by T.S. Kay
"Is this Jin Woo?" An English-speaking voice with an American accent asked me when I answered my cell phone.
"This is she," I replied, curious. It wasn't often I spoke to anyone not Chinese. "How may I help you?"
"I would like to hire your services," he said. I've never had a request from a foreigner before.
"I am flattered by your consideration," I told him, going into
business mode. "What date and time? I will need to check my calendar.
This week is very busy for me," I explained. This was only a partial
truth. I was only marginally busy this week and next week was looking
worse. Part of me didn't care, I didn't like what I did but at least it
kept me and my mother fed, clothed, and sheltered.
"It hasn't been set yet," he answered, "and I want to make sure you are available."
"I can't guarantee I will be free without a non-refundable fee."
"I will pay what you ask. The arrangements are likely to be
complicated," he warned me. Complicated was good, I could charge more.
"The travel arrangements will likely take time as well," he added.
"Travel to where?" I asked, dreading traveling to the other side of Hong Kong which was always difficult.
"The United States. New York," he said, stunning me. "I will have my
lawyer call you to see to the arrangements and payment." Then he hung
* * *
Mr. Langenthorpe, a lawyer from New York called two days later. My
services wouldn't be needed for another month but that it would take
that long for arrange the necessary paperwork. I would be traveling on
a temporary visa given to entertainers. All travel expenses and a daily
per diem rate would be covered. It added up to more than I would have
made in five years.
Mother didn't want me to go when I first told her. She was afraid of
what could happen to a woman alone in the United States. Her objections
faded when the advance payment arrived. I mentioned Mother's concerns
to Mr. Langenthorpe. Two days later a Hong Kong law firm contacted me
to make arrangements for a home aid to check on Mother while I was
gone. Mr. Langenthorpe would also provide me with a female traveling
companion while I was actually traveling.
"When will you leave?" Mother asked me fearfully when I hung up the
phone. She didn't like this attention, afraid it would lead to
something bad. To mother, everything new or different was dangerous, to
be feared, and shunned. If I listened to her I would still be waiting
tables full-time rather than using my gift to perform.
"Any day now. Mr. Langenthorpe will let me know.
"Who will you be singing for, have they told you yet?"
"No, they will provide me with all the details I will need once I
arrive." She frowned as dissatisfied with the answer as I was. She
continued on complaining about the mysteriousness of it all but I tuned
her out as I prepared my garments for a performance I was to do the
next day for a local merchant.
The call came three days later. Apparently, things had progressed
enough in the United States that my services would be needed within the
next few weeks. It would take three days to get to the client's estate
outside of Rochester, New York.
A car service came and two young, professionally dressed women
knocked on the door. I pretended I didn't notice their disdain when I
invited them into our two room home and asked if they would like tea.
They declined, as I would need to leave very soon. One of them would be
staying with my mother while I was gone, the other would travel with me
to the Chek Lap Kok airport and boarding gate. I faked being calm and
serene about the trip but my mask slipped when I brought out my
performance garments covered in a plastic bag and a large pocket book
that contained another change of clothes. The two women burst into
titters; shaming me and making me feel stupid.
"Is that all the clothes you are bringing?" The younger, prettier one asked with an incredulous laugh.
I started humming, warming my voice up. I watched their faces as
they flushed, unexpectedly overcome with sadness. My mother, used to my
gift and able to withstand it, put her hand on mine, warning me to keep
my temper in check. Realizing they could jeopardize my trip and
paycheck, I quieted my anger. The women exchanged puzzled glances with
one another but then shrugged, not really able to understand what
"These are all the clothes I own," I glared, daring them to laugh
again. They had the decency to be embarrassed and nodded an apology to
"Very well. We should leave now to ensure you are on time," the
older of the two women told me. I said my good-byes to my mother, aware
of the necessity to show respect in front of these strangers. The
younger woman gave me her business card and assured me that I could
call her at any time for her to check on to my mother.
