by Monica Graz (Parts 1 and 2 are written by Lady Charlotte, Parts 3 and 4, 5 and 6 are by Monica Graz)
I hurriedly turned back to my cleaning job, wiping the window glass with a special soft tissue to eliminate all marks when I heard Signora’s authoritative voice, “Molly, come here at once, Signorina Connolly has some questions for you.”
“Subito Signora,” I answered with a slightly raised voice as I started descending from my short ladder. I wiped my wet hands to my already badly stained apron and tried to straighten up my uniform dress but I knew I looked quite disheveled after all those hours of constant manual work.
I quickly approached the two ladies sitting comfortably in the plush armchairs and I curtseyed as expected, saying in my pigeon Italian, “Prego Signora.”
“You are allowed to speak in English with Miss Connolly and answer her questions truthfully and to the point girl,” Signora said in her haughty manner.
I curtsied again with another “certo Signora” as I turned to face Jennifer, blushing all over.
Jennifer, a mocking smile on her face said, “Not exactly the elegant serving maid I
met the other day Molly, don’t you think? You look much more like an old fashioned skivvy now, like we stepped back into the 30s.”
I knew that I wouldn't be able to have a normal conversation with Jennifer in front of Signora. She would be crossed with me if I would start a proper conversation with my old university colleague, it wasn't my place anymore as a lowly domestic to converse frilly with my ‘betters’ as she would say.
I simply said with a curtsey, “I am a housemaid Miss and my orders today were to clean thoroughly the living areas of the house plus the windows. I will be finishing soon in this area and then I’ll be able to change to a fresh uniform for the rest of the day.”
I stopped for a moment and then added hastily, “Unless, of course, Conchita, my fellow maid, has some other chores for me.”
Signora smiled mischievously and said, “Very good Molly. I see you absorbed by
now that Conchita is your superior in this house and you have to follow her orders and instructions to the letter.”
“Certainly Signora,” I answered in English with a small curtsey that became a second nature to me by now.
Jennifer looked at me peculiarly. She just realized the full pecking order in the house; I was even lower than the uneducated Filipino maid.
She looked at me again, now a more serious look in her face. “Signora Matei
explained to me everything, Molly. She said that you applied for this job giving her your very impressive CV. She said that you agreed to all her terms and conditions to become a low-paid domestic servant with no extra benefits. And she just mentioned that you are now under the authority of the Filipino maid Conchita, the one who just served tea to us.”
There was but one answer to what Jennifer just said, “All that you just said, Miss, is very correct. For reasons that are not fully clear even to me I have the strong tendency to serve and submit. Don’t ask me why, it’s something that is with me all my life and...”
Signora interrupted me rather abruptly, “You don’t have to expand, Molly, you just explained it all in a few words. You are a ‘masochista’ at heart and if you believe in reincarnation you must have been a slave in a previous life. I was quite impressed when I heard from Miss Connolly that slaves in USA were your PhD topic. All the pieces of the puzzle have fallen into place now.”
Then she turned to Jennifer and said in her polite urban manner, “I am sorry, Miss
Connolly, that my maid was a bit out of place just now, she has a long way to go
to forget her old bourgeois ways and start behaving like what she became, a mere
maidservant. In fact I have a program in mind to accelerate her transition from lady to maid and Conchita is willing to assist me in that.”
Jennifer smiled sweetly and said, “Of course, Signora Matei, I understand fully that Molly needs a rigorous training as a maid. It’s not only the uniform that transforms someone into a servant, there are many small and subtle details that can make the difference and I am certain you must be quite an expert in that. But I have to add that the Molly I see here today in front of me is already miles away from the Julia I knew back in UK.”
“And it is in only the beginning, dear Jennifer, if I may call you that, I invite you to
come back in a month's time; then you will see a much humbler servant in front of
“I’d love to see that, Signora Matei,” Jennifer answered quite happily as I was
standing awkwardly in front of them playing slightly with the edge of my apron.
“In fact, Jennifer,” Signora Matei added playfully, “I can demonstrate to you that
Molly can be an object in this house in the same way that slaves were in the past.
In the days of the
our ancestors were calling a slave ‘res’, in other
words, ‘a thing’.”
She abruptly turned to me and said in a commanding tone of voice, “Now, Molly, I want you to go and stand in the far corner of this room, you know the one, you have done it before.”
I turned all red when I heard that, she was about to completely demolish and humiliate me in front of Jennifer.
I picked up Signora’s voice again as she continued talking to me, “I want you to lift your apron and cover your head with it, it’s long enough for that, and then
stand completely still and press your nose to the wall until I call you back. Do you
understand me, girl?”
“Si, Signora,” I answered meekly curtseying at the same time.
“Go on then, don’t stare at me like an idiot,” she added harshly.
I turned and walked fast towards the opposite wall. I lifted my apron and covered my face and head with it. A strong smell of chlorine and washing up liquid engulfed me.
I put my feet together and pressed my nose to the wall firmly. My humiliation was
complete. But strangely enough a feeling of peace and humility encircled me at the
same time. For the next several minutes (how many, I wondered?) I was an object in this house, just like Signora said.
I heard at the distance Jennifer and Signora chatting amicably but I wasn’t able to
pick their conversation, too far for that. I thought that I should take this predicament as a form of meditation, though I had a strong sexual arousal at the same time. The idea of being an object, or ‘res’, intrigued me probably as much as it did Signora. I closed my eyes and tried to focus on my extraordinary trip in the past few weeks.