Pete – 1
‘Mum’s had another bleed!’
It felt like déjà vu when, expecting the worst, I found myself asking, ‘How bad is it? What happened?’
‘I went round to Mum and Dad’s yesterday for a couple of days,’ said Jamie. ‘I thought I could do some work at theirs and give Dad a hand and maybe take the pressure off a bit.’
‘That was good of you.’
‘I didn’t have to be anywhere so I thought I’d take the opportunity to help them out,’ he continued. ‘Dad is struggling, more than he wants to admit. Anyway, Mum was great when I got there, really great in fact. She was funny and giggly and we had a good laugh. I made them dinner and tried to do a bit of cleaning, but Dad wasn’t having any of it.’
It still drove me nuts that he kept calling Alex, ‘Dad’ but I bit my tongue and decided not to pick him up on it. ‘He’s a proud man. He’s not used to needing help. All of this must be playing havoc with his sense of dignity,’ I said.
‘Exactly!’ Said Jamie. ‘He went for a walk to the shops at one point and I sneaked out of the room and gave the kitchen a quick vacuum.’
I gave a nervous laugh. But what about Mum! I took the fact that he wasn’t rushing to the point as a good sign…but still.
‘You don’t have to worry, I’m still planning to come through at the weekend to clean their house. So what happened to Mum?’
‘As I said, she was great yesterday, but today she was different again.’
‘In what way?’
‘She was really struggling to walk, and when she talked she was slurring her words. She was so confused about everything. Also I thought it looked like her mouth had drooped on the right side.’
That caught my attention. Her stroke last week had affected the left hand side of her body and made the left side of her mouth droop a little. When I saw her a couple of days after, that had improved to the point of being imperceptible. But if the right side was now affected that meant she might have had another stroke on the other side of her brain. ‘Oh fuck, no!’
‘I know,’ said Jamie. ‘We thought we’d better get the doctor out and she came round about three o’clock. She admitted Mum to hospital straight away. We’re there now but it looks like we’ll be going through to York again.’
‘Okay. I’ll get ready.’
Mum had been taken in an ambulance. Before they set off Alex and Jamie had made mum a sandwich and prepared a bag with some overnight things she’d need. I met Alex and Jamie in the car park at York Hospital. I saw Jamie’s car in the disabled area at the front of the hospital and I parked alongside. At that time of night it was almost empty save for a few other vehicles dotted about. Alex had put his blue disabled badge in the front of Jamie’s car. We all walked in together and as we made our way to the Acute Stroke unit, ward thirty six on the third floor, Jamie went over what had happened again, this time adding little details he’d missed when we’d talked on the phone. Nevertheless I still wasn’t prepared for seeing mum the way she was.
As we walked onto the ward we saw a nurse we’d seen the week before. Alex saw her first. ‘We’re here again,’ he said. I could hear in his tone of voice that he was trying to make light of the situation, probably trying to pacify his own worries.
The nurse, a comely lady with a warm disposition and a cheeky smile said, ‘She’s just through there.’ She pointed to the same ward we’d been in the week before. ‘It’s the first bed on the left this time.’
As I walked in I saw Mum sat, fully clothed, in the chair by the bed, her head was slumped over- it looked like she was asleep. Why isn’t she in bed?
‘Hello love,’ said Alex, his tone warm and gentle. She lifted her head looking at Alex through a haze of confusion.
‘Oh, it’s you Alex,’ she said. ‘I don’t know what I’m doing here.’
Alex rubbed her arm. ‘It’s ok love,’ he said. ‘You’re in hospital in York.’
‘But what am I doing here?’
‘You’ve had another bleed, remember? We took you to Scarborough Hospital and they sent you through here.’
‘But I’m supposed to be over there.’ Mum gestured to the bed she was in the week before.
‘That was last week love,’ said Alex. He held her hand reassuringly. As much as I have an issue with Alex not being my dad, I have to admit, he is good with our Mum. At that point Mum looked round and saw Jamie and me.
‘Oh! You’re here too.’
Jamie and I chorused responses. Mum held out her arms to me and blinking back tears I squatted in front of the chair and leaned into her embrace. As I held her I found myself thinking about how things had changed. Gone were the days when Mum’s hugs were meant to reassure me. The roles were reversed and it was she seeking reassurance. I fought back sobs and tears as the realisation that I was slowly losing my Mum hit me. My throat tightened as the tears flowed down my cheeks and onto her shoulder. Her arms loosened to let me go and I squeezed her a little tighter, not letting go. I can’t let her see I’m upset. She held me tighter again. Come on Carla, control it! It seemed to take ages but Mum didn’t let go. When I felt I had a good enough hold of myself I let go a little and rested my face on her shoulder; a ploy to dab my damp cheeks. She let me go, and reached out for Jamie.
