Tank: Chapter 1
Mediterranean & Ménages
The paper lay ready on the table where she’d placed it last night. Sarah had to find a new job and a new apartment. She looked out of the window. It was cold and rainy outside. The heating bills would be monstrous. Her apartment wasn’t insulated but it had been the only one she’d been able to afford at the time. And when she’d found a job, she’d been grateful someone had given her a chance.
However, the constant worry about money had soon dampened her joy and she knew it was time to move on. So on this Saturday morning, she was ready to look through the papers to move on.
After ages of scouring the local ads, she sighed. Either, she didn’t have the necessary qualifications, or the jobs weren’t any better paid than her current one. The other alternative was heavy labour, something she couldn’t do with her chronic leg injury. Standing and walking for long hours on end were things of the past. She decided to try her luck online instead.
Sarah switched on the computer and looked through vacancies. But there was nothing locally. She sighed again and did a wider search.
“Housekeeper Wanted,” a headline caught her eye. It was a live-in job in Spain, Marbella.
“Light housework, keeping an elderly lady company. Carers and cleaners already present. Job description: Managing staff and household expenses, payment of bills, two days cooking when cook is off.”
Sarah frowned. That sounded lovely, almost too good to be true. She read on.
“Villa with ocean view, private beach.”
Wow! It sounded idyllic. But if she discarded it out of hand because she mistrusted it, she’d never know for sure, one way or the other. Brushing the negative thoughts away and reminding herself that she created her own reality with her negative thinking and lack mentality, which she was sorely fed up with herself, always living from hand to mouth, she decided it was time for a change in her way of thinking. She had to believe that this not only could be true and just as perfect as it sounded but that it actually was. And, moreover, that it was hers!
She quickly wrote a letter and sent her CV, asking about the physical and mental health of the old lady and whether she, Sarah, would be expected to speak Spanish, because she didn’t, but was willing to learn and visit an evening class to be able to better communicate with the locals to perform her duties ever more efficiently and autonomously.
It didn’t take more than fifteen minutes before she received a reply from a Domingo Santos, the man who had put in the job vacancy, saying that she wasn’t expected to speak Spanish, but the fact that she had raised three children to maturity, as she had informed him in her CV, let him hope that she had the patience to deal with a frustrated soul whose mind was still sharp, but whose body was failing her.
The result was that the old lady was quick to anger and had been known to fling teacups at her predecessor who had consequently resigned and left. Domingo ran a company and didn’t have the time to spend several hours a day with the old lady. He never said she was his mother, so Sarah wondered whether she was a relative and if not, why Domingo was looking after her.
When she inquired about the old lady’s interests, he replied she loved literature, loved being read to, but hated audiobooks. And the fact that he described her temper tantrums so honestly gave her a clue about how bad the whole situation had to be and that many had turned down the job or resigned quickly because of it. So rather than throwing a new applicant into the deep end with false promises, Domingo had obviously opted for being truthful in the hope that only those applied who were genuinely capable of handling such a difficult personality as this old lady in question obviously was in possession of. Frustration oozed from his words, but also hope.
Sarah replied that she loved to read. She had worked as a voice over artist for a while, but then moved out of the city and, where she lived now, there were no recording studios, she explained. She further suggested for Domingo to call her, as sending emails back and forth was somewhat tedious and inefficient.
When he did, she answered on the first ring.
“Señor Santos,” she answered the call with a smile.
“Please, call me Dom,” he replied at once.
“I’m Sarah,” she offered in return.
“You do have a nice voice, if I may say so.”
“Thank you. I was told that lots of times, so I guess, it must be true.”
“And you like reading?” Dom asked again to confirm.
“Very much so, yes. In fact, when my children were younger, I used to host a reading circle for children once a week.”
“Oh, lovely. So literature is not alien to you?”
“I can practically reiterate Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice by heart,” she smirked.
“So you like light romance?” he inquired.
“I love the language of the author. She writes, or better, wrote, beautifully. But I do like romance, too. Also historical novels. Although I’m happy to read anything the lady wishes. She’s not your mother?”
