A Little DifferentbyEgmontGrigor2011©
Peeling apples, Jess Jason, looking down the driveway, called, "Mom Billie's coming up the driveway now and she'd got someone with her... a guy."
"What guy?" Nancy asked, coming into the kitchen.
Her younger daughter didn't know and so didn't answer.
"I asked you a question."
Not answering, Jess smiled and continued peeling while looking down at the couple and wondered if they were together for sex.
"God you're insolent," snapped her mother and Jess said, "You are so bossy."
"Go to you room!"
"Stop over-reacting mom. Billie will be inside in a minute introducing you. Then your curiosity will be sated."
"How can you sate curiosity?"
"Mom go and greet your favorite daughter."
With her mom gone, Jess booted the kitchen computer used mainly for diary appointments to be flagged, storing names and addresses on a database and storing recipes on a database.
Her mom's question had made her less sure about her usage of sate as in sating a curiosity. She smiled as the web-based dictionary gave her one meaning 'to satisfy a desire'.
Jess selected through loaded family photos on the home computer network, found one of Billie nude as a three-year-old. She made it the desktop background and left the computer running and smiled.
She finished the apples, left them in a bowl of water with a plate over them to keep them under the surface to stop them turning brown. Her grandmother had taught her that last summer when she was there on vacation. Jess cleaned away and then went out to look the guy over.
"Nick this is my younger daughter Jessica."
"Hi Nick, common usage says it's Jess."
"Then Jess it is Jess," he smiled.
"Yes Chicago actually."
"What do you do?"
"Nick is an attorney in our Chicago office," said Billie. "He's here to relax, not to answer unnecessary questions."
"I'll get drinks. A beer for you Nick?"
"Please I'll help carry."
"There's no need Nick, Jess can managed," Billie said but he replied that he'd help.
He followed Jess to the kitchen and she hit a button to wake up the computer. The visitor looked at the desktop background image and said, "Oh I see that Billie has a wicked little sister."
"How do you know that image is not of me?"
"There would be no other reason for such an image to be on the desktop. What will she do when she comes in and sees it?"
"Scream and run after me and say she'll murder me."
Nick, who was tanned, tall, broad-shouldered and handsome although had a scar running mid-cheek to his mouth, said, "You appear to be an exciting young woman. Billie said on the way here you recently dropped out of college."
"I suppose technically that's correct. I have a bachelor degree in business management and decided to have a year off before continuing with my studies. My family expected me to go at least one rung higher. I haven't managed to find work yet."
Nick smiled. "If you come to Chicago I probably could find you work through clients."
"That's a lovely offer but you know nothing about my expertise or ability to fit in with a team."
"Billie said you are a natural in everything you do, that you are brilliant. In that case I suspect business studies at college bored you stupid."
"You know too much Nick. Are you seducing my sister?"
"That's a project under action and that's all I'm saying."
Jess, wondering how he got his tan, said, "Billie is bossy but a high achiever and like mom is tough on other people but having babies will bring her into line."
"Is that a recommendation in respect of your sister or a warning?"
"It's your choice. You appear intelligent. Take these two wines in before my sister thinks you're out here seducing me."
Billie came in and said, "I thought you two couldn't find the refrigerator and ... what the hell. Jess you bitch!"
"What's the problem?" said Nick. "I asked Jess who was that in the picture and she hesitated and admitted it was her."
"She said it was her?"
The attorney replied expertly, "She asked me how I knew it wasn't her. Is it you?"
"Yes it's me when I three. She put this on-screen to embarrass me. Why did you lie to Nick?"
Nick jumped in before Jess could answer. "Conscience I suspect."
"Jess doesn't have a conscience Nick."
"She also was telling me why she'd dropped out of college."
That made Billie focus. "Why?"
"Because she was bored stupid and decided to take a year off from study."
Billie who'd warned Jess she would find business studies dull, looked really surprised and said to Jess, "You just told us you'd quit."
"Yes and that's all you guys wanted to hear before slamming into me."
After that conversation continued for another minute and was going nowhere Nick said diplomatically, "Shall we join your mother?"
Twenty-six year old Billie looked exhausted after entertaining Nick for three days before he returned home. The family didn't discuss her appearance and lack of energy but Jess was pleased for her sister.
