Monday, December 1, 2014

Story: Departing from Milan. Part 4.

by Monica Graz


“Molly, go and change this instant, Miss Connolly will be here in about half an hour and you still have to set the table,” Conchita said to me as I was helping her with the preparations of the meal basically cleaning after her. She was the cook and I was her skivvy for sometime now.

It was past midday and I already felt tired and dirty. I was as usually up at 6.30am and I was solidly working except for a break at 9.30 to share a quick cup of coffee and a small snack with Conchita in the kitchen.

“Make sure to wear a clean uniform dress without stains and use the nice white half apron with the frill all around it. Also have a white band around your hair. Miss Connolly has to see what a nice Filipina maid you became.”   

“Yes Ma’am,” I answered to her realizing as I said it that by this stage I fully meant it. Conchita became somehow my immediate boss, the one to whom I was referring all the time, the one who was telling me what to do in the house on a daily basis. Signora and signorina Bonifacio were above that, they wouldn’t tell the ‘help’ what to do; they had the senior maid for that.

I left hurriedly for my tiny room, I washed superficially making sure that I was free of any unpleasant body odors and I put on a light blue front buttoned polycotton dress, the classic day uniform of a maid and I tied firmly around my trim waist  a pretty half white apron, the one with the frill as Conchita requested. I adjusted a white band around my jet-black hair and I rushed back to set the table.

I found both Signora and signorina Bonifacio sitting in the living room chatting amicably. As I walked past them I stopped and curtseyed with a quick, “Good morning Signora, good morning signorina Daniela.”

They ignored me continuing their chat, which wasn’t unusual as I rushed to the dining room to start setting the table.

I was quite absorbed with my task when I heard Daniela’s voice.

“Molly. Come here for a minute, Signora Matei has to talk to you.”

“Subito, signorina,” I answered as I stopped arranging the table to rush back to the living room.

I curtseyed in front of them as they both looked at me with a critical eye. “Yes, you look the part Molly,” Signora said first and signorina Bonifacio added, “Thank God you have a clean uniform dress on, I am so used seeing you in those stained dresses and aprons. Let me look at your hands girl.”

I blushed as I displayed my hands for inspection.

“Hmm, they look clean enough to me and your nails are properly clipped. Of course they are a working girl’s hands, quite rough, but we can’t do anything about that.”

Then Signora’s voice made me turn towards her, “As you know, Molly, Miss Connolly doesn’t speak any Italian or Tagalog so you are allowed to answer to her in English, but I want you to sound a bit simple in your English with some Filipino accent probably? You are not the educated Julia anymore, you are Molly the Filipina maid with basic English so you can get by with your employers around the world. Can you do that girl? I want to see you acting a bit. Make an effort to talk that sort of English with me now.”

I knew that I could be good at imitating various accents so I decided to play Signora’s game, it was exciting for me as well.

“Yes Ma’am,” I answered introducing a slightly singing tone in my voice by simply using Italian or even Tagalog intonation in the English words I was about to use.

I decided to be a bit bold since Signora asked me to act so I continued with my singing accent blushing and smiling at the same time, “I learned my English Ma’am at the domestic arts school I had to attend in Manila, before I was allowed to travel abroad to work as a maid.”

Both Signora and Daniela looked at me a bit surprised and Signora smiled broadly. “Good for you Molly, you sounded very authentic like a true Filipina. What you think Cochita?”

I turned towards the kitchen door where Conchita was standing looking at all of us as if we were theater acting.

She answered in her singing English as well, “Yes Ma’am, Molly sounded very real, she is getting there, and soon she will be completely ready to travel.”

I looked at her stunned. Travel? Where? When?

I couldn’t fail noticing the hard stare Signora gave at Conchita. She clearly had said something she didn’t suppose to. At that moment I realized fully than sooner or later I was going to leave Milan as Molly the Filipina maid. The mere thought of it sent tremors of excitement and fear simultaneously through my whole body.

Conchita realizing her faux pas tried to change the subject, “I think you should rush now Molly and finish setting the table, Miss Connolly will be here any minute now.”

Signora moved her head in agreement and added, “And Molly you will get the door when you hear the bell.”

I heard the bell a few minutes later as I was carrying a tray of glasses to the table. I nearly dropped them. My God, Jennifer was here and I had to answer the door.

Seconds later I heard Signora’s commanding voice, “Molly get the door please; our guest has arrived.”

“Si Signora,” I answered hastily as I was putting the tray with the glasses on the dining table.

I straightened my apron as I was rushing to the door thinking at the same time,
‘So be it Molly, you have nothing to hide or be ashamed of, you are what you are and all those changes that happened to you in the past few months happened because you wanted them to happen, so just face people being your current shelf, a Filipina maid doing her work properly.’

That thought gave me strength and inner piece as I opened the door to face my old friend.

“Good day Ma’am,” I said in my Pidgin English slightly curtseying at the same time.
“Do come in, please, Signora is expecting you.”

Jennifer looked at me, her jaw slightly dropped, “Julia, is that you?”

“It’s Molly now, Ma’am,” I said politely emphasizing my exaggerated singing accent.

She looked at me again in disbelief as I moved aside to let her in.

At that moment Signora appeared all jolly and welcoming,

“Ah Jennifer welcome, come in, come in, Molly can take your coat and bag.”

“Thank you Paola,” said Jennifer as she handed me her coat and bag still scrutinizing me.

I instantly noticed that they were in first name terms by now. I must admit I very rarely heard Signora being called like this. Clearly those two must have developed a more steady contact and friendship by now; probably they socialized a few times outside the house.

They even slightly kissed each other in that light feminine elegant manner. They clearly were closer now.

