‘But what will I have to do?’ Patricia asked. Her cheeks were flushed, a deep rosy red and she was wringing her hands.
‘Oh, it’s nothing too dramatic,’ Mr Burns replied. ‘Pretty cushy, really. Answer telephone calls, grab morning tea orders from staff and phone them through to the cafe. Stationery orders. Greet visitors, sign them in. That sort of thing.’
Patricia gulped. It all sounded very dramatic to her.
‘Pat—I can call you Pat, can’t I?—’ Mr Burns didn’t wait for her to confirm. ‘I know you can do it. I wouldn’t have offered it to you otherwise.’
Patricia wasn’t so sure. Mr Burns was a neighbour to her parents. She’d grown up around him, he’d probably even changed her nappy once or twice. Patricia had been close with his daughter, Anastasia, until…
A shiver went through Patricia’s body. Mr Burns noticed, but ignored it. Politely. He was a nice man, she thought. There’d been a lot lately that he’d chosen to overlook.
‘You know, Pat,’ he continued. ‘I think very highly of you. Always have. I’ve felt bad for what took place between you and Ana.’ He cleared his throat. ‘And this is a way I can make it up to you.’
Patricia nodded and curved her lips into a small smile. ‘OK.’
‘Can you start tomorrow?’
‘I guess.’ Patricia was reminded that since Ana’s accident, she sat in her parent’s home, blinds drawn and watched Netflix on the couch. Her mum had stopped asking her to get some fresh air weeks ago. Her dad stared sadly at her, helpless and depressed.
‘How is Ana?’ Patricia asked abruptly. She wrung her hands; tears ran down her cheeks. ‘I feel like I should have visited her.’
‘No need, Pat,’ Mr Burns responded. ‘She’s in an ivory tower, metaphorically and literally. She won’t even know you’re there.’
‘It’s all my fault,’ Patricia whispered, wiping her nose with the back of her hand.
‘Hey.’ Mr Burns held Patricia’s shoulders, his arms outstretched. ‘No one blames you, Pat. It was an accident. Ana was driving. Ana was irresponsible. It’s lucky she didn’t kill anyone.’
‘Will she ever come home?’
‘Not anytime soon. She’ll be in the centre for years, I suspect. If she comes home, we need to organise a carer. Mrs Burns and I aren’t getting any younger.’ Mr Burns rubbed Patricia’s shoulders. ‘Now, how’d you like me to take you lunch? Celebrate your new job?’
‘That’d be nice. Thanks Mr Burns.’
‘Pat, I think you need to start calling me John.’