by Monica Graz (Parts 1 and 2 are
written by Lady Charlotte, Parts 3 and 4 are by Monica Graz)
I was very conscious of my appearance as I was wondering around, a permanent smile glued to my face, a tray in my hand, offering to the guests champagne and the
delicious little canapés prepared by Conchita.
For the first time in my life I was so publicly exposed as a maid in front of so many people. I was fully aware of my black uniform dress my little white apron and my tiny white cap pinned on my hair. I had very little make up on, just a touch of lipstick and some mascara. Signora was adamant about that; a maid shouldn’t look like a tart. The cotton white gloves cleverly were hiding my rough working hands.
They were all sorts of people there, from bankers to young but prominent artists, ‘la crème de la crème’ of Milanese society as Signora mentioned to us in the kitchen, without a trace of modesty in her voice. As I was wondering around I noticed that she was watching me like a hawk for a possible ‘faux pas’.
So far I was able to avoid the worst and the evening was developing in a jolly manner.
All present seemed to enjoy it including Signorina Bonifacio who was madly flirting with a handsome young artist. She enjoyed teasing me as she was motioning me quite often to approach with my tray either for a glass of champagne or a canapé. She
always was falsely polite with me with a slightly ironical “Grazie Molly”, then adding in a lower voice, “It is much better girl serving at a party rather than scrubbing floors, don’t you think?”
And of course I only could answer with a smile and a polite, “Si Signorina, certo
It was past eight o’clock and people were still coming. As I was moving around I
spotted with the corner of my eye a new arrival, a young elegant woman who didn’t look Italian. Signora greeted her very warmly with her comfortable English.
Following Signora’s instructions I waited for a couple of minutes and then I started approaching her to offer a glass of champagne. And then I froze in my tracks and nearly dropped the tray. I recognized this person; we were in university together for many years and not the best of friends, there was always an animosity between us two for various reasons. And it came to me like a flash that she was recently appointed as a junior diplomat in the U.K. Consulate of Milan. Her name was Jennifer Connolly.
I wasn’t certain what to do. Back off and go to the kitchen or face her? Of course I
couldn’t back off, Signora would be furious with me, so I approached her hoping that she wouldn’t recognize me acting like most people do during receptions by simply ignoring the domestic staff and continuing socializing with the other guests.
But alas, no such luck! She looked shrewdly at me as she was picking her glass,
“Julia, is that you? What on earth are you doing here dressed like this, are you on
some sort of undercover mission?”
I had to think fast now, “I am employed in this house, Jennifer, I am doing a project on conditions of employment for domestic staff in Italy, I’ll have the chance to explain more sometime later.”
At this moment Signora approached us fast, a look of curiosity in her eyes.
“Is everything all right Signorina Connolly?” She said looking at her in a concerned look, then turning to me added, “Molly you should know better than that; you know it’s not your place to chat up my guests.”
I deeply blushed and said in a timid voice, “Scusi Signora.”
Jennifer assessed the situation very quickly and decided to keep our secret,
“Everything is all right Signora Matei, I thought for a moment I knew your maid
Molly but I am mistaken; is she English by the way? Her Italian has quite an accent.”
Signora turned to me first and said in an abrupt manner, “Move on girl, circulate,
people are waiting to be served; and bring some of those canapés to Signorina
Connolly to taste. Hurry up then!”
Then as I started moving I heard her saying to Jennifer, “Yes, she is English and quite educated but she wants to work as a domestic and...,” then I lost her voice.
When I came back a few minutes later with the tray of canapés Jennifer had a peculiar expression in her eyes, a mixture of contempt and curiosity, “So Molly maid your Mistress told me the whole story and how you decided to become a lowly domestic on your own will.”
She stopped to eat a small canapé, “Mm. That’s good. Signora Matei invited me to tea the day after tomorrow so I can see you in action as the true domestic you became. I wouldn’t miss that in a million years.”
The least I could say is that I was shocked and yet excited. My submissive genes were kicking and kicking hard. I looked at her red from embarrassment.
As she was picking another small piece of food she said to me, “Julia dear or Molly or whatever you are called now, deep down I always knew you were a potential slave yourself. All that interest and compassion for the slaves when you were doing your thesis was somehow unhealthy, I could pick that much at the time.”
She stopped abruptly as she spotted someone she knew. She waved at him and then
turning to face me added, “I certainly am looking forward to meet again Molly maid. Bye for now.”
“Bye Signorina,” I said uncertainly nearly curtseying to her.
For the first time since I exposed myself to this unusual situation I had to come face to face with my old milieu.
It was nearly four o’clock and I was about to collapse from sheer exhaustion. I was working nonstop since seven this morning.
The list of chores compiled by Conchita was endless!
It was Friday, two days after Signora’s reception and the house was quite messy. The floors, mostly in the main areas, needed a good scrubbing and cleaning.
