The cook was a tiny wiry platinum blonde who shot Laura a fierce look as she walked into the kitchen before softening slightly at her expression. It was 6:30am and she was busy taking fresh pastries out of the oven and preparing a platter of fruit and yoghurt. There was also cereal, juice and toast. Breakfast was obviously quite the affair at Chez Park.
“Laura? I’m Sandra,” she said in a raspy voice that spoke to a youth of cigarettes. “Tea?”
Laura sighed in gratitude. Surely nothing a cup of tea wouldn’t fix.
“Black? Green? Camomile? I have everything.”
“Ergh,” Laura really wasn’t used to so much choice. “English Breakfast? With milk and one sugar.”
“I’ll just…,” Laura waved vaguely to the other side of the house, “I need to go and…”
How did you explain that you were going to get a grown man out of bed?
The cook gave her a bemused look as she moved towards the bedrooms to go and wake up His Highness, Daniel Park, the First Son and CEO of Park Holdings. She really didn’t know how to speak to servants. Was it rude to order a cup of tea and then leave? She had no idea.
Mrs Park’s comprehensive briefing pack, probably compiled by Charles, had included corporate structure, background on the company and subsidiaries, directions to the office, the main phone numbers, corporate structure and, thankfully, a floor plan of the house as well as entrance codes. But no photos. Laura was a little perplexed that she still had no idea what her new boss/charge/infant looked like when she knew where his bedroom was.
Not that it mattered, because his room was empty. Not just empty – his bed had not been slept in at all. He wasn’t just not there, he had never been there at all.
“Idiot, idiot, idiot, idiot,” Laura muttered to herself as she stood indecisively around the hallway wondering what to do. He hadn’t been home when she went to bed. Laura had given herself images of a feckless playboy partying on a Monday night and struggling to roll himself out of his room in the morning. And based on what?
Makes an ass out of u and me, the annoying narrator in her voice sang as though she was a five year old. Her first job. So far her only job. Was to get him to the breakfast table at 7am and she had no idea where he was. She hadn’t even met him yet. You should have tracked him down last night. Why didn’t you? Why didn’t you do something? Why are you always so useless?
“Two hundred thousand dollars, approx 550 dollars per day, that’s around 60 dollars per hour on an 8 hour day. No, it’s a 24 hour job, on call. That’s nearly $23 per hour. You’ve just wasted…”
“Who are you? Why are you in my house?”
Laura stopped her crazy muttering and turned to face the interloper to her mental breakdown. The school uniform. Neat braided hair. The patent leather shoes. The school blazer from a respectable, but strangely not elite, private school. The enviable clear brown south-east Asian skin. Not like her own pasty face with residual acne that had stayed on past puberty. Although this girl’s face had a sneer pasted on it that was part contempt, part concern and part adolescent insecurity.
This was Cate, then. Mrs Park’s daughter, Catherine Park.
“Hi!” she found herself chirping again, deciding to ignore the girl’s air of scowling dissatisfaction. She had never chirped before in her life. She couldn’t seem to help herself.
“I’m Laura! I’m…”
“My brother’s latest victim. Right. Have fun with that,” Cate said and then stormed past, her huge school bag weighing on her slight shoulders. “You know he’s already at the office, right? So good luck getting him back here for breakfast.” And then she was gone like some kind of petulant post-pubescent tornado.
So, not a feckless party boy. A workaholic. The kind who slept on his office couch for a few hours rather than bother coming home. And she was supposed to get him to breakfast AND dinner at home every day.
“Shit,” said Laura, not even caring about swearing out loud. “Shit.”
Breakfast was on the deck in half an hour. Half an hour. Half an hour. She didn’t even have his number. She should have gotten it off Mrs Park the day before but had been so intimidated by the other woman that she’d forgotten. The briefing materials she’d been sent had the office number – what was the likelihood she’d call and get the CEO? He’d never get back here in time anyway.
She had to accept that she’d messed this up. Because she had. Her first day on the job and she had totally screwed up. And she had nobody else to blame.
She squared her shoulders and headed back towards the kitchen. As she did, a reappearing Cate pushed past her to grab a danish and an apple before yelling, “There! I ate!”to no one in particular and barrelling out the door.
And if she hadn’t been so focussed on her task and the outsized presence of the younger girl, she would have seen the giant family portrait and the brown eyes and ruffled slightly-too-long hair of her carwash nemesis. But she didn’t.