The job interview

03/10/2015 19:35

This story was written in response to the latest prompt at Blackship Books/ 3F. Please let me know what you think of it!


I pulled up outside the house and checked the address again just to make sure. Yes, this was definitely the place. It was a Victorian wedding-cake of a house, with cute little balconies and pristine fretwork. I fell in love as soon as I saw it.


Careful, Meg,” warned the little voice at the back of my head. “Don't get carried away!”


I mentally brushed the voice away. I needed a change of scene and a new job in a different part of the country sounded perfect. Of course, as yet I didn't really know what the job was... But that was the point of coming, after all.


Grabbing my overnight bag from the passenger seat, I got out of the car and crossed the road. A short flight of wooden steps led up to the porch. This place couldn't get any cuter if it tried. I rang the bell and almost immediately, the door was opened by a woman who appeared to be at least a decade older than me, who greeted me warmly.


You must be Margaret!” she beamed. “Johan is so looking forward to seeing you. He's just through that door there, in the parlour. Let me take your bag up to your room and I'll bring some tea in a moment.”


Oh, no! There's no need for you to trouble yourself...” I hesitated, realising that I didn't know her name.


Hester. I'm Hester. And it's no trouble, I assure you. I'm Johan's live-in... er... chief cook and bottle washer, I suppose sums up my role. I do all the cooking and housework, so if there's anything special that you'd like while you're here, be sure to let me know. Now, you just go through to the parlour and I'll see about that tea.”


With a final beaming smile, she turned away and headed for a staircase made of dark polished wood. There seemed to be nothing more for me to do except meet Johan, so I quietly opened the door that Hester had indicated and popped my head into the room. The blinds on all of the windows were drawn more than halfway, leaving the room semi-dark and making it difficult to make anything out.


Hello? Johan?” I called but not very loudly. It wasn't the sort of house that lent itself to shouting.


Yes?” came an answering voice and then I saw him, sitting bolt upright in an armchair in the darkest corner of the room. “Ah, Margaret,” he said, with an odd tone in his voice, almost of satisfaction as if I met some secret criterion.


Er, yes, I'm Meg,” I answered, closing the door and walking into the room towards him. My eyes were adjusting to the light, now, and I could see that he was wearing a velvet smoking jacket and silk cravat. There was a blanket tucked in around his knees, hiding his legs and feet.


Come here, my dear, let me look at you,” he said, waving me nearer with a gloved hand. “Forgive me for not taking your hand but I have a skin condition that requires me to wear these gloves. But where are my manners? Please, sit down, Margaret. Hester will bring some tea in presently, and then we can get down to business. I want you to understand exactly what it is that you would be taking on, if you accepted my offer.”


Before I could formulate a suitable reply, Hester appeared with the tea things and I realised that I was still standing in the middle of the floor. I quickly got out of the way and perched on the edge of a chintz-covered sofa. The other woman put down the tray that she was carrying on a nearby table and began pouring out the tea. It was only then that I realised that there were three cups. But why shouldn't she join us? I asked myself. I had no idea what her relationship with my potential employer was, after all. Her description of herself as 'chief cook and bottle washer' did not necessarily mean that she was also employed by Johan, after all.


After distributing tea and cakes, she sat down at the opposite end of the same sofa that I was already occupying and looked up expectantly at Johan. He took the hint and set down his cup before reaching under his blanket and drawing out a folded sheet of paper, which he handed to me.


I have written down here a list of... 'do's and don'ts' I suppose you might call them. 'Rules' and 'Instructions' sound so formal and are not my style at all. There is no need for you to read through it, now but perhaps when you go up to your room? I must ask you to observe this list whilst you are under my roof. If you choose not to take the job, then I simply ask that you do not tell anyone else about me. I have... enemies... Margaret, who would seek to harm an old man. You would not give me away to them, would you?”


A hundred questions flooded into my mind. 'Enemies'? What enemies? What had he done to make people want to harm him.


As if he had read my mind he said, “I have done some terrible things, Margaret, but now I am seeking to atone. To put things right. I have the money and the time but I need a companion, someone who can carry my good will into the world. Hester has served me well for many years but it is time for her to retire. I believe that you will make a suitable replacement.”


I don't know, Johan. I don't think I have the experience for the type of work that you are describing.”


Your last job, the one that you were made redundant from because you were too expensive, was as a finance assistant in a large organisation. You also have several years' administrative experience and an analytical mind. But what particularly stood out for me was your interest in poetry. I even purchased a copy of your small collection and enjoyed it very much.”


You bought my book of poetry?” I asked, completely surprised. I still wasn't sure why I had even mentioned it in my ad.


Oh, yes, Margaret! You know, you really have some talent,” smiled Hester.


Johan nodded. “Indeed you do, my dear. Now, what I need is someone who can keep my house in good order, but who can also help me to trace people, the people that I have wronged or their descendants. And then I will need you to visit them with me so that I can offer them whatever reparation they deem appropriate. For it would not be right for me to determine how I might redeem myself...”


He paused for a moment as if overcome by the memories of what he had done. Hester leaned over and squeezed one of his gloved hands. As he gazed into her eyes with a look of gratitude, his face seemed to light up.


Thank you, my dear,” he said to her, gently patting her cheek before turning back to me. “So, I will need you to organise travel for both of us, not only in this country but also overseas.”


Suddenly, this job began to sound very attractive and I leaned forward eagerly.


There is one more thing that I must tell you before you decide,” he said and nodded to Hester.


She loosened the neck of her blouse to reveal two tiny marks. It was so unexpected, yet so cliché, that I almost laughed out loud and asked if she was practising her make up for a Halloween party. But the seriousness of her face silenced me.


I am a vampire, Margaret. I live off pig's blood most of the time, but occasionally... very occasionally... I crave something sweeter. Part of your job will be to satisfy my craving. I am very gentle and will take very little. You can ask Hester about how it is for her.”


I have lived a full life,” said the housekeeper, “and I've never known a day's illness. Johan is very generous with his wages and I've saved up enough to retire anywhere I choose. His... needs... are very easily satisfied.”


I looked carefully at each in turn but it was clear that neither was joking. I was caught between horror and fascination. Fascination won.


I'll take the job,” I said. “When do you need me to start?”

The job interview

Considerate Creature from the Dark Side

Date: 11/10/2015 | By: Joyce Juzwik

I too, figured something different was up with the dark room and the gloved hands, but I didn't anticipate a vamp. So nice of him not to simply take, but to fully explain the 'position' and be honest enough to let her know she'd participate to a degree.

I really liked your characters, especially Johan, with his wanting to make it right before whatever end he will face. Unfortunately for them, they 'end' too. I hope he finds the redemption he seeks.

Great job on this!

Nice twist

Date: 09/10/2015 | By: Mike

I did suspect things would take a dark turn, but I enjoyed both description and setting as you built the story. I was surprised at her quick acceptance at the end, but maybe she was just fed up and ready for something REALLY different.

New comment