It was a beautiful day. The sun was not too bright, the sky had subtle clouds, there was a soft breeze waving through the pink grass and the rare green peonies that were skillfully planted in the garden together with a more common white variety of that delicate flower. The blue and purple leaved trees, trimmed daily to keep a round shape were also adding to the sophistication of that place. Everything was beautiful, indeed. Not only the garden but also that beige two-story modern mansion with brown marble accents, salmon colored roofing and a big veranda where a breakfast table was being prepared.
– Thanks for your help, Igor. – Said the green eyed boy who was serving the table. He was wearing a typical chef uniform, a black mandarin collared shirt with white buttons paired with black trousers and a white apron over his hips, looking too grown up for his sixteen years of age. – Now go and get ready for school.
– Why do I need to go to school? – The chubby brunette questioned, a typical question for kids like him.
– To be smart, of course!
– Why do I have to be smart if nothing will ever change? – Said the boy, pouting. – I just wanna be in the kitchen with big brother Leon because that's how it'll always be.
The teenage was troubled by the little one's words. He knew it was true, there was no escaping fate in their current and everlasting situation. Nothing would ever change in their lives, either them being educated or not, their role in society would always be the same. He ran his fingers through his messy pompadour trying to figure out a motivational answer to convince his little brother.
– You know… Even to learn how to cook, you need to go to school. They may teach you something even I don't know because I finished school a year ago and there's always news out there, so you can teach me later, right? – The boy sighed, not convinced at all. But he was a good kid, he didn't want to trouble his brother anymore.
– Alright. I'll get going then… But only because there's already two years left for me.
– They'll go as fast as a lightning, you'll see that!
The chubby boy ran to the small house behind the mansion so he could dress himself up for school. It was obviously not as beautiful and not as big but as cared for as the main house. Everything was clean and organized and the garden around was also well kept, although not having as noble flowers as the ones at the front, only a common variety of daisies with white petals and core and stem as pink as the grass.
– Stop it, you brat! – Shouted a short-bearded blond man pulling the honey colored hair of a little girl while she was screaming and struggling. Behind them, a bald black old man with a garden shovel on his hands full of dirt laughed while watching the scene. – I just wanna pin down this mess you call a hair!
– I don't wanna! If I have to pin it down I'd better cut it off!
– You know full well what happens if you try to cut your hair, so behave or I'll beat you for good! – He threatened while raising his hand.
– Keith and Kacey! Stop this madness, you both! – An olive skinned woman in a long maid dress scolded from the back door of the mansion. She looked almost exactly like the teenage boy who was serving breakfast earlier, a middle-aged woman version, maybe with her long brown hair, always kept in a dutch braided bun, being of a slightly darker shade. – Master is already awake, he won't want to hear any fuss!
– Yes, mom! – They both answered, flustered.
– And you, Dyogenes, better be back to your work instead of having fun!
– Yes ma'am. – The old man answered, digging his shovel in the dirt.
She was strict, all of them knew that but they also knew she was right and what she does, aside from being her job, is for their own good. Master was an easily angered man, and his methods of educating would be way harder than hers. Kacey knew that pretty well since she was always doing something to disturb him. It was not her fault though, it's just natural for her to misbehave even not noticing. Keith, on the other hand, was to his master like a well trained dog so he would never do anything he would judge as unpleasant. As the lady went back into the house, chit chat and laughter was heard from the kitchen. Promptly, she went there to find his teenage son in an intimate conversation with a dark-skinned girl, with eyes as dark as her hair that was kept in the same hairstyle as the other woman’s. She made a soft and loving expression briefly then returned to her strict face and interrupted them before it went too far.
– How many times do I have to tell you not to be intimate inside the mansion? – They almost jumped further from each other, scared because they didn't notice her presence before.
– Sorry mom…
– Sorry miss Gertrude, that won't happen again. – The girl answered, fixing the apron of her maid dress.
– If you have time to spare, why don't you go clean the back door's glass, Gigi? I just came from there and it was full of fingerprints. And call me mom.
– Yes ma'a... mom, I'm going right away! – She promptly bowed to both of them and ran out of the kitchen, still embarrassed by being caught.
