Today's Reading

I may have to be truthful. A little.

"There was a gentleman I hoped to marry. I knew him from back home and..."

I shift slightly in my seat. "Let's say I won't be returning to Detroit. Fine city though it is."

Our eyes meet; I feel the question. Is that all? No complaints, recriminations? It's something they watch for. You complain about one thing, they think, Whiner. Admit you left a position after three weeks because the father thought he was entitled to put his hand down your blouse, they write, Difficult. If you get teary because you've had a shock, they write, Emotional.

I push the memories down, keep my face still.

She asks, "Is it fair to say you haven't had much experience working for this sort of family?"

"It is." The Mosers were well off. But I've been sure to not mention the Mosers, and I'm not going to now. "But I daresay very few people have."

She sets the pen down. Now I have her full attention; maybe even some respect.

"That is correct," she says. "Colonel and Mrs. Lindbergh are unlike any other couple in America. Her father is a senator. His father was a congressman. These are people not only of means, but distinction. You may have heard of his little flight to Paris. As a result, they and their child are the focus of unparalleled attention from the public and from the press. Anyone connected with them comes under intense scrutiny. That includes members of their staff. Are you prepared for that?"


"You may be offered money for stories or photographs, as much as two thousand dollars..."

This Mary warned me about, and I know what to say. "I'm familiar with the tabloid press, Mrs. Sullivan. I think it's disgusting, their lack of regard for people's privacy. I want no part of it." I let a touch of outrage slip into my tone that she would ask such a thing, think me such a person. She listens closely, trying to decide: Am I sincere?

Then she says, "You understand why I have to ask." 

"Of course."

"The couple's schedule is irregular. They intend to travel. Extensively. You will be on your own with the baby for considerable stretches of time."

She waits for me to add objections, conditions. I smile. No objections, Mrs. Sullivan. None whatever.

She stands. "Well, then. I'll take you up to the house."

It's so abrupt, I'm not sure what's happening. Gathering my things, I ask, "What happens there?"

"You meet Colonel and Mrs. Lindbergh."


So. Here is how you get to the house. You are driven by the chauffeur, who has been waiting this whole time. You ride in the company of Mrs. Sullivan, who makes pleasant conversation as she tries to find out more about you. You long to say, Please, I need to think, could you be quiet? Instead you smile as if this is all quite normal and say, "Yes, it is mild for February."

Mrs. Lindbergh, a pleasure to meet you.

Colonel, an honor, of course...

Mrs. Sullivan has said something. I haven't been listening, and it takes me a moment to translate the sounds. "It goes without saying, no autographs for your nephew or anything like that."

I say, "Of course not." Easily and honestly, because my niece in America is not even a year old and nobody else gives a damn. I suppose the Lindberghs do get asked a lot. Still, it's insulting.

But insulting is good, gives me a bit of spine, something of myself to hold on to as we get out of the car and Mrs. Sullivan goes up to the front door and rings the bell.

A butler in tailcoat answers the door. He's dark, tall, with a full, doleful mouth. Heavy-lidded eyes widen to take me in, then slide off in dismissal. The black hair looks like it's had some help from a bottle; there's a dash of powder to cover up those red, broken veins around the nose. Get close enough, I think, and you'd know what he drank for lunch.

Mother once said to me, '"Betty, when you get nervous, you get snippy."' I might say I see what I see and there's no use pretending otherwise. But she's not entirely wrong.

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