A luxury limousine waited outside the apartment building, looking
very out of place in our poverty-stricken block. Neighbors were peering
out of their windows and stopping to watch as I got into the car. A
driver held the door open for us but the woman got into the front as if
she were my servant. I kept my head down to hide my prideful smile from
my neighbors. The ride to the airport was long but more comfortable
than any other trip I'd made in Hong Kong. It was also the most quiet
with the driver and woman hidden behind a darkened glass partition.
When we arrived at the airport, the woman opened the door for me and
handed me a black binder containing my itinerary, passport, and travel
visa. She escorted me to the first class counter.
"I have spoken to Mr. Langenthorpe and explained that you do not
have a wardrobe that would be suitable to the climate in New York. He
has authorized me to assist you in the selection of additional
clothing. Once we pass through security, we will have a short time to
shop, so please allow me to make the majority the decisions." Her tone
was sour with jealousy. I nodded at her, dazed at the generosity of my
* * *
The long trip to Los Angeles, then New York City, then a small
regional airport in upstate in New York, seemed to take forever. I was
as comfortable as I had ever been flying business class but the last
plane to central New York was small with no first class section.
When I finally arrived in Rochester, I made my way to the baggage
claim area where I was to meet Mr. Langenthorpe. Instead, I noticed my
name on a placard carried by a limousine driver.
"I am Jin Woo," I told him wondering if I would need to show him my passport.
"Hello Ms. Woo, which bags are yours?" He nodded at the carrousel
behind me. I pointed to my new suitcases full of two business suites,
two dresses that would serve as evening attire, sleep wear,
undergarments, and two pairs of shoes. It had taken all my reserve not
to jump up and down in excitement in front of the smarmy young lawyer.
"Is that all?" the driver asked.
"No, there is one more bag, a garment bag." I peered anxiously at
the other articles as they came out on the belt. "There it is," I
pointed it out to him. I hated it, wishing I could do something more
meaningful with my gift than wear funeral garb.
"The car is this way," the driver told me and wheeled my bags toward
the doors leading to a parking lot full of cars. He turned to see me
standing still, hesitating.
"I thought Mr. Langenthorpe would meet me at the airport." I said,
realizing for I was alone in a strange country about to get into a car
with a total stranger.
"Yes, Ms. Woo, he's waiting in the car. He is an elderly man. He
didn't want to stand and wait for you." He gave me a reassuring smile.
"Of course, I should have realized that," I answered him with a
false smile. I would check to see if Mr. Langenthorpe was in the car
before I got in. I followed the driver out into the parking lot,
blinking at the sunshine.
"Ms. Woo?" I heard and looked to see an elderly, bald man leaning
out of an open window in the back of a limousine. I recognized his
"Mr. Langenthorpe! It's a pleasure to finally meet you in person." I
said with a genuine smile. I hadn't realized how much I missed familiar
surroundings, even my mother. I'd never been away from home before.
"Yes, it is good to meet you as well. Please get in the car where
it's warm. I'm sure you're tired and cold after your long trip." The
driver hurried over to hand me into the car and close the door behind
me. As I sat down, I tried not to stare.
"Never met a black lawyer before, Ms. Woo?"
"No, I'd seen them, I mean Africans, on television and a few on the
planes these past days but I'd never sat next to one before," I
admitted. Mr. Langenthorpe laughed. "My mother told me I was too
curious for my own good," I added with a small laugh.
"Well, stare all you like for now but I suggest you avoid staring at Mr. Robinson, his son, or the people at the service."
"Mr. Robinson? Is still alive? Is he... my client?" I asked, not
sure if that was the right term. He nodded. "Usually it was the
bereaved relatives that hired me, not the soon-to-be-dearly-departed."
He laughed at my choice of words, and then sobered.
"Yes, Mr. Robinson is your client. You will be performing at his
funeral. He is not likely to last more than a few days, but he is
coherent and looking forward to meeting you."
"I see," I said, uncomfortably. I'd never actually met the subject of my performance before.
"Does he have a wife?"
"She passed away some years ago."
