The day I quit my job was the day my life ended. My job was my life. It took up most, if not all of my free time. I could've pretty much considered myself a slave, but my title was a live-in assistant. A wealthy businessman named Mr. Ryan Smith, who probably got that way because he was a total workaholic, worked long hours and when he got home to his mansion and family, he needed my help working some more. He didn't leave to work everyday like most people do, he often worked from home. Those were my busiest, most hectic days. "Lia! I need you to pick up my dry cleaning at Royal's, and put it where I will find it tomorrow. The jet leaves with us on it at 9 o'clock sharp. Do you understand?"
"Yes, of course Mr. Smith. Right away," my almost robotic reply was programmed muscle memory in my vocal system. I never really needed to say anything more to him. My job was to make his life easy and I loved it; too much frill of conversation would've probably gotten me fired, which would end us all.
I turned hastily to leave the home office to see if I could make it without likely earshot of him putting in another demand, but I failed again. It's still fun to try to beat my previous record number of steps out the door. And I loved hoping for the little rush of glee I got when he called for me, ever hoping it's to tell me I'm lovely or that he loves me.
"Lia, another thing." I turned on my heels, not moving my position. "Get me a bunch of those organic protein bars, you remember those?"
I knew it. A cross-town journey. I hated going alone. I felt like I'd get mugged if I stopped too long at a red light. Or maybe I was just used to the security Mr. Smith can afford to protect his huge property with in our quiet, suburban neighborhood. Anyway, I would do it happily without hesitation, of course. I breathed in until my chest was tight and sighed with a slight chuckle, "Yes, Mr. Smith." I walked slowly out, but peeked back inside at him as I turned the corner. He was still looking at me, but with a little smile. I skipped until I made it without earshot. I won.
Errands run, grocery bag full of Mr. Smith's favorite protein bars and a bag of expensive suits fresh from the cleaners in hand, I had not been mugged or killed. I dropped off the bars on the marble kitchen counter and headed towards Mr. Smith's room to put away his suits. If I could do it without getting another request, it was another victory. Just as I had been hoping for success of my seeming simple task, the two-way doors forced their way open, nearly taking me out. I slammed against the wall, out of the way. Mr. Smith's son, Will, ran full speed through the door, clutching a book, his face displaying utter terror. He bolted right past me and around the kitchen island. Before I had time to ask myself, Mr. Smith's daughter, Olivia, with the expression of murderous rage, burst through the doors the same way her younger brother had, but brought a completely different feeling through. As she bolted by me, I saw her quickly look at me from the corner of her eye. Ahh, acknowledgement. I knew she couldn't ignore me forever. She's just like her mother; greedy and self-centered, insulted by being in the same room with the help. Her eyes darted back to her brother and her body followed, bringing the rage with it. I had not been harmed in this event, but more importantly, neither did Mr. Smith's suits.
Without further incident, I made my way up to Mr. and Mrs. Smith's ginormous bedroom suite which was more of an apartment within the mansion. Knocking first, with no reply, I entered through the sliding double doors. I hung the suits on the hanger on the closet door. I picked up a few clothes strewn on the floor and bed and put them on top of the over-flowing hamper. I tried mushing it down, but it was so crammed from previous mushings, I gave up and decided today would have to be laundry day. I towed the hamper behind me but stopped to open the curtains and let in some mid-day light. The view of the lower parts of the mansion shown through. I gazed at the marvelous aesthetics of the shapes of the building with the wide, blue sky behind it and the grassy hills.
Slam! I tore my eyes and my heart from the beautiful picture and looked to see the sliding door had been shut (quite loudly) and Mr. Smith stomping to his bed, furiously attempting to undo the buttons on his white collar shirt. He was mad. I did not want to be shut in here much less within a five mile radius of an angry Mr. Smith.
He cursed under his breath as he sat down on his bed, removing his shoes, apparently he'd given up on the buttons. Mr. Smith was not often angry, but when he was it was very frightening. I tend to avoid hostility as much as possible, but there was no escape from this. Perhaps if I stood still enough, he wouldn't see me. He was all too keen of his environment, however; he would eventually notice me. So I decided to make the first move.
"Mr. Smith?" I squeaked out in a controlled, soft tone.
He jumped, startled. He looked over to where the noise came from, his expression still fiery.
"I need you to get me a new phone tomorrow. Not the same one. I didn't like that one anyway," he barked. I wanted so badly to ask, but I did not want to risk turning his anger towards me. I didn't say anything. I picked up the hamper, and ambled slowly over towards the doors. I stopped and turned around. Standing, waiting. I don't know why. But I made my expression soft and consoling, so he couldn't get angrier by looking at me. Maybe. But his head was in his hands, and he wasn't looking.
