tagLesbian SexAn Indispensable Woman Ch. 01

An Indispensable Woman Ch. 01

byKoot©

Note: Greetings to all! This will be the first of four or five chapters. All feedback is gratefully accepted. This is a work of fiction.

*****

Dani

Dani rang the doorbell and looked around, wondering what the hell was wrong with the owners of 435 Canopy Wood.

The neighborhood was high-class, with big, brick houses, huge lawns and pave-stone driveways lined with fancy shrubs, but this house was definitely off. The lawn was way overgrown - the grass was half a foot high and weedy. Didn't rich folks have gardeners to handle this stuff? The mailbox was overflowing with letters and newspapers and crap like that. There were creepy spider webs all over the windows. The place was a mess.

She hit the doorbell again and set the insulated pizza bag on the ground. Who was ordering pizza near midnight on a Thursday? Didn't these people have high-priced jobs to go to tomorrow? She sighed. Whatever. She'd been on the job since noon and it was her last delivery. With a bit of luck she'd be asleep in an hour.

She heard the lock rattle and she picked up the bag. "Pizza!" she said, loud enough to be heard through the door. As if anyone else would be ringing the doorbell in the middle of the night.

The door opened and a woman stood in the doorway. Early forties, maybe. Long, brown hair pinned back behind her ears. A little heavy-set but she had the big tits and wide hips to make the weight work for her, and her pant suit was well-fitted.

Who wore a pant suit at home, anyway?

"I'm so sorry...I just spilled...please, come in," said Ms. Pant Suit, then turned and gestured at Dani to follow her.

The hallway just inside the door was a freaking disaster. A dozen pairs of heels, boots and sneakers were scattered across the floor. A closet was packed so full of jackets and coats that the doors wouldn't shut. A big, pink bra hung from a doorknob. Junk mail and old newspapers had accumulated on every flat surface.

The lady led Dani down an outerwear-and-laundry cluttered hallway to the kitchen.

And the kitchen...Jesus! It looked like every dish in the house was dirty and piled on the counters, the kitchen table and the stove. The place smelled bad...not stomach-turning but definitely unclean. Somehow there was laundry on the floor even here.

The lady grabbed her purse from the floor under the table and began to root through it. Dani noticed her eyes for the first time; sunken and exhausted but wide with a desperation that bordered on panic. Not healthy.

"I'm very sorry to keep you waiting. I just got home myself, and...ah, okay, here," the lady said, presenting a credit card. Dani took it and swiped it through the machine. It soon answered back with a double-beep.

"Declined," Dani said, handing the card back.

Instead of taking the card the lady stared at it in horror, then broke. Her face twisted into a mask of despair, she sunk to her knees on the floor and sobbed, not even trying to hold it back, just weeping openly into the palms of her hands.

Seriously? THIS was how the night was going to end?

"Uh...we take all major credit cards, as well as debit and cash," Dani said, trying to sound encouraging somehow.

The lady just shook her head. "I can't. I can't do it any more. I give up." The crying continued.

"Mommy?" A tiny voice from elsewhere in the house.

For Christ's sake, there was a kid!

Dani considered just dropping the pizza and bolting; the whole situation was fucked up and she didn't need to be a part of it. But the lady's hopeless sobbing was heartbreaking and it wouldn't feel right to leave her like that. Might not be not safe for the kid, either, if mom had completely lost her grip.

Dani crouched next to the lady. "It's okay. Forget it - pizza's on me. No worries, right?"

The lady continued to bawl uncontrollably, only shaking her head in response to Dani's words.

"Okay, come on, let's get you up. Don't want your kid to see you on the floor like this, do you?" Dani said in a soothing voice, then gently grabbed the woman's elbow and tugged it upward. She could feel the lady trembling. Cold? Fear? Shock?

"Hey, I said get up. Come on." Her tone was harder, with just a little irritation seeping in. It seemed to do the trick, though, as the woman allowed Dani to help her unsteadily to her feet and then into a lavishly-furnished but messy living room. The place looked like a laundry bomb had exploded there. Dani kicked a pile of wrinkled dry cleaning off a couch and helped the lady lower herself onto the cushions.

"I'm sorry. I'm so sorry," the woman said, then broke into a fresh round of tears.

"You stay here and compose yourself. When you've got your shit together, come back out." Dani left her in the living room with the lights off.