Since yesterday as Signora announced to Conchita and I our duties in the house have been adjusted to a more defined mode. Conchita was elevated to the post of cook and ironer and I was given all the duties of a maid of all works, a general housemaid in other words. Conchita was going to be my supervisor and she would report directly to Signora. The pecking order in the house was even more defined now and I was definitely the last in it.
I couldn’t resist the temptation to look at myself in the hallway large mirror as I was doing the final mopping.
I looked at the image of an overworked and exhausted domestic. My uniform dress
was wet at its hem form my kneeling to wash all the difficult corners of the floor
where the mop couldn’t reach; Signora was very particular about that. My apron
was also covered with wet spots from slaving earlier in front of the kitchen sink.
Fortunately my hair looked tidy enough kept in position by a white head band I had to wear. I was feeling hot and sweaty and marks of my sweat were visible under my armpits.
At this moment I heard the key in the front door and within seconds Signora Matei
came in looking very elegant in her designer's clothes, probably bought in Via
Napoleone the most expensive and fashionable street in Milan.
I instantly turned to face her with the obligatory curtsey.
“Why you flannel Molly in front of the mirror, don’t you have work to do?”
She looked at me more carefully now, an amused glimpse in her eyes, “Nothing much to look at anyway, just a disheveled looking maid, do you enjoy that look of yours girl?”
She confused me, I didn’t know how to answer especially in Italian, “Si Signora,” I said hesitantly.
She became inpatient now, as if she didn’t have more time to lose, she looked at the watch, “At five o’clock Signorina Connolly from the U.K. Consulate is coming for tea, Conchita will serve but you stay around she might want to have a word with you. We are sitting in the little drawing room I hope you cleaned carefully there girl.”
“Si Signora,” I said curtseying again as she departed for the kitchen no doubt to check the tea preparations. I picked my mop again.
I couldn’t stop thinking as I was doing the final mopping. Jennifer will be here in an hour and she will see me like this, a lowly disheveled looking servant, not even with the nice black and white uniform I had the other day.
A tiny smile appeared in my face as I was thinking of that, because I finally had to
accept that I didn’t mind anymore who was going to see me in my new station in life. I took a decision on my own will and I would stick to it.
Conchita’s voice startled me, “Hurry up Molly, finish the mopping and check the
guests’ WC, make sure that fresh towels are available and all is sparkling, then come to the kitchen to help me with the tea preparations.”
I was getting so conditioned in answering to orders that I nearly said my usual ‘Si
Signora’, then I realized that Conchita was still my fellow maid and simply said, “Yes Conchita, I am about to finish here, I’ll check the WC and be with you in a minute.”
When I joined Conchita in the kitchen several minutes later she had already changed to a nice grey uniform dress and half white apron, clearly ready for receiving our guest and serve the tea. She looked neat in a less formal manner a total contrast to my disheveled look after a day’s hard manual labor.
I looked inquiringly at her; she understood what I was asking with my eyes and said, “No Molly, you can’t change your uniform just yet, not until you finish the messy work you are doing. You still have to clean the windows in the main living areas. Now before you go back to that task just do a clean up in the kitchen. I better check the cake I am baking.”
Conchita was acting more and more like my employer and somehow I was getting
a sinister satisfaction from it. A barely educated Filipino maid was becoming my
immediate boss in Signora Matei’s residence. My submissive genes were getting
stronger by the day.
It was a few minutes past five when I heard the main door bell as I was cleaning a
huge window climbed in a short ladder. Jennifer Connolly had arrived. I knew that Conchita was going to answer the door so I continued my cleaning task.
I heard Signora’s voice as she was greeting in her accented English my old university colleague and roommate Jennifer Connolly. Then I heard Jennifer answering in her plum oxford accent.
“Thank you Signora Matei for inviting me in your grand house, I am very happy to be able to meet with the prominent members of Milanese society.”
I was only meters away from them in common view, a simple servant cleaning the
windows and totally ignored. I looked at my reflection in the now sparkling window, a mere drudge, my hair greasy by now, my skin streaked with sweat, my hands red, my nails chipped. A feeling of complete humiliation combined with a peculiarly strong excitement overtook me.
The two ladies went to sit in a comfortable couch in the other side of the large living area and then I heard the little crystal bell chiming. I knew it was for Conchita.
In seconds I heard Cochita’s voice in her broken Italian, “Prego Signora,”
“You can serve the tea now Conchita.” Signora said in English.
“Si Signora, presto,” Conchita answered with a little bob and rushed back to the
At this moment I couldn’t resist anymore the temptation and I slightly turned to look at them. I instantly saw Jennifer’s eyes being focused on me a smirk in her face. I felt that she was about to say something demeaning about me, I could feel it in the air. I was about to become the center of attention for those two ladies.