It was a sunny day, a very sunny day. I wiped the back of my hand against my forehead, disgusted at the amount of sweat that gathered there. I sighed and wiped my hand against my shirt to dry it completely.
I knocked on the door of the Harrison’s house, waited, and then knocked again. It always took two knocks. The door was warm to the touch, reminding me yet again, that the Harrison’s AC was broken. I was told that the repairman would be coming tomorrow. Sighing, I straightened up again and plastered a smile on my face. I ran my right hand over it, making sure it was still in place as I waited for someone to open the door. I heard someone, I believe it was Mr. Harrison, shout something. What he said I couldn’t understand but it must’ve said to open the door because the door opened and there stood little Hannah.
Hannah stared at me, her own face beginning to smile as she let go of the door and flung herself at me. I hated it when she did that, but as her babysitter, I supposed it was in my line of duty to appease her so I did what I always did. I lifted her up and spun her around, once then twice. It was such tedious work but it was work nonetheless.
“And how are you today Hannah?” I asked as I settled her on my hip. She smiled at me, her arms grabbing at the short sleeves of my t-shirt and nodded her head in quick bursts. “That’s good.” I walked past the threshold of the door, shutting it closed with my foot, Hannah still on my hip.
“Jane!” Mrs. Harrison stepped out from the other room. She smiled at me as she ran her hands through her blonde hair, recently curled it seemed, and tied it up into a side ponytail. “I’m so glad you’re here. We were beginning to think you wouldn’t make it.”
“It just took me a while. I had to walk today.”
“Goodness!” She walked over to the kitchen table that was on my right, grabbing at the earrings that were there. “You walked here in this heat?”
“It’s not that far.”
“Lily, where’s my tie?” Mr. Harrison appeared from the same spot that his wife did, his hair slicked back as he slid into his suit jacket.
“On the sofa, Dear.” Mrs. Harrison finished putting on her earrings and adjusted the low neckline of her gown. She looked up at me and smiled again. “And how are your finals going, sweetie?”
“They’re going good.”
“You’re a senior right?” She chuckled. “I remember my high school days. They were wretched days. Will you be going to college?”
“We’re so glad you could make it Jane,” Mr. Harrison said. He had found his tie and had already finished strangling his neck into it. He smiled at me and came up to pat Hannah’s head. “Be a good girl now, Hannah. Don’t bother Jane too much.”
Mr. Harrison looked up to me and smiled again. “Thank you again so much, Jane. We’re so glad there was someone living near us who could watch Hannah.” He gave me a pat on the head as well. “We should be back by eleven.”
“We also set up a pool for Hannah,” added Mrs. Harrison. “Feel free to use it if it gets too hot.”
They left hand in hand. I set Hannah down and sighed, running my hand over my jaw to massage it. Who knew smiling so much could hurt?
I began the usual routine with Hannah. I made lunch and then we had lunch. We watched some TV and then I played house and dolls with her. The pool I had been invited to use was a kid’s pool. Hannah didn’t say she wanted to go in, but she doesn’t talk much to begin with; instead, she just pulled me outside and knelt beside the pool. I took the cue and filled it up. Hannah went inside the house and changed into a pink bathing suit. She carried her dolls with her and sat in the pool as the water filled.
I turned off the water and went back inside the house for the shade. I sat in front of the opened back door to keep an eye on Hannah. There was no shade in the yard and I wondered if Hannah had put on any sunscreen. As the minutes pass by, she didn’t turn red so I figured she was fine.
My calculus teacher, Mr. Gray, had suggested me to the Harrisons. The couple had been looking for a babysitter who could watch their daughter for a week, late into the night, as they had meetings to attend. That was what Mr. Gray said anyways, and because I was a responsible student, he asked if I would be fine with it. I was paid daily, and quite greatly: two hundred dollars a day, fourteen hundred by the end of the week. That seemed a bit extreme for babysitting, but it was money and I was saving up. I was going to college and away from this town.
An hour passed. “You’re getting all wrinkly, Hannah. Let’s get you out of there.”
Hannah looked at me and nodded.
