Sweet Little Thing ~ Abbi GlinesAbbi Glines
Sweet Little Thing
Published by Abbi Glines
Copyright © 2017 by Abbi Glines
Interior Design & Formatting by:
Christine Borgford, Type A Formatting
All rights reserved. Published in the United States by Abbi Glines. This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places and incidents either are the product of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously. Any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, events, or locales, is entirely coincidental.
Sweet Little Thing
About the Author
Books by Abbi Glines
IF ONLY MY BACKPACK WERE larger it would be easier to hide the presents I got today. It was sweet of the boys to think of me. I especially loved the pink teddy bear with the “Be Mine” red heart in its hand. Its fur was so soft and pretty. I’d never been given anything like that before. The chocolate candies and heart-shaped necklace were also nice, but the bear was my favorite.
Tucking them all close to me to hide them while I rode the bus home was the hard part. I had to because I was afraid someone would take them. I’d already prepared myself to hand over the necklace and chocolates first if Harriet Boyd came after my things. She was six inches taller than me and tough like a boy. I was pretty sure the bus driver, Ms. V, was scared of Harriet too.
Getting home with the pink teddy bear Davey Eaton gave me was my goal. The other presents I could part with.
Davey was cute. He was also rich and popular. I imagined the bear cost a lot. It didn’t look like the ones I’d seen at the pharmacy or grocery store all month. It was special—the kind of special I’d never gotten and would likely never get again. So, I was keeping the bear close.
Out of the three boys who gave me Valentine’s Day gifts, I didn’t like one any more than the other. All the boys were nice to me and seemed to like me. I knew that before they gave me gifts.
Momma told me not to worry about boyfriends in the third grade. But after getting the presents, I thought I might need to pick one. Maybe it would stop them from fighting over who got to sit by me at lunch.
I took a quick glance around me. I never made eye contact with Harriet if it was at all possible. Her voice was so loud, I knew she was only a few rows behind me. She was taunting someone about their hair.
My bus stop was next. I needed to make it to my stop, and then I’d be free. Safe from her bullying and possibly stealing my gifts.
Harriet hadn’t bothered me too much this year. There was a girl who sat three rows back on the bus that had red hair and her teeth poked out a little too far in the front. Harriet was mean to her. I wished I was bigger. Or older. That way I could take up for the girl three rows back. But I was smaller than Harriet, and younger. Nothing I said would sway her. And today I had a teddy bear that needed to get home safely.
The bus slowed to a stop in front of my trailer park.
I made it.
I glanced back at the girl Harriet was harassing. I wanted to say something to help the other girl. But the bear in my hands kept me from doing anything. Not that anything I could have done would have helped anyway.
I quickly exited the bus, hurrying down the gravel road that was lined with oak trees and random empty beer cans. The grass was overgrown, and there were ant beds piled high on both sides of the road. I didn’t study any of it long because I was in a hurry.
The blue single-wide trailer that I called home was faded from the sun. I’d imagine it was pretty at one time, but that had to have been years ago. Now it was old, and most of the siding was broken or missing. Momma said the trailer was all she could afford in rent. It had window units that cooled us in the summer, and we had a cranky heater that warmed us in the winter. The roof worked just fine. I figured we had it good.
When I stepped onto the overgrown grass in front of our trailer, the front door swung open.
“Beulah!” My sister’s high-pitched voice carried across the yard when she shouted my name.
Heidi didn’t go to school yet, even though we were only three minutes apart in age. Momma said she would be ready for school in a few years. I’d worried a lot that Heidi would never start, but Momma said there were special classes for her. I hadn’t seen these special classes and hoped Momma was right.
“I have you a surprise,” I told Heidi as I met her halfway when she ran out to hug me like she did every day. Heidi was my favorite person—even over our momma. She was happy no matter what. She loved you even when you were having a bad day and acted ugly. She was the perfect person and I wished everyone was like Heidi. I wondered why Momma said she was slow and she didn’t fit in with everyone else.
She clapped her hands and squealed in delight. “What?” she asked.
I liked making her happy. I knew the moment I was given this bear today that Heidi would love it. I slipped my hand into the book bag and pulled out the bear.
Just like I had imagined, her eyes lit up as she grabbed it, hugging it tightly. Because of the look on her face I would tell Davey tomorrow that I would be his girlfriend—he’d made my sister smile.
“For me?” she asked her eyes wide.
I nodded. “Yes. For you. Happy Valentine’s Day,” I told her. Although I knew she didn’t understand, like she didn’t understand or care how I got the teddy bear.
She hugged it, tucking the teddy bear under her chin.
“I love you, Beulah,” she said against the ears of the bear that was pressed to her mouth.
“I love you, Heidi,” I told her.
