2022 --- NaNoWriMo ---- Not a Winner - Still writing.
|Theta Sigma Tau |
Angela tucked the last of her clothing into the bureau drawers. The mirror above it didn't lie, she'd lost a lot of weight. All she wanted to do right now was help Serena get through college. After her husband died during Serena's freshman year of high school, she focused on keeping things on an even keel. They both knew Marty was dying and had years to say goodbye. Now it was time for both Angela and Serena to have a new start.
Angela sold the house when she was approved to be the house mother at Theta Sigma Tau. Serena was accepted as a pledge and they would both live in the sorority house for four years. Angela was a medical records data entry person, she could work anywhere there was internet and set her own hours. It was a great job when Serena was small, and even better now. Neither woman would have to pay a dime to live here so Angela could bank all her salary.
She picked up her suitcase and turned to set it in her walk-in closet, a luxury in old houses. When this old house was converted into apartments for the sorority, they made sure all the rooms had bathrooms and closets. It still worked out that there were eight units upstairs and three more above the carriage house.
As she was walking out of the closet, the overhead light turned off. Angela frowned. Great, don't tell me this place has electrical issues. She walked over and poked the push button switch, and the light came back on. Angela glared at it and went back to making her bed. A moment later, Serena came bouncing in.
"Mom! I have this giant clawfoot tub!" She pumped her fist up and down.
Angela smiled. "I thought you might pick that room since you love baths." Secretly, she was also happy that her daughter would be at the far end of the hall, so they both could have a little privacy. She grunted when the light went off again.
Serena startled. "What's going on?"
Angela shrugged and pressed the button again. "I'll have to have our maintenance crew take a look. It keeps shutting off."
"You can always put the lamps on wifi plugs and turn them on and off yourself."
"You know how tech I am. Maybe you can help me with that." Angela smiled.
"You can turn the plugs on and off with an app on your phone, Mom." Serena pulled one up on her phone. "See?"
Angela looked around the room for her phone. "First, I need to find my phone." Then she laughed. "I think I left it in your room."
They walked down and spent the next couple of hours setting up Serena's room just the way she wanted it. After shifting the bed for the third time, Angela suggested she leave it in place for a couple of days, and see where her roommate wanted her bed. It would be interesting to see how Serena handled having someone in her space. She was an only child and never had to share things. Angela smiled to herself, this would definitely be an adventure.
Serena and Angela went down to the kitchen. After poking around, Angela decided she needed to spend some time organizing the cabinets in a way that worked for her. The best thing about the kitchen was the giant commercial size stove and refrigerator. When Angela did some orientation with another house mother, some advice for the kitchen started to make sense. Each girl would get a clear container to put her own snacks or drinks in. The rest of the shelves were divided for food and snacks the girls could eat on their own. The other section was for provisions for the house meals. The girls would make their own breakfast and lunch, Angela providing things like bagels, muffins, and lunch things that would also include leftovers from the previous evening meals.
While Angela was investigating the ovens, Serena found a huge walk-in pantry. When Angela walked in to investigate, she gasped. "This thing is so big!" One side of the pantry had a wide marble countertop and the other side had several cutting boards resting on the counter. Looking in all the cabinets, she found plenty of smaller appliances, a bread maker, and an ice cream maker. She was smiling ear to ear, looking into each one and showing Serena all the fun things. Then right behind her, one of the cabinet doors slammed shut. Both women jumped, startled.
"What was that?" Serena was clutching the front of her shirt.
"No idea! Maybe the wind blew it." They looked at each other, knowing there was no breeze.
Angela walked over to the window and looked out. "The pantry has a window. Maybe it leaks some. Pushing the curtains aside, she exclaimed "Oh hey! This swings out! The window was actually part of a dutch door that opened to the outside near the driveway. "This could really be helpful next time I bring in groceries. I won't have to carry them through the whole kitchen."
"That could have been where the wind came from..." Serena stopped talking as she turned to find all the doors open in the pantry. "Mom..."
Angela walked along and closed each cabinet door carefully. "I'll add this to the list for the repair guy. They probably need the hinges oiled or something." She walked out of the pantry and started pulling some things out of the refrigerator for sandwiches. "Let's make a picnic for dinner, we can sit outside and eat."