Back in the kitchen she found a little girl, maybe three or four years old, standing over the pizza bag. The girl looked up with tired, brown eyes that reflected some fear but more curiosity.

"Where's mommy?"

"She's in the other room. She'll be out soon. What's your name, sweetie?" Dani forced her voice into a kid-friendly cheerfulness. Not an easy thing to do after a twelve-hour shift.

"Anne," she said, and after some more thought added "I'm three. My birthday is March twenty-ninth."

"Well, look at you," Dani said, then messed the girl's brown hair affectionately. Cute kid. "Did I wake you up?"

The girl shook her head. "I'm not supposed to sleep until after supper. And I have to brush my teeth."

"Well...how about some pizza? Do you like pizza?"

"Only with cheese."

Dani quickly cleared a place at the table by moving piles of dishes and mail onto the floor, then served the kid a slice and cut it into tiny pieces. The milk in the fridge smelled sour so Dani handed Anne a cup of water instead. Giving a three-year-old some pizza and water at midnight on a weekday - some good parenting skills there!

Ten minutes later the kid was dawdling her way through a second slice and mom hadn't made an appearance, so Dani went to check on her. She was asleep, curled into a fetal position on the couch in her pant suit, her breathing deep and regular. Dani thought about shaking her awake but remembered the lady's dreadful eyes and pitiful sobbing and decided against it. If anyone needed a decent nights' sleep, it was mom.

It wasn't hard to get the kid upstairs and ready for bed; Anne knew where her pajamas were and could brush her teeth and use the toilet all by herself in the filthy bathroom. There were a few more questions about where her mom was, but Dani said she was asleep and that seemed to satisfy the girl. A few minutes later she was sleeping soundly under her Little Mermaid bed sheets.

On the way downstairs Dani snagged a comforter and a wool blanket from the messy master bedroom and when she got back to the living room she covered mom in the comforter. The lady didn't even stir; she was pretty far gone.

Dani stepped outside and called Marty's Pizza to tell her boss she'd be in tomorrow to return the credit machine. Her boss didn't seem thrilled but it was her last delivery of the night so he wasn't too pissed. Thank God for that - a fight with her boss was the last thing Dani had the energy for at that point.

She went back inside, made herself at home on a recliner and covered herself in the wool blanket. She'd decided to stay the night just to be on the safe side - she couldn't leave a little kid to fend for herself and mom wasn't in any state to provide adult supervision. The chair was a little uncomfortable, but Dani had slept in worse places, after all.

****

"Miss?"

"Uhnnn," Dani said, unwilling to drag herself into consciousness so soon.

"Miss?" a woman's voice repeated itself. A hand on her shoulder shook her fully awake.

Dani opened her eyes to find Anne's mom staring down at her, an apologetic expression on her face. She was in another pant suit - or was it the same one? - and her eyes had lost a little of the anxiety and despair of the previous night. They still looked weary and haunted, but overall Anne's mom had a pretty face.

"I'm Dani," she said, pushing herself to her feet and extending her hand. An awkward situation for introductions, but they had to start somewhere.

"Amara." Mom accepted the handshake. "I can't apologize enough for last night, or thank you enough for looking after Anne...and me."

"Yeah. No problem," Dani said, then stretched the kinks out of her arms and back. Sleeping in a recliner wasn't great for the back.

"I hope you'll let me compensate you for your time. And I want to call your boss and tell him how grateful I am for your help."

"Um...is everything okay? Are you okay, I mean?"

Amara's face reddened and she dropped her gaze. "It's been a bit of a rough time these last few months. I can imagine what this must look like...it's just...just a hard time."

Dani could see tears of frustration welling and felt bad for Amara. The lady was clearly struggling. Divorce, probably - it explained why the place was a total dump and the kid was mostly unattended. Dad probably took off and left them in the lurch.

"Tell you what. I'll take care of it. Today. The dishes, laundry, all of it. I'll handle everything for a hundred bucks."

Dani didn't expect the wave of relief that washed over the older lady's face.

"Oh...Dani...if you could handle all this I'd happily pay you twice that." Amara sounded serious and seemed desperate for the help.

Dani didn't waste the opportunity and quickly stuck out her hand again. "Deal."

Amara shook her hand eagerly this time. "Thank you! Thank you so much. You have no idea..."

"Mommy!"

