were hardest. Accompanied by the heavy snow, the way back home became extra long. Her mind might be empty during these walks, what else could she think of?
She worked at several restaurants during those early years, it was in one of the restaurants that she encountered a kind lady in her seventies, who took a particular liking to her and was curious about her background. Despite her limited knowledge of the language, the conversation between them went surprisingly smoothly. Knowing she was eager to learn English, the lady brought her home to giving her some lessons. It turned out that the old lady emigrated to America and spent most of her life there before returning to Norway. She taught her how to pronounce “refrigerator” with her American accent. She brought her to the church on Sundays. Sitting on the bench in a church and listening to the sermon was something new to her. It comforted her in some way, it must be the silence and the gentle words from the priest.
This kind of guest – waitress conversation and close connection was not quite appropriate. Naturally, she was paid to take orders and serve all the restaurant guests, a longer than average conversation with a particular guest was to be avoided. The claim was not made explicitly to her, it was just that other waitresses started to serve the old lady before her.
She recognised the importance of doing her job properly, so all she could offer was a polite greeting when she passed by the table where the lady took the seat, ignoring her warm smile and the encouragement for a more generous talk. The smile then disappeared and her unmistaken disappointment touched her heart, but she ignored that as well. Her ignorance was certainly acknowledged, eventually, the kind old lady ceased to come.
She has not seen her since then. Is she still alive? The image of that lady, her warm and encouraging smile, the way she pronounced “refrigerator” sometimes appear in her mind, reminding her of the weakness of human nature, and her dreadful mistake.