By Clive Aaron Gill
“Sounds like the help are enjoying themselves,” Scott said to his wife as they sat and gazed at the burning logs in the large fireplace.
“Yes,” Amanda said. “As usual on Sunday nights.”
“This would have been a perfect night for Mike and Fay to come over and watch a movie with us.”
“I miss them,” Amanda said. “It’s been two years since they both died.”
Scott and Amanda spent quiet evenings at home in Napa Valley, California. They had reminisced about friends who had passed, parties they hosted in their country home, their vacations on private islands in the Caribbean, and their meals at Michelin 3-star restaurants in France.
“I’m bored with retelling our stories,” Scott said. “I’d like to know what the help are laughing about. Let’s go to the kitchen and listen.”
Amanda gripped her cane and tried to raise her shrunken body. She strained, deep creases lining her face until, with a click like a door unlocking, she raised herself.
Scott, his pale, blue eyes clouded by cataracts, stood at her side. He held her arm, and they hobbled to the kitchen.
Miguel and Sofia De la Cruz had left the Dominican Republic to escape hurricanes, drug-related crime and hunger. They had worked for Scott and Amanda for twenty years, Sofia as the maid and cook, Miguel as the gardener and chauffeur. They slept in a small room in the back of the house.
On this February night in 2018, Miguel and Sofia played rummy in the kitchen with their two sons and their sons’ wives.
When Miguel noticed his employers standing in the doorway, he stood.
“Mr. Lewis, sir. Can I do something for you and Mrs. Lewis?”
“No, thank you, Miguel,” Scott said. “We would like to join you.”
“Yessir. You are welcome.” He gestured to two empty chairs. “Por favor, sit with my family.”
“Good evening, everyone,” Scott said.
“Good evening,” they said in chorus.
Amanda and Scott eased themselves onto the hard chairs.
“Can I get you something to drink?” Miguel asked.
“A little water would be great,” Amanda said.
“Of course. Right away.”
He brought two glasses of water, each containing a slice of lemon, and Sofia carried a cake to the table.
“Sofia always says the kitchen is the heart of a home,” Miguel said. “She made this tres leches cake.”
“What’s in it, Sofia?” Amanda asked.
“It is sponge cake soaked in three kinds of milk. Whipped cream on top.”
“Three kinds of milk?”
Amanda nodded. “Sí. Evaporated, condensed and half-and-half. I let the cake absorb the flavors all night.”
She served them each a piece with a cherry on top and handed them forks. After they had taken a bite, she asked, “You like it?”
“Very good, Sofia,” Amanda said. “Moist. Melts in my mouth.”
Sofia smiled, her white teeth contrasting with her dark complexion. “I am happy you enjoy.”
Miguel and his family continued their card game while Scott and Amanda listened to their conversations and laughter.
Miguel glanced up from the cards in his hand and saw Scott’s torso shaking as if he was crying without tears. “Mr. Lewis, sir. You are not happy sitting with us?”
Scott blew his nose into a tissue. “You know… I look at you and your lovely family, and I’m reminded of how much we miss our two boys.”
“I am so sorry for your grief, Mr. Lewis,” Sofia said. “I have seen photos of them in their military uniforms.”
Tears veiled Amanda’s eyes. She gripped Scott’s trembling hand. “I think,” she said, “we should go now, darling.”
“No, no,” Miguel said. “Where there are friends, there is family. Please think of us as part of your family.”
“I appreciate your kindness, Miguel,” Scott said.
“You don’t realize what this means to us,” Amanda said, her voice cracking.
Sofia fingered the cross on her necklace. “We must take care of families wherever we find them.”
“Thank you,” Scott said. “We have traveled the world and met many people. And now we find friendship and family here.”
With childlike smiles, Scott and Amanda continued to sit in the kitchen late into the night.
Born in Zimbabwe, Clive Aaron Gill has spent time in Southern Africa, Europe and North America. He creatively draws from his experiences in these continents. His inspiration also stems from his imagination, listening to people’s stories and reading.