Kim went downstairs late afternoon. She’d finished some work on her work laptop she brought with. When she looked up at the clock she realized how hungry she was. She was sure Stella wouldn’t mind if Kim made something in the kitchen for herself. She knew around this time Stella was usually busy making the night’s dinner. When she rounded the corner heading towards the kitchen she stopped and duck behind the wall.
Stella was in the kitchen alright. But she wasn’t alone.
Levi was there.
She peeked over the wall to look in. She wasn’t going to announce her presence. But it wouldn’t hurt to hear what they were talking about. She didn’t want to admit it but she actually wanted to hear if he’d speak about her.
“You really don’t have to do this, Levi,” Stella said, busy cutting slices of meat on the counter.
“I’m glad to help, ma’am.”
Levi was cutting squashes at the kitchen sink. His arms were glistening with sweat, his muscles moving as he forced the knife through the squash. She quickly turned away and looked at Stella again.
“Well I appreciate your help. My arms aren’t like they used to be.”
“You’re still as beautiful as ever, though.”
Stella gave him a look and he smiled cheekily.
“Well aren’t you a sweet talker.”
Kim couldn’t help smiling. Stella was right. It wasn’t his job to help in the kitchen. Perhaps Levi wasn’t such a hot head as she thought. He had at least the decency to help others. But then again, he did seem like a hard worker. The only flaw was his stubbornness.
“If only someone could sweet talk little miss Sawyer upstairs,” Stella sighed.
Oh here it comes, Kim thought. Trash talking the owner’s daughter. She always felt Stella had something in for her.
“What are you going to do if she sell this place?” Levi asked.
“This place has been everything I knew for years, son. I guess I’ll have to move on. But an old woman like me isn’t likely to get a job again,” she stopped cutting the meat. “I don’t know what will happen to Pumpkin.”
Kim remembered Pumpkin. It was Stella’s grandchild, Marie. Stella’s daughter had passed away from complications during birth. Stella raised Marie after that when the girl’s father became abusive. She knew most of Stella’s money went to the little farm school where she used to teach when she was younger. She had a soft place for children in need. The rest of the money went towards her granddaughter. Stella wasn’t the kind of woman to spend money on herself. ‘There’s always a hand to give’ she used to say.
“But what about you?” Stella said. “What will you do, Levi?”
“I don’t know. I guess I’ll need to get another job. But I don’t know how i’ll do that with my record.”
Kim frowned. He had a record. So he was in jail? Of course, that’s why her father hired him. Honestly sometimes her father cared too much.
“Miss Stella, why does she hate this place so much?” he said. “Did something happen?”
“I guess a few things. There was some trouble, school friends of hers...”
Kim bit her lip.
“She left after her last year. Went to study. But I know it wasn’t that.”
“What do you mean?” he asked.
“Son, I know what running away looks like. That girl was running.”
“I shouldn’t have gotten angry at her,” Levi said.
“I don’t blame you, son.”
“It wasn’t my place,” he said. “This is her home. She can do with it what she wants.”
“That’s awfully nice of you, Levi.” Stella said. “You’re a better person than me.”
“She’s not a bad person,” he said. “She seems hurt. I don’t think we should judge her too quickly.”
Kim stared at him. He was quite something. After everything he could still speak kindly of her. She knew she wouldn’t have. She felt herself smile sadly.
But she was quickly brought back to earth when he stood up and said,
“I’d best be going.”
With that he headed towards the living room, towards Kim. She duck behind the wall, her heart beating fast. What if he saw her? He’d know she was listening in. But he walked by quickly and she watched him leave.
But not before he stopped to look at her picture on the wall.
And when she tip toed her way back up the stairs, her steps felt a little lighter.