The Butler's Dilemma
Otis Templeton grasped tightly onto his dad’s limp hand, staring with glassy eyes at the
pale, weak form of his once energetic father. He despised the sight of the wires and tubes
attached to him, the electronic lights and beeps that represented his life, which hung barely by a
thread. How much longer will I have to do this? Otis wondered, closing his eyes and putting his
head down on the stiff hospital bed.
“Being a butler is so much more difficult than you made it seem,” Otis whispered wearily
into the cushion, though his father couldn’t hear him. “How did you do it?”
“Don’t beat yourself up, man, anyone in your situation would be strugglin’,” a voice said.
Otis looked up to see a large, dark-skinned man sporting blue scrubs and holding a clipboard—the nurse who’d been taking care of his father for the past year. Otis thought for a moment and remembered that his name was Baxter. “I mean, your dad did formal butler training like they all do. You just filled in when he got sick, right? No training or nothin’?”
Otis nodded. “Only directions from the family.”
“Yeah, the Margiela family,” Baxter nodded as he checked the patient’s vitals and
scribbled notes on his clipboard. “They’re pretty damn generous, offerin’ to pay all your dad’s medical bills in return for you workin’ in his place.”
“Right,” Otis said flatly. “They’re saints.”
The nurse paused, raising an eyebrow at Otis. “I know it’s like nothin’ to them, man, but you still gotta be thankful, ya know?”
Otis didn’t reply. He didn’t tell Baxter that the Margielas hadn’t so much offered the
arrangement as they had forced it, compelling him to work for them so that they would pay the medical bills. Otherwise, how could he possibly afford his father’s treatment? But of course, as the powerful always do, they’d worded it as if he had a choice.
“Besides,” Nurse Baxter said, a new teasing lilt in his voice, “I bet your job’s at least
made worth it by the fact that you get to work around that fine-ass daughter they got. Rika, right?
Ain’t she only a few years younger than you?”
Otis groaned, his face contorted in pure irritation. “Don’t even get me started on her.”
# # #
Rika closed the large mahogany door behind her and let her smile fade away. Warm
colors of sunset streamed through the enormous third-floor window, casting light through her spacious bedroom and onto the silk curtains of her canopy bed. She ripped off her dainty lace gloves and tossed them carelessly on the floor before massaging her cheekbones to help ease the pain of faking that plastic polite smile. Reaching up, she freed her hair from the intricately tight pattern it had been woven in, until it fell in loose copper locks over her shoulders. She sighed in relief as she untied her corset; she’d missed breathing.
Now, back to business. Rika reached down into her stockings where she’d hid the wad of money she retrieved earlier today from the family safe—the last little bit she needed before she was ready. Opening up the closet, she reached behind the dresses for the secret shelf compartment where she grabbed—
Nothing. Nothing was there. Rika pushed past the hanging clothes in a panic, but the
shelf was empty. She frantically looked around the closet in case it had fallen somewhere else–
“Looking for something?”
Rika startled and spun around to find the family butler standing behind her with an
expectant stare. His short, tan hair seemed to glow from the light illuminating the room as he towered over her. “Mr. Templeton!” she said.
“Otis,” he corrected, smoothing down his suit coat with white-gloved hands. “As I’ve
said, you can drop the formalities when it’s just you and me; you know I’ve never cared for them in the first place. Now,” he peered through thin glasses into the closet behind her, “what exactly are we looking for?”
“Nothing!” She hid her hand holding the money behind her back and laughed nervously.
“I, uh, I lost a sock.”
Otis scrutinized her through his glasses for a moment, then sighed. “If you’re going to lie,
Rika, you’ll have to do much better than that.”
“I- I don’t know what you’re talking about,” Rika said, unable to hide the defensiveness
in her voice as she shut the closet doors. “What are you doing here anyway? Do butlers usually
sneak up on people?”
Otis hummed. “Do daughters of noblemen usually try to run away?”
