My son’s keening wakes me for the third time that night. Muttering expletives, I get out of bed and blearily make my way to his crib, just at the foot of my bed. It would be easier to sleep with him, but I’m an active sleeper and he’s still quite small. I pick him up and he searches eagerly for my breast, which I offer without thinking. I am too tired to appreciate the magic of motherhood tonight.
As his cries fade away into happy sucking sounds, I stare out the window of my little one-bedroom apartment. I let myself wonder, as I never do during the day, where my son’s father might be now. The honest truth is that he’s probably drunk somewhere, or asleep with another woman. In none of my fantasies does he come back to me, but in all of them he is miserable and never knows happiness again for leaving me with a son that looks like him and no money to care for his child.
Miles, my son, coos happily and I settle him back into his crib, straightening my shirt and going to lie down on my Temperpedic mattress, which I had the fortune to claim at the local Goodwill for only $40. One man’s trash…
I awake the next day to dusty sunlight filtering through the windows that won’s stay clean no matter how many times I wipe them. The irony of this does not escape me as I’m perusing the “Wanted” section of the paper and my eyes light on an ad: Maid wanted for night shifts.
A couple calls later and I’m strapping Miles into the backseat of my crappy little car that no longer passes safety tests, and making a short drive into the downtown area for the interview. Rich UPenn students mill around and cut in and around me like they own the streets as well as a trust fund. A few of the boys do a double take when they see me but I ignore the attention; I no longer want it or care about it.
I pick up my maid’s outfit and grimly ignore the creepy man’s passes at attempted flirting. Even on a day like today, running on maybe three hours of sleep and dressed in sweats and a blue long-sleeve shirt, something about me draws men like flies to honey. I ignore this particular loser’s buzzing and make my escape quickly, wishing not for the first time that an article of clothing existed that would disguise the enormous roundness of my ass.
I spend the day relaxing the only way I know how to, lying with my son in a little park in a rich neighborhood that I literally smile my way into-the entrance is gated and most days I can get in. As long as the woman isn’t working the shift. It gives me a kind of perverse pleasure to see the other parent’s faces when they see my beat up little black car, and look around trying to guess who the intruder is. None of them have the guts to guess it’s me and ask me to leave but all of them could have been in my shoes, so fuck them. I make eyes at the men who occasionally walk by when their wives aren’t looking, not because I want attention but because I’m sure that somewhere, they left a woman out in the cold too.
Miles crawls rolls around and puts soft little hands on my tits, that spill up and over the little scoop-neck of my shirt. His hands are softer than my tits, something I didn’t know was possible, and I laugh and let him play with my large white globes. He doesn’t know any better, and the least I can do is teach him how to be gentle early. I try to teach him how to push himself up on his arms, to every other woman’s dismay, pushing my own arms up and arching my back like a yoga instructor. The pose makes my waist impossibly tiny and my chest impossibly big, and my curly brown hair is shaken out behind me like a lion’s mane. My son, however, is happy to gurgle and laugh at Mommy from his belly, and is resolutely uninterested in any more physical exertion. I feed him in the shade of the tree and feel the glares of the other mothers, which I also ignore. After a couple hours, I pack up and drive away, practically able to see the haze of resentment I’m driving through. The gateman’s friendly smile makes it all evaporate though, and I’m in good spirits for the rest of the day.
I drop Miles at my mother’s house that night. She can’t watch him during the day because she works too, but she eagerly takes him and the milk I’ve pumped for him tonight.
“I’m really happy you’ve found another job, Arabella.”
I hug her tightly and head out in my new work ensemble, which is just as ridiculous as a costume on my voluptuous body.
Getting back into my car, I route myself to my first address.
22 Green Street.
Backing out of the driveway, I follow the instructions carefully, and inwardly groan as they take me into the downtown area again. My destination appears to be on campus. Even worse, the app concludes my short journey in front of a large fraternity house on Greek row, the letters DKE emblazoned on the balcony in gaudy gold that probably cost as much as my rent for a month, per letter.
I get out of the car and hear the deep thumping of a bass, but the street itself is still relatively quiet. A pregame. Sighing inwardly, and anticipating the enormity of the mess I’ll probably be walking into, I walk up to the house and ring the doorbell. Steeling myself for the worst, I’m taken aback when the door is opened and a handsome face probably only a couple years younger than my own looks out at me with an eager grin.
“You’re early!” He says eagerly, ushering me inside.
“I thought you wanted me to come at eight.”
“Miscommunication, I guess,” he says, still grinning broadly. “We’re going this way.”
I follow him through the opulent entrance hall lined with portraits of rich former members who are only important in this circle of rich current members, and roll my eyes behind the back of the guy leading me from room to room. A sitting room, past a kitchen. I vaguely note that everything looks surprisingly clean, and that maybe this won’t be as bad as I’m expecting. We arrive outside a closed door and the guy turns to me, his face eager but a little serious.
“Okay, everyone is downstairs, and the idea is to intimidate the new guys but also make them feel welcome. Think you can do that?”
I’m totally taken aback and scramble for a composed answer while I work out what’s happening. “Sure.”
Seems like the safest option and thing to say.
“Perfect. You’re really hot, by the way.” He winks at me and slides the door open, gesturing for me to follow him and close the door behind me. Music starts, low and sexy, as we descend the stairs, and there’s a perceptive change in environment. I can feel…nerves? Not my own, I’m now pretty sure what’s happening and wondering how the mix-up happened, but really just glad that it’s a group of young guys instead of ones like the guy who gave me my outfit. Right before we reach the bottom, I reach out and brush my host’s hand.
“I need to tell you…I think there’s been a misunderstanding. I really am supposed to be a maid.”
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