"So it is only his son and his family?" Mr. Langenthorpe looked at me.
"There is only his son. He is," he paused, searching for words, "different." I waited for more but he stopped there.
"Different, how?" I prompted, definitely curious now.
"You are not what I expected," he said surprising me.
"Really? What were you expecting?" I asked, nervously. I hoped he wouldn't send me back home because he found me lacking.
"Don't be worried. I expected you to be dour and morose. Not young
and... curious." He smiled at me. I smiled back, this was familiar
"I understand. Many people think that my profession would dominate
my life and my perspective. At home I am avoided. But I am proud of
what I do. I help people." But I wasn't really sure if that was true
and wished again for something more definitive to do with my gift.
"What is it exactly that you do, Miss Woo?"
"Mr. Robinson didn't tell you?" I asked, surprised.
"No, he did not," he answered tersely. Apparently he was not used to being uninformed.
"I am a professional mourner. I shed the tears that others cannot or
dare not." I left out that my crying and wailing often caused others to
cry, despite their desire not to do so. I could do it anywhere and
anytime but only at funeral services was I able to make money from such
an odd gift.
"Ha! That man never ceases to amaze me!" Mr. Langenthorpe said, slapping his thigh.
"I told you Mr. Robinson's son, Christopher, is different. He has
Asperger's Syndrome; a form of autism. Christopher is brilliant but
isn't able to show his emotions. Mr. Robinson hired you to cry for his
"Apparently so," I said agreeing with him but hiding my fears. I didn't know what impact my gift would have on such a person.
"We are almost there," Mr. Langenthorpe said, looking out the
window. "I know you must be tired from your travels but if Mr. Robinson
is awake, he will want to meet you but he sleeps more than he is awake
now." I nodded my understanding.
We turned into a gated driveway from a two-lane highway. The
driveway and home were surrounded by woods. The estate, a mansion, was
enormous. Mr. Langenthorpe told me it was forty thousand square foot.
It was larger than my entire apartment building.
"What does Mr. Robinson do that he has such wealth?" I asked.
"He is a businessman. His son, Christopher, although he has limits,
also has great capabilities. Christopher develops algorithms. Mr.
Robinson sells them. Together they have made a fortune."
"What will happen to Christopher when Mr. Robinson dies?"
"I will take care of him for as long as I live and my firm will do so afterwards."
"That sounds very lonely," I said, feeling a pang of sympathy for Christopher.
"I don't think he'll notice. As I said, he has his limitations."
By this point, we had reached the front entrance. A woman was
waiting for us when we got out of the car. The driver took my bags and
disappeared with them into the oversized front door.
"Ms. Woo, this is Ms. Lee," Mr. Langenthorpe introduced us. She
looked Chinese. "She will be your companion while you are here. If you
have questions or need anything, ask her for assistance." She smiled
woodenly and I nodded to her, not really sure of the proper response.
"Mr. Robinson is too ill to meet with Ms. Woo. He asked that we have dinner without him," Ms. Lee told us.
"That is unfortunate. How bad is he and how is Christopher?" Mr. Langenthorpe asked her.
"Dr. Oliver believes Mr. Robinson has only days left. He told this
to Christopher who is understandably distressed. I wish I could comfort
him." I heard a predatory tone in her voice.
"Has the doctor prescribed anything to calm Christopher's nerves?" Mr. Langenthorpe asked, frowning at her.
"He yelled at me when I offered them to him," Ms. Lee answered. I decided I liked Christopher no matter how odd he might be.
"I would like to shower and change before dinner," I said, reminding them I was there.
"Certainly. I am sure you are tired after such a long trip. Follow
me and I'll show you to your room," Ms. Lee said to me after a glance
at Mr. Langenthorpe. He nodded slightly.
"I will see you later at dinner," Mr. Langenthorpe said with a smile as I walked up the steps and through the front door.
