Excerpt from Maid for More

Below is the first chapter of Maid for More which is coming out September 15, 2023 and is available for preorder.


As she stepped through the gate, the uniformed woman felt the difference in the air, and with each step she took, she felt it push against her. It was as though the very air in the confines of St. Anthony’s Academy knew who and what Rhianna Alexander was and it reacted accordingly.

Still, she plowed on, even when the Caribbean sun that had warmed her honey-brown skin just moments ago, now pelted down on her. Rhianna’s brow sprung beads of sweat and she felt her Sapodilla Resort & Spa uniform start to cling to her body.

She wanted to turn back, every fiber in her being said to scurry back to the other side of St. Paul’s Town to where she belonged. It wasn’t here at the academy where the best education in Redonda could be bought.

Or earned, Rhianna affirmed, taking another grounding step. Sure, she could hop on the bus and return to the capital, then take another one to Gloria’s Supermarket and Baker’s Supplies. She could pretend that she hadn’t gotten the letter from a Mr. Chamberlain concerning Olivia. She could grab a shopping cart and pick up supplies for Teri-Anne’s baby shower. Rhianna didn’t though.

She kept walking along the concrete path that cut the manicured lawn stretching up the hill to the classrooms. Rhianna followed the directions given to her by the security guard. The older man with a ‘you are one of us’ smile had stepped out of his booth and told her, “Go up the path, then turn East and take the steps down. It’s the third classroom on the West.”

He had stepped inside and waved her in, one uniformed person assisting another. In that instant, the anxiety that had been building up in Rhianna since leaving the Sapodilla had eased. That is until she stepped through the gate.

Halfway up the gentle slope, she caught sight of a woman stepping onto the path. Unlike Rhianna, the bronze-skinned woman, thoughtlessly flicked a lock of her blonde hair over her shoulder. Her slender body glided along the path and Rhianna ducked her head, her pinstripe uniform felt like it glowed neon and she dared not catch the woman’s eye.

This woman belonged here. Hell, she paid for here, just like she paid for her Gucci bag. With what she paid each term, the blonde paid for the fully equipped science lab and the history teacher with a Masters. Her money paid for the clear pathways that cut through the school which were good enough to eat off of. She and parents like her paid to walk through the academy like they owned it.

Yet, there is more than one way to get into the exclusive institution, Rhianna tried to remind herself as she passed the woman. Her nose was tickled with the cloud of expensive perfume.

Looking up, she thought of those nights when she would go over lessons with Olivia. Rhianna smiled to herself, grateful that at times, it was her daughter who was teaching her a lesson. She deserves to be here, she affirmed as she reached the top of the path.

And with an academy education, Olivia will have a life nothing like mine, Rhianna nodded her head. She will go on to university and then… Rhianna’s imagination urged her on to classroom D3.

At the door, she looked in but no one was inside. She was sure this was the classroom. She had read the letter enough times to have the important information locked in her mind. Rhianna was about to settle in for a wait outside the classroom when she caught sight of a poster on a far wall. She looked about, soon feeling ridiculous, Rhianna went inside.

Stepping in, she quickly went to the poster. Taking in the illustration and then reading the text, Rhianna was reminded of Ms. Otto’s classroom at Lyndsey Primary School.

The Junior Three teacher had educational posters covering the walls of the classroom. “Even when a child looks away from the front of the classroom, they will end up looking at something educational,” Rhianna had heard the woman who must have been in her fifties tell another teacher.

With a sigh, she went on to another poster. She had loved school so much at that time. Each of the teachers in the small village school took their time and showed interest in their students. When Rhianna had graduated and gone on to Freemont Secondary School, she expected the same level of interest.

The disappointment felt as real now as it had back then when she had started the secondary school that not only educated students from Freemont and Lyndsey but also New Village and Hamilton. Rhianna turned around to look at the classroom that had, what? Twenty something desks. Her class at FSS had twice that and three classes made up the form.

Whatever it was Mr. Chamberlain had to see her about, Rhianna renewed her vow that this was where her daughter belonged. She will get what I expected, she turned back and continued to look at the posters lining the walls.

Hearing footsteps approaching, she steeled herself and looked toward the door in time to see a man come through it. Rhianna froze as he did, taking in the tall man with a powerful build. His vibrant green eyes locked with hers and in them, she saw something she had never seen before, and yet at a gut level, she knew it.

