Casta had been concerned about Stepan for some weeks now. The problem started at about the same time as Dymas’s wedding and Alcandor’s stroke, but things had worsened during the past few weeks.
Stepan was distracted and moody and often snapped at her. He also frequently lost patience with Cynthia. At other times he was the exact opposite and almost smothered his wife and daughter with concern. Even this troubled Casta as it wasn’t an affectionate concern, but a concern seemingly driven by some kind of inner fear. His moodiness frightened her.
He wanted to know where she and Cynthia were at all times, not letting them out of his sight. When dropping Casta at Caterina’s house, he took great pains to make sure the women of the family kept a close eye on her, and he was adamant that he didn’t want Cynthia to be left to play outside unsupervised. Caterina and the other women were also aware of this, and put it down to excessive worry about Alcandor and Casta’s advancing pregnancy.
Stepan began to increase the time he spent with Alcandor, and always in private. He came to pick up Casta every evening and spoke with his father before they left for home. Stepan now closed the door during these visits, which everyone thought strange. All the family spent time privately with Alcandor after his stroke, but the bedroom door was always left open. No one ever thought about shutting it until Stepan started to, and then it was noticed.
Everyone was puzzled by it. After all, when the door was open you couldn’t hear conversations clearly, unless the voices were raised, because the room was at the far end of the house. It just didn’t make sense.
Caterina wanted to stop these sessions between her husband and son, as Alcandor was always upset afterwards. She was surprised that she could feel such anger towards her own son, but her husband’s wellbeing greatly concerned her.
‘Do you want me to do something about these visits with Stepan?’ she asked Alcandor.
Alcandor responded with two blinks—no, he didn’t want her to do anything about Stepan’s visits.
‘Are you happy that Stepan shuts the door?’ One blink—yes, he was. ‘Would you rather that Stepan left the door open?’ Two blinks—no, he wanted it shut, too.
‘Do you want to see Stepan every time he comes?’ One blink—yes, he did.
Occasionally, Casta thought Stepan’s worries were something to do with work, as she sometimes heard arguments between her husband and his two employees, Vasilios and Fedor. She asked him what the quarrels were about but he avoided discussing it.
Stepan had employed Vasilios and Fedor Chalakas in 1964. It was a good year for them, with Cynthia being born in March of that same year. Stepan’s business, begun in 1960, was now flourishing.
Vasilios and Fedor had become family friends as well as employees, helping Stepan and Casta to build their house at the front of the workshop. They had often gone out with Stepan after work and sometimes joined Casta and Stepan for lunch. Occasionally, the three men had gone to the local football games together on the weekend to cheer on Stepan’s friends who were still in the game. Stepan hadn’t lost his passion for the game that had captivated him when he first came to Australia, although he no longer played. His family and his business were his priorities now, though he still loved to watch the game with as much passion as ever.
It troubled Casta that these two young men who had contributed so much to the success of her husband’s workshop, now seemed to be quarrelling with him so often. What had gone wrong to cause such friction?
Once, she asked Stepan to invite Fedor and Vasilios home for lunch again as they used to, but he reacted angrily. ‘They will never set foot inside our house again,’ he declared. ‘I’ve fired them both.’