Peggy is twenty-three and one year out of college. He never leaves his apartment? Wonder what he means by that? Maybe he is handicapped or something. Twenty-thousand dollars sounds like the bank of Ft. Knox to me. A college degree is supposed to guarantee me more out of life, than a foot breaking job and a roach infested room. Maybe I should consider taking this job, even if it sounds a little strange. Besides, I’m a big girl and can take care of myself.
Peggy hears the elevator squeaking, as it descends toward her. She nervously shifts from one foot to the other with her back turned to the door. When the elevator stops, she turns and sees a thin man dressed in white from head to foot, who stands about six-two. Granger reminds her of the “invisible man.” She is sure that he could blend into the wallpaper, and no one would notice. She thinks of chameleons. Keep alert. Granger opens the grill and steps out to greet her. She steps back involuntarily.
He extends his hand to shake hers. “Hello, you m-must be P-peggy.”
She makes a mental note of his stutter, as she feels the coolness of latex against her palm. Glancing down, she sees the surgical gloves and withdraws her hand quickly. Why the gloves? Her eyes grow larger, and there’s a quick intake of breath that is clearly audible.
“Uh, yes.” She tries to recover herself. “You must be Granger.”
He nods his head and smiles. His lips quiver slightly. “Won’t you p-please come up.”
He straightens his coat.
“Well, I don’t know, I--” Headlines about dead girls pop into her head.
“Oh, p-please. You’ve come so far.”
“I’m not sure, I--” She twists the handles of her purse.
He ushers her into the elevator like a mother handling a child.
Cut and run! Cut and run! Peggy’s feet do not move. She has the dream-like sensation of running in slow motion, but her body stays frozen in place. The elevator closes.
She steps off the elevator and looks around the renovated warehouse apartment. The bedroom and bathroom are tucked in the corner of a large open area that houses the living room, office, and kitchen. There are no walls, except those created by the placement of furniture. The oak floors are buffed to a mirror shine.
She notices a strong, pine scent mixed with soap, and a hint of bleach. This place is immaculate. Her mind races to assimilate all that she has seen. Looks like no one lives here, too perfect.
She glances at Granger, and he invites her into the living room with a wave of his hand and an almost imperceptible bow. Next, he will be clicking his heels.
She scans the living room quickly. The straight back reading chair is solid oak A chrome and glass coffee table sits in front of the white vinyl couch. Magazines about WWII, Germany, and Hitler are stacked in perfect columns. Wonder what this is all about?
She chooses the reading chair and sits. The sensation of tiny pin pricks start at her neck and move to her spine. She tries to keep her uneasiness under control.
“You know what, Granger, I don’t think this is such a good idea.” She stands and starts to leave.
Granger reaches to block her way, but does not touch her. “P-peggy, what’s wrong?”
“Why are these Hitler magazines all around?” She hears the panic in her own voice.
“Oh I g-guess it does look strange. It’s p-part of my research. Please sit down. Let’s talk.”
Peggy sits down and calms herself by looking around. No paintings hang from the glossy, white walls. No curtains decorate the windows. Clear panes of glass send shafts of bright sunshine across the wood floor. Peggy imagines these bright patches moving in a slow waltz across the room, as the day dwindles into night.
Granger interrupts her musings, “Well, I hope you d-didn’t have too much trouble getting off work. He smiles revealing uneven but very white teeth.
“No, no trouble, but I have to be back for the evening shift at five. I told my boss where I was going. He knows that I have been looking for better work. He’s been great about it.” She maintains eye contact with Granger, but now lowers her eyes.
“0-okay, let’s get down to business. Why don’t you tell me a little about yourself.” He sits back on the couch to listen, playing with the buttons on his coat.
“There’s not a lot to tell. As I told you before, I recently moved here. What exactly does this job consist of?”
She reaches up and runs her fingers through the underside of her long, blond hair, as if to pull out the tangles.
His eyes follow the movement of her hand. “Oh, I n-need someone to help me do research and to help me organize my l-life, a personal assistant. No job would be too b-big and none too small.”
She looks around. Things here are too organized already. What do you really want?
She smiles trying to read his mind.
“Can you truly commit to this job for a year?”
“Yes, I can. But I have to feel comfortable with this. She searches his face trying to find something appealing. She focuses on his green eyes. Dark lashes frame them. Beautiful, intelligent, warm eyes. So why am I so nervous. “Look, Granger, there’s a lot I don’t understand here. I need some questions answered.”
“Can I be completely candid?”
“Yes, of c-course.”
“Why are you wearing disposable surgical gloves?”
“I have a p-phobia of germs.” His face turns from pale to red. He looks down at his white medical shoes. “I’m sorry, I’m a little e-embarrassed.”
Feeling badly for him, she answers, “No, it’s okay. That’s why you won’t go outside, isn’t?” She uncrosses her legs like a butterfly unfolding its wings and leans toward him.
“Y-yes.” He watches the movement of her legs.
“So why do you really need me? You’ve gotten along okay so far.”
“It’s been very d-difficult. Seems to get harder each day. I need some company, some social interaction. Plus, you c-can help me to free up some time. I’m falling behind in my work.”
“You said the salary is twenty-thousand for a year commitment?”
“Yes, act-a-actually it’s more, because I want you to live here rent free.”
She stands and looks around the room again. She can look directly into Granger’s bedroom. The bed is reminiscent of an old-fashioned army hospital bed. The curved headboard has verticals bars of enameled iron jutting down behind the eight inch mattress. A similar footboard secures the sheet. There is no bedspread of any kind. Beside the bed is a white metal end-table. The furniture sparkles like white patent leather shoes.
I understand now why everything is so immaculate and clean. “I’m sorry, Granger. I just don’t think this will work.”
She grabs her purse and rushes to the elevator.
“P-peggy, wait! Are you frightened? I’m sorry if I scared you somehow. I k-know this is a lot to take in and understand.” He takes large strides and is beside her even as she punches the elevator button.
“No, no, I’m okay.” She keeps jabbing at the button hoping the elevator will come quicker.
The elevator arrives. “Here, l-let me.” He opens the gate.
She runs in and quickly turns to face him. “Sorry, Granger.” She feels the jolt of the elevator as it descends. She can hear Granger’s voice.
“I’ll hold the j-job for you for awhile. I want you to have it. Think about it, P-peggy, please.”
What spooked me? Pull yourself together!