Her smile was so big that I smiled too. It was a smile that only Heidi could give you. The one where no matter what was wrong with the world, you knew it was okay. I didn’t have a memory that Heidi wasn’t in. She was my twin. My sister. My other half. But she was different. She couldn’t live life the way I did. She had to do it differently. All because she was a special angel God had sent to earth. I knew that was true. And I knew I’d always do anything to take care of her.
10 years later . . .
TODAY SHOULD BE SPECIAL, BUT it was like any other day. Just another day that I existed, like all the others for the past six months. Keeping my head down and doing all that was asked of me was the one way I could make sure everything important to me was safe. Protected.
I woke up each day with a mission and hope that eventually my life would get better. That my current situation wasn’t forever.
“Beulah, for God’s sake, could you hurry with my coffee and get started on Jasper’s room before he gets home? I haven’t seen him in over e
ight months. His room needs to be perfect. Not that he’ll stay long,” Portia Van Allan called from the dining room.
Portia didn’t eat food. At least, she didn’t eat often. She drank coffee and she drank wine. Because of this, I wasn’t expected to cook for her. The list of duties she had me do daily were enough to keep me busy from the time the sun came up to well after it went down.
“Yes ma’am,” I replied as I finished making the French press coffee she preferred. It took time to brew the coffee unlike a regular coffee maker. The glass contraption also only made a cup with each press. It was one of the many things I hadn’t ever heard of until I was forced to take the position as a maid in her home. When my mother gave me Portia’s name and address on a piece of paper only a day before she passed away, I never asked who Portia was. I was so scared and in denial because of my mother’s illness that it wasn’t important at the time.
The day after my mother was buried, the landlord came to tell us we owed two months’ rent on the trailer we lived in, and although he was very sorry for our loss, we had to pay or move out. I’d taken Heidi with me to Portia Van Allen’s address that day, not knowing what to expect. Her home, where I now lived and worked, was not even close to what I had ever expected.
“I know he won’t stay at the house long, but while he’s here you’ll make him breakfast. I’ll ask him to leave you a list of what he eats. I can’t remember because I never cooked for him. We had someone do that. His father liked French toast, I do remember that.” Portia’s words trailed off.
She looked up as I handed her cup of coffee to her, inspecting the coffee with great scrutiny.
“This seems darker than usual.” She frowned although there were no frown lines on her face. I was sure Botox was the reason why. I wasn’t sure how old she was, but she had a son in college.
“I made it the same way I make it every morning.” Arguing with Portia was never a wise idea but sometimes I couldn’t help myself. Like at this moment.
She started to open her mouth when noise from the front door stopped her. Loud voices and laughter rang out down the hall followed by the sound of clattering footsteps.
Confused, I glanced back at Portia.
She was sitting with her back straight, listening. “He’s already here! Shit!”
I assumed “he” was her son since no one ever walked into this house without a key. They couldn’t even get past the privacy gate without a code.
She jumped up and looked frantic. “He has company. I need to get dressed.” She hurried for the back stairs that lead to the master bedroom. “Feed them. Take care of them,” were her last words before she disappeared around the corner. Her black French-press coffee was forgotten on the table.
I wasn’t ready to face an unknown Van Allen. The one I knew wasn’t exactly a pleasant person. I had hoped I wouldn’t have to see her son that much while he was home. Only when I served his breakfast maybe. But this . . . this was not what I had planned on.
I walked down the small hallway that separated the kitchen from the dining room and ducked into the kitchen to hide until her son and whoever was with him went upstairs. Maybe he would look for Portia. God knew he wouldn’t look in the kitchen.
As I entered the kitchen from the dining room entrance, the opposite entrance swung open.
“My mother doesn’t eat, but she knew I was coming so there should be something. Help yourselves, but if there is some of Ms. Charlotte’s peanut butter pie in here it’s mine.” He was addressing the group walking with him into the kitchen.
I had seen family photos around the house. I knew Jasper Van Allen was handsome. However, seeing him in person—his blonde hair messy as if he had just run his hand through it, and the way his clothes fit his tall, lean but muscular build—was a sight to see.
He turned from the people who were following him, saw me and paused. His gaze slowly took me in and I felt nervous. I didn’t like to be studied. And I had no idea what to say to him. I hadn’t made eye contact yet, but there were three guys behind him. I could see their bodies but I wasn’t looking at them.
“You’re not Ms. Charlotte,” were the words he spoke that finally broke the sudden and awkward silence.
No, I wasn’t. I was her replacement. She’d retired and moved to Florida with her granddaughter.
I was about to tell him that when he let out a short, unamused laugh. “Guess I won’t be getting that peanut butter pie.”
“If you’d like breakfast, I could make you something,” I said, hoping he would take the hint that I didn’t want to cook for them and would leave.