Three days later Nick Mace called her.
"Hi," she said in surprised. "Got your mojo back yet? You left my sister looking like a gutted fish."
He ignored that and so she said, "How did you get my unlisted cell phone number?"
"At your home. It was on the wall beside the kitchen telephone."
"Oh clever boy."
He asked wasn't she interested in knowing why he was phoning her?
She replied no but said she guessed he intended telling her.
"I have secured a job offer for you."
"What sort of job offer?"
"Isn't it usual to first say thanks for making the effort?"
"That's only politeness. You are self-assured enough to not require petty accolades."
"God you're tough."
"Please get on with it. Time is money to you."
Nick sighed and gave her a number to call and said goodbye but waited for her response.
"Thanks for not disappointing me Nick. I didn't think you were a taker and thought you might do something to find work that might interest me. Please marry my sister. You'd make a great brother-in-law. Bye.
She heard him say "Jesus" as she cut the call.
Although it was only approaching 10:30 in the morning, Jess drank a vodka on the rocks. She didn't wish to sound edgy when making the call.
"Good morning. I'm Jess Jason. Nick Mace called and..."
"Yes I understand. I'm Nick's mother. Has he told you what this is about?"
"No not a word Mrs Mace and I didn't press him knowing that he'd an attorney and that's a fee-based occupation. When he was talking to me privately during work time I was aware he was eroding his fee-charging potential and so kept the call short."
"How interesting you should know such detail when you're not an attorney. But Nick did tell me he thinks you are extraordinarily bright."
"Well I trust he hasn't over-sold me."
"Knowing my son I would think not. My sister in Charleston, South Carolina, is in a bit of a mess. She was widowed recently and has not been coping well, emotionally I mean. There's nothing wrong with her mentally; it's depression. Whenever I or my husband or Nick spend time with her she appears quite okay but when we go the weepiness and desire to become a recluse return."
"So you want me to live with her as a paid companion?"
"I was getting to that."
"Well I got there first. Yes I'll do it."
"But you know nothing about my sister and her situation and the terms and conditions ..."
"It sounds better than sitting around here. I haven't been to South Carolina."
They talked another fifteen minutes, Amelia doing most of the talking.
Amelia asked what salary did she think would be appropriate. Anna was very wealthy.
"Two grand a week plus all found plus agreement that I get some time off."
Amelia said she would get Anna to contact Jess and took her postal address.
Jess, who soon would turn twenty-two, didn't mind the thought of being a companion to an old lady for that kind of money. And with the woman being wealthy the apartment wouldn't be pokey or drab.
Three days later a letter arrived for Jess and she told her parents as she left the dinner table that evening, "I'm off to pack. I have a job in South Carolina and leave in the morning."
Nancy arrived in the bedroom suite with coffee and said, "This is so sudden."
"Yeah want to hear about it?"
Jess's mom handed over the coffee and sat down with her coffee knowing her youngest daughter was about to sate her curiosity. She often did. Nancy smiled remembering she'd only recently learned that term about sating curiosity from Jess.
Jess arrived in Charleston next day and looked as directed when emerging from the exit for arrivals for an African-American wearing a dark suit and holding up her name neatly written on whiteboard.
"Hi Mr Holliday I'm Jess Jason."
"Aw Miss, you are so young."
"That's only because I haven't had time to become older."
He showed a mouthful of big very white teeth. "You funny lady call me Tom."
"Will Mrs Hester allow that?"
"I'm not saying. These days Miss Anna is up and down about what she thinks."
"So what does she call you?"
"Well then Tom, take me to the apartment."
Jess sighed and said where Miss Anna lived.
"She lives in a house, a very big house and you are being put in the guest quarters."
Jess looked at him closely until he said he didn't lie.
The car appeared new, a mid-sized black Mercedes. Tom drove well and pointed out landmarks after being told Jess had never been to the city before.
"Where do you come from Jess? To the north I think."
"Is that in America?"
"If we joke like this Tom, we'll never know what each other is talking about."
"I have a sister who lives in Greenwich Village and have visited her and her family three times."
"What does she do?"
"Paints like Miss Anna."
"The truth now Tom."
