What. Was. I. Thinking?!
When Mrs. Brown called me in a panic and explained that her sitter came down with the flu, they (I assumed ‘they’ meant her and her husband) had to be at a MAJOR benefit for her company, and that even though it was last minute, she needed someone to watch her “babies” as she called them, I immediately wanted to help!
Who wouldn’t? She sounded pitiful.
Mrs. Brown was maybe in her late twenties, so she couldn’t have too many kids. Maybe two or three?
I’m sixteen. How hard could it be to watch a couple kids for a few hours, right?
Well, that was my train of thought this morning.
But I never did think about who the kids were. I didn’t know their names, their ages, anything!
I hadn’t even realized that she was married, much less had kids, until she called me this morning. I had never seen her husband or children at church, where I usually saw her. I guess I don’t really know Ginger Brown as well I had thought.
What have I gotten myself into?
Well, it’s too late to change anything now. I thought as I walked up the steps to their house.
I raised my hand and knocked. I waited a moment, before hearing a squawk and a loud snort. I was startled, but didn’t have time to register what I had just heard before the door was thrown open, revealing the red-haired green eyed woman who was my employer for the day.
“Faith!” she said breathlessly. “Thank goodness you are here!”
“Hello, Mrs. Brown.” I smiled. “You look gorgeous!”
She stood a little straighter in her red and white embellished cocktail dress, and smiled back, her makeup done perfectly. She was beautiful without makeup, but she looked stunning with it. “Thank you, darling. And please, call me Ginger. Mrs. Brown was my mum.” Did I forget to mention that Ginger had an English accent? Hm, I wondered if her husband was English too. . .
“Of course, Mrs. Brown- Ginger.” I corrected myself and kept up the smile. I loved her name (because it matched her ginger hair), and she was such a sweet lady.
“Please, come in!” She welcomed me inside. I looked around, but something just wasn’t right. Then I realized why. There were no sounds of children. Even the quietest kids made noise, or at least giggled on occasion. But there was nothing. I pondered this fact while looking around for any sign of the kids- just as a fat miniature pig rounded the corner and walked by us, staring up at me with his squished-in face. I yelped. Ginger turned to face me, the smile never leaving her face. “Oh, don’t worry dear. That’s just Ricky.” She squatted by the pig and began to scratch his head. He closed his eyes and flopped over on his side.
My eyes widened as he twitched. “Um, is he alright?”
“Oh, yeah.” Ginger stood and brushed off her knees. “He does that when he’s happy. Scratch him between the eyes and he’ll be your friend for life.”
I nodded, unsure of what else to do.
“Now, come meet the rest of my babies,” she said as she smiled brightly. The rest? We hadn’t met the first one, unless she meant- I looked down at the twitching pig.
What exactly did I volunteer for?
“Oh, here comes Lucy!” Ginger cooed, bending over behind me.
I turned around and stifled a scream. A ginormous rat sat behind me!
“This is Lucy,” Ginger told me as the rat climbed up her outstretched arm to her shoulder. Not a rat, I realized. A ferret. “Our little troublemaker.” The ferret wrapped itself around her neck. Ginger stood back up and continued walking, her silver heels clicking on the wood floor.
“What did you do this time, Lucy?!” came a loud voice, with a Cuban accent.
“Oh yes!” Ginger grinned and hurried into the living room. I followed, my eyes still on the ferret on her shoulder. “Come on out, Hugo!” she called. A bird flew out and landed on a perch. Then-
“Hello, Ethel!” he said with a perfect imitation of Lucy, on the show “I Love Lucy”.
My jaw dropped. “Did that bird just talk like Lucy Ricardo?”
“Yup,” Ginger grinned proudly. “Hugo is an African Gray parrot. He is beyond smart. In fact, we named him Hugo because it means intelligent. His favorite show is “I Love Lucy”, so he is always going around the house quoting lines.” She seemed lost in thought for a moment. “There is only one more baby you need to meet.” She walked to the corner of the room and stooped down to stick her hands inside a wadded up blanket. She removed them and walked back over. She held a chubby hedgehog in her hands. He rolled over to face me and gave his two little black eyes a big blink, his eyelashes long.
