Angie rushed into Mrs. Smith’s kitchen, warm rag in hand, and knelt on the floor beside Mrs. Smith. There were strawberry and matcha smoothie remnants being smashed into her expensive fur rug. For fuck’s sake why does this idiot woman have a fur rug in her kitchen? Angie thought to herself as she scrubbed. She had to simultaneous work the chunks of smoothie out of the carpet while keeping it from knotting at the same time.
Mrs. Smith tapped her fingers on her marble countertop, as if to let Angie know she was growing impatient. “Por Favor, An-hell-ica, can’t you go any faster?” She scrolled through her cell phone has she let out a bored sigh. Angie could go faster if Mrs. Smith would move out of the way, but since she was standing on the stain without any intention of budging, it was becoming a harder task than it should have been. God forbid Angie ask that she move, she would lose half a days pay for “talking back.”
Angie’s little thrill for the day would be cleaning Mrs. Smith’s rug with warm water, she demanded that she read the label on the rug when she first purchased it to guarantee that Angie would never fuck it up. The first instruction is to never use hot water. It also instructs that it be rinsed a few times with cold water and that if detergent must be used, make it a mild shampoo. That being noted, Angie decided to use a diluted bleach to clean it. Mrs. Smith would never bend over and read the fur rug label to know the difference. As a plus, Mrs. Smith hated the scent of bleach, which would also count as one of Angie’s little thrills.
Angie would go home each day and share her “little thrills” with her twin sister, Andrea. It all started when Angie was sick one day and convinced her sister to take her place. “I promise, “ she begged her sister, “she will never know! Just nod your head and smile at everything she says.”
“You never say anything to her all day?” Andrea asked in disbelief.
“No, she is convinced that my English is poor. The few times I have spoken to her she has let me know that it is not my place to correct her. So I find that the smile and nod approach is best suited for the work relationship.” Angie shrugged the lowly feelings of being condescended everyday off with a swig of orange juice.
“She sounds ridiculous, but I guess I will do it. If this blows up and you lose your job I am not responsible for this.” With that, Andrea changed into her sisters work uniform, a set of black scrubs, and headed out.
Angie always considered that her first thrill. She loved knowing that she got one over on her boss. Andrea had nothing exciting to report on when she got home and didn’t find that Mrs. Smith was as terrible as Angie had described, but Angie knew that if she had gone back for a second day, she would know the truth.
Angie rose from the kitchen floor to get her bleach mixture from the laundry room. Mrs. Smith was so wrapped up in her Instagram feed to even notice that Angie wasn’t scurrying at her feet anymore. While Angie slowly made her way to cleaning supplies, she noticed the exposed pantry that she was instructed to keep dust free and stocked. This was more of a joke, because she had fake food on display. She had a large wire basket on the top shelf filled with pastries, plastic pastries, of course. Mrs. Smith hadn’t touched a pastry since she was a child. The shelf below the pastry display had fruits, beautiful, bright, vibrant fruit. To glance once one would believe them to be real, but to glance twice would make it obvious that it was fake, no fruit looks that perfect. The bottom shelf contained specialty pastas and celebrity brand sauces, which would really lead one to believe that she cooked. Below was a minibar. It was a rose gold cart that matched her cream and gold-specked marble countertops. She had all of her alcohol poured into elegant crystal decanters with a marble ice bin and glass shaker that both had gold accents. The pantry presentation really tied the whole kitchen together. Despite the ridiculous fur rug under her island Mrs. Smith really had a beautiful kitchen. Angie shook off the compliment, Mrs. Smith didn’t design an inch of that kitchen, she didn’t even pay attention when the paperwork was presented to her. She just hired the best and the most expensive to impress her husband, but let them hold the reigns. Little did she know, her husband didn’t give a shit about anything that she did.
Angie became lightheaded for a second while she mixed the bleach and water together. Her intention was to use just a touch of bleach, but the aroma was so overwhelming she knew she had used too much. Oh well, she thought to herself.
“An-hell-ica! Where did you go? I hope you don’t think this carpet is clean. Vamonos!” She snapped her fingers. Angie bit her tongue and rolled her eyes in private before going back into the kitchen. Listening to Mrs. Smith yell incorrect commands at her in Spanish made her cringe.
“I’m sorry ma’am, I was just getting carpet cleaner for the rug, the strawberry isn’t coming out.” Angie smiled while she said it, because she knew that Mrs. Smith despised being called ‘ma’am.’ Almost as much as Angie hated being called ‘An-hell-ica.’
“Your English is poor, you don’t have to speak to me and if you must address do not call me ‘ma’am’.” And with that, she stomped her kitten heels straight out of the kitchen.
Angie could add calling her ma’am onto her list of little thrills. Three was a lot for one day, she felt like she might be taking advantage of a good thing.
There was a knock at the door, which meant Angie had to abandon the rug temporarily to answer it. Mrs. Smith was likely to be sitting on the couch near it, but why would she move when she paid Angie to move for her?
“Could you move any slower?” She barked at Angie as she moved towards the door. Her guest continued to knock, as if no one could hear her, over and over. Angie couldn’t vocalize that she heard the guest without being out of line and Mrs. Smith would never raise her voice to a guest, just to the help.
When Angie answered the door she discovered Mrs. Smith’s friend, Jen. Jen grunted at the sight of Angie, “took you long enough.” She pushed passed her while handing off her coat for Angie to take care of. “There isn’t anything in the pockets, so don’t check.” She blew a bubble with her gum and sat beside Mrs. Smith on the couch while they both laughed together at Angie’s expense.