As we made our way up the sweeping marble stairway and past a grand
piano, Ms. Lee pointed out beautiful works of art. I nodded politely
and made appreciative noises but I found my thoughts focused on how
much better these strangers' livers were compared to mine. They had
found a way to make use of Christopher's uniqueness; I wished I could
find such a way to make use of mine. I knew better than to expect I
would find other opportunities like this one.
I stopped to look at a life-sized portrait of Mr. Robinson, his
wife, and Christopher hanging at the top of the stairs. Mr. Robinson
was large and muscular in a sweater and dress slacks. He was standing
beside a chair in which a beautiful woman in a deep blue, long gown was
seated. They were gazing at one another with loving looks. A young man
in a light blue dress shirt, dress slacks and dark tie stood beside
"He is an attractive man, isn't he?" Ms. Lee asked.
"They both are," I responded truthfully, not sure which man she referred to.
"It's such a shame, the son is so strange," she whispered to me,
looking around to be sure she wasn't overheard. I was sure she was
trying to discourage me from pursuing him. "He is like a robot, never
smiles or frowns. I don't he even likes sex with women or even men."
"That is unfortunate, but at least they have enough money to take care of him." She nodded her agreement.
"Here is your room," she told me, opening a door that lead to a
suite that was easily three times the size of the apartment my mother
and I shared. It was luxuriously appointed with a four poster bed, huge
closets, and a media center. My longing for the bed must have shown on
my face as Ms. Lee said, "You'll have time to take a nap before dinner."
"That would be wonderful." I looked around for my bags and realized
that they were in the closet. "I'll just need thirty minutes to get
ready before dinner."
"I'll call you in time. If you have any questions or need anything,
just hit the intercom button and someone will pick up," Ms. Lee told
me, pointed to the intercom, and let herself out of the room.
It was midday here. I wouldn't get through the remainder of the day
without a nap of some kind. I quickly unpacked, sat down on the bed,
and was asleep before my head hit the pillow.
* * *
"Wake up. I want to talk to you," a voice said and the bed moved as
if someone banged into it with their hip. I opened my eyes to see a
tall, thin African American man standing at my feet. It was the young
man from the portrait, several years older, Christopher.
"How did you get in here? I locked the door behind Ms. Lee." I was surprised I wasn't afraid.
"The door in the clothes closet," he answered in a monotone voice
free of inflection. I ignored his odd response, fascinated to meet
someone that might actually be a challenge to reach. I couldn't help
but notice despite his odd affect; he was an attractive man, much like
his father but thinner.
"You shouldn't be in my room, it isn't appropriate," I told him, sitting up and straightening my clothes and hair.
"I wanted to talk to you without Mr. Langenthorpe around. He treats
me like a child." While Christopher's voice lacked inflection, I didn't
doubt he wasn't fond of Mr. Langenthorpe. "I know why my father brought
you here. I don't want you to make me cry. I don't care what my father
"It's good to cry, especially when something sad happens. You'll feel better afterwards."
"I'll pay you twice whatever my father is paying you," his eyes were wide. Clearly he could feel fear.
"I can't do that. I won't go back on my word to your father." He
turned away, frustrated. "But I may be able to compromise." He faced me
again. "What if everyone else is crying as well?" It would dilute the
impact of my gift but, given his condition, I was more comfortable with
"What do you want for it?" he asked. I blinked in surprise.
"Nothing, your father is paying me to perform but you will be my audience. I will do what I can to please you," I answered.
"That doesn't make sense to me. I'd rather trade than owe you something," again taking me by surprise. "What do you want?"
"I don't know, I haven't thought about it. How about you give me help or advice when I need it?"
"I suppose that will work," he said dubiously. He was about to say more when there was a knock at the door.
"Ms. Woo," it was Ms. Lee. I got up from the bed.
"Here's your first advice. Don't let them treat you like a servant," Christopher whispered to me as I moved to the door.
"Dinner will be served in about an hour." She said and tried to peer around me into the room. She must have heard us talking.
"Thank you. I'll be down shortly," I told her and shut the door
firmly. When I turned back to the room, it was empty. I shrugged and
went into the bathroom shower, locking the door behind me.
