If I were one-third as self-absorbed as Alexa Jebor is, I'd be out on the street in three seconds flat. I'm plain and homely, with nothing to attract attention in face or figure. But Alexa? Alexa is gorgeous, with long, smooth golden hair and the palest of blue eyes, the kind of face that makes a man stop and stare, and a body to match.
That's probably half of the reason they keep her on, throwing in the fact that above two-thirds of the men of the household protest themselves to be madly in love with her. The other half is that her father owns land that completely surrounds the house we both work and live in.
She and I work together in the kitchen of a large, elaborate manor known as The Pookie House. It was built up from a humble cottage by an elderly man with astigmatism and far too much pride for an eye-glass. He thought he was getting a deal on a large chunk of land with easy access to the town. Actually, he was getting ripped off on a reasonable sized lot with no access to anywhere. He built the manor in ignorance, and named it after his favorite daughter, who inherited it and discovered his mistake.
I said that we both work. Well, it's true. I work all day long and Alexa probably works a grand total of an hour in the day. The rest of the time she's too busy brushing her hair, or gazing at herself in a little mirror that some rich suitor gave her. She gets away with it because the head cook likes to look at her nearly as much as Alexa does herself.
I shall never understand her, but I suppose I can forgive her. She wasn't always a kitchen maid, you know. Her father is the richest man in the province. She used to live with him in the lap of luxury. They vacationed for months at a time to resorts in the tropics or ski lodges in far-away mountains, sparkling with snow and fine ladies' jewelry. Alexa's mother has always been a bit of an invalid, so she never really traveled with them. Alexa's life with her father (and her mother on good days) was happy, and she was constantly spoiled. But that all changed one dark and stormy night (it would be dark and stormy on such a night for her, of course)...
Alexa came home late that evening. The mansion was dark, and no one answered her call when she stepped inside. She left her raincoat and hat on the floor in the front entryway and, stopping only to gaze into the hall mirror for a long moment, hurried upstairs. There were several servants who should have been around somewhere, should have gotten up and come to help when they heard her come in, but there was no one anywhere to be seen.
Alexa's shoes made wet, slapping noises against the polished wood of the upstairs hall, and her voice echoed through the house.
"Dad? Gretchen? Mom? Hello?" She tried the door to her mother's room. It swung open, and there she was, breathing in the steady rythm of a deep sleep.
Alexa took the back stairs down to the servants' quarters. She peered into Gretchen's room. "Gretchen, wake up!" The maid didn't stir, and Alexa, feeling a little spooked, beat a quick retreat up to her father's room. She knocked on the door. "Dad?" The only response was a sound like fingernails across a chalkboard.
She reached for the doornob, but was startled from it by a sudden light behind her. Alexa gasped and turned to the light, sheilding her eyes against the sudden brightness. In a moment her eyesight adjusted sufficiently for her to make out the features of the figure, which held a kerosene lamp. "Gretchen! Don't scare me like that!"
"I'm terribly sorry, ma'am, I just heard a noise, you see."
"Yes, of course, I understand. My things are downstairs, in the front entryway. Get them picked up, will you? I'm going to bed."
Gretchen hurried off down the hall, and Alexa turned, trembling, toward her room. The shrill noise sounded again, louder than before. In a fit of bravery, Alexa flung open her father's door, and immediately regretted it. Her father was nowhere to be seen, but in the center of the room stood a long, thin woman clad in layers and layers of flowing, semi-transparent white robes. She looked at Alexa with bulging, watery violet eyes.
She opened her mouth and Alexa heard the shrill sound again, but this time it was clear that it was coming from this woman. Slowly it began to form into words. Alexa stood aghast.
"WWWWWWWhhhhhhhhooooooooo ddddddooooooo yyyyyyoooooouuuuu tttttthhhhhiiiiiiinnnnnnkkkkk yyyyyoooooouuuuu aaaaaarrrrrreeeee? TTTTTThhhhiiiiisssss iiiiiisssss mmmmyyyyyy rrrrrrrooooooommmmm!"
"I'm Alexa Jebor and this is my father's room you-you-you hag! And this is my house!"
"TTTTThhhhiiiissss iiiiissssss mmmmyyyyy rrrrrroooooooommmmmmmm! IIIIIIII wwwwwwiiiiiilllll nnnnoooottttt ssssttttaaaaannnnndddddd fffoooorrrr ttttthhhhhhiiiisssss!" She raised both stick-thin arms over her head and screamed a long vowel. Alexa screamed, too, and fled through the hall, fell most of the way down the stairs, and staggered out the front door.
The mansion was suddenly ablaze with lights, and voices of every pitch joined in the comotion. Alexa ran across the lawn and into the woods, promptly tripped over a root, and fell flat on her face. She stumbled up and continued on, watching the her step more carefully.
Unfortunately, she was so busy looking at the ground that she ran smack into a large, angry man. Alexa stepped back and screamed. The man bellowed. The nails-on-chalkboard woman came shreiking through the woods and ran into the man's arms. The two of them stood there, whimpering, for quite some time. Alexa just kept screaming. Mr. Jebor, bleary-eyed and still wearing his night-cap, although he was fully clothed, caught up with them. He glared Alexa into silence and turned to the whimpering couple.
"I'm terribly sorry about this, I assure you-"
"Mr. Jebor," the large man cut him off, "who is this?" He pointed at Alexa.
"That's my daughter, Alexa."
"Dad, who are these people?" Alexa whispered, gazing at the woman.
"Hush, Alexa, I'll talk to you in a minute."
"I won't stand for this, sir! We're leaving this place immediately, have your help pack our bags!"
Mr. Jebor looked shocked. "But Mr. Arete, what about your collection?"
"I'll find another buyer, thank you," he said scornfully.
"But we were making so much progress..."
"Sir, have our bags packed this instant!"
Mr. Jebor slumped in defeat, and nodded. "Of course."
The next day, Alexa was called into her father's study. She knocked nervously on the paneled wood door.
"Come in." Her father was standing with his back to the fireplace. "Alexa," he said, "that business deal could have made my fortune. I could have become a noble with the kind of things that man was offering to sell me. And you came barging in on his wife in the middle of the night! It has come to my attention that you have altogether too much free time."
"But how could I be expected to know about that woman last night? I came home and you were nowhere to be found, and..."
"Enough, Alexa! I understand, of course, your predicament last night, and I think it was partly my fault. The fact that you were so frightened bodes ill of the job I've done raising you. You don't work, and therefore you have altogether too much time to fill your head with fantasies. You're out of school now, and old enough to start supporting yourself."
"No buts. You must get a job, and you must get it now. I'll no longer be responsible for you."
It wasn't long before Mr. Jebor would have been glad to take his daughter back. But he would never admit that he was wrong. So she works here, in the Pookie House. The master daren't fire her, in fear of her father's wrath.