Sarah dragged the squeaking vacuum cleaner down the corridor, and thumped it down outside the Bluebell Suite. She checked her watch. It was only a quarter to ten. Lunchtime, and blesséd escape, lay out of sight beyond an unfathomable horizon. She blew out a long sigh, and rubbed her face with both hands to soothe the anxiety if only for a moment. It wasn’t fair to expect her to work today. Mrs Matthews had been sympathetic, apologetic even, but she’d refused to give Sarah the day off, and was unshakable in her resolve.
“Look at it another way,” she’d said, fixing a corporate smile to match her uniform. “It’ll take your mind off things, being in work. Otherwise you’d only be sat around worrying.”
‘Sat around worrying’? What else was she supposed to do while her sister was having her cancerous breast removed? Oh yes, cleaning hotel rooms, of course, just like any other day. She gulped back the threatening tears, and rummaged through her keys.
At that moment, the Bluebell Suite’s door opened. Sarah startled, and stepped back as the tailored figure of Mr Bentley-Chalmers appeared in the doorway.
“Morning Mr. Bentley-Chalmers,” she said, admiring her powers of recovery. “I didn’t mean to disturb you, I thought you’d already left.”
“My phone,” he said, producing it from inside a silk-lined pocket. “I left it behind. Anyway,” he said, looking her up and down, distaste souring his handsome face. “I’m glad I caught you. I wanted a word.”
“You do?” Sarah’s eyebrows shot skyward. She’d be the toast of the staffroom at tea-break. Mr. Bentley-Chalmers was staying all week, and his expensive, coiffed looks had caused quite a stir.
“Yes,” he said, drawing himself up as tall as a five-foot frame would permit. “My room hasn’t been cleaned properly all week.”
“I beg your pardon?” Sarah took another step backwards. She was very proud of her work; no one had ever complained.
“The room?” His head weaved from side to side, like a snake preparing to strike. “Cleaned properly? Especially the bathroom. The taps are grubby, the toilet needs scrubbing: I have never stayed in such a dirty hotel.” He pointed his finger at Sarah. “I’ve a good mind to report you.”
Sarah gawped. He was friendly with the owner, Mr Ridley. If he complained, she would lose her job.
“I’m sorry to hear that,” she said, her face flaming. “I’ll give it an extra clean today.”
“See that you do,” he said, wagging the finger. “Attention to detail, that’s all that should matter in a place like this.” And he strode away in a waft of cologne.
Sarah picked up her cleaning box, and pondered over its contents. Attention to detail, that’s all that should matter, never mind her sister. Now, how best to make the bathroom gleam?
She set to work, and wondered how the surgeons were getting on. She wondered how her sister’s scars would look, and if the cancer would go away, and if they’d be able to go on holiday in July like they always did. The taps were invisible behind her tears, but she scoured and scoured. She couldn’t see the toilet either, but she knelt down beside it, and spent ten minutes scrubbing and scrubbing. And finally, when all was done, she stood up, blew her nose, and promised herself that somehow, everything would be all right.
She took a good, satisfied look around the sparkly clean bathroom, and smiled. And then, on the way out, she put Mr Bentley-Chalmer’s toothbrush back in its holder.