Annabelle’s first weekend had come and gone without much event. She spent the entire 48 hours holed up in her room with no agenda, aside from analyzing her current situation. Had a university degree and years spent working in corporate America all culminated into this lunacy? Was she a failure? She quickly shook the thought from her head. There was honor and dignity in her work. The problem was with those crazy people down the hall, not her.
She stretched lazily and gathered all the dishes she’d accumulated in her room during her voluntary solitary confinement. Necessity had forced her to sell her car months ago when she’d been out of work, and she had no particular desire to waste half the day waiting on MARTA to arrive at its whim. Besides, the closest bus stop was a 3 mile walk from the house. As she opened the door, she nearly stumbled over something. She turned on the hall light and looked down. There at her feet, at HER doorway, was an empty bowl of pomegranate seeds. Anitha and Serena were the only two who ate them, and she was sure the 3 year old didn’t have the wherewithal to leave her bowl by the nanny’s door. Anitha. What gall! Annabelle sucked her teeth and walked on the kitchen, leaving the bowl exactly where it lay.
When Annabelle first interviewed with the family, they offered her Sundays and Mondays off.
“We want to spend at least one morning with Serena,” they gave as their reason.
Annabelle thought this was quite admirable of them.
However once she began working, the Rajwani’s quickly changed her days off. It turns out trash day was on Mondays, and they didn’t want to be bothered with pulling the bins to the curb for collection.
The house was still and quiet at this hour of the morning, as everyone was still asleep. It had been unseasonably cold that night and the family had turned the heat on full blast. It felt like summer downstairs. As she padded into the kitchen with her dishes, a stench assailed her nostrils. She sniffed over the sink, now piled high with 2 days’ worth of dishes. They smelled bad enough, but that wasn’t what was so offensive. As she got closer to the trash can, she recognized the smell immediately.
Through her door she’d heard a commotion on Saturday night after Serena had an explosion in her diaper. Her parents had fussed over who was going to clean her and finally ended the episode by throwing the soiled diaper in the kitchen trash. Two days’ worth of heat and feces now hung in the kitchen air, replacing the lemony scent that Annabelle had left when her shift had ended.
She sighed and began tidying up the mess, starting with throwing the fecal spattered trash bag into the bin outside. She was beyond offended. What did these people think of her? The sound of the family stirring upstairs interrupted her thoughts. Serena was screaming about what she didn’t want to wear, and her father was yelling back in their native tongue, which was out of character. She escaped the chaos by stepping outside to complete her janitorial duties. As she did so, Ravi walked out of the door a few steps behind her to leave for work. He noted Annabelle struggling with the two large bins, made eye contact with her and drove off without an offer of assistance.
“What a prince”, she muttered, straining with the bulky items.
She placed them on the corner and went inside to wash her hands. Anitha had succeeded in dressing her child, who at this point was nearly late for school.
“I’m going to drop Serena at school and when I get back there are a few things I need your help with,” Anitha said hurriedly.
Annabelle watched mother and daughter retreat from view and began picking up scattered toys and papers. She used her rare moment of peace to consider her boss. The woman seemed to thrive on chaos, and where there was none, she made it a point to create it. Once she succeeded, she invited everyone – anyone – to join her in it. Annabelle had found herself sucked into this perpetual vortex time and again, and had decided that she’d had her fill. Every time she offered Anitha a suggestion on how she might do things differently, she countered with details from her resume.
“No, no, Annabelle! That’s too much toothpaste on Serena’s toothbrush. You know, I’m a dental hygienist by training, and really you only need the brush in the child’s mouth. The paste is not necessary.”
“Annabelle – you know it’s very important that she eat eggs and milk every day. When I pursued my course in geriatric studies, I learned that our bodies need these essential items. I don’t think your suggestion that Serena try oatmeal for breakfast applies here.”
How does the body of a 3 year old girl compare to a 90 year old woman? The woman was mad.
Anitha returned a short while later. She had apparently done some light grocery shopping.
“Annabelle, can you go and get those bags of groceries from the car please?” She seemed irritated. “And also when you notice that we are running low on certain things, can you make a note of it? I don’t like running out of essentials.”
Arrrgghhhh!! So I’m the stock girl now too?!?
“Sure Anitha,” she replied tersely.
When she came back into the house, Anitha was in the corner making space for something.
“There is a fern in the carriage house that I’d like to be brought in before the winter comes,” she informed Annabelle. “Can you go fetch it please? It’s between the two wicker chairs in the corner.”
Annabelle walked out into the frosty fall air to retrieve the plant that the madame of the house wanted. It was a towering piece of greenery, in a pot that was as tall as it was wide. Annabelle bent her knees and prepared to pull the pot in. It didn’t budge. She strained and pushed harder, finally managing to dislodge it from its spot. Ten minutes later she succeeded in dragging it into the house where she found Anitha sitting and reading in the living room.
“Oh dear!” she cried. “I didn’t realize it was that big! It’s grown so much!”
Yes you did, heifer. You knew EXACTLY how big this thing was. That’s why you sent me outside for it!
“Where do you want me to put this?” asked Annabelle.
“Here. No wait! Here. Here will be good,” Anitha replied, pointing to various parts of the room before deciding on one.
Annabelle left the woman to talk to her plant and went upstairs to tackle the family’s laundry. A few hours later she left to pick up Serena, who was less than pleased to see her.
“Where is Mommy! I want Mommy to pick me up! I don’t want you to touch me!”
Serena bucked and kicked as Annabellle tried to feed her. Anitha appeared in the doorway amidst the commotion and the child fled into her mother’s arms the moment she saw her.
“I don’t like Ms. Annabelle,” she screeched. “I want her to leave! She yells at me.”
“That’s not true, Serena,” Annabelle countered catching her mother’s eye.
Anitha put her wriggling child on her lap. It was not in her philosophy to correct the child for a minor infraction, such as engaging in hyperbole (her child didn’t lie after all), but she had the perfect solution.
“Well Serena, why don’t we play a game? Let’s think of some nice things that Ms. Annabelle has done for you…okay?”
Serena shook her head violently.
“Well, she picked you from school today, right?”
“And she gave you lunch in the car, right?”
“These are all great things! Now let’s all do the happy dance!”
Anitha gave Annabelle a look that said she was meant to join them. Annabelle matched her gaze, spun on her heel and walked out of the room. She refused to shuck and jive for these two crazies, especially after they’d both screwed up her day. She retreated to the laundry room. She’d rather spend the rest of her day with the lonely sh*tty sheets that had been abandoned by the Rajwanis.