“Housekeeping!” Ch. 02

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Amateur

Lunch: A Preview

Thursday, June 9th, 2016, 1:18 p.m.

“Gosh, this is a tiny salad. This’d barely fill up a bird.”

“Hm. Well, you can always order something else. Maybe next time you should get two and combine them.”

“That’s a really good idea! Thanks, Lilly.”

“Uh-huh.”

*****

One day earlier: Sweet Sixteen

Wednesday, June 8th, 2016, 10:12 a.m.

The summer solstice lay two short weeks away. Each of the remaining fourteen days grew longer than the last. Juniper’s fair weather-loving day-lifers squeezed each last drop from their dose of sunlight before heading home. The Meridian Inn & Suites at 37th and Bradwood was busy as ever with the added rush of vacationers getting an early start on holiday. It was not the favorite time of year for many on the Meridian staff. This meant less down time and slack for everyone employed. It was vital to perform tasks swiftly and efficiently, and yet not to be careless.

Lilly was sharing the eighth floor today. She started at 801. As tended to happen earlier in the mornings, more guests signaled “Privacy, Please” on their door handles. So Lil skipped 802 and 803, cleaning 804 next. Sixty-five minutes later, the clock struck ten. Lilly rolled out her basin, exited, and knocked on 805.

“Housekeeping.”

No answer, or request for privacy. Lil entered. All chores in mind, she liked to switch around the sequence, to keep the job from becoming too monotonous. This time she made the beds first, then began to Windex and wipe the glass. The curtain was drawn, and so Lilly couldn’t see that room 805’s occupant was actually sitting outside on the balcony. When she heard the door shut and the maid begin tidying up, she stood, discreetly stepped back into the room, and poked one eye between the curtains.

Yep. There she was.

Colleen felt an unignorable chill. She hadn’t seen Lilly since that confrontational day and terrifying night here last December. She was nervous as all hell and then some. The dutiful maid was turned to the side, spraying and wiping down the bureau mirror. Colleen swallowed, took a deep breath, parted the curtains and summoned an audible voice.

“…Um…L—”

The maid jumped a bit.

“Oh, you startled me!” Lilly half-chuckled. “Sorry, I didn’t know you w—”

It had been six months, but it took her a second and a half to recognize the face. Her hint of a smile vanished. Her blood went cold. The bottle of Windex dropped from her grip and tumbled on the floor, fizzing up the fluid inside. The ginger spoke.

“…H-hi, uh, Lilly…I—”

Lil grabbed the Windex from the floor. Her face and tone turned quite hostile.

“What the hell’re you doing here??” she demanded, low and ominous. Colleen raised her hands.

“I-I know. I’m sorry. Look, I-I didn’t come here to make trouble. I know what you said. And-and I know you probably still hate me, and I don’t blame you. I w—…I-I just wanted…”

She tried to go on, but had a hard time getting the words to come. She verbally groped while trying to get her heart to stop pounding. She couldn’t say she’d expected this to be easy, but her nerves were being wracked. Lil pointed the bottle nozzle at her, as if an arm of defense. As if to order her, “You stay back or I’ll spray.” As if to warn her with the threat of getting streaky and spotless.

“…Wanted what?” she harshly prodded.

Colleen panicked a bit. “I-I just wanted to talk to you,” she answered, trying to keep her voice from shaking. “I-I thought mayb—”

Lilly wasted nary a second. “Yeah, well, I don’t wanna talk to you,” she snarled. “I don’t like you, and I want zip to do with you.”

She took a step towards her and raised the bottle, making Colleen back up.

“But if this ‘wanted to talk’ thing’s an act, and you’re really planning to stab me in the back, you’re dead fucking meat.”

Under normal circumstances, of course, speaking to a hotel guest this way would be unthinkable. In a rare case such as this, however, Lilly kicked those rules out the metaphorical window. She whirled around, as trepidation welled up.

“Okay, where is she?” Lilly shouted. “Huh? Where is she? The bathroom?”

“W—…what?”

“You heard me. I sure as fuck don’t trust her, and I sure as fuck don’t trust you.” She stalked back across the room to the john, shoved the door wide ajar, and pointed the Windex bottle inside.

“A’right, Julie, jig’s up!” she hollered. “Get out here!”

Colleen was confused, and more than a little frightened.

“But-but, Lilly, she’s not h—”

The next place Lil looked was the closet. No Julie. She hastened back across the room, brushed past Colleen with a curt “Get outta my way,” and threw back the curtain to look on the balcony. No one. Now she was getting a bit worried. There were few places to play hide-and-seek, and canlı bahis she’d just checked all of them. She turned back on Colleen, glowering intensely.

