The room had been cheap enough, it had to be, she couldn’t afford much; that’s why she was only getting a room every three or four days. The guy in the office had been scarier than any of the demons she had seen in the neighborhood and he was human. The room smelled funny and the air conditioner dripped and rumbled loudly, and while the room had looked clean, it just didn’t feel that way. She had not even turned down the bed that night, but slept on top of the covers. The tub there had been old, yellowed and worn with scratches and rust stains on the bottom and sides, the water hadn’t been hot and did not come out of the showerhead evenly and she could hear the pipes rattle even worse than the AC when the toilet flushed in the room next door.
This might be a community bathroom shared by everybody, but it was clean and bright and shiny, with burnished stainless steel fixtures and creamy ivory and blue tile. It smelled good, clean, piney fresh. The water was hot and came out fast, and the showerhead adjusted to just the right pressure. It made her feel like singing. She restrained herself to a loud, cadenced humming of a song she had heard on the car radio a few days ago as she robustly scrubbed, dancing in the streaming water in time.
She hadn’t found any soap or body wash in the stuff Spike had gotten her, only antiperspirant, shampoo, conditioner and some lotion, so she had raided what was obviously his stash of manly personal care items in a plastic bin on the floor of the wardrobe. Ya just gotta love a man with more toiletries than me, she thought.
In a mesh bag that was still a bit damp she had found a bar of very hard brown soap in a case. She did not recognize the writing stamped into it, as obviously he had used it and it was not as deeply embossed in the bar as it would have been fresh out of the wrapper; it looked foreign, Asian or Arabic-like maybe, but it had smelled simply wonderful when she sniffed it: sorta lemony, spicy vanilla-y with a hint of fresh cut lawn.
She shut off the delightfully hot water and reached for the towels; wrapping her hair in one and herself in the other. A gust of steam billowed out of the enclosure doors when she opened them. She was vigorously rubbing her hair with the towel and absently heading in the direction of the bench where she had left her clean clothes and toiletries,still bouncing with the rhythm of her hum when she unexpectedly tripped over something cold and hard at mid-thigh level. She stumbled but managed to keep her footing, at least until momentum made her take another step. Her foot came down a tad too hard knocking over something that sounded very metallic and slosh-y. The bucket went over, its soapy disinfectant contents spilling across the tile floor. The hair towel was down leaving wet, shampoo tangled hair falling over her eyes, the other one was coming loose as well, and her next step sent her sliding across the slick tiles. Luckily, slender, but strong, female arms caught her before she landed on her ass.
“Whoa there. Are you okay?” The young woman helping her up was unusually tall and very slim, gangly, with dark lank hair, but she had the most astonishing bright green eyes and a pleasant smile.
“I’m fine. Thank you. You caught me before I hit,” Buffy said pushing the hair towel up and securing both it and the other one better when she saw what she had tripped over: A middle-aged woman in a wheelchair holding a mop.
“You got to keep on the no-skids when it’s wet,” The woman in the wheelchair said reaching down to set up the mop bucket and wringer, “…slimier than a Chaos’ antlers when it’s all soaped up, don’t ya know,” she finished. The bucket now righted, she wheeled over to check out the rescued Slayer.
“Can’t have Spike’s Slayer all bruised up in a showering accident. That won’t do, “ she said giving Buffy a once over, satisfied that she was uninjured only startled by the near fall.
“I’m sorry, I wasn’t paying attention. Clumsy. I didn’t hurt you when I tripped over you did I? “ Buffy apologized. Her feet began to slide on the wet tiles again and the lanky woman steered her to the bench by her clothes.
“You’re Buffy, right,” The wheelchair woman did not wait for her to answer, she knew she was, “…I’m Sister Katherine, call me Kate, assistant administrator here.”
“And I’m D’shelle,” the tall woman said handing Buffy an extra towel to dry off with, “I just work here. You are as pretty as he said you were.”
“We probably should have waited until you were done before we started. Our fault. Just wanted to get a jump-start on the chores. We rotate cleaning duties in staff quarters.”
“I didn’t mean to disrupt the schedule,” Buffy began still drying her hair.
“Oh, no, Child, you didn’t, floor probably needed another go over anyway, as long as you’re alright. Like I said, just wouldn’t do for you to get hurt here, from the way he talks about you, Spike would be all bent out of shape if you got so much as a scratch here, outside of the line of duty. Boy’s in love with you, don‘t ya know.”
“So Spike talks about me a lot?” Buffy said drying off her legs.
“Well, not obsessively, no, but he’s been with us for over seven years, get him started on his Slayer and…”
“So you know I’m The Slayer?” She was relieved when she did not have to hide her calling; it always made things so much easier.
That got a chuckle from both women and Buffy blushed, wondering just what
he had told them.
“And that he’s a….”
“Seven years,” Kate cut her off, “…boy talks a lot, don’t ya know. All the staff knows, most of the regular volunteers too, but not the residents.”
“Unless you’ve been here as long as I have,” D’shelle added, “…you find out after a while.”
“God, you are as pretty as he said you were,” Kate blurted out when Buffy had finally finished drying her hair and shook it out, “…but I thought you were a blond?”
“Sometimes,” that actually made her blush more than the fact she was wet and naked beneath the towel, “but not lately.”She had decided not to bother coloring her hair quite a few years ago, about the same time Dawn decided to start bleaching hers and only highlighted occasionally. Suddenly she was acutely aware that it probably needed some brightening up and that she should have done that before she got here …before he saw me.
I must look a sight, she thought… like something the vamps drug in. Definitely not his ‘goldilocks’anymore… Summer’s hair was naturally on the brunette side leaning towards auburn.
“Anyway Child,” Sister Kate said turning her attentions back to the mop, “…we should let you get dressed. D’shelle’s almost got the floor cleaned up and we have work to do elsewhere. Always busy don’t ya know.”
Buffy could see the lanky woman sigh as she wrung out the mop and suddenly felt that she should make up for them having to do the floor twice. “Is there something I could do to help? I mean, I don’t really have anything to do while I‘m here, Spike‘s working and…”
“Sure we could find you something to keep from getting bored. We can always use help in the kitchen, especially this time of year, “ Kate said.
“I really can’t cook very well, “Buffy said. “I usually burn the Jell-O.”
“Nothing so complicated as that Child,” Kate replied.
D’shelle blanched when she understood where Kate was heading, that’s not where they usually start out, she thought, cleaning and making beds were easy, that is a test of fortitude usually reserved for seasoned volunteers.
“Just helping out the little ones in the lunchroom. “ Kate continued helping D’shelle put the mops and bucket in the utility locker. The lanky woman cringed slightly, but Buffy did not see her.
“Oh, I could do that!” Buffy exclaimed, excited at the prospect of being useful.
She might be a demon slayer, D’shelle thought, but she doesn’t know what she is in for.
“Righty then,” Kate added as she wheeled to the door, “…lunch is at twelve and kitchen’s in the basement, just wonder on down, they’ll put you to work.”
The Lanky woman stuck her head around the door on her way out and said, “It’s not too bad, really, just watch the peas.” She let the door close behind her and tried to catch up to Kate’s wheelchair. “They’re evil, “ she continued quietly so Sister Kate would not hear.
“Peas?” Buffy said aloud with a wrinkly nose as she gathered her clothes to get dressed.