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He smiled at me from the couch with a drink in his hand, mingling with my family like they were his. I may have returned that smile but I wasn’t too sure. The crowd in the unfamiliar house was more than I could handle. I didn’t see him get up from his seat, leaving the merry people to stand beside me.
“I’ll get you something to drink and you can go rest if you want,” he whispered.
I might have really smiled at that time.
Before I left for the holidays last year, Mother Ani requested one thing from me. “Please clean these three rooms and I won’t comment on your roaming around the Maison again.”
Yes, because that hadn’t been a comment on it just now.
I didn’t understand why she didn’t like that I walked the halls of the Maison during my free time. Aside from not painting, like I had promised I would do more since regaining time to myself, I couldn’t figure out why Mother Ani insisted I stopped roaming.
“They’ll be arriving the night before you leave. Three days should be plenty enough time to clean.”
One room for one day, I thought but that wasn’t the case at all. Each room was filled with layers of dust, cobwebs, and putrid looking mattresses. I didn’t know if I could even go in.
There was once a time when I was in the Philippines that I was a part of the after-school-cleaning group. There was a list of things to do from dusting the chalkboard to cleaning the floors. We had to sweep the floors of our classroom and use half a coconut to scrub it shiny. So from experience, I made a list within a list within a list because I wanted to dodge having to clean. I’m not much for cleaning.
The next day, Abby insisted she help me otherwise I wouldn’t get anywhere.
We agreed to follow my list.
First, fill two buckets with water.
“How do you suppose we’ll carry these all the way back up to the dorms?” She asked me after we had them filled.
I didn’t have an answer, so we instead watered the plants around us.
Two, bring buckets in the room.
“Why is two so simple?”
I simply had to point in one of the rooms to explain.
“What’s this, cleaning?” Ren stepped out from his room. “I’ll join in. What do you guys need help with?”
Abby beamed with delight in a way that only those who were observant could notice. If I didn’t take to staring at her, I may not have seen the slight upturn of her lips and how her eyes dilated. Was I like her?
She had Ren carry two buckets of water from all the way downstairs only to figure out after that we could get the water from the bathrooms. Luckily though, Ren’s journey wasn’t fruitless. He brought back with him Danny, who had a stack of washcloths and other cleaning tools. Both boys brought the water into the room.
“Mush!” I said.
Ren rolled his eyes.
Three, gather cobwebs have the boys gather cobwebs from all three rooms.
The task continued with the boys cleaning out all bugs and insects visible within each room. Every room they finished, Abby and I followed with dusting out walls and ceilings because step four was preparing the floor for step five. This meant picking up large obstacles whether it’s pieces of scrap paper or dust bunnies. We wiped every surface until all that was needed was to clean the floor.
This step didn’t go without sneezing, teary eyes, and sniffling on my part.
“I’ll take these mattresses out. Have them washed or something.” Ren pulled along a mattress while Danny pushed another out in the middle of the hall.
From the corner of my teary eyes, I found them in the same position. A scream halted all their movements.
“Ew!” Adrienne jumped. “What is that!”
“It’s your bed,” joked Ren.
“That’s disgusting, don’t joke about that!” She screamed. “Ew. Ew.”
Well, she’d been right. It was disgusting. Mold could be found on one of them. Why no one bothered to clean the rooms regularly was a surprise to me.
“It wouldn’t be if you actually cleaned the rooms.” Danny shook his head and looked at me. “This is her fault.”
Ah. The cleaning was her job.
I could just imagine her crossing her arms as she asked, “Then why are you doing it?”
“I’m helping out Abigail and Georgiana.”
“Isn’t Georgiana leaving for the holidays?”
And somehow, Adrienne started to help too. She took over one of the rooms, dragging out Clara. Clara called on Max, who got Dana interested in helping out. When we all fortunately finished cleaning all the rooms, Cecilia rolled in with three vases filled with wildflowers and Lissa.
“So, how was bonding?” Lissa grinned.
Mother Ani had a strange way of checking up on me.
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