“So you got her stashed somewhere else in the hotel, huh? Just waiting to spring out and grab me??”

Colleen raised her voice. “Lilly, I swear, sh—”

Lilly threw the curtains shut again, pulling the balcony door closed as well.

“Where the fuck is she?!!” she screamed.

Colleen panicked a lot.

“CALIFORNIA!” she squealed. She realized she’d have to shout as well to get up and over Lil’s menacing tone.

Lil furrowed her brow. If Julie was in California…then she was back to her original question. What on Earth was Colleen doing here?

“If you’re lying to me, you’re gonna be damn sorry, big red,” Lil warned her. She showed Colleen a button on her apron’s waist. “Do not fuck with me. See this button? I press this, security’s up here in thirty seconds. Now I’m gonna ask you this one more time, an—”

“Lilly, she dumped me!”

A long, uncomfortable silence settled. Lilly stopped, slowly lowering her spray bottle. Colleen slunk to one of the beds and sat.

“…She dumped me.”

Lilly watched wordlessly. Colleen linked digits in her lap, hung her head and let her tears come. Lil quietly placed the Windex on the bureau, and noted the ginger’s grimace, signaling imminent sobs. Lilly realized she didn’t disbelieve her. The tears were conviction. She kept watching as one after another streamed Colleen’s face. She cried thoroughly, noisily, and hard.

Several thoughts and feelings occurred to Lil. One of them was righteous satisfaction. So she’d been right. After another six months, Julie had thrown Colleen overboard as well, the rat. Apparently, she didn’t retain the lesson Lilly’d taught her. Or maybe she thought Colleen wouldn’t have it in her to seek revenge, which she might not. Or maybe Julie Hancock was just a selfish asshole. And now Colleen knew how it felt, to have her heart dashed at the hands of her—their—ex-snake. Lilly almost felt bad for her. Almost. So Julie wasn’t here after all. She calmed down and crossed her arms.

“Well, well,” she sneered. She and Colleen may now both know the heartache, but Lil wasn’t ready to be comforting or consoling yet.

“…Welcome to the business end.”

Colleen covered her wet face.

“I’m so sorry, Lilly.”

“What?”

The ginger removed her hands and raised her voice.

“I said I am so, so sorry, Lilly.”

Lil paused.

“Hmph. Yes, well, y’know what, I’m not so sure I’m gonna accept that apology just now.”

“I understand. We treated you like total shit that day. And if…”

Her next words made her start to lose it again before she even said them.

“…Lilly, if the way you felt that day was…was anything like the way I’ve been feeling the last couple days…

“…Well, then you just can’t possibly imagine how sorry I am. She broke my heart! Lilly, she broke my HEART!”

Colleen reverted to her state of thirty seconds ago. She bawled uncontrollably. And try as she did to remain cold and stoic…Lil couldn’t help it. Her sympathy pushed through. She did know how this felt. Julie’d broken her heart too. Colleen had now walked (or flown) a number of miles in her shoes. The proverbially barefoot Lilly shut her eyes and shook her head.

“Oh, goddammit.”

She wandered the few steps over and sat on the bed beside her. She didn’t put her arm around Colleen or offer her shoulder to cry on, but she spoke up to be heard.

“All right…I…*ahem*” she cleared her throat. “ALL RIGHT, uh…Colleen…you’re forgiven.”

The ginger heard her, and indeed felt a little better. She again unhanded her face, turned to Lilly and hugged her.

“Oh, thank you.”

Lil’s first reaction was to recoil. Her acceptance of the apology wasn’t an offer of succor or affection. But…

Ah, what the fuck. Big red was obviously in her own blinding emotional anguish. And in correspondingly great need of comfort. Lilly was compelled to think back to that horrible day of her own in December. It was true, she’d never known anything could hurt quite that bad. But as 2015 drew to a close, Lil decided her N.Y.R. would be to hold her head high, to be strong, to get over that slime ball Julie and not look back. She couldn’t help but feel frustrated. 2016 had been good to her. Those calendar pages were truly akin to a new leaf. She did feel better. She did look up again. She did start to get on with her life. Gradually, her smile came back. She had all but completely put it behind her. And then…this. God, why’d Colleen have to show up now? Now, of all times, when Lilly’d just started to move on again? She sighed, blowing forth a lip-vibing exhalation. She gave the ginger a quarter-hearted pat on the back.

“Yeah. Wel—” This embrace still wasn’t very comfy for her. Her uniform was starting to get bahis siteleri soppy. And on that note, she really had to get back to work. She stirred, but Colleen didn’t want to let go.

