The weather had turned cold, damp, dreary, gloomy and downright miserable by the time I arrived at Frieda’s fourth-floor apartment. She’d barely spoken a word to me the entire way except to bark a few orders and warnings at me.
It was a two-bedroom, two-bath apartment of a decent size. Maybe about a thousand square feet. The living room and master bedroom were a good size, but the kitchen and bathrooms were actually pretty average. The guest room she threw me in was kind of smallish. In it stood a twin bed and an armoire.
You entered the living room and found the kitchen on the left. In front of the entry door on the opposite wall of the living room was a glass slider. Next to it was the spare bed and bath. Frieda’s bedroom was at the end of the place and the master bathroom was across the hall from the spare bedroom.
The apartment was decorated much as I expected it would be from what I knew of her tastes. It had a very Mediterranean and ambient feel to it with blues and oranges being the prominent colors.
Once again, I set my meager belongings up in the spare room, and as I was doing so, Frieda stuck her head in and said in a curt tone, “Come out to the living room when you’re done.”
That was only a few minutes later since I didn’t have much to unpack in the first place.
She was just taking a seat on the couch with a drink in her hand after offering me absolutely nothing.
“Sit,” she said in German.
I sat next to her and waited while she took a sip of her dark red drink. I studied her while doing my best not to actually stare at her. I hated to admit it, but she looked damn good for her age. Mean and a bit imposing, but good.
She put the glass down on the glass coffee table in front of the couch and turned to me. “We’re going to go over the rules and make sure we get everything straight upfront.”
She eyed me intently and silently for a moment. I held her gaze, determined not to appear intimidated.
Her age was showing in that she had a lot of wrinkles but was otherwise an attractive woman. Tall and thin with vivid blue eyes and light brown wavy hair which fell several inches past her shoulders.
“As you know, I’m only doing this for Adele. She was a very dear friend of mine and we knew each other for a very long time.”
“She was a very nice–”
“Don’t interrupt! Just listen. Again, this is only for Adele. I’m giving you three months to save enough money to get the hell out. Instead of paying me rent, you’re going to do all the cleaning, all the laundry, and you’re even going to cook my meals. Consider yourself a modern-day slave. You just won’t be in chains.”
This was a hell of a deal, but even so, who the fuck did she think she was?
“Now as you know, I work during the week and I don’t really eat breakfast except to grab a roll or something along with coffee. The coffee is on a timer, though. You’ll mostly be focusing on supper and whatever I may decide I want on weekends.”
I nodded again.
“You’ll do my laundry once a week unless anything is needed in between. You’ll clean the kitchen and bathroom every other day and dust once a week. You’ll look online for jobs and housing for yourself. If you don’t think you want to remain in my country, you will save enough for a ticket and a place somewhere else but I will not extend the three months under any circumstances that I have given you, and you’re lucky I’m even giving you that much. At first it was going to be just thirty days.”
I continued to gaze at her, trying to keep my face devoid of emotion and give her my best robotic stare.
“You will not be given a spare key to this place so that means that when I leave it you are either to stay inside or leave and not come back until I do. Is that understood?”
“You will also never touch or use anything of mine such as the TV, the stereo, or eat any of my food. Anything you want to eat you will get with your own money. I’m only providing you with a bed and a room to stay in while you clean, cook and do laundry. Everything else is on you. When I’m home you will be in your room. Don’t even think of using any of my soap or other personal items. You need something, you get it yourself.”
“You will use your own laptop for your internet needs and entertainment but when you want to listen to music or stream any shows or movies, you will wear headphones at all times. I don’t want to hear you or even to know you exist unless I come to you or you’re serving me personally.”
And yet another nod from me.
“I get home about ten minutes after five every weekday and that’s when I’ll expect my dinner. Now, before I go out on the patio for a smoke, do you have any questions?”
I thought for a few seconds and then shook my head, glad that she at least didn’t smoke in the apartment.
She rose from the couch, turned back to me and said, “Since I do have extra towels, I’ve left them in your bathroom. Those are what you’ll use while you’re here.”
“Don’t thank me. Thank Adele.”
Frieda stepped out onto the patio that was next to the bedroom I would use. I got up and went inside, shut the door and laid down on the bed. Then I just cried.
If I couldn’t have my husband back, then to be back with Forrest despite what he may have done would be much preferable to being here with Frieda.