As we ascended the stairs, Erika said, "Thank you for not pressing her for the sordid details. It's... she's not comfortable talking about..."
"Yes. It's just the way she is. Her brother was an alcoholic, and her sister ran off with a boy and got pregnant, years ago, and she – Claudia, I mean – is quite proud that her family never talked about any of it."
"She seems rather conservative, compared to–"
Erika burst into laughter. My employer frowned, and I knew she had not anticipated this reaction. We were at the top of the stairs by then. There was one door there, presumably to the parlor. Erika led us down a narrow, gloomy hallway to the other door, which she opened with a key.
"She brought me up here to admire the view, the night I met her, the day I arrived in town," Erika said as she led us into the large bedroom and turned on the lights. "The next thing I knew, she was embracing me from behind as I looked out the window, That startled me, and when I turned, I realized she... had removed most of her clothes. The next thing I knew, she was removing mine as well, saying that she was sure I would want a relaxing bath after my trip, and–"
My employer held up a hand. "I get the picture. You became lovers."
"That's how it was for a while, but she likes to go out to parties and openings and shows, and I don't really, so... I ended up living in the room downstairs, and I take care of the house. I'm not a tenant, like the others. I've never paid rent.
"Claudia doesn't like confrontation, and she doesn't like to be explicit about things. I knew that, and I made it easy for her. And she's always been very sweet to me. When she gives parties, I'm the hostess, just like before. She always praises my cooking, and she never flirts with anybody if I'm around."
I remembered the evident pleasure Erika had taken in her position in the house (unusual as that position might have appeared), and in the fact that, after the death, Claudia had moved into Erika's room and apparently resumed their relationship.
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