Tuesday, April 27, 2010

The Butler: Deception

My name is Alice. I am his butler, and my employer happens to be his late wife Michelle.

I could clearly remember the day her body was lowered into the ground. Her sister, Serena cradling her half month old boy, stood beside me, expressionless, dark glasses perched on her nose.

“There is one more thing that she would like you to know,” she said solemnly while walking away from the cemetery.

Already I had 2 special tasks. Firstly, he must not know that Michelle had died from a late stage cancer, apparently triggered by the trauma from the accident. The doctors never gave a proper explanation on that. But they are doctors anyway. Hence, the cover up was that she left him while he was still in a coma.

Secondly, I was to kiss him every night, at exactly midnight, only on the left cheek.

That would be because, apparently, he sleeps on his right side.

And of course, every other duty of a butler. I’ll have to clean and press his shirts, take out the garbage, manage his schedule and see to it that he doesn’t sleep too much. A few days back, while looking through his medical reports, the doctors noted that he sustained a ‘certain damage’ from the concussion which would ‘cause him to have an increased tendency of sleeping’.

Don’t fall in love with that man..

I stopped in my footsteps. Serena turned around and smiled.

“There is a reason why she couldn’t tell him that she has died.”

My first day of work started as soon as he woke up from his coma. I politely introduced myself as his butler and manager; that he is to take over a chain of companies as the Chief Financial Adviser and will resume duties as soon as he is discharged.

He groaned and mumbled. Like a man drugged and gagged, he struggled to get up. I don’t need a manager, he said. The first question that came out from his lips,

Where is Michelle?

Keeping to my part of the bargain, I lied. I told him that Michelle has already left him for another man, and had a child. He cannot meet her due to a restraining order.

And at that very moment, I knew why he had to live in a deception.

He immediately stopped struggling, slouched into his bed again, and as the reality sank in slowly, his gaze fell to the ground. His mind must have had a thousand questions racing through within those seconds upon the realization that she will not be there for him anymore.

“Sir,” I broke the silence after a couple of minutes. “You will need to bounce back up as soon as possible. There is work awaiting you.”

Just give me a few days, I will get over this. True to his words, he did.

“I’m not too sure whether Michelle told you this, but you will discover that he is a pretty decent man. Responsible, nice, gentle, polite. Virtually everything a lady would look for in a man.”

I nodded gently, respectfully. So what would be wrong in falling in love with him then?

Her smile turned into one of pain and sadness, one that I would see again on that morning when we were in the car outside the church.

Because he is made to love only one woman.

I end my day at midnight. I arrange his clean folded shirts in his cupboard as he lies motionless on the bed, blanket kicked off the floor, just as what Michelle had warned me months before. He doesn’t stir easily to the squeak when the cupboard door closes, or when I switch on the dim lights to put the clothes in order.

Sometimes, I will sit on the huge armrest facing his bed and every night, I see a man. A man worn out and drained dry from the coma; a man who had to continue his journey without his only love; a man who had to bear the consequences the accident he caused.

He was truly lost in deception. He never exactly got to the part of how Michelle left him, how he got into that accident. Worse still, he never knew that it was all a deception.

Yet there was one thing that never changed, one thing that he was sure of: he still loved her dearly. Judging from the times when he would stare and gaze at the portrait of Michelle hung in the middle of the hall. And how the name Michelle would make him sit up straight. Or like how that notice of Serena’s son’s baptism and baby-blessing ceremony in the papers got him all fired up.

So I tuck his blanket neatly and tightly under his arms, and gently peck his left cheek.

“Hi Michelle.” He mumbles in his sleep.

“Hi dear.” I whisper into his ears.

I walk out of his room, close the door and sigh to myself. Have I fallen in love with him? I shut that question from my mind. Perhaps I’m too afraid to admit that I have indeed loved a man who could never love me. Perhaps in my attempt to protect him from the guilt of him killing his wife in that accident, he showed me how to move on with life, how to continue to stay strong for his world that depended on him, heading the companies and making tough decisions. Perhaps that amazed me, charmed me, captivated me.

Perhaps, I too am living in the very deception I created, for I am not and will never be that only woman in his life.