Saturday, May 31, 2014

Story: Arriving in Milan. Parts 3 and 4.


Monica Graz has picked up the story of Julia, a young and educated English girl who willingly becomes a maid to a demanding Italian mistresswhere the author of the original, Lady Charlotte, left it. Here are the next two chapters. 

PART 3
by Monica Graz (Parts 1 and 2 are written by Lady Charlotte)

As I resumed my scrubbing the floor Signora came back and said rather condescendingly, “And Molly make sure you change to a clean uniform dress before you go shopping,  you look too dirty and disheveled at th
e moment. I want my maids to be presentable to the outside world.”

“Si Signora,” I answered dutifully not knowing enough Italian to say that I had no clean uniform dress left,  my other two day dresses and several aprons were even dirtier and I was planning to do a serious laundry after the end of my working hours.

I had to ask Conchita for one of her dresses, fortunately she was a big girl for a Filipina and we were about the same size. 

Signora departed once more as I wet the coarse rag in my bucket and continued the scrubbing feeling the pain on my sore knees. I had to rush now, more duties for tonight. Probably Conchita will know more about the coming guests.

Conchita gave me one of her old uniform dresses which have seen better days but at least it was clean. It was a light blue front buttoned polycotton striped dress quite faded now and with chlorine stains around the hem. A white collar and white piping around the short sleeves and front pockets gave the unmistakable badge, a maid’s dress!

I hastily washed my face, hands and arms to remove the grime, changed to my fresh dress and picked the list from Conchita, who, being the cook in the house, started to explain to me where to go and what to select. 

Signora had a number of exclusive food shops around this rich neighborhood of Milan where her domestic stuff (Conchita and me presently) could go and get provisions without paying, since the bill was settled later electronically by Signora’s private secretary, Signorina Bonifacio, a young woman in her early twenties - certainly younger than me and Conchita - who treated us in a very arrogant way like lowly servants. 

I was about to go when Conchita stopped me rather abruptly, “You forgot something girl, you can’t go out without your apron, you know how Signora gets angry if she notices that, then we are both in serious trouble.”

She gave me a small white half apron which I quickly tied around my slim waist making certain that the bow was symmetrical. Now I was ready to step to the outside world like what I really and truly had become during the past few weeks - a lowly domestic maidservant working in one of the rich mansions of this area.  

I started walking fast looking straight, trying to avoid eye contact with the elegant passers by, I felt so embarrassed walking in the street dressed as I was. On the other hand a peculiar peaceful sensation of being ‘una serva’, ‘una domestica’, as I was called all the time now, was getting stronger and stronger in me. I liked more and more that feeling of submission to Signora or Signorina Bonifacio, even to Conchita who was the senior maid in the household. I was the last in the pecking order in Signora’s household and that was so peculiarly exciting for me.  

I was startled by a male voice behind me, “Ciao bella! Ma que bella serva, e una uniforme molto elegante!”

I abruptly turned and came face to face with a middle aged man who was looking admiringly at me. I instantly felt that he was looking at my dress and apron rather than me. Probably he was one of those cross dressers who liked to think themselves as maids; strolling through the net in the past I realized they were quite a few men out there who would like to dress as maids.

I got angry with his boldness and I said in English rather ironically, “Probably you would like to wear my uniform and be a maid instead?”

He clearly understood because he instantly blushed and became quite uncomfortable with me; I clearly struck a sensitive chord. He completely lost his bravado and turned and walked the other way murmuring in Italian, “Scusi Signorina.”  

I smiled happily thinking that I was right, he was a crossdresser and he was fascinated by my uniform. 

I did the shopping fairly quickly, they knew me by now in the exclusive food shops, "la serva di Signora Matei," this is how I was known. Not even once I was asked my name, I simply was "la serva".

Back in the house I carried the shopping through the service entrance. I found Conchita busy with the preparations in the kitchen.

She said to me, “Signorina Bonifacio wants a cup of coffee in her office now girl,; then come back to help me, we are running late, it is an early event, the guests will start coming at seven.”

“Si Conchita, subito,” I said in my pidgin Italian, checking the kitchen clock, it was nearly 5 o’clock.