Sarah was dying with curiosity about the relationship Dom had with the old lady.
“Uhm, no, you see, she is…well, I don’t live alone, I have a close friend who lives here, too. She’s his mother,” he explained and Sarah wondered why there was a stutter in his voice that had sounded so confident before and concluded that Dom and his “close friend” were most likely a gay couple and he didn’t know what her views on the matter of sexual orientation were.
“It’s very nice of you to care for your partner’s mum so much, Dom,” she offered, wanting to reassure him that she didn’t have a problem working for and living with a gay couple.
“Uhm, we’re not a gay couple. We’re more like a house share. And actually we’re not two, but three. But we’re not messy or loud and we don’t throw wild parties or anything. We’re rather quiet, really, and don’t go out that much at all, only to eat at restaurants, but we don’t party.”
He was eager to reassure her, she heard it in his voice.
“Oh good,” she answered cheerfully. “I mean, about not throwing wild parties. I don’t mind whether you are gay or straight or whatever.”
With three men around, if she ever needed anything heavy lifted, she could always ask one of them. That was all she was concerned about when caring for a frail old lady.
“So I take it, the lady’s son is British?” she asked.
“Yes…no,” Dom began, confusing her further. “I mean, his mother is, but he grew up in the States. His father was in the US Marines and Seb, Sebastian, was in the Navy after college.”
“Interesting. And you went to college in the States?” she asked.
“Yes, I went to study there for a year. It was an exchange program,” he explained.
As he spoke English fluently with only a slight — and very sexy — Spanish accent, Sarah assumed that he wasn’t American or British himself.
“How wonderful. And who is the third gentleman?” Sarah asked.
“That’s Tank. His real name is George, but no one ever uses it. He was with Seb in the Navy and looks rather fearsome due to some scars in his face, but he’s a true gentleman, polite, well-mannered and doesn’t talk much at all. He likes to build things. He’s got a workshop on the grounds where he is most of the time, so you’ll probably only see him at mealtimes. And even then, you have to call to remind him.”
“What kind of things does he build? Machines or surfboards? That’s his job?” she laughed.
“He builds robots for a living. There are mechanical, as well as IT components to it. Don’t ask me, it’s way over my head and he doesn’t talk so much about the details of his work. He’s a member of Mensa, so he’s officially a certified genius,” Dom explained.
That was impressive, Sarah thought. A genius who wasn’t arrogant, but polite and quiet? She had always imagined a genius to be arrogant and feeling superior to ordinary humanity, also high-handed and inconsiderate. But Tank sounded like a quiet, humble person who loved his work so much that he became so immersed in it to the point he forgot everything else around him, including mealtimes.
“What does Seb do?” she asked next. “He’s no longer in the Navy, I take it, or he wouldn’t be living with you in Spain.”
“He’s left a long time ago. He works for the Spanish government, training task force teams as a freelance training instructor,” Dom told her. “Police and military. So he has to travel on occasion, but he’s got his own training center so mostly, people come to him.”
“That’s nice,” Sarah mused. “That way he isn’t away from his mother too often.”
“Uhm…they don’t really talk. I should perhaps tell you, Pearl, his mother, thinks we’re gay and rather than a being a couple…”
He cleared his throat with embarrassment, which made Sarah feel less intimidated.
“She thinks you are living in a gay ménage à trois?” she asked gently.
“And she’s homophobic?” Sarah prodded.
“She tells everyone who comes into her room, she has to live in a perverts’ den,” Dom sighed heavily. “There is no point in hiding this from you. You’ll find out soon enough yourself if you decide to meet her, so you better know upfront what you are getting yourself into.”
Her earlier assumptions had been confirmed by that statement. Pearl wasn’t an easy woman to handle and there was no point in wasting everyone’s time by making her out to be a nice old lady when the truth of the matter was very different. Sarah appreciated honesty over everything else. Beautiful words, however much she liked to read good literature, were one thing, but if they veiled the truth, there would be a very rude awakening and trust would be destroyed. Something she had experienced in the past more than once.
