Before the sun set, Madame Lavender summoned Sunshine, and soon it became a ritual. In the morning, Sunshine filled the tub with hot water and by the afternoon cleared out the bath water, and true to Madame’s word she paid the girl. This continued for a year. When both had become accustomed to each other’s habits, Madame began to ask more of Sunshine, and the girl obeyed.
Madam Lavender was always telling Sunshine to do this, do that, bring me this, bring me that, and never raised her voice even when Sunshine got it wrong. Madame was more patient than Sunshine’s mother and quickly learned how Madame wanted it done. A year of doing this, most people would have walked out on Madame as many had, but not Sunshine, she was ever a dutiful eight year old that found Madame fascinating. Sunshine hoped Madame would rub some of her loveliness on her and maybe, just maybe teach her how to be as beautiful as her.
One day, out of the blue, when Sunshine had finished filling the bathtub, Madame requested something out of the ordinary.
“Get in,” Madame Lavender said. “It’s time you enjoy bath water. It will wash away—the not so good things in your life, make them disappear. You work hard, now you enjoy.”
Sunshine’s eyes grew wide with excitement, but she was unsure to undress in front of the Madame, but the Madame only found this amusing.
“The body is the most beautiful thing, never think not,” Madame laughed, “love your body, take care of it. You should never hide from it. The body is a curious thing to look at, it can excite the mind and please the eyes. Love yourself, my child… you are a beautiful girl.”
Sunshine looked down, remembering something unpleasant mother had once said to her.
“Now, what?” Madame Lavender asked.
“Mother said I should live with the monkeys because I look like one,” Sunshine said. “Mother says I am ugly.”
“Do you always believe mother?” Madame asked.
Sunshine shook her head yes.
“Believing what other’s say is a very unhealthy thing,” Madame Lavender said. “What proof does mother have that you are a monkey?”
“Do you have tail like monkey?” Madame Lavender asked.
“No,” Sunshine checked to see if a tail grew from behind her.
“Do you have large ears like monkey?” Madame then asked.
Sunshine touched her small ears and replied, “no.”
“Do you eat bugs like monkey?” Madame asked again.
“No,” Sunshine was certain she didn’t eat bugs.
“Then you are no monkey,” Madame said, “mother was not being honest… now get in the bath water before it gets cold.”
Sunshine undressed and stepped into the tub. It was a pleasant feeling, relaxing to her senses. When she finished her bath, Sunshine cleared the water from the tub, thanked Madame Lavender and walked home. As she approached the Tempest tent, mother stood at the entrance with an upside down smile. Sunshine wondered if mother would know what she had been up to. Maybe, she should have not gone straight home after being in the bath water, maybe she should have gone to feed the elephants. Elephants never smell nice, but as she grew closer, it was too late to retrieve as she stood facing mother.
“Where have you been?” Mother’s upside down frown grew larger. “What is that smell on you? Where have you been? Is that perfume you are wearing?”
Mother believed women should not wear perfume, let alone a child wear a sweet scent that attracted undesirables.
“Where did you get that perfume?” Mother kept asking. “Why are you wearing perfume?”
Mother instantly changed and something came over her, something not so good. She grabbed Sunshine and tugged on her shirt and shook her. Sunshine knew what would happen next and pleaded mother to forgive her. It was too late, and Mother went to grab the broom stick and the next thing was inevitable. Sunshine could feel the end of the stick come down on her arm, her legs, and then felt it come down on her crown. Sunshine passed out.