The room was great; she could stay here for two weeks, easy. Randi sat down on the full-sized bed and looked around the room. The carpet was plush, a nightstand, a dresser, and her own private bathroom now held her items. There was no TV but she had her iphone if she needed anything.
Randi looked at the clock on the wall and sat up in bed, it was two a.m., she should be sleeping. She’d been given the security key, to the Internet and since she couldn’t sleep, she began writing out an email to her mother. She’d learned a long time ago that taking pictures and sending them to family or friends wasn’t allowed, so she hadn’t taken any pictures of the home she was staying in.
She’d like to send a shot of the kitchen to her mom. Nothing would make her mother happier than to have an evening lose, in the very clean, very organized, Harrison kitchen.
When done with the email, Randi laid her phone by her bed and picked up the clipboard. She glanced at tomorrow’s duties, that the butler had given her. She’d overheard the lady of the house throwing a fit because the Maid’s 101 had only sent over one female. Ms. Harrison had been expecting at least three women, but Maid’s was shorthanded so Randi was it for now.
Not long after she heard the discussion she was able to speak with the butler, John Sims. She assured him that she would pull her weight and that the misses, of the house, wouldn’t be disappointed. Sims didn’t seem convinced, but he did seem all that worried either.
He gave her a run down of where she was allowed to go, do and what was expected of her. She would rise at seven and start working on the great room. Everything would need to be dusted and cleaned before they started with the decorations.
Randi had access to the main kitchen, at any time of the day or night. There would be no meals prepared for the help, but they were welcome to cold cuts, or breakfast sandwiches that were in the kitchen. Sims did warn her that as long as she didn’t eat excessively everything would be fine.
Randi glanced at her watch and wondered if eating a snack at two a.m. would be considered excessive. She hoped not, she couldn’t sleep and she needed something to eat. She rose from the bed, slipped into her house boots, and seen her reflection in the mirror. Tweety bird stared back at her. The nightshirt was short, about six inches above her knee.
She twisted right and left, she had more clothes on than most women did in those skimpy commercial ads, and she wasn’t showing any cleavage. Randi shrugged and went to the kitchen. Peaking out into the hallway she saw no one. The house was quiet that was a good sign. One more look around and she made her way to the kitchen.
She stood trying to make up her mind. She didn’t want a sandwich, didn’t want to run the microwave and make any noise. After peaking through all of the cold cuts, fresh fruits, and protein drinks, she smiled and reached in pulling out a vanilla pudding.
She bent over and stretched to the third shelf down. Pudding would hit the spot, chocolate would be better, but then she’d have the caffeine to deal with. And she would have to get milk too. This way she could just grab a spoon, and sneak back to her room, before anyone spotted her.
Martin slammed the car door shut, he knew he should have insisted that Celia go. He hated showing up to dinners when everyone else had their wife, or live-in, with them. It made the whole evening uncomfortable, and made him feel out of place.
The air was warm and instead of going in through the front entrance he went through the garage. He stopped as he walked by his bike, it was almost midnight, and he was in no mood to talk to Celia.
He glanced down to his white shirt and dress slacks and walked to the garage bathroom. There he found hanging on the wall what he needed. Coveralls. They were one size to big, and belonged to his good friend Mike, who often worked on his vintage cars in Martin’s spacious garage.
After Martin slipped out of his clothes and into the clean, but dirty looking, oilskins, he zipped up, and walked toward the Harley. He didn’t do anything major when it came to the bike but he liked to tinker around, changing oil, plugs, and filters.
Martin turned on the radio and began to unwind as he got the tools out he’d need. Music always calmed his nerves and so did tinkering in the garage. He killed an hour re-arranging tools, cleaning off his work area, and then started working on the bike.
It’d been two weeks since he’d taken the bike out for a spin. He loved to ride. Out on the bike no one knew he was Martin Harrison. The full-face helmet kept his identify hidden. There was no mob of teens wanting his autograph, and no wild women running up to him offering, anything and everything, that one could imagine.