– You know, it's weird for her to call you mom since she's my...
– I still consider her my daughter. Is everything alright with breakfast, Leon? You didn't forget anything, right?
– Yes mom, Isaac is already serving them. I double checked and everything was perfect as always. – She smiled, relieved. All she wished for was her son being as responsible as her, even knowing his personality was a little different and he sometimes would still be immature, she was glad he could make everything perfect without her supervision.
– That's great. Now start getting everything ready for lunch. Have you already think about the menu? If you need anything ask Keith to bring it.
– No, it's ok. We have all the ingredients needed for today.
– Good. – She looked at the kitchen clock, which marked almost 7. – School bus must be coming, I'm going to see the kids off.
– Ok. – Leon answered but she was already running for the back door.
– It's nice and clean mom! – Gigi, who was cleaning the door's glass, said as she saw Gertrude coming in her direction.
– Now the windows. – She rushed through the door but stopped when noticed Keith leaning on the wall beside it. – What the hell are you doing?! – The man smirked.
– I was just watching her, to know if she can clean. – If she hadn't raised this boy she could believe his words but just from the look on his face she knew it was far from that. She knew he was bothering that girl, as he always did since he realized his brother's interest in her. It was simple jealousy, almost childish, but it was her duty to try to tame him so it won't go further than this, even being harder now that he is already thirty.
– I know you well Keith, I see right through you. You should be checking the car so there's no problem when master needs to leave for work instead of harassing the poor girl. – He suddenly regained his composure. It was easy to make him take things seriously, only a mention of something that would make master dissatisfied was enough to put him back on track.
– I'm going right away.
– You better do. But first give me the gate key. – He searched in his pockets for the right key to the back gate, gave to her and she ran to the back house, searching for the kids. – Are you all ready?
– Yeah! – Kacey and Igor answered, getting up from the couch in the living room and running to grab their bags on the entrance cabinet.
– Then go to the back gate. Where's George?
– Hiding in the bathroom. – Said Igor. – I tried talking to him but…
– I'll go check him. Now go! – Gertrude went to the first door on the left and knocked twice. Since she still had no answer she reached for the doorknob in order to open it. – George, I'm coming in. – When she opened the door, she saw the boy cowering on the floor, tears running through his cheeks. With a soft voice, she asked. – What happened?
– I don't wanna go…
– Why? What happens that makes you not want to go to school?
– They laugh at me because of my skin, they say I'm stupid and shouldn't be there.
She knew exactly what he was talking about. She already had to go through this situation earlier, with Gigi, when the girl was around the age of eight just like he is now and Gertrude herself also had her share of bullying in her school days because of her slightly darker skin, which didn't seem to happen to her son having the same skin tone. Although lately there have been more black kids in school, the prejudice against them wasn't getting better. And for George it was worse. His skin wasn't chestnut brown like Gigi's, it was way darker, more like a dark chocolate and his hair also didn't have large curls like hers. Gertrude grabbed his arms, making him stand up and held him by his shoulders.
– You shouldn't be crying because of that, instead be grateful for the opportunity you have. You're a lucky one, who between millions of others had a chance to be in such a great family with a good master who gives us what other masters won't give their servants. Grandpa Dyogenes didn't have as much luck as you, you know? When he was your age he had no right to go to school like you have. Look at our family and how diverse we are, look at how we love you and treat you well. That's the only thing that should matter to you.
– But Keith doesn't treat me well…
– Keith, again… – She sighed. – Look, Georgie, Keith doesn't treat anyone well, don't be bothered about him. What I'm trying to tell you is that skin color shouldn't matter. For example, do you like your brother Isaac?
– His skin is as fair as a skin can be, and still he loves you as any other sibling of his.
– You're right mommy, Isaac is very good to me.
– See? It doesn't matter for us, your family, the color of your skin, why should it matter to others who you probably won't see ever again after you finish school? You go there and learn everything you need to learn, don't be bothered by people who don't understand how to be nice to others, ok?
– Ok mommy. – The boy hugged her tightly. She hugged him back and kissed his head. – I love you.
– I love you too. Now get going or you'll lose the bus.