With a shake of his head, he managed a smile as he entered the room and closed the space between them. He shuffled a stack of papers into one hand as he extended the other towards Rhianna.

“Mrs. Alexander?” he broached, his voice lowered, sending vibrations through her, but it was what he said that sent whatever fortifications she had built to fall, crashing Rhianna down to reality.

Looking down at his hand, she stood in a place between nodding to confirm and shaking her head at the title he used. In the end, Rhianna said, “Miss.”

She took his hand, not looking up to see that look given to single mothers. A look not given to the fathers of the very same children. But when his hand closed around hers, so warm and strong, he didn’t let go until she looked up.

When she did, those green eyes held hers with compassion, “It’s nice to meet you, I’m Mr. Chamberlain.” Then he released her hand, “I hope between the two of us, we can keep Olivia at the academy.”

We? A chill was chased by hellfire but Rhianna was too focused on where this statement was coming from to try to figure out what the heat represented.

One of the things Nick prided himself on was being on time. This was not to say he was running late as he crossed the open-air assembly area to the classroom that he considered his office at St. Anthony’s Academy. In fact, as he strode to room D3, he was still relatively early. No thanks to Ms. Brimley.

The older woman was a stalwart of a bygone era who held out on entering her grades into the computer system that could be accessed by all the teachers. Nick had to bite his tongue as she pulled out her trusty binder and leafed through the various segments that designated the classes she taught. Both English A and English B classes had been scanned until Ms. Brimley found Olivia Alexander’s name.

Nick with great patience entered Olivia’s grades for the term thus far into the form he had printed out. Sadly, like the grades for Math, Geography, and quite frankly all her classes, they were barely passing. And as a student on a scholarship, they were far from acceptable.

“I don’t know why you put so much effort into those kids,” the older teacher had muttered as Nick started for the staffroom door.

Choosing to ignore the comment, Nick had long accepted that he and old lady Brimley, as the students called her, would never see eye to eye. If he had decided to answer, Nick would have said that ‘those students’ of all the academy student body belonged here. They were smart and they contributed to St. Anthony’s having most of the top passes at WIEC examinations.

At least those who continue to do well, Nick sighed as he stepped into the hallway that led to the classroom in which he would be meeting with Olivia’s mother.

His thoughts first went to Althea Camacho. She had been at the top of the Common Entrance Exams which had afforded her the pick of any secondary school in Redonda but Althea had chosen to apply to St. Anthony’s. It hadn’t been easy but now she was at Wharton’s School of Business after getting an undergraduate degree at Harvard.

What sense of pride Nick felt in helping Althea prep for the SATS fizzled when he thought of Shaniece O’Neil. Instantly, his anger grew at how the small but brilliant girl had been bullied over things that were out of her control. Last Nick had heard of Shaniece she had gone to a government school and had gone on to a university in Cuba.

But how far could she have gone if– Nick came to an abrupt halt as he entered through the doorway of room D3. His eyes locked with a dark-skinned woman wearing what Nick recognized as a Sapodilla Resort housekeeping uniform. Instantly, he recognized her as Olivia’s mother but he hadn’t prepared to meet with someone so…

With a shake of his head, he didn’t let the thought form and Nick continued into the room. He reminded himself that she was a parent of one of his students. A student who is coming close to losing her scholarship.

He juggled the papers in his hands as he approached her, her deep brown eyes assessing him. To his surprise, Nick wondered to what conclusion she was coming.

“Mrs. Alexander?” was all he could come up with to say. But the way the light in those eyes dimmed before they dropped to the hand he offered, Nick winced at his clumsy opening. So, he waited for a response.

Infinity passed disguised in seconds and once more, Nick wondered what Olivia’s mother was thinking. For some reason, he valued this woman’s musing and not only because she was the mother of an intelligent student.

“Miss,” she took his hand and if it weren’t for the papers in his other hand, Nick would have clasped it around her soft but firm grasp. The only thing he could do was hold on until… until what? Nick wasn’t sure.

Then she looked up and her gaze was connection enough for Nick to let go. “It’s nice to meet you. I’m Mr. Chamberlain,” he forced himself to remember that he was her daughter’s teacher. “I hope between the two of us, we can keep Olivia at the academy.”