Rika froze, emerald eyes wide as she stared into his hazel ones. She gulped. “How…
how’d you know?”
Otis reached around and pulled her arm out from behind her, revealing the cash in her
“Taking money from the family safe,” he remarked before letting it go, “though in small
increments, since you needed to garner up a substantial amount and couldn’t risk anyone
noticing so much missing. Same with nonperishables from the food pantry. And one by one, your comfiest clothes and family photos just happened to disappear; yet not once did you ask anyone where they went. I had to wonder why you’d stash them away, unless you planned to be gone for a long time… Maybe forever?”
Her face had grown bright red. “You’re supposed to be a butler, not a detective.”
“I was never supposed to be a butler,” Otis said with a slight bitterness. In fact, his dream
until a year ago had been to become an architect—to design mansions, not work in one for the
rich family that owned it. “But as the butler, my suspicions were confirmed when I was
arranging your dresses as reference for the tailor, and found your runaway bag with all the items
that had been missing.”
“Where did you put it?” Rika asked, her tone firm and accusing.
“I don’t believe it matters,” Otis told her. “You’re not running away.” It was his number
one duty, and he wasn’t about to forget it. He turned and headed for the door, ready to attend to
his other duties, when—
“I’m tired of being perfect,” Rika blurted out. Otis paused, gloved hand stilling on the
doorknob. Behind him, Rika sighed. “I’m… I’m tired of being the perfect Margiela daughter,
keeping up appearances and worrying about our family’s social status. But you know my parents. They want this to be my entire future, my whole life. I just thought… if I can get away, maybe it won’t have to be.”
Otis was silent. “We’re all a little tired,” he said after a moment. “It doesn’t mean we can
just run away.” With that, he pulled the door open and stepped out into the hallway.
# # #
A year or so ago, shortly after Otis was hired, he was called into Mr. Margiela’s private
study for a quick briefing. The room was on the third floor, and considerably darker than most
because of the tall, dark brown curtains that shielded the interior from most of the natural
sunlight. When Otis entered, the Man of the House was sitting at his large desk, leaning back in
his seat with chestnut hair slicked neatly back. He looked up at the new butler-to-be, jade-green
eyes glimmering in the light of his desk lamp much like a jaguar’s would as it watched its prey.
“Welcome, Mr. Templeton,” he said. His deep voice dripped with authority. “I must say,
it was most pleasing to hear you’d accepted our offer.”
“It was… hard to resist,” Otis replied. “I… I do genuinely appreciate your help with my
father’s medical bills.”
“Yes, well, we knew it would be unlikely you’d have sufficient resources to finance your
father’s treatment, given your… background. We’re always looking out for ways to… help the
less fortunate. And in return, I trust you’ll fulfill the duties of our family butler with utmost
excellence.” Mr. Margiela stood, revealing his towering height, and made his way around the
desk to stand closer to Otis. He held out his hand, offering two white cotton gloves.
Otis took the gloves and began to put them on. “I’ll do my best, but it may take some
time before I get the hang of things.”
“No need to worry. Our headmaid Donna worked closely with your father; she’ll help
train you on general tasks and learn all the formalities. But the real reason I wanted to meet with
you, Templeton, is to discuss your most important duty as the Margiela butler.”
“My most important duty...?”
“Rika,” Mr. Margiela said, beginning to pace the length of the room. “Our daughter, and
sole heir. As our legacy, she must be protected. I want you to ensure that she’s safe at all times
here at the mansion. There’s really no reason she would need to leave our grounds, but if ever
she does, she must be accompanied by at least three guards and be back before sundown.”
“Isn’t she 19 already?” Otis asked, surprised at all the restrictions, but he shut his mouth
upon seeing the seriousness in Mr. Margiela’s expression. “Well, I guess if it’s for her safety…”
He rubbed his hands together; the gloves felt odd on his skin.
“She’s become curious in past years,” Mr. Margiela continued. “Told us she wants to
travel to other countries and see penguins, or something of the sort—whatever, it was nonsense.
