Marina’s voice had faded years ago; for days at a time she was completely silent. She coughed, and the stranger, a dark man half-buried in shadows, glanced at her: the whites of his eyes flicked at her, flicked away.
“The drawers are all full of books,” he said. “Where are the knives?”
Marina lowered herself down the stairs as if into a slippery bath. “To the left. Bottom drawer. Under By the Light of the Fairy Moon, by Arthur Miller. Poetry.”
The man opened the drawer, pulled out the book, ruffled its pages. His nostrils may have widened to take in the scent of its slowly decaying pages. “First edition?”
Marine nodded, and the intruder set the book aside slowly, brushing its cover with his fingers, as if promising it to himself for later.
The knife was old and, shamefully, spotted with rust.
“Don’t you have–?”
Marina shrugged. “I’m old. Two orderlies bring my meals to the door, already hot. And I never liked to cook. I keep it around in case I need to cut the tape on a package.”
“He said you’d have a lot of books, but–” He gestured with the knife.
“This is–yes, it’s 1984. The year I finally admitted I was old and no longer needed to go through the motions of fussing around in here.”
Marina explained about the years. “Not many books in this lot I would mind losing, to tell you the truth,” she said. “Sometimes–but what are you doing here? Are you a burglar?”