He ran to the outside, right in time to hear the bus honking. Gertrude opened the gate, letting the kids out of the house and inside the school bus, she then locked it and went to the garage so she could give the key back to Keith. She arrived to find him lying on the ground under the car, all covered in oil and dirt. Her heart almost skipped a beat with that scene, he shouldn't get this dirty right before their master leaves to work, he needed Keith to drive.
– Are you out of your mind?! Go clean yourself right now!
– He leaves in half an hour, there's time. You were right to send me to check it, this fucking car is spilling oil.
– Then use the other car and fix this one later!
– Yeah I can use the other car but I'm afraid we'll have to take this one to a professional since I can't reach the problem. – He gets up, revealing his right arm full of dirt and oil.
– Oh my God, you're so dirty...
– What? It's my job to check the car, of course I'll get dirty if something's wrong. I'll go shower now.
– Want some help? It'll be hard to clean it off.
– Don't fuck with me, that's disgusting.
– I'm your mom…
– Yeah, I'm adopted. And you're also only 15 years older than me and didn't even met me early enough to change my diapers, so much of a mother.
– I still love you as my son! – She shouted, while he was walking away. She looked to the oil spill on the floor, leading her hand to her head in a disappointed gesture. – Now I'll have to clean this mess… – She ran to the broom closet, that luckily was inside the garage, grabbed a mop and detergent and rushed to clean the floor in time. After being done, she ran back to the smaller house, prepared Keith's change of clothes, making sure to put the back gate's key in his pocket and knocked the bathroom door. – Laundry! – She asked. The door opened, Keith was standing wet and naked, handing her his dirty clothes.
– You changed the towels today, which one is mine?
– The one with your name on it.
– Oh. – He searched between the towels hanging on an improvised towel holder made of a curtain rod. Keith made it himself when Igor was old enough to shower alone because he got tired of piled up towels in the small towel holder that bathroom had. – Found it. You should have embroidered in color, white is hard to distinguish from mine and Kacey's when I'm in a rush, and I don't want to use that stinky little girl's towel.
– I'll remember that you actually worry about your sister. – She laughed while searching his pockets for the rest of the house and cars' keys or any other objects that couldn't go in the washing machine.
– I don't worry, she's just smelly. And not my sister.
– Mom? – A soft male voice called from the door and a short albino boy dressed in a black suit with a bow tie and white gloves entered the living room. His light blue eyes framed by nearly white lashes showed some urgency as he spoke. – I can't find master's tie, the one with red and navy blue pied de poule. He specifically asked to wear that one today.
– Red and navy blue… – She looked up, trying to remember where could it be located.
– Hi Isaac. – Keith said, coming out from the bathroom.
– I remember, it had a stain and I asked Gigi to clean it, go ask her where it is.
– Ok! Get ready fast Keith, master's already finishing his bath! – The boy ran out. Keith sighed while buttoning his shirt.
– What? – Gertrude asked.
– Nothing. Just remembering that was my job two years ago, before he finished school.
– You miss it?
– Nah, I'm in a better position now. I got money, freedom, more free time…
– Way too much free time, don't you think?
– I also can carry a gun. – He said, grabbing the gun he left earlier over the entrance cabinet and putting it on his belt.
– You should be careful, I always worry you'll end up being accidentally shot.
– Accidentally? That would be stupid.
As stupid as it seemed, Gertrude was genuinely worried about it. Her hands would even sweat every time she happened to see Keith carelessly handle that gun. Must be because she heard of many cases of accidental gunshots, that's what she keeps telling herself.
– Enough chatting. – She said, running to the door. – Finish dressing up and go, I'm doing the laundry.
Keith finished dressing. He grabbed the keys, counting them. Two for the gates, fifteen for the main house, one for the smaller house, one for each car and one for his motorcycle. None missing. He went out, smoked a cigarette and headed to the garage, taking the car out just in time to grab his master and Isaac by the front door. And so that morning moved on normally, like every day. This exact routine was the norm since Leon finished school last year, and in their mind it would keep going on for many years ahead.