She fails to realize her potential in life. Her purpose. No matter how much her mother and I
disapprove, that yearning seems to persist in her. And it’s dangerous.” All of a sudden he was
right in front of Otis, green eyes holding a piercing stare. “Do not forget, Templeton. If there’s
anything your employment here rests on, it’s this order: Rika stays here.”
# # #
Rika’s plan was simple, really: Step one, pack her essential belongings. Step two, sneak out of the house unnoticed. And Step two, catch the midnight train from Malaya Station to get out of the city. She was practically finished with Step one when Otis came along and had to ruin everything. But that was a fairly easy thing to fix—all she had to do was find the bag.
Fortunately, she knew the butler a little better than he realized. She knew there was only
one place in the entire mansion where he thought he could hide things for no one to see. It was
only a few months after Otis started working for them that she noticed a cabinet door slightly
ajar in a corner of the second-floor library. Usually those cabinets held old worn-out books that
no one ever read, but when she went to inspect it she discovered countless drawings—
breathtakingly intricate diagrams of buildings, all signed O. Templeton. It was then that she’d
learned of his passion and talent for architectural art; he had never mentioned it himself.
So the following morning around lunchtime, when she was sure no one was in the library,
Rika snuck inside. Despite the vast size of the room it was easy to locate the cabinet, because it
happened to be right underneath her favorite shelf of books, the one containing animal
encyclopedias and atlases of the world. When she opened it, she found exactly what she’d
suspected: her leather travel bag, sitting right on top of all of Otis’ drawings.
“Yes,” she said excitedly under her breath, grabbing the bag. She took a quick moment to
check if everything she’d packed was still there, then she turned around and—
“Just what do you think you’re doing?” Otis said, blocking her way with his arms crossed
and making her jump. When he spotted the bag in her hands, his eyes widened and he reached
out to grab it from her. “Honestly, Rika, why do you insist on making my job so difficult?” He
pulled on the strap, trying to wrench it from her hands.
Rika resisted, pulling the bag against his grasp in a game of tug-of-war. “Well if I make
your job so difficult,” she argued between grunts, “then let me leave! Think about it: if I
disappear, your job will be so much easier!”
“If you disappear, I may not have a job left at all!” Otis said, tugging on the bag with
“Well what’s so wrong with that? You clearly hate it, so why not leave? You could even
come with me!”
Otis froze, the bag’s strap slipping past his hands as Rika fell backwards from the sudden
lack of opposing force. He’d assumed her parents would have told her about the nature of their
agreement, but she evidently had no real idea why he was working for them. “It’s not that
simple, Rika. We can’t all just run away.”
“Why not?” Rika asked from the floor where she’d landed. She stared at him intensely.
Otis clenched his fists. He couldn’t bring himself to explain it to her. To admit that his
father had fallen ill, and that the only way to afford the treatment was to take over his butler
duties for the Margielas - and that, in fact, her parents had emphasized that idea when
“convincing” him to work for them. He couldn’t tell her he’d had to stop training as an
architectural designer, his dream job since childhood, just to start working for them. And that as
much as he disliked the job, he was terrified to lose it, because he’d risk losing his father too.
Instead, Otis stormed out of the library without saying a word.
“What… just happened?” Rika wondered aloud, puzzled at the butler’s sudden exit. But
when she realized she was alone with the bag, her face lit up. “I’ve got to hide this,” she realized,
grabbing a bookshelf for support as she stood up. “This time, somewhere he really won’t find it.”
“She’s a flight-risk, Donna,” Otis complained, frustrated as he shined silverware in the
first-floor kitchen. He was ashamed of his mistake yesterday, leaving Rika in the library with the
bag containing everything she needed to run away. He’d tried desperately to search for it again,
but to no avail. Instead, he increased the number of guards stationed at the North and South
entrances of the mansion, and even assigned some at the East and West, where usually there
were none, but he was worried it wouldn’t be enough. Now to top it all off, he had to prepare for
yet another fancy dinner party for the Margiela’s business partners and their families, set for
The head maid laughed a gritty laugh as she helped shine utensils too, her aged eyes
crinkling as she looked fondly at the young butler. “Ever since she started readin’ all those books
‘bout the foreign lands and exotic creatures, the girl’s been a flight risk,” she told him. “She
wants to travel, Otis. She wants to see the world, meet the people, see the animals - and she
doesn’t wanna do it in a private plane with an entourage of guards.”
