Rhonda Saunders' mother worked almost everyday of her life as a cleaner in the mansions of London's elite. One day, the Gibsons - a wealthy aristocratic family - hired this Jamaican-born, immigrant woman as their weekend housekeeper. Rhonda spent all of her weekends, starting from Friday evening, helping her mother with the burdens of this tedious profession.
When their work was done, Rhonda's mother would walk into the Gibsons' great parlour, bob a courtesy to the lady of the house, and then thank her for the opportunity to work for them. For the five hundred and twenty-two weekends that mother and daughter served the Gibsons, the rich family never once thanked Rhonda for a job well done.
They'd simply respond with platitudes like, "Your cheque will be in the mail."
Or, they'd nod in acknowledgement saying, "See you next week!"
"Mama, must you go and thank them again? They don't appreciate our hardwork anyway, so why bother?" Rhonda inquired of her mother.
To this, her mother responded, "Sweetheart, because courteousness is the way of the Queen."
The following year of 1989, fifteen-year old Rhonda lost her mother to disease.
In the wee hours of the morn of the 5th May, 2003, Rhonda was awoken to a loud knock on her front door. There stood an old and wrinkly-looking Mrs. Gibson, her late mother's former employer, at her doorstep.
After the kettle had finished boiling and tea was served, Mrs. Gibson began:
"My son, Kyle, remember him?"
"Yes ma'am, I do." Rhonda replied apprehensively.
"How was he to you back then?"
Rhonda perked up. Shrugging, she responded,
"As well as you were to me, I suppose."
"So he was good to you, then." the old dame inferred.
"Kyle was neither here nor there to me, ma'am." Rhonda quickly pointed out.
Her guest smiled nervously.
"Is something the matter?" Rhonda cut to the chase.
"Yes, my dear, I fear there is a matter."
Rhonda leaned over the centre table to fill her cup with more tea. She looked up at Mrs. Gibson, urging the old woman to continue her speech.
"She's only been under our employ for, oh, I don't know, three weeks; four, at most. She usually brings her lass with her - just like your mother used to. I say, how is your mother?"
"My mother is dead!" Rhonda answered curtly.
An embarrassed Mrs. Gibson politely offered, "Commiserations, my dear Rhonda - I didn't know."
"As I was saying, this new domestic, I mean housekeeper of ours, she comes over one weekend with her daughter. Next we know, she's gone and called a Constable over to our residence - making false accusations against Kyle. 'Inappropriate behaviour and sexual misconduct with a thirteen-year old', they said."
Rhonda's eyes widened in surprise. She played it cool though.
"What's it to me?"
"You know my son", resting her hands upon the shimmering pearls on her diminished bosom she continued, "My Kyle would never do such a thing. Alas, he's been arraigned before Her Majesty's court on the 19th of this month. Would you do us a kindness and testify in his defence?"
Rhonda knew that Kyle was innocent, however, she had determined long before Mrs Gibson entered her flat that whatever the latter was seeking from her, it would come at a cost.
"And how much will you pay me for this service, should I choose to do it?".
Mrs. Gibson cackled, just like how she used to do fourteen years ago.
"Im sorry, did I say sumfin funny? Rhonda interrupted.
Mrs. Gibson feared she had fouled her own nest, so she tried her best to calm the tense atmosphere:
"Why my dear Rhonda, you know you're practically family to us, don't you? Your mother - may she rest in perfect peace - she was a loyal servant and a delightful woman. Two qualities that are so hard to find these days, if I do say so myself. You've turned out to be a very fine woman, just like her. I trust that you'll rise above the allure of vain materialistic pursuits, its unwanted comeuppances and do the right thing. You'll have our family's eternal gratitude."
"With all due respect Eleanor..."
Eleanor Gibson's pale, wrinkled face turned bright red with shock. No one ever addressed her by her first name, except her husband.
"...I feel inclined to decline your offer. For five hundred and twenty-two weekends, my mother and I cleaned, washed and ironed for you, Mr. Gibson, and especially, for your son Kyle. Five hundred and twenty-two times, mother walked into your living room, curtsied, and thanked you for underpaying her. Never did you or any of your family members see it fit to even thank her, let alone, fetch her a cab home. This is my offer - take it or leave it: for every weekend my mother and I changed your ingrate family's beddings or cleaned your rooms, I want £200!"
Mrs. Gibson stared long and hard at her former employee's daughter. The old woman slowly pulled out her cheque book onto her lap, depressed her ball-point pen, and asked with an annoyed tone:
"What is 200 multiplied by 522?".
Sit with me by this fire.