“You were supposed to have cleaned this yesterday!” barked Mrs. Hameed.
“But I’m telling you, I heard-“
“The voices in your stupid dreamy head,” she interrupted. “And I have enough to do without listening to your gibberish. I don’t care what you hear or see but when I come back, this broom closet better be shiny enough to reflect my face or so help me God. Now stop lounging about and get to work!”
Anaya managed to control her face until the housekeeper had turned away and then stuck her tongue at her back. Mean old crone, she muttered under her breath. Would she loose fat if she believed her? She wasn’t lying, dammit, or making up stories.
This house was alive. And she meant breathing, talking, and celebrating birthdays and anniversaries kind of alive. She’d started noticing it two months ago on her first day here. Barely heard whispers coming from unoccupied rooms, unused doors opening and locking themselves at will. Trails of a story being told in the ground floor kitchen could be heard murmured in the second floor bedroom. The tiles and wood creaked if you slipped and fell, and nothing was ever found in the same place you left it.
During her first week here, she’d resolved to take it all in stride, thinking it was the wild imagination her beloved mother loved to lament as often and loudly as possible. She had a soul thirsty for stories and though she’d never been sent to school, had learned to read from Samina, her next door neighbor. The older girl lent her old books in exchange for sewing her clothes for free, a trade kept secret from both their vigilant families. The tales of magic and adventure were her escape when reality became too harsh to digest.
Though often ridiculed, mostly everyone thought her imagination was harmless. Foolish follies of her young years that life and,, eventually marriage would easily cure. But as it turned out it, her imagination was note harmless because ignoring the house’s disturbances had been a mistake. Not only had it given her a reputation of being a little lose in the head, the house had somehow taken it as a sign of her being comfortable with its charming personality and stopped hiding all together. The walls started gossiped, the doors and floors played pranks and the furniture kicked her shins if she dusted a little too hard.
Not that anybody in the staff believed her. They’d laughed her off at first, but she’d stubbornly stuck to her stories and now everyone thought she was mad. Well, everyone except the Khan’s. All they did was smile and told her to ignore it.
Ignore it? How could she possibly ignore it when a sleep chair threw tantrums and a lamp started to dance? And she was pretty sure the two vases in the first floor drawing room were dating, having caught them canoodling minutes after she’d set them apart herself.
But things were escalating now because the house had now decided she would become its personal messenger. She found notes everywhere she went. Apparently, there was a Furniture Board of Authority you could submit a complain to if you were unsatisfied with your geographical location and neighbors. As though bureaucratic politics wasn’t enough, she was now also being included in personal affairs. Scandalous love letters, stern hate mail found its way into her bag or was rolled out towards her feet.
Like the forlorn love letter that had rolled out from beneath the broom closet door. She dug it out of her pocket, smoothed the creases and read the words she now knew by heart.
A Public Letter to the Mr. Dust-Cloth, Chairman of the Furniture Board of Authority
I’m afraid I have a bone to pick with you regarding the unfairness of the scheduled weekend breaks, which I’m well aware fall within your jurisdiction, what with you being ardent friends with the snooty housekeeper. I’ll have you know, Mr. Chairman, that there’s injustice under works at the mansion and you are none the wiser. I have it on good authority that I’m the only one not privy to any breaks at all, which, to put it mildly, is simply preposterous.
Even the lowest of the low here – and yes, I mean the Intel-Outside-Idiot-Inside computers in this house – get a break. Everyone’s busy sleeping on the weekends and so they aren’t turned on. But me, oh no siree! My work load increases on the weekends and that’s unfair. Why is there no respite for the little bushy old me?
And to top it off, you no longer visit my resting place, either. Why have you changed your snoozing corner? Are you ashamed to be seen with me? Is it because I’m an inexpensive wooden broom instead of the expensive antiques you shine on a regular basis? Is my accident of birth the reason for this sudden indifference? But I had nothing to do with that, so why punish me?
My dear sir, I humbly request you to look beyond the lack of polish on my worn surface. Pay attention, instead, to the competence embedded within my old grains. For if it wasn’t for me, the floors wouldn’t shine and hidden dust would have a picnic everywhere. Learn to look beyond what meets the eye and maybe then, you’ll be able to see that which is hidden in plain sight.
I hope that someday you will also be able to give me that which I truly desire: a moment of relief from my relentless exertions. I pray it comes right alongside you. Yours Ardently,
A reluctant sigh left Anaya and her bookish heart melted at the small whimper she heard through the closet. Where the house even conjured such expensive paper from and how it managed to write were mysteries she had yet to find answers to. But now she must go and console her old, weary companion. Women gotta stick together.
To be continued…