A clean slate.
By noon, the following day. Tina found herself in a new city, with a different kind of atmosphere. It was crowded on the sidewalks, there was traffic jam, tons of people in a hurry to get to somewhere, and when Tina joined the crowd of strange faces, she wondered if like her, they had all once been new in the city; all strangers in a foreign land. She bought food from the roadside, and devoured it hungrily. She’d tried to blend in, and not draw attention to herself. However she bumped into a couple of people, who questioned if she was new in the city. Tina went about the big city with the card Agatha had given her, asking about that particular firm that employed maids. She was given directions and by the time she saw the big building of the agency that hired maids, she had spent all of her energy and all the change in Agatha’s purse.
She had been waiting for hours, and it was five ‘o’clock on the dot when the huge woman at the desk beckoned on her to fill out a form. As Tina stood at the counter filling it out, she felt the woman’s eyes on her.
“You sure you want to be a maid?” the huge woman bellowed.
“A cleaning lady, yes.”
“No difference between a maid and a cleaning lady, fill out all your details. I hope the cops aren’t after you?”
“No… not at all.”
“Good, because we don’t want any kind of trouble. You will have to send us a reference letter in a week. I am only taking you without one, because you just lost your parents in an accident, and you have nowhere else to go.”
Tina nodded appreciatively. She was grateful that the woman believed her story. She wasn’t comfortable with lying but now not only was she lying, she was going to live a lie. Now her name was no more Tina but Sophie, she had been in her first year of college and dropped out soon after her parents passed away in a ghastly motor accident. She had no relatives or siblings alive. It was a simple story, and easy to remember. She had cooked it up on the long ride to the new city. Tina was glad the woman didn’t ask questions like which college, she had been enrolled in. It would have only led to more lies, than she could keep up with it.
“Here, let me see, Female, Name, Sophie Owell. 19 years of age. We will check this against the wanted list and then off you go into your new home.”
Tina smiled, and thanked her. The woman shrugged, but deep down she was relieved. Tina was saving her in a way, there was a difficult client, whom all their old cleaning ladies had refused to work for as an in house maid. But Tina had no idea of what she was getting herself into, and she looked almost too happy to care about that. When the woman went inside to check her name on the list, Tina smiled ruefully, she hadn’t expected to lie, or fool anyone. But desperate times called for desperate measures, she reminded herself of Agatha’s favorite saying.
“I called our client, and he is pleased with your profile. Any moment from now, he will be here,” the woman said as she returned, and for the first time Tina found it necessary to inquire of this said client, she was to work for.
“Excuse me, I will be working for a family right?”
“Yes, I guess so.”
“A man, a wife and a son. Isn’t that a family?”
Tina flashed a grateful smile.
“Well, they died last year.”
“What! That’s horrible. So he lives alone?”
“What do you mean by that?”
Before the woman could offer any answer, a young man dressed in a chauffeur’s attire caught their attention.
“Good evening ladies, I am here to pick up Miss Sophie.”
Tina looked at him for a moment and went on to badger the woman to answer her question. It took a moment before she realized that he had meant her, as she was now Miss Sophie, the name sounded all so new and fancy, like some new pair of shoes.
“I believe he is here for you. Here is our card. Call us, if a problem arises. If you do not like the place, feel free to let us know.”
“Thank you, I will be in touch.” Tina said, placing the card in her bag. She hoped she wouldn’t need it, as there would be no problems arising,
The chauffeur led her to the car and she climbed onto the back seat, she gave the building a long, hard look before they drove off.
It was a five minutes’ drive, no wonder he had appeared so quickly to get her, it seemed like a quiet neighborhood, there were a few people on the streets, a few barks here and there, the area was very residential. She got out of the car, and the chauffeur offered to carry her bag behind her, when she got to the door, she rang the bell twice, and there was no response. She was going for the third time when the door creaked open.
A tall man in a grey robe stood at the door, a hairy chest and baffled look on his face.
“Are you the live in maid?”
“Yes sir.” Tina responded baffled at the improper attire she was welcomed with it. Was this her Employer? Did he have a family? A new wife perhaps.
“Come on in, go to the door on the left, keep your things there and I will show you around.”
Tina did as she was told and the chauffeur was no longer in sight, when she returned.
“Now pay attention to details. I am sorry, forgive my manners? I assume you have a name?”
“Yes, Tina… Sophie.”
“Tina or Sophie, which is it?”
“Hmmm, follow me. Well, I do not tolerate thieves, creeps, weirdos, or anything in between. I will show you where you go and where you don’t. Do you have any concerns about your room? People like you have once complained about the size.”
“No concerns, sir.”
“Now this is the… you don’t go in here.” It was the first room on the left by the stairs, “it belongs to my wife.”
“You have a wife!” Tina gasped, almost too relieved.
“Did I ever say or imply that I didn’t?” the man turned to her, a bright scowl on his face, he looked wicked.
“No… of course not, who else lives here, if I may ask? I would be happy to meet them.”
“I have a son. But I am afraid for now you will have to deal with only me. The room next to this is my son’s. It is also out of bounds for you. Truthfully, I would like it if you never come up here, unless I demand so. You will clean my room only when I am in it. I don’t like people snooping around.”