"Miss Anna paints what are called landscapes. Her paintings used to sell for big money but she stopped painting when Mr William got sick and then died. He'd become very wealthy as an international art dealer, selling modern American paintings mainly in Europe and Russia. My sister's husband was his agent in New York and now operates the business that he and two investors purchased from Miss Anna."
They arrived in Brickyard Plantation at Mt Pleasant inside thirty minutes, bypassing the city center, at the two-level home that Tom said was twelve years old.
"We have water not too far away on three sides of us with the ocean beyond barrier islands just over that way," said Tom but we don't experience the trouble some areas have from hurricanes."
Hurricanes? Yes she was in South Carolina, Jess thought. Where she lived it was rare to experience anything worse than hurricane warnings.
"There's Miss Anna coming out to greet you."
Jess was surprised. The elegantly-dressed, slender and rather beautiful woman appeared no older than forty.
"Jess darling," the brunette waved to the tall and curvy blonde. "How lovely to see you. I've been looking so forward to your arrival. Amelia believes you appear to have the personality to pull me out of my depression."
"Are you on medication for that?"
"Yes and sleeping pills."
Jess left that for the moment. But after they'd toured the house and sat for coffee, served by the young African-American woman called Lily who, was shy and smiled ever so sweetly, Jess said, "I need to ask you something Mrs Hester."
"Please call me Anna and think of this place as your home."
"Thank you Anna. If I am to work effectively on you I want you to come off your medication for depression and your sleeping pills, either abruptly or gradually but not too gradually."
"Well before I decide anything I must consult my physician."
"How old is he or she?"
"Dr Robson is in her mid-thirties. I changed from old Dr Reynolds after the death of my husband. I always though he over-prescribed medicine."
"Good and that's my view about older medics too. May I come and explain to Dr Robson what I'm expecting from you."
"Yes of course. And what am I to expect from you?"
"A build up in physical activity, probably a big change in diet and lots of laughter."
"I rarely find reason to laugh these days and I no longer exercise. People said I married my husband for his money and I suspected for a time that I had. But although he was nineteen years my senior he was a most generous man in spirit and I came to love him dearly and now I miss him so."
"Well that's fine but we will have to find how to persuade you to let go."
"I'm not getting rid of his things..."
"You won't have to until you are ready for that. But most things will have to be stored away."
"I don't know if I will tolerate that."
Anna looked steadily as Jess. "Are you planning to beat me?"
"I hadn't thought of that but if you are a masochist...?"
"Good gracious no. I'm surprised you even know that word or feel you can change me."
"I know a little about many things and then what I think I need to know I find out. When we visit Dr Robson I'd like ten minutes to talk to her alone."
"Very well. You appear to be very thorough. And Anna please believe me, as far as I'm aware everyone who really knows me appears to think I'm a lovely person."
"A great question Anna. The answer is yes. When did you last tour Florida?"
"I've only been to Miami but several times."
"Well when I hear you laughing and singing we'll tour Florida. I've longed to do that."
"Well don't expect to be doing that anytime soon."
"Anna Hester, please behave yourself. Making negative statements like that do you no good at all."
"Jesus," Anna said in surprise and smiled when Jess burst into laughter.
When the housekeeper came in to collect the coffee tray, Jess said, "Lily would you please remove all of Mr Hester's personal things from this room and store them away carefully. But please leave that painting of him untouched."
Lily looked at Anna.
"Miss Jess is here to try to make me better Lily. Do what she asks."
"Um Miss Anna?"
"Is Miss Jess old enough to know what she is doing when your doctor and those two psychologists have failed to return you to happiness?"
"I have no idea Lily. My sister has sent her."
"Pardon me for saying this Miss Anna, but if it had been Mr Nick who sent Miss Jess I would have been more confident about the decision because Mr Nick has an aura. I know because I've seen it, twice."
Anna looked at the housemaid with interest. "Is that so Lily? In that case you should be told that my nephew met Miss Jess when he visited her home with her sister and he told his mother about Miss Jess.
Lily smiled. "Miss Jess will make you better Miss Anna."
"God what was that all about?" Jess asked when Lily had left the room.
