By the time Trish comes back into the kitchen Im a little more composed. I can do this. Of course I can. Its not quantum physics. Its housework.
Samantha, Im afraid were going to desert you for the day, says Trish, looking concerned. Mr. Geiger is off to golf and Im going to see a very dear friends new Mercedes. Will you be all right on your own?
Ill be fine! I say, trying not to sound too joyful. Dont you worry about me. Really. Ill just get on with things ...
Is the ironing done already? She glances at the laundry room, impressed.
Actually, I thought Id leave the ironing for now and tackle the rest of the house, I say, trying to sound matter- of- fact. Thats my normal routine.
Absolutely. She nods vigorously. Whatever suits you. Now, I wont be here to answer any questions, Im afraid, but Nathaniel will! She beckons out the door. Youve met Nathaniel, of course?
Oh, I say as he walks in, wearing ripped jeans, his hair disheveled. Er ... yes. Hi, again.
It feels a bit strange seeing him this morning, after all the dramas of last night. Hi, he says. Hows it going? Great! I say lightly. Really well.
Nathaniel knows all there is to know about this house, puts in Trish, who is doing her lipstick. So if you cant find anythingneed to know how a door unlocks or whatever hes your man.
Ill bear that in mind, I say. Thanks.
But, Nathaniel, I dont want you disturbing Samantha, adds Trish, giving him a severe look. Obviously she has her own established routine.
Obviously, says Nathaniel. As Trish turns away, he raises an eyebrow in amusement and I feel my color rise.
Whats that supposed to mean? How does he know I dont have a routine? Just because I cant cook, it doesnt follow I cant do anything.
So youll be OK? Trish picks up her handbag. Youve found all the cleaning stuff?
Er ... I look around uncertainly.
In the laundry room! She disappears through the doorway for a moment, then reappears, holding a gigantic blue tub full of cleaning products. There you are! she says, dumping it on the table. And dont forget your Marigolds! she adds merrily.
Rubber gloves, says Nathaniel. He takes a huge pink pair out of the tub and hands them to me with a little bow.
Yes, thank you, I say with dignity. I knew that.
I have never worn a pair of rubber gloves in my life. Trying not to flinch, I slowly pull them onto my hands.
Oh, my God. Ive never felt anything quite so rubbery and ... revolting. Must I wear these all day?
Toodle- oo! calls Trish from the hall, and the front door bangs shut.
Right! I say. Well ... Ill get on.
I wait for Nathaniel to leave, but he leans against the table and looks at me quizzically. Do you have any idea how to clean a house?
Im starting to feel quite insulted here. Do I look like someone who cant clean a house?
Of course I know how to clean a house.
Only I told my mum about you last night. He smiles, as though remembering the conversation. What could he have said about me? Anyway. Shes willing to teach you cooking. And I said youd probably need cleaning advice too
I do not need cleaning advice! I retort. Ive cleaned houses loads of times. In fact, I need to get started.
Dont mind me. Nathaniel shrugs.
Ill show him. In a businesslike manner, I pick a can out of the tub and spray it onto the counter.
So youve cleaned lots of houses, says Nathaniel, watching me.
The spray has solidified into crystalline little gray droplets. I rub them briskly with a clothbut they wont come off.
I look more closely at the can. DO NOT USE ON GRANITE. Shit.
Anyway, I say, hastily putting the cloth down to hide the droplets. Youre in my way. I grab a feather duster from the blue tub and start brushing crumbs off the kitchen table. Excuse me ...
Ill leave you, then, says Nathaniel, his mouth twitching. He looks at the feather duster. Dont you want to be using a dustpan and brush for that?
I look uncertainly at the feather duster. Whats wrong with this one? Anyway, what is he, the duster police?
I have my methods, I say, lifting my chin. Thank you. OK. He grins. See you. Im not going to let him faze me. I just need ... a plan. Yes. A time sheet, like at work.
I grab a pen and the pad of paper by the phone and start scribbling a list for the day. I have an image of myself moving smoothly from task to task, brush in one hand, duster in the other, bringing order to everything. Like Mary Poppins.
9: 30-9: 36 Make Geigers bed 9: 369: 42 Take laundry out of machine and put in dryer 9: 42-10: 00 Clean bathrooms
I get to the end and read it over with a fresh surge of optimism. At this rate I should be done easily by lunchtime.
9:36 Fuck. I can not make this bed. Why wont this sheet lie flat?
9:42 And why do they make mattresses so heavy?
9:54 This is sheer torture. My arms have never ached so much in my entire life. The blankets weigh a ton, and the sheets wont go straight and I have no idea how to do the wretched corners. How do chambermaids do it?
10:16 At last. Forty minutes of hard work and I have made precisely one bed. Im already way behind. But never mind. Just keep moving. Laundry next.