"Oh, shoot! We're late. Always late! I'll leave my number..." Amara hurried into the kitchen and scrawled her phone number on a wall calendar. "Call if you have questions. I'm in meetings all day but I can call you back."

"Mommy, hurry!"

With that, Amara fled the house in a harried flurry of gratitude and apologies, leaving Dani standing alone in the smelly kitchen.

****

Amara

She sat in her office with the lights out and her eyes closed, trying to breathe away a deep-seated headache. It had struck mid-morning after an especially long, dry meeting about the new EAP...or something. It was so hard to focus. She'd taken notes - hopefully they were coherent this time. Amara couldn't afford any more screw-ups - already people were beginning to notice her erratic performance.

She'd known when she took the HR vice president position at Tin Cinder Products that there would be meetings. Human Resources was all about people, and people held meetings. But she hadn't counted on her company's merger with ProudPurpose, hadn't counted on two of her staff going off on maternity leave at the same time, hadn't counted on the collective agreement negotiations with their main union being so acrimonious. A senior manager had been accused of harassing one of his direct reports, the new HRIS system they'd purchased was experiencing implementation delays and Occupational Health was after her for WSIB metrics.

Despite all that, she had been keeping her head above the water. She'd been fighting through. Amara Jacobson NEVER quit. Seventeen years in the industry had taught her that persistence was invaluable.

And then the bottom had dropped out of her personal life.

Henry had filed for separation and almost immediately moved in with a perky, twenty-something dental hygienist. He demanded joint custody of Anne, and Amara had gone to war with him over that - NO ONE was taking her baby away from her, even for three days a week. The legal wrangling continued, and the animosity between them was at a fever pitch.

Three weeks after the separation, her father had passed away unexpectedly at seventy-one. Stroke. The regular phone calls with dad had been the bright spots of her week and she missed his humour, his insight and his unwavering love and support. Missed him terribly. She was the executor of the will and as his eldest child the burden of the funeral arrangements had naturally fallen on her.

It was around that time that a strange, terrifying mental paralysis had gradually set in. She spent lots of time at work - eighty hours a week, sometimes - but couldn't seem to act on the tasks that most needed her attention. She'd sit down to write a report and somehow couldn't find the energy to begin. An avalanche of thoughts and doubts would crowd in and choke off whatever focus or motivation she had.

The same effect took hold at home - simple tasks like dishes or laundry seemed so insurmountable she couldn't get started. Even the idea of starting made her feel unsteady and nauseous. Most nights she and Anne ate a fast-food dinner and Amara fell asleep in Anne's bed after reading her baby a story. If her ex-husband ever found out what awful conditions their daughter was being raised in, he'd get full custody for sure. The thought of him ripping her baby away made her tremble.

And last night she'd sunk to her lowest point - she'd passed out and left her daughter alone with a complete stranger for the entire night. The pizza delivery girl had fed her daughter and put her to bed while Amara lay insensate on the couch. And now that same girl - Dani - was all alone in her house, with all of Amara's jewelry and electronics, completely unsupervised. Was Dani even her real name? Even worse, Amara couldn't bring herself to care. She just felt numb.

Her computer chimed at her, snapping her back to the present, reminding her that she had another meeting with...someone. The benefits steering committee, maybe? Fire safety? Or was that tomorrow? She rooted through the chaotic mound of paper on her desk, desperately hoping the answers were in there somewhere.

****

The middle-aged woman who babysat Anne gave Amara a look of barely-concealed reproach when she arrived to pick her up. She was earlier today - it was only quarter past eight - but she'd promised to come by eight and had run late. Again. At this rate Amara would be looking for her seventh baby sitter in the last three months.

She pulled into her driveway just after dusk. Even from the curb she could see her lawn had been cut and the mail had been taken in. Amara desperately hoped it was a good sign.

It was better than good. Better by an unbelievable margin.

Stepping through the front door was like walking into someone else's house. The clutter in the hall was gone. Laundry, newspapers, unopened letters, shoes, outerwear, dust bunnies and junk mail, gone. The closet door was closed. The hardwood floor was spotless.

Amara gaped in astonishment and let her heavy purse and work-stuffed laptop bag clunk to the floor. She poked her head into the living room. Clean, organized, dusted and vacuumed. The light in the kitchen was on and a delightful scent kicked her appetite into overdrive.

"What happened to our stuff?" Anne said and ran ahead to the kitchen, with Amara lagging behind.

