Genni sat patiently in a chair outside of the office. She fiddled with the newspaper clipping in her hand. Just yesterday she had found out about this job. It was peculiar to say the least: “Reward for Joy-Bringer”. The details beneath the headline requested anyone up to the challenge of bringing a smile to the face of dear Mrs. Puttnam, a handicapped woman living at the estate. Her son, Hamish, was the owner of several successful companies. He published the article in hopes that someone would be able to bring a speck of joy into his mother’s life. For several years, she had appeared miserable. Each day she would sit in her wheelchair, overlooking the green lawns with a far-off gaze from her window. Servers would set her meals on a nearby table throughout the day, but they remained hardly touched. Despite her inability to form words, she was unafraid to show her disapproval with a firm shake of her head and a scowl. The door opened and a voice called, “Miss Genevieve?” The young woman stood and dusted down her skirt. Her flats echoed on the wooden floor of the empty halls. A lady in a dress suit gestured to a plush couch, the room in itself grand and luxurious. “Please, have a seat.” They shook hands over a glass coffee table before sitting down.
The interviewer wasted no time digging into the papers on her clipboard. “You are here for the temporary caretaker position, correct?” Genni responded politely with a yes, listening as the woman reviewed the requirements. “As you know, there is a reward for anyone who can make Mrs. Puttnam, theoretically, happy. A smile will qualify but there must be a witness to validate the feat.” Genni began to ponder, ‘Is this really so complicated?’ When she had read about the task in the newspaper, it seemed rather ridiculous. Was it truly so difficult to make a woman smile? For the amount of money, it was certainly worth a try. “You will have access to $20,000 in funds to spend on ventures meant to benefit Mrs. Puttnam. Whatever is left, you can keep. If you fail, however, you will leave empty-handed.” Seemed simple enough. Genni wondered if there was a catch. “Several have tried before you”, the woman handed her a small black book. Genni opened up the worn leather cover to reveal several notes written in pen: “Mar 24, Attended the Opera.” “Mar 25, Boat Ride Overlooking the Coast.” “Mar 26, Dinner at renowned French Restaurant. Side Note: She absolutely despised the Escargot!”. The list went on, the book nearly filled completely. She flipped through the pages with some disbelief. Not one of these experiences had made Mrs. Puttnam happy?
“I’d recommend reading it through so that you don’t do something that has already been done. Feel free to make your own contributions”, the woman commented before observing the girl’s wide-eyed expression. “Are you still up for the challenge?”, she asked her with an amused smirk. While it seemed as though everything had already been done. The young woman looked up with a small gulp, “Of course.” She was determined to give it a try. That was, until she met Mrs. Puttnam. They had walked to her room together. The assistant called her name, but she did not react. An elderly woman with shoulder length gray hair sat in her wheelchair; Stubbornly keeping her gaze fixated forward. “Mrs. Puttnam?”, she tried again, but continued on anyway despite the lack of a reaction, “-This is Miss Genevieve. She is going to be your caretaker, starting today.” Genni offered a friendly smile, “Hello.” There were a few seconds of silence before the assistant cleared her throat, “Well, I will leave you to it.” She nodded her head to the young girl though her expression seemed doubtful. Once gone, Genni had tried to make conversation with the older woman. “It’s nice to meet you Mrs. Puttnam. I hope we can be good friends.” She was only met with awkward silence, but it did not stop Genni; she tended to ramble when she was nervous. “It’s a lovely home you have here… I was told you decorated each room. They are so lovely. Many flowers and drapes…” Genni realized maybe it wasn’t a good idea to mention the past. It may remind her of a time when she was not confined to a chair. The older woman must have found her to be a nuisance but, even so, she didn’t show it. Cloudy blue eyes gazed out the window, not even bothering to give Genni a sign of recognition. Gennie peered over her shoulder, curious as to what she may be looking at. A part of her wished the answer was as simple as looking through that glass. Yet, it was a plain green lawn. Not much was out there aside from a paved walkway.
Genni was struck with an idea, “Would you like to see the gardens, Mrs. Puttnam?” With her love of flowers and her gaze glued to the window in such a manner she assumed she may like to venture out. If anything, perhaps it would be a good icebreaker for them. She asked permission from the staff before guiding Mrs. Puttnam’s chair out into the hall. The woman did not protest but she wore a familiar scowl as they made their way outside. The weather was better than anyone could have asked for. Clear blue skies, a light breeze. Genni had a one-sided conversation with Mrs. Puttnam as she took her safely throughout the garden of the estate. There were several well-tended rose bushes and floral beds. Many white statues added to the beauty of the landscape. Genni stopped several times to admire and comment on the sights while Mrs. Puttnam sat in silent tolerance. They stopped at a nearby stone bench after some time. Genni slipped out the little black notebook, somewhat at a loss for what to do. At least, it wasn’t a complete flop. Mrs. Puttnam had yet to throw one of the “fits” mentioned in the records. Maybe she was enjoying the gardens after all. “I would recommend the Biltmore Gardens, but it says here that you have already been. Would you like to go back? I hear they change things every year. There’s even a special exhibit taking place right now-“ She had her answer before she could even finish the sentence. Mrs. Puttnam shook her head no. “Oh… okay.” She had been more surprised to see the woman move than disappointed in the rejection.