Still the women would stare. Most women seemed to love a man on a Harley. He smiled as he thought of Randi. She’d been attracted to him, that was obvious, what would she do if she seen him on the bike. His mind drifted to the dark hair she’d pulled back in a bun, and the smile that played on her lips, almost every time she turned to look at him. It was if she had some secret and she just couldn’t wait to share it.
Celia and he had been dating almost a year now, and he was beginning to see that they weren’t as compatible as he’d hoped. It wasn’t that he was ready to settle down, but he was getting tired of these differences cropping up, and they were becoming more and more evident in their daily life.
He was mad again just thinking about it. It was affecting his concentration. He picked up the bottle of oil and sat down by the bike. The bottle of oil fell over, the lid popped off, and oil went everywhere. Martin cursed setting up the bottle quick. He let out a frustrated breath and went on with his work.
As he began, what Bill said to him as they left the restaurant came to his mind. His agent was very vocal about Celia, and her distaste for the movie industry. In Bills words, ‘if Celia isn’t supporting you, she will only hold you back.’
Those words kept playing through Martin’s mind so much so, that it broke his focus. As he was taking the oil plug out to drain the oil the wrench slipped and he cut his right hand. It didn’t look deep but it was bleeding so he rose from his position in the floor and went into the kitchen.
If memory served him right, there was a first aid kit under the sink. He walked up the four steps that led to a short entry way and then the kitchen. Using his good hand he entered the password into the alarm system and entered the dark room.
There was a light on in the kitchen so he didn’t bother to turn on the hall light. As he took the few steps into the kitchen he stopped. The cut on his hand--left his thoughts and a smile crossed his face.
There, rummaging through his refrigerator was a black haired beauty wearing a Tweety-bird shirt. A single brow shot up as he wondered what kind of thief would break in just to poke around through the fridge. He stepped up to the sink and grabbed a napkin from the counter and then he spoke. “Do you mind telling me who you are, and what you’re doing here, just past two in the morning?”
Randi jumped when she heard the man speak. She dropped her pudding, and it went bouncing out the door and to the floor. Her brow furrowed and she straightened. Of course, someone would catch her scrounging for a snack.
With her luck it would be the man of the house, up to also find a late night something, to hold him over until breakfast. As she closed the door, and turned, she reached down with one hand to tug on the bottom of her nightshirt.
When she met those green eyes again she smiled, but the smile vanished at the site of blood on the man’s hand. “What did you do to yourself?” Randi bent down scooping up her pudding, she sat it on the table, and went to the sink.
Not asking, or paying any mind to her short gown, she took the limo drivers hand and turned the water on. “How long ago did you do this? You should always clean a cut, and wash it good.” She turned on the cold water and tugged his hand until it was under the water.
“That’s cold.” He said.
Randi glanced to the man’s handsome face, down to the name on his shirt, and smiled. “We’ll Mike, cold reduces swelling. Did you just do this?”
“Yes, just a minute ago.”
“Good, then this won’t burn.” Randi reached for the soap, squirted some on the palm of his hand, and began to wash the cut. “She glanced up to the man, and began to feel just a bit intimidated. “Tell me, Mike, are you the limo driver and the mechanic?”
“You could say that.” He laughed.
“Do you normally work this late?”
“No, I couldn’t sleep, so I thought I’d change the oil in the Harley. Then I did this, instead.”
“You’ll have to be more careful. Is there a first-aid kit around?” Randi asked, turning the water off, and letting go of Mike’s hand. He stepped back reaching for a paper towel.
“Yeah, under the sink.”
Randi opened the door, reached to the shelf taking out the kit. “Have a seat.”
Martin could have said no, but he didn’t want to. He was enjoying the attention. He doubted if Celia would walk in catching him in the act, of nothing really, so he sat down at the table. He waited, and kept his eyes on Randi as she sat down.
He thought it refreshing that she seemed modest about her short gown. She pulled it down best she could and sat in the chair next to him. After she opened the kit he stretched his hand out. “You asked me what I was doing up. Other than stealing pudding, why are you up at this hour?”
She pushed her hair back, scooted to the edge of her chair, and opened up the antibiotic cream. “I’m not stealing, and I couldn’t sleep. New job, nerves are at a high, I guess.”