‘Are you alright love?’ Asked Alex looking over at me, his eyes warm and sympathetic.
I nodded, pausing before responding so I could get a grip on the lump in my throat.
‘No, not really,’ I said quietly, my nodding head changing to a shake.
Alex put a hand on my shoulder and gave me a squeeze. ‘I know,’ he whispered. ‘Me neither.’
I looked round at him. He really is a good man.
I’m sorry, but I can’t write any more about this. It’s just too painful and I can’t stop crying while I’m writing. That’s why this post has taken longer to complete.
This all happened exactly a week after the first stroke and it seems to have had a greater impact. Whilst she has got physically stronger and is able to move about easier and climb the stairs to go to the loo., she’s experiencing long periods of dizziness and nausea. Thankfully they’re getting a bit more help now and being needs assessed. Hopefully this will take the pressure off Mum and also Alex. Jamie and I have also been helping as much as possible.
As you might have gathered, this has affected me deeply and my libido is pretty much non-existent at the moment. When I next saw Steve, once again he was great with me, making time to sit me down and listen to me express my concerns and worries. Thankfully my other customers have been kind and understanding too. But on Wednesday’s I see Pete, and I haven’t told you about Pete yet….
‘I’d like a coffee please, strong, white with one sugar. I’ll be in your lounge.’ I said.
‘As you wish,’ said Pete.
Pete is average height and a heavy set bloke with a more than healthy covering of middle aged spread. He’s the type of bloke that looks like he was quite a catch in his younger days with the type of rugged features you find on Russell Crowe or Gerard Butler, who incidentally I often confuse with each other. He has blue eyes and his hair is dark with silver grey strands running through it. He’s also a bit of a computer geek with a job at some large insurance firm sorting out their technical issues. I think he also spends a lot of his spare time playing computer games, judging by the set up in his box room. He got this flat on a new build, social housing scheme after he and his girlfriend separated. He’s talked a lot about her and shown me photographs; she was pretty. She works for herself and he said he found her controlling, which he liked, but she didn’t like it that he let her control him. So they went there separate ways and that’s why Pete employs me.
I don’t clean Pete’s flat – he does all the cleaning.
I just tell him what to do.
You might think for a domestic cleaner that this would be the ideal job to have, and to be honest, so did I before I started. But. But, there’s something inside me still feels wrong, like I’m cheating him somehow. I go to his flat, boss him about telling him what to do, and he pays me for the privilege of sitting on my backside for two hours drinking coffees that he serves me whenever I ask. Mind you, in order to feel better about it, I have on occasion added what I feel is value to our arrangement by stripping off and sitting there in just my lingerie. And I’ve made him do other things too, but not today. Today I’m still too preoccupied with recent events with my Mum.
‘Where’s that damn coffee?’
‘It’s coming,’ he calls from the kitchen. I hear the kettle click itself off the boil and the teaspoon in the mug as he stirs the drink. The kitchen door opens and Pete enters carrying a steaming mug.
‘There you go,’ he says, placing the mug on a coaster on the coffee table in front of me. ‘Okay, what shall I do first?’
‘The kitchen of course. It’s always the kitchen.’
‘Of course,’ he says. ‘I’ve never thought to ask, but why do I always do the kitchen first? Why not the bathroom?’
I’m feeling a bit snappy. ‘Are you stupid or something? If you do the bathroom first, then you clean the kitchen, you risk carrying germs and bacteria on your hands from the bathroom to the kitchen. Is that what you want?’
‘No. No, of course not. I just hadn’t thought about that.’
‘I thought you were supposed to be intelligent. It’s just common sense.’
He looks subdued. ‘I’ll go and make a start.’
‘Wait,’ I say. ‘You can do the bathroom first today and, after you’ve finished, we’ll make sure you’re clean enough to do the kitchen.’
His eyebrows lift, his face a mixture of surprise and doubt.
‘Well,’ I say. ‘What are you waiting for?’
‘Okay, okay,’ he says. ‘I’ll start in the bathroom,’ and with that he walks through the other door leaving me with my coffee.
