Jessica had only planned to write a short story that night, so when she got the text from “Sitters-dot-Com” offering her a job with the Yates family at the big old house across from the cemetery (the actual address was #13 Cemetery Creek Road). She took it.
The dispatcher told her that there was only one pre-schooler that he was potty trained, that he had an eight o’clock bedtime, and that the parents should be home before midnight. It sounded like an easy gig and Jess could use the money. She could take her laptop along and finish the story she needed to write for her favourite prompt site before the parents came home.
Jess’ mom dropped her off at 6 pm sharp, “Sorry Jess, I’ve gotta run. You have your cell, right? Call me if you need a ride home.”
“Thanks, Mom.” Jessica looked across the street at the old graveyard. She thought about how it looked kinda spooky in the dark, tilting headstones, gaps in the old wrought iron fence (the fence that was almost overgrown by ivy). She heard the hoot of an owl, shuddered and turned her attention to the house.
The architecture was Queen Anne style with asymmetrical towers and fancy ornamentation. The paint was peeling on the wooden siding and a lot of English Ivy grew up the trellises and onto the roof. The name on the mailbox was Yates.
Oh, Jessica thought. The house is even more spooky than the cemetery! She began picking her way up the crooked walk to the front porch, where she knocked on the door and held her breath. She heard barking and growling from the other side of the door. It was obvious that the Yates’ had a dog.
Soon, she also heard a woman’s voice, “Ulf, get down. Go back into the kitchen. That’s a good boy, Ulf. Good boy.” The door swung open and there stood a petite lady. She looked about thirty years old. She had blonde wavy hair, cut short, but not quite a bob. The lady smiled at Jess with her mouth, but not her eyes. She displayed bright red lipstick painted on to make her face look as though her lips were forever pursed or puckered.
“Oh hello, you must be Jessica,” the woman said. “You have an excellent review on Sitters-dot-com and I’m so excited to meet you and introduce you to Rollin.” Then almost as an afterthought, she added, “Rollin is our son. He’s four years old and he’s having dinner in front of the television right now. Follow me, please and I can get you two acquainted. He’s a wonderful boy.” She turned and began to lead Jessica deeper into the house.
The house was larger than Jessica could have imagined and the two walked for what seemed like a long time. Finally, Ms Yates stopped at a door roughly midway down a long corridor. The walls were lined with identical doors and lots of paintings. They were primarily portraits of old-timey people. There were paintings of men with funny whiskers and ladies wearing elegant printed, or embroidered, gowns. There were young boys dressed in shorts with starched white shirts tucked in at the waist. There were young girls in frilly pink and white dresses with scores of petticoats evident beneath.
Ms Yates turned the knob on the door and pushed it open partway, she peeked around the edge of the door. “Rollin?” she queried, “are you in here?” Jess could hear the muted sound of the TV from behind the open door. Ms Yates pushed the door open further and beckoned Jessica to follow.
“Rollin?” she said to the small boy sitting on the floor with a plate in front of him. “This is Jessica. She’s going to be your babysitter tonight. You remember that your father and I must attend that horrible silent auction for whatever charity it is that he’s supporting this month.” She paused for a moment, “Say hello to Miss Jessica.”
“Hello, Miss Jessica,” Rollin turned his head before immediately refocusing his attention back to the television and his dinner. Jess could make out a heap of mac and cheese along with some sort of red meat on his plate. The meat was almost gone.
Ms Yates was glowing when she turned her attention back to Jess. It looks like he’s almost done,” she said, “When he finishes he might like to play Chinese Checkers or Go Fish. Those are his two favourite games. The Checkerboard and the cards are in that cabinet, there.” She gestured across the room at an ornate Chinese pantry. Then she moved over to a table, that looked more like a plant stand, by the door. Reaching down, she removed a small piece of paper from a silver tray situated precisely in the centre of the table. She proffered the card to Jessica. Who, of course, reached out and took it.
“Here is one of my cards,” she explained, “my mobile number is there. Please call me if you have any questions or problems. I have attached emergency numbers to the refrigerator with a blue glass magnet. To find the kitchen, go back the way we came and turn left. Please help yourself to anything in the icebox that you might want to eat or drink. I’ve got to go now or I’ll be late.” She stared at Jessica as if she were waiting for something.
Jess broke the standoff by saying, “Have a wonderful evening Ms Yates. I’ll take good care of Rollin.”
“I’m sure you will, dear,” Ms Yates said. She turned and left the room without another word.
Jessica listened to her move down the corridor and out a door. She heard a car engine start and move away from the house.
In her turn, Jess went over and sat on the floor next to Rollin. “How’s your dinner Rollin? It looks pretty yummy. I love mac and cheese.”
He looked at her and then turned back to the TV. “Good.” He said.
The boy seemed to be eating well and was fully absorbed in whatever it was that he was watching on the small screen. Jessica settled in, but after a while, she heard someone moving back in the house.
“Is anyone else here, Rollin?” she asked.
“My brother might be here.” He answered. “He’s big, like you.”
At that moment the door opened and an older boy, sixteen or seventeen years of age, entered the room. He wore an old fashioned suit made of dark velvet. He wore his dark hair stylishly long. It glistened as though it were wet. He seemed startled when he saw Jessica sitting next to Rollin.
“Hello,” he said, “I thought only Rollin was in here. Who might you be?” He smiled, and Jessica could feel her heart melt. She now knew what people meant when they said love at first sight.
Standing up, Jess walked toward the young man with her hand held out. “Hi, I’m Jessica. I’m here babysitting for Rollin. I’m afraid that Ms Yates has left for the evening.”
“Good evening Jess. I’m Rollin’s brother Ulf.”
The prompt this week was:
The “Four Food Groups” of a sentence game is fun! How to play: Create your own prompt by mixing/matching one phrase from each column. Example: On a ski trip, a deceitful novelist accidentally reveals a secret.
In a moonlit graveyard, a shy babysitter falls in love with the wrong person.