“Now, I think that’s all. If you don’t think you can handle these rules, feel free to say so. Any concerns?”
“Good, you may retire to your post. “
“Okay, now, thanks.”
She felt the intense scrutiny bore holes behind her back as she walked down the stairs. Was it normal for a home where three people lived to feel so cold and bare? It was eerie, and she wanted to run, run as far as her legs could carry her, but she only felt woozy by the cold air rushing in, besides what would she tell the agency that she was scared of the house, the owner, and the doors she wasn’t supposed to go into, and what they contained? This was not going to end well, she felt it deep down. But she had nowhere else to go.
Her room, she was sure was built as a store for cleaning items, but somehow the man managed to fit a small sized mattress into it, there was barely enough room to turn around, and she knew she would have to make use of the guest bathroom. She wondered why he hadn’t thought of giving her the room too. It surely was more spacious and wasn’t in use. Maybe he was oblivious to his surroundings, she would suggest it to him the next day. A few minutes into the next day, Tina felt a pressing urge to use the bathroom. She left her room and was on her way to the guest room, when she stumbled on something, it was dark and she hadn’t turned on the light. When she got up, she saw glowing eyes staring at her and she let out a loud scream.
“Oh my god!”
“What? What is it? Her employer was down in a minute, don’t you respect the hours of rest?” he asked scowling.
Tina had switched on the light, her heart still pounding in her chest as she stared at the pussy cat.
“A mere kitten, makes you yell like a lunatic! Come on, Fustio, seems someone does not like you.”
“By the way, what are you doing up this early?”
“The bathroom. I had to use the bathroom.”
Tina hurried away under the angry gaze of her employer, she had to release herself, it was a miracle she hadn’t let it out on the sight of that creature. That cat was fat, and it looked more like a wild street cat, than a pet, and those eyes too. She sure had seen cats before, many of them lived in her old neighborhood, but this one was really different.
She tried to fall asleep when she got back into her room, but she couldn’t. For a moment she was thinking of the normal looking cats at her neighborhood, and then Agatha, then her friends, Elvis. It felt like a dream, and she would wake up soon. It would be such a good scare, but it would remain only a dream. She took out the card Elvin had given her, maybe she would call after all. Maybe she couldn’t live with such a strange man in an even stranger house. But she will wait, maybe his wife and son would be warmer. She was really eager to see them, to talk to someone, anybody. She fell asleep soon after and when she woke up the sun was already out. Her employer was out of bed, he didn’t look pleased about her late entrance into the kitchen.
“Good morning Sir. It’s such a beautiful day, would you like me to prepare breakfast for everyone?”
“Beautiful? Huh? Is that why you were screaming last night?”
“I can set my own breakfast, thank you very much.”
“Okay, so is there anything I can do for you?”
“That’s a very silly question, don’t you think? Look around you, is there anything that needs to be done?”
“Sure, it’s a little dusty. I will tidy up.”
“I don’t know how to say this, but you see last night you scared Fustio, and he is very sensitive and important to me. I am not sure he likes you very much. If Futsio doesn’t like you, I am afraid this might not be a good idea.”
Was her employer really okay? Did he hit his head somewhere? That stupid fat cat almost made her pee on herself.
And what now, she scared him?
“I don’t know what to say sir, I didn’t know you had a cat. I was a bit frightened myself.”
“You think… wait… you think Futsio is frightening?”
“No…not frightening…just the situation we met was.”
“Well, you have to apologize.”
“I am sorry.”
“Not to me, to Futsio.”
“Because he is hurt.”
“Sir, I think he is just a cat. I don’t think he cares about those circumstances. If you don’t mind, I will go tidy up now,
I am eager to meet your wife. Perhaps she will come down for breakfast?”
He grunted dismissively, “Just go about your thing, don’t neglect to feed Futsio and you are not allowed into the first room by your left and the second one by your left. Do not go into my room as well.”
“Alright, sir.” Weirdo, she thought.
Tina cleaned everywhere she was allowed to go into. It was tasking, regarding the house did not look as big or as dirty, until she began cleaning it. The more tasking job was getting Fustio to eat. Her employer was right, the cat really did not like her, or maybe he wasn’t just in the mood for milk. He had left her a note on the kitchen counter. He would be back in the evening and she was supposed to get some grocery at the store. When she was done arranging and putting things in order, she marveled at her home décor skills, the house felt warmer, it was almost like the furniture and other paraphernalia in the home were never used or even touched. She came across a photograph of him and his wife with their little son, she wiped the dust across their faces, and wondered if the woman was alright, she hadn’t heard a sound from her all day. She wondered if she needed anything, food perhaps. But she knew better than to go knocking, she was curious but at the same time, she remembered the warning. She locked the cat in and went out to get the groceries. On her way home, she remembered she had Elvin’s number somewhere in her purse, and decided that she would give him a call at a phone booth.
She was a few steps away from the booth, when a tall man frightened her by rushing towards her, but not at her, he was heading for the booth, she was still gawking when he got into it and began dialing.
