“Freida, have you seen my socks?”
“Oh how perfect, Lukas! You cannot keep track even of your own socks and you think it is good to go and live by yourself!”
“I won’t be alone. I’ll be in the barracks with twenty other men.”
“And which of all those men is going to keep track of your socks like I can?”
“None of them, Freida. I suppose I’ll just have to get used to walking around barefoot.”
Freida didn’t find Lukas’s solution very funny. She turned in a huff and walked walked out of the room.
“Freida…” Lukas implored, dropping the bundle of clothes on the floor and hurrying after her into the small kitchen that doubled as a receiving room. Freida tried to hurry out the front door before Lukas could catch her, but as her hand turned the knob his powerful fingers held hers fast.
“Let go of me!” she protested. “Let go of me, you brute!”
“Freida, please! You aren’t being very fair.”
“Fair?! What of any of this is fair? Is leaving behind the woman who loved you fair?!”
“The woman who loves me, Freida.”
Freida pursed her lips and looked upward defiantly.
“The woman who loves me, Freida. And I love her, too.”
He released her hand, bent down, and kissed her brow, but she did not return his affection.
“Freida, please. You know that I go for both our sakes. For a better future together. I go because of our love!”
“Ecch!” she scoffed. “Such a love! This was not how my father showed his love for my mother. He stayed at home and fed her until she was fat and held her close!”
“I, too, intend to feed you until you are fat and hold you close,” Lukas’s hand playfully reached around Freida’s waist but she slapped it, hard enough to hurt. Lukas withdrew his hand and looked at fingers in surprise. “But not all of us were born as wealthy butchers!” he concluded, then stormed back to the bedroom.
“But you don’t have to be!” now it was Freida’s turn to chase after him. “You’re right, my father was born well, he didn’t have to earn his way, but that means we don’t have to either! He would help us if we just asked him.”
“Freida, we’ve been through this. If I am to marry you I have to know that I can provide for you with my own two hands. How could I live knowing that I can only provide for you through another man? What if something unfortunate happened to him?”
“If something should happen to my father then we would get a fat inheritance. Good!”
“Freida!” Lukas scolded.
“Never mind my father. So you don’t want to rely on him, fine. I am content to play poor with you, Lukas, but why does it have to be so long apart? You could find work here in the city.”
“Work that doesn’t pay half of what the mines do, and not enough to keep our rent.”
“And I would find work, too.”
“That wouldn’t pay a fourth what the mines do, and still not enough to keep our rent! And who would be home to watch the babies then?”
“There will be no babies either way. I can’t even stand to look at you anymore.”
“Freida, be reasonable.”
“No, Lukas! You ask me to be poor, I accept that. But you ask me to be poor and alone?! That is not reasonable!”
Lukas looked up from his packing thoughtfully. “I see, Freida. Now you are speaking plainly.”
“You are trying to put me through hardship without even your company to make it tolerable, and I do not accept that!”
“I see, I see…. This life of mine, it is too much for you.”
“Yes! It is too much!”
Lukas lifted the last of the clothes off the floor and slowly placed them in his traveling case.
“But still you pack?”
“This is my life, Freida. I am sorry.”
Freida’s eyes went wide and her nostrils narrow. “So…this is what you choose?”
“For me there is no choice. My life is what it is. I am who I am.”
“Very well…” she placed her hands on her hips, foot stamping furiously. “Yes, it is your life, it is who you are. But this is not us anymore, Lukas. Do you hear me?! I am done!”
“Yes, Freida. I understand.” Lukas shut the suitcase, closed its clasps, and lowered it off the bed and to his side. Somberly he began his walk towards the front door.
“Get out of here, Lukas!” Freida shouted. “Get out and do not come back! Or do. It won’t matter. I won’t be here!”
“I understand, Freida,” he shuffled to the door and turned the knob in his hands.
“Find yourself another woman in the mining town! Someone poor and dirty woman who loves men covered in soot!”
Lukas paused for a moment in the doorway and turned as if about to say something, but then shook his head and turned back again. “Goodbye, Freida,” he murmured, then closed the door behind him and stumped his way down the stairs.
“How dare you waste my year!” Freida continued to shout at the closed door. “How dare you try to waste my whole life!”
And though there never came any response, Freida continued her tirade, on and off for another hour. Then she went to bed, though she wasn’t tired, and lay there fuming through the night.