"Hey, sweetie. Wash your hands for dinner." It was Dani's voice. Dani was still there...and she was cooking!

Amara entered the kitchen to find Dani standing at the stove, tossing mixed vegetables in a hot skillet. The younger woman was barefoot and wearing a large pink t-shirt and gray track pants. It took Amara a moment to realize Dani had borrowed the clothes from her closet. They looked over-sized on Dani's smaller, slimmer frame.

The counters were free of clutter, the floors had been scrubbed and the dirty dishes, laundry and unopened mail were nowhere to be seen. The table had two places set with plates, cutlery and clean glasses.

"What...?" Amara started, but wasn't able to finish the thought, stunned by the enormity of what she was seeing. It was clean, all of it. Somehow, Dani had banished the nightmare mess in just one day!

"Hey. Borrowed a change of clothes. Hope that's okay."

"Yes...uh...wow. This is..." Amara trailed off when she felt tears on her cheeks. Her house once again looked like someplace where respectable humans would live.

Dani glanced over at her. "More tears? Come on, don't let your kid see that."

"Sorry. It's just, you have no idea..." She couldn't stop crying; the release was cathartic. Or maybe she was losing her mind.

"Wash up for dinner, get yourself together."

Amara just nodded and left the kitchen. Her daughter was standing on her step in the bathroom, washing her hands. Everything was clean and sparkling - the tiles in the shower, the toilet, the chrome taps, the counter and sink. The mirror had been polished. Even the shower curtain had been washed and re-hung. A stack of clean, folded towels sat on the edge of the counter.

How had Dani accomplished this in a day? It was some kind of miracle.

Soon she sat at the table while Dani served them a vegetable stir fry with bread and fresh milk. She'd obviously done some grocery shopping. Amara couldn't remember when food had tasted better. Dani did the washing up as mother and daughter ate. Who was this miracle woman?

"So are you in school?" Amara said, between bites.

"Not since I was thirteen. Ran away."

Amara was tempted to ask why, but stopped herself. It didn't take a lot of imagination to think of reasons a thirteen-year-old girl would run away from home.

"So what do you do now?"

Dani shrugged. "Whatever's to be done. Pizza delivery, as you know. Cleaned toilets in a hotel. I was a dishwasher, then a short-order cook. Worked at a car wash. Delivered fliers, that kind of thing."

"Quite a resume for someone so young."

"I'm twenty-two. Not exactly a kid."

"What's your ultimate goal?" Amara asked.

"Goal? Not sure what you mean."

"I mean, you've got a ton of experience. Where is it all leading? What is it you want to do?" For someone in HR, the questions came easily.

Dani stopped washing and frowned, apparently deep in thought. "I dunno. Never thought of it like that I guess. How about you - what's your goal?"

"To be a good mother and to excel at my career," Amara said. She'd mentally omitted the 'be a good wife' portion of her list - that one was a lost cause now.

"Those both sound like good goals."

"Thanks, but...I feel like I'm failing at both of them now." Why had she shared that? The sideways glance that Dani gave her confirmed that it might have been too personal, too soon.

"Still lots of time," Dani said.

"Never enough, though."

"Well...at least you can cross housework off your list for now."

"You did a great job here. An amazing job. And after what you did last night I don't know how I can begin to thank you," Amara said.

"I think you agreed to two-hundred dollars, right? And I paid another forty-eight for groceries and cleaning supplies. I kept the receipts so you can see it's all legit."

"It's a bargain. I'll gladly pay it."

"And the pizza last night was fourteen seventy-three."

Amara smiled. "Can I write you a cheque for three-hundred?"

"I won't say no to the money. Thanks." Dani flashed her a brief, rare smile, then turned back to the sink.

Some time passed in silence; Dani didn't seem to be a small-talker. Anne finished and Dani told her to go brush her teeth as though giving instructions to another woman's daughter was the most natural thing in the world. The young woman had a no-nonsense manner, a confidence that Amara found appealing and oddly reassuring. With Dani around, she felt herself un-clenching and uncoiling, shedding the smothering stress that had build up inside her over the months. With Dani around, Amara could breathe again.

"I know this is sudden, but I want to hire you. Long-term. Could you come twice a week? I'll pay the same as today," Amara said.

Dani didn't respond immediately and Amara found the pause unnerving. She needed to make this work!

"Again, I don't want to refuse the money, but you could hire a cleaning service for less than that," Dani said.

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