“Awww,” I cooed. I couldn’t resist!
“This is Dolly. Our baby hedgehog. She’s the most cuddly, despite the spines.” Ginger’s eyes twinkled.
So, not a ‘he’ after all. “She’s adorable!” I squealed, rubbing Dolly between the eyes. The hedgehog’s lashes fluttered in pleasure.
A very young man with ginger hair and bright green eyes hurried down the hall, fixing the lapels of his suit. I could tell that by the carefree grin on his face and the sparkle in his eyes, I was going to like this other half of the Brown couple a little better. Less eccentric, by the looks of things. “Ging, are you ready to leave? We don’t want to be late.” He spoke to Ginger. Yup, he had an English accent as well. And he and Ginger looked surprisingly alike.
She checked the clock on the wall. Her eyes widened. “Of course! Um, Faith, this is my brother Eli. Eli, this is our sitter, Faith.” Okay, so they aren’t a couple. I was wondering about the look-alike, and the age difference. Ginger looked to be in her late twenties while this man couldn’t be more than nineteen or twenty. Ginger spoke again, and I turned my eyes to her instead. “Now, they have all been fed, Dolly loves to be cuddled, Hugo will probably just want to watch “I Love Lucy”, all the seasons are in the cabinet below the TV, Ricky will probably flop down somewhere and sleep, and if you have any gold jewelry on, you will want to take it off. Lucy will have it off you in a two seconds flat. She has some weird addiction to gold jewelry. The bathroom is right down the hall, and the kitchen is fully stocked with whatever you need.” She rushed her words as she put on her coat. She turned and waved, before going out the door and getting in the car.
Eli smiled apologetically. “I’m so sorry. She insists on always having someone with her ‘babies’. I’ve lived with her since we lost our parents last year, and since I’m seventeen, not an adult, and living under her roof, I can’t say anything against her ‘babies’. I’m really sorry about this-“
“Oh, no, it’s fine!” I waved it off, even though I was panicking inside. “How hard can it be, right?”
Eli gave me a look like ‘Yeah, sure. Good luck’ before waving and walking out to get in the pristine white car with his sister.
I removed my gold heart necklace, and placed it in my purse.
Here we go.
I have been here an hour, and the most eventful thing that has happened was Hugo deciding to sing the “I Love Lucy” theme song, which is now videoed and safely stored on my phone.
I got up off the couch, Dolly squeaking from my lap, protesting. “It’s okay, Dolly. I’ll be right back. I’m just going to the bathroom.” I set her down carefully on the couch, the chubby baby still curled up in a ball.
I walked down the hall, and realized there was not one, but three doors. I couldn’t decide which one to open, since two were closed, and one was cracked, I chose the one that was cracked.
I stumbled into a bedroom. Once I got steady, I looked around, noticing a open jewelry box with gold jewelry strewn around the dresser. I could see where Lucy got her obsession. Her mom.
I knew I shouldn’t be in here, and began to back up, making sure to close the door with the crack still open.
Okay, on to room number two.
I opened the door right beside it, and saw that I was in a boy’s bedroom. Eli’s, I realized. The camo comforter and deer pictures on the wall gave it away.
Welp, this definitely wasn’t the bathroom. I turned to leave, but stopped when I heard a low growl. I turned slowly and looked at the corner of the room. Down beside the dresser, there was a dog kennel hidden in the shadow. I couldn’t see what was inside, and crept a little closer-
I heard the growl again, even louder. I bolted out the door, shutting it and leaning up behind it, breathing heavy from nerves. Did they forget to tell me about another pet?
This pet didn’t seem so friendly.
I walked to the other side of the hall and went in the bathroom, not noticing the bedroom door cracking open as my weight left it.
Nor the curious ferret rounding the corner, staring at the doors in anticipation.
I was washing my hands with lavender soap as I heard a little squeal by the door.
