Johnny (chapter 11)
Lila has sent me off to do another round of errands. Steak for Bernard and more soap for me; she tells me I need to wash every other day now. I have finished my chores in surprising speed. The porch is much easier to broom when I stand on it rather than extending the stick to not get dirt all over the pavement. Scrubbing the floors only takes a fraction of the time it used to. Though that gave me a shock at how convenient it is to be clean, nothing could have prepared me for the Master's reaction yesterday.
"Why did he blush?" A few weird stares make me continue my one-sided conversation inside my head. 'Oh! Maybe that was him getting angry! His face was turning quite red.'
The streets are busy as usual with people bustling about needing to get somewhere in a hurry. I attract more stares as I get closer to the market. I've triple-checked my appearance and can't figure out why everyone keeps staring. Deciding to ignore the burning gazes, I look at the buildings instead.
'B-ar-b-er sh-op,' I recite to myself. Lila has started to teach me how to read and it is exciting to be able to see what those hieroglyphics say. A quaint little store stops me in my tracks. 'He-lp Want-ed.'
The door is open letting the cool summer breeze ride in. Deciding to adventure a little, I walk inside and see many wooden tables and chairs scattered across the floor. A long table is stretched parallel to the farthest wall. Windows line the front and another door leads mysteriously elsewhere. Out of all the tables only a few people are sitting at them and give me a quick glance before continuing their meal.
"Welcome!" an overly happy voice greets me. A scrawny man in a half apron around his waist stands before me.
'He's not much taller than me,' I ponder as the man steers me towards one of the empty tables. 'And I'm barely 5 ft.'
"So," he continues ignoring my dazed look. "What would you like?"
About to answer, I feel something rough in my hands and look down to see a piece of paper with scribbles all over it. Reading the top, Menu, I quickly explain, "Oh! I'm not here for food!"
The stringy man seems to shrink and he looks like he's about to cry. "You didn't come to eat?"
His pathetic voice pulls at my heart strings and I try to explain further, "I saw a help wanted sign on your door. Would I be able to help?"
Instantaneously, the man's face brightens and he shakes my hand vigorously. "Yes! Yes, of course! You'd be perfect for the job!"
'He must really need some help…I could help clean maybe…'
My thoughts are interrupted as he declares, "I won't be able to pay you much."
Waving my hands back and forth frantically I state, "You just need help, right? I'll help you; I don't need the money!"
His face starts to pinch up and he makes a creepy smile. A sudden burst of laughter jolts me with surprise. "Oh! That's too good!" Seeing I'm serious, he stops laughing and insists, "I still want to pay you if you want to work here!"
Realizing there may be no quick end to this but to agree, I comply. Clapping his hands together in delight he runs to the mysterious room and back in the blink of an eye. "Here!" he says, holding out another half apron.
Taking it, I tie it around my waist and he begins teaching me how to "cater to peoples' needs".
"Take care!" Harry, my new boss, yells after me. Waving, I continue onwards to the market.
"It is getting late," I say trepidatiously, looking up at the sky full of orange and pink hues. Quickly buying the few items needed, I run back to the house.
Leaning against the closed door, I pant for a few seconds before noticing a sound out of place in this usually quiet house: a tapping sound. Opening my tired eyes I see Lila in a fury tapping her foot noisily.
"Where have you been?" she asks, her eyes flashing dangerously.
Trying to find the words, I stumble, "Um…I-I found a job. He wanted m-me to work right away."
Dash wags his tail eagerly when I come into his site. Putting the bags down, I open my arms for the coming onslaught of saliva. "Good boy! Good boy!" I laugh petting his furry head.
Bernard, wiping his greasy hands on a white towel, sees Lila quite angry and questions, "What's the problem here?"
Exasperated, Lila turns to Bernard and explains to him how I have a new job.
"You already have one here with us," Bernard replies incredulously.
Looking down at my feet, I respond, "I know…but I want to be able to buy some things on my own and not always rely on you and Lila's kindness." Dash whimpers in sympathy and I muster up a weak smile for him.
A tired sounding sigh escapes both their lips at the same time. "Alright," Lila agrees after a few moments.
My face brightens instantaneously and I quickly relay my gratitude: "Than-"
"But," Bernard interrupts, "If you are found out by the master, it is your own problem."
Taking a brave gulp, I recompose my countenance and declare, "Fine!"
"What's this?" a bone-chilling voice states shattering the warm atmosphere. Dash starts to growl ferociously. My breath hitches and my heart seems to stop beating. Not wanting to, I take a careful glance up the stairs to see Master unemotional and cold as always. The room is filled with uncomfortable silence: even Dash stops growling. The horses in the barn can be heard better than our breathing.
Deciding to break the awkward silence, I take a deep breath and say, "I…I just went to get some items from the market." Trying to copy him, I stare back without emotion.
A small smile graces his lips, but quickly disappears and a dark shadow casts over his features. "Get back to work!" he commands, turning back to his room. Dash tilts his head in confusion and looks at me for an answer.
Lila and Bernard, frozen, turn to me and look like I'm some monster.
"What?" I ask, uncomfortable under their intense gazes. I shift from one foot to another waiting for them to give me a reply.
"Nothing," Lila states, coming out of a daze. Bernard walks slowly to the kitchen still showing signs of shock. "Just," she continues, "We haven't seen Master William smile since before his parents died."