“Doesn’t she know how her parents feel about it?”
“Oh, of course she does, honey,” Donna said, fluffy gray hair nodding. “First time she
ever brought it up her father laughed like it was the funniest darn joke he’d ever heard.”
Otis’ eyes softened. He would have been crushed if his father had laughed when he’d told
him he wanted to become an architect. “Has Mr. Margiela always been so… harsh?”
Donna’s expression turned stern, her wrinkled hands stilling on a piece of silver cutlery.
“Money changes people, Templeton. Frankly, I’m glad she wants more in life.”
“You’re happy she wants to run away? What about the family’s legacy? She’s the sole
heir as the only Margiela daughter.”
“And she’s willing to give it all up for a chance to live a little. Now, how often do you
meet a person like that?” Donna set the last shined piece of silverware with the others, then
rubbed her hands together. “Give me a second, I’ll go fetch the wine glasses for us to polish too.”
Otis leaned against the kitchen counter while he waited, deep in thought. Could running
away really be good for Rika? He couldn’t deny that her parents were often overprotective of
her, not willing to risk anything happening to their only heir. But he personally didn’t think there was anything wrong with her wanting to see the world. And he knew firsthand exactly how
torturous it was not to be able to live your dream, to be stuck instead in another reality. Who was he to force that misery onto her, if she had a way out?
But he thought of his father, the one he was doing all of this for. Thought of how he’d felt
that first night at the hospital, thinking he might lose him forever.
When Donna returned with the tray of wine glasses, he found himself having to swallow
the lump that had formed in his throat.
That night, Otis sat on a couch in the lounge, a warm glow emanating from the floor lamp as his eyes roamed over a piece of paper Donna had printed for him. He’d gone over the process of memorizing guest names and faces before a party many times now, but it never seemed to get any easier. Tomorrow evening, the Margiela’s business partners would be coming with their families, so now he had to memorize even the children’s names for his greeting responsibilities.
“Let’s see… Johann Leone, the youngest son of the Leone family, 22 years old… Trevis
Coriander, the oldest son of the Coriander family, 23 years old… Benjamin Volkov, the-”
“-only son of the Volkovs, 20 years old,” a voice finished.
Otis looked over to see Rika standing at the threshold of the hallway. “What are you
doing here?” he asked suspiciously. He checked to see if she was holding the runaway bag, but
she stood there empty-handed.
“Relax,” she replied, holding up her hands, “I’m not up to anything. I just came down for
a drink of water and overheard you in here. Memorizing the guests tomorrow?”
“I’ve never been good at memorization,” Otis admitted, squinting as he looked back
down at the paper.
Rika walked towards him, the hem of her nightgown swaying gracefully as her bronze
hair glinted in the light. “Johann’s easy enough to identify if you remember he’s the short one.
Trevis has a bit of an aloof attitude, but a really nice smile. And Benjamin’s fairly outgoing,
laughs a lot.”
Otis nodded along, trying to remember the details for future reference. Looking back over
the names, it occurred to him that there weren’t any daughters appearing on the guest list. “Why
are these all young men?”
“Suitors,” Rika answered simply, leaning over the arm of the couch next to where he sat.
She smiled shyly. “For me. My parents take every chance they can get to introduce me to
“So I’m memorizing all of these boys’ names because they might marry you someday?”
Rika scoffed. “Not a chance.”
Otis raised an eyebrow as he looked at the pictures of the handsome young men. “You’re
telling me you don’t find any of them attractive?” Her standards must be through the roof.
