“He’s awfully quiet,” Maria said.
Clara blushed. “Yes, he is,” she said.
“What do you think he’s doing now?” Maria said.
“Probably thinking,” Clara said. “I mean, I assume he’s thinking. When he’s thinking he’s usually very quiet. That’s what writers “do”, I think. They think a lot.”
“How do you know he’s not sleeping?”
“Oh, he doesn’t sleep when he’s at work.”
“Must be a very interesting kind of work, writing is.”
Clara lowered the tea cup and looked at Maria. Maria looked at her.
“How’s Jeffrey?” Clara asked.
“Oh, he’s great,” Maria said. “He’s at the office right now.”
“Oh, he has work even on a Saturday?”
“Yup. He reserves Saturdays for his clients.”
“How’s the business?”
“Doing great, thank God. We’re finally gaining momentum. The bookings have picked up especially since we’re approaching the Holidays.”
Clara looked down at her lap.
“How about you? How are you guys doing?” Maria said.
“Oh, you know, we’re doing okay, I guess,” Clara said. “I mean, there’s food on the table, and we have this house. We’re behind on our savings for the kids’ tuition, but we’ll find a way. One day at a time, that’s what Roger always tells me.”
“I haven’t seen his pieces on the newspapers and magazines recently. What’s he up to?”
“Oh, he says he needs time to think about where he’s craft is going right now. It’s been more than a year since he last got published in one of the magazines. But he’s optimistic about things. I could sense it that he’s hopeful. Ever since I told him that he could quit his day job so he could finally focus on his writing, he’s become more positive. When we promised him that we will give him at least four hours each day to focus on his work, he beamed up and became less sullen and irritable.”
“He quit his job?”
“Yes. He hated the graveyard shift. He told me he barely had time left for reading and writing.”
“But how will you manage it? I mean, financially?”
“I plan to do this virtual assistant thing online during my spare time.”
“You still have spare time at the end of the day, after work and after taking care of the kids?”
Clara was silent.
“I hadn’t realized it had been over a year since he got published. What is he writing about now?” Maria said.
“I, well, I really don’t know. He doesn’t share his stories until after he’s done with them,” Clara said.
Clara looked away. Maria glanced at the clock on the wall. The voices of the children were heard outside the house. Desiree, Clara’s eldest daughter, emerged from the main entrance, holding a basket of groceries.
“Is Papa out yet?” Desiree said.
“Not yet, dear,” Clara said.
Desiree held Clara’s hand and pressed it against her forehead.
“What time will he go out of his cave?”
“Don’t joke like that, Desiree.”
“Sorry, I can’t help it.”
“Where’s your sister? Isn’t she with you?”
“She’s outside with Michael.”
“What shall we prepare for your daddy tonight?”
“Oh, the usual. Carbonara. Buttered chicken. Lechon paksiw. Dinuguan.”
“Is that it? What about the cake?”
“It’s in the car.”
Mother and daughter glanced at the clock simultaneously.
“He should be out by now. He’s usually prompt,” Clara said.
“He’s awfully quiet, isn’t he mom?” Desiree said.
“Yes, he is. You know he’s sometimes like that.”
“Can I knock on the door?”
“No. You know he dislikes distractions.”
“But he could just be napping.”
“Your father doesn’t want to be disturbed. Let’s give him his space. He’s probably just ruminating about something.”
“Fine. I’ll get the cake and get things started. It’s almost five.”
Maria rose from her seat. “I better be going, too, Clar.”
“What? I thought you were joining us tonight? It’s his birthday.”
“I know, I’m sorry. Jeff texted me just now that he wants us and the boys to meet him at the office. He said he has some good news to share with us.”
“Oh. Well. Alright then. I’ll tell Roger you dropped by.”
“Sure, give my regards to him.” Maria pressed Clara’s hand and kissed her on the cheek. The two women embraced.
When Maria left the house, Clara resumed staring at the door.