Illegal Work

4 min

Hong Kong students who rarely write in English, even though I am studying creative writing, so I thought, maybe I should write more English. This is why I am here. I look forward to your comments and  [+]

Image of Fall 2020
Image of Creative Nonfiction
When I was a little girl, I would often be alone at home and no one took care of me. The domestic helper, a young Philippine woman, Arnida seems to be very busy all the time. She is often late to pick me up from school and suddenly disappears for a long time. Sunday is a holiday for most people, including Arnida. But for reasons that I never know, my mother and brother would be away sometimes. I used to be alone at home for a long amount of time on Sunday, however, Arnida decided to bring me with her one day.

This is not part of her job and it is still illegal for domestic workers to work on Sunday. My family probably does not know about this too. But would the young little girl know that and ask any questions? No, I didn't care and just followed her.

A few times, she actually took me to play, we went to the beach, park or went shopping. Another time, she would take me to her other workplace. Apartments in the Hong Kong Island region, way more spacious compare to my home, which means it needs more maintenance. As usual, Arnida took me into some stranger's apartment and started to do the housework for the owner.

Whitewalls, light wood flooring, and monotonous furniture in the living room made me feel cold. Empty, I would describe the spacious apartment as empty. There are no signs of a family and children lived in this big place. No strong characteristics or style, it just doesn’t seem like a person lives here. But strangely, I could tell the owner is likely to be a man, a lonely man. The owner probably would not welcome guests like me to be here.

“Sit down and watch TV. Don’t walk around and touch anything,” Arnida said and put me on the sofa.

I nodded, knowing I was definitely going to explore this place. I saw her go straight into the bathroom. I watched television all day when I was at home alone, so I was not interested in it. I turn off the television and explore the living room.

This place obviously was not made for children, there was nothing to entertain me. However, I noticed there was an unusual table in the living room. Unfinished puzzles and pieces scattered on the table, there was a glass fence up the table on the edge. Guarding this important property, screaming to me, “Don’t touch it! ” No adult in the room and a child with a rebellious spirit. What would I do?

Of course, I touched the puzzles.

In fact, I tried to put a few together. It was a puzzle with many pieces. I would say it was around 1000 pieces. I didn't think anyone would notice that I completed the puzzle a little bit. It was a boring puzzle, just some landscape of lake, mountain and blue sky. Who would notice the lake part slightly has more pieces than before?

I bet Arnida would not. She always expects scolding or beating me would make me a good girl. In reality, I just found a sneakier way to commit my mischief. As soon as I heard footsteps coming, I immediately sat back on the sofa. Arnida checked on me with no suspicion, then grabbed the vacuum cleaner and started cleaning from the living room. I followed behind her and observed her. I knew I bothered her a bit by following her when she told me to stay back. She finished cleaning the living room and carried the vacuum cleaner to another room.

“Don’t go inside and stay out the door,” Arnida said, “This is someone’s room.”

I nodded again with questions in my head. Why could she go inside then? Why did she bring me here if I should not be here in the first place? I looked at the room from the door, it was a study room. My home has no such thing, my brother and mother’s desk was in the living room and their desk is way smaller than this giant desk. It is weird that there was no desktop computer, I thought the owner of this place would need a computer to work. At least, my family had two desktop computers. Besides paper documents and bookshelves, the photo frame on the desk caught my attention.

A graduation headshot photo of a girl. This is the only photo with an actual human I saw in this place. Was this the owner or someone important to the owner? I was unsure. I felt like I am knowing something I should not know from this one photo. I backed off to the living room. I stared at the puzzle for a while and decided to take away the few pieces I completed.

This is not my puzzle. I thought next time I will be here again and check the progress of the puzzle.

After a few months, I had been to different people’s homes. Eventually, I visited the “puzzle” apartment again. I took a look at the puzzle and tried to find a new additional piece of it. No sign at all but maybe I had a bad memory and could not figure it out. But it is weird that the puzzle looked messier, what did the owner do?

I looked around, there were not many changes, but I felt it was more empty than before. I decided to sneak into the study room while Arnida was busy tidying the bedroom, a place she would shut the door and not let me see anything. What was the difference? Why did she think I could look at the study room though?

I gathered more information in the study room than last time and I did not touch anything. Most of the documents and books were written in English which leads me to think the owner might be a foreigner or used to study overseas. I could not understand most of the English words but from what I read; it is enough for me to know why the owner was richer than my family.

Wait, where is the photo of a girl? I tried to find the picture on the desk, but it was gone.


It was a sudden realization. This reminds me of my parent’s relationship. Something similar happened.

I really should not know about this. I stayed quiet as usual and went back to the living room. I wish he could complete the puzzle one day. Or find someone who completes his puzzle with him.

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