The Trees met Emma at the station, watching her drag her suitcase.
The advert had said: ‘poor bubbly, blonde Essex type, preferably tarty’; promised travel, accommodation and ‘the love of a high-flying business couple’.
At first, they gave Emma meaningless jobs, polishing stainless steel in an echoing kitchen, shovelling leaves dressed in white stilettos and swimming costume. Mr. Tree took photographs. Mrs. Tree sat at the window, eyes hidden by sunglasses.
Every morning there was a neatly wrapped gift. Some days jewellery, others sex toys, chocolates, or new clothes. Wandering the empty house, sinking into plush carpet, she’d wait for the Trees to arise.
Mr. Tree drove her across misty fields in his SUV, or stroked her hair in the cool, long bedroom. After sex, he was a courteous uncle, an aging headmaster.
Eyes hidden, Mrs. Tree might order her to bend and twist like a dancer, or make her eat fried chicken until she was sick. Once, she made Emma copy her every move, part reflection, part marionette.
Watching, Mrs. Tree never touched.
In her room, looking over gardens toward London, Emma phoned home, telling Mum and friends about her employers.
All congratulated her for falling on her feet.