Front Desk Woman; Volume 4
The floor length mirror was a liar. A taunting, scowling thing. Hurtful, hateful, heartache inducing. Though the mirror had never been truly kind, actually, she’d been a filthy bitch since Pansy’s thirteenth birthday, but now? She spit daggers through reflective glass – the serrated kind that twisted and stayed put right where it’d landed. Pansy turned her bedroom dimmer until she saw herself as only a shadow, wide and boxy.
Still, Pansy decided on a green flowing frock. A frock that used to be a maxi. Now it was only a frock. But no matter, she was going out with her girls. When the doorbell rang, a rare joy overtook the whole of her body. Right on time, it must’ve been the A+ rated sitter she’d found on that new babysitting App. Young, bubbly, and still a student at the nearby college, her name was Ashley. Scrolling for the perfect match for her perfect baby, Pansy’d kept going back to Ashley’s smiling face and plump cheeks. She reminded her of what she used to be, so she hired her for a whopping twenty-five dollars an hour plus mileage.
Pansy snatched up her dozing infant from the center pile of unsorted clothing and bounced for the front door. When she opened it, it wasn’t Ashley. It was Gertha and Helen.
“She’s late.” Pansy felt the smile melt from her stretched cheeks. “Cost too much to be late.”
“Ashley,” Pansy said, stepping aside for them to enter her embarrassingly dirty home. “The sitter.”
“Oh, God, no. You hired an Ashley?” Asked Gertha. “Tell me she’s not still in undergrad.”
When Pansy nodded, both ladies dropped their purses on the dusty foyer floor.
“I’m going to turn off the engine,” Helen said, jogging back to her idling Taurus.
“And I’ll take this little angel off your hands.” Gertha reached for the now sleeping baby and perched her on her upper arm. “I spent a good long time on this matte red lip, too. Damnit!”
Helen burst back into the house holding an unopened bottle of Jack Daniel’s. “Pizza Hut or Dominos?”
An hour had passed and still no sign of Ashley. No text, no email, no message in the brand new fancy babysitting App. Nothing. Gertha and Helen were one-hundred-percent correct about Ashley the sitter, but at that point, Pansy didn’t care at all. She was drunk for the first time in a year.
“Gertha,” she said in an uncontrollable slur. “You shouldn’t have to be the designated sober person here. I should be taking care of my own child while you two enjoy yourselves. I’m so sorry.”
Gertha rolled her eyes. “Are you kidding? My kids won’t let me cuddle them anymore. New baby smell is way better than Jack, coke and pepperoni pizza.”
“I love y’all guys so much,” Pansy said as she tried to stand in the center of the living room. She stumbled over her own feet and fell into a heap.
Laughing at the mess of herself, she began to cry. She couldn’t point out why exactly, not even when Gertha and Helen asked. She had no idea why she was crying so freely, right there in the living room, but she was. That’s when she felt a kind hand on the nape of her neck. Through tears, she saw Gertha on the couch with the sleeping baby, and Helen on the other couch with a mouthful of pizza. In a drunk delay, Pansy began to wonder who was touching her. She slowly turned to see her Nana.
“Don’t bother trying to get up, Baby,” her Nana drawled. “You’re drunker than Cooter Brown.” Then she turned her attention to the others. “Hey there, you two. You can call me Nana.”
Sober Gertha stayed silent, but Helen chuckled and asked. “Why are you see-through?”
“Because I’m dead, Baby.”
Helen laughed again as if she were imagining things. “If you’re dead, why the hell are you here with us?”
“I’m here,” Nana started. “To give you your first assignment.”
Pansy reached up to touch Nana’s cold cheek. “You came back for me.”
“I wouldn’t leave you,” she paused to look at the other two ladies. “I’m with you all.”
“Why us?” Gertha asked as if that was the only thing she could release from her stunned lips.
Nana chuckled in response. “Women have been under the foot of men for far too long. The time of the Woman is upon us, and you three will lead the charge. Think of me as your guide. I’ll help you along as long as you need me to.”
Pansy, feeling the gravity of the moment, stood to her wobbly feet and saluted. “What’s our first assignment then?”
Nana smiled. “Shh, listen. Hear that?”
“Sounds like sirens,” said Gertha. “Fire?”
“Ambulance. Her name is Edith and she lives two blocks away on Ravenwood Road,” Nana began speaking uncharacteristically fast. “Her husband runs the entire Southeastern division of the phone company and she’s been abused since the day she married him. First emotionally, now physically. He’s a powerful man with powerful friends on the police force. Edith’s forgetting her power, and you three need to remind her of it.”
“How though?” Pansy asked. “I can’t even look in the mirror without wincing. How the hell am I supposed to save her when I can’t even save my own self?”
“Oh, dear,” Nana said before grabbing Pansy’s arm. “Isn’t it obvious?” She looked around at three ladies who all looked confused. “You’re going to have to kick his ass.”
After a lengthy pause, drunk Helen, who’d been dozing in and out of the conversation, said, “But I can’t even make it through a half-hour spin class.”