Then Jennifer shook hands with Daniela being more formal with her. No special friendship there I could tell that much.

I put away the coat and bag and went back to the dining room to finish laying the table. I already had a bottle of white wine chilled in an ice bucket waiting

I watched with the corner of my eye the three ladies settling in the comfortable living room sofas but I couldn’t hear them talking, too far for me. Of course I was dying to find out Jennifer’s reaction to the new me.

Signora’s voice brought me back to reality, “Molly we’ll have some wine here before we sit down to lunch.”

“Si Signora, subito,” I answered in a slightly raised voice.

I poured three glasses and took them over on a tray. As I was serving them they haven’t stopped talking and I could hear Jennifer saying, “I couldn’t believe it was her Paola, not in a million years, she looks so much like the real thing. We employ Filipinas in our Consulate in Milan and they speak exactly the same way like your Molly, simply amazing!”

She raised her eyes and looked at me when she collected her wine, with a simple ‘Thank you Molly’.

“You are welcome, Ma’am,” I answered with a minimal curtsey using the same singing voice. I realized that I was getting a sinister pleasure being a full Filipina in front of my old friend and colleague from my student days. No inhibitions were present on me anymore, my personality had undergone a dramatic change and I couldn’t stop it anymore, I was on a totally new path now with a totally unknown future.

As I was expected I went and stood at the corner of the room hands folded in front of my apron waiting for further orders. I extended both my ears trying to hear as much as possible from their conversation. I could hear most of it missing just words or short sentences now and then.

“She is so changed …..,” I heard Jennifer’s voice again missing after that a few words because of a noise from the kitchen, then picking the same voice again, “But she needs to be exposed to the outside world, she lives in a very protected environment, probably she still thinks this is just a game, don’t you think so?”

I heard Signora’s voice first, “Everything is about to change in a few days, dear Jennifer,  I already booked her to work as a cleaner for a couple of weeks at Malpensa airport, that will expose her quite drastically to the outside world then…” I missed again Signora’s voice, Conchita was making noises in the kitchen with her pots and pans, I could kill her for that, I was missing what would interest me more, what would happen to me after the airport work.

Then Daniela Bonifacio added, “I agree with you Jennifer, Molly needs to be exposed to the outside world, she still thinks we play a game in this house. The airport will add to her humility but something more drastic is needed, something to make her feel that she is not in a virtual protected world anymore but in the cruel world of poor migrants that try to make their living under appalling conditions, more than often having to support whole families back in their home countries. Molly has to feel it to her skin what that means and as you heard before very briefly Signora Matei has a very elaborate plan.”

I shivered when I heard the last phrase, ‘Signora has a very elaborate plan?’ What that really means I wondered. And Jennifer heard something that I missed just before because of stupid Cochita and her kitchen noises.

Signora suddenly remembered me and in her usually stern voice said more loudly, “Molly we are going to the table now, you can start serving in a few minutes and you can fill our wine glasses again.”

“Si Signora, subito Signora,” I said with a small curtsey though nobody was looking towards my direction.

They had a jolly time at the table. The wine was flowing freely and I could tell that Jennifer was a bit tipsy. I could see the signs since more than once in the past we got drunk together.

I brought them coffee as Jennifer turned and addressed me for the first time.
“I could employ you to the British Consulate as one of the maids there, they are all Filipinas so you could fit very well, would you like that, Molly maid?” She was trying to be contemptuous towards me but she was simply drunk so her voice was trailing off. The other two ladies looked amused and made no comment.

“It’s not for me to decide that, Ma’am,” I answered remembering to use my singing accented voice. Signora is my sole employer and she has to decide all my future employment issues. But thank you, Ma’am, anyway for suggesting that.” 

I finished my sentence with a small curtsey, of course.

Jennifer wasn’t happy, she was trying to find a way to humiliate me in front of the other two ladies, but she was too drunk for that.

Signora understood that and she interfered discreetly, “Jennifer, I’ll call a taxi for you, you mentioned that you have to go back to work for a couple of hours.”

All of a sudden Jennifer remembered her other obligations and looked at her watch. “Oh God, I better rush, I have a meeting with the General Consul in an hour. Thank God for the coffee, I do need that.”

Signora turned to me and said quietly, “You can clear the table now, Molly, and then you can go and have something to eat yourself, you must be quite hungry by now.”

“Thank you Signora, I am indeed,” I said curtseying.

I looked once more at Jennifer who had lost interest in me completely, she was already anxious about her next meeting.

As I was handling her bag and coat a few minutes later she looked at me in a rather unfriendly manner and said, “I am certain our paths will cross again, Molly. Enjoy your airport work, I’ll look for you next time I fly to London as you will be wondering with your cleaning cart. Bye for now.”
“Good bye, Ma’am, it was nice seeing you again, Ma’am.” I said remembering my special voice and trying to avoid sounding sarcastic as I was closing the door.


5 comments:

  1. one of the best written stories in this genre....looking forward to the next chapters...

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    1. I can't agree more. Can't wait for the next chapter!

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  2. What a story!! Thank You Lady Charlotte for laying the groundwork and Thank You Monica Graz for continuing the story. From some of the comments here on this page it seems that Lady Charlotte and Monica Graz has continued emailkorrespondance, I am sure the story will benefit from this.
    I believe that molly will be sent abroad to be enrolled in a maid training school in the Philipines. In continuation she might learn manicure, pedicure and relaxing massage so that she can be of further use to her employer.
    I look forward to next chapters.
    Thank You also to Camille Langtry for posting the story.

    Sincerely Yours

    Grey Master

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    Replies
    1. You are very welcome. The new chapter is coming up soon. It's the best one so far.

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