Rebecca walked through the house with a sponge in her hand just to make sure she had gotten every last bit of dirt. She had scrubbed every surface, swept, mopped, dusted, vacuumed and shampooed the carpets. The house was the cleanest she had ever seen it. But still she wanted to make sure it was spotless. So one last walk through with the sponge in hand wiping at phantom dust spots here and there.
After she was satisfied that no speck of dirt had escaped her watchful eye she peeled off the Playtex gloves (she actually had gone through three pairs, she had cleaned so much she wore out the other two) and tossed them and the sponge into the trash bag she had sitting on the porch. There was nothing left in the house that could be considered dirty at all. The house was spotless. It almost seemed a shame to go back inside. To touch anything. To start the cycle over again. The accumulation of dirt and grime that would build up so gradually that she wouldn't even notice at first. Like the smear of grease from the peanut butter sandwich her last roommate left in his room. Even though she had said specifically on the lease agreement that there would be no food in the bedrooms.
Once you started bringing food into rooms other than the kitchen it was too easy to leave behind crumbs. And crumbs would attract bugs. Or worse, mice. And then you had not only the mess from the food but the mess from the animals. Rebecca realized she was clenching her jaw and starting to get tense just thinking about the mess her former roommate had left in her house. She took a deep breath and let it out. No sense getting upset now. The house was clean. She had set traps and cleaned out the bugs and the vermin. She had scrubbed every inch of every surface of the house and now it was clean. A quick trip to the dump to get rid of the trash bags and she would be able to sleep in her spotless house tonight.
If only she didn't have to get another roommate. If only she could afford to live on her own she could keep the place just as clean as she liked. It never failed. Every ad she placed to find a new roommate she specifically wrote that she was very particular about her house and wanted only someone who was also tidy to move in. When she would do the interviews with the potential roommates she would stress how important it was to her to keep the house clean. No food outside of the kitchen. No water spots on the glass shower walls. She would show them how to clean up the messes they left. She would tell them over and over how important it was to her to keep the house clean. And they would always ALWAYS end up making a mess. So she would have to clean up her own mess and their's as well. Maybe this next time would be the charm. Maybe she could find someone who respected her things, who understood her rules. Who realized that a messy house was the sign of a messy mind.
Rebecca threw the bag into the trunk of the car with the rest of the trash and started the drive out to the dump. She drove cautiously just as she did everything else. She was a careful woman. An organized woman. And above all a clean woman. Her mother had taught her that cleanliness was next to godliness. And that it was important to remember that there was a place for everything and everything should be in its place. When she was a child she had resented her mother making her stay in and clean her room when her friends were out playing but she grew to understand how important it was to keep everything just so. Just perfect.
Her friends at work would tease her by moving things on her desk. Not a lot. Small things like moving the stapler to the left side of her computer instead of the right. Adjusting her chair so she sat just a few inches too high, or too low. Lowering the blinds on the window near her desk so they bunched on the bottom of the window sill instead of hanging with a quarter inch of clearance like they should. Changing the rolls of toilet paper in the lady's room so the rolled under instead of over. They would giggle as she had to adjust and fix all of the little things before she could sit down to work. She knew they were teasing her and they considered this to be fun and good natured ribbing so she just smiled along with them while she put everything back the way it needed to be so she could work. But they also respected the job she could do. No one was more accurate with their numbers than she was. No one turned in work with fewer errors. No one kept them on deadline and on task like she did. Their department was the most rewarded and commended in the whole company and they all understood that it was Rebecca that made that happen. So though they teased her here and there they also made sure that it was never too much. Never more than she could fix in the first few minutes of her day. And never ever ever anything that would leave a permanent mark.
If only she could find a roommate that would do the same. It was always the same story with them. There was the young executive who thought the house was just darling and loved the back yard. It was perfect for laying out and tanning. She never ate anything so the food wasn't the issue, but she would track her suntan oil through the house. Touching things with her greasy fingers. Leaving an oily film in the shower. On her bathroom counter. The last straw had been when she decided to try a self tanner in the middle of the winter and left an orange stain on the washcloth. When Rebecca confronted her with the stained cloth she just said to throw it away. It wasn't that big of a deal. But it was a big deal! It was just an outward sign of the lack of respect she had for Rebecca's things. So she had to go.
It was always that way. Small things at first. Toothpaste left in the sink instead of rinsed down. Water spots not sprayed and wiped with the squeegee that hung in the shower RIGHT THERE so you could use it as soon as your shower was over. Laundry left in the dryer instead of folded and put away. Dishes in the sink. Food in the living room. The list could go on and on. She would remind them, leaving notes, talking to them when she found a mess and they would always smile and apologize or at least they would at first. Eventually they would decide that it was Rebecca who had a problem, not them. That they were normal and she was some sort of neat freak. And then they would start making messes just to antagonize her. A magazine left on the couch here, a bag of trash not tied with a double knot there. And then they would have to go and she would have to deep clean the house again and start looking for a new roommate.
When Rebecca made it to the dump she took a deep breath and relaxed her shoulders. No need to be tense. Her house was clean. Once she got rid of this trash she could go home and sleep in her perfect house. As she drove past her mother's old house and the old barn she realized that if she sold all of this land she could afford to live on her own. But if she did that then she would lose access to her dump as well and Rebecca liked knowing she had a place to bring her trash that she could keep just the way she liked. No mounds of stinking garbage here. Just nice and neatly buried piles. Even trash should be treated neatly and disposed of properly. She went to the old barn and got out a shovel and grabbed a bag of lye from the stack. As she dug the hole to put her old roommate in she thought...a place for everything and everything in its place.