“Hey! Excuse me, I got here first!”
The man held up a hand at her to keep quiet, and continued dialing. Tina was raining curses under her breath,
“Entitled rich people who cannot differentiate between what belongs to them and what is public property!”
After a while she stopped fuming and began admiring the Honda car in front of her, it was the nicest car she had ever seen, she wanted to touch it, to seat inside and feel the seats with her bare hands. Every second she stood there it seemed to be getting colder, and he was taking so long on the phone. She wondered how he could afford such a nice car, and still didn’t own a mobile phone.
“Hey, I am sorry. It was really urgent.”
Tina was interrupted from her thoughts, and as she looked up her eyes met the older man’s face. god! Was he fine! She did not mean to admit it, but it was glaring, she wondered why her mother never found these kind of older men for her, somehow she was always presented with men whom old age had really taken a toll on.
“Hey,” he said, interrupting her thoughts again.
“Yes, it’s okay. I guess it was urgent. It’s your money anyways, you can take all the time you need.”
Tina blinked multiple times, taken further aback by the sensation he pulled with a rather innocent smile.
“I can wait and drop you off when you are done. Those must be heavy,” he said, pointing at the grocery bags.
“No, it’s alright. I don’t live far.”
“Okay, then. Have a nice day.”
He hurried back into his car, just as suddenly as he appeared, he drove away. Tina kept staring till the car was out of sight. She had never seen such a mighty combination, the car was indeed so beautiful, but the owner was even more charming. He looked and sounded elegant, from his manner you could tell he knew a lot of things. If all men were like that in the city, then things were really promising for her, she thought smiling.
When she finally called Elvin, it rang thrice but there was no answer. She wasn’t deterred as the encounter with the stranger, had somehow put her in good spirits.
Things were rather far from promising, when she got home with the groceries and found her employer scowling and fuming, it was obvious he had been waiting for her.
She approached him with care, “Welcome back, sir?”
“Why what?” she asked.
“Why did you upset her?”
“I don’t, I didn’t _”
“My wife is upset, you moved some things in the house.”
“I haven’t even met her yet. As a matter of fact, I haven’t even heard a sound from her. I am sorry, most things were out of place.”
The man began crying, she noticed he was clutching the photograph, she had cleaned earlier.
“What can I do sir? I can rearrange them back.”
“Pacify her, make her happy. Make her stay.”
“I should go into her room, or do I wait till she comes down?”
“Just make her happy,” he sobbed loudly.
Tina was even more frightened than she had been when she ran into Futsio and almost peed on herself. Why was he crying over such a little matter? The possibility of his wife coming down was close to zero. She hadn’t come to see her when she arrived and she didn’t even come down for breakfast and lunch. Tina had always wondered what was behind the door, but now her curiosity was dead. She was scared, because she was really about to find out. Maybe the lady was disabled, or had a contagious disease that didn’t allow her to come in contact with others.
When Tina got to the doormat of her room, she took a sharp breath in and turned the door knob.
Dave walker gave a long sigh, and Tangy turned to her husband on the left side of the bed.
“Was it that bad?”
“Common, it was wonderful.”
“It’s okay, I don’t expect things to be the same way. But don’t you ever think that I don’t enjoy having sex with you.”
“Oh, honey. Maybe it’s because I am always working and when I come home, I just want to rest you know.”
“You are stressed, do you want me to rub your foot?”
Tangy sat up smiling, “I will love that.”
Tangy was moaning delightfully, as Dave caressed the soft spots on her foot, she stopped when he suddenly asked,
“Do you still think of Sophie?”
“Yes… of course I do.”
“I know, such a stupid question. I just wonder why it never happened again, you know.”
“Another child? We have been trying for a while.”
“C’mon, you never wanted children of your own. Do you now? Because, you know I am past that.”
“We have Dave and Tania and Sophie. We have children of our own. Like it or not, we are blessed woman.”
“Sophie? Did we give up too soon? Do you think she is still alive?”
“I don’t think she is dead. She feels very much alive to me, it feels only like yesterday, when you were back from the hospital carrying her in your arms, so little and precious, Tania would love her as a big sister…”
“Dave, why all this now? Do you want children?”
“No, no. I am just blabbing. But we need a maid. I don’t want you to keep overworking yourself. We need all the help we can get, raising those two.”
“You are right. I just don’t know, if I can let another stranger into our home.”
“Don’t worry about that. I will make sure that never happens again. To think that some people are just living lunatics.”
Tangy kissed his forehead, “What will I do without you Dave?”
“Probably have children of your own.” He said with a sad smile.
“We both know that’s not true. Come here, you are the healthiest man I know. Look at you! You are not even aging.”
“All flattery, Tangy. It takes me five more minutes to get up every morning.”
Tangy laughed, “That’s because you wake up late and then you get so much in a hurry. You even left your phone at home today, like what if there was an emergency or something?”
Dave laughed, “Funny thing, there was one. I had to make a call today, and I had to use the phone booth.”
“Sometimes, I wonder how your ass still got a job.”
They both laughed at the comment. And the rest of their evening was spent teasing and laughing.
To be continued…