I got a towel and handed it to her. She dried herself and her dolls. Hannah led the way back into the house. She changed herself into a dry set of clothes. We played with her dolls again and when it was seven, I made us some spaghetti for dinner. We played with the dolls again until eight, Hannah’s bedtime. As I stood up, the front door clicked. I heard voices outside and the door was pushed slightly ajar. Hannah dropped her doll and ran towards me, flinging herself to me. On reflex, I picked her up and settled her on my hip.
The Harrisons came in. Mrs. Harrison was first. She was slouched over; her heels already off, her hair no longer in the neat side ponytail it was in the afternoon. She looked much older than she did earlier and a bruise decorated her jaw. Hannah’s hands dug into me. Mrs. Harrison looked up and saw us. She smiled and I automatically smiled back at her. “You’re both still up?”
“I was just about to put her to bed. You guys are home early,” I said, double checking the clock on the wall. 8:10. It was the first time they were home this early.
Mr. Harrison came in after and he was drunk. There were no other words to describe him. He was just plain drunk. I found myself holding tight onto Hannah. He grumbled something to Mrs. Harrison and then shoved his way forward. His gaze met mine and he stared at me for awhile before he drifted to Hannah. He walked forward, crouched and slow. “Were you a good girl Hannah?” He reached a hand out to pat Hannah’s head. Her small hands dug into me deeper.
“Dear, you should go to bed,” Mrs. Harrison said. She moved in besides us, her eyes were wide opened at me as she opened her arms out for Hannah. Hannah pressed herself closer to me and there was a slight sting where her nails clutched at me.
Mr. Harrison slapped at his wife’s outstretched hands. “Don’t tell me what to do!”
I flinched back, taking Hannah with me. Mrs. Harrison looked at me, the smile still on her face. “Why don’t you give her to me, Jane?” Her voice was sweet, so very sweet. She dug through her purse and took out the checkbook I had grown familiar with these past six days and scribbled something down. “Here you go. Here’s your payment. It’s getting awfully dark. You should go before it gets any darker.”
I stared down at the check. It was two hundred more than what I normally got. I reached out a hand and took the check, stuffing it into my back pocket. Hannah’s grip on me seemed stronger now. Since when was she this strong? “I’ll go put her to bed before I leave.” I laughed. “I still need to clean her room also. It won’t take long.”
Mrs. Harrison’s smile spread. “Yes, of course.”
I made my way past them to Hannah’s room, shutting the door closed. I dropped her on her bed. She kept her grip on me and we stared at each other for a while.
She let go of me.
I gathered all her dolls on the floor, throwing them carelessly into her baskets. Hannah didn’t say anything, she never said anything. I heard shouts coming from Mr. Harrison and then there was a loud sound and a crash. I noticed some of Hannah’s clothes on the floor and began folding them. I stuffed them into her drawers and began organizing her stuffed animals.
There were more shouts, this time Mrs. Harrison’s screams echoed in. I picked up the last stuffed animal, a bear it was, and shut my eyes. Mr. Harrison had a loud voice. I could hear his footsteps shuffling around; the floor shook with them.
I looked up at Hannah.
She stared at me.
The screaming had stopped and I heard footsteps coming near the door. I found myself moving back to Hannah and held her hand. The door opened and Mrs. Harrison stood at the door, her hair was down, her dress torn, the skin above her low neckline were red. I’d like to think she was sunburned. Mr. Harrison walked behind her. He turned left and went into his own bedroom. Mrs. Harrison smiled at Hannah. “Come here, Hannah.”
I held Hannah’s hand tightly. Mrs. Harrison looked at me and smiled. “Have a good night, Jane. We’ll need you tomorrow again.”
I let go of Hannah.
She still held onto me.
I easily shook her off and left the room.
I fumbled with the front doorknob, my fingers trembling. Everything was silent. I burst through the door and fell to my knees. The night air blew past me, hot and humid.
I looked around the neighborhood. Not a single house light was lit. Where was everyone? I turned back to the door and grabbed the doorknob, shutting it closed on a slam.
I ran back home.
My father was passed out on the sofa, the TV on, beer cans circled around him. As I rushed to my room, I heard my mother laughing, probably to some guy on the phone. I locked my door and climbed under the covers, curling up, taking deep breaths.
Tomorrow, I would need to go there tomorrow again.
I practiced my smile but it wouldn’t come.
It got hot, really hot, but I stayed beneath my covers.