Melissa climbed the staircase in her Belle Meade estate and hollered, “You’re going to be late!”
She entered Jonathan’s room first, aghast at the sight of dirty laundry strewn about an entire floor space larger than her first apartment. Exotic car posters covered one wall. A Miami Heat poster decorated a closet door. “I want your room cleaned up when you get home today. Put your dirties in the basket and bring them to the laundry room for me.”
Jonathan pulled a shirt over his head. “What about Adam’s room?”
“Same goes for him.”
“Yolanda always does our laundry.”
“Not anymore.” Melissa advanced through the bathroom to Adam’s adjoining cave. “Let’s go!”
Adam took his iPhone from the dresser. A Fender guitar stood upright in its stand beside a Marshall amplifier. Criss Angel posters covered the walls. “Where’s Tomás?”
“He’s bringing the car around.”
Adam shoved his dirty laundry in a pile. “I haven’t eaten yet.”
“You should have thought about that twenty minutes ago.” Melissa picked up a shredded air soft target printed with a zombie holding a flask of green toxic goo. “You need to work on your room too. With both hands. And a shovel.”
“Yes. And make sure you brush your teeth.”
Adam opened his sock drawer with his back to his mom and said, “I know…”
“All of them.”
* * *
Jonathan raced his brother down the stairs, bumping and shoving his younger sibling along the winding banister.
“It’s not a race!” Adam shouted.
“Boys! Knock it off!” Melissa yelled from the spacious eat-in kitchen downstairs. She wore her hair up with her skinny jeans and a silk top she’d purchased from a favorite boutique. She had a party to plan and a million things to do without having to referee her sons.
“Where’s breakfast?” asked Jonathan.
“The big closet with the food,” said Melissa.
“Where’s Yolanda?” asked Adam. He tucked in his shirt and cinched his belt another notch.
“Yolanda quit,” Melissa stated matter-of-factly. “She doesn’t work for us anymore.”
“Since when?” the boys asked in unison.
“Who’s going to cook for us?” asked Adam.
Melissa emptied the dishwasher and stacked clean plates in the cabinet above the stove. “You two are able-bodied. It’s time you learned to do more on your own.”
Jonathan entered the butler pantry to search the well-stocked shelves for a box of Pop-Tarts or a chocolate chip granola bar.
“This sucks,” said Adam. “Why did Yolanda quit?”
“Because she caught you jacking off again,” Jonathan taunted his brother.
“You shut up.”
“Boys! Get your stuff together. Tomás is waiting in the car.”
Adam peeled the drapes back to inspect the circular driveway for the Bentley. “Which one?”
“Did you finish your homework?” Melissa prodded.
“We didn’t have any,” Jonathan replied when he emerged from the pantry. He tore open a granola bar and chewed hungrily.
“Did you bring your dirty laundry downstairs?”
“We will,” Jonathan mumbled between bites as he chewed.
“Did you feed the horses?”
Jonathan looked at his brother, who mirrored the same perplexed expression. “Tomás always does that.”
“Not anymore. You boys will need to start cleaning the stalls too.”
“We don’t know how,” said Adam, pouring himself a glass of milk from the side-by-side Sub-Zero refrigerator.
“Then you’ll learn.”
“No fair,” said Jonathan. He threw his granola wrapper on the counter and took a swig from the milk jug when his mom wasn’t looking.
“Don’t drink out of the jug,” Melissa implored.
Jonathan sheepishly wiped his mouth with the back of his hand. “I wasn’t.”
“I also want the pool cleaned when you boys get home from school.”
“That’s not our job either,” Jonathan complained.
Melissa ventured toward her music studio. “It is now.”
* * *
Tomás drove a Lincoln Town Car around the driveway and waited. He snatched a folded copy of The Tennessean from the seat beside him and checked the sports section for the basketball scores.
Outside the car, thick clouds lingered with the threat of stormy weather. Then as if on cue, drops hit the windshield in a random stutter start before evolving to a steady rain. The sound reminded him of his parents and his childhood years growing up in Honduras before the El Salvadoran violence began. Now he enjoyed a good life in Belle Meade with the Hamilton family. A better life than he could have ever hoped for, though not without great sadness in recent times as he’d outlived his parents and buried his wife of forty years.
He trimmed the edge of his fingernail with a small pocket knife. When Jonathan and Adam climbed in back, he folded the blade and set the paper down to stretch his arm across the passenger seat. “Buenos días. Cómo estás?”
“Bien,” Jonathan replied.
“You bring your umbrellas?”
“Sí,” said Jonathan, sliding across the seat to make room for his brother, Adam, who quickly settled in beside him. He shoved his backpack on the floorboard in front of him. “Where’s the Bentley?”
Tomás waited for the boys to buckle their seatbelts. “It transformed.”
Jonathan looked at his brother and shrugged his shoulders.
“We have a new ride now.”
“But I liked the Bentley more,” said Adam.
Tomás followed the driveway to the end and waited for the iron gate to open. He looked at Adam in the rear view mirror and winked. “Me too.”
“Yolanda quit,” said Jonathan. “I had to serve myself.”
Tomás arched his eyebrows. “The injustice…”
“I’m serious. Mom said we have to clean the pool, too.”
“And feed the horses,” said Adam.
“Sometimes we learn the value of hard work by working hard.”
“And sometimes life just sucks,” Jonathan replied.
Tomás drove through the open gate. “Your life is what you make of it.” He merged with traffic and gunned the engine to pass a school bus before it slowed to deploy the mechanical stop sign.
Jonathan watched his home fade from view. “Are you leaving us too?”
“No Sir. I’m here for as long as your mother needs my help.”
“Can you cook?”
“Can LeBron James dunk a basketball?”
“Can we skip school today?”
“You trying to get me fired?”
“Never,” said Adam before his brother could reply. He leaned forward in his seat. “You’re the best thing that’s ever happened to our family.”
“Very kind of you young man, but you’re still going to school today.”