The knock on the door jolted her out of her seat.
“Lady!” Dan bellowed.
She jumped, and hid her books and the letter under the mattress.
“What are you doing in there?” He snapped. “I know you are in there. Don’t hide.”
She quickly pulled her sweatshirt over her tank top and moved forward to open the door.
He stood there tall, towering over while she dipped her head low, clenching her fists behind her. He shifted his weight to the right while he rested his right arm on the doorframe. Bending closer to her, he whispered in her ear.
“I missed you.”
She shut her eyes real tight, and stammered. “P..ple.please leave me alone. Please.”
He pushed her into the room with his body and locked the door behind him.
“Welcome my boy, welcome,” Mr Don smiled widely as he ushered Ron into his house. “It’s been a while! How’s your old man?”
Ron nodded his head, an indication that his old man was hale and hearty. He looked around, hoping to find her.
“What can we serve you?” Mr Don asked.
“Uh… anything will do sir,”
“Sir? You are one respectful gentleman I must say! Make yourself comfortable. I’ll bring you something,” Mr Don gestured Ron to the red velvet sofa and walked away.
As he sat, Ron eyes continued to wander around. Just then, he spotted a lady running across the dining area. She stopped to tie her unkempt hair and cover her arms with her cardigan. Ron stood up, his eyes not leaving the sight of the lady.
Just as he wanted to advance towards her, Mr Don called from behind.
“Young man, here’s our house drink!” He turned to grab the glass and turned back, only to realise that the lady had ran into the kitchen.
“You still remember her, ey?” Mr Don asked, with a smirk.
Yea, then it’s definitely her…
“Anyway, do join us for lunch,” he added. “Ah, that’s my wife!”
Ron looked to his side and saw the lady of the house, whom he had never met before.
“Come here darling. Meet my best friend’s son. Look at how much he has grown!”
She walked over and smiled. “You are one handsome piece.”
Ron felt embarrassed and took a sip of his cognac shyly.
“Let’s chat! We’ve never spoken before, have we?”
Before Ron could reply, her husband interrupted.
“Ah, why not you handle lunch first? He’d be joining us.”
The lady looked down and left, leaving Ron an impression of the wave of patriarchal authority in the house — just like in his.
“Ma’am, what do we cook for the house today?” The head chef asked. He had followed her into the drawing room, confused. Mr Don had requested for lunch preparations but the lady had not entered the kitchen for the past 10 minutes.
She turned and smiled. “House,” she said. “How apt.”
“I’m sorry ma’am. Did I say anything wrong?” The head chef asked. “I’m sorry if I did ma’am. I surely must not have meant it.”
She smiled again and turned to look out to the window. There was nothing to admire. Everything was covered in a thick blanket of snow.
“You see that out there,” Ma’am asked. “The leaves, flowers… they’re all gone. It’s just the snow. There is no meaning to the scenery here.”
The head chef remained silent.
“It’s just like what we have under this roof. A family, blanketed by greed,” her voice began to quiver. “The family is gone.”
She turned. This time, she grinned. “You are absolutely right. Cook for the house. Not the family.”
The head chef bit his lip, regretting why he had asked her the question in the first place.
“Come, let’s see what we can cook. I am famished!” She made her way to the kitchen while gesturing the head chef to follow.
“Oh, you are already here little lady,” Ma’am spoke in a surprised manner. She looked at her little servant intently, and realised how she was no longer “little” anymore. She was growing into a woman. The swells on her chest, the tight curves at her waists, her collarbone and her high cheekbones. But she could not ignore the bruises.
She looked away and gestured for the head chef to leave. Sensing the enormity of the situation, he took one quick glance at the servant and shook his head as he left the kitchen.
Almost instantly, the servant burst into tears as she fell to the floor and leaned against the wooden cabinet. She hugged her legs tight and buried her face into her knees.
“Please help me Ma’am. I cannot take this anymore. Why are you not doing anything about this?”
Ma’am sat next to her and hugged her close to her body. “What can I do? I’m just as helpless as you.”
The servant pulled away and stared at her with angry eyes. “You are his mother. You have every right to stop his actions. Why are you not exercising your authority in the house?”
She looked at her servant and smiled. “You are very innocent my child. This is a man’s world. Don’t you see it?”
She stood up and rested her body on the marble counter. After five minutes of silence except for the servant’s faint sobbing, Ma’am turned to the servant and frowned.
“What are you doing here? Don’t think this is your resting time, you brat!” She began to chide.
The servant looked up in shock.
“Don’t look at me like that!” She pulled the servant up by the ear and pushed her to the stove. “Cook up lunch for everyone right now! Terrible wretch… ”
The servant wiped her tears and breathed in. No one can help her. Not even her schizophrenic Ma’am.
Lunch was ready in an hour. The servant began laying the plates and cutlery on the dining table. At the corner of her eye, she saw someone approaching her. She quickly arranged the last set of forks and spoons.
He approached even nearer. She stammered again, “Plea please Dan sir, leave me alone … please…”
She scurried back into the kitchen.
Ron stood there, watching her as she left frightened.