The blaring alarm in her ear signaled the start of yet another day in the life of Kay. Rolling over she slapped at the offending noise, silencing it and laid back against her pillows. It had been taking her longer lately to work up the energy and courage to face the days. She finally threw the comforter aside and climbed out of her cozy cocoon of safety before she could change her mind and curl back into the warmth to hibernate indefinitely. As she stood to wrap her robe around her she noted the empty spot in the bed where Preston, her husband, slept. She felt absolutely nothing about the fact that he hadn’t come home, yet again. No anger, no disappointment, no sadness. Nothing. She simply took note of the vacancy and headed into the adjoining bathroom to begin her morning ritual. It was barely five am, yet she was standing in front of her vanity donning the persona the public expected of her as a member of the high society plastic wife club. Nothing less than perfection was acceptable, she thought bitterly, as she tweezed, teased, moisturized and applied the various tools of her trade. Standing in the middle of her massive walk in closet, larger than some people’s studio apartments, she tried to find her costume of the day. It had to be an ensemble no one had seen her in, yet be classy and elegant enough to fool the outside world. Deception is a tricky bitch. Finally deciding on an over sized powder blue drape neck sweater and black wide legged slacks, she slipped into a pair of powder blue Manolos and checked her reflection. Her hair had always been the bane of her existence, being stick straight and a color somewhere between blonde and mouse brown with red highlights; recently mixing with grey. Her smoke colored eyes were expertly lined in kohl and shadowed with a pearl grey that made them seem like she was hiding a fire in her soul, which she sort of was in a way. A killing fire that was consuming her from the inside out and causing her to slowly die away and become the Stepford wife of her nightmares. Happy as she was going to get with the reflection in her mirror she headed downstairs to get her caffeine fix.
She entered the kitchen fragrant with a mix of coffee and baking pastries and headed straight to the coffee maker. Lauren, the live in nanny and recent college graduate, was currently in a battle of wills with Sophia; Kay’s precocious five year old who recently decided to be excruciatingly picky and refused a normal diet thanks to the dietician at school promoting holistic and clean eating. She changed her mind daily flipping from vegan to gluten free and refusing anything green, red, yellow or orange. Sophia was sitting on a stool at the kitchen island clad in her adorable school uniform and her unruly brown curls were currently tamed into little barrettes behind her ears. Her small ugg clad feet kicked the counter as she toyed with her eggs, smashing them almost into a yellow mush on her plate. Evidently they had been at it for some time as Lauren was finally resorting to bribery; a tactic that was rarely used and in only the most serious of circumstances.
Lauren used a calm tone as she spoke to the pint sized rug rat as if she wasn’t frustrated to tears. “Hey I was thinking about hitting up the park later, after school and before your lessons. What do you think about that?” Makinin, Kay’s seven year old and master of manipulation raised her brown eyes so fast her blonde ponytail bobbed, suddenly paying very close attention to her sibling’s conversation and preparing her own strategy.
“Nope.” Sophia said her eyes still on her mutilated food. “How about after your Spanish lesson, we stop at the bakery for a cupcake?” Sophia’s blue eyes finally met Lauren’s green ones, squinting as her almost six year old brain studied Lauren and sized up her chances at negotiating a deal that they both could live with.
“Two.” Sophia said.
“One,” Lauren countered, “Strawberry with extra icing.”
“One, strawberry with extra icing and sprinkles.” Sophia returned, lightning fast.
“Lauren! If she gets one I should too, I got up and didn’t argue this morning.” Makinin’s turn at the wheel had come and she wasn’t letting go easily. Lauren just narrowed her eyes at Mack, not answering just giving her a ‘yeah right look’. “Ok, I didn’t argue much.” Amended the notorious morning grump.
“Fine, one cupcake apiece, to be eaten as a snack before your lessons but you also need to finish breakfast and run upstairs to brush your teeth and grab your backpacks and jackets. You have ten minutes.” Eggs disappeared magically and both girls dashed up the stairs sounding more like a football team then two small children. Kay smiled at Lauren who sat at the island with her head in her hands and rubbing her temples, probably counting to ten and taking a moment to calm her nerves. “That was pretty intense, you did well.” Kay told her.
Lauren’s head was still in her hands when she finally responded, “Kay those girls are way too smart, and they work as a team ganging up on unsuspecting victims. One day they’re finally going to outsmart me and I’ll have to be admitted into a mental health facility.” Kay laughed lightly at the exaggeration. Lauren was a true gem. Kay had hired her as a nanny shortly after Sophia’s birth and had never regretted the decision. The 25 year old was a recent college graduate and held dual master degrees in early childhood education and psychology.