And so came lunch time, Keith came back after taking Isaac and their master to his engineering company, the kids came back from school and Gigi has gone to her class. Not everyone was in the house but this part of the family could have lunch together, although only after mistress's lunch was served. Leon already had everything prepared and Igor was helping him arrange the dining room, setting the modern ten chair dining table with a delicious meal. Even though it seemed too big of a plate for one, mistress's appetite was not as small as her body, she would probably eat everything and still have dessert. Since no one else was available, Gertrude had to go to her room, call her for lunch and serve her, she was going to do it right now but Keith called her just before she took her first step to climb the stairs.
– I have a request from master. – Keith said.
– Speak fast or her lunch will get cold.
– It won't take time and I'm also hurrying to take that car to the mechanic, it's about the mistress. He's bothered about being rejected by her, try to find out why she's acting like that and when she will give in.
– Alright. – She returned to her task, climbing the stairs and turning left, heading for the mistress's bedroom. It really was weird that a newly married couple slept in different bedrooms, far apart and in opposite directions of the mansion but Gertrude could guess the answer. She would have to hear it from mistress's mouth anyway. As the maid arrived in front of the bedroom, she knocked. – May I come in?
– Sure! – The happy feminine voice answered and Gertrude opened the door. She saw the mistress looking to her vanity, with some makeup laying around. Her thin and long left hand full of colored makeup samples over her greenish grey skin were holding a jumbo sized mascara tube while the right worked to use the brush on her eyelashes.
– Pardon the intrusion, ma'am.
– Call me by my name, Primula.
– Sorry ma'am but I must not. I came to inform lunch is ready. – The mistress turned around, revealing her face. She was wearing pearl blue and gold eyeshadow over her ten eyelids, with a light coat of black mascara on her lashes. The colors she chose strangely matched the color of her many eyes with light purple irises and black scleras. The makeup was perfectly adorned with her sheer blue and beige medieval styled gown. But something was missing. – Ma'am, your lips are missing color. Are you going to wear lipstick?
– After lunch, I don't want to make a mess. – Primula went out of the room and downstairs to the dining room, being followed by Gertrude. The seemingly young woman sat down on the head chair and Leon opened the lid of her plate, revealing the meal: A big meat cutting with thick scaly skin over it adorned with light blue fruits and turquoise colored sauce.
– Today's menu is crocodile back with white plums. Hope it's to your liking.
– Thank you, it seems delicious.
Leon bowed and left the room. As soon as he did it, she grabbed the meat with the two forks used specifically to not dirty her hands. Her human-like jaw opened, followed by her second jaw, this one adorned by twenty canines that were exposed on her cheeks and many more on the inside. She took a bite, taking a third of the meat inside her mouth. It wasn't a pleasant scene to see, not for a human. Her mouth would open and close while she chewed on the meat and even though her inside teeth were capable of taking in most of it and what were left in the gums were promptly taken out by her long and skinny green tongue, sometimes sauce would spill through her cheeks and run over her neck and that's when Gertrude was ready to clean her.
Everyone in that house and even in that world they lived were used to it so it was like watching anyone eat. But no one should be startled, it wasn't a common thing between humans since they normally don't want to spill any food, eating with your mouth closed is common sense. They didn't need to imitate the behavior of the dominant species if their own behaviour would be the best to survive by their own means. As she finished the meal, Gertrude followed Primula to the bathroom, helping her clean up completely and brush her teeth, and then they went back to the bedroom to finish her makeup.
– Do you want some help? – The servant asked.
– I don't think so… Maybe with my hair. Can you brush it for me and do a pretty updo?
– Of course. – She grabbed the brush over the vanity and started brushing the long light blonde hair while her mistress would put an iridescent purple lipstick. – Ma'am, I've never seen you as pretty as today. Perhaps you are dressing up for your husband?
– What? No way, I'm dressing up only for myself.
– Sorry, I must have offended you.
– Not at all. I know you were sent to ask me because it's been three months we're married and we never get closer so he wants to know about my version of this relationship. I will answer you what I already told him: This is an arranged marriage, only for status. I won't ever sleep in the same room with him nor lay in the same bed. There's no need for it, if he married me expecting more than what we agreed, it's not my problem.
– But don't you think you could give him a chance? Maybe you can learn how to love him…
– Love? A man like him? I could never!
– What if he wants an heir?
