The next morning Annabelle woke to the sound of muffled conversation in the master bedroom a few feet away. All of the bedrooms were on the same floor, and her accommodations were adjacent to Serena’s. Anitha had told her the night before that she would like Annabelle to take over dressing and feeding Serena in the morning.
“Wake her at 7:20 am,” Anitha instructed.
Annabelle knocked on Serena’s door.
“Good morning, Serena,” she greeted the groggy 3 year old confidently.
“Mommy is in her room. She would like me to help you get ready for school today. Are you ready for breakfast?”
“I don’t like you!” Serena spat. “You’re not a nice lady! I want Mommy to dress meeee!!!”
“Well, Mommy can’t come dress you right now,” Annabelle said firmly. At this hour of the morning, she was still hoarse, and her voice had a booming base to it that gradually dissipated as the day wore on. “And we aren’t getting dressed first. We’re going to have breakfast.”
Serena hurled herself out of her bed and began to thrash about.
“No, no, no!!! You’re not a nice lady! You need to go back to where you came from!!”
Annabelle had mentioned during her interview that she was from Kenya. Anitha responded by informing her that she and her husband were “familiar” with Kenya – they had gone on safari there a few years back. Was this child telling her to go back to Africa?
Stunned by the child’s visceral reaction, Annabelle stood by the bed wondering what to do next. In that instant, Anitha materialized in the doorway. This was becoming habit.
“Oh Serena,” she cooed. “Mommy’s here. Can you come downstairs for breakfast?”
“No! I don’t want eeeegggs! I hate them! And I don’t like Ms. Annabelle! She needs to leave!!”
Anitha looked at Anneblle with a strange look.
“You – you want me to bring her eggs to her room?”
“Yes,” Anitha confirmed. “You can feed her the eggs here in bed.”
Annabelle walked down the stairs to the kitchen, her feet carrying out a task that her spirit knew was ridiculous. You don’t reward a pre-schooler’s tantrum by serving her breakfast in bed. She didn’t have kids and even she knew that! She prepared Serena’s breakfast and brought the plate upstairs.
Anitha got up from her seat beside Serena and looked on as Annabelle and she battled out the feeding procedure.
Why the hell am I even feeding this child in the first place? Annabelle wondered. Again, she’s 3!
Hearing his child’s screams, Ravi entered the room to see what all the fuss was about. Anitha snapped at him in their language and he retreated back to his room and prepared to leave for work.
After Serena had ingested a satisfactory amount of food, the battle to get dressed began. Today she was satisfied with the first outfit that was presented to her, and Annabelle slipped it over her head. Anitha looked on as the two left of Montessori school, with just a few minutes before the door was shut.
As luck would have it, Serena does not like to walk into school. She insists on being carried. In the interest of time, Annabelle hefted the child out of her car seat and carried her down the school’s walkway and up three flights of stairs. She swore silently that today would be the last day this would be allowed to happen. Serena’s teacher greeted them at the door, with a look that was less terse than the day before. At least the child had on proper clothes.
When Annabelle got back to the house, Anitha was sipping on chai and tapping away at her laptop. She looked up in order to acknowledge Annabelle.
“How did it go?”
“Fine. Just fine,” Annabelle replied. “But I do have a question for you. How do you feel about Serena waking up at 7 am instead of 7:20, so that she’s not so pressed for time in the morning?”
Anitha stopped typing.
“No, no,” she said, as though the idea was absolutely absurd. “We’ve tried that before, and it doesn’t work.”
“Okay,” said Annabelle incredulously. “Well, how about we get Serena dressed in the morning first before we give her breakfast?”
“Again, we’ve tried that before. Besides, if we dress her first, what is her incentive to eat?”
Why does the child need a ****ing incentive to eat! Just set her behind at the table and tell her to eat!
Annabelle steadied her breathing.
“Yes, well…I see.”
Anitha rose from her desk.
“I must go now,” she announced. “Pick up time from school in 1:30. While I’m gone, do you mind doing some light cleaning around here? Just wiping down the bathrooms and such?”
“Not at all!” said Annabelle. She didn’t might doing some straightening up. The house was in quite a state of disarray, with the evidence of being recently moved in all around them. It would give her something to do until it was time to pick up Serena.
“Great!” Anitha breathed. “Ravi will be gone all week, so you have my permission to go into the bathroom. You won’t run into him.”
She grabbed her bag and keys and left. Annabelle looked under the sink to get some cleaning supplies. She would start with the bathrooms first, then the kitchen, and finally vacuum the living room. She was oddly excited about adding her touch to the house and getting it in some sort of order. She trudged up the stairs and turned into Anitha and Ravi’s bathroom. What she was met with took her very breath away.
What could so thoroughly stun an African woman whose country has seen civil war and tribal conflict? Tune in tomorrow for the next chapter of The Hue Violet: My name is not Toby!