The fact I finally felt remorseful about something I stole gave me hope that maybe I wasn’t a true sociopath. I stared down at the leather owl stitched to the front of the girl’s diary with regret burning a hole in the pit of my stomach. She must have been hiding the thing in a box of jewelry tucked into the back of a closet in the guest room of her house. A damn good hiding place, but not good enough to thwart a thief as desperate as me.
My brain tangoed with the idea of reading the diary, but I decided against it, hoping I would send out a beam of karma which would pay off should anyone ever accidentally acquire something so personal of mine. I also don’t think I would ever be able to look at the girl who the diary belonged to again when I came to clean her dad’s house on Talcott Street each Tuesday. Judging by how rarely the pale-skinned girl came out of her bedroom, I’m pretty sure she had some rather dark stuff scribbled upon those pages I left on my bedroom floor unread.
Next Tuesday was a blur. Before I knew it, the toxic smell of Windex and the low groan of air conditioning wrapped me up into my weekly routine at the cliff side house on the dark end of Talcott Street.
I was questioning my usual cleaning of the guest room once again. I had no idea why I cleaned the room each week when it appeared no one ever used it. I was basically wiping away the polish I left each week and laying it down again.
The rarely-used room was littered with random storage boxes and large dressers full of seemingly long-abandoned lady’s women’s clothes and jewelry. I had been tripling my meager maid pay by selling the goods I was stealing from the room on ebay and hoped I could clear the room out of anything valuable before I was caught.
The last place in the room I had yet to fully explore was underneath the king-sized bed. It would be pretty hard to write off what I was doing as “cleaning” if someone came into the room and saw me crawling on my belly in the dark going through boxes, so I had left it for last, when I got really desperate.
That long-feared desperation had set in. My roommates had all moved out of the four-bedroom house I was splitting rent with them at, and I could no longer afford to live there. Plus, my aborted nursing school debt, car payments, insurance payments, and the other various endless payments pushed me into a financial pit. I had actually come home from last Tuesday’s cleaning to see my landlord walking away from the house with a group of college kids he was probably showing the house to.
Work had also completely stopped assigning me houses to clean. I was just still going to my Tuesday assignment on Talcott Street because I knew they always left a hefty cash tip on the counter I could swipe if I showed up before the other maid and because I could make my raids on the guest room.
With that desperation beating in my heart, I dropped my knees to the carpet and crawled on my belly until I was under the canvass of the bed. I dug into the first shoe box I found and was thrilled to lay my eyes upon a fresh pair of heels that exactly fit my taste. Maybe I would keep these for myself instead of mailing them through ebay to some spoiled 20-something in LA or New York who I was sure was using her parents’ money to pay for them.
I was ready to slide out from under the bed with the shoes in my greedy paws when I heard the bedroom door open behind. I froze. I was totally concealed by the cover of the bed, but with my cleaning supplies resting on the counter, it was obvious to whoever entered I was in there.
I was cleaning some of the hard to reach dust out from under the bed.
I crafted the excuse in my head, but wouldn’t have to even use it.
I whipped my head around and locked eyes with the pale girl who lived downstairs in the house. Her sharp green eyes burst wide the second she saw me stretched out underneath the bed and she erupted with a piercing scream.
She rushed out of the room, before I could get any words out.
“Shit, shit, shit, shit, shit,” my brain raced. My last source of income was about to go down in flames. The girl would assuredly tell her dad I was doing creepy shit in their guest room.
I let out a deep breath and soaked it all in. I grabbed the shoes, tucked them underneath my shirt and walked out of the house as fast as I could.
Coming home to all of the furniture and appliances in my living room cleaned out was not the warm welcome I was hoping for. I knew the day was coming when my former roommates would evacuate their stuff, but seeing the clean spots in the carpet the couch had been protecting and barren white walls still stuck me like a knife.
And it wasn’t just the living room. The kitchen was cleaned out. All the other bedrooms were vacant. Even the half roll of toilet paper left in the bathroom was gone. The only thing left furnished was my little bedroom with its mess of dirty clothes piled on the floor and dirty blankets stacked on my bed.
Actually, there was one more thing I hoped hadn’t been extracted from the house. My recovering-alcoholic roommate sealed a bottle of Jim Beam into a wall at the back of a hallway closet in case he ever really needed to have another drink and I was hoping he left it there when he moved out.
My hopes and dreams came true when I punched through a thin cardboard wall and saw a shining bottle of caramel-colored elixir staring back at me. There wasn’t a drop of anything to mix the stuff with, but it didn’t matter, I knew just a handful of burning sips would be enough for me to catch the kind of cheap buzz that would soothe my battered soul.
I managed to get about a quarter of the bottle down before I felt like I was going to barf and laid back on my bed with the room spinning. My life had become so bleak my entertainment and coping options had been reduced to drinking whiskey and staring at the wall, but at the foot of the wall was something my drunken brain thought might provide some interest and entertainment.
I was drunk and had no cable or Internet. I had plenty of excuses to invade someone’s written privacy, especially someone who was probably going to get me fired.
Fuck her. I curled up with her frayed notebook in my sea of blankets.