Authors: Lila Felix
“Excellent. The address is on the back of the letter. Can you be here in an hour?” Her voice belonged to a one time pageant queen, turned PTA mom in a pantsuit.
“Yes ma’am, I can. Thank you.”
“I will see you then, Ashland.”
I hung up first and hoped the pay wasn’t shit. But even if it was, I could save tons not paying for a place to live, plus there would be no electricity bills.
I hope I don’t have to work for some slob or a frat boy with a Richie Rich complex.
I worked myself into a frenzy after she’d left, scouring and scrubbing until everything sparkled. I stayed up all night, waiting for the opportunity to call my mother and tell her the fire was out, no need to hire a maid. I showered and changed clothes, feeling grimy after drudging through the filth all day.
I spent the rest of the early hours before dawn hammering and cutting patterns into a belt I’d been working on. My father used to carve leather as a hobby until he invented a software program and suddenly he was flying all over the country in suits. He was a good father but it was almost better when we were poor.
So when I was about twelve, I resumed his hobby where he’d left off. And then after I went ape shit, it became therapy.
Before I knew it, the sun was up and I knew my mother was too. She was the woman who went to sleep last and awoke first. It was her way. The phone rang only once before she answered.
“Good morning, Son. I haven’t changed my mind.”
“I cleaned the place up, Mom. I will keep it clean, I’m sorry.”
I heard the static as she exhaled frustration into the speaker of the phone, “It’s too late. I was going to call you this morning. I interviewed four people yesterday. I’ve picked two but I’m waiting for the background checks to come through before I send them to you. It’s for the best.”
“Mom, no. What can I do to make you change your mind?”
“Nothing. As far as I’m concerned, this conversation is over. I love you, Son. And I understand you’re still going through this phase or stage but there are just some things I won’t stand for, especially since the house you insist on treating like a garbage dump belongs to your father and me. I will call you when the background checks come in.”
She hung up after that and honestly, I didn’t have a leg to stand on. I was living in one of my parents’ rental homes, a mansion really, while I ‘recovered’. I didn’t pay rent and I was given a weekly stipend out of my trust fund. All of my bills were taken care of and my father paid off every credit card in my name after the freak out. They even paid for my online college.
But I was still in anguish.
It made me want to beat my fists against the pristinely painted walls. Sometimes I walked the inside perimeter of the house over and over again, wallowing in my agony. Logically, I didn’t understand myself. My brain could process through the whole thing in one instant and the next my chest became a speaker thumping to the bass turned up way too loud. Holly cheated on me, used me for my money and was an all around wench. I should be angry. I should be pissed beyond recognition. But instead what did I do? I had fallen into a full blown panic attack and blacked out.
After therapy started, I realized I’d been having panic attacks for years. I’d thought it was just stress or growing pains or a pulled muscle. The words panic attack never entered my mind. But Dr. Mavis helped me realize them for what they were. She was a friend of the family but thank God she was bound by the Hippocratic, otherwise my mom would have a field day with all of my confessions.
Exhausted from my cleaning session and the all night worry, I climbed the stairs and went to bed for a few hours. By the time I got up, it was noon. The sun blared through my now clean windows to show me the sham called my backyard. There were probably small children or a Crown Victoria lost in that wilderness. It used to be maintained by a gardener but I ran him off for mowing the grass at six a.m. on a Saturday morning. My mom still thought he worked here. She must not have looked through the back windows lately.
I briefly considered mowing the grass. Briefly—and then forgot about it. There was no one out there, after all. I quickly dismissed the notion and moved onto making myself cereal. I missed home cooking. I craved dinners with my parents and my sisters. I was terrified of so many normal things now. And they refused to cater to my weakness by bringing dinner to my house, afraid they were furthering my cripple.
After finishing my cereal, I threw the bowl in the sink. I went to the office and chugged through my regular routine. I checked my e-mails, checked all the social media sites, logged into my virtual classroom for messages and grades. But in less than an hour, I was back to boredom. I’d read every book in the library, my library, not the actual public library. I got on my iPod and listened to music until I calmed down the nervousness of someone visiting my house. I wondered if they would only come once a week or more frequently. The next thought hit me with such force; I faltered in my steps and nearly went through the wall behind me.
What if it’s someone who knew me before? She wouldn’t do that to me—would she?
The next three days I was consumed by the impending visitor. I finally got a call from my mom on Thursday afternoon saying the background checks came through and she was sending two people to the house, one at three and one at three thirty. She threatened my life if I didn’t answer the door and I believed her.