I pick up the cup and subconsciously blow on it to cool the surface liquid before taking a sip. He does make good coffee. I find myself wondering if I was too harsh on him. But he likes to be controlled, I reason. That’s why he employs me. I’ll show him how to get himself clean enough to move onto the kitchen.
I gaze round the lounge while I take little sips of the hot drink. Directly opposite where I’m sitting there’s a one of those large, flat screen TVs- the kind of TV that’s really far too big for the size of the lounge. It’s obvious he spends a lot of time watching it. In fact, aside from the coffee table and a large shelf unit containing Doctor Who memorabilia and a selection of DVDs and box sets, that’s pretty much all there is to the lounge.
I wonder how Mum’s doing. I wonder how Alex is coping.
As this thought flashes across my mind my heart starts fluttering.
Ok Carla, stop it!
That’s why I like my work. I find the activity distracting. I can’t be doing with sitting here waiting.
With that I plonk my cup on the table. Coffee splashes over the side but I don’t care. Before I realise it I’m on my feet making my way through the door towards the bathroom. This flat is weird – there’s far too much corridor space for the size of the flat. I wouldn’t want to live here. I push the bathroom door open to find Pete cleaning the shower screen that runs down the side of the bath. He’s using a magic sponge like I’d shown him to get rid of the limescale water marks. He looks round at me as I enter.
‘Come to check up on me?’ he asks.
Being at Pete’s takes me back to when I used to manage cleaners. It feels like my old work habits are coming out. ‘I thought I’d better make sure you’re doing it right. What have you done so far?’
‘I’ve sprayed everything with the pink stuff,’ he says. ‘Now I’m just cleaning the screen with the magic sponge.’
I like to use my own cleaning products and I take a caddy of supplies with me wherever I go. However at Pete’s I didn’t see the point, so I leave a selection at his place of everything I know works well. I replace them as required.
‘These things are brilliant,’ he says.
‘Yes they are,’ I say. ‘Did you use a drop of the limescale cleaner like I showed you?’
‘Yup,’ he says holding the magic sponge towards me so I can see the blue cleaner absorbed in the middle of the sponge.
‘Good. Well don’t let me stop you.’ I lean on the wall, my arms folded.
Pete carries on working, moving the sponge systematically over the screen to cover the whole area. When he’s finished he takes a squeegee blade and blades the surface liquid down towards the bath.
‘How was the coffee?’ he asks.
‘Fine.’ I say, watching as he moves on to cleaning the bath. ‘Make sure those taps gleam.’
Everything in the flat still has that air of newness. The building was only completed about eighteen months ago and because he’s cleaned it how I would clean it, his place still looks pretty pristine.
‘You’ve never watched me do this before,’ he says. ‘Is there something wrong?’ He’s finished the bath and moved onto the toilet. He lifts the seat and lid and is about to start wiping the rim.
‘What the fuck are you doing?’ I ask.
‘Cleaning the toilet…’ he says looking confused.
‘Starting with the rim? Is that how you always do it? Did I ever tell you to do it that way?’
‘You’ve never told me what order to do it in. I do it this way so that when I finish with the lid I close it and I know it’s done.’
‘You idiot,’ I say. ‘So you’re taking all the germs in your cloth from the rim that you’ve probably dribbled and pissed all over, then you’re going to spread them on the seat, then the lid, then probably the cistern and flusher button, right?’
‘Erm… I hadn’t thought about that,’ he says putting the seat and lid down. He starts cleaning the cistern.
‘I thought you were supposed to be intelligent,’ I say. I’m aware that I’m being harsh with him, condescending even, and much more so than normal. Normally I just direct him to whatever areas need cleaning and leave him to get on with it but I’m feeling so, restless, today. I’m not in a good mood. ‘Clean to dirty Pete. That’s the principle, clean to dirty. Work from the hygienically cleaner area to the dirtier one. That’s why you do the sink last, so you can rinse and disinfect the cloth before you clean the sink. It’s common sense.’
I watch as he finishes cleaning the toilet by flushing it, squirts Harpic around and under the rim and brushes the inside clean. Then he moves to the sink, cleans and disinfects the cloth and cleans the sink.
‘Right. Now you’ve done we need to make sure your filthy hands are clean. Pour some bleach in the sink.’
He looks at me sideways. ‘What?’
‘Are you deaf now as well as stupid! I said pour some bleach in the sink.’
Pete puts the plug in and squirts some bleach into the sink.
‘Run some hot water,’ I say.
He turns the hot tap on and when the sink is half full I tell him to stop. ‘Right, now get your hands in there and get them washed.’