“What’s there to be nervous about? You’ll be cleaning house, and putting up decorations. Are you afraid you’ll meet a scary dust bunny?” This won him a laugh and a smile.
“No silly.” She took his hand in hers and they both grew quiet, it was as if touching him took all of her attention. His eyes studied her as she worked. She put some of the cream on her finger, turned his hand over, and spread the cream on the cut.
She must have known he was watching, for now and then she’d glance up to meet his gaze. Martin relaxed in the chair, enjoying the feather touch of her hand on his. “So why are you nervous about this job?”
“Oh. Yeah, I didn’t answer that, did I?” She stopped talking for a second as she rummaged through the kit for something; she found a bandage and some gauze, and finished her thought. “I’m always worried I’ll do something stupid. I’ll probably drop Mr. Harrison’s favorite Christmas ornament and break it into a thousand pieces.”
“Is it the fact that their wealthy, or the fact that he’s a movies star?”
“The star quality doesn’t bother me because I’ve not seen any of his movies. It’s just the fact that people with money have power, and if you make a mistake, you could lose your job.
“Maids 101’ always warns you to be careful, but this time, they just couldn’t say enough about how I needed to avoid Mr. Harrison. How I needed to stay away from him because . . . we’ll . . . we’ve been over this already.”
Randi grew quiet, and Martin knew she was recalling their conversation, about the fact that he was, or was not, sleeping with Celia. For the first time in months, Martin wished he wasn’t sleeping with anyone.
He wished he could look this young woman in the eye and say . . . no he wasn’t doing anything, with the lady of the house. But he couldn’t and since this really couldn’t go anywhere he didn’t question her further. He just sat watching, and enjoying, the attention as she bandaged and wrapped gauze around his hand.
A few minutes later she was finished. She looked at his hand and rose meeting his gaze. He could see a bit of regret in those pretty eyes, and as she stood, she let her fingers slide over the back of his hand.
He wasn’t sure if it was reflex, or the feeling that something special was slipping through his fingers. No matter what it was, he reached up and held to her hand.
What could he say? Was he about to leave Celia for a woman he’d just met? Was he thinking about cheating on a woman that he’d been with for months? “Thanks, I appreciate the help.” As his good senses came back he let go of her hand.
“You’re welcome.” She all but whispered, as she walked past him. Martin let out a deep breath, pressed his fingers against his forehead, and tried to work this out in his head. As he rose he noticed the pudding on the table.
He picked it up and turned, but she was gone. A bit of his heart sank as the events of the last day played through his mind. This beauty had entered his life at a strange time. If he and Celia weren’t having troubles would he even be looking at Randi, or thinking about her?
Martin kept the pudding in his hand, and picked up a spoon. He turned out the light and walked to the edge of the stairs. He looked to his left where Randi slept, and looked up the steps to where Celia lay.
He wasn’t thinking clearly, and he was still in a foul mood. It was one reason why he turned from the stairs and made his way across the living room and down a set of steps to the spare bedroom. It would be the first time in months he’d slept alone, and he had a feeling that it would not be the last.
The first day of work at Maids 101, could be rough. Learning the pace, getting your bearings, and finding your place on the service team, could make your stress level rise. Today, the morning meeting helped to put Randi at ease. The staff seemed friendly, and that was a good sign that, at least, the other workers weren’t going to be a problem.
Eight men and women met in the kitchen, and it was hard for Randi to keep her mind on the meeting. Where was Mike? Didn’t he have to join the meetings too. She wanted to ask, but didn’t dare interrupt Sims, and she didn’t feel at ease to ask one of the other staff anything she didn’t have to.
Sims, the butler/assistant and Emma the cook/maid were the only two that were on the staff full time it seemed. This caused Randi to wonder when she might see the cute limo driver again. Two other men stood in the room. They were there to help with the outside lights, and any heavy lifting inside the house, while the women were cleaning.
The last three of the eight were all women. One of them Ann, seemed to know Emma. They stood close to each other and exchanged looks as Sims spoke. Ann looked to be in her early twenties, but as all the women she wore her hair pulled back in bun, and this made her seem older.
