“Angry words have been said. My father has accused Makso of not controlling his dog. It tried to bite him.”
“Oh, dear.” Mel sighed.
“Papa is hot-headed. He doesn’t like Makso. My mother is upset and telling Papa he must be careful.
“It seems Makso was looking for him. He searched everywhere then heard he had been down by the trulli houses. But Makso has forbidden Papa to go there.”
“I don’t know,” Mihovil replied. “But Papa stood up for himself and told Makso that even if he is his employer, he won’t be answerable to Makso every second of the day. Papa lost his temper and the dog jumped at him.”
“Surely it wasn’t Makso’s fault?”
“The dog got excited and pulled at the lead unexpectedly when Papa raised his voice.”
Mel could see they’d come to a stand-off. But she wasn’t going to have men behave worse than children. Poor Severina looked devastated. She was no doubt worried they might all lose their jobs.
Mel waded in, despite Makso’s stony stare.
“Please, come away. You haven’t been injured, have you?” Mel asked, talking very slowly because Ivan’s English was not good.
Her common sense attitude and calm voice took the heat out of the situation. Makso, seeing someone take Ivan’s side, turned without a word and left them to it. Severina stopped crying and calmed her husband down.
Ivan wasn’t injured, but he’d lost face. Frustration burned in his raging eyes. He muttered words under his breath as Severina thanked Mel and led him away.
“Are you OK?” Mel asked Mihovil.
She was conscious that the boy was unnerved. She led him to one of the chairs by the pool.
He sat down, tight lipped.
“My father is a proud man. He may be hot-headed, but Makso is all powerful in this house and it frustrates my father.”
“Has this sort of thing happened before?”
“There is difficult history between Makso and my father.”
“What sort of history?” Mel was intrigued.
“Papa hasn’t told me everything. But he and Makso were schoolboys together. At one time they were all poor, all equal.
“But while my father has remained a humble chauffeur, Makso has a better business head. That’s why Papa ended up working for him, my mother, too, and now me. Papa fears we are under his thumb and can never get away, even if we want to.”
“Your father could work for someone else.”
Mihovil looked wretched.
“I have said this to Papa, but there is not so much work. We have a nice house on this estate and it is close to school and my grandparents.
“Besides, I feel there is something strange which ties my father to Makso. He wants to break away, but he can’t. Makso has a hold over him. He likes to have – what do you English call it? – the upper hand.
“The worst thing for Papa would be to lose his job. He is desperate for me not to become a chauffeur like him. He wants me to be something grand: a doctor, or a lawyer. While I am studying he would move mountains to remain.
“I’m scared that what happened today may lose us all our place here.”
How different Makso was from her last employer, Mel thought. Oscar, whose daughter Izzy she’d cared for in London, had been kindness itself. Although he was a hotshot lawyer, he didn’t need to be macho.
Everyone loved Oscar, but around Makso was an air of unease. Mel wasn’t going to pander to him. She didn’t have as much to lose as Ivan, Severina and Mihovil.
It was time someone stood up to the great Makso Yurcich.