The Hired Help

Justin took the stairs, two at a time, all the way to the fourth floor. He wouldn't have done this an hour ago, but by now, the brunch he'd shared with his mom was mostly digested.

Once inside the loft, he scanned the space quickly to see if Brian had come home. He hadn't been able to reach him on the cell and didn't know where he was. He'd woken up around ten, and Brian had already been gone - no note, no nothing. He normally didn't leave like that - but sometimes he did. Justin knew it was his way of holding on to some of his prior independence. He didn't really mind when Brian did this. He understood the man's need for small defiances.

As he started toward the bedroom, he realized that Rosa was in the loft. The sharp smell of lemon and bleach hung in the air, and he could hear noise coming from the bathroom area. He'd forgotten about Rosa. She had her own key and had been cleaning the loft for the past six years. She usually came on Tuesdays, but her agency had called last week to explain that she had a family emergency. They offered to send someone else in her place, but Brian had refused, explaining he would wait for Rosa to come back.

The agency had assured Brian she would be there the following Saturday. And that was today.

Justin had met her twice before, if you could call it that. Both times he'd been in a hurry. His greetings had been rushed, and he barely recalled what she looked like.

He found her in the shower stall cleaning the tile. "Hi Rosa."

The slight woman jumped and spun around. "Madre de Dios!" Her hands flew to her chest.

"Sorry! I didn't mean to scare you."

Rosa chirped a small laugh. "Oh, Mr. Justin it's you! I was thinking so hard, and I didn't hear you come in."

"I should've warned you." He smiled warmly at the small, spry woman with the big scrub brush.

"Is everything okay? With your family?"

Rosa dropped her hands and sighed. "No, Mr. Justin, not really. It's my brother. He's very sick. I had to fly home to Panama to see him."

"What's wrong with him?"

"He has the Dengue Fever."

Justin thought he'd heard of Dengue Fever, but wasn't sure.

"What is that?"

"It is from the mosquito bite and makes you very sick. They don't know if he will live or die. He is my . . . baby brother." Rosa's voice broke, and she covered her eyes with one hand.

Unthinking, Justin stepped into the shower and hugged her.

"I'm so sorry, Rosa."

She smelled honest and like she was in it for the long haul.

Rosa moved first and pushed away, reaching up to smooth her hair.

"Oh, Mr. Justin, you going to get dirty."

"No, I'm not." He smiled down at her.

She regarded him solemnly for a moment then said quietly, "You have nice eyes, Mr. Justin."

"Thanks Rosa. Hey, you hungry? I was gonna make a sandwich. Did you eat lunch yet?"

"Oh no, Mr. Justin." She shook her heard hard. "The agency don't like that. We no supposed to eat while we work."

"Come on, whose gonna tell? Not me." Justin held out his hand.

She looked at his hand, then looked at his face, then looked at his hand again.

"Okay, okay." She took his hand, and they stepped out of the stall.

"Rosa, please call me Justin." And they descended the stairs together.

They were finishing their lunch when the loft door opened. At the sound, Rosa stood and almost knocked her tea over.

Brian approached the table - a slight smile on his face.

"Hey." He pecked Justin on the mouth.

"Hi Rosa. I hope everything's okay with your family."

"Yes, Mr. Brian. Thank you. I go now to finish the bathroom."

She smiled at Justin before hurrying off.

"You invited her to eat?"

"Yeah, why not?"

Brian shrugged. "Nothing, just, you know, I try to keep things professional."

"Brian, you've known her for like six years. She picks up your condoms, washes your sheets, cleans your toilet - how much more personal can you get?"

Brian regarded him blandly. "It's her job, Justin."

Justin stared at him for a long moment, then turned back to the plate in front of him and speared a tomato.

"So, where were you? I tried your cell - it wasn't on."

"Battery died. I was at DiMarco's. The 'vette needed an oil change and some new belts."

Brian snagged the rest of Justin's pickle and popped it in his mouth.

"Her brother's really sick. He might die."

Brian chewed and nodded. "That sucks."


Brian swallowed the last of the pickle, grabbed Justin's hair, pulled his head back and kissed him hard. Once, twice, three times. The fourth kiss was for his nose.

"What do you feel like doing today?"

"Don't know."

"Well, since we can't stay here and fuck," Brian gestured toward the bathroom, "how about we go to the museum? There's a photography exhibit I want to see."


"Really." Brian bestowed a fifth kiss. "But we have to go now; it's getting late."

"Ok, just let me say bye to Rosa first."

Brian watched as Justin took the steps two at a time.

Justin found her polishing the mirror.

"Rosa, we're leaving now."

"Thank you for lunch, Mr. Justin."


"Justin." She smiled shyly and touched his arm.

Impulsively, he kissed her cheek. "I hope your brother is okay, Rosa."

"Si, Justin. Me too."

Tossing a small wave and a quick smile over his shoulder, Justin ran out of the bathroom.

He jumped and cleared the bedroom steps landing solidly on the hardwood floor. Spying Brian by the elevator, he jogged out of the loft to join him.

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