I prepared a double cappuccino in the special coffee machine; put it in a tray together with all my shopping receipts, checked my appearance and rushed to Signorina Bonifacio’s office next to Signora’s studio. I always felt a bit uneasy when I visited Signorina, she was very unpredictable and moody and she could be nasty at me for no reason at all.

I arrived in front of her firmly closed door and knocked timidly.

“Qui es?” she asked in her rather haughty voice.

“Molly, la tua domestica, signorina,” I answered in my uncertain Italian,

“Entrare!”


PART 4

Signorina Bonifacio was absorbed in front of her laptop when I entered. Initially she ignored me completely but when I left the receipts next to the coffee in front of her desk she raised her eyes and looked at me, a mixture of criticism and contempt in her expression. 

“You have been shopping then girl?” she said abruptly. Her English was quite good with a strong Italian accent of course and I was allowed to answer back to her in English, not like Signora who insisted that I address her only in Italian.

Signorina Bonifacio, Daniela was her first name, was fully aware of my unusual predicament. She knew I had a PhD from a prestigious UK university in contemporary North American history with my topic being "Slavery in the American South in 19th century" and yet I was employed in this prestigious Italian house as a lowly maid. She even joked with me when I first started working for Signora Matei that my PhD subject influenced me so strongly that I clearly identified myself with the poor slaves of that period and finally became one of them. And the funny thing it, she was not far from the truth, even though it was slightly more complicated.

Her voice brought me back to reality, “I asked you something girl, are you day dreaming or something?”

“Sorry Signorina,” I answered humbly with a slight curtsey, “Yes, I have been shopping for tonight’s event, Signora informed me earlier that guests are expected at 7 o'clock and Conchita gave me a list for shopping. I just brought you the receipts with your coffee, Signorina.”

“Yes, I can see that,” Daniela said looking at me more carefully now, “That dress is quite disreputable, Molly, look at those stains at the hem. I know you spend quite a bit of time on your hands and knees scrubbing floors but you shouldn’t go out like this.  Signora Matei’s serva should look more presentable to the outside world, girl!”

I had to explain to her why I had to wear this particular dress, she mellowed a bit when she heard the whole story, but she added ironically, “You seem to get Conchita’s hand me downs now, Molly, how very appropriate for someone who is at the bottom of the social ladder, even lower than the Filipina maid.”   

She really knew how to tease and provoke me. I blushed and said meekly, “Certo Signorina,” simply confirming what she just mentioned. Yes I was seriously down the social ladder now and that excited me in a sinister way. I couldn’t stop a parallel feeling of shame overtaking me at the same time  though. How did I let myself go so low!?

“You can go back to the kitchen now, girl, I am sure Conchita needs you now.”

“Si Signorina,” I said and with another slight curtsey I departed for the kitchen.

I found there Signora talking to Conchita in rapid Italian. Conchita, who has been in Italy for more than ten years now, knew enough Italian to understand our Mistress. And that was the aim of Signora to bring my Italian to that level as well.

She addressed me in English, “Ah Molly, just the person we need. I explained to Conchita how things are going to work tonight. About ten to twelve people are coming for a standing reception. It will be champagne and small canap├ęs that Conchita prepares as we speak. You are going to do the serving, you know the drill, circulating with a tray and a smile.”

She stopped for a moment and turned to Conchita saying something in her fast Italian. I tried to understand, but I missed most of it, except vestito nero, piccolo grembiule bianco, guanti bianci, which meant, black dress, small white apron, white gloves. Clearly she was talking about my uniform for tonight.

She turned to me again, “Conchita will lend you her formal black and white uniform, clearly in better shape than what you have on now, look at those stains on your dress.”

I tried to answer, but she stopped me with her hand, “Never mind that, we don’t have much time, you help Concita, then at 6:30 go and have a quick shower, I don’t want a smelly maid serving my guests. Then Conchita will give you her formal uniform. Put some cream on your hands - they look rough and red to me - and then put on the white gloves. I don’t want people to see your working hands, so we hide them. All right girl, capici?”

Blushing all over I curtseyed slightly and said in my bad Italian, “Si Signora, Io capito.”

‘Good girl,” she said with a faint smile and departed for her quarters. She had to get ready herself.

3 comments:

  1. I Hope there well be more chapters

    ReplyDelete
  2. Excellent....please continue.....

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  3. The story drives me crazy with excitement! I can't help myself either--I want to be just like Molly!

    ReplyDelete