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Things start going wrong when one of Rosa loses one of her washing customers.
That night, she takes her irritation out on Liesel, giving her an extra hard washing along with the usual helping of verbal stings.
About a week later, Rosa decides Liesel should pick up and deliver the washing. She says: "Those rich people are less likely to fire us if you're the one standing in front of them. If they ask […], tell them I'm sick. And look sad when you tell them." (15.16)
Rosa threatens Liesel with the wooden spoon. The spoon is what she'll get if she doesn't bring home the money, messes up the laundry, or goofs off
Liesel tells Rosa what she wants to hear, which is "Yes, Mama" (15.28).
Saying that and actually following Rosa's instructions are the best way for Liesel to stay off of Rosa's bad side.
Liesel is fond of her new job, for the most part.
She's also fond of the remaining four customers, the last of whom is "Frau Hermann, the mayor's wife, standing fluffy-haired and shivery in her enormous, cold-aired doorway" (15.35).
Rudy accompanies Liesel on her duties from time to time.
It's now mid-January (1940), and Liesel's class is doing a letter writing exercise.
At home, Liesel asks Hans if she can write to her real mother.
Clearly uncomfortable, Hans says that the foster-care lady, Frau Heinrich, who is also uncomfortable on the topic of Liesel's mother, might be able to deliver it.
Liesel pushes away the sense that something is wrong and spends three hours writing her first letter to her mother.
Later this night, Liesel hears Rosa asking Hans why Liesel is writing to her mother. We are told that Rosa's "voice is surprisingly calm and caring" (15.57).
Now Liesel is sure something is wrong.
Rosa also says, "Who knows where she is? Who knows what they've done to her?" (15.59).
Curled up in a ball
in her bed, Liesel asks herself those same questions.
She also wonders who Rosa is talking about when she says, "they" (15.64).