I put on an outfit from the Hong Kong airport. It was a black pencil
skirt, a red silk blouse with a small abstract pattern on it, and a
black jacket with hints of red on the trim and buttons. After I put on
the makeup and high-heel shoes, I admired myself in the mirror, liking
what I saw. Definitely not a poor girl from the slums. Such cloths and
fine make up would help me make more sales back home but I was
beginning to wonder if there was a bigger world than Hong Kong offered
Walking down the staircase, I felt I was in a Hollywood movie as all
eyes in hall turned to watch my descent. I smiled demurely and felt a
flush come over my face when Mr. Langenthorpe welcomed me, clearly
admiring my figure. Like any girl, men had ogled me and made lewd
comments but never had I had a rich, powerful man pay me such
attention. It made me believe there was so much more in store for me.
I smiled icily at Ms. Lee who was clearly annoyed she was no longer the center of male attention.
"Good evening, Mr. Langenthorpe, Ms. Lee." I turned to the heavy set
white man, standing by the front door and taking off a dress overcoat.
I pretended I didn't see him looking at my legs.
"I don't believe we've met. I'm Jin Woo," I said to him with a smile and offered him my hand.
"John Moore, a pleasure to meet you, Ms. Woo," he said, taking my
hand in a firm yet gentle grip. We followed the others into a living
room area with several couches, a large, lit fireplace and bar.
"Is everyone so formal here?" I asked, looking first at Mr. Moore
then Mr. Langenthorpe with what I hoped was a coy smile and remembering
"No. We thought you would be. Please call me Les," Mr. Langenthorpe said.
"Annette," she said sourly.
"Then please call me Jinny. It's what my friends call me." I looked
at the glass of wine in Annette's hand and waited for Les to offer me a
drink. It worked and the four of us spent the next few minutes
exchanging small talk about life in Hong Kong and long cold winters in
Central New York.
"And this is Christopher," Les said unexpectedly as Christopher
entered the living room. I stood, deciding to pretend our earlier
conversation hadn't occurred.
"We've met," Christopher said bluntly. Mr. Less looked expectantly
from me to Christopher waiting for an explanation. I smiled
mysteriously when Christopher remained silent. I wasn't about to tell
them that he showed up in my room using a secret passage. Annette's
unhappy, predatory look returned. She either had feelings for
Christopher or thought he was a ticket to an easy life. I looked at
Christopher curiously but he was silently staring at the space between
Les and the couch.
"Will Mr. Robinson be joining us for dinner?" I asked, changing the subject.
"No, he is still sleeping." Even though Les was Mr. Robinson's
lawyer, it was obvious they were friends. Christopher, despite what Les
had told me about him not expressing feelings, appeared upset at Les'
"Christopher, would you like a drink?" I asked. Les and John looked
at me in surprise. I looked again at Christopher; he was definitely
over the drinking age in either the United States or Hong Kong.
"I would like a beer," Christopher answered.
"We didn't know you liked beer," John said, getting up from his
perch on a bar stool and getting a beer from the refrigerator. He
opened it and handed the bottle to Christopher.
"You never asked," Christopher replied and sat down next to me, opposite from Les and Annette. Les was frowning at me.
"Point to you," John said with a laugh, sitting back down on a barstool.
Feeling somewhat awkward over the exchange, I changed subject. "How
does everyone here know Mr. Robinson, besides Christopher of course?" I
looked at Les.
"Don, that's his first name, and I met in graduate school. He was
going for a master's degree. I was a much older student, returning to
get my law degree. We were part of a small handful of black students at
the school at that time. We've been friends since long before
Christopher was born, more than thirty years." I smiled in appreciation
at him and looked next at John.
"Matt and I met at a software development conference twelve years
ago. He knew Christopher's work had tremendous application in the
business world. I had the connections they needed. Christopher has made
us all wealthy men," John said, getting up and putting his hand on
Christopher's shoulder. Christopher grimaced and leaned forward,
forcing John to drop his hand. John sighed and went back to his bar
"I've worked with Les' firm for three years now. I do the
administrative work associated with Mr. Robinson's cases. I've gotten
to know the family because of that," Annette answered, with a
calculating look at Christopher. I didn't think she had true feelings
"And what about you, Jinny? How do you know Matt?" John asked me.
