Lilla and Timi*  were locked in their small room again and were crying their hearts out, banging the walls with their fists and calling “édesanyja!” “édesapja!”**

I could hear each word clearly as my room was just above theirs. They have been there for hours now, without food and water, and without being able to go to the toilet.

Lilla was the oldest. She was one year older than I and two years older than her sister, Timi. She was a very tall and skinny girl. Her nose was not a usual nose, but was broader than our noses and quite flat, which was a great reason for everybody to make fun of her. Besides, she got tired all the time and the older she got, the more violet her lips were getting after walking a little longer and faster than usual. That was due to her broken heart. The older she got, the most desperate the need of a heart surgery was for her to survive. That thing was like a ticking bomb in her chest getting closer and closer to exploding with every day that passed and I was really scared each time I was with her. In fact, so was everybody in the neighborhood.

Despite this, she had very strong hands, like claws, and was very enthusiastic in using them, especially for pinching people she loved. Those pinches hurt like hell: I should know as I was very often the victim of her affection. She always found the tender muscle of my upper arms, legs, back or neck (whichever was handiest to her) and began expressing her love for me by pinching as hard as she could. My skin was blue for days. For this reason, I hated her, but still loved her for who she was.

“Those poor girls! They are left again at home by themselves,” my father said to my mother.

“They are hungry and scared… we should do something,” answered my mom.

“But what? We cannot get in: both the door and the windows are locked.”

By this time, a bunch of other neighbors were equally getting alarmed and trying to figure out a solution to get those girls out of their situation. Some of them volunteered to go to the corner of the neighborhood and check out all the taverns to see if the parents were there and get them home. The agitation and the talking began to increase and in the midst of all this, we suddenly saw movement behind the curtains of the big room (back then we did not use the terms dining room or bedroom, but big room or small room). Turns out, the parents were drunk asleep in the big room while they kept the girls locked in the small room so that they would not leave the apartment.

After some time, we heard the girls crying loud in relieve “édesanyja, éhesek vagyunk” (“mother, we are hungry”).

Later that evening we were again alarmed at loud noises coming from the first floor. Doors were slammed, objects were thrown, the girls were crying. The parents were having a big fight. Mostly it was the mother who became violent when drunk. She was a small, very delicate woman, but she became this ugly personality when she was under the influence. She would find reasons and excuses to hit her husband and verbally abuse him. He, on the other hand, was a tall and stable man who occasionally sang when he got drunk but was rarely violent. Once she managed to provoke him so badly that he lost his temper and broke her jaw: she went through the rest of her life with a deformed face. 

Suddenly the kitchen window opened, and a piece of tender loin flew out from the first floor. He wanted to cook for the girls (usually it was him who did the cooking) and she was again having her bad temper, so took the meat and threw it out. It was just lying there in the mud.

Minutes later, he managed to somehow calm her down and then we saw Lilla coming down the stairs. She went right to the piece of meat that was previously thrown out of the window. The father´s face appeared in the window: he had a plastic bag in his hand that was tied to a cord and threw it down. Lilla took up the meat and put it in the plastic bag for the father to pull it up. This was just a precaution so that the mother wouldn´t see her carry up the meat and throw it out again.

With that last action of the day, darkness and peace came down to our neighborhood.

*names changed
**very respectful Hungarian words for “mother” and “father”