in bed and checked the clock. 7:43. The wake-up calls didnât usually start until quarter after eight. That gave Mom fifteen minutes for her pep talks before she had to head off to work.
âSweet-ie!â At least it was the carrot instead of the stick today. âCan you come downstairs? â¦ Now? Please?â I lay on my back and stared at the ceiling. Why wasit okay for Hank to sleep in but I always had to get up? Why would I even want to get up? Itâs not like I had anything to actually live for these days.
I could hear the click of her shoes starting up the stairs. Damn. I slammed my hand on the bed and said, âComing.â
I really, really didnât want my mother in my room. Sheâd start opening windows, putting things away, nattering on about how much better Iâd feel if I just called a friend, took some pride in my appearance, ate better, exercised, âpursued an interest,â whatever.
Well, you know what? I tried the outside world and I didnât like it. Moreover, it didnât like me. Isolation suited me just fine.
I got up anyway. I pulled on the same T-shirt and shorts I wore every morning for these little mother-daughter chats. As I did up my fly, I started working on phony plans for the day. Iâd tell Mom I was going to drop off some resumÃ©s at the West End Mall this morning. That should keep her happy for a while. I could go back to bed as soon as she left for work.
I schlepped down the stairs, rubbing my eyes with the heel of my hand. Mornings never used to give me headaches.
âAh! Youâre awake. Great! Look whoâs here for you â¦â
Nick. Carly. Brianna. Nick â¦ Terror â Iâm not exaggeratingâhad me by the throat. My hand slid down my face.
Dolores was standing at the bottom of the stairs next to my mother. She was wearing a pink T-shirt and a pair of white bunny ears. She held a bulging plastic grocery bag with one hand and waved with the other hand as if she were a contestant on American Idol .
I hung on to the railing and tried to process what was happening. I was relieved, then confused, then ultimately horrified, all within seconds.
Mom had a mischievous look on her face that was frankly too cute for a woman her age to pull off. âBetsee. Why didnât you tell me to get you up earlier? I didnât know a thing about your cleaning job until Dolores mentioned it this very minute!â
Doloresâs face crinkled up like youâre kidding!
Mom raised a finger and said, âIâll just throw a slice of bread in the toaster for you. Get your shoes on and Iâll drop the two of you off on the way to work.â
I waited until sheâd disappeared into the kitchen, then I lunged down the stairs at Dolores.
âWhatâs this all about?â I didnât say it so much as exhale it in her face.
Dolores lifted her eyebrows. âWhatâs what all about?â She looked around the foyer and whistled. âDidnât realizehow rich you were. Whoa. What do you think a house like this is worth, anyway?â
I wasnât going to let her put me off. I gritted my teeth and said, âThe cleaning job.â I knew I had morning breath but I didnât care. âWho said anything about us working together?â
Dolores rubbed the wooden knob at the bottom of the railing like it was the belly of a Buddha statue. âI thought weâd agreed.â
âNo. We did not. And even if we had, you should have called me before setting something up.â
That offended herâor at least she wanted to make me think it did. âI tried! You donât go on Facebook. I didnât have your cell phone number. There were no Wickwires listed on Oakland Road â¦â
âHow did you even know I live on Oakland Road?â
âEasy. My cousin Hannah had this thing with Rob Jardine who played hockey with Carlyâs brother and â¦â