10:26 No. Please, no.
I can hardly bear to look. Its a total disaster. Everything in the washing machine has gone pink. Every single thing.
What happened? With trembling fingers I pick out a damp cashmere cardigan. It was cream when I put it
in. Its now a sickly shade of candy floss. I knew K3 was bad news. I knew it There must be a solution, there must be. Frantically I scan the cans of products stacked
on the shelves. Stain Away. Vanish. There has to be a remedy ... I just need to think ...
10:38 OK, I have the answer. It may not totally workbut its my best shot.
11:00 Ive just spent ? 852 replacing all the clothes in the machine as closely as possible. Harrods personal- shopping department was very helpful and will send them all tomorrow, Express Delivery. I just hope to heaven Trish and Eddie wont notice that their wardrobe has magically regenerated.
11:06 And ... oh. The ironing. What am I going to do about that?
11:12 I have a solution, via the local paper. A girl from the village will collect it, iron it all overnight at ? 3 a shirt, and sew on Eddies button.
So far this job has cost me nearly a thousand pounds. And its not even midday.
11:42 Im doing fine. Im doing well. Ive got theHoover on, Im cruising along nicely What was that? What just went up theHoover? Why is it making that grinding noise?
Have I broken it?
11:48 How much does aHoover cost?
12:24 My legs are in total agony. Ive been kneeling on hard tiles, cleaning the bath, for what seems like hours.
There are little ridges where the tiles have dug into my knees, and Im boiling hot and the cleaning chemicals are making me cough. All I want is a rest. But I cant stop for a moment. I am so behind ...
12:30 What is wrong with this bleach bottle? Which way is the nozzle pointing, anyway? Im turning it round in confusion, peering at the arrows on the plastic ... Why wont anything come out? OK, Im going to squeeze it really, really hard
That nearly got my eye.
12:32 FUCK. What has it done to my HAIR?
By three oclock I am utterly knackered. Im only halfway down my list and I cant see myself ever making it to the end. I dont know how people clean houses. Its the hardest job Ive ever done, ever.
I am not moving smoothly from task to task like Mary Poppins. Im darting from unfinished job to unfinished job like a headless chicken. Right now Im standing on a chair, cleaning the mirror in the drawing room. But its like some kind of bad dream. The more I rub, the more it smears.
I keep catching glances of myself in the glass. I have never looked more disheveled in my life. My hair is sticking out wildly, with a huge grotesque streak of greeny- blond where I splashed the bleach. My face is bright red and shiny, my hands are pink and sore from scrubbing, and my eyes are bloodshot.
Why wont it get clean? Why?
Get clean! I cry, practically sobbing in frustration. Get clean, you bloody ... bloody
Abruptly I stop rubbing, to see Nathaniel standing in the doorway. Have you tried vinegar?
It cuts through the grease, he adds. Its good on glass.
Oh. Right. I put my cloth down, trying to regain my cool. Yes, I knew that.
Nathaniel shakes his head. No, you didnt.
I look at his adamant face. Theres no point pretending anymore. He knows Ive never cleaned a house in my life.
Youre right, I admit at last. I didnt.
As I get down off the chair, I feel wobbly with fatigue.
You should have a break, says Nathaniel firmly. Youve been at it all day; Ive seen you. Did you have any lunch?
I collapse onto a chair, suddenly too drained to move. Every single muscle in my body is in pain, including muscles I never even knew I had. I feel like Ive run a marathon, and I still havent polished the woodwork or beaten the mats.
Its ... harder than I thought, I say at last. A lot harder.
Uh- huh. Hes peering at my head. What happened to your hair?
Bleach, I say shortly. Cleaning the loo.
He gives a muffled snort of laughter, but I dont respond. To be honest, Im beyond caring.
Youre a hard worker, he says. Ill give you that. And itll get easier
I cant do it. The words come out before I can stop them. I cant do this job. Im ... hopeless.
Sure you can. He rifles through his rucksack and produces a can of Coke. Have this. You cant work on no fuel.
Thanks, I say, taking it gratefully. I crack open the can and take a gulp, and its the most delicious thing Ive ever tasted.
The offer still stands, he adds after a pause. My mother will give you lessons if you like.
Really? I wipe my mouth, push back my sweaty hair, and look up at him. Shed ... do that?
She likes a challenge, my mum. Nathaniel gives a little smile. Shell teach you your way around a kitchen. And ... anything else you need to know.
I feel a sudden burn of humiliation and look away. I dont want to be useless. I dont want to need lessons. Thats not who I am. I want to be able to do this on my own, without asking assistance from anyone.
But ... the truth is, I need help. Apart from anything else, if I keep on going like today Ill be bankrupt in two weeks. I turn back to Nathaniel. That would be great, I say. I really appreciate it. Thanks.