The last thing a guy wants to do is babysitting. Specially if he is 17 years of age. No matter how desperate he is to get into an expensive college, manual labour is more welcome than crying, mewling babies. Alas, my parents refuse to let me do maunal labour. And they refuse to let me work as a waiter or cashier. And they refuse to pay my college tuition fees too.
Which is exactly how I landed up babysitting the Rosenbergs' three-year-old daughter Lucille one fine Friday night when I should have been at home studying or out with my friends. I didn't actually hate studying as much as I hated babies. I didn't get how so many men agreed to have babies in the house. The noise, the attention....aaarrrgh. Like any normal father, Mark Rosenberg doted on his daughter. She was a three year old fussy little wretch and I managed a sickly sweet smile as the Rosenbergs waved wildly and sped away in their new Porsche.
Fastidious is an understatement. Lucille Rosenberg was a confounded little witch in disguise. She could sense that I was new on the job, and that I didn't have much patience. I still remember her grinning face as she towered over me, standing on top of the staircase, laughing mirthfully at me as I lay sprawled at the foot of the staircase, having lost my footing and slid down half a floor. I don't know how, but by ten thirty in the night, I managed to force Lucille into her crib. It was well over eleven when she finally fell asleep, and I heaved a sigh of relief.
I decided to stretch myself, I was too tired and drowsy after trying to read Lucille a "Princess story". I couldn't sleep on the job either. with no one to restrict me from going where I pleased, I wandered around the entire house and finally stopped in front of one of the guest rooms. Maybe a small nap won't hurt, I thought. With a large sigh of contentment, I crashed on the spare bed, enjoying the pain in my limbs getting centered and then dissipating.
I turned, and was just about to close my eyes when I noticed a small photoframe kept near the bedside light. Who in the world would keep a picture in the spare bedroom, of all places? Yawning, I picked it up an dtried to make sense of it.
It was an old photograph, but what caught my attention was the subject of the photograph. There was a broken flowerpot in the background, smashed to smithereens, and in front of it was a pair of girls pink Barbie booties, neatly arranged. The picture was slightly askew, so I guessed that it was the work of a child. On an impulse, I took the photo out of its frame and turned it around. There was a line scribbled in the back in neat handwriting:
"Taken by Lavender Rosenberg, on June 11th, 2001"
I was taken aback bythis. Lucille didn't have any siblings. And the handwriting was definitely Mark's. He had signed me a cheque before he went, so I knew. I had an uneasy feeling about the entire thing, and was just getting out of the room in a hurry when the doorbell rang. To my great relief it was the Rosenbergs. Maria Rosenberg asked me if Lucille had given me any trouble, and I politely replied in the negative, even adding that she had behaved as an angel.
Mark had already gone up to his room, and Maria was waiting to lead me out, when, on an impulse, I asked if there was a Lavender rosenberg in the family. Her eyes registered shock, and then they softened as she managed a tremulous smile.
"Lavender was our first daughter" she said softly, "she died in 2006 in a freak car accident."
I didn't say anymore, feeling awkward. It was a bit hard for m to understand, but I knew that they missed her badly. So badly that they had protected and cherished a stupid picture that Lavender had once taken. I did my math on the way back. If she had lived, Lavender would have been my age now.
But then again, I guess it is only because life is unpredictable that we cherish and love others so much, even tolerating mewling crying babies...