Rust reminded her of blood. And blood reminded her of rust. She always needed to throw up after getting rust on her skin. That smell never went away, and the dirty powder made her skin itch. In the great house she now worked for, there was very little rust. At her home though, the one she never went to, everything was covered in rust. Whatever could, that is. They lived near the sea, and nothing could shine for long before the rust settled in. When ever she had touched the gate to either leave home or return, Latha had to wash her hands. The last time she left, the day Biso Hamu had come for her, the rust had been hard to get off. She had been in the bus for five hours or so, and had thrown up at least a dozen times. The fear of an unknown future, the sorrow of leaving behind what she knew best was mixed with that smell of rust.
Once she started her new job, her new life, the bleeding had begun. It had started with a few minor cuts, while peeling fruits or vegetables. Then she had fallen from low branches, trying to pluck mangoes and many other fruits. The tiny scars had only grown in number and soon the blood scared her no more. It still reminded her of rust though, and home. That was what blood meant to her, home.
So when Koluwa cut his leg while going the garden, her heart sank. The sight made her weak at the knees and all thoughts left her mind.
“You crazy woman! Don’t just stand there! Aiyo! What happened to my dear little, Koluwa?” Manike rushed to his side.
Latha was asked, not very nicely though, to bring some clean cloth and ‘that purple colored stuff!’
When the wound was cleaned, Koluwa was taken to a clinic by the Master. While they were gone, Latha couldn’t get back to the washing she was doing before the accident. Distracted, she sat near the well, eyes full of tears.
“For what goddamn reason are you crying?” Manike had little sympathy for Latha and didn’t hide it from her.
Latha couldn’t talk, and turned away.
“You aren’t running around with that Koluwa, now are you?”
Latha shook her head, “Aiyo no! He’s a brother to me. I’m just worried about him.”
“Ya ya, it all starts with ‘he’s like a brother to me.’ Before the Missy can even breathe you’ll be carrying that boy’s child.” Manike spat the words out at her.
“Here you! You listen to me Latha. This Missy is good, the best you can find, but if you start fooling around, you’ll have no more a home here. Get it?”
Manike walked back into the kitchen. As she shut the back door, Latha heard the words, “at least if he was a Sinhalese.”
Now what had Manike meant by that? Latha knew her chances of love and marriage was very slim. Unless her mother suddenly remembered her, which was quite unlikely. The First Lady wouldn’t busy her self finding suitors for her, and Latha couldn’t very well find them on her own. Some of the tele dramas she had watched showed servant-master affairs. Not possible, because the master was old, and the Egghead was simply too young. Then there were the servant-gardener affairs, but Koluwa didn’t seem like someone she would want to get married to.
Still, what had Manike meant when she said those last words? Latha wondered about it all, and Koluwa’s injury only came back to her mind when she heard the gate opening.