Maria, and Juanita, both spoke Spanish. Several times, Maria would lean over and translate something for Juanita. Randi had lived in California all her life, and could speak Spanish well, but found it helpful to not always divulge this fact to everyone.
The meeting only lasted twenty minutes, and then the staff had a moment to speak with each other before they each began their duties. The two men, Lonnie and Jake, who were landscapers, would start outside. Emma and Sims stepped to the side, and after a moment Sims nodded and left with Lonnie and Jake in tow.
Randi guessed that the first few days would be like a competition. She knew every woman that worked at Maid’s 101, and she’d bet money that Maria and Juanita worked for House-Helpers, their number one competitor.
Ann and Emma also conversed for a moment and then Ann left with Maria and Juanita. Randi watched the three women walk out of the kitchen, and out to the main part of the house.
Emma sat down at the table and motioned for Randi to step closer. As she did so Emma glanced toward the hall, to be sure no one was listening and then she spoke. “I know that Maids 101 was supposed to send over two women, Nancy, told me she’d send someone over as soon as she could.”
“Yes ma’am, until then I’ll do the best I can.”
“You know this job could become permanent, and the service that gets the best evaluation, could be the one to end up with the position.”
“That’s what I was afraid of.” Randi nodded to the clipboard. “I assume you’ll be doing the rating.”
Emma shrugged, “Not all of it. Celia Harrison, as she requested I call her, will have the final say.”
“I didn’t think they were married?”
“They are not, but, if you happen to find yourself in her presence, I suggest that you call her Ms. Harrison and leave it at that.”
“Yes, ma’am. I’ve also been given the lecture on avoiding Mr. Harrison at all costs.”
“You got it.” Emma glanced at the clipboard. “Ann, is my niece, she’ll be sharing your room tonight. House-Helpers doesn’t have the clearance Maids 101 has, so they’ll be coming and going each day.”
Randi tried not to smile, but it was hard. “I should get started. Where to?”
Emma looked at her clipboard. “I’ve been told to stick with the areas of the house that our guests will be visiting, so go to the top of the stairs and go left and start on the guests rooms. Don’t you dare breathe to those H&H girls where I have you working either. For now the upstairs is off limits to them. I’ve heard that some of the girls over there have sticky fingers.”
Randi loved hearing this bit of news. “Mum’s is the word.”
“Good. Nancy and I go way back. We went to high school together and she says you’re one of her best girls. I’ll expect you to live up to her expectations. Now, go on, and get to work. You’ll find everything you need in the cleaning closet, third door on the left.
Martin couldn’t sleep. His mind was on the discussion he had with Bill about Celia. He’d promised his agent, as they parted ways the night before that he’d give his relationship with Celia, some serious thought. It was a relief to Bill that he’d not been thinking about marrying Celia.
The up coming party might be an indication to some, especially his and Celia’s relatives, that a proposal was in the works, maybe even a public proposal. He hadn’t thought about this, but the night before he had a dream. He knelt, on one knee under the mistletoe. Celia’s family was on one side of the room, his family on the other.
He was about to pop the question when Randi walked in. She stood there with her arms crossed giving him this cynical look. She let out a deep sigh and as she started to turn ask, Martin is this what you really want? He came awake fast and sat up in bed, it wasn’t what he wanted. He didn’t want to get married, not now.
If he could find a good way to stop the Christmas party before it started he would, but so many people had made plans that it wouldn’t be fair at this juncture to cancel. When he’d agreed to it, it made sense. He and Celia both wanted to spend time with their families, and his home was large enough to compass twenty guests, so he’d agreed to the party.
Now he was seeing that combining his parents and hers in one home, that it would give off signals, that wedding bells could be ringing in the future. Thankfully, he and Celia had never talked about a wedding. He wondered if she was expecting a wedding ring under the tree. He’d have to be sure and let her know that one wasn’t going to be there.
After the way she’d been acting of late, he was wondering if by the end of the year they would even be living under the same roof. His acting was the way he made his living, it was his future, it was what paid the bills. He would need to talk to Celia; soon, about changing her attitude toward his profession, and to say the least, he wasn’t looking forward to that conversation.
