A Clean Start

This certainly was not a part of my plan.  I sighed and stepped out of my old, rusty car.  From the driveway, I looked up at the second story of the Ingram family’s house.  It was a beautiful work of architecture.  The skirt of my dress rippled in the breeze as I walked from the carport to the front door of the job I never intended to do.  I slaved away at college for years to get my degree, only to come here.  I glared bitterly at the doorbell.  My features relaxed as I thought about how we all had to start somewhere, and this was my start.  I lifted my hand to push the bell but before I touched it the door opened slightly.  I looked in and saw nobody.  I looked down the aperture of the door to see a blue eye gazing up at me.  “Hello,” I said.  The eye blinked. 
          “Are you Ms. Louis?”  I nodded affirmatively.  The eye disappeared as the girl turned her head and shouted back into the house, “Daddy, the maid is here.”  The maid, I repeated in my mind.  I sighed and with the exhale I felt my pride deflate.  I heard a man’s voice holler back, then footsteps.  The door opened fully and I looked up to see Mr. Ingram who welcomed me into the house.  The man seemed pressed for time as he handed me a detailed list of things that I was suppose to do.  He rushed me to the downstairs utility room and showed me the equipment there.  The little girl followed us silently; her eyes trained on me like I was an exotic animal in the zoo.  We then marched up a flight of stairs to find the other utility room.  After a speedy introduction of my duties as maid he left me in the upstairs utilities room.  I looked at the instructions in my hands for guidance of what to do first: clean and vacuum the bedrooms.
          I pulled a bulky vacuum out of the closet into the hallway.  The little girl was there to my right.  I smiled at her and said. “You can call me by my first name, Jenny.”  The little blue eyed-girl swayed on her feet indicating contained child energy waiting to be unleashed.  “So what’s your name?” I asked uneasily.  The girl giggled and vanished through the door of a nearby room.  Peculiar child I thought.  I heaved the vacuum to the end of the hall and to the door of the large master bedroom.  I opened the door and I blinked for moment at what I saw.  This room was a complete contrast to the appearance of the beauty and luxury of the exterior of the house and the entrance.  The master bedroom was a wreck, so much so that vacuuming was an insane proposition.  Things were strewn all over the place.  Skyscraper stacks of paper sat on the floor, on top of the nightstand, and on the chest of drawers.  Articles of clothing, not sure if clean or dirty, were laying on the bed and floor, unfolded and disheveled.  Apparently, the room not only was used for sleeping but as a trashcan too.  There were dirty dishes, empty bottles, cups with unfinished drinks, and wadded up napkins on the floor and any other surface that something could be sat on.
          My body quivered slightly as part of me wanted to drop the vacuum and dash out the front door and the other part, my character, knew to stay and do the job.  Who am I kidding; character had nothing to do with this. It was my desire to get paid and have a good job reference that made me stay.  This is where I have to start, I reminded myself.  I put the vacuum cleaner to the side, since I didn’t need it yet.  I was able to vacuum an hour later.  It was near relief to take a break to just move the vacuum sweeper along the carpet.  I was unplugging the vacuum from the electric outlet when a little girl, not Blue Eyes, appeared at the doorway.  She seemed younger than Blue Eyes, and was wearing a puffy pink princess costume dress and a tiara.  She was watching me from the doorframe.  Princess spoke with an adorable voice and asked me, “Ms. Louise, can you come and help me and my sister.”  How could I say no to such a precious child?  I followed her to what appeared to be a playroom.  The room looked like Toyland had been attacked by a series of natural disasters and anarchy.  I had to kick cloth dolls and plastic cars out from under my feet so I could walk.  “Are all the rooms this messy?”  Princess said only a few.  Blue Eyes sat crossed legged on the floor, playing with some plastic animals.  Princess pointed at an open closet door and said, “There is a toy on the top shelf we can’t reach, could you get it for us.”  I looked around at the room.  “Don’t you have enough toys out already?” I asked.  Princess passionately explained that this toy was a limited edition Barbie and was very special.  I shrugged and stepped into the closet.  I stretched upward to feel along the top shelf.  “Are you sure it’s here?”  I was answered with the closet door slamming shut, and the laughter of Blue Eyes and Princess.  In the darkness I gasped, realizing I had been tricked.  I grabbed the doorknob and tried to twist it.  It was locked and the lock was on their side.  I demanded they let me out, but they only laughed.  “The monster has been captured, my queen.  What shall we do with it?”
          “For now we will leave it where it’s at and think it over.”
          “I think we should roast it and make stake for the entire kingdom,” claimed a voice of a young boy.”  I crouched down on the floor of the closet and peered through the crack beneath the door.  I saw three pairs of feet.  How many children did Mr. Ingram have?  I reached up for the doorknob and felt a pin-sized hole in the center of the doorknob.  I smiled; it was only a childproof knob.  All I needed was something that I could poke in the hole.  I groped around on the floor and the shelves, searching for a bobby pin or a toothpick.  I suddenly remembered that last night I had dinner with my parents at a restaurant wearing this same skirt.   When we were leaving I had pocketed a free toothpick from a bowl on a table next to the door.  I rummaged through my pocket, finding the toothpick.  I grinned at my luck; those kids were in for a surprise.  I knelt at the door and carefully found the hole and stuck the toothpick in.  After a few frustrating tries I heard a click and could turn the knob.
          The three children sat in the center of the room having a powwow to decide my fate.  They froze and stared at me as the door opened.  Princess theatrically exclaimed, “ Oh no! The beast has escaped.”  She fled from the room screaming and leaving her brother and Blue Eyes at my mercy.  I crossed my arms and said impatiently, “My job is to clean, not to play pretend.  Leave me alone and I leave you alone, ok?”  They nodded under the influence of my wrathful glare.  I nodded with satisfaction and left the room, straddling over toys and junk.  I finished my day at the Ingram home with no other excitement. 
          Mr. Ingram went to the front door with me to let me out.  “Sir, if you don’t mind me asking, why are some of the rooms so. . .”  I felt bad commenting on it, and hesitated to insult a man’s home.  I didn’t need to finish, as he understood.
          “My wife, who is currently in the hospital, has been sick for a very long time.  I have been juggling her care, my work, and my children.  Maintaining the house has not been very important, and things start to pile up.  However, my wife is going to be home in a few days and I wanted her returning to the house she left.  I hope it wasn’t too much for you.”  I thought about mentioning me being locked up in the closet.  I didn’t.  He looked so tired and what would look worse that some maid complaining about his kids.  I claimed it was easy and that the house will be completely clean by the end of my service, which is five days.
          After the first day, the shock of the state of the inside of the Ingram home was gone.  I knew to expect it.  What I didn’t expect was for the Ingram children to persist in their pranks.  At one point of moping the kitchen my bucket of water went missing.  I went to go look for it, and giving up I came back to the kitchen and the bucket had been returned, but empty.  They put silly putty on my car keys so that when I reach into my pocket at the end of the day and grabbed my keys I had an unpleasant surprise.  I made the mistake of leaving my list of chores in another room once and they artfully drew on it with crayons.  I never saw them do the acts, but I knew.  They were like little trolls, sneaking around doing mischief while no one was watching. 
          There were no pranks on Thursday.  The house was silent when Mr. Ingram let me in, no children running around or screaming.  I went about my routine; I was to clean the bathrooms and kitchen sinks and counters on that day.  I completed the downstairs, had lunch, and then went upstairs.  I was in the utility closet when I heard the murmur of voices.  Supplies in hand, I walked down the hall.  At the door of the master bedroom, which looked much cleaner since that shocking first day, I saw Mrs. Ingram for the first time.  She rested under the sheets of the bed, her brown locks of hair spread out on the pillow and her face pale but for the glow of joy.  Princess was cuddled up in her mother’s embrace while Blue Eyes and their brother sat on the bed.  They all turned when I entered and I felt like an intruder.  I excused myself and went past them to the master bathroom.  Blue Eyes followed me.  “Mommy says that what we did was wrong.  We’re sorry.” I looked down into her clear eyes and accepted her apology.  She smiled and hugged my legs before disappearing into the bedroom.  Mrs. Ingram’s voice came from the bedroom, “I wasn’t expecting a college girl when my husband told me he hired a maid.  I was expecting someone, older.”  She had a calm, soothing voice.  I began wiping the counter dry.
          “This is definitely not my career choice. I hope to get a better job soon, but until then I have to do something.  I graduated from college last spring and have been on the job hunt ever since” 
          “What did you major in?”
          “Journalism.” 
          “I see.”  I began cleaning the faucet.  “The children were telling me about all the things I missed while I was gone and it slipped that they locked you in the closet.  I am very sorry for that.  They can be so spirited at times” I reassured her it wasn’t much of a problem. 
The following day was my last day.  The children were actually pleasant.  They talked to me and stayed out of trouble.  Princess even drew me a goodbye card.  When she gave me the card I realized that it was her artistic handiwork on my chores list.  In the last hour, Mr. Ingram examined the house and was pleased.  He handed me my check and walked me to the door, but paused before opening it.  He handed me a piece of paper with his handwriting.  “My wife told me that you majored in journalism and that you’re looking for a career in that field.  I have a friend who might be interested in hiring you.  That is his number and his company name.  From there you can get an interview.”  I looked down at the card.  Hope was bubbling inside of me.  It manifested itself into a smile on my face.  I thanked him and waved goodbye to Blue Eyes who was watching from the staircase.
          I reached my car, but stopped with my hand on the door to look back at the Ingram house.  From this whole experience I gained only three tangible things: a check, a hand made card, and a paper with a phone number.  I looked down at them in my hand, three pieces of paper with hope I got in my car and drove away never to return, never needing to, but glad I had come. 

