Oh no, I’m late again. Old woman shout if she sees me enter. Kaiwan sir good. Understanding. Knows problems. Today I tell him I leave work in few days. Torture working for old woman. Day by day, she keep forgetting and makes me scared.

Kaiwan sir opens the door. Tells me to cook lunch. I tell him can’t work anymore. He upset. Tell me to think about it. I say ok. Don’t want to fight morning morning.

Time to work.

First sweep. Where she kept broom? Mad lady, search broom now. In the kitchen… no. Under sofa… no. Kaiwan sir’s room… no. Old woman room? Not going there. Will sweep later. Now wash utensils.

So dirty… what to cook for lunch? The non-stick pan become sticky. Scrub… scrub… let me check fridge for vegetables. What that woman eat anyway? Smell food and make face. So many vessels… so much time it takes. I’ll cook mixed vegetables…

Oh… Phone ringing, can’t answer. Hands dirty. Let it ring. Finish work fast before she get up. Have to heat milk also. Where is the pot? Here… Heat milk, wash vessels, cook lunch and go… Heat milk, wash vessels, cook lunch and go… No… sweeping and swabbing also left… Oh God, please don’t wake up old woman now.

‘Who is that? Who is that?’ here she comes. Oh God, you never listen my prayers. Aunty, it’s me, Smita, I yell. No response. Hope she sleep again.

Washing done. Milk heated. Now cook. Here… cauliflower, potato, tomato, capsicum… only this much? Never mind, cook fast and leave. I call Kaiwan sir and tell, I don’t come from tomorrow. Earn less, stay safe. Old woman very scary. Lakshmi made me take this work. Only few days. Old woman very good, she say. She good before, now becoming mad. What is this? Socks? Oh God, old woman keep socks in fridge. And book also. I cook and go.

What are you doing? Old woman suddenly shout from behind. I scared. Drop everything from fridge. Loud noise… thief… thief… she shout… I pick up everything. She gone. Thank God!

My baby need good school. So I work. Husband drink and drink. No work. I throw him out of house. He come back. Where did the potato go? Forget it, not put potato. Cook very fast and run from here. Ah! My back paining. Knee also paining. Only thirty and everything paining. What happen when become old? No use to see doctor. He tell do exercise. Where is time to do exercise?

What noise is that? Old woman come with broom. Broom was in her room. Good I did not check. I saw a boy flying on broom in Missus Khanna’s house. Her son full day watching TV. Thief, thief… she shout. I no thief, I Smita, maid… your maid… I yell. She come to me and whack me with broom… Aahhh… Shireen aunty, no thief, no thief. Stop hitting.

Need to run to the door. Door locked… why not opening… Oh no… mad woman kill me. Help…Help… I shout. No neighbors. Alone flat… My baby at home… mad woman behind me with broom… she need to go hospital. I need to go home…

I turn to see her. She stand with broom and knife and smile at me. How she got knife? Oh god save me… Old woman become smart now… But I’m not thief.

Shireen aunty, I tell her nicely. I no thief, just a maid. Cook, clean, wash vessels and go. She stare and stare. You thief, she tell me. I pull my hair. Call Kaiwan sir. Phone in bag. My bag? Oh no… She has it… She not mad, she very smart… you are not a thief? She tell me, then what is all this in your bag? Phone, money, gold bangles…

Phone mine, I tell. Money bangles not mine. I don’t know who put. I say. She must have put… forgot her bag and put in mine. How to tell her? She have broom and knife… Broom okay, knife dangerous. She coming closer with knife. Husband drink at home, one bottle and ten bottles… Shireen aunty coming to kill me… door not opening… the potato got lost… Aahhhhh!

She hit me with broom again. Point knife at me. I tell her you call police. They catch me. She laugh… Like a proper mad woman. I very scared. She tell me police will not do anything, I will punish you in my own way, I hate thieves.

But I’m only a maid. Have to save my life. Flower vase nearby. I hit the mad old woman on head. She scream and fall. What did I do? Oh no, if she dead, I also dead. What of my baby. Khanna aunty work who do? She pay me also nice. Give clothes, food… call Kaiwan sir. Old woman dead? No no… Check the door now… come on door… open… open… aha! It’s open. I run?

Need to take my purse and phone… money and gold bangles? Take and run. Police will catch. Why catch? I tell real thief came, hit me. They believe me. No neighbors. But they not stupid.

I call Kaiwan sir. Yes. That a good idea. So I call him. Tell him aunty think I thief and run behind me with broom and knife. Slip and fall. Flower vase fall on head. Little blood coming out. Kaiwan sir nice, he believe me. Tell me to call ambulance. Gave number. I call.

My head spinning. All work pending. Shireen aunty breathing. I got saved. Money, bangles I take and hide in purse. Will help in baby school. No showing husband. When doctor will come. I feel giddy. I not cooking, who will eat?

Doctor come, Kaiwan sir also come. Check aunty, take her to hospital. Good. Now better to keep her there. I feel bad. But she point knife to me, so I hit. I don’t tell no one. Not even husband. Secret till dead.

Kaiwan sir look sad. He go with doctor. I alone. Take broom and clean up mess. Do all my work. Good no one check my purse.

Tomorrow new day. I join Mehra aunty’s work. She need new maid. I meet her now only. Sorry Shireen aunty. Hope she get well.

Done with mad woman. I safe now. Huh.

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Written by Arva Bhavnagarwala

In between being patient with her two boys and seeing patients as a pediatrician, Arva manages to scribble a few words here and there. The words turn into stories and she gets an adrenaline rush when the stories strike a chord with the readers.