He also wasn’t looking forward to running into Randi as she worked around the house. It wasn’t going to be easy looking into those pretty eyes and saying; hey by the way I’m really Martin Harrison. He also hated to lose the connection he had with her. It was great to have someone around that treated him as if he was just the limo driver.
So many women would put on airs, and say what they thought he wanted to hear. It was a nice change to have someone be honest, and have someone not treat him with kit gloves. Randi was attracted to him, but she didn’t treat him as if he was a king or something. It took him back to the days before he become famous.
He smiled as he dismounted his second bike, a K650. The memory of the way Randi pulled his hand under the cold water flashed through his mind. She didn’t care if the action might offend him, or worry that it might affect her chances of becoming the next rising start of Hollywood.
“How do you stand to ride that thing, all laid over . . . don’t it kill your back?” The voice of his good friend Mike Jackson brought him out of his thoughts. He laid his helmet on the bike and turned to shake hands will the broad shouldered man.
“I don’t ride it often and you can ride sitting up, you just look old, if you do.” Martin laughed at his own comment.
“I’ll stick with nice comfortable bikes.” Mike added as he gestured to two chairs that were sitting near by. “I was just getting ready to go down to the pond and do some fishing. Want to join me?”
“Sounds good to me.”
A few minutes later the two men sat in folding chairs, both with a fishing pole in hand, and a chest of cola’s between them. Mike propped up his pole took out a can, popped it open, and spoke. “You don’t look so chipper, that party mess, getting to you?”
Martin pulled on the line, thinking he had a bite, then glanced to Mike and nodded. “My agent all but told me to dump Celia last night.”
“Did he now?” Mike pursed his lips.
“Sure did. And I hate to admit it, but his comments and other things, have me thinking that he might not be so far from the mark.”
Mike took a sip of his cola and sat the can down on the armrest. “I think it’ll be one of the best moves you made since you did Off the Map. I can’t stand the woman, and other than her looks, I’m not sure what you seen in her.”
“That’s harsh.” Martin’s brow furrowed. “Why didn’t you say something before?”
“It’s none of my business. But . . . since you seem to be thinking it over, and since you came all the way up here, I can only assume you wanted my honest opinion.”
“I do. I just didn’t think you disliked her so much.” Martin opened up his own cola and looked up at Mike with a smile. “I guess I’m not the only one around here that can act.”
Randi almost toppled off her stepping stool. Celia’s tirade could be heard all over the house. She was angry about something, but Randi had no clue what. There was one last curtain to put back, so before sticking her head out into the hallway to see if she could tell what was amiss, she went on with her work.
Minutes later, she eased out the door and tilted her head listening. Nothing but silence. She shrugged, pushed the cleaning cart into the hall, and moved to the next room. Randi took out her bottle of water and drank it down. She put the lid back on and glanced at her watch. It was close to six, but she wanted to keep working.
The others would be leaving by seven, and she would get ahead of them by working until nine. It wasn’t strenuous work, today. She was replacing curtains and rugs, that had been washed or dry-cleaned, cleaning mirrors, and replacing bed sheets and linens.
For now she was working on the guest rooms, and Maria, Juanita, and Ann were working on the great room, library, and dining room. In two days Emma would go around and check on their work. Randi felt like she was back in school again, worrying if she would pass or fail.
Around seven, Randi grabbed a sandwich, a cola, and went to her room. Things had been moved around and instead of one large bed there was to small ones. She recalled the words of Emma that she and Ann would be sharing a room.
She sat down on her bed and looked at it. It was plenty big enough and she didn’t mind the company. Ann’s things lay in a pile on the bed next to the bathroom, so Randi had taken the other. Randi wondered what time the Ann retired. She’d have to ask later. She didn’t want to wake anyone by going to the refrigerator for a cup of pudding or for a chance to run into the handsome limo driver.
When she was done eating she took her glass and plate to the kitchen. The house was quiet so she decided to see what the girls accomplished in the great room. She walked through the house peeping around corners as if she were a burglar instead of a temporary house guest.