“Oh. That’s very narrow-minded. I mean, even if that was your chosen lifestyle, there is nothing wrong with that. It’s as natural to be gay as it is to be straight. Or any other kind of sexuality between consenting adults that doesn’t damage anyone,” Sarah said to make her view on these matters clear so Dom didn’t have to feel anxious and embarrassed about her reaction any longer.
“Well, thank you. Yes, of course, it is. Only Pearl doesn’t see it that way and she doesn’t believe we’re not gay because we don’t date much. Well, if we do, we don’t bring the ladies home,” he said.
“That’s a good rule,” Sarah agreed. “As long as you’re not serious about someone.”
She was happy to hear that she would not have to contend with an endless string of strange females at the breakfast table, were she to take the job.
“Yeah, well, Tank doesn’t talk much and his facial scar and size put a lot of the ladies off, too, to be honest, I’m always busy and Seb’s got a sick, crazy mother and a strenuous job. He interviews her carers every day when he gets home from work about how she is and so on, but he refuses to go in and speak to her again. And she is just as stubborn.”
So there was a lot of dysfunctional family dynamics there, Sarah thought. In the past, she had also worked with families and children who came from a dysfunctional home and taught both parents and children how to relate better to and communicate with each other. She was sure, she could help here, too.
“I’ll see what I can do about that,” she said.
If she was good at one thing, it was getting people together. Then she realised, she didn’t have the job yet.
“You sound like you’re willing to leave your entire life behind?” Dom asked carefully, but she detected a faint glow of hope in his voice that made her smile instinctively.
“You have no idea how high my heating bills are and I definitely need a new job, anyway,” she answered ruefully.
“Would you like to fly out here for an interview? We’ll pay your travel expenses, of course,” Dom reassured her.
Sarah felt her heart skip a beat and then start pounding quickly with excitement. There was an element of fear of the unknown in it as well. It had not been easy to move out of London to a more rural environment in more ways than one and that had still been in the same country. However, she was determined not to allow her fears to stop her from changing her life for the better. The least she could do for herself was to give herself the chance to fly out and meet the people concerned to see what life was like in Spain in that, admittedly, somewhat unusual household.
“Yes, I’d love to. Just one more question about your ad. You wrote the pay is above competitive rates. How much exactly are we talking?” she asked.
“Why don’t we talk about it when you’ve met Pearl?” Dom suggested quietly. “I promise you, if you say no, it won’t be for financial matters.”
“Ah, she’s that bad, is she?” Sarah asked, making Dom sigh.
“There is no point in lying about it. She is. Tank is Samoan and has some facial tattoos as well, and because the Arabs were here for centuries, I guess, I’ve come out a bit dark…”
“So she is racist, too?” Sarah asked.
“Yes. She’ll love your blonde hair and blue eyes,” Dom said drily.
“And you wouldn’t consider putting her in a care home?”
“Seb wouldn’t do that.”
“But you would?”
“We all agreed that we’ll put up with it. She’s family. We’re as close as brothers, so…”
“That’s extremely noble of you,” Sarah said.
She felt a deep respect for those men’s characters. Being discriminated against racially and sexually in their own home by a person who was solely dependent on them to boot took a lot of love. If not for her, then for their friend. The bond of brotherhood between those three men had to run very deep, which endeared them to her even more. That level of commitment and compassion, this kind of unconditional love for one another was rare when really put to the test. And it was also an ideal she shared herself.
Dom sighed. “She’s in her room, so it’s bearable. Do you still think you want to see our crazy household?”
“I’m quite intrigued, actually. And I think the three of you must be very nice people to honour the Nazi mum so much.”
“Nazi mum?” Dom repeated.
“Well, she sounds like one.”
“I like you, too. When can you come down?”
“I can hop on a plane tonight and return tomorrow night if you like, or I’ll call in sick one day, depending on how long you want me there.”
“Pack your bags. I’ll book you on the evening flight,” Dom said.
He was obviously a man of action, not prone to waiting around and putting things off. Or they were all just that desperate to find someone for Nazi Mum. Either way, Sarah didn’t mind. Having a day’s break in a luxury villa by the ocean in Spain wasn’t exactly a sacrifice, was it?