Writer’s note: This was just an idea I had within a daydream. I was auditioning for a movie with Liam Aiken (yeah, I know. Shame me. Just do it) and this was the premise. Then I decided that we should just be making Airborn, the movie he was originally cast for before backing out. If you’ve read the book, I was trying out for Kate in the dream.
I sighed as we pulled up to the house. It didn’t really look like a house, more of a museum. Somewhere in my rational brain, I knew it wasn’t quite a mansion or anything so drastic as I like to imagine, but there wasn’t much rational space left up there. Because if there was rational thought going on, I wouldn’t be here. I’d be flipping burgers or something.
“I’d tell you to have fun, but…” Tom grimaced in sympathy, slowing the truck to a stop.
Shrugging, accepting my fate, I clambered out of the car. This was always a trial, because I was so short and Tom’s truck was a monstrosity. A five foot tall 18 year old year had no business climbing in and out of that thing. Of course, an 18 year old girl had no business only being five feet tall either, but that wasn’t something I could change.
“I can’t pick you up until five… is that ok?” Tom glanced at his watch, and I felt a twinge of guilt. I knew I was already making him late. He had his art exhibition at the college to get to. Although it wouldn’t open for another couple of weeks, he was constantly there setting things up. And if he didn’t get there at a certain time, he wouldn’t have much time before getting over to his “real” job at the book store. That was a problem that always stressed him out.
“It’s fine, Tom. I can walk home. It’s really not that far.”
“Don’t be silly. Just wait out here and… I dunno. Count the grass.”
“I’ll take that into consideration.” I rolled my eyes, knowing I would start walking as soon as my job was done. I wasn’t spending any more time than I absolutely had to in this place. Unless I was getting paid by the hour, in which case I might be here all night.
I listened to the familiar gravel crunching as Tom drove away, walking slowly up to the door, dreading my decision for only the thousandth time. Ringing the doorbell, I rocked back on the heels of my feet. Just don’t let it be Reed who answers the door. Don’t be Reed. Don’t be Reed.
“Can I help you?” Damn. The dark copper-haired boy I was hoping to avoid looked at me curiously. At least he probably won’t recognize me.
“I’m here for your yardwork.” He stared at me, not comprehending the agonizingly simple concept. “I’m your new gardener.” I explained further, watching his eyes for signs of brain damage. I read somewhere once that you could just tell with some people, if you looked closely enough at their eyes.
“Oh. Right. Um. Yeah. Come-come on in. I’ll go get my dad.”
Where did I put that paper? I had practically destroyed the very specific order of my room to find that stupid piece of paper. The housekeeper hadn’t been here lately, so it couldn’t have been her.
“MOM!” I shouted, leaning out of my room in frustration. “Have you been in my room?”
“No, sweetheart. I try to avoid it, actually.” She giggled at her joke, which wasn’t really a joke and more of an unfair jab at my cleanliness. I imagined her in her room, repainting her dagger-long fingernails and chuckling at herself. Then I imagined the poles of her four-poster bed collapsing in on her, crushing her stupid bleached head.
I growled to myself. I’d hidden the paper in between some books on my shelf, but after searching the entire book case that covered a whole wall, I’d second-guessed myself and started searching everywhere. If my mom hadn’t taken it -and I could be sure she would have said something if she had-then…
“Shit.” I muttered under my breath. Climbing up a flight of stairs, taking the steps two at a time, I knocked lightly on the door to my dad’s office.
Please just have misplaced the paper. Please have him not have found it. Please please please. “Dad? Have you been in my room?”
“Why would you ask that, son?” He sat back, beefy fingers adorned with class and football championship rings. He was smarter than my mom. He asked questions before answering.
“There’s just some stuff out of place… and I was wondering if you moved…or took anything.”
“Your room is organized as if OCD monkeys keep it up. Shouldn’t you know when something is missing?”
“You haven’t answered my question.” Please please please please….
“What would I have taken, son? Maybe… this?” He held up the paper.
No. I felt my heart suddenly stop thudding and sink into my stomach, as if giving up. I said nothing.
“I didn’t realize you’d applied to this school. Congratulations on your acceptance.” I couldn’t bring myself to look at him, aiming my eyes at my bare feet. “Interesting choice. It says here they liked your manuscript. Now, what exactly could that mean?” I shrugged noncommittally. “I thought we’d all agreed that your writing career was best unfulfilled.”
I opened my mouth to defend myself, then closed it again upon realizing that I had nothing to say to that. Then the doorbell rang. Saved by the bell I thought to myself, grimacing at myself for the cliche.
“Go answer that.” My father commanded, nonchalantly taking the paper from his desk and locking it away in a drawer.
I all but ran out of his office to get the door, though who I found there was a surprise bigger than my father’s treasure-hunting skills.
Leah Richter? “Can I help you?”
“I’m here for your yardwork.” she said matter-of-factly. I stared at her, still in disbelief that she was here, in my house. “I’m your new gardener.” she added, as if I had some sort of brain damage and couldn’t work out that concept on my own.
My dad hired this tiny creature to do our yardwork? “”Oh. Right. Um. Yeah. Come-come on in. I’ll go get my dad.”