Linda Fox loved to imagine what had happened in the places she cleaned up in the mornings. She usually did ball rooms and other big places but sometimes even big country houses or big rooms in huge apartments. She had learned pretty soon that some people have too much money and also too much time on their hands. She was never there once the music was playing or the guests were arriving but she could picture everything with only cleaning the places. She had learned through her senses the differences between an expensive wine and a cheap wine and between a good perfume and a bad one. Of course, she was no definitive professional on the matter but she felt she kind of knew the people that had been there by only staying in a room for a while.
She had stumbled into that job after looking for many months. She had been laid off as a secretary on a big firm and, since then, no one would hire her. Linda knew this was because of her age. Not many companies wanted to hire women over forty and she was really lucky to have found that cleaning job. At least she didn’t have to do it on the street or every single day in a house where they would probably not even look at her. In this job, she was called two or three times a week, never more than that and it would always be to clean up places were the rich and famous went. No frat parties or middle class parties with alcohol all over the floor. No, this people were the elite but the elite had no idea how to clean a place up and that’s when they came in.
Linda would come in with two other women, also aged over forty. And they would just start to clean up: first they would pick up the garbage from the floor, they would put away tables, cutlery and other things might slow down the mopping of the floors. Depending on the surface, they would clean it again with products that left everything smelling just perfect. Normally, they would spend at least three hours there. The three women were very thorough and checked every corner until the venue was even cleaner than before the party or event had taken place. No one would congratulate or anything after that. Their boss would pay them cash and that was it.
It wasn’t the best job in the world but Linda knew it was the only job she could have gotten at her age. And even young people had trouble getting work so she had to be grateful. Besides, it paid well to service all those rich people. She never saw one of them but she knew they would pay through the nose just for someone to do something they would never do. When cleaning. Linda always loved to imagine she was one of the guests. Of course none of them would have to pick up the trash or mop the floors but her imagination was not going to limit itself because of that. The other women, she knew, did the same thing. After all, they knew they would never have something like that.
One day, when cleaning a beautiful room in a country house about an hour away from the city, Linda found something very special. It was a ring and it had fell beneath the floorboards. She could see it there, shining beneath her feet as she picked up several papers and plastic plates. She looked at the other too, who were cleaning other points of the room, and tried to imagine a way to get the ring out. There was a small whole on one of the boards and she supposed the small object had fallen through there. She looked around to see if someone was looking at her and then pulled the small board, which was loose. She saw the beautiful shine of the ring and then took it. She looked at it as she had been hypnotized by it.
It had a big diamond surrounded by smaller emeralds and rubies. They were all there; none had fallen to the ground when whoever had been wearing it had dropped it. One of the women asked Linda for the mop, and she almost dropped the ring to her surprise. She put it fast in her pants pocket and then behaved as normally as she could. Linda didn’t know why she had done that. She had found several other things in the past and had always given them to her boss in order for him to find its true owners. But this time, she wanted the ring for herself. She didn’t really know why, as he had no real chance to wear that ring anywhere and anyone that had any idea about her would know that she didn’t have the money to buy such a beautiful piece of jewelry.
When work was over, the company sent a car to take them back to the city and she felt the trip lasted several hours but it was only one. She was the first one to exit the car when they arrived and to leave the place as soon as possible. Her work mates didn’t really think that was strange because she had always been like that, a little too private. They actually thought she was too good to even talk to them, or at least she thought that was the case. And both women had decided that they didn’t care about what she did. After all, they paid them when they all showed up for work and id what they had to do. That was it. They didn’t need more than that.
Linda almost ran home. Once she was inside, she locked the door and closed her bedroom door behind her. She decided to change clothes first and then she would take the ring from her coat and watch it in all its glory. It was not as beautiful now as it had been before with the beautiful sunlight, but it was obvious the piece had an immense value, at least economically speaking. Linda then wondered who would drop such a beautiful ring to the ground and wouldn’t even mind to pick it up? Had it fallen from the finger of a very distracted or drunk woman? It was kind of fun to imagine all the stories behind the ring, as if it was a big adventure that she could imagining easily.
She felt asleep wearing the ring and, at any moment, felt the urge to return it to the house where she had been cleaning or to her boss. The next day, she chose to take it to a professional jeweler to ask him how much he thought that ring was worth. He lied by telling him that she had just inherited from a dying aunt. The men checked it with various instruments for some time but finally stated that all the pieces were very high quality: the diamond was very clean and pure, probably African. The rubies and emeralds, although smaller, were also of a very high quality. Even the ring as such was made from very light titanium, which wasn’t used very frequently on rings. Linda left as soon as she knew more and also because she realized the man didn’t believe the story of her old aunt.
Beside, she told her something she had not seen before. Inside the ring there was an inscription. It was a full name: John William Hammond. The men looked at Linda as if he wanted to know who that person was but she just lied again and said it was her aunt’s husband. Then she took the ring, gave the man some bills and left in haste. She returned home and looked at the inscription closer. It had to be looked in a certain way but there it was. The name of a man in woman’s ring. So maybe this was a ring someone had used to propose marriage. Linda couldn’t believe how romantic her story turned out to be.
She decided to find out about every detail she could about the owners of the house she had cleaned that day. Apparently the family that owned it also owned several vineyards and other types of crops and plantations around the country. But their most well known product was wine. She also found out that the eldest daughter had recently married to a man that owned half of the biggest retail company in the city. She found a gossip magazine with every picture of the vent. Surprisingly, it had taken place very recently, only a couple of days after she had cleaned up the country house and found the ring. Then, she looked for the name that was inscribed in the ring but that proved to be a bit harder. She had to go through various gossip pages on the Internet to finally find the name.
Once she did, however, she gasped. John William Hammond was not who she thought it was going to be. Linda was already making him a banker or a renowned tennis player or even a movie actor. But no. John William Hammond was nothing more than junior lawyer in a firm that had helped of the vineyards through a rough time. Apparently, it was his team that had stopped a very large company from securing that particular vineyard. Apparently there was a huge problem with the land. But the man was just a lawyer and they only mentioned him in one article of an economic journal.
His name was on a ring and then, again, Linda invented a wonderful story about him been an underdog in love with the lady of society. She thought that maybe they had had an affair but she had finally effused him in favor of an even better position and money. She had been the one that had chosen the easier road. Linda slept thinking of them without ever finding out the truth, which was a lot sadder but more real. But sometimes reality is not as important as the realities we can invent with it, even more when things have already happened and no one can change them.