“Ok—…okay, okay, that—…that’s fine. That’s…yeah, yeah, I forgive you. Now c’mon, paws off.” With a bit more prying, Lilly managed to extricate herself. She stood from the bed.

“I need to ask you a question. Do you want privacy, or do you want me to stay here and clean the room? ‘Cause I’ve already started.”

Colleen would rather not be alone right now. Even if the company was temporary. So she said sure, go ahead and clean. She flipped the TV on, curling up in a fetal position. With one hand, she hugged herself and rubbed the opposite arm. The other she slipped between her thighs, palming her calf. It was the most comfort she could achieve on her own, short of sucking her thumb. She watched the set through semi-blurry vision, letting the crying fit ride out. Another fifty-four minutes later, Lilly was through with the room. All done, she announced so, collecting her supplies to get going. Colleen raised her head, and slid up from her horizontal pose.

“Oh…Lilly, could…could you please stay? Could we maybe talk?”

“Can’t, Flower girl. Gotta move on to my next room. This is my job, y’know.”

Colleen sat up. “Well, c—cou-could I take you to lunch? Please? I-I really want to. Totally on me. Maybe like 1:00-ish?”

“NO-ish, big red.” Lil did not want to have lunch with Colleen, and had a truthful excuse. “Look, the Meridian’s maids barely get fifteen lousy minutes for lunch. They keep us on a kinda short leash in this place. Especially in solstice months.”

“Oh. Well, how ’bout tomorrow?”

This girl didn’t want to give up. The Mer-maid sighed once more.

“Collee—”

She couldn’t believe what Colleen did next. She jumped up from the bed and practically threw herself at Lilly’s feet, on her knees.

“Oh, please, Lilly!” she legitimately begged. “Please, please, please! I flew fifteen hundred miles here just to see you! I didn’t know where else to go, or who to turn to! You’re all I have! You’re the only reason I’m here! Please at least just give me lunch!”

She stopped just short of clutching Lilly’s legs. Wow. The chick was even needier than she’d thought. And as little as spending time with Colleen appealed to her, it remained preferable to sending her back to Sobsville. She didn’t want to make the ginger snap.

Another sigh. “L—…a’right, look, I…stop that! Stop it. Okay, I’ll…I’ll-I’ll see if I can get them to have someone cover for me tomorrow. And whether I can or can’t, either way, I’ll come back later to let you know. How’s that?”

“Oh! Thank you, Lilly.” Colleen got back to her feet, taking one of Lilly’s hands with both hers. “It means a lot to me.”

For just a sec, Lil took a step back, afraid Colleen would hug her again.

“…All righty then.” She gave Colleen’s paws a shake, politely letting her know it was time to go now. “I’ll be back a little after 4:00 to let you know. That’s when my shift ends. If you’re not here I’ll leave you a note. Okay? Got that?”

“Got it,” nodded an appeased Colleen, trotting to grab her purse. “A note’s fine. I’ll be out later, I gotta go shopping and do a couple other things. But, uh…” She retrieved a $20 bill and gave it over. “…As I recall, um…Julie kinda…owes you ten bucks. But she’s not here, so…there ya go, and, another ten for doing my room. Thanks again, Lilly. I really appreciate this.”

Lilly certainly didn’t expect that. How…amazingly generous. She abruptly felt a little sour at herself for being nasty earlier.

“Oh, well…thank you, Colleen. Uh…so I guess then I won’t see you later, but…maybe tomorrow.”

*****

The (Very) Lil Luncheon

Thursday, June 9th, 2016, 1:01 p.m.

Nothing if not a woman of her word, Lilly decided to be honest with Colleen, no matter the outcome of her request. She supposed she could look at this optimistically, a silver lining either way. If denied her day off, she didn’t have to see Colleen—though she had a feeling the ginger’d pine for them to get together another time. And if they gave her the day off, well, then she had the day off. She could sleep in, take care of some errands of her own, and do whatever else floated her fancy and tickled her boat.

Under normal circumstances, one June day was too short notice for time off. But as it turned out, a fellow maid’s plans for the day fell through. So she volunteered to pick up the shift, and Lilly was granted her free day.

