Arguments always began in hectic Español, and they seemed to end with a string of coherent English and slang. My mother at the moment was running her fingers through beautiful black hair with a stricken expression on her face.
I was merely standing there, confused with my head tilted to the side, carrying a new plate of warm spaghetti because the plate I’d used previously cracked in the microwave. Apparently, I wasn’t supposed to use that dish? Because, according to her mixed languages, it didn’t belong to her . . . it belonged to the rich lady she worked for.
My mom was a local maid and cook for the upper east side of our small town. Since we were divided by a visible line that separated the high rich and obviously poor, there were many opportunities for most of my neighbors to find work there. My dad though, was rarely at home because he was a truck driver. So mom was stressed most of the time, and now it looked as if I’d made it worse.
So much that she sent me straight to the house, or in this case: mansion, of the old lady who employed her. Literally, she stuck two dollars in my hand for the bus and threw my ass on the sidewalk with the broken plate in a plastic bag.
I asked why we had the plate in the first place, and she said she was polishing it for the lady. . .
“Mom, I didn’t mean to break it!” I waved my hands in the air, knowing full well that our close neighbors were watching the scene unfold.
She narrowed her eyes at me as she closed the door. “This is your fault. Fix it.”
Apparently it was an antique.
Anyway, I met the lady of the household as soon as I got there. It wasn’t easy getting in at first, but after a few words through the intercom and telling the security my situation, I managed to make my way into the place.
First of all, the impression I got from it right off the bat was that it was incredible. I’d watched a documentary once on Buckingham Palace and this place reminded me of that. It was huge, especially inside I could tell how far the chambers and hallways could stretch.
Below my dirtied shoes I watched the red carpet unfold before me, becoming spoiled as I walked up the grandiose staircase I did not deserve to be on. And everything was gilded in gold, besides the antique hardwood which was made entirely of dark oak.
There was a man, a butler of some sort, escorting me through the mansion, holding his nose up. He was dressed in nicer clothes than I’d ever seen in my entire life, and it made me somewhat embarrassed of the ripped jeans and pullover sweater I’d owned for years.
While walking, I noticed that there wasn’t anyone there. I expected to see a lot of people, because the house, as I’d said, was huge. But there was not a soul in sight, not even when we rounded corners and passed room after room, beneath large chandeliers that must’ve cost more than our entire town alone.
I was drenched in gilded luxury whilst strolling by. It was a peculiar feeling, and I wondered if I would die there, considering I’d broken a plate from this place. Mom really was savage when it came to her work. But how could I have known the dish was expensive? It just looked like one of those cheap swapmeet plates my grandma would give us from time to time.
Behind the butler, I sighed, mostly because I knew he could tell the dilemma I was in. Fortunately, he didn’t take pity on me.
“Madam, I’ve brought a visitor.” He said, before knocking thrice on the door.
Inside, an old voice replied, “Bring him in.”
I hesitated, because how could she have known I was a ‘him’?
The butler opened the door softly, allowing me to step into the room before shutting the door quickly behind him. I was left standing there awkwardly, holding the plastic bag in my sweater-paw hands.
There was an old lady in front of me, elegant but intimidating. Her silver hair was done-up severely, and her clothes were very old-fashioned but nonetheless extravagant. She was sitting in a grand desk much bigger than the both of us, holding her hands together as if waiting for me to speak. Her expression was calm, but she appeared to be bored with my silence.
“You’re more docile than I originally thought.” She said in a deep voice. “I can’t scold you.”
I opened my mouth to reply, but I could not find the right words, not after her comment. I was not a docile person, in fact I argued the most among my friends and family. Sure I was small, but I could easily pick a fight.
“I . . . broke—” I began, but she cut me off.
“Yes, you broke my plate. I was just on the phone with your mother.” She eyed the plastic bag with a glare. “And now you must repay me.”
“I’ll work.” I said, sincerely meaning it. It was the summer anyway, and school wouldn’t start for another four months. I had to get a summer job, especially with mom needing help.
The old lady snickered. “That plate you broke is 7,000$. A gem from Russia, a gift from my mother who lived and died in that country.”
My eyes widened. Without fully realizing it, I took a step back from the lady. The shock was wholly real. I’d broken something worth more than . . . myself. There was no way I could pay back that money within my time frame, not unless I worked for her beyond that.
“I— I just don’t want my mother to take any fault.” I told her, clenching the bag. “I’ll pay it back on my own.”
I watched as the lady examined me for a minute. I couldn’t read her eyes, and after a while I came to the conclusion that I never would.
She very much reminded me of my own grandma, who was very determined and strong. A lady you’d come to know as someone you would never win an argument against. It was just impossible. I admired that.
“I have a task for you, then.” The lady said after some time looking at me.
I nodded. “Anything, ma’am.”
“I want you to babysit my grandson for the summer.” She ordered, with a determined expression. “He’s just broken up with his girlfriend and is intolerable at the moment. So I’d like for you to distract him.” The old woman sat forward in her chair to get a better look at me. “That is how you will repay me for my mother’s precious dish that you broke.”
Again, I could reveal nothing but shock.
“Eh . . .?” I managed to say, nearly letting go of the plate in my hands.
“I have many spare rooms here. Go back home, pick up your things and return.” She ordered, getting up from her seat.
I took another step back. “Y-yes ma’am.”
“Tell your mother to continue her work as usual.” She continued, walking over. I could finally see how much smaller she was than me. “As for you, your work will be much harder than simply tidying. I want you to clean up my grandson. Got that?”
It took a second for me to consider. But at the same time I knew I could not say no. What would’ve happened if I’d said so? I would’ve surely been put in jail.
I gulped, “I’ll take care of your grandson, ma’am. I promise.”
She gazed at me once more when I said that. “Yes.” She said carefully, “Of course you will.
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