My feet carried me over to the bed, and made me turn and sit by him. The stress radiated off him, but I hated it touching me. Maybe it was safe to just put my hand on his shoulder. I did so, without reaction. I had never touched him before really. I was secretly glad for this upset, because it gave me an excuse.
Then I could feel him sobbing. And the waves of stress turned into waves of deep, sickening sadness. I knew it was okay to help now. I put my arms around his shoulders and held him while he sobbed quietly. His face, I could see, was wet and it felt hot with his hands on his forehead. I wished he would just tell me what the matter was; he would tell me when he's ready. I tried to think of what could be wrong that would make him react this way. Mr. Smith was not really a crier, to my knowledge. Is the business sinking? Maybe his money is gone? Did someone hurt his feelings? I knew Mrs. Smith hadn't been home a lot lately, maybe...
I held him tighter.
After some time, the sobbing slowed, then stopped. He wiped his face in his shirt and sat up. It was okay to let go. He smiled slightly at me, though red-faced and slightly swollen from crying. He got up and went to the sink to clean up, leaving me on the bed, hoping. The double doors slid open with a little difficulty, for Olivia came through, and she was nearly twelve and worn out from chasing her brother.
"Daddy! Will stole my diary from my room and won't give it back!" she huffed loudly.
Concerned for his feelings, I stood up and went towards her, mouthing, "Not now!", trying to get her out of the room, to her great shock and disapproval.
"No!" she yelled, "Daddy! Tell him to give it --" she trailed off at the sight of her father, who had just turned the corner to see her. She did not expect him to look so weary and I could tell she immediately took notice and changed her tone. "What happened?" she had the inherent right to intrude.
"Where is he? Where's Will?" he stalled, in a quiet tone. "Go get him, will you please?" The vindictive smile I had normally expected was nowhere in sight; she turned cautiously and went out the door.
As soon as her hustled footsteps were cleared, Mr. Smith spoke.
"Lia?" I looked up at him with concern. "I don't know how to tell them...I -- I don't know..." he trailed off, hopeless. A strange, noisy sound rang out; my phone was ringing. Mrs. Smith's ringtone. I pulled out my phone to make double sure, and indeed, it flashed "Mrs. Smith calling" across the screen. I looked up to get Mr. Smith's approval to answer but he had already made his way, furious again, towards me, and he yanked my phone away and opened it to answer.
"Lia is my employee. You are forbidden to call her or ask anything of her, do you understand? We are not to hear from you again," he slammed my phone shut and threw it hard at the wall behind me. I heard it break into pieces and fall onto the dresser and behind it, onto the floor. Ahh, the answer to the new phone question, I chuckled to myself. He interrupted my immature moment, "She won't be coming back. You are not to let her in the house. You are not to take orders from her, understand?"
"Yes, Mr. Smith." I spoke humbly.
"I don't understand what I did, it truly makes no sense to me. Yet, she has robbed me of my heart, my happiness,... my assets. Not much, of course, I never shared everything with her. But my heart, I gave her all of my heart." Mr. Smith was indeed a generous and loving man, once you got past the straight-forward, all-business, commander version of him. Mrs. Smith loved her embellished life, maybe too much. I think she didn't want to be weighed down by her family anymore. That was my guess, anyways. I wondered what would happen now, whether Mr. Smith would need me to work harder, whether he would need me at all, what will happen to the kids, etc. I wish this hadn't happened. I wish things could've stayed the same, but deep down inside I felt that everything had built up to this moment.
The next morning, Mr. Smith left on his jet at 9 o'clock sharp for his conference, despite the life-changing drama he was now drowning in. He decided to take his kids with him. They were extremely upset at yesterday's events, and decided it was best to stick together but also get out of the house for a while.
I had a few weeks in the house to myself which I spent cleaning and tidying up. I decided to take it upon myself to clean out Mrs. Smith's things that she left behind. She had packed most of her things, apparently, but left some old clothes and shoes, some jewelry she didn't like, and beauty items. I kept a pair of shoes that I happened to be fond of, although her feet were a size bigger than mine. The rest I put into plastic bags and carried up to the attic. If Mr. Smith ever decided he didn't want them gone, I could fetch them, but I wouldn't throw them out unless he was okay with it. I guess I would find out when he returned. I also rearranged some of the furniture in the house, to give it a little different feel; they left behind years of built-up emptiness and pain, they would not come back to it.
