The first Sunday after Saint Nikola’s feast that year we didn’t go to church. I was so happy when my mother said I could go play with the neighborhood kids, something I was rarely allowed to do because I was always needed for some kind of work—taking the animals out to the meadow, feeding them, taking care of Loza. I didn’t even know what games I could play.
“No church today.”
“Why?” I asked.
She looked at me, her face slightly flushed, her eyes falling back deeper into their sockets.
“Go play,” she said. “Don’t ask so many questions.”
As I ran down the hill as fast as I could, I saw my father coming toward me. He squatted and hugged me.
“Ruza, tell tata again, that was a dream, wasn’t it?” he asked calmly.
“No tata, he really came to see me. He really said those things, I swear. He floated up in the air and all,” I said and caught myself talking with my whole body like my mother.
He looked into my eyes, looked hard, as if to see if I were lying to him. And I wasn’t. I would never lie to my father. Never.
“How about we go to Pirot and buy those red shoes for you now, Ruza.” He took my warm hand and we both skipped steps in the opposite direction, away from the church.
Marija Stajic is the 2013 Undiscovered Voices Fellow of The Writer’s Center. She wrote a blog, fact-checked and translated for the New Yorker magazine. Her fiction has been published in the Doctor T. J. Eckleburg Review, Epiphany, Lunch Ticket, Inertia, Gargoyle and another dozen literary journals, and in Defying Gravity, a collection of short stories. She has just finished her first novel, Refugee and Her Book of Secrets, and is currently looking for an agent for it.