Lilliann’s fingertips grazed over the glistening diamonds in the golden necklace before she pocketed it. The piece of jewelry would feed her family for a few weeks at least, and being in a dusty corner of some back-alley store, she doubted they’d miss it much. Though why was such an expensive necklace tossed aside like it was nothing? She only paused briefly before making for the door, trying to remain inconspicuous; it was the first time she resorted to stealing anything.

“If you don’t mind,” a raspy, feminine voice sounded from behind her, “I’d like my necklace back, dear.”

Her stomach twisted in knots, and a lump lodged in her throat as Lilliann turned her head to find a slightly older woman, dressed in a casual button down navy shirt and pinstriped pencil skirt, not a single auburn hair out of place. How did she miss this woman? “I don’t know what you’re talking about,” she lied, forcing her voice to steady.

“Oh, no? You didn’t swipe a one-of-a-kind necklace and intend to walk out the door? If you have nothing to hide, should I call the police, then?”

It was like someone shoved a hot poker in her gut. Lilliann knew she couldn’t be arrested, not now. She reached in her pocket and pulled out the necklace, dropping it in the woman’s outstretched hand. “Please don’t call them. I’ll leave and never come back here.”

The older woman gave Lilliann a once over, slipping the gold piece of jewelry into her own pocket. “I have something different in mind. What say you do me a tiny favor instead? I’ll let you off the hook and throw in the necklace as a bonus.”

A pang of uneasiness flushed Lilliann’s system, unsure of what kind of favor she could possibly do for the woman. “I’ll do whatever you need.”

“Wonderful! What’s your name, dear?”

“It’s Lilliann,” she answered the older woman.

She gestured for Lilliann to follow her, leading her to a backroom in the store where she seated herself at a table. “My husband and I are in need of maid for the week. I’d like you to take on this position. If you do it well, it could lead to more opportunities. Here’s my address; show up tomorrow afternoon.” Lilliann gave a slow nod to show her understanding of the request.

Staring up at the enormous and daunting mansion, Lilliann approached. It was the biggest building she’d seen in her entire life. She pressed the buzzer, and an older gentleman, butler she assumed, answered. “I’m the new maid,” she blurted, the words coming easier than expected.

“Come,” he commanded with a gentle authority as he stepped aside. “Your job will be to prepare food and beverages for the Master and Mistress.” The older man led her to an oversized kitchen, and she felt a sting of jealousy dance up her spine but quickly shoved it back down. “Mr. Johnson is already awaiting his afternoon tea,” he started, pulling a pill bottle from his pocket and setting it on the counter. “These are his medicine, to be mixed into his cup.”

Lilliann poured tea from a kettle that had already been prepared before her arrival and dropped a couple of the tablets into it. Though, strangely, the butler sent her home as soon as she finished. At first, she thought maybe she messed something up, but he told her to come back the following morning.

The morning paper came with a note that day, it read: Thank you for your services. I will call on you again, but next time you’ll be paid in cash. The necklace slipped from between the folds of the newspaper, drawing her attention to the headline. “CEO Charles Johansson dies in a car accident after falling asleep behind the wheel.”