Chapter One - A Sour Sixteen
January 6th, 2007
When I turned sixteen, unlike most of the girls in my town, I didn't throw a grand party to show off how much money my parents were willing to waste. If only I could be so lucky to use that word in the plural form. Parents.
Maybe if I had two, I wouldn't have been job hunting on my sixteenth birthday. I was of the legal age in my county now, and I wasted no time checking all of the major job openings at local burger joints and clothing stores. Of course, there were always job openings in Oakland Hills.
Anyone who worked here didn't live here. But then, what was I doing here? Me, with my single parent, in Oakland Hills, where the census claims seventy-four percent of the residents make at least if not more than six figures a year. Well, that's a long and depressing story, one that can be told with detail.
First off, I'm Jessica, Jessica Melendez. On a scale from one to ten, how sure are you that I belong in Oakland Hills? Are you willing to bet money that my (single) parent owns a home here, with a name like Jessica Melendez? I'm not Mexican, but everyone here thinks I am (because they think they're so smart). I'll say it once so say it with me now:
Costa Rican! I'm from Costa Rica, a Central American country just a little southeast of Mexico. We speak Spanish, too, but I assure you, there's a difference.
I, Jessica Melendez, turned sixteen at midnight that day, and by eight o'clock that same morning, I had visited thirteen different local businesses. Compliment me on my work ethic. My mom, Julia Melendez, worked as head maid on the Klein property. As head maid, she was granted a two bedroom guesthouse just like the chef and the driver.
I was born on that land, but that's as far as my privileges went. I was born into the Klein household, but that did not grant me any leniency whatsoever. I was treated just like my mother.
My goal was to get paid, finish high school, finish college, and then get my mom out of Klein Manor and in her own house. So yes, I lived in Oakland Hills, in a worker's guesthouse with my mother. Are you jealous? Yeah… probably not.
If all else failed, Karen Klein, The Woman of Klein Manor (AKA Evil Bitch #2), said there was a maid's uniform waiting for me in the storage house. I think she was mocking me when she offered. I'd filed it under Plan X. Plan Y was to panhandle or sell drugs. Plan Z was prostitution.
I needed this job. The more I worked, the more my mom could cut back on her hours. Working eleven hours a day and being on call for twenty-four hours in case of an emergency was not worth it for what she was being paid after they'd cut her paycheck for the house they were making her live in.
"You've got the job." I hadn't even filled out an application yet. "We've been needing a new waitress for weeks." The manager, Quain, was a stout gray-haired Asian lady, covered in grease. "Are you familiar with Chinese food?" Her hopeful eyes made me want to lie, but this was as close to a job that I'd gotten all day, I wasn't about to lie and get fired the next day.
"I'm a fast learner." She smiled.
"Honesty. Refreshing. How soon can you start? We need someone next Saturday; half my staff will be catering a wedding with me. How far do you live from Oakland Hills?"
I jumped with joy on the inside, taking in my surroundings as I thought about how this would be my workplace starting next week. The red and gold color scheme mixed with the oriental décor was charming in this five-star-or-nothing town. The grease on Quain's clothing was enough to let me know that I could be comfortable here. "I live in Oakland Hills." She was visibly unconvinced. "I just need the job. I swear I live here."
"I don't care as long as you're here in all black Saturday morning at seven. It's a good way to start. You'll be filling in for all six of my catering workers which means you'll be working for tips, being paid overtime and getting two percent of that day's profits. And everyone one in this town tips. That means floors, dishes, bussing, hosting, and still being a waitress. If you can handle all of that, you've got a job here for life. Sound fair?"
"If you don't mind my asking, how much money does that equate to?" Quain was calculating, counting on her fingers and counting again.
She paused a little as if she was worried the amount was too little. "For all the work you'll be doing, and this is just an estimate depending on how much you get in tips, you can expect to make six to eight hundred dollars that day."
It took a moment for that to sink in. That's how much my mother made every two weeks. I shook Quain's hand. "I'll see you Saturday. No matter what happens, I won't let you down."
The house was still when I arrived. When I called out for my mother, there was no reply. "Mom, I got a job!" There was still no reply. "It pays eight-hundred dollars on the first day." If my mother had heard that, surely there would've been a reply so naturally, I assumed she was working overtime at the Klein house, but it didn't seem likely that she'd do that on my sixteenth birthday.
Checking my watch, I decided to start cooking my birthday dinner so she'd find something hot to eat when she returned. It was half passed six and the sun was beginning to droop toward the west. It was rare for Mom to stay at their house pass five, seeing how her job was keeping the maids in line and her official shift ended at four. Maybe they were a maid short today and the Kleins were throwing a dinner party or something.
Granted, they'd just had one celebrating the New Year, and even then mom was home by four. As I let the pasta boil, I grabbed my coat to check on her in her office at the house. Two steps away from the door, from the corner of my eye, all I saw was darkness. I had a bad feeling about something.
From the front window, I could see most of the lights of the Klein house turned off, which was never the case when they were celebrating something. Seriously, it was like they wanted to let people from miles away see the celebratory brightness of their home. I backed slowly away from the door, slightly more aware of the creaking hardwood floors.
For some reason I started to sweat. "Mom," I called out a second time, hoping for a reply. "Mom!" I shouted louder. Call it intuition, call it a hunch, but the moment I realized there wasn't going to be reply to the second time I called, a thick blanket of dread covered me. "Mom," I whispered, knowing I'd hear nothing whether I whispered or shouted.
I avoided checking her room. Instead, I decided to look in every other room, even mine. When there was no sight of her in every corner I searched, I called her cell phone.
The sound of her familiar ringtone coming from the room across the kitchen, her bedroom, sent me into a dizzy spell. The thought that she was here and not replying made my body feel cold, because my mother didn't believe in practical jokes. She was always very serious.
I knocked twice before reaching for the handle. "Mom…" I began to say, but what I found shocked me into a silence. I was too horrified to scream, if that even makes sense. There, on the teak floor of the master bedroom in the main guesthouse of the Klein property was my mother, pale, unmoving.
Dead. A gun in her hand, and a wound on her head.
And what scared me the most…
On her bed were packed bags, one for her, and one for me. She was packing.
And someone wouldn't let her leave.
Well, welcome to my newest adventure. Are you intrigued? Best story idea I've gotten in 2012. I'll try to update every week at least. Possibly twice a week.
Any grammatical mistakes? If so, tell me. I've self diagnosed myself as dyslexic when it comes to proofreading.
Hope you're interested. Please review.