A’right, looks like I owe big red a meal. She stuck to her promise and dropped Colleen a note, saying she’d indeed see her tomorrow at 1:00-ish. Foreseeably, the ginger was delighted. She didn’t know Juniper very well, and was open to restaurants. So Lil took her to Café Petite, a cute little bahis şirketleri place famous for its modest-sized portions. While delicious, meals were congruently tiny and affordable. The idea was that (unless rail thin,) diners could finish without filling up, and have room left for a sumptuous dessert. And if especially famished, they could double up on food, dessert, or both, without draining their wallets. So though Lilly had the whole day off, here she and Colleen could tuck away a quick, snappy lunch and let that be that. A few minutes into the ride, Colleen turned her way.

“I really appreciate this, Lilly,” she stated again. “I didn’t know anyone in Santa Barbara, and I don’t know anyone here either, except you. I just really needed some companionship.”

“Don’t mention it. What about your family?”

“Oh, they’re…” Colleen sighed, waving a paw. “…Kinda scattered. And there aren’t really too many of ’em left. Besides, they were always pretty conservative, an—”

“Ah—” Lil nodded, holding up her own non-driving hand. “Say no more. Been there. Damn closet door was sticky, and no one was dying to help me out.”

Colleen laughed, the first hint of merriment Lil detected in her since meeting up again. Huh. Lilly had made her smile. She…oddly wasn’t sure how to feel about that. But a moment later, Colleen turned to the moody side again.

“Yeah…’course, as I’m sure you’re aware…our, uh…ex…never had to put up with that.” She scoffed through her nose. “Bitch.”

Again, Lilly found herself faced with an unplaceable emotion. Colleen seemed to have a way of saying things that made Lil feel closer to her, much as she still didn’t think she wanted to. Referring to Julie as their shared ex and calling her a bitch actually gave Lil a weird feeling of solidarity with her. Maybe she didn’t hate Colleen’s guts quite as much as she thought.

“Yes, well…wasn’t just that that made her a bitch. She got pretty fucking condescending when it came to her fortes, like wine.”

Colleen gasped. “Omigod, I know, right?! I mean, I love wine, I’m pretty knowledgeable with it. But other stuff…like…sometimes I’d ask her a legit question, something I just honestly didn’t know. Something a lotta folks wouldn’t know. And she’d stop dead in her tracks and give me this look, like…like it was the most obvious thing in the world. Like I was the biggest moron alive.”

“True, she definitely had a superiority thing going on. Sometimes she’d get me to thinking Napoleon had a Julie Hancock complex.”

Big red laughed again.

“I didn’t know you were so funny!” she giggled. “I mean, you got some serious laughs outta me that night. And I was pissed at you at the time…till I thought we kinda deserved it. To be honest with you, Lilly, I, eh…started to feel guilty even before she dumped me.”

Lil pursed her lips.

“There…might’ve been a more ‘grown-up’ way to handle it, admittedly. But, you of all people would now understand just how I felt the rest of that shitstorm day. Can, uh…Colleen, can I ask you a personal question?”

“Yeah?”

“…Did she leave you for someone else too?”

Colleen paused a few moments before answering. Her voice came out small and forlorn.

“Yes.”

“…Sorry. I know it’s not my fault, but I also know Julie has two fears when it comes to relationships: commitment, and being lonely.”

“I…kinda knew that too. So I can’t say I didn’t know what I was getting into with her. But for some reason, I thought I could…I dunno…change her. Get her to settle down, y’know?”

“…I actually do know, Colleen; I thought the exact, same, thing.”

Colleen shook her big red head. “Wow. Huh,” she chuckled dryly. “Are we stupid or what?”

“Hm,” chuckled Lil, even more dryly. “Maybe I used to be. But I’ll tell ya right now: I’ll never take someone’s bullshit like that again.”

“Me neither.”

They arrived at the café. Part of the reason Lilly’d chosen it was that she was watching her figure. The other part was to hopefully keep the lunch brief, and not too uncomfy. The day before, and in fact up until their arrival, she’d continued to believe she wanted to spend as little time with Colleen as possible, but…ah well, Lil thought. We’ll just see how it goes.

Lilly ordered a club sandwich with lemonade, Colleen the chef salad and Diet Coke. It would seem she was watching her lbs. as well. Once the waiter brought their lunches and left them be, they dug in. Not that there was a great deal of digging to do, as Colleen pointed out. After the “tiny salad” portion of the dialogue, they let another pause elapse.

“…Ssssssssoooo, um,” said big red, trying to think of more chat fodder. “How long’ve you been a maid?”

“Going on six years now, actually. I know it may seem unambitious, but the truth is I happen to like what I do. I love the hotel, I feel literally at home there. And cleaning’s not the most fun thing in the world, but I need that kinda order in my life. I need that structure. Besides, my roots’re here in Minnesota. There’s really nowhere else I’d rather be. So…what do you do anyway, Colleen?”

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