You do this for your son, Angie reminded herself. Angie was a third generation United States citizen. It infuriated her that these women read her name and saw her darker skin and dark hair and assumed she didn’t speak English. It enraged her that she was assumed to be a crook. Her mom created a business of cleaning houses and raised her five children by herself off of the empire she created. Angie was proud to be a part of that. It wasn’t permanent by any means, but it helped keep her child fed while she went to college. She grew up watching her mom work hard while maintaining a loving home and she wanted her son to see her do the same. Lately, it’s been harder to keep in good spirits while at home. It had started to take a toll on Angie mentally to be treated like this day in and day out without having the backbone to stand up for herself.
Slight satisfaction took over while she spread the bleach solution over the stained rug. She could already see the fur negatively reacting to the treatment, it began to shed and fray.
“I can smell the bleach from here! Gross! Open a window, now! I told you I don’t like it when you use bleach.” Mrs. Smith yelled into the kitchen. After that she said to Jen, “if only she understood half the shit I said, we wouldn’t have this problem all of the time.” She grunted in annoyance then addressed Angie again, “Angie, we are waiting in here for our drinks. What is taking you so long, I feel like I shouldn’t even have to ask.”
“Coming right up.” Angie shook her head, what she would really like to do is mix that bleach right into her afternoon cocktail. When did she let Mrs. Smith turn her into her servant instead of the house cleaner?
Along with the list of little thrills that Angie kept, she also had a list of little murders. She would sometimes imagine subtle ways to take Mrs. Smith out, but the scene always played out with her getting caught. The best-case scenario for a clean get away would be water resistant lubricant of some kind on her shower floor; she would slip, hit her head, and die instantly. The police would never know she didn’t innocently slip from soap build up. At the very worst Angie could get herself out of it by claiming she didn’t know the cleaner she had used was water resistant. But in the end, Angie could never handle the idea of living with that on her conscience.
She hated that she had become this person. Her last client was an elderly woman named Lenore. Angie’s mother had taken care of her home first and they had such a great relationship that her mom claimed it was almost like hanging out with her own mother. Angie’s mom became ill and was no longer able to clean Lenore’s home and that is when Angie decided to join her mom’s business. She used to go play in Lenore’s home growing up while her mom cleaned she always treated Angie like family and it felt natural to return the favor.
A few years after she had taken on Lenore as a client, Angie’s mom had passed and Lenore had become a surrogate mother to her. Unfortunately, she was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease. Angie became a care taker for her, she would clean house, prepare her meals, sit with her, and help her take care of her grandchildren so that she could still see them when her children had to work. Lenore’s family trusted Angie and loved her as if she were part of the family.
This went on for a couple more years, Lenore continued to decline and Angie continued to stay by her side, they formed a mother-daughter bond that she couldn’t explain. Lenore was there with her for through her pregnancy and even got to hold her son before she passed. The day Lenore died was hard for Angie. She had already lost her real mother and to lose a mother who had taken her in by choice was just as hard. Angie had hoped to stay on with Lenore’s family, but her daughter unfortunately didn’t need any help. She could tell that when they let her go it was hard for them. They sat around with a bottle (or four) of wine and let their children play together while sharing stories about Lenore. It was bittersweet, she was thankful the experience and the second family she had gained, but was devastated to let it all go. They had stayed in touch for a few months, but after that drifted apart.
The separation from Lenore’s family led her right into the doorway of Mrs. Smith’s grand mansion. It was very different from Lenore’s modest, ranch-style, family home. Mrs. Smith’s home was cold and pristine. It required more attention to detail, like under the microscope type of detail, than Lenore’s did. It made Angie uncomfortable. Lenore was unable to clean for herself and needed the help and the companionship and Mrs. Smith was jobless and miserable and refused to do the cleaning herself.
The first week at her house, Angie believed that Mrs. Smith’s hard exterior would be broken down and they would connect. She would realize that Angie spoke perfect English and that friendly conversation was all she needed once in a while to make her less miserable. She would overhear Mrs. Smith begging her husband to come home sometimes and often found her crying in secluded parts of the house. Angie had attempted to show compassion and tried to be there for her, but that was only ever received with hostility. The first time Mrs. Smith yelled at her using Spanglish she new they would never click, not even enough to receive a smile from her upon entering her home.
As Angie mixed their drinks she realized how miserable she truly was. In almost an instant her satisfaction in ruining Mrs. Smith’s rug and her fantasy of murder had turned into shame. This wasn’t who she wanted to be. She had done this job for a woman who loved and respected her for years before this and knew that she could find respect in another home again. She didn’t need to subject herself to this abuse to be a good mom to her son.
A good role model would have self-respect and walk away from a situation that demeaned her. She wanted her son to know that he never had to be treated like that and she wanted herself feel proud again.
She took her apron off confidently and lifted their drinks into her hands. She walked into her living room and set them on her crystal coasters, of course. With a polite smile Angie said to her, “Mrs. Smith, I quit. I don’t deserve to be treated like this anymore. One day I hope you will find happiness, you’re going to die young of misery. I also need you to know that I have lived in this country my whole life. I speak perfect English. You should be embarrassed of yourself.” Angie smiled, gathered her belongings from the closet and left. She really wanted to yell ‘fuck you’ right into her face, but knew that would only feel good for a second. She also wanted to tell her that when she goes to Pilates three times a week her friend Jen comes over to keep her husband company, but she also knew that wouldn’t make her feel good long term.
The most gratifying thing for her in that moment was the sound of the front door closing behind her and knowing she would never have to be on the other side of it again. She couldn’t wait to go home and hold her son.