''This is the one.'' I said to the taxi driver, ‘’The one with the green gate.’’ I starting to unbuckle my seatbelt.
I looked at the meter and handed him a note.''Thanks very much, keep the change.'' He nodded a thank you, and I got out.
I stood on the pavement, looking at 22 Rhododendron Drive with its downstairs bow window and its floral chintzy curtains; china cats and dogs sitting on the windowsill, looking out at the world.
Better make a move, I thought, and walked up the path to the polished wood front door. I rang the doorbell.
Seconds later, a woman opened the door. She looked down at me, one of the tallest women I had ever seen. I would have felt intimidated even without the haughty expression directed at me.
''Good morning,'' I said, smiling. I smile easily - it's my usual expression. ''I'm Beth Davies.''
''Well, you're on time.'' she said, looking at the clock in the hall. She didn't return my smile. I guessed this was probably her usual expression. She stood aside, implying that I should enter.
I followed her into a living room, beautifully and expensively furnished. Two large settees dominated, the covers white with large multicoloured flowers. More chintz. Facing one of the settees was a dark wooden ladderback chair. She sat on the settee and indicated I should sit on the chair.
The seat was hard and uncomfortable, and I felt like a specimen in a laboratory. Despite sitting higher than her, I felt she had the advantage.
She took a clipboard from the low, glass-topped coffee table in front of her. She looked at it, then at me, her eyes, behind rimless spectacles, lacking any warmth.
‘’Miss Davies’’ she began ‘’You say in your letter that you had sole charge of a baby in your last employment.’’ I nodded. ‘’Can you please tell me a little about this?
I sat forward a little on the hard seat. ‘’Yes of course. It was a little girl. Tilly. She was such a good baby.’’ I smiled at the memory. Her mouth tightened. I allowed the smile to drop. ‘’I looked after her from when she was three months old until she was nineteen months and her parents moved to the States.’’
‘’And that was…’’ looking at the clipboard…’’Five months ago. Do you have an explanation for the gap in your employment since then?’’ She picked up a pen from the table and poised with it, ready to make notes on my reply. Ready to judge me.
I smiled, but inside, my heart clenched and I felt a stab of real anger at this woman. Prying old bag. I imagined reaching over, snatching the gold pen and jabbing it in her eye.
Of course – I did not.
‘’My parents were in a road accident, just a couple of weeks after that job finished. My father died and my mother was severely injured, and in hospital for a month. She needed me to look after her when she was discharged and there was only me.’’ No sympathy, no condolences, nothing. What a hardhearted… She didn’t even ask if Mum was recovered now. I decided to tell her anyway.
‘’She’s fine now. Back to normal.’’ No reaction from the hardfaced cow. I dug my nails into my palms and switched the nice face to maximum.
‘’As you know, if I decide to employ you, your charge will be my six month old granddaughter, Alexandra.’’ She stood. ‘’Would you like to see her?’’
If I must, I thought. I didn’t like this woman, but I hated kids even more, especially little ones. Especially babies, Messy, noisy little brats.
‘’Oh, yes please.’’ I said. I’d love to.’’ I beamed a happy smile and stood to follow her. She led me up the stairs. At the top, opened the door to a predicably beautifully furnished nursery, a sea of pinks and lilacs, In a cot by the wall was a sleeping baby girl, lying on her back, her fists clenched on either side of her head.
‘’Oh, bless her little heart’’ I cooed. I’d like to tear it out. ‘’She’s such a little poppet. I felt sick, and sweaty. What if the woman woke her, asked me to hold her? I wanted to leave, now.
‘’We won’t disturb her now.’’ She said, to my relief.
At the top of the stairs I resisted the urge to give her a shove, She was tall, but looked brittle, and old,as if her bones would break easily.
Of course – I did not. Not this time. I had learned my lesson. Bide your time.
‘’I think that’s all for now, Miss Davies. Elisabeth.’’ She said, sounding a little less severe. I will be in touch. Your references are exceptional but I still have one more young lady to interview.’’ She shook my hand,and showed me out.
‘’Janet? Hello dear. I just saw the girl. I have to say she was absolutely delightful. Yes, yes, I think she’ll be perfect. I’ll phone her tomorrow. No that one didn’t seem nearly as good on paper. I’ll see her but I think this Elizabeth, Beth, is the one. Sorry, dear? Oh yes I’m so glad it’s over. I do hope she didn’t find me too frightening.’’ Laughs ‘’I was more nervous than she was, I’m sure’’
I opened front door and went straight to the kitchen. I ran the cold tap for several seconds and filled a glass. Drank it down, fast and refilled it. I was parched.
Mum walked in.
‘’Hello love’’ she said. ‘’How did it go?’’
I sat at the table. ‘’Fine, I think. Where's Dad?''
''He popped out to fill the car up. Fancy a brew?''