Finding common ground through the rabbit hole
|First couple of weeks were more than interesting. She came with all kinds of baggage, both figuratively and mentally. But I think that more than expected considering the depths of the various caves from which we all seem to emerge.|
Immediately, we situated her within one of the most prominent guest rooms available. Intended for VIPs during the more silver age of household history, it was a sprawling suite really with a separate changing room, walk in closets (there were two), grand salon bath outfitted with standard fittings and a bidet. Bathtub in there started out as a large, cast iron ball and claw type but had been upgraded in the last ten years into more of a plunge pool with jacuzzi fixtures. No one in recent memory had used the thing, opting for the standard upright shower, a glass enclosure fitted with brass shower heads and massage jets in two walls.
We'd engaged in tentative conversations about household responsibilities, of which initially I reassured she would have none.
My house, my rules, and until I found that fine line anchoring real trust, there were just certain things within an older, grander estate needed to be left to a more seasoned, responsible hand.
She'd nodded at that, though I couldn't be entirely sure my explanation was satisfactory. She seemed suspicious.
I'd cut an extra set of keys granting access to all areas of the main house. Handed them to her on a little ring. Explained each, or tried to ...
And then I presented her with an observation:
"Your apartment. The one you keep downtown ..."
"Right. I plan on going back in there and talking to the super by the end of the week."
"You're on the 8th floor. Correct?"
"Yeah. 828. Been there around 4 years now? Maybe 5?"
"12 storey building." I was wiping down a silver tea service in the kitchen.
She was leaning against the counter on the other side of the sink. Her staring had become a trifle unnerving. Felt her eyes burning holes into the side of my head. I could forgive her curiosity. All was extremely fresh and exciting, but where were her manners?
"Yep. Last time I checked."
"And your father ..." I glanced over at her, wiping the side of the teapot. She didn't answer, bottom lip pressed forward slightly.
I turned on the faucet and thrust the silver into a flow of cold, turned the teapot in my hands, cleansing it of polish.
"Does he visit frequently?"
"Any regular guests? Extended family ... that kind of thing?" I withdrew the teapot, held it out and began drying it with a cloth.
"Well Dad. Yeah, I mean. Sometimes he comes by. I wouldn't say with regular frequency. Sometimes he drops by when he's in the area. Not during the day really ... because you know I have a day job."
"At the library."
"And you plan on keeping that ..."
"Girl has to earn a living." she countered with a roll of her eyes.
She crossed the tile to the refrigerator, popped open the door and grabbed a bottled water. A bit too comfortable. A bit too familiar.
She held the bottle up to me before opening it. I nodded as if to say, "well that's what it's for." She broke the seal, gulped down a mouthful.
"Where's this going anyway?" she pressed crossing back to the counter and vaulting up to sit with the water beside her.
"I was thinking ... well you haven't told anyone about this, have you?"
"Wasn't sure if it was appropriate. So no, not yet."
"Good." I said with an approving nod, "I think it might be prudent if we kept everything status quo for a time."
"I can be discreet." she nodded at the floor.
"So in your apartment, you've left the furniture, the kitchen implements, sheets, blankets ... most things left after leaving to travel?"
"Yeah, I'd say. Only brought with me what I'd need. Clothes, toiletries, laundry, coat, sweaters ... a few personal items ... a teddy bear ..."
I cocked an eyebrow and rearranged the tea service upon its tray.
"Teddy bear?" shot her another glance.
"Hope that's ok." she took another pull from the bottle and set it back grinning.
"Don't need to know. None of my business." I said flatly drying my hands. "But. How do you dispense your rent? If you don't mind my asking."
"Not at all. Typically I pay it first week every month. Online usually. Not a lot of contact with the super."
"And I'm assuming you're consistent. With the transaction?"
"I try to be. Can't say I've NEVER missed a payment. But the one time that happened, I ran a check down to the 1st floor personally and apologized."
"So the super knows you by sight."
"Yeah. Sure." she said throwing up her hands in a shrug.