You had to take three steps down to get into the great room. Randi was in awe as she stepped down to ground level. The hardwood floors shone like new money. The room was long, the chairs were white, and it would look beautiful draped in red, green and gold.
A piano sat near the entryway and a fireplace was located in the middle of the room. There was a large window seat that would make a perfect place for a tree. Randi walked the full length seeing it in her mind how beautiful it would be.
The tree would be real, and you’d need a ladder to decorate it, she couldn’t wait, she just loved Christmas. She walked on back and found an entryway that led off to another room. There was a long bar, that would more than likely be used for a buffet, several small dining tables, and a refrigerator. It reminded her of a small restaurant.
There was bar at the back, and along the wall was a beautiful painting. She walked back to take a look. It was stunning, a large field of flowers, a small house in the background and a girl and her dog playing in the field. She smiled and tried to read the name on the painting.
As she turned to leave she heard the sound of heels on the floor, and a voice, it was Celia. Randi bit her bottom lip and stepped back, hoping the lady of the house didn’t catch her snooping. She pulled out a rag from her back pocket and began to shine on the bar.
Moments later Celia spoke. “I don’t have a clue where he is. He slipped out this morning. He left a note saying he had some thinking to do.” This had Randi’s attention and she wondered if she should let Celia know she was there or just go on cleaning.
“I know this has something to do with that agent of his. He’s never liked me. No mother I don’t care what happens I’m not changing for any man. He can take me like I am, or leave.”
You’ll be the one leaving , Randi thought a smile on her lips. It was easy to hear the woman was mad and she was talking to her mother. Martin must have run off, that wasn’t a good sign. Randi stopped cleaning and ducked down behind the bar, praying that the woman didn’t want a drink.
The sound of heels kept coming her way. Randi closed her eyes tight as if this would help her disappear. “I’m not going to ask him to forgive me. All actors are the same mom. They’re so self absorbed and they need someone around to keep them grounded. It’ll work out. Hey, I have a call coming in. I’ll call you later.”
“Hey Martin, where are you? I’ve been trying to call you all day.” Randi noticed Celia’s tone had changed. And thankfully her heels were going in the other direction. Randi sighed and straightened being careful not to bump into anything.
“Why didn’t you come home last night? I waited on you for hours, it’s been days since we’ve made . . . What? No. You have to come home. We have guests coming. Listen we can work this out, we don’t need to have this discussion until the party’s over.”
Trouble in paradise. Randi strained to hear, as Celia walked farther away. She moved along the wall moving closer so she could hear what happened next.
“I know I’m not always supportive, but you have to understand I can’t help it if I don’t like your occupation. The people you work with are all fake. They’re just out to see what they can get – no that’s not acceptable. I want you home tonight. You’re family will be here Friday, and there’s things we need to talk about.”
As Celia started to pace again Randi stepped back. There was silence on the phone and she heard a sigh escape as Celia’s heels clicked across the floor. Randi didn’t pray much these days, but her mother had instilled it in her, that in times of need you bowed your heart and lifted your head, so she did so. Please get me out of this one. I need this job.
When Celia spoke it was easy for Randi to see that her tone had changed. It was so obvious she was trying to appeal to Martin’s softer side. Randi hoped the conversation was coming to an end and she prayed to that fact as Celia spoke.
“I know I can be harsh at times, take a few days off. I know this party is getting on both our nerves. I can handle things. Enjoy your time with Mike and be sure and invite him to the party. I know he’s in and out of your life, but he seems to put you at ease, so be sure he comes.”
With this, Celia shut the phone, and then cursed a blue streak as she clip clopped her way out of the room. Randi’s brow furrowed. Could the Mike Celia was talking about be the same Mike that was working on the Harley and driving the limo. If Mike and Celia were sleeping around, she wouldn’t want to be inviting him to the party, would she?
Randi shook her head and slipped around the corner. Celia was right about one thing; this party was driving everyone nuts. And on the subject of the men, it didn’t really matter if Mike was the limo driver or if Martin did come home tonight. Randi had a feeling she’d be a lot better off if she could avoid both of them, and she resolved to do just that.
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