– I would never give him one! – She shouted angrily. – Look at me, I'm only 69 years old and he is 162! For you humans I must be old but for every Jasih like me and my husband I am very young, my body is still growing! Having to lie down in a bed with a man more than double my age and give him an heir? This is absurd, it's not the old times anymore, we live in a modern society where… – She abruptly stopped when saw through the mirror Gertrude's startled face, took a deep breath and came back to her serene expression. – I'm sorry, I'm talking too much. I think you did a great job with my hair, you can leave now.
– The only one who needs to be sorry is me, I didn't want to upset you. I'm leaving as you wish.
After leaving the bedroom, Gertrude had her lunch by herself since the others already ate and came back to her duties. When questioned by Keith about what she found out, she only told him their mistress was only keeping the agreement they made on their marriage. The rest of the afternoon went by, again like every day. The laundry was properly washed and ironed, the house was clean and organized, the garden was well kept. Gigi already got back from school and soon the evening arrived. Keith went out to bring master and Isaac home and dinner was getting ready in time for master to come back.
As soon as the car engine and the gate opening sound reached Gertrude's ears, she hurried everyone to stand by the front door so they could greet their master. The car stopped by the brown marble stairs, Isaac came out to open the door. From inside the car came a very tall yellowish grey skinned man; or Jasih, if it's better to differentiate the species. His 6 completely black eyes were impossible to read but the only one with a red color on it's iris, located in the middle of his forehead, was enough to tell he was noticing everything around him as he climbed the stairs.
– Welcome back master Oyfar! – Said all the servants standing by the door. He didn't answer, just walked by each one of them, checking every inch of their bodies. Then he stopped.
– What the hell is this? – He asked angrily, grabbing the little redhead's hands, suspending her so he could look at the tiny fingers without having to lean down. – How dare you greet me with so much dirt on your fingernails?!
– I'm sorry Sir! – She cried. – I was helping in the garden and forgot to clean them but it won't happen again, I promise!
– You promise? You are always causing trouble, always promising to get better and that just never happens! – He let her hands go. The girl fell on the floor and before she could even stand, was stepped in by his foot. He unbuckled his belt and took it off, holding it between his long fingers. Everyone was too scared to say a thing, but one decided to do it.
– Wait sir! – Dyogenes pronounced, desperately. – I am very sorry, it's entirely my fault. I was taking care of the garden with her and I should have noticed.
– Is it like that?! – He grabbed the girl's hair, ignoring the old man. – So you're so stupid you need supervision?! Are you trying to bring problems to other people?
– Sir, she's only a chil…
– Shut up! I don't want to hear a word from any of you! You stay quiet and watch so you all can remember what happens when you misbehave. – He laid the girl on the floor, again stepping on her. Pulled up her shirt, revealing her already scarred back and proceeded his lashing until he saw blood coming out from her newly made scars. That was how he dealt with things, trying to defend others would only make it worse and that's why they usually don't do it. That's how he controlled them, shattering their bonds, making them too afraid of showing sympathy in front of him so they couldn't group to stand up for themselves. – I'm done. – He gave his belt to Isaac. – Clean it up. And you, Leon, come and serve me dinner.
– Yes sir.
Leon answered, following him inside. The moment the door closed, the kids burst into tears. Even used to that, they were still kids. Isaac cried too even being almost an adult but he was used to cry easily. The ones who didn't cry was not for coldness, but because they were too used to it so they didn't have any tears to spill but all of them who were part of this family had in their minds they needed to help each other. All but one. Keith, who already parked the car way before the spanking session, was standing downstairs smoking his cigarette, not worried about the commotion above him. Gertrude grabbed Kacey and took her to the back house so she could treat her injuries. Dyogenes and Gigi tried to comfort the other kids an Isaac rushed to do the task he was asked while fighting against his tears so he could assist his master in his meal and then prepare his bed so he could finally rest.
And so that day ended. I was not a normal day by any means but that casualty was recurrent. They would get extra careful for the next few days and it would take some weeks so they would relax and get confident about it, then it would happen again. It was their routine, the way they lived and it was far from being a perfect life but it was the only one they could have in a world where humans were nothing more than servants. They could never guess how things were about to change.
Merci pour la lecture!