4fe 54 – Connect
The phone rang one, two, three rings before the woman picked it up. She was someone well known, someone whose voice was familiar to everyone, and everyone’s voices were familiar to her, even though she had never seen any of these people’s faces.
-Hi! I’d like to make a call to James Wilkes, at the Cavendish house in London…
Ah, this girl again. How often had it been now, every day? Surely this girl was desperate. The woman sighed inside her mind before telling her what she had told her all week.
-I’m sorry, miss, but as I’ve told you many times I doubt a noble will let you talk to them. I can get you through, but I can assure you, you’ll be back to talking to me in no time.
-Then let me talk to Rosaria Brooks. She works there.
-Alright, alright… I’ll connect you, but I can’t guarantee anything.
She clicked a few buttons on the console in front of her with expert fingers. Part of her loved the sounds and feeling the machine would do, part of her did it without even looking, by habit, automatically. Other than these noises, the place she was at was dark and silent. She was alone here.
The call connected and she could see, thanks for a few lights on the machine, that it was ringing on the other side. She wondered if they’d pick up or even accept to talk to her this time. She wondered what this girl’s story was, who James and Rosaria were, but she would probably never know. Her phone ringed again and, as she was used to, waited three rings to make sure the person hadn’t called by mistake, before picking it up.
-Good evening, deary! How are you tonight?
-Mr. Caldwell, I told you many times, this is a service.
-Argh, no, no, no! Don’t call me mister Caldwell, I told you! Jake, Jake!! I’ll rip out your vocal cords if you keep this on!
-Sir, I do hope you are aware of talking to a phone right now?
She rubbed her forehead in an attempt to ease her now growing headache. What was up with this man, calling her every week for small talk? He had this peculiar voice, flowing as he talked, and she often found herself picturing her words as if they were some kind of river. She wondered if he lived on his own, if he was lonely. Lights flashed on the console.
-Madam, I will forgive you this time, but please do let me take you for some tea!
-I’m sorry to interrupt, sir, but there is another call. Can you hang on for a moment?
-Oh, sure thing, dear, I’ll be right here!
Not as if you really had anything better to do, right? She thought with a sigh, before picking up the other call. It was the Evans girl from before.
-Is there anything I can do to get through…? Please, I really need to talk to them!
-I’m sorry miss, but unless you write a letter or get there yourself, if they keep on refusing your phone calls, I’m pretty sure they are the only other options.
-Getting there myself…
-May I help you with anything else?
-No, thank you!
-Have a nice evening, thank you for calling.
She hung up and checked the lights again. All of them were turned off, meaning there was no call pending. Maybe that man had given up after all. She sat back in her chair and closed her eyes for a moment, enjoying her small break and relaxing. It was a pretty rare occurrence that there wouldn’t be a single call for a single minute, but then again, she guessed, it was late and the rich were probably eating supper as of now, while the poor were thinking about heading to sleep. These were all patterns she could watch over, by looking who would make phone calls and when. People were interesting to observe, and their routines were entertaining. She checked her watch and sat up. Jake would be calling back any second now… and there we go.
-How are you, my lovely, that other business done with, yet?
-Sir, you can’t keep on doing this…
-Did that girl from out of town called again?
She hit her forehead with her fist. She wasn’t supposed to tell him that! She sighed a bit and rubbed her neck, frowning the way a kid would if he’s pouting. She didn’t know who that man was, but somehow he would always manage to make her say things she shouldn’t. She really wished she wouldn’t get in trouble for this… At least he didn’t seem to work for the police.
-Where did you say she was calling again? Maybe I should check it out… You know, tell them a lovely lady is trying to get in touch with them.
-Really? Why would you waste your time putting your nose in a stranger’s business?
-Oh, just out of curiosity, you know.
-Are all artists that way, or is it just you?
There was a strange laugh on the other end of the line and she couldn’t help but smile in the darkness. She wasn’t certain why, but something inside of her told her that answering his questions was the right thing to do. Something told her that helping him out, and the girl at the same time, wasn’t such a bad thing. Sure he was weird, but he didn’t really hit her as some kind of paedophile or anything. She was so used to his voice now…
Besides, if she did tell him where to check, she’d be able to tell that girl that someone would help her out. Some kind of excitement coursed through her fingers, as if she was taking part of some kind of great mystery, just like the ones in the novels she loved to read so much. Going against the rules of her employment seemed like such a little offence compared to it… Surely if it worked out fine, nobody would get in trouble.
The woman didn’t mean any harm, though some kind of naivety kept her from thinking too much about the huge consequences her acts might have. Here in London, James Wilkes wasn’t a known name; for all she knew, he might have been a kid living on the streets. She knew nothing about him, had never heard his voice before, and there was no way for her to predict what would happen to him at all.
-Lost in thought, are you?
-Oh, yes, sorry. She is trying to contact a certain James at the Cavendish house.
-And she’s going through the long distance calls, huh?
-Yes. Another operator usually sends her my way.
-James, at the Cavendish house… I think I know where that is.
-She also mentioned a new name today, Rosaria, was it?… Maybe it’s some family to her, who knows. Or friends. They all have different last names, after all.
-Mhmm, yes, I’ll check it out, it sounds exciting!
-Oh, and please do keep quiet about this. I’m sure you know, but I’m not supposed to tell you any of this.
-Yes, yes, don’t worry deary, I’ve heard nothing from no one! I will just be passing by and invite myself over or something.
-Oh, hang on, there’s a call.
-Wait, wait, just one last thing!
-Make it quick.
-Operator, would you care to tell me your name?
-Of course not. Good night, Jake.
She was still smiling as she hung up. She felt good, the way you feel good when you help out an old woman cross the road. Accomplished, in a way. Unless Jake told her about the results, there was certainly no way she would know the results of her actions. Maybe she’d get fired. Maybe she’d become some sort of hero. The rest of the story was open to her dreams. She picked the next call, answering the same boring word as she always did.
Little did she know, from now on the young girl who called every day would not call back. She had planted a seed in her head, a seed that would grow a dangerous idea and, as stubborn as she was, nobody could stop her now.