Chapter Six

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Lynne closed the door quietly behind her and wearily leant against it. She was exhausted beyond measure, yet her mind was wired, frantically turning over the images in her mind like a child's flicker book. Dan wouldn't be back from work for another six hours. At least for the time being he was free from the worry she was coping with. She wondered where he was right now and what he was having to do just to keep their little family ticking over.

She took a deep breath and walked over to the stove, checked the kettle for water and lit the gas. Opening the cupboard to her right she went to take out a mug, but faltered when she saw the old chipped teacup. She picked it up carefully and traced over the slightly raised pink lettering with her index finger. Mummy, it spelled out. Lynne remembered the day that Hannah had so proudly presented it to her like it was yesterday. It was her thirty-second birthday and Hannah had painted it during her domestic skills lesson at school. The cursive writing was extremely neat and Lynne had imagined her young daughter painting it, her hair tied up with a yellow ribbon, her tongue poking out in concentration.

Next to the word Mum, was a beautifully painted Iris. Lynne had only ever seen an Iris once in real life and that was when she was a child. She had gone with her mother to clean a house in the city. An imposing two storey building, the white painted house had looked as cold as it looked glamourous.

"Why do we have to wear our best clothes mummy if we are going to work; won't they get dirty?" Lynne had asked her mother.

"Sweetheart," her mother replied, "even with our best clothes on, we are still not quite good enough to be here. These people have very high standards. You must be on your best behaviour and please don't touch anything you are not supposed to."

Her mother knocked on the door and then stepped back three paces. A few moments later, the heavy door opened onto a sparse lobby with gloss white floor tiles. Lynne's eyes were drawn to the woman who stood before them. Lynne wasn't used to seeing real beauty. She'd been told stories about people who were like this but had never seen one up close. Wearing a smart grey dress, cinched in at the waist with a thin red belt, the woman was tall but slender in frame, with glossy dark hair. Her deep tanned skin, stretched taught over her perfectly proportioned features and her eyes glistened like two emeralds, yet they looked down at Lynne with annoyance. Lynne lowered her own eyes away in reverence.

"I'll be back in four hours. Make sure you are gone by then. If I'm happy with your work, you will be asked back. If not, I will recommend you for a reduction. Jones is in the kitchen and he'll will provide you anything you need." The woman's voice was soft and well-spoken yet Lynne heard the disdain dripping from every word.

The woman grabbed her bag from the table by the door and then walked out and down the steps. Her mother pulled Lynne back, so she didn't get in the way.

"One final thing." The woman stopped walking and turned back. "Next time, come alone. I can't have that here again," she instructed, pointing a finger with a sharply-honed, highly-polished nail at Lynne. Although Lynne was young and inexperienced around people, she knew an insult when she heard one. Outraged, she looked up to her mother who was a proud woman and knew how to stand up for herself, especially when they were shopping at the market. But this time her mother said absolutely nothing and simply bowed her head. That was the first time Lynne clearly remembered not just knowing she was unworthy, but felt the shame being such.

For the next two hours, Lynne and her mother frantically, but expertly cleaned the rooms that were already spotless. They'd been given instructions to do the bedrooms, all five of them and their adjoining bathrooms. Marble, chrome and polished walnut covered every surface. Lynne was fascinated by the pure, white bedding, marvelling at how soft it was. The housekeeper, Jones, who had had given them their instructions, also set time limits and gave regular inspections of their work. Her mother had explained to Lynne, that although ones was a Flawed, his SPR was obviously in the eighties, allowing him to hold such a prized job and with the added benefit of being allowed to live amongst the Top-5, in a service role only. Clearly pleased to be the highest-ranking person in the house, albeit until the mistress of the house returned, he made it abundantly clear what he thought of Lynne and her mother, constantly criticizing their work and threatening to report them to the owner if they didn't keep up to his schedule.

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