“So now I have to pitch in for Mom and take care of the preparations for that dinner party,” I sum up last night’s events for Miho on Tuesday morning.
“Wow, the whole preparations? Food and drinks included?” She hands me my coffee, shakes her head slowly.
“No, thank goodness there will be catering for the actual dinner part. I just have to get the house in top shape. Cleaning the windows and lamps, polishing the silver, stuff like that.” I blow gently on the coffee, no time to sit around and wait for it to cool on its own.
“But that house is huge,” she points out.
“I know! But I also know it like the back if my hand. And I’m familiar with Mom’s cleaning routine there. Elias said he would get me some help for the work and the pay is great.” I hum at the first taste of the coffee, I tossed and turned most of the night, didn’t get much sleep.
“And it’s not as if I have something better to do anyway. The project is on hold until I get some feedback from our copy-writer, I haven’t heard from a company either yet. Good opportunity to kill some time and earn some money.”
She snorts, her breath streams audibly out of her crinkled nose, and shakes her head again.
“What about your dress? Will you have time to alter it?”
“Sleep is overrated anyway. I can do that at night. And your coffee will revive me in the morning.”
Her lips curl into a small grin, but she immediately wipes it off her face again.
“Fine, I guess.”
“And hey, you are used to people getting their caffeine kick to go,” I tease her. “Was he here already?”
“Yeah, ten minutes ago.” Her lack of enthusiasm tells me all I need to know.
“You didn’t look at him, did you?”
“Nope.” She wipes the counter with a rag, her eyes trained on the movements of her hands.
“You don’t want to talk about it, huh?”
“Nope.” Her scrubbing intensifies, lips pressed tightly together.
Worming it out of her won’t do us any good so I give up, take my coffee and wish her a good day. I can’t be late for my new job after all.
The morning passes in busy activity, I polish every wooden surface in the common rooms. No one will enter the bedrooms, so Elias said it’s fine to ignore them for now. After a quick lunch I make my way down the banister, clean and polish every carved baluster with Mom’s homemade wood polish – two parts black tea, one part vinegar and one part flaxseed oil. My fingers are pruney already from holding the soaked rag and my shoulder, elbow and wrist hurt.
Halfway down the banister I find some stains, rub at them furiously, the rag wrapped around the wooden baluster.
“Now that’s an interesting sight,” Jake’s voice sounds behind me, breaks my concentration and makes me jump. “Nice technique.”
“You think? Well, I guess you are an expert at polishing wood.” I don’t even look up at him, but I sit up straighter. It’s one thing to make a hand movement that looks a bit like jerking someone off but I don’t have to be on my knees for that.
“My days of having a tennis elbow are definitely over, but Dad told me to lend you a hand this week. I didn’t expect to have to do something like this, though, but I’m game.”
I raise my gaze just in time to see him taking off his jacket, roll up his sleeves and grab a rag from the bucket at the bottom of the stairs.
“Wait!” I jump up, flinch when muscles and tendons that have remained in one position for too long protest. “I can finish this, you can do something else. Get a ladder and take off all the curtains from the windows on the first floor.”
“Yes, ma’am,” he says, gives me a mocked salute and leaves in search for a ladder. Wild horses couldn’t drag me on a ladder when Jake is around. And he is much taller than me anyway, should he do the jobs involving height.
My whole body hurts by the time I finish the banister; I swear I don’t want to see another piece of wood for my whole life.
“Jake? You wanna eat dinner here or should I only cook for your Dad?” Rolling my shoulders in a futile attempt to ease some of the tension I wander through the house until I find him in the dining room, balancing on a ladder, half of a heavy, dark green curtain already over his shoulder while he is reaching up to take off the rest of it.
“Dinner would be nice. Will you cook it?” He grins down at me and I narrow my eyes at him.
“Yes? Who else?”
“You could order something. I mean, do you even know how to cook a kosher meal?”
“I figured bacon cheeseburger would be fine,” I shoot back, poke my tongue out at him. His laughter rumbles through him, shakes him so his free hand searches for support at the wall.
“If you fall down that ladder I won’t lift a finger to help you.” Arms crossed in front of my chest I look up to him, dare him to actually fall.
“A finger wouldn’t be enough anyway.” The last loops of the curtain come off the pole, he hoists the curtain up and climbs down again.
“How can you make everything sound so dirty?” I take the curtain, miles of fabric as it seems, and watch him repositioning the ladder and climbing up at the next window.
“It’s a gift.” His casual reply is in contrast to his focused expression, furrowed brow and strained voice as he stretches and reaches up to the curtain pole.
“Yeah, if I were you I’d ask to return it.” His laughter follows me into the laundry room where I cram the curtains into the washing machine.