"He hired her to perform at his," Annette answered for me and paused awkwardly in mid-sentence to look at Christopher.
"He asked her to perform at his funeral services," Christopher said impatiently and giving me annoyed look.
"I'm sorry, I didn't want to be insensitive," Annette answered with a pout.
"I know my father is dying. Having Asperger's doesn't make me an
idiot, you know." I felt my face flush at the same time Annette's
embarrassed titter filled the room.
"Christopher, don't be rude. We know you're upset but you know Annette meant no disrespect," Les said.
"Yes, I know. I'm sorry," he told her perfunctorily. He seemed to be easily controlled.
"I'd be interested in a preview performance," Les told me, a
challenge in his voice. I looked at him, then the others. Clearly he
was the man in charge in Mr. Robinson's absence. I gave him a small
smile of acquiescence and stood up.
I looked first at Annette and then each of them in turn; as I began
to sing one of the ancient Chinese laments I had learned. By the tenth
note there were tears in Annette's eyes, after thirty seconds, John and
Less were wiping their cheeks. Christopher showed no response but he
looked uncomfortable. I was sure if I sang longer and focused my gift
on him, I would achieve what I was being paid for. I sang a few more
notes and looked at Les. He nodded and I stopped singing.
"That was beautiful. I haven't felt so deeply since I was a
teenager," Les said with appreciation in his eyes. "It was nice to let
go like that," Annette added, smiling coyly at first John then
Christopher. As if she had a choice, I thought silently.
"What other feelings can you evoke, Jinny?" Les asked.
"I feel blessed that I can help people express grief and sadness.
That is enough for me," I answered him. By the sly look he gave me, I
knew he caught my evasion. My mother constantly warned me not to try
new things with my gift for fear of what I might learn.
John gave me a speculative look as well, although his held a touch
of heat. Les' was more like greed. Annette just looked annoyed at the
additional attention I was getting.
A woman, wearing a chef's coat, came to the living room and
announced that dinner was ready. We followed her to a beautifully set
table covered with an array of fish and meat entrees. Everything was
delicious. We spent the rest of the evening, sampling the dishes and
wines. John flirted with me throughout the evening and took every
opportunity to brush against me, touch my hand, or compliment me. Les
looked amused, Annette irritated, Christopher indifferent. After the
filling meal, the wine, and the long trip, I was ready for bed and a
good night's sleep. I excused myself, claiming fatigue, before dessert
could be brought out.
Once in my room, I locked the door and blocked the closet with a
chair. Then I went into the bathroom to freshen up and change into my
nightgown, also purchased in the Hong Kong airport. When I came out I
found John sitting on my bed.
"What are you doing here?" I asked, looking at the door, wondering
how he got in. Holding up a key in response to my unasked question, he
"You interest me."
"I appreciate that," I told him honestly, "but that doesn't explain what you're doing here now.
"Your power, the idea of it, excites me," he said and leaned back
revealing the truth of his statement by the bulge in his dress slacks.
"John, you flatter me. Under different circumstances, or perhaps
when I'm not so exhausted, we can talk about it. Right now, I can
hardly keep my eyes open, let alone do anything else." I told him,
hoping to put him off. This had happened twice before after my
performances when one of the men present wanted to bed me. I thought it
had to do with fear of death and the odd way some people react to it
but perhaps my gift was more nuanced than I thought.
"Please sing for me once more tonight? That's all I ask, nothing
more," John pleaded. Pleased and intrigued despite my need for sleep, I
decided to test just how much he really wanted this.
"John, I only have my gift to make my way in this world. Les has
done much for me beyond what any contract would call for so I sang for
him this evening. Performing for you..." I said and let the sentence
"Sing for me now and I will set you up with an agent. You'll be
famous and the world will fall in love you those beautiful dark eyes."
