Gladys, the new Zimbabwean housekeeper’s first encounter with the ladies.

2.Rosie’s Chronicles/Introductions

‘Gladys,’ shouted Nora, ‘Please bring another pot of tea.’

Gladys had been told by her ‘boss’ that the flow of tea and coffee was imperative for good conversation; ‘the cup must never run dry Gladys.’

Around the corner, in the confines of the cosy kitchen, Gladys rolled her eyes at hearing her name being called. She’d boiled the kettle 10 minutes ago, chopped a plate of vegetable crudités, blended up some hummus and chilled the white wine. It was almost 3 o’clock and there was no doubt that after this next pot of tea, ‘Tea time’ would certainly be over.

Gladys took one last look at her phone before delivering the fresh pot of tea. Still nothing. 

She desperately missed her six year old son ‘Simba’ and sometimes it was hard to think of anything else. It had been one year since Gladys had seen him and she’d only spoken to him a handful of times since then. Deep down, she knew it was unlikely that she’d be allowed to talk to him, but there was always the ‘hope’ that this week might be different.

Gladys switched her phone off and with that, shut down the thought of her son and the gaping sense of helplessness she felt whenever she thought of him. She’d focus on ‘tea’ now.

She entered the lounge with the newly brewed pot of Five Roses tea and a beaming smile.

“This is Gladys ladies, she’s from Zimbabwe” exclaimed Nora.

Gladys greeted the group of women and placed the pot of tea in the centre of the table, continuing to smile her well-practiced smile. She’d learned many years ago how to pull the corners of her mouth up into a beaming smile, deluding all in her presence of the ugliness she’d experienced and witnessed.

The women studied Gladys for a moment and watched her as she glided back into the kitchen, noticing how she seemed somewhat different to the type of ‘housekeeper’ they were accustomed to. Maybe it was the way she carried herself, or perhaps it was her ‘good English pronunciation.’

Gladys closed the door behind her. Right now, she felt as happy as she could be considering the circumstances. It was an income after all and she was safe. It felt like her life had finally taken a positive turn, a step in the right direction – though it didn’t always feel like that, especially on Tuesdays. ‘Tuesday’ is the day of the week that she is meant to phone and talk to her son who lives with his father, Gideon, in the neighbouring country Zimbabwe.  Calling Simba on Gideon’s phone is the only way she can reach him, but is rarely answered. She aches to assure Simba that he is loved and how this is a ‘chapter’ in his life; how it will all be alright in the end. But even she was beginning to doubt that. Will it be alright in the end? A little boy with no access to his mother, and intentionally being used as a pawn for his father in a game of power, one that feeds his unending and relentless hunger to control her and to punish her. It was never about her son’s happiness, he was just a ‘means’ of winning a ‘sick’ power struggle in an ugly divorce.

Gladys turned her phone back on. The animated chatter and laughter coming from the living room petered out into a deafening silence as she focused on the empty screen. There was nothing, no reply, no way for her to talk to her son.

She dialled the number anyway. She’d always try even though she knew her ex-husband deliberately ignored her calls. ‘Trying’ was for her; an act of love and the hope that one day her son would know the truth, that she did not abandon him,  that he was always with her, despite being so far away.

It did not get easier. Every Tuesday, with every call, the sadness she felt for her son and herself would escalate and turn itself into anger, the unfairness of it consuming her like poison, and turning her into someone she was not. But this Tuesday, things were different. She had a job and a distraction.  Nora could never have known how she’d unintentionally changed Gladys’s ‘Tuesday’ and for the first time in a long time, Gladys felt hope.  

“Gladys,” Nora shrieked. “Can you bring the wine through.”

Meet Gladys.

Notes: Parental Alienation

7 ways parents alienate

(Keeping the child from the other parent)

  • Blocking phone calls (or any contact)
  • Returning mail/gifts
  • Threatening legal action
  • Moving out of the state
  • Making the child scared of the parent
  • Not informing parent of activities
  • Telling the child the other parent does not care about them.

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