Her old home is decked in white. Vasara jogs in place in front of the yard and rubs her hands vigorously to warm them. From here, the home looks enticing and romantic. Snow-laden treetops decorate the yard like pixies dressed in lace. They crowd around the small, thatched cottage in her mind, where elves and fairies feel at home and a fire roars in the hearth.

Except that there is no smoke billowing out of this chimney, and there never were any elves to help her make the place a home. Inside, the walls will still be flaky, the ceiling will be sporting black, moldy patches, and the roof will be dripping beneath the weight of the season’s snow. And anyway, she still can’t get inside. Someone has boarded up the hole she made before she was taken to the station. But that’s okay. She isn’t here to trespass. She just wants to check on it, to make the most of her free Sunday and see whether she still has a chance at leasing her old home.

Vasara hugs her shoulders and clenches her teeth beneath her woolen scarf. She paces to the side, inspecting the house, treading carefully between the slushy puddles and the day-old piles of snow. Boarded up is good. Empty is good. It means she can ask her boss — the head honcho who knows which strings to pull — to hurry up the bureaucracy and see whether she can get the place back.

Meeting Morta had made it clear she had better make a move before Morta succeeds in getting her greedy hands on it. The new full-time position they are offering her will make all the difference. Eight hours a day. Forty hours a week. That’s not just double her current salary; it’s triple her credibility. She’s a respectable member of the workforce now. She can afford to pay rent. Laima’s mother will have nothing more to say. And Daina… when Daina arrives, there will be no more excuses. It will be just like before. No. Better than before.

Vasara makes her way around the side of the house to the tiny garden shed in the back. The weathered, slatted door opens with a creak. The lock has been broken for as long as she can remember, and it doesn’t look like anyone even realized it was here. She takes Zenia’s old, mottled garden broom and pulls the door shut behind her. She had planned on pruning the garden beds, but that will have to wait for warmer weather. Meanwhile, she’ll just clear the muddy leaves. Tomorrow, if she gets the green light from her boss, she’ll go right after work and buy a few tubs of fresh paint for the inside. When Daina comes, the place will look so good, she’ll never want to leave.

(Excerpted from Family First, Issue 632)