My flight arrived on a late afternoon in May. We had a rough descent; thunderstorms littered eastern Kansas. I drove home from KCI through fits of downpours, and even some light hail. Despite the shitty weather, being back home was a relief.
I anticipated a relaxing evening. It was Friday. The kids were at Grandma and Grandpa’s, and I didn’t have to pick them up until Saturday afternoon. I could sleep in. Our babysitter/house sitter will have picked up the place. I’d be coming home to a clean, empty house.
I pulled into my driveway, opened the garage and parked in the second stall. I let Dena, the sitter, use my wife’s old stall for the four days I was gone. Dena had a Honda Accord, just like my wife, except Dena’s was a few years older and black. My wife’s was silver.
Just over a year ago, my wife was in an accident on the 435 loop on her way in to work. Her car was totaled. One day her garage stall was full; the next, empty. One day I had a wife; the next, widower. Once every week or two, Dena parked her Accord in my wife’s stall. Coming home, whenever I first saw it-even when I was expecting to see it-my heart lurched in my chest.
Dena was my wife’s younger sister.
I went in the house, and Dena was standing in the kitchen, messing around on her phone. She had on black yoga pants and a pink tee shirt. She looked great.
Huge locks of curly black hair framed her tan, flawless skin. Her big brown eyes were full of youthful zeal. She was voluptuously built. My wife said her sister was “built for gyrating in hip hop videos.” Dena’s breasts were huge; her ass was a booty. The rest of her body was crafted to accentuate those two features.
She was twenty—a sophomore at UM-KC. She didn’t mind the 20 minute drive out west into Kansas because I usually paid $15 an hour, a figure my wife’s parents-Dena’s parents-heard and darn near shit themselves with outrage.
After my father-in-law got over that figure, he asked, “Usually?”
“I’ll pay $18 if she cleans up the place—dishes, picking up, swapping out laundry. You know.”
He looked at his wife. “Darlin’, I don’t even know this country no more.”
But, I wasn’t paying $15 or $18 an hour for house sitting. Her total for the week was $400, which came to about $4 an hour, given how long I was gone. She took the kids to school and pre-school, picked them up, and watched them and the house for four days; on the last day, her parents took the kids to give me a break after the work trip.
Dena welcomed me back with a wave and said, “We’re under a tornado watch.”
I nodded. “Suppose you’ll want to get paid and get the hell out of here then, huh?”
“Let me pour myself a drink. I’ve been dying for one. Then, I’ll cut your check.”
She nodded and went back to her phone.
I walked into the kitchen, pulled open the liquor cabinet above the fridge, and grabbed the vodka. I got a big 32 ounce plastic cup full of ice, and then I poured about four or five shots worth into it. I topped it off with water, and took a pull.
Damn. Exactly what I needed.
Dena watched me take the drink, and she grinned at my satisfied reaction.
I nabbed the checkbook out of a drawer and began writing one out. “Good week?” I asked.
“They were great.”
“Good. Here.” I handed her the check. I made it out for $500. The place looked good, and I had already talked to the in-laws: the kids were healthy and happy.
“Oh, wow. Thanks.”
“You all packed up?”
“Yeah.” Her bag was sitting under the coat rack, and she bent over to grab it. I enjoyed the view.
I escorted her to the door and, ever since my wife passed, Dena always gave me a hug before she walked into the garage. Maybe that hug is why I always paid her well.