By two thirty, I was a wreck. My palms were sweaty, my stomach shook and I was having trouble swallowing. But a new bud had sprouted yesterday with my session with Dr. Mavis. She told me it was an opportunity to test myself, to see if I could handle some interaction with strangers. And some small part of me wondered if I could handle the challenge.
The doorbell rang exactly at three and I answered it but not before hesitating five or six times. I looked like one of those people with OCD who checked to make sure the door was locked, touching the doorknob over and over. On the other side was a woman, older and pudgy. She reminded me of Mrs. Doubtfire without the glasses or the huge purse.
I cleared my throat and bit the bullet, “Hi, I’m Breaker. Come in, please.”
She stepped in while responding, “I am Lucy. It’s very nice to meet you. I won’t beat around the bush, young man. I don’t make small talk. I’m not very sociable. I don’t watch TV and I don’t like pets.” She took a gander around the room and confirmed there were no pets.
“I’m fine with that,” I said more confidently than I thought possible.
“Good,” she said as she swept her fingers under the lampshade and then tsked at the dust she found there.
“Well, I’m assuming you’ve already met with my mother. She’s forcing me to see another person in about twenty minutes but as far as I’m concerned, the position is filled.” That last part came out sounding a lot like my father and it surprised me.
“Well, thank you, young man, I’ll let your mother know that you’ve decided.”
“Goodbye, see you soon.” And with that I shut the door on my new housekeeper. This wasn’t going to be so bad after all.
I was so content with my new arrangement that I completely forgot about the person who was to come in just minutes later. I pulled off my shirt and sat on the couch and flipped through the channels on TV when the doorbell rang. I decided not to even bother answering it since I’d already decided Lucy was just fine.
Minutes later my phone rang, my mother. She was probably calling to confirm my choice.
“Breaker James, if you don’t answer the door, I swear, I will come unglued. I don’t care if you think you’ve picked your new housekeeper. The final decision is mine and you
see both choices.”
I groaned with my hand over the speaker, “Fine, I’m going to the door. What did they do call you and rat me out?”
“Yes, and that was her instructions. Now, answer the door.” And she hung up. I threw the phone on the couch and stomped towards the door like a child.
I pulled it open, aggravated as all hell. “Look, the position has already been fill…” My lungs took notice of her beauty before my eyes could catch up. They constricted and froze. I was complexly dumbstruck.
“Hi,” she said, like everything was just peachy, “I’m Ashland, you must be Breaker.” Her voice was feminine and sweet, all honeysuckle and sugar. Holly was always trying to make her voice low and raspy. It made me question whether or not she smoked. But in the place I was, even if she smelled like smoke and had one in her hand—I would’ve believed any lie she told me.
“Um, hi—I’m Breaker.”
Focus man, focus!
“Like I was saying, I’ve already hired a maid so…”
She came in, ducking under my arm. My eyes closed as she passed, she smelled so damn good. It wasn’t any fruit or heavy perfume. She just smelled—clean.
“Your mom said you would say that. She also said you wouldn’t let me in; that you would try to dismiss me at the door.”
She looked around, her black hair was tied up in a ponytail. She had on some jeans, dark colored and some kind of white frilly top. And red heels that made me want to question her intelligence status. But damn, they looked so good on her. Sweat beads popped up along my forehead. She needed to leave, and now.
“It’s not so bad around here. It’s boy clean, not girl clean. But not too bad.”
“What the hell does that mean?” I spout out defensively. Maybe if I’m rude to her, she’ll go away.
She turned around with a smile, and my lungs seized up again. “You should close the door, you’re letting all the bought air out. And you know, boy clean. Boys clean around things, girls pick them up and clean under them too. Like this blender,”
Why is she still here, touching shit and insulting my cleaning?
She picked up my blender and underneath it was a film of dust, she showed me by swiping her hand along the countertop.
“See?” she showed me.
I closed the door. Then I realized, I did what she’d told me to do.
Dammnit! She’s aggravating the fire out of me.
“So, do you want to ask me any questions?”
I wanted to ask her some questions all right. I wanted to ask her why she was still here—what part of ‘the position’s filled’ was unclear—and how she managed to smell that damn good.
“Nope.” Yeah, I really needed to practice being mean in a mirror or something.
“Well, then I guess I’ll just tell you about myself. My name is Ashland Cormier. I’m a junior at LSU. I plan to be a vet. I’ll be twenty one on July fourth. I’m reliable. And I could really use the job.”