The last two days have been seriously, seriously bizarre, and I’m afraid we’ve found ourselves with a crazy person living in our backyard.
A little back story: We have a small studio apartment behind our house. As I mentioned, previously we bartered the rental of our backhouse apartment for part-time nanny services. That didn’t work out so well, so I decided to put all of the kids in preschool 3 mornings a week, and figured we could leverage the backhouse for a housekeeper. We live in a very pricey area . . . trust me, we do not by any means live in a fancy house or neighborhood, but the vicinity to the beach means home prices are insanely inflated. All that to say, some housekeeping duties in exchange for a free apartment in Orange County is a pretty smokin’ deal. I listed the job on (what I believed to be) a reputable website for such things, one that cost some money and provided background checks, etc. Within a few days I had about 20 applicants, and I ended up hiring the first girl I interviewed. In retrospect, this may have been my first mistake.
I could sense that something was a little off about this gal in our first meeting, but I chalked it up to her being shy and a bit socially awkward. I knew this position would not involve any childcare, so I wasn’t interested in analyzing her personality strengths and weaknesses or anything. She worked part-time for another family doing similar work and seemed excited about the position, and wanted to start immediately. I hired her on the spot. She moved in the next day. With no belongings. Again, perhaps a red flag.
She started last week, and her first week went . . . okay. I noticed she was working awfully slow. I’d leave the house and come back two hours later and notice that only one load of laundry had been done. It took her three hours one day to organize the drawers in the girls’ room. I could see she was slow, but I wanted to give her the benefit of the doubt and assumed she’s pick up the pace once she got more comfortable. But still, last week she worked three mornings and very little was accomplished. In the middle of the week, we noticed her car was no longer parked in front. I asked her about it and she said she’d been in a fender-bender and it was being fixed.
This week, things really went south. On Monday, I wanted to have her go grocery shopping. She said her car was in the shop, so I (foolishly) let her borrow my car to run to the store. We were really low, and the store is really close by, and I figured it would be fine. I’ve always let our previous nannies use my car and never had a problem. She left the house at 9am armed with a short list of groceries and $200 cash. I know. Even I’m shaking my head at how dumb it sounds to give someone I barely know my car and a wad of money. But that’s exactly what I did.
When two hours pass and she’s not back, I start feeling a little anxious. Enough to call Mark. By 11:30, I was sweating just a bit. At noon, I was in a full-blown panic. Mark went to the store to see if she there . . . she was not. I finally got a text back from her. “It took me a long time to find everything. I’m on my way.” Okay. Exhale. She’ll be back. I was equal parts perturbed that someone could take so long buying groceries but relieved that she was not headed for the hills with my car and my money.
Only, it was another 45 minutes before she showed up. The store is 10 minutes from my house. It was almost 1pm when she walked in, acting like everything was normal. I was really bummed, and not just because it took her so long, but because it was now pretty apparent that something shady was going on. As she was putting the groceries away, she casually asked if there had been a dent on my car before, with some yellow paint marks, because she saw it and was worried it happened while she was driving. “Oh, the long dent above the front wheel? With the yellow? Yeah, that was me.” I thought she was talking about a ding I made a couple months ago, turning too widely into a short yellow pole that I didn’t see while trying to park.
After she left, I had the thought to check the receipt, and noted that she paid for the groceries over an hour prior to getting home. And you know, if she’d said that she stopped to eat, or ran a quick errand or something, I wouldn’t have minded as much. But it felt weird that she said nothing, and just showed up like a 3 1/2 hour grocery excursion was no big whoop.
Later that night, Mark came home and immediately asked what happened to the car. Huh? I walked outside to see an entirely new and rather significant gash in the minivan, with a long scrape of white (not yellow) paint. It looks like the result of a small fender-bender. Now I was really panicking. And also wondering if I might get a call from the police later about a hit-and-run happening in my minivan or something.
We went to go talk with her, but she didn’t come to the door. In fact, her apartment stayed dark for the whole night, so it looked like she wasn’t home. The next day she was scheduled to work, she didn’t show up. I called and texted, with no response. Now I was actually a bit freaked out. Again, there appeared to be no movement or light in her apartment, and Mark and I started thinking that maybe she just took off, mortified by having wrecked my car and not wanting to face us or something. But then. . . . this morning. This morning we noticed she had left a bag of food in front of the apartment that wasn’t there the night before. So obviously, she’d spent the night there and was somehow trying to hide from us. And even writing this is kind of giving me the chills, because WHO DOES THAT!?!
This morning she was also supposed to work and didn’t show. I was started to feel really skeeved about the whole idea of her creeping into the apartment in the middle of the night and leaving before dawn. I decided to go knock on the door, but no answer. I knocked a whole lot. I also tried the door. It was locked. Then I called Mark to come home.
Mark came home, and I sent yet another text to her. I had sent several over the course of the week asking if everything was okay, but this time I let her know that we were going into the apartment to check things out, and asked that if she was in there could she PLEASE COME OUT. No response. 15 minutes later, Mark calls her cell phone. She picks up, and then hangs up. (!?!?!?!) And then suddenly, she emerges from the apartment with a huge bandage on her face and tells us sorry for the last few days, and she’s ready to work.
So apparently, when I was knocking at 11am and then again at 11:30am she was just sitting in there, hiding. And ignoring my texts. Again, WHO DOES THAT!?!
What follows next is a completely bizarre conversation where she tells us about how she was attacked by someone who doesn’t like her while on a run, and was unable to call us on account of the run, and how she’s sorry and can come in a work now. And we are like, um, hold on because we are a little uncomfortable with the whole hiding and not responding to calls and sitting in the dark so we wouldn’t see your lights on behavior. During this conversation she seems completely out to lunch, and I seriously can’t figure out if she is having a psychotic break or on some serious drugs, but something was NOT RIGHT. We let her know that we were really uncomfortable and that she needed to be out by the weekend. We also inquired about her safety and asked if we could call the police or help her find a shelter. She declined and said she was fine.
She’s still back there, and I’m still freaked out, and wondering if some abusive boyfriend might show up, or if she’s back there cooking meth, or if she’s having a schizophrenic break. And mostly, I am KICKING MYSELF for being such a poor judge of character because seriously? How did I not see this coming? I work in mental health. I did my dissertation on schizophrenia. I was a therapist at a rehab center. I should not be blindsided by crazy. I should see it coming a mile away.
(In my defense, I did check out her facebook page prior to hiring her and she seemed normal enough. Perhaps that should not have been my yardstick).
The thing is, I now have this overwhelming fear that come Monday, she’ll still be living here, sneaking in at night or sitting behind a locked door and not answering, and that we might have to get the police involved. I know that sounds crazy but you know what else sounds crazy? EVERY OTHER PART OF THS STORY.
Even the bandage – after we talked with her Mark and I both said that we thought it was fake. It just looked like something she slapped on for a story. And I have endless, endless empathy for women involved in battering situations, but this had just had a tall-tale flavor to it that Mark and I both picked up on. And we’re both very good at reading people. Usually.
Okay, I’ve sort of blown my credibility on that one, haven’t I?
Crap. What do we do??? I don’t think I will be sleeping much until she is gone.