He’s about to plunge his hands into the water when suddenly I come to my senses and realise what I’m doing.
‘Stop, Pete. Stop!’
His hands are just millimetres away from being plunged into hot bleach solution.
‘I’m sorry,’ I say quickly leaving the bathroom and heading back to the lounge.
When Pete walks in he finds me sat on the sofa, sobbing into my hands.
‘I’m so sorry,’ I say, looking up through tear sodden eyes. ‘I’m so, so sorry. I don’t know what came over me.’
‘What’s wrong?’ He asks, sitting in the lounge chair to my side.
I blubber and blurt out the events the last fortnight, telling what had happened with my Mum.
‘Wow,’ says Pete. ‘That’s a lot to deal with. I’d be thrown too if anything happened to my Mum.’
I nod, my head down – I feel so bad and I’m struggling to look at him. ‘When I got here today I was so angry. It’s all so unfair. She doesn’t deserve all this.’
‘No,’ he says. ‘You’re right. No one does. Well, except maybe paedophiles and rapists.’
I look up at him and he’s smiling, trying to make light of the situation. I let out a sobby chuckle.
‘Let me make you another drink. There’s some tissues over there,’ he says getting up and pointing to the shelf unit.
While Pete makes a drink in the kitchen I grab the tissues and get myself composed. I feel so bad. I was so awful to him. I’m not sure how I’m going to come back from this. I’m so preoccupied thinking about what to do next when Pete walks in carrying a fresh mug of coffee.
‘Thank you Pete. Are you not having one?’ I ask, taking the mug from him.
‘I’ve got work to do,’ he says with a grin.
‘Oh!’ I feel somewhat at a loss for what to say next. I expected him to join me and talk through what happened.
‘Unless you want to talk?’ He says as though suddenly reaslising he’s committed some kind of faux pas.
‘No, no it’s fine,’ I say. ‘Why don’t you do the kitchen.’
‘Right-oh,’ he says and heads back the way he came.
For the next hour and a half, in between giving Pete instructions and answering questions like, what shall I do with this…, and, how should I clean that?, I sit, unmoving, contemplating my behaviour. I lost control. Going forward, I must try and be professional and not let my private life affect how I deal with my customers. They are after all, my ‘bread & butter’ income. I’m so distracted I hadn’t even noticed Pete come into the lounge and clean round. I’d even lifted my feet up so he could vacuum round the sofa.
As my time with Pete comes to an end I hear his voice.
‘Do you want to check my work?’
‘Yes,’ I say, coming to mys senses and feeling more myself. ‘Let’s see how you’ve done.’
Even though Pete likes to do all the work himself I still feel it’s important to check he’s done it to a good standard, a standard that I would have achieved had I done the work myself.
‘Let’s start in the kitchen,’ I say.
He leads the way and in the kitchen he points out everything he’s done.
‘I used the degreaser on the hob like you told me,’ he says. ‘And I buffed up the glasswork afterwards.’
It looks great, not a streak in sight. The kitchen looks like it hasn’t been lived at all, apart from minute wear and tear scratches on work surfaces, the hob and the sink. He’s even got all the limsescale water marks off the sink. I couldn’t have done a better job had I done it myself.
Leaving the kitchen we head through the lounge and into the hallway.
‘We don’t need to check in there,’ I say as we pass the bathroom. ‘I know you’ve done a great job in there.’
He gives me a rueful grin. ‘Thanks.’
We check out the rest of his flat and I can’t find any fault. I’m putting my jacket on when Pete comes up holding out his hand with the money in.
‘Here you go,’ he says.
‘I don’t feel comfortable taking that off you today,’ I say.
‘Why?’ He asks, his face a picture of genuine doubt.
He doesn’t give me chance to finish. ‘Look Carla, we all have bad days.’ He thrusts the money at me and I reach out, take it, and stuff it in my trouser pocket.
‘Thanks Pete,’ I say. ‘I promise, I won’t do that to you again.’ Despite the fact that I find our arrangement a little odd, he really is a good bloke behind his quirks.
‘Hey,’ he says. ‘I actually liked it.’
‘What? You liked it that I lost the plot and nearly made you injure yourself.’
‘Yes. Maybe we could try something a little…’ He struggles to find the words. ‘A little… I dunno… kinker, next time.’
As I explained in post about Oliver, I’m not greatly experienced in Dom and Sub roles, so Pete’s response surprised me a little. It’s going to be interesting to see how things develop with Pete!
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Until next time 🙂