I hurried out the door, only to trip over a fleeing ferret. When I looked from where I was laying on the floor, all I saw was a frightened Lucy, scampering around, covered in gold jewelry all the way from nose to tail. What is happening?!
She turned on her back legs like a meerkat, and looked behind me. She yelped again, and took off running to the living room, the jewelry clinking. I looked behind me and saw a large cat. And when I say ‘large cat’, I mean it looked over three feet long and about sixty pounds! I stared at it, and it stared back with beautiful gray eyes. It had pointed ears, no sign of a tail, and beautiful gray, tan, and black hair. I noticed the navy blue collar it had around its neck, and slowly eased forward. It was obviously a pet, and the quicker I got on good terms with this beast, the quicker I could get it back in its cage. By the time I was almost close enough to touch it, I held out my hand, palm down, in front of her nose instead.
She leaned forward and sniffled, before licking my hand like a dog. I sighed in relief and scooted a little closer. I ran my hand over her soft head, and she purred loudly. I picked up the tag on the collar and read it.
“Hello, Gatlin.” I smiled. She looked up at me innocently. “What exactly are you?” I murmured. She climbed into my lap, and I let out an oomph. She was heavy! “Gatlin!” I groaned. “No no!” I pushed her off and pulled out my phone. I had to figure out what this thing was.
I googled ‘big cats that can be owned as pets’. The first thing that popped up looked identical to Gatlin.
What kind of siblings were the Browns? What was with all the exotic animals? A pig (though that wasn’t very exotic here in Tennessee), a hedgehog and a ferret (neither of those were exotic either, but they were still strange to have!), an African Gray parrot, and a lynx!
Wow. It was like a zoo here!
I heard Gatlin growl, but before I could turn around and see what she was growling at, she bounded out of my lap and down the hall.
“Gatlin!” I called, scrambling to my feet and following her.
I heard a squeal, and Ricky tore past me and hid in the bathroom.
I ran into the living room, and stared in horror.
Gatlin stood proudly with Lucy hanging in her mouth, Dolly had hidden in the cushions of the couch somewhere, and Hugo just stared at me from his perch.
He opened his mouth and said in Ethel’s voice, “Ooooh, I don’t like that face. What are you thinking, Lucy?”
I would have burst out in laughter, had I not been freaking out.
“I killed my employer’s ferret,” I murmured in shock.
“Gatlin! You dern cat! Why’d you have to go and catch Lucy?!” Hugo screeched, mimicking Eli’s voice. In the hour I had, I had done research on the animals I was watching. African Gray parrots only mimicked lines that they have heard before, they can not come up with their own lines.
So obviously this had happened before. But if Gatlin had caught Lucy before, how was she not-
She perked up and wriggled in the cat’s mouth, frightening me. I screamed and jumped back.
My jaw hung open, and I eased forward. I slowly slid the now-slimy, still gold-covered, ferret from the lynx’s loosened jaws. She wriggled in my hands, but when Gatlin growled again, she stilled. I removed the gold from her body, and held her close to my chest, breathing a sigh of relief.
“How am I going to get you clean?” I whispered, panicking. How was I supposed to explain all this to Eli and Ginger? I pulled out my phone (after wiping the drool from my hand on my jeans) and googled how to bathe a ferret. All I could gather, was you do it like a dog. Soap them down in the tub, and rinse them off. But like a cat, don’t drop it. They can’t swim.
So I made my way to the bathroom once again and knelt on the bathroom mat. I grabbed a hand towel (for drying off the drowned rat-looking ferret, once it was clean) and turned on the water in the tub. I heard a squeal coming from the cabinet under the sink. I cautiously set down the ferret on the bathroom mat and opened the cabinet. Out wriggled a once-stuck Ricky and he flopped into my arms. I groaned. He may be a miniature, but he sure didn’t look or weigh it!
Gatlin caught sight of him from the doorway as I stood, and her eyes narrowed. She leaped into mid-air and onto my chest, knocking me off balance. . .
And into the quickly filling tub.
“Gatlin!” I screeched, soaking wet and covered in soap suds, sitting in the tub. Gatlin squalled, upset about being wet, and Ricky squealed continually, probably because he was stuck once again, this time unable to get out of the tub instead of the cabinet.