“Who the hell are you?” he asked with disgust. “Portia isn’t one to hire hot young girls that don’t know how to do shit.”
I had thought he was attractive. For a moment. That moment was now gone.
“Beulah Edwards. I took Ms. Charlotte’s place when she retired.” I wanted to say more—to inform his elitist cocky ass I was as good as Ms. Charlotte. But I wasn’t sure that was a true statement, so I just held my tongue.
“Seriously? Jesus, is my mother hitting the fucking bourbon again?”
The boys behind him laughed like what he’d said was hilarious. I hadn’t looked at the others yet. Straightening up and holding my shoulders back, I turned with my now angry glare to look at the rest of them. They were the same. Tall, athletic, wealthy and their arrogance hung on them like a gilded chain. They knew nothing of work or hunger. They knew no fear. They knew nothing but easy living. I didn’t normally hate anyone for those reasons, but this bunch was making me think being elite was a disease.
I noticed one of them wasn’t laughing. He looked like them and dressed like them. He was better looking than was fair like them. But he was different. Instead of a wearing a look of amusement, he appeared bored. As if he was honoring everyone else with his presence was a waste of his time. In a way, his expression was more demeaning than the laughter.
“Just merlot. Nightly. Three to four glasses depending on her mood.” I wanted to appear as bored as the dark-haired boy. As unaffected and as if this conversation was a waste of my time. Because it was.
Jasper Van Allen smirked then. “Well, Beulah, can you make omelets? Bacon? Or is there any of that in this house?”
Portia had sent me to the grocery store yesterday with an extensive list of items for the kitchen. “Yes, to both. And yes, we have those things.”
“Portia must have had food delivered then,” he said turning to look back at the guys with him. “We can take our shit to the pool house.”
The pool house was not where Portia was expecting Jasper to stay. Nor was she expecting him to arrive with guests. I didn’t expect either of those things would make her very happy. She’d be popping one or more of the little white pills she ate like candy once she found out about Jasper’s plans.
“The pool house hasn’t been prepared. Your mother expected you to stay in your room.” Not that his room was prepared either since he had arrived early.
Jasper paused from his retreat and turned back to look at me. I didn’t like the smirk on his face, or the gleam of amusement with a touch of pity in his eyes. “Portia doesn’t own this house, so I’d say that it doesn’t matter what she expects.”
He didn’t enlighten me any further. He just turned and left the room. The others followed. I stood there wondering what exactly he had meant by that because Heidi’s safety was resting on Portia’s shoulders.
WHILE MAKING THE OMELETS AND bacon, I tried to figure out what he meant when he said that Portia didn’t own the house. Who else would own it? Was she in financial trouble? That was my main concern because I needed her. Heidi and I needed her.
“How many are here?” Portia asked as she swept into the kitchen dressed as if she were about to do a fashion shoot for a magazine.
“Three, plus Jasper,” I told her as I glanced up from the last omelet in the pan.
“The little shit. He could have told me he was bringing friends home. I wasn’t prepared to en
tertain anyone.” She paced back and forth a few moments and then took a drink from the glass in her hand. The glass was from the bar—a whiskey glass with amber liquid in it. I didn’t see what the big deal was, but I had learned Portia was a dramatic woman. “Are they all out at the pool house?” she asked as she stared at the door that led in that direction.
She sighed. “Well, there is that. They can drink and throw their parties out there. I thought his days of bringing home his fraternity brothers were over. That it was time he assumed his responsibilities. But no. He brings home,” she waved her drink in the direction of the pool house, “them.”
There were several questions that flew through my mind. Like why was it bad Jasper brought his friends home? Didn’t she expect Jasper to stay for a short visit and leave anyway? What responsibilities did Jasper need to assume?
I held my tongue and didn’t ask any questions. Their issues were not my business and she’d let me know that if I asked.
As I added fresh berries to the plates with their omelets, the guys walked back into the house. The sound of their voices carried our way from the dining room.
I would serve them, find out what they wanted to drink, and then I’d go about the rest of my day cleaning and anything else Portia asked of me. Hopefully, I didn’t have to clean the pool house.
“Go feed them,” she said with a sour look as she pointed in the direction of the four loud guys. “While they’re eating, head outside and prepare the pool house. When you are done with that, buy them food and stock the bar out there as well. The less they have to come inside the house the better.” With that she spun on her heel and sashayed out of the kitchen but not before putting her drink down. Guess she didn’t want Jasper to see her drinking before noon.
I took the first two plates and followed behind Portia to the dining room.
“Hello, Jasper. I’m sorry I wasn’t prepared for your early arrival,” Portia said as if she were thrilled to see him. “Sterling, Tate, Winston. I’m so glad you boys could come for a visit. I trust you’re all doing well.”