“How about, you tell me when we get to something you may enjoy. Hm…? Have you ever been to Rothenberg? They have the best bakeries! I can take you to one of the sweet shops. Do you like chocolate?” Despite her enthusiasm, Mrs. Puttnam only quietly frowned. She received more than what most candidates got, which was a response; Even if it was the unimpressed shake of her head ‘no’. “Well, how about this-?”, Genni attempted, suggesting everything her haywire brain could come up with. After minutes of pestering, the elderly woman’s gaze eventually trailed back to the same patch of lawn she observed from the window. The sight brought back a memory and a look of sorrow displayed on her face once more. She finally snapped, clumsily smacking the book from the girl’s hands. Genni looked to it and then back to the woman. She smiled nervously, “Let’s stop there for today then.” She wheeled Mrs. Puttnam back to her room defeatedly. Several of the servants casted her an empathetic look as she left to give Mrs. Puttnam some space.
Days passed by with no luck. Genni would think about what Mrs. Puttnam may want to do even on her time off. With $20,000, there was hardly a limit to expenditures. Yet, nothing was grand enough to appease the woman. She had yet to spend any of the money, afraid to waste it. While Genni herself could think of many amazing ventures to pursue, this was about Mrs. Puttnam. She had gotten the idea from reading the notes that many of the applicants had been thinking more of themselves when spending the money. The things they had spent it on were rather off-the-wall. Rare shows or experiences. While Mrs. Puttnam couldn’t very well tell them what she wanted, she hardly seemed to be the type to want to attend a burlesque show or a meet-and-greet with an oddly specific author. Were these people even trying to get to know Mrs. Puttnam, or simply spending the money on their own desires? Did they realize they could not make her happy and gave up? Genni pondered the thought of following in their footsteps, spending the money on herself under a guise, but unfortunately the Christianity drilled into her heart by her mother refused to allow her to do so. She would have to try harder, or simply go home empty-handed. “Hello, Mrs. Puttnam. Hope you are well today”, Genni greeted the woman before waltzing through her room aimlessly. “Don’t worry. I could not come up with any more ideas as of yesterday”, she laughed albeit somewhat sadly before her eyes latched onto an old picture, “Is this you?” A woman sat with a young boy on the grass. They wore smiling faces that stretched ear to ear. It appeared to be a beautiful day out, the sky so blue and the grass so green… Familiarity suddenly struck Genni. She carefully removed the frame from the wall before holding it up to the window. The picture fit like a puzzle, the forms sitting perfectly on the lawn outside.
“He cannot see you! Mr. Hamish is a busy man. You will have to schedule an appointment.” Genni retaliated, “Please, this is important!” She stood outside his door, demanding to speak with the CEO. “It is about his mother.” The door opened, interrupting the squalor outside, to reveal a red-headed man in a suit, “What about my mother?” Genni told him, “…I know how to make her happy.” “Then by all means, what is it?” “You need to come right away” Mr. Hamish seemed hesitant, especially with the fuming businessman glaring him down. He appeared rather important but Genni wasn’t taking no for an answer. “Do you really care about her?”, she asked him. “Yes.”, he replied, this time with no hesitation. He shut the door behind him before following Genni out. “You can bet this will cost you!”, the man shouted behind. “How much?”, Genni inquired, her brow cocked. “Thousands! You can bet on it-“ Genni held out a card. It was the card she had received from the estate, to use on expenditures for Mrs. Puttnam. “Then here’s twenty, please accept this for your inconvenience.” He shut up at that.
In the car, Genni asked Mr. Hamish, “How long has it been since you've seen your mother?” “Well…” He seemed a bit distraught by the question and Genni’s assumptions were confirmed. Though Hamish cared for his mother deeply, he hardly had the time to offer her with all of the companies he managed. They evntually reached her door, Hamish taking a deep breath before walking in. “Mother?” The woman flinched in recognition. Hamish made his way around to her view. Her eyes were filled with tears at the sight of him. “Hello, mother”, he smiled, tears in his own eyes as her hands shakily took his face. She sputtered a happy sound, her eyes crinkling in joy as a smile graced her features. Something had finally made her happy. All this time, she wanted the one thing money couldn’t buy. Everything else had just been a painful reminder of her loneliness. Her boy was too busy for her. But now that they were together, they realized just what they had been missing. You see, Mr. Hamish had been quite miserable himself, with nothing but meetings and deals to keep him occupied. There was no life or love in those interactions. “I’ve missed you mother.” He kissed her forehead lovingly, just so happy to see her smiling like she once did before she was ill. Genni watched their reunion with a smile, just as happy to see the misery leave Mrs. Puttnam as her son and all of the servers were. Mr. Hamish decided it was time to use up some of that vacation he had been saving up. You see, time is valuable. Those you choose to spend it on can make all the difference in life. Genni turned to leave, a knowing smile on her face and a newfound need on her heart. It was about time she visited her mother in Raksham.