Taking their plates outside, they walked through the overgrown garden and found a stone bench to sit on. While eating, Angela looked at the large bushes and overgrown gazebo. "This yard needs a lot of love."
Serena, looking around said, "Mom, you're not going to have time to fix this disaster." She chewed thoughtfully. "I know you could work your magic back here, but you'll be busy with your housemother duties. At least at first."
"I know. Maybe we can organize a yard clean-up day and get some weeds and leaves out of here." She finished her sandwich and brushed the crumbs onto the ground. As soon as all the girls get here, it will be chaos, but the other housemothers tell me by Thanksgiving things will settle down."
Serena nodded. "Two girls are coming on Saturday, the seniors, so that will be some help."
"Yes, and Madeline's mother is the outgoing housemother. She said she had a lot to fill me in on. It won't crowd you too much, they're staying out in the carriage house rooms. It sounded like Terry had allergies or something and couldn't stay in the house." She looked at Serena. "What are you doing?"
"I think the house behind us has someone living in it. She's staring out the window at us. No! No, don't turn around and stare. She's put the curtain back anyway."
Angela took Serena's plate and walked inside.
As she was washing the dishes, the front door clattered and banged open. Angela peeked around the corner of the kitchen and saw a big woman dragging a bucket and vacuum into the house.
"Can I help you?"
The woman laughed. "I'm here to help you, honey. They didn't tell you I was comin'?"
"Terry didn't mention you." Angela dried her hands and reached to help the woman bring her things in.
"Oh!" The woman chuckled. "Well, I'm not her favorite person, I suppose. I holler at them girls, the sloppy ones. They all entitled and don't lift a finger. Their rooms get pretty nasty. How they supposed to get theyselves a man if they can't keep house?" She tossed up her hand. "Them girls want to get theyselves a man before leaving college. Just like they mama did." She dusted her palms off on her pants. "Any way, I'm happy to meet ya." She reached to shake Angela's hand. "I'm Elmadean, I come once a month to give the house a deep clean." She shook her head. "The girls are supposed ta clean up they rooms so I can vacuum and dust. I also clean their baths."
"Well! That's a relief! I thought that was part of my job." Angela smiled. "That frees up a lot of my time."
Elmadean laughed. "Girl, you don't get no time. You'll be lucky if you get your regular job done."
Angela frowned. "Well, I need that job."
Elmadean nodded. "Terry told me you was a widow. You let me know if you need anything. I lost my Charlie fourteen years ago. Some days I hardly remember what he looks like, and some days feel like he was jus' gone yestaday and I miss him so much."
Angela sighed. "I hope this is a good distraction."
"Girl, some days you gonna fall into bed without a thought, you be so tired." Elmadean chuckled. "My mama and nan took care of this house for years. There allus something to do." She picked up the bucket and plucked out a dust rag. "Is it all right to start down here and work my way upstairs? I allus do it this way."
"Fine with me. Let me know if I can help."
Elmadean laughed. "Help! No girl, let me do my job and I'll be out of your hair in no time."
Angela walked upstairs to let Serena know that the cleaning lady was there. She found Serena on her bed, looking at her laptop.
"I wanted to let you know there's a cleaning lady downstairs, she'll be coming up to clean the bedrooms next." She cocked her head as she heard the vacuum start up. "Make sure you pick up, please."
"No problem Mom," Serena mumbled, her eyes never leaving the screen. "I was trying to Google who lived behind us but there's not much out there. I did find a lot on this house though." She looked up at Angela. "People comment, saying the house is haunted."
Angela laughed. "It's probably those squeaky cabinets in the pantry."
"The last name listed for the house behind is Graysen. No first names." Serena shrugged. "Doesn't look like it's another sorority house."
"That's okay. We just have to be mindful about making too much noise in the back." She patted Serena's leg. "I'm going down to try and figure out the remote for that big tv."
"Mom, all you have to do is talk into it." Serena set her laptop aside. "I'll show you."
"Talk into it. Right. I think you're pranking me. You're going to laugh at me talking to the remote." She laughed.
"I'm serious, you talk to it." Serena was laughing as they went downstairs.
