A small Greek lady with round eye glasses poured two cups of tea, passing one to Ruby.
“Yes, yes, I realise you have come a long way and that I offered you a position, but you did not mention the child.”
“Annie is very good. She didn’t complain once all the way from Melbourne on that …difficult journey.” Ruby decided not to elaborate on the nightmare of the previous week. There were more pressing worries. This regal young woman sitting opposite was giving her the sack before she even started work!
“Even if you hadn’t lied to me, you could not possibly fulfil the requirements of any of our positions with a child. The hours are long, the accommodation is shared with other women. How did you think you could manage with … her?” She gestured towards Annie who sat quietly on the floor playing with a pine cone.
The sheer hopelessness of her situation coupled with complete exhaustion caused Ruby to do something she had never done before. She fainted, dropping the cup, which smashed to pieces. Annie looked up and whimpered with distress. Mrs Christakos leapt to her feet, full of concern.
As she told her husband later. “The poor woman hadn’t slept properly for a week, she has recently lost her husband and now she has no job. What could I do but put her in one of our rooms and give the little one to the maid to look after?”
“As long as she doesn’t stay too long,” said her husband. “We are not a charity.”
“I think I have a solution. I just have to check with someone who told me about a family in desperate need. The poor mother died from influenza and the father is totally unable to care for the children on his own. For now she needs to rest. We don’t want her to become sick as well. Leave it with me.”
With that Mrs Christakos set off on her mission to solve two problems at once and rid herself of an inconvenient guest.