I never wanted to talk to her. She always dressed in expensive clothes and jewellery. I was struggling to make ends meet as her daughter’s maid. She looked like a snob in her old age and she would look at me in a way I didn’t like. Poor, stupid thing she maybe thought, so I would pretend to busy myself with something while I listened as they spoke about her other children overseas and the huge amounts of money they sent her. On this particular day, I regretted not falling ‘sick’ so I wouldn’t have to go and help her out while she bragged.
Putting on my maid’s uniform, I made my way to the gate to wait for the taxi, grateful it wasn’t her picking me up. I didn’t want to hear about US dollars when I had none.
“Oh you are here safely,” she said upon my arrival. You were not there to drive me into the sea or give me a heart attack with your latest buy, I thought. I heard she had been sick lately -probably Alzheimer’s or stressing about what to buy – rich people’s problems.
“Yes, thank you,” I replied.
“We can chat while you clean,” she said.
“OK,” I replied, sure she would tell me all about her trips to Paris and wherever she had been when she was young, or the price of the golden crockery I was cleaning.
“You seem lonely and unhappy,” she said. How does she know that?
“I’m fine and very happy.”
“I don’t think you are. In fact, I know you are not. I have noticed it.”
“I’m not that much of a talker,” I said.
“I know you don’t talk much but there is something about you. What did you always want to be growing up?” she asked, surprising me.
“A writer, an actress and a motivational speaker. I used to write poems and short stories. I wanted to write books and movie scripts too,” I replied.
“Then my parents died and my dreams faded away, I couldn’t afford university,” I replied sadly.
“What’s the one thing that would make you happy?”
“Perfecting my writing skills, at varsity, then again…”
“You can still be all you wanted to be.”
“How? I don’t earn enough,” I argued.
“Enrol for weekend classes, and start where you are. I will pay for you. Nothing is wasted, each small step leads to success,” she said.
My ears were playing tricks on me. I never expected such wisdom and generosity from her but she went on to tell me she had also struggled to accumulate all her riches. I had no idea.
I enrolled at college a few days later. I never thought any good thing could come out of a dying woman. She noticed my intelligence and unhappiness. When she had looked at me, it was out of kindness. The lesson I learnt was “Don’t judge a book by its cover, you can never know what the chapters inside hold”.