-------- The End

I had written this a year or so ago as a guest blogger and I thought I'd share it.  Please share your thoughts in the comments; they're very appreciated.  Also if you like this story please share the link on twitter or facebook or whatever social media you fancy.

4 comments:

Laurapoet said...

This is such a sweet story! Your narrator is so resourceful (in both the short and long term): she knows exactly what to when she gets locked in the closet, just like she knows that this job is just a starting place and that there will be others that are more in line with what she wants to do. I love how you never learn the children's names; their nicknames are so endearing. I'm a little curious as to how many kids they actually have, and why the dad would leave them alone with the maid. Wouldn't that have been in the job description? I also really like the description of the messy rooms (though I'd really like to hear her first impressions of the rest of the house so that we'd have something to compare them to.) All in all, great story and I love the ending! Hope that was helpful... :)

MC said...

@Laurapoet Thank you so much for your feedback and I'm glad you enjoyed it. In total Mr. and Mrs. Ingram have three children, one son and two daughters. The one son is the eldest, Blue Eyes is the middle child, and Princess is the youngest. In retrospect, I agree about adding more description about the clean parts of the house and to better describing the childcare situation. Again, thank you for your insight.

DWei said...

If I could get referred to a better job just by doing housework I'd deal with that guy's kids for a month if needed.

MC said...

@DWei Yeah, Jenny snagged a lucky opportunity. Thanks for reading and commenting :D