They grabbed the remote and Serena showed Angela how to work the menu. While she was showing Angela all the apps, Serena flipped past YouTube and Angela got an idea.
"How about we set up times to play a yoga video and we could all do a morning yoga session?"
"Sounds great, Mom."
Angela wrote it in her little notebook. Serena watched her and giggled.
"Mom, you know you have a notepad in your phone, right?" She took her phone and showed her how to take notes.
"Well! That's handy!" She smiled. "See how much I'm learning while you're learning? She set the pad and pen on the table, then concentrated on making more notes. While she was doing so, the pen rolled off the table. Angela bent to pick it up and set it back on the table. It rolled off again.
The day went by in a blur. Elmadean helped Angela clean all the cabinets in the pantry and get them ready for storing food and other things. She also showed Angela how the swinging door worked. She also told Angela the center island in the kitchen had changed over the years and how it was nice to have stools to sit right there and have tea or breakfast instead of the breakfast room.
Saturday started early when Angela heard car doors slamming in the drive. She peeked out the window and saw it was Terry and her daughter parked by the carriage house, they were carrying some boxes up the stairs. She quickly dressed and tossed her hair in a pony tail. She offered to help when she got outside but Terry said they didn't have much to bring up.
"Most of our things are still here, we left them over the summer." Terry hugged Angela and smiled. "Are you getting settled in?"
"Oh yes, and Elmadean was in to clean so everything is shining." She chuckled. "She can get a whole big house like this cleaned up in a day."
Terry nodded. "She's a treasure for the house. A little rough on the girls but I guess sometimes they need it." She waved Angela up the stairs. "Come see the carriage house rooms. It's very cozy."
Angela gasped when she got upstairs. "Oh, this is a sweet little haven!" Terry showed her the larger bedroom that would be her place and the two rooms left for girls. Madeline was already stashing things from her boxes in her room. The space also had a sitting room and tv in the main part, and a tiny kitchenette. Terry said it wasn't used much for more than popping popcorn. The girls would be coming in for meals.
"Oh that's good, I'm sure Madeline will have some advice for the new girls about how to get around the campus." Angela hugged Serena as she came in. "Serena, this is Terry, the other housemother. And go meet Madeline, she's in the room over on the right."
They sat on the sofa as the girls got acquainted. "I got the pantry cleared out for storage and found those clear containers for the girls. Elmadean washed them out after clucking about the stickiness." She laughed. "Oh, which reminds me, I'll need the number of whoever comes to repair things. The cabinets seemed to have loose doors."
Terry shivered. "I'll get it for you. But I'm not sure he can help. They seem to pop open at the oddest times." She fiddled with her phone for a few moments, then Angela's phone beeped with a message from Terry with the phone number. "Have you had time to explore the whole house? I know you just arrived."
"Not really, we've unpacked and I started organizing. Are we going to be sharing the office on the main floor?" She'd found a beautiful office off the side of the house, small but had lovely bookshelves and a big desk.
"Oh no, that's for you to use, you need to be close by to keep an eye on the girls." Terry laughed. "I'll probably bring a desk from one of those two rooms on the third floor." She shrugged. "Right now we're not booked for those rooms unless a new girl wants to pledge. Then we'll find a desk for them. It's not a big deal." Smiling, she said "I'm looking forward to less chaos as Maddy enjoys her senior year. If she gets lonely, she can always move to the main house."
Angela smiled. "Sounds like a good plan." She looked over and smiled as the girls came into the room. "Have everything unpacked?"
"Mom! Madeline says the house is haunted!" Serena laughed. "We can do seances and stuff."
Angela frowned as she watched Terry give Madeline a warning look. "I'm not sure that's something we need to focus on, Serena." She looked at Terry again. "We only have a couple of weeks to get all the girls settled and into some sort of routine."
Terry laughed. "A routine can be a hard thing with all the girl's schedules and social lives. But you'll get the hang of it soon enough. I'm happy to be here to help. I'm sure Maddy will love having some new friends. The outgoing seniors were very cliquey and didn't include the others in much of their activities. Plus I had to chase boys out a few times. That was fun."
Angela looked at Serena. "They're not allowed to stay, are they?"
"Oh heck, no, but they are allowed to hang out in the main area. You just have to make sure they leave by midnight. House rules."