“Attraction is a different issue, Otis,” Rika told him. “I wouldn’t marry them for it, but
they’re all attractive. Trevis especially is incredibly pretty—he sort of looks like you.” She
stopped, realizing what she’d just said.
Otis paused and looked at her, ruby warmth spreading across his cheeks as he processed
her words. But before he could dwell on it any further, his thoughts were interrupted by the
clack, clack, clack of heels as a familiar figure entered the room. Her face was stern and covered
in makeup, and her dark brown hair and house dress were both extremely elegant, the picture of
Otis immediately rose from the couch. “Mrs. Margiela,” he greeted with a slight bow.
“Rika!” the Lady of the House called, her voice sounding out in the most reprimanding
tone. “I thought I heard you in here. What on earth are you doing awake at this hour?”
Rika stiffened. “This hour being 9 p.m.?”
Her mother frowned. “Don’t you take that sarcastic tone with me, young lady. Not with
anyone, you hear me? You’re a Margiela. You need to be respectable. What would your father
Rika sighed. “I’m sorry, Mother. I went to drink water, that’s all.”
“I don’t see water in your hands, dear,” Mrs. Margiela replied, giving her daughter a
once-over. “Regardless, it’s time to head off to bed. You know you need your beauty rest. Trevis
Coriander will be coming tomorrow and we need to have you looking your best. Plus, you’ll
need to wake up early to be fitted into your new gown so the tailor has plenty of time to make
any necessary adjustments. Though he shouldn’t have to make any at all, if you’ve been good
with your diet.”
Rika’s shoulders slumped. “I understand.”
“Good. Then let’s get going.”
“I’ll be up in a minute, Mother.”
Otis winced. He wished he could say something, but only watched in silence as Rika
followed her mother out the room to go upstairs. It’s not like this was his first time seeing the
Margiela parents interact with their daughter this way; he knew it was their everyday. So why
did he suddenly feel so different?
The next day, it was time for Step two, sneak out of the mansion unnoticed. Rika wasn’t just worried about being caught by her parents but also the countless house staff that roamed the mansion—the maids, cooks, guards, etc.—and of course, the butler. For this to work, she needed an occasion where most, if not all, of them would be occupied. And when guests arrived later that evening for the dinner party, that’s exactly what she had.
Otis visited her room to notify her that the guests would be arriving shortly, and that her
new gown was in the ladies’ dressing room all ready for her. But when she went to the dressing
room, she ignored the obnoxiously petite boa-constricting concoction the tailor had made for her and instead made her way swiftly to the large wooden armoire. With the amount of maids on
their staff, it had become necessary to keep a plentiful stash of female hygiene products in one of
the drawers. Pulling it open and sifting past the pads—something she was sure Otis would never
dare to do - she smiled at the sight of her leather travel bag, still safely hidden at the bottom.
She reached inside and pulled out her comfy housedress—breathable and easy to move in,
unlike most dresses she had to wear—as well as a pair of sturdy boots, and quickly changed into
those. She also grabbed a random shawl from the wardrobe, probably one of the maid’s, and
pulled it over her shoulders.
Just then, she heard the characteristic ding dong of the doorbell, signaling the arrival of
guests. Perfect, Rika thought. Now the staff would be busy assisting them, and it’d be easier for
her to maneuver to an exit without getting caught. She waited until the concentration of voices
had moved into the dining room, then she made a stealthy descent down the stairs and headed to the East exit, travel bag in hand.
The East exit was one of the minor entryways into the mansion, simply a single door at
the end of a one-off hallway. Much like the West entrance, it was pretty much never guarded,
because guards were in charge of monitoring the staff and guests who went in and out of the
building, and they nearly always went through the main entrances at the North or South ends.
Her heart jolted with excitement as she made her way down the East hall, sure she’d be out in no
time. She approached the door and reached out for the knob, freedom right at her fingertips—
“I really need to use the restroom,” said a deep voice on the other side. Rika froze,
pulling her hand away and involuntarily holding her breath as she listened through the door.
