Song 1 ♪ My Way or Take a Hike

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When your life is more about the stick than the carrot, you expect to be hit by the damn carrot too.

This programming was so engrained in me that I was not shocked that ma forgot I had the Trinity High interview screening on the day not one, but two of her girls flaked out of cleaning a mansion in Winter Park. And she thought I could just sub in. No problem.

"Problem," I told her as she tried to usher me out of the gringo's house. "I have my interview today."

My mum brushed her sleek hair back and rested her hand on the neat bun at the top of her head, looking at me like I was speaking in tongues. Her blue maid uniform was crisp and clean, and it took her a few seconds to realize I was wearing my church dress instead of the maid one. She looked down all the way to the only pair of strappy sandals I owned.

"Vera Maria," she started in the same tone of voice she used to scold me for eating too much. "What in the world are you talking about and why aren't you in your uniform?"

My cheek twitched, and I couldn't begin to say if it was because I wanted to smile in that awkward way people do when encountered with an uncomfortable situation, or if it was because I wanted to scream.

You know what? It was totally the latter.

"Ma, I can't join you today. I have the interview at noon."

She put her hands on her hips with the same look her face took on before she bent down to take out the chancla. "It's 8am, we'll be done before your thing. And besides, we'll be close by."

I fiddled with the hem of my dress. The last part was true, at least. "Yes, but we definitely won't be done before my interview. This house was supposed to be a whole day job with three people and now we're two."

Her chin jutted out. "Exactly, and if you don't help me it will only be me, and it either will take me an entire week to clean a seven bedroom home with six and a half bathrooms and a pool house, or I'll have to drop the job last minute and lose the client. Which is it gonna be?"

"Ay, ma," I said with a cringe. I hated when she made me feel small and stupid. "I'm sorry, I just-"

She turned around and grabbed her bag and basket of supplies. "Get changed and I'll wait for you in the car."

"But, ma-"

With a glance over her shoulder she said, "Don't worry, you won't miss your interview. I don't know why you even want to try to suck up to those fancy people because they won't accept you, but I'll let you try so that at least I can tell you te lo dije afterwards."

My lips pursed to hold back the words I'd have liked to say, but I've never talked back at my ma and I wouldn't start on the day I needed her to cooperate the most. I just nodded and went back into my room, quickly changing into my maid uniform and putting my nice clothes in a bag to bring with me. I was determined to look my best for the interview because, even though they knew I came from this neck of the woods based off of my application, the interviewers at least had to know that I was a responsible person who made an effort. And ma was, too, which was why I couldn't just tell her that no, I wouldn't help because my plans were more important than hers.

I sat on the passengers' seat and we didn't speak a word the entire ride. I pulled the masses of curls atop my head into as best a tight bun as I could and that served to distract me. It was a good thing, too, because I was sure to work up a sweat and didn't want my hair to get all sticky and limp.

I watched as the scenery changed from the small and run down houses of our barrio to old and affluent ones. When I was younger I used to imagine the kind of people who lived in each of the houses. A blue Victorian style house definitely was owned by a couple of hot shot surgeons. The yellow ranch style overseeing the lake was the property of a Hollywood superstar who only visited once during the summers, and loved to spend time at the parks incognito. We almost never met the people we cleaned houses for and ma never told me if she knew who they were. It was much more fun to just fill in the blanks in my mind.

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