Smiling at the compliment and at my own new found audacity, I nodded
and closed my eyes, thinking of an appropriate song.
I opened my eyes and quietly sang a song about a woman's longing for
her husband, a solider, who had been taken from her too soon. She
missed his arms, warmth, and tender kisses. I experimented as I sang,
focusing my attention on the unspoken sexual longing in the words. John
closed his eyes, his hand sliding downwards from his chest. I turned
away, singing louder, not interested in seeing or hearing his actions.
Inwardly, I reveled in my ability to make him feel that way but knowing
I wouldn't pursue this newfound facet of my gift, I wasn't raised to be
The song finished, as did John. He stood from the bed, red faced and
panting but in no way ashamed. He nodded at me as if nothing had
happened and left the room. As I blocked the door to my bedroom with
another chair, I hoped he remembered his promise.
* * *
I slept well and deeply that night and didn't wake up until sometime
after the sun rose. Again I woke to Christopher standing at the foot of
my bed. I rolled my eyes as I sat up.
"Christopher, you have to stop invading my bedroom."
"My father is dying," he said, looking like a lost little boy.
"I know, that's why I'm here."
"He's dying right now," he told me, panic showing in his eyes. He
began rocking back and forth. I used to do the same thing when I was
scared as a girl.
"I'm so sorry, Christopher," I leaned forward but stopped myself
from touching him, remembering his reaction to John the night before.
"Will you come with me to his room? I want you to sing happy songs
at him like you did to John last night." I blinked, surprised and
intrigued by his request. I'd not thought of such a thing before. If I
could sing sexual thoughts, I was sure I could sing happy thoughts as
"Yes. Just let me get dressed," I told him getting up from the bed,
covering my body with the sheet. Christopher continued to look at me.
"Wait outside the room," I told him.
"I want to watch."
"That will cost extra," I told him with a smile.
"How much?" Christopher asked seriously.
"Turn around!" I yelled and reached for the jeans and shirt I put
out the night before. He complied with a frown. I dressed quickly and
ran to the bathroom to relieve myself, clean my teeth, and comb my hair.
"Follow me," Christopher said when I came out. He turned and walked
to wall lined with book shelves. He reached out and pulled a book that
was actually a lever, down. There was a "click" and the wall swung
inwards revealing a small hallway that lead to a narrow stairway
leading upwards. I followed Christopher, idly noticing the lines of his
briefs showing through his pants.
"Why are there so many secret passages in this house?" I asked him to distract my thoughts.
"I like them. My father and I designed the house. He let me put them
in most of the rooms as a birthday present," he said as we reached the
top of the stairway. He pushed a level and a door opened into a
hallway. "My father's room is right there," he said, pointing at the
door opposite us. I could tell it took all his courage to open it and
I followed and began humming quietly, warming up my voice. A nurse
stood beside the bed. Next to her, Les Langenthorpe sat in a chair, his
face grave. It took me a moment to spot Christopher's father among all
the blankets that covered him. His eyes were closed, protruding from
his skull, the skin on his face paper-thin barely covering his skull.
His breath came in uneven gasps. Christopher turned, the look on his
face prompting me. I took his hand, ignoring his squirming and walked
to the edge of the bed.
I closed my eyes and started singing the first song that came to me,
a song made famous in the U.S. and around the world about a woman
always loving someone. It was a song I often sang to myself. I focused
first on the dying man, watching intently as the muscles of his face,
frozen in a rictus, relaxed. I sang louder, trying to include
Christopher, then Les, and even the nurse. Though his breath was
ragged, I thought I saw a slight smile form on Mr. Robinson's face.
Then, with a final gasp, his chest sagged. Christopher's hand tightened
I smiled, despite the sadness of the situation; I knew I had found my true calling.
© 2014 T.S. Kay
Bio: Mr. Kay was recently been published as a part of an anthology, Pen-Ultimate: A Speculative Fiction Anthology by Interrobang Books.
E-mail: T.S. Kay
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