“You can go later, on your break,” replied another voice. She recognized them. Guards.
“Come on,” the first voice whined. “No one’s even here, all the guests are going through
North and South as always. I’ll only be gone five minutes.”
“Mr. Templeton ordered us to guard this entrance, and we were given a tight schedule.”
Drat, Rika thought, of course he did, that rotten butler. What do I do now? But before
she could devise a new plan of action, she heard the tapping of footsteps coming down the hall
behind her in her direction, and her heart dropped. Shoot.
Defeated, she turned around.
Holding a silver platter of desserts in one hand, a white towel slung over the curve of his elbow, Otis looked out at the dining hall with a grin; everything seemed to be in order. Guests were enjoying themselves, the Margiela parents were entertaining their business partners, and the maids and house staff were helping to make sure everyone felt accommodated. But a sudden realization struck him, and his grin faded—one person was missing from the picture. He’d been so busy handling things with the evening party that he hadn’t noticed until now.
“Where’s Rika?” he whispered discreetly to Donna, who had just returned from the
“Beats me,” the head maid replied, dusting off the frilly white apron on her dress.
“Will you please go find her?” Otis asked with a concerned look. “She may try to take
advantage of this situation and sneak out while her parents are preoccupied.”
“If you wanna find the girl, you find her,” Donna told him.
Otis could see there was no arguing with her. “Very well,” he said, handing her the tray
of desserts he’d been holding. After glancing to make sure the Margiela parents were still
distracted, he snuck out the dining hall entrance. He made his way up the carved wooden staircase, two flights, and marched across the hallway to Rika’s bedroom before pushing the door wide open.
She wasn’t here. His heart began to race. He ran to the dressing room and knocked on the
door. No answer. He looked inside. Empty. “No, no, no…” His blood was surging as he rushed
down the stairs. The entryways. The guards had to have stopped her, right?
North entrance, they hadn’t seen her. South entrance, same thing. East entrance…
Deserted. Standing at the threshold, Otis rubbed his eyes to see if he was missing
something, but no—the two guards who were meant to be here were gone. Had she killed them?
Just then, he heard jaunty whistling, and when he turned towards the sound he saw a tall,
muscular man in uniform exiting the bathroom down the hall. Recognizing him as one of the
guards meant to be stationed at the East entrance, Otis approached him. “Guardsman, would you care to explain why neither you nor your partner are at the post where you were stationed?”
The man straightened. “We were ordered to move to the South entrance, Mr. Templeton.
We were told there was no need for the East to be guarded.”
“Ordered by whom exactly?” Otis asked, but he already had an inkling.
“Miss Donna, sir.”
Otis groaned, waving off the guard. He should have known the head maid would help
her. He winced as Mr. Margiela’s commanding voice repeated in his mind: Rika stays here. She
had definitely left the building by now, probably off to… where? Otis checked his watch,
thinking. Rika would probably want to get as far as possible, as fast as possible, and at this late
hour there was only one way she could do that - ride the midnight train from Malaya Station out
of the city. Otis ran to grab a coat; the night air outside was chilly.
When he arrived at the station, Otis spotted copper red hair in front of the ticket booth, warm light bouncing off of it from the buzzing electric bulb of the stand. He rushed over, just as she was handing over five coins - the fee for a single ticket—and snatched them from her palm.
Shocked, she stumbled backwards. “Otis! Give me that back! What are you doing here?”
“Taking you home.” He reached out for her wrist and pulled, trying to lead her away, the
coins in his other hand.
“Let me go, Otis!” she yelled, prying herself free with a grimace and stepping away.
“You’re not going to stop me.”
“Rika, come on. Why do you even feel the need to do this? You live a luxurious life!
Look, your parents are probably looking for you right now, so let’s go. Don’t you love them?”