Taking advantage of the brief pause in the chaos, Kay asked Lauren. “Can we go over the days schedule please?” Preston had long ago insisted that every day be planned and micromanaged; from managing the household to the people within and down to the last second of every day. It was a practice that Kay struggled with but was too intimidated to defy Prestons wishes, although he was rarely home to enforce the schedules. Kay felt that the time it took to compile and coordinate the daily agendas would be better spent in other areas; however the nearly crippling fear of a probable hostile confrontation with Preston kept her mouth shut and adhering to the routine even in his absence.
“Sure,” Lauren said, reaching into her bag for her planner as Kay brought her own up on her tablet. Together they ran through Lauren’s day after dropping the girls off at their posh private school. “I need to run and pick up their new shoes, they finally came in. I also need to grab them new tights and pick their new uniforms up from the tailor.” Kay tapped in all the info with a side note to add the receipts into the monthly record for her accountant. “Tomorrow?” Kay asked.
“Let’s see,” Lauren said, flipping the page of her planner, “They have swim lessons at the club in the morning followed by ballet at noon.” Busily tapping, Kay asked if that was all. “Yep. After that it’s free until Monday.”
“Good, I’d like to take them to the park Sunday. Beth and her girls are going to join us for a picnic before the weather turns too cold.”
“Sounds good.” Lauren replied as the girls thundered downstairs and slid into the kitchen. Kay kissed them both at the top of their heads and wished them a good day.
“Love you, see you later.” Standing at the garage entrance in the kitchen they both hollered a good bye and Lauren ushered them out.
The silence was suddenly so great that it was almost tangible. Linda, the live in housekeeper and cook, entered the kitchen to put back in order the whirlwind jumble of the two small girls. She refreshed Kay’s coffee, slid a still warm muffin onto a plate sitting it at her elbow. Kay, who was busily checking her emails and planning her own day, mumbled thanks to the woman. “Hey Linda, while I have you here can we go over your day?”
“Sure hun, no problem.” Linda reached into a nearby drawer, pulling her own day planner out. With her blonde hair just going silver she didn’t fit the classic widow image most people had in their minds. Her hazel eyes were surrounded by just a few fine lines, a deep sadness held behind the kindness that shone through them. She was as close to a maternal figure that Kay had, secretly looking up to the confident and assertive woman. Kay had several moments where she wished she could have Linda’s arms wrap her into her plump body and surround her with warmth. Kay shook away her melancholy and focused on inputting Linda’s day into the tablet.
“Ok, so Friday is my market day. I also planned on dealing with the dry cleaning.”
Tapping away Kay answered, “Yeah that would be great. I need to run to Haven for a few hours today.” She said as her phone buzzed next to her and reading the display she added, “Evidently Preston has a dinner planned with a new client and he wants me there, so I’ll have to come back to get ready. Looks like a late night, unfortunately.”
Linda patted her hand affectionately, “No worries hun, Lauren and I have this end taken care of. Now, eat your muffin before it gets cold.” Kay smiled and peeled the muffin open, the steam rising from it along with the smell of fresh blueberries made her mouth water. Taking a big bite she almost moaned. Who needed a man when you had a woman who could cause a foodgasm? She finished her breakfast and gathered everything into her favorite Coach satchel for her day. She planned on going to spend the entire day at Seventh Haven, now with Prestons dinner plans, she’d have to cut her day short. She hollered a goodbye to Linda and as she climbed into her Lexus SUV speed dialed Beth, “Seventh Haven, can I help you?”
“Only if you need a latte fix.” Kay laughed.
“That would be amazing about now, honestly.” Beth sighed.
“That good huh?” Kay asked. “Now what?”
Beth just sighed again, “I’ll fill you in when you get here, chop chop!”
Kay clicked off as she pulled into the coffee shop’s drive through. She tried to get to Haven as often as she could. It was the only place that Kay felt she fit in completely. She had worked side by side in the kitchens with women who were bruised, she had held women as they cried and comforted children too afraid to sleep for the nightmares that plagued them. She worked tirelessly arranging fund raisers and finding donations to keep Havens doors open. They never asked a dime from the women in residence for any reason, instead only asking them to maintain a household duty to help out. None of the residents knew how much they helped Kay, or the reason, except for Beth. She never let on how much they healed her or why. Kay allowed herself to recall her initial arrival every time she pulled into the secluded drive that leads to Seventh Haven. She used that as fuel for her, a reminder of what men were capable of and the lives they ruined, people they destroy using a women’s own desires and attractions. She may have never told anyone what had happened to her other than Beth but that didn’t mean she had forgotten, much less forgiven. Preston and her father had never done anything but prove her right within their relationships. She had walled off her naive and youthful need for romance, love and passion when she lay in a hospital bed all those years ago. Some things are just not meant to be and she had accepted that a long time ago.