My head hurt.
I sat on the couch, toweling off not only Lucy, but Ricky and Gatlin as well. I didn’t have very long before the Browns came home, and it took me over half an hour to use Ginger’s blow dryer to dry off my clothes. I had thought about texting her and asking if she had any t-shirts and shorts I could borrow, but then I remembered that Ginger wasn’t exactly the t-shirt and shorts type of girl.
Once Gatlin and Ricky were dry (Gatlin looked a little fluffier, but other than that, she looked normal. Ricky. . . well, he still had his coarse pig hair.) I had to be a little more careful with Lucy, since she was smaller.
Who knew a ferret could fluff up like that when getting dried? She looked like a poofy poodle.
I had already removed all the jewelry tangled around the slender body, washed it, and put it back in the room.
Hugo continued to spout off “I Love Lucy” lines, like “Why Mrs. Ricardo, are you alright?” in a really high pitched lady’s voice. (He said that one when I was trying to dry my clothes with the blow dryer.) All of them were pretty appropriate for the occasion. Gotta admit, the bird had good timing.
Gatlin sat beside me on the couch, eyeing Lucy while the ferret scooted as far from
Gatlin as she could get.
Car lights flashed behind me, notifying me of the Brown siblings’ arrival.
Wait, Gatlin! She was in her cage when they left!
I set Lucy down on the couch, grabbed Gatlin’s collar, and pulled her down the hall. She meowed in protest, and I had to pick her up to get her back in Eli’s room. Wait, if he didn’t like Ginger’s pets, why was Gatlin in his room? Well, I could figure that out later. I petted her head one last time and shut the cage door.
I was hurrying back down the hall when the door opened, revealing-
“Babies! I’m home!” Ginger declared as she exploded into the room.
Lucy scrambled off the couch and went to greet her, as did waddling Ricky. Hugo just squawked out in a Cuban accent “Honey! I’m home!” Dolly wriggled on the couch in anticipation, but didn’t move from her place.
I gave a shy smile as Eli removed his suit jacket and shook my hand. A moment too long, I thought.
“How did my lovelies do?” Ginger asked me as she cuddled Lucy to her neck.
“Just fine,” I replied politely.
Eli leaned a little closer. “How did they actually do?” He whispered with a twinkle in his eye.
“Gatlin thought Lucy was a fun toy to play with.” I whispered without moving my lips, my smile still plastered on.
His eyes widened and he chuckled. He made sure that Ginger wasn’t listening when he replied. “My sister has her babies, and I have mine. How do you like my lynx?” He grinned.
“Gatlin is yours?” I gaped.
“Yeah. But the question is, how did she get out?” He raised his eyebrows.
I turned a dark scarlet. “I was looking for the bathroom.” I mumbled. “I accidentally left yours and your sister’s doors open, and Lucy got inside. She got into the Ginger’s gold jewelry and let Gatlin out,” I admitted.
He pretended to cough to hide his laughter. “And your wet hair?”
Oops. I had forgotten to dry off that part. “Let’s just say we all got a bath, and Ricky is now terrified of Gatlin, me, and the tub.”
He laughed again. He held out his pinkie. “I won’t tell Ging, if you won’t?” He grinned. “Our little secret?”
I hooked my pinkie on his. “Our little secret,” I agreed.
And for four years, Ginger never knew a thing. Until the day of mine and Eli’s wedding.
Then someone, I won’t mention his name, (psst! It was Eli.) spilled everything about our meeting when he gave his little speech to me at the reception. The guests thought it was hilarious, but my maid of honor (aka, one Ginger Elizabeth Brown) was a little bit appalled. And we may or may not have had to make a quick getaway in his car due to being chased around the church with Ginger running and throwing rice at us.
We had to go back later for the luggage and Gatlin.
Surprisingly, Gatlin (our ring cat, per my request) survived Ginger’s wrath.
Just like I survived babysitting at the Brown’s.
(Written by Lorryn Holt)