At first, Ms. Alexander stared at him, then with a blink of her eyes what timidity that had taken over them drained away. Her eyebrows had arched and her eyes grew sharp as she regarded him.

Then with a steely tone of voice, she asked, “Keep Olivia at the academy? What exactly are you saying, Mr. Chamberlain?”

Taken aback, Nick started to wonder how this meeting was going to proceed. Normally students who attended the academy on scholarship had parents who fell into three camps. The parents who ruled over their children’s lives and the students attending St. Anthony’s were more a reflection on the adults than on the child’s personal capacity. Then some parents could care less, this left the child to forge their way. A lucky few of these students had another adult who was championing them. Then there were the rare few parents who worked alongside their children. Althea Camacho and her family fell into that last batch.

Nick feared that Ms. Alexander fell into the first batch. And yet, Olivia had done so well in her first term at the academy. In fact, she was top of the class. Nick recalled seeing pride in the seventh grader’s eyes.

Eyes like those that pinned Nick down, waiting for a reply.

“If you will,” he motioned toward the teacher’s desk. As he pulled two chairs to the front of the desk, Nick continued, “The truth is Olivia is barely passing her classes and if she continues, she will lose her scholarship.”

He saw the mother’s body tense as he waved her over. Placing the chairs across from each other, he took his seat as he set the stack of papers on the desk. “Ms. Alexander,” he looked up at her drawn face. “If you will,” he motioned once more to the other chair.

She looked across at it as though seeing it for the first time. Then she slowly walked over and sat down, looking back at Nick, her brows knitted together as her hands gripped the strap of her bag.

“I don’t understand,” she looked away. “She came first in her class last term,” Nick saw her trying to make sense of it.

This made him conclude that nothing had changed at home, so the dip in grades had to come from the academy. He thought of Shaniece. He had suspicions but until he saw something or the student reported it, there was nothing he could do. Then again, Nick studied Olivia’s mother, maybe there was something at home.

A single mother can only know so much about what happens between when she left for work and when she returned home. A child may be book smart but what of the world beyond one’s studies.

That, too, was beyond Nick’s control. He looked across at his stack of papers and took up the form on the top of it. “Ms. Alexander,” when she looked his way, Nick handed her the sheet. He noticed the sheet shake slightly but he didn’t comment on it, instead, he continued with his plan to inform the parent of his concerns.

“So, what are you saying,” she looked up at Nick after he concluded. “What can be done to ensure Olivia goes back into the scholarship range?”

“I was hoping we could work something out,” Nick braced his forearms on his knees. “Has… has anything changed at home,” he measured his words.

“Changed at home?” Ms. Alexander cocked her head to the side.

“Yes,” he raised his palms then clamped his hands between his knees. “Have you moved? Has Olivia become withdrawn? Has there been an… introduction of a new person into the household?” he left it there as any other consideration would be crossing a line that would invite conflict.

Still, that line had been crossed with Ms. Alexander’s lips pursing and her eyes becoming razor edges. “No, nothing has changed since last term,” her words were singed with indignation.

Quickly, Nick said, “It’s something I have to ask. I don’t want to see a student with so much promise leave the academy for any reason.”

“My daughter is not leaving St. Anthony’s,” her back straight, Ms. Alexander raised her chin and leveled a gaze at Nick. “Thank you for informing me,” she rose to her feet with a grace and purpose that took Nick off guard.

“But we haven’t come up with a plan,” he shot to his feet as Ms. Alexander strode toward the door.

“Oh, I have a plan,” she threw over her shoulder. “Don’t worry, Mr. Chamberlain,” the woman in the Sapodilla uniform turned in the doorway. “You will see a change in Olivia’s grades.”

Before he could ask how, she was through the door. By the time Nick got there, Ms. Alexander was stalking down the hallway with a sense of mission. A part of him was worried for Olivia.

He had no doubt of the mother’s claim but he questioned her methods. All he could do was hope that Ms. Alexander was not the type of mother who went the route of corporal punishment.

Turning back to the classroom, he played back his interaction with Olivia’s mother, trying to pick up on any indications of her disciplinary style. But that assessment got sidelined when Nick noticed the arrangement of the chairs he had set up for them.

Every time he had met with a parent, Nick would sit behind his desk. What was different this time? Before the answer could fully form. Nick said out loud, “She is the parent of my student.”

Then he replaced the chairs, doing away with the proof that he was lying to himself.

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