The house was too quiet for too long now. Especially at night. I went through and turned off all the lights every night, but by the end of the third week alone, it was getting uncomfortably creepy. I had scared myself into staying up later than usual but eventually fell asleep.
I was awoken by a text from Mr. Smith. "Landing this afternoon, Lia. Pls be home." ~Ryan Smith" My rigorous agenda would recommence this afternoon, I thought. Party over, I smiled to myself. But I wasn't smiling for dread of work as much as I was smiling at the thought of seeing Mr. Smith again.
I went out and bought some welcome home decorations just to brighten the place up for the family's arrival. I made sure everything was straightened and there was not a speck of dust anywhere, the house was at a comfortable temperature, there was plenty of food and drink in the fridge, and the decorations were straight. Then I went back to my room, and took some extra time to make myself look pleasing instead of peasant-y. I curled my hair, put on some make-up and a little nicer outfit. I didn't want to be over-the-top or too attention-seeking. Just nice, to make the house look nicer -- and maybe to please Mr. Smith. A little.
I sat myself in the family room, near the door, so that I would be ready to welcome them when they arrived. I read a book, a harmless (and clean) activity, to occupy myself. Expectedly, although it still startled me, keys were knocking on the metal of the lock of the door, and the bolts were undone. I quickly put my book down, stood up, straightened my clothes, and put on a pleasant face.
Mr. Smith came in, luggage in tow, followed by Will and Olivia laughing, and their luggage. They had all looked around and seemed to enjoy the decorations I put up; they were even smiling.
"Welcome home!" I exclaimed with a big smile. Everyone kind of just stared at me; it was a little awkward. Mr. Smith smiled back, "This is nice." It made me elated that I pleased him. Will and Olivia had been laughing about something before, so they continued their funny conversation, running up to their rooms, leaving their luggage behind for me to take care of.
I sighed. "How was the conference?" I asked as if business was a language I understood, but certainly not wanting to address the obvious.
"Good," he replied automatically. "I needed to get away and think. Took the kids to the amusement park a few times, saw some shows. They made friends with other kids at the conference, so they weren't completely bored there."
"I'm glad," I answered contently. I went towards the luggage to resume my duties, but he stepped over and blocked me. Taking my arms in his hands, he smiled a soft smile and spoke in a light voice: "Thank you for what you've done."
I blinked. "What do you mean?"
"I mean the decorations and being there when I tell you to, but mostly being there when I need you to. You do a lot for me and my family, it has not gone unnoticed."
"Well of course, Mr. Smith, it's my job," I justified.
"Do you know what I've been thinking about these past few weeks?" Obviously not, I lost my mind-reading powers when I was a child from lack of use. "I've been thinking about my priorities. What was happening in my relationship with Nadine was just complete dissolving. I mean, I know I tried to be around more lately, I even got a home office just for that. I took time off to be with her and the kids. I could have done more, though, I could have given her more attention, more love, but it wouldn't have meant anything to her. She just wanted things. There was nothing I could've done but let her do what she did," he explained. His face and voice had a tone of sadness in it, but it seemed that it was more from pity than brokenness. It was relieving to me; maybe things weren't going to change that much after all.
"Also, I've realized that what I've always needed has been right there with me through it all," he looked at me hinting, but I fought it with denial. He could NOT be saying what I was thinking, and secretly hoping, he was saying. I felt blood rush to my head; it was getting warmer, maybe I need to fix the thermostat.
"Umm, I don't really know what you're --"
"Lia," he interrupted my mumbling, "I've been thinking about you and what you mean to me. You're not just my assistant, you're more than that. Your sweetness, your thoughtfulness, your silly antics...just thinking about you has gotten me through the past three weeks." My stomach felt like it was trying to escape my body, and my heart seemed to shoot up into my throat. Even if I had wanted to, speaking of any kind was not going to happen. He broke the day-long silence, "So I thank you, Lia."
I sighed. Almost a year of commands and demands have finally resulted in this gratitude. But was this just gratitude? He left me thank-you notes in obscure places like the lint collector in the clothes dryer, and allowed me a whole week of luxury for my birthday, taking me out to eat and pretty much do whatever I wanted. He was my best friend. Was he trying to say more? Still holding my arms, he pulled me closer and leant his face to mine and continued in a whisper, "and I love you," sealing it with a kiss I could not resist, though my mind raced and I was still in denial that it was all happening. All his love for me was felt in that kiss, there was no thinking against it. I let my mind go, and let myself kiss him back. That was the day I quit my job. My job was my life. My life, as I knew it, is over.