"Folk around here like Lily with ancestral links stretching to Africa think a little differently to European-linked Americans. Whether they have powers is a matter of debate. Most people like me tend to accept people are entitled to believe what they want to believe. You are at liberty to read into what Lily said and believe whatever you wish but please just don't tell her she's talking nonsense."
"I won't. I have a special attachment to my maternal grandmother. She unquestionably appears to possess some sort of force and several times I've thought I've been on the verge of seeing her aura when I felt it was there."
"Well Jess you are not alone about that. When I was young I often saw my mother's aura, or at least I believed I had. I feel like a drink, an alcoholic drink. I take it I'm allowed alcohol?"
"No more than two moderate alcoholic drinks a day should be fine."
"That's all I have anyway, even when I'm really blue."
They chatted and Jess said, "Are your paints and paint brushes ready for use?"
"Yes because I work in oils when I do paint. I suspect you know I won't paint so you'll be asking me to teach you in the hope of rekindling my interest?"
"You are too smart for me Anna. I was told you painted wonderfully but had stopped painting. Yes it could be therapeutic for you to instruct me. I took painting at high school for three years as my art option."
"Right we'll start in the morning. You have an appointment in ten minutes."
There was no answer from Anna who walked from the room, not looking back.
Ten minutes later Lily came into the room where Jess was reading.
"Young Mr Harlow is here to take you to tennis Miss Jess."
Jess thought all this intrigue was beginning to get at her. It was time to challenge it.
"And who is Mr Harlow?"
"He's the son of one of Miss Anna's friends."
"And what is this about tennis?"
"Mr Harlow and his sister Aveny and her boyfriend will be playing tennis with you."
Jess said firmly, "And why wasn't I briefed about this Jack?"
"I suspect because you didn't ask but that is a matter for you to discuss with Miss Anna."
Jess threw up her hands and sighed.
"Tell the guy I'll be five minutes."
Fortunately Nancy Mason, Nick's mom, had told her to take tennis apparel and footwear with her because tennis was very popular with many of Anna's friends.
The blond good-looking guy of about twenty stood smiling and said hi Jess.
"Good afternoon Mr Harlow."
"It's Jack. The plan is two games of tennis and you then have dinner with us. I understand you just arrived an hour or so ago."
"Yes and I'm sorry I kept you waiting."
"Females do that to me all the time but it's rare to receive an apology. Shall we go?"
They approached the dark green sports car.
"Do you know what this car is?"
"I guess is your mother's Porsche 911 Carrera S Cabriolet."
Jack stopped, and looked amazed. "I thought you might guess it was a Porsche but..."
"I do know a bit about cars. You are about twenty so wouldn't be able to own a new car like this unless your parents were stupid. If it were a guy's car it would be yellow, or red or black I think. And that left me to conclude it was your mother's car. This is scarcely rocket science Jack."
"I was told you were a little different."
"Who told you that?"
Jack remained tight-lipped but grinned when Jess said, "If it was Lily I'll screw her tits off. Tom likes me would not have bad-mouthed me. Let me drive."
"God Jess mom would have a fit."
"I thought you'd be chicken."
He appeared nonplussed and then said, "Of course you may drive."
Jess drove sedately like a granny. But when Jack pointed up ahead to a house on a hill and said, "The drive is steep so don't lose revs."
Jess saw a group of people on the lawn beside the tennis court and decided to make a grand entrance.
She drove across the sidewalk, shifted into second-gear and began the ascent at a speed too fast for Jack.
He cringed but manfully said nothing.
At the top of the driveway the flat area was covered in white gravel chips. Jess slowed and tapped the gas pedal to turn 180 degrees without sending too much gravel flying, neatly slid into park just ahead of the line of other vehicles.
The watching crowd was dead silent until a middle-aged woman, in a white cocktail dress and floral turban and gorgeous sunglasses, said loudly, "At last my new car has found someone who can really drive it."
"Jesus," Jack said. "I might have crapped myself."
"Perhaps I should have told my mom has an elderly 911 and I thrash it," Jess smiled. "Go and change your briefs."
"I was only joking Jess. Please...."
"Don't say anything? Of course not. I'm not a loudmouth."
Jack grabbed her tote and in one hand and took Jess by her hand and led her to the woman wearing the turban.
"Mom this is Jess Jason who arrived from Chicago earlier today to be Mrs Hester's companion."