by Evgenia Dineva; Translated from the Bulgarian by Traci Speed

11 August 1999

“I hate her.”

I stood in my room, gritting my teeth so hard I was in danger of breaking a molar. Of course she wouldn’t come.

“Viki! Come on, you’ll miss it!” Grandma called to me from downstairs, and I slammed the phone down. I had squeezed so hard that my knuckles turned white – even though the conversation was long over – and I went downstairs.

“Who were you talking to for so long? Your father’s already waiting for you outside.”

The room smelled of wax and I wrinkled my nose, then walked to the front door without answering her.

“Wait!” she called out after me, “you can’t just go out like that to watch the eclipse.”

“Oh, grandma. That’s just old wives’ tales.”

“Old wives’, old grandmothers’ – take it. I’ll come later.”

She handed me the smoked glass and I went out to Dad in the yard. He was looking at the darkening sky, and I carefully sat down next to him on the cement border built around the garden.

“Watch out not to step on any of your grandmother’s flowers,” he joked.

“I won’t.”

I was silent, wrapping my arms around my knees.

“Who was it?” Dad asked, seeing that something was wrong. “Did you talk to your mother?”

“Yes. Dad?”

“Tell me, Viki.”

“She didn’t manage to get a ticket and there’s no way she can leave her business trip.”

“Not even for the birthday?”

“Not even for that.”

“Well, it’s nothing.” Dad looked for his cigarettes. “We’ll celebrate it when she comes. It’s better for us anyway to leave for Sofia tomorrow, and we can meet her at the station when she returns. And I’m too old now to celebrate birthdays.”

Dad lit his cigarette, and I stared at the flowers in front of me.

“Why did you marry Mom?”

He looked at me in surprise, then laughed.

“When did you grow up to ask questions like that?”

“I’ve always asked you about all kinds of things, and you’ve told me what you thought.”

“Well, that’s true,” he nodded. “You know, though, that when your mother and I met, she didn’t like me. She said we were like two parallel lines that would never meet. She thought we were so different. And I knew from the very beginning that somewhere in the distance, our lines would become one.”

Or that’s the way it seemed to you. I swallowed my reply and picked up a stick that I started digging in the ground with.

“Haven’t you noticed that Mom goes on a lot of business trips lately?”

“No,” replied as he exhaled smoke. “Her job requires it, you know.”

I stuck the stick in the dirt and leaned back. The sky grew darker and darker, as if made of aluminum.

“She’s always worked hard,” he continued. “And on top of that, she gets more beautiful with age.”

Even though I had never heard anyone talk about their wife the way my father talked about my mother, my heart sank.

“Have you thought about why she’s constantly getting dressed up and always going out with her girlfriends?”

“She needs time for himself. Everyone needs that.”

“You don’t go anywhere.”

“Well, I... it’s more difficult with these night shifts. But I’ll start.”

“That’s what you said last year.”

Either my father was deluding himself, or he loved her so much that he was afraid to admit what was going on. Then I remembered something written around the eclipse in Grandma’s newspaper. An article about nyctophilia – a strong preference for the dark. The feeling that our life is much better during the dark part of the day. Or perhaps it means that sometimes it’s better not to know everything. To stay in the dark. And as I was wondering whether to say what I knew and what had seen, Dad exclaimed, “Look! It’s starting!”

We lifted our glass and looked up. The moon was slowly creeping towards the sun until it ate it up completely, and everything around – trees, clouds, houses, and grass – turned into a dark silhouette. Silence spread over us, but it didn’t bring peace. It was like someone had abandoned us. Scarecrows in the middle of a dead field.

The darkness only lasted a few minutes, and when the eclipse ended, the sky began to get its color back. We waited there for a while, and then Dad went inside. I stayed in the yard until the sun crossed the horizon and Grandma called me for dinner.

Evgenia Dineva is an author of prose and poetry in both Bulgarian and English. She holds a degree in philology from the Centre for Eastern Languages and Cultures at Sofia University and has spent time in India. Dineva is a recipient of numerous awards for her work, including the National Award "Yana Yazova," first place for a short story at Lom-2021, the Contemporary Short Story Award at Burgas 2020, the Bronze "Irrelevant" award in 2022 for her short story "Snow Storm", and first place in a genre fiction competition in December 2022 for "Beginner's Luck." She has published her work in various publications such as New Social Poetry, Literary Journal, Ethel, and Asian Cha: Literary Journal, among others. Currently, she is working on her debut collection of poetry titled "Animals Have No Fathers" with Ars and Scribens Publishing Group, and her fiction is forthcoming in an anthology in English with Running Wild Press in the USA. Additionally, Dineva reads poetry for Autumn House Press.


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