A CLEANING JOB that saved my life..................

She couldn't have known how much I needed the additional income and that by hiring me to help end her life, she gave me a way to survive mine.

My work schedule was so unpredictable that I couldn't apply for a second job, even though I badly needed more income. I had to scramble for ways to supplement it on my won.

AFTER I did extra work for the woman who was ill, I started asking a few other clients if they needed some, too, noticing unkempt areas of their house or yards that weren't on my list.

Some offered to pay me for additional work during those months, and there was a steady interest in an ad that I'd posted on Craiglist.

I work 25 hours a week as a professional cleaner, but it's not enough to pay the bills.

Most of the other housecleaning ads seemed to husband-and-wife teams who had trucks for clearing out clutter or take to the dump.

A few were full fledged  businesses : licensed and insured, and with employees to juggle bigger jobs. I didn't think my ad  would stand out, but I got half a dozen calls  every time I posted a new variation.

One woman hired me to clean out her rental property before the next tenant moved in. The apartment was grimy but not horrible, and during the walk-through  she admitted that  she'd never hired a cleaner before.

She wanted me to clean out the oven and the fridge but not the blinds. I tried to estimate how long it would take me. but I had come to the walk-through with Mia balanced on my hip, and it was hard to get a good look at the space.

''Four or five hours?'' I guessed.

''Oh, I just figured I'd give you a hundred dollars,'' she said as we stood in the hallway. then she handed me a wad of  cash. I looked at her for a second, unsure of what to do.

It was more than i had been paid for any individual cleaning job. She motioned for me to take the money.

''I liked your ad,'' she said. ''I remember what's it like struggle when you have someone who depends on you.'' She looked at Mia, who, growing timid from the eye contact, pressed her head into my shoulder.

''Thank you,'' I said trying to suppress the feeling that I was getting away with something. ''You won't be disappointed.''

After I strapped Mia into the car seat, I sat behind the wheel, staring at the dashboard. I'm doing it, I thought to myself. I'm really doing it!

I turned around to look at my daughter. It had been a long time since she'd had a special dinner.

''Do you want a happy meal?'' I asked.

The wad of cash bulged in my pocket. Pride swelled in my chest. Mia's face lit up, and she threw up her arm.

''Yay!'' she yelled from the back seat.

I laughed, blinking back a few tears and yelled out for joy,too.''

[Don't miss reading Stephanie Land's  MAID, from which this essay was adopted]


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