Rika’s eyes prickled with tears, her expression almost offended. “Don’t you see?” she
said, her voice tilting with grief as pain gripped her heart. “They don’t understand. They refuse
to understand.” She inhaled, letting out a shaky breath. “Do you know what they said they want
for my future? They expect me to stay their porcelain doll of a daughter and just keep getting
polished until I can take over their assets. Then I’m supposed to be perfect enough to win over a
suitor, a perfect husband, so I can have my own perfect children to pass on the assets to. To keep
on the Margiela name. That’s going to be my life if I stay. My life, Otis. I can’t bear it.”
Otis stood there in silence, unsure of what to say. He’d never seen her so upset.
Rika went on, “If you knew you were going to live the rest of your life never getting to
experience what you wanted most, would you be content? Would you be happy?”
Otis thought of his dream of becoming an architect, of how hard it was simply to put a
hold on it, even when he was doing it out of genuine love for his father. To think he’d never
reach it at all? I’d be miserable, even more than now.
A tear rolled down Rika’s cheek. “Tell me, Otis, if you were in my situation, would you
really be able to stay?”
Otis didn’t say a word. He couldn’t. Stretching his arm over the counter of the booth, he
dropped the five coins he’d taken from her earlier and pushed them across to the merchant. The
merchant, an old man with a curly white mustache on a round face, smiled softly as he slid a thin piece of paper across in return: a train ticket.
“Oh, Otis,” Rika said, smiling through tear-stained cheeks as she took the ticket. “Thank
Otis’ mind raced in mental preparation for his return to the mansion. What would he tell
the Margiela parents? Could he get away with saying he tried his absolute best? That he was
simply too late? No—even if he could, his dad raised him better. He’d have to tell the truth. But
he’d beg too. Beg for their continued help in taking care of his father. Beg for them to keep him
as the butler. He’d get on his knees if he had to. And even if they didn’t have mercy on him,
maybe he could ask Donna for help to find a different wealthy family to work for; heck, maybe
the Leones or Corianders or Volkovs would hire him. And even if they didn’t, he’d find
someone. He’d find some way. He’d do whatever it took.
Before he could take more than two steps away, Otis felt a hand catch his arm. He turned
“Come with me,” Rika told him, her voice barely a breath. “I know you hate it here, just
as much as I do.”
I wish I could, Otis thought.
“I’ve seen your drawings,” she continued, her eyes suddenly shiny with excitement. “You
could build a whole city if you wanted to, Otis.”
“I could design one,” he finally said.
“You could design one!” Rika exclaimed, laughing in awe. “You could design one. I’ve
seen you while you’re drawing them, too. You look like a different person.” She grabbed his
hands, taking the gloves off of them so she could feel his skin. “Come with me,” she repeated.
As Otis stared into her beckoning eyes, he remembered his father, lying in the hospital
with no one by his side; always alone except when Nurse Baxter came to check on him, and
when Otis came to visit.
He shook his head in response, closing his eyes as he gently pulled his hands out of her
Rika looked at him with resigned sadness in her eyes and opened her mouth to speak. But
just then, the train rolled into the station, its familiar chug, chug, chug slowing to a screeching
halt just before the doors opened with an inviting hiss.
“Go get on that train,” Otis told her, “before I change my mind.”
She turned to board, but paused after half a second and looked back. “Are you sure you
don’t want to come with me?” she offered one last time.
“I told you, Rika.” He put his white gloves back on. “We can’t all run away.”
I’m Samantha Sampang, an Early College High School student studying Business at PCC. I wrote The Butler’s Dilemma while taking WR241 with Johnny Zackel (who is a lovely instructor). It’s a simple little story about feeling trapped, locked in an unsavory situation, and considering whether there’s a way out. I had tons of fun while brainstorming it with my cousin Jan, writing it, and especially hearing my classmates and instructor discuss it during our in-class workshop. The entire experience revived my long-felt love for writing, which I plan to keep alive moving forward even if I don’t pursue it as a career. I’ve always been fascinated by writers’ ability to convey deep messages and emotions through stories, and to be on the other side of that sort of art is a remarkable feeling.