So Long


Claire examines her outfit in the mirror one last time then nods succinctly. It’s perfectly professional, and the minimal makeup she’s put on does nothing but emphasise the natural contours and shape of her face. The last thing she wants to do is compound the bad first impression she’d made at her interview, and she has a feeling that showing up in her usual attire of leggings and an oversized T-shirt while wearing either too much or no makeup would only harm her chances at retaining this job. Blowing a kiss at her reflection, she grabs a pair of pumps from her closet, slips them onto her feet, and grabs her cross-body satchel from off the dresser. She drapes the strap over her neck as she exits her room and then promptly doubles back to collect her phone.

Matt gives her an unenthusiastic wave goodbye once she reaches the door; Claire’s surprised he’s even awake. She’d heard him yelling at Chuck and Duke for cheating while playing Mario Kart at four this morning, while Flop shouted out random nonsense to mess with them. She makes sure the door is locked behind her and hurries down the stairs as fast as she can without breaking an ankle or her neck. Her car is right where it should be in the parking garage, and she unlocks the door quickly and tosses her purse to the passenger seat. She brings up the email from Miss Darlington, copying the address and pasting it into the Maps app, and starts up the car while the route loads. Thankfully, it’s a relatively short drive, so she should be on time even if she stops for a coffee.

“Nah, better not,” she mumbles as she stares at the estimated time of arrival.

Traffic is, as always, a nightmare to navigate until she gets past the exits for the downtown buildings. After that, she can sit back and relax without having to slam on her brakes and yell at other drivers for being careless. It isn’t long before she’s signalling and waiting for a break in oncoming cars so she can cut cross the road to park in front of the fence. A gasp escapes her once she steps out of her car, now able to see the house beyond the fence. She fully expected something magnificent - most rich people, especially celebrities, have houses that she could only ever dream of seeing in person - but this is… something else entirely. Shaking her head, she tears her gaze away and focuses on rounding the front of her car to grab her purse from the passenger seat. She exits out of Maps as she passes a powder-blue Infiniti on her way to the gate.

The morning air is already heavy and damp with impending rain, and she gives the sky above a dirty look. It stretches out innocently, blue as far as she can see, but there’s a hint of dark grey at the edges. She locks her car, draws in a steadying breath. Her heels click rhythmically on the asphalt as she walks toward the front door with far more confidence than she really feels. The sound of the doorbell echoes from inside, and she starts up a mantra of You can do this, it’s just a job, you’ve got this as she waits for someone to answer. The door opens after a long moment; the warped silhouette in the glass disappears, replaced by Miss Darlington’s pleasant smile and sharp pantsuit.

“Good morning. Come on in.”

Claire steps into the entryway and barely manages to stifle another gasp. She feels both overly-dressed and simultaneously like an insignificant speck of dust that doesn’t deserve to be here. Everything is clean, tidy, and expensive - or at least, it looks expensive. Which is enough to make her clasp her hands tightly in front of her in an effort to stem the urges to touch. Footsteps thump on the stairs, and in a moment, her new boss appears. One hand is buried in his hair as he glares down at the phone in his other, his lips pulled down into a deep frown. Miss Darlington clears her throat quietly; he glances up once then again. The scowl on his face disappears, and Claire’s breath catches at the smile he sends her way.



“Okay. Well, Miss Hunter, if you’ll follow me. So this is obviously the kitchen, and you’ll be allowed in here basically whenever, eat whatever you’d like as long as it isn’t labelled. The one thing that’s asked is you clean up any messes you make immediately. It’s a thing,” she whispers, leaning close to Claire, before she points to a messenger bag on the long table. “This holds the laptop that you’ll be required to have with you at all times, and don’t worry - you won’t get in trouble if you use it to scroll through, like, FaceBook and Twitter, as long as you don’t ever, ever, ever post about any aspect of your job.”

“Not even ‘ugh, so glad today’s over, my boss is a jerk’ kind of thing?”

She laughs. “If you ever find a reason to post about your boss being a jerk, then I’m sorry that he’s suddenly had a personality transplant. He’s a total sweetheart. But yeah, that kind of stuff is fine. Just not posts about what you’ve heard or seen, where you are with him, anything like that.”

“Got it. Confidentiality.”

“Yep. All right, ready for a tour of the house?”

Claire nods slowly, and Miss Darlington click-clacks out of the kitchen. Claire hesitates - is she supposed to bring the laptop with her now? - but ultimately decides to leave the computer there and follows after the other woman. She makes sure to pay attention to which rooms Miss Darlington says are completely off-limits and though she promises not to ever even touch the doors, Claire can’t help but wonder what they are. She’s pretty sure one is a bedroom, but the other one is a mystery.

“You’ll probably have to stay the night every so often. Is that going to be a problem?”

Claire shakes her head. “It shouldn’t be, no.”

“Good. This room here will be where you’ll sleep, so feel free to leave an outfit or two, pyjamas, stuff like that. They won’t be disturbed, I promise. Any questions about the job? House? Anything?”

“Uh, no, I don’t think so.”

“Okay. Well, this is the phone you’ll use to make all business-related calls. My number is programmed in there, so if you think of any, feel free to call or text or even send an email, and I’ll do my best to answer them.” Miss Darlington gives Claire a comforting smile, but Claire isn’t really reassured. Now that she’s here, it all seems so much more daunting than before. “I can tell you now that this job is easier than it seems in the beginning. There’s a bit of a learning curve, yes, and the days can be long sometimes, but there’s no one better to work for.”

Claire lets herself be guided downstairs, and Miss Darlington stops by the front door. After a quick goodbye and a promise to be a lifeline if Claire needs it, the other woman leaves; the door clicks shut quietly behind her, and Claire watches her figure get smaller through the glass. A car starts up outside, the engine quieting down as Miss Darlington drives away. Claire drags in an unsteady breath, wills herself some strength, and turns on her heel. She can do this. She can.