It’s a breezy March evening and I should be chilling in my backyard, sipping a glass of wine and watching the sun go down. Instead I am sitting on a cold bench in some park, almost 15 kms away from my house, staring at the long line of cherry blossom trees and wondering where the line ends. What if it goes in a circle? There won’t be an end right? I sound like a kindergartener now! Unfortunately I have no time to test that theory of mine, because I am here as part of my job…
My secretary job in the shipping company recently got upgraded with two additional responsibilities - keeping an eye on the boss’ wife and taking the boss’ dog to the park for a walk, not in any particular order. Wife- because he suspects she is having an affair. Dog-because he needs a dog sitter plus my boss thinks a dog sitter is a good disguise for the spy job.
I think today is my lucky day as Mrs. Foster, my boss’ wife, decided to join me and the dog for our customary evening walk. Like the saying, two birds and one stone. Actually that saying suits my boss more. I am his secretary cum spy, but he only has to pay for one job. A few months back, when he called me to his cabin to declare that I would be spying for him in the evenings, I was a bit shocked. Declare! That’s what he did. Shouldn’t I be asked first? But I kept nodding my head like a hula doll. Times are difficult. He can easily replace me; there are much better candidates out in the market. But for me to get a job with a pay like this and other benefits? It won’t be an easy task. And he is a good guy to work with too, a bit strange but nice. Also, no job means I will have to go and stay with my mom and her third husband. A shudder rose from me at the thought of sharing the same air as that slimy man! I still haven’t figured out what mom finds in him. Granted he is quite rich, but I am conveniently omitting that part because it would imply that my mom is a gold digger. *Fingers crossed*. Dad is always travelling, never staying in one place for more than a month. When he chose wanderlust over heartache, I was happy for him.
So yeah...double duty it is. I pulled out the hand sanitizer, which I managed to grab from the very crowded corner store (thanks to the acrobatic lessons I took in school) and squeezed the cold gel onto my palm. As I rubbed it all over my hands, I glanced around the park- feeling a bit sad seeing it almost empty. It’s spring, the most beautiful time of the year and people are supposed to be out in the open, having barbecues and picnics. Instead most of the people are holed up inside their homes fearing the coronavirus. There is no lockdown announced in here yet, but people are being extra careful, by sanitizing their hands, distancing from each other socially and last but not the least- building toilet roll castles at their homes!
I kept the sanitizer back and pulled my phone out to check for any text messages. Suddenly, I had this weird sensation of my right foot being wet. Hope it’s not dog pee! I let out a yelp, bending down to check at the same time. I released a sigh of relief seeing it’s just a spill from my water bottle.
Talking about Cat, the dog- he hasn’t warmed up to me yet. I know, I know. Who names their dog Cat? Someone with a twisted sense of humor of course! I skipped one tiny detail when my boss was assigning duties. I am not a pet person. Not that I am an animal hater. The aversion came from a trauma in fact. A stray dog almost bit me when I was a kid. It happened in my grandparents’ village. Two things resulted from that incident. I started running away whenever I saw a dog. My visits to grandparents became fewer. Time brought some changes though. I still visit my grandparents even after my mom and my dad had an ugly divorce and mom doesn’t talk to my grandparents anymore. My dog phobia has improved a lot, still not to the extent where I would consider a pet on my own or play with anyone else’ pet.
It’s funny that my boss would automatically assume I could be a convincing dog sitter. I am glad this is not a real job that requires an interview. Another thing that bothers me is the reason why I was chosen as a spy. During my three years of secretarial life, I don’t ever remember showing any kind of investigational skills, do I? He is using me for something very personal and I am surprised that he is not worried about me spreading the news all over the office. When I asked him why I was chosen, he simply said that he trusts me.
Not wanting to sit anymore, I got up and started walking towards where Mrs. Foster was sitting. She seems to be a lovely woman, very pretty and gracious. Mr. Foster is nowhere close to an Adonis, but he isn’t bad looking either. If only he puts a bit more care into how he looks. He has to be the shabbiest man I have ever known. He comes to the office everyday spotting the ‘ I just woke up from bed and I didn’t get time to shower’ look. On top of that he has got this horrible habit of eating lots of raw onion too. How do I know this? Because I am the one who orders bean salad for his lunch everyday, with an extra serving of ‘ raw onions’! All my conversations post-lunch will tactically include only intercom and emails. I believe he likes it too because he once told me that he likes the way I appreciate his privacy. God! I hope he never knows the real reason.
Since the day I agreed to be his spy in disguise, he has managed to reduce my working hours so I can go to his house and start my second job. Until now, I haven’t found anything that proves that Mrs. Foster is an adulteress. Today, at the office Mr. Foster hinted that a lockdown is on the cards as the virus situation is getting worse. Lockdown means I won’t be able to use the filmy excuse of dog sitting anymore. Need to act quickly.
Let me think...Mrs. Foster doesn’t go out much. She is usually confined to her bedroom or the living room upstairs reading or watching TV. But she does try to make small conversations with me whenever she comes down. I honestly think she is not the cheating type. A few times she spoke about her husband, I saw the sincerity in her eyes, which means she definitely wants the marriage to work- something I have never seen in my mom. I know it’s an unfair comparison, but I can’t help it.
If she still loves her husband, why does he think that she is cheating on him? In the past two and a half months, I have never seen her entertaining anybody at home, men or women. She gets phone calls, but from her family members if I go by how she speaks. Either she is genuine or she is a fab actress. I am still inclined to the first option because there is optimism in it. Could it be that Mr. Foster’s personal hygiene or lack of it repulses her? Which wife wants to go near a husband who smells like an onion market all the time! Could it also be that she wants to work on her marriage but he is not co-operating? Mr. Foster is kind of a workaholic. I hear him talking about coming to the office some weekends too.
The more I think about it, the more I feel that my assumptions have some truth in them. Now the million-dollar question is, how do I fix it? Yes, I want to. People, who know me, tell me that I am a magician. That I magically fix things when everyone around me loses hope in the same and decides to give up. Maybe this is what Mr. Foster was secretly hoping for, when he decided to hire me. That I will work some magic and things will go back to how it was before. But this is a marriage we are talking about. Not my cousin’s broken dollhouse in the basement or the old coffee machine in my office.
If Mr. Foster was a friend, I wouldn’t mind telling him ‘ Hey, listen buddy. You better stop eating those stinky onions or you can watch your marriage going down the drain.’
But the story is different. He is my boss. We share a formal relationship. One wrong step and it would cost my job, or worse his marriage…
A couple passed by, holding hands. Through the corner of my eye, I can see Mrs. Foster watching them too. The man said something to the woman and she giggled. I see the forlorn look across Mrs. Foster’s face and it tugged at my heart. Where did I see that look before? In my father’s eyes, fifteen years ago...when my mom said she wants a divorce because she thinks dad is too boring. The ten-year-old dreamer in me wished for a magic wand then, to make the pain in his eyes go away. Maybe I finally have that wand now…
I pulled out the leather notebook from my bag and opened the page that was bookmarked. There was only one line: Mission- Is Mrs. Foster cheating on her husband?
I crossed it and tore the paper out before shredding. After finding the closest garbage bin and trashing the shreds, I opened a fresh page and started writing.
New mission- How to fix Mr. Foster’s marriage?
Notes to self-
- Stop ordering raw onions for his lunch. If he insists, lie or die trying.
- Hire him a personal stylist.
- Make sure that he goes home before 6 pm everyday. Tell the cute security guard to lose the key on weekends. :D
I closed the notebook and put it back in the bag. I looked up at the darkening sky, and smiled, feeling accomplished. All it took was a walk in the park...