"Ok." I leaned my back against the counter and crossed my arms. "We'll need to pay your rent from here every month. And would you mind if I ran by there at some point and installed a series of little cameras in the hallway?"
"Nothing too obvious. Just like smoke detectors. One outside your door. One down the hall. And a couple of dummies spaced around the floor? Not intrusive. Would just like to know when anyone comes by."
"Uhhh, I dunno." she trailed off staring at the floor.
"Well I don't like being spied upon for one ..."
"But that's not ..."
"And for two, the super and his guys are pretty on top of everything that goes on in the building. I think they might notice new smoke detectors on the 8th floor ... especially if they hadn't installed them ..."
"Ok ok. We should try to work something out though."
A few moments of silence passed between us. I looked over at her and watched her studying the floor, kicking out with her feet, a little like some kid on a dock looking for fish in calm water.
"I mean ..." she looked over at me. "I wouldn't be spying. I was thinking you'd be here."
She nodded quietly and turned back to the floor.
"Just intended to keep tabs in case anything goes sideways ... safer for your Dad if he remained in the dark ... about everything."
My turn to grab a water.
"I mean ..." she looked up at me while I rooted around a moment. We locked eyes after I'd closed the fridge and twisted off the top. Slugged back a swallow. Cool drought felt wonderful. Could feel my throat drying up (ahem), nevertheless, I continued ... "Assuming, he has no idea ..."
"No. He doesn't know. Why d'you think I wear the wig?"
"Of course. Probably for the best."
"Safest thing for him. Or for anyone else. He does such a good job. The good ones love him. The bad ones ... don't." she said with a grin.
"Well then consider, some surveillance would keep you in the know. In case you have an uninvited visitor ... or an unwelcome guest. No one would be the wiser, and you might follow up with a "sorry I missed you" kind of thing."
She thought about it in silence for several moments more. Eventually she puffed up her cheeks and blew out.
"Ok. Let's try it your way for a while."
I crossed my arms over my chest, leaned back, crossed my feet and studied my shoes.
"I think you'll see a benefit, and y'know ..."
She shot me an apprehensive look ... somewhere swirled among indignation, confusion, excitement and enthusiasm.
"We really need to learn to trust one another."
She snapped her fingers bouncing down off the counter. "Just realized. Gotta go to work."
"About that. Could you pare back your hours?"
She completely stalled in her retreat, faltered and spun back on her heel.
"What? Can't really pay the rent if I don't have the hours. Things are tough enough ... !"
"I shouldn't be concerned Miss. You shall be compensated while here. Call it a stipend, paid monthly. As much as you're making now plus ... an extra percentage ... and perks."
"Perquisites. From which the term is derived. Medical care. Dental. A certain amount of insurance. It's all been arranged. Paperwork came through ... this morning actually."
I turned slightly away and drew out the lap drawer in the little desk set into the end of the counter nearest the hall.
"If you wouldn't mind signing these." I presented her with a stack of pages. Various forms and contracts.
She thumbed through them.
"Contact numbers. Next of kin. Personal information. And what is this figure here?" She pulled some pages apart exposing a docket rife with tabulations that would make any accountant choke on their own spit. "Are you saying I would owe ... this (stabbing with a thumb at one bottom line) ... to live here??" she was shaking her head now, tapping one toe repeatedly.
"Barbara, I ..."
"See. I knew there was some catch. Nothing comes for free." She flopped the entire stack down carelessly next to the sink. A couple of pages fell to the floor.
"I assure you." I began again ... taking her defensive posture into account while raising an eyebrow. "If you'll look closely." I gingerly shuffled the rumpled stack back into order and thumbed it open to the line item upon which she'd been focused. "THAT." I said tipping the pages toward her chin. "Is what you would be making."
Her jaw dropped open.
She just stared. There were tears massing at the corners of her eyes. And there went her bottom lip, quivering.
"Trust my dear. It's all about trust."
And I thought to myself right after all had been said and done ... now where'd I leave that ghillie suit?"