Monday, June 20, 2016

Story: Maid in China

By Barefoot Servant

“Hey, do you want to go to China with me this summer?” The question caught Maddie Akers completely off-guard. It really probably shouldn’t have. Her friend Jenny Kim’s parents were from China after all, and they visited every summer.
“What? Are you serious?” Maddie shifted to a sitting position. She had been lying across Jenny’s bed. Jenny sat up too, cross-legged, mirroring Maddie’s movement.
“Yeah, totally, I’d love to,” Maddie squealed in excitement. Jenny grabbed her hands and squealed too.
A knock at the bedroom door interrupted the girls’ excitement. An accented voice followed. “Ladies, is everything okay? Can I get you something to drink, maybe a snack?” Maddie had visited Jenny’s house often enough to recognize the voice as belonging to Rosario, Jenny’s family’s Filipina maid.
“You want anything Maddie, maybe a lemonade?” Jenny asked.
“Yeah, sure,” Maddie nodded.
Jenny yelled toward the door, “Rosario, go make us some lemonade, okay.” It wasn’t a request.

“Yes, Miss Jenny,” Rosario quickly answered. Maddie could imagine the brown woman scurrying away on bare feet to comply with Jenny’s order.
Conversation quickly returned to the China trip. “You’re going to love it Maddie,” Jenny explained. “We’ll see all off the usual tourist stuff, the Great Wall, Forbidden City, the Summer Palace, the Temple of Heaven. Our house there is great too. The pool is decadent, and we have more servants than just Rosario.”
Maddie fell back onto her back on Jenny’s bed. She closed her eyes and imagined a summer spent soaking up foreign culture and lounging by a pool while servants attended her every need. This is going to be the best summer ever.
Maddie’s thoughts were eventually interrupted by yet another knock on Jenny’s bedroom door. “Ladies,” it was Rosario again, “may I come in? I have lemonade.”
“Yes, Rosario,” Jenny sighed, “come on in and be quick about it.” The door eased open and Rosario entered bearing a tray with two glasses of ice and a pitcher of fresh-squeezed lemonade. The round-faced woman smiled at both girls and set the tray down. She was uniformed just as Maddie always saw her when visiting Jenny—dark blue, wrap-around skirt; white blouse; and bare feet. Rosario filled both glasses with lemonade and handed one to Jenny then Maddie.
“Can I get anything else for you ladies?” the maid asked.
“No, Rosario, this will be all for now.”
The two girls spent the next hour sipping lemonade and making plans for their summer vacation.
***
“China, huh. I don’t know, Maddie, it sounds pretty expensive,” Max Akers fretted. It wasn’t the answer Maddie had hoped for from her father. “Besides, I thought you were going to get a job this summer to help save for college. That’s just a year away after all.”
Maddie sighed inwardly and maybe a little outwardly too. “Come on dad. I never ask for much, and I have a 3.8 GPA and a 29 on my ACT. That’s going to get me some scholarship money, probably quite a bit. I’ll have the summer after my senior year to work to save for college, and I can always do a work-study during college. When will I get another chance to go to China?”
“Maddie, did Jenny or her mother say anything about how much the trip would cost?” Melanie Akers asked. “Maybe if we knew a little more about it, we could all make a more informed decision.”
“Well, the trip itself will last for two months. During that time, I’ll be staying with Jenny and her family, so there won’t be any hotel expenses or anything like that. The only time that I’ll have to buy food is if we eat out, so I’ll need a little spending money and money for two plane tickets, here to New York, and New York to Beijing.”
Max nodded. “How much will those tickets cost?”
“They’re kind of expensive dad. The ticket to New York is around $1,200. The one to Beijing is about $4,000.”
Max shook his head. He really did hate to disappoint his daughter. “Maddie, I’m sorry, Maddie. Your mother and I, we just don’t have that kind of money. It would be hard for us to come up with it between now and whenever you would have to buy your tickets without taking out a loan, and we just can’t do that.”
Maddie’s shoulders slumped and little tears started to well up in her eyes. Max opened his mouth, started to say something, but Melanie stopped him short with a nod of her head. “Okay, I understand,” Maddie said, dragging herself off toward her room, “I just need to let Jenny know. She might want to ask someone else to go.”
***
Maddie trembled as she entered Jenny’s cell number. Why am I shaking? Maddie hated to disappoint anyone, especially one of her friends.
“Kim’s mortuary,” Jenny answered playfully.
“You stab ‘em, we slab ‘em,” both girls said in unison. It was how Jenny had answered Maddie’s calls since elementary school.
“What’s up Maddie? What’d your parents say?” Jenny asked. Maddie waited overly long before answering. “Not good, huh?”
“No, not at all. They both say it’s too expensive, that I need to spend the summer working to save money for college.”
“That sucks. I was looking forward to having you come along.” Jenny paused for a second, obviously in thought. Maddie could practically hear her friend chewing her lower lip. “Actually, I’ve got an idea. I’ll call you right back.”
Maddie stared at the ‘call ended’ screen on her phone. That girl has the worst phone etiquette.
Before Maddie could even put the phone down, it rang. Jenny. That was quick. “Jenny, hey, that was quick. What happened?”
“I had to talk to my mom, and,” Jenny trailed off.
“And what?” Maddie coaxed her friend to continue.
“And I have an, ah, interesting proposition for you.”
“Go on.”
“Well, mom said that we could pay for your plane tickets and all of your expenses.”
“What’s the catch Jenny?”
“And maybe even pay you a small stipend for your college savings.”
Maddie frowned. She wasn’t sure where the conversation was going. “Let me get this straight. Your mom is going to pay for me to go to China with you guys and pay me for it? Like I said, what’s the catch?”
“Well,” Jenny paused, “mom thinks Rosario will be able to use some help this summer. Are you interested in being a maid in China?”
***
The rest of the school year passed in a blur, the last day falling on a Friday. Maddie and Jenny exited the school together talking excitedly about their upcoming trip. “It’s hard to believe there’s only a week left until we leave on vacation,” Jenny started.
“Vacation for you,” Maddie countered, “working vacation for me.”
“Oh come on Maddie, you’re going to have a great time too.”
“I know. I know. I’m just teasing. Besides, if I weren’t really excited about going, there’s no way I would have signed up to spend my summer as a maid.”
“Signed up? That’s right. You literally did.”
“Did what?”
“Signed up. My mom gave you a contract to sign, right?”
“Yeah.”
The girls turned toward their respective homes. “Don’t forget, tomorrow is my annual end of school slash birthday party. You’ll be there of course.”
Maddie didn’t know if that last part was a question or a statement of fact, but the answer was the same regardless. “Yeah, of course.”
“Tell you what. Come a little early, say nine o’clock. We’ve got a few more plans to make before the guests show up.”
***
Maddie awoke to her phone’s melodious alarm. 7:30. The first day of summer—I should be sleeping in. Maddie rolled out of bed and stumbled bleary-eyed to her bathroom. After showering and brushing her teeth, Maddie dressed in a pair of cargo shorts, her favorite Dr. Pepper ringer tee, and a pair of comfortable running shoes. On her way out of the house, Maddie grabbed Jenny’s birthday present.
The walk to Jenny’s house was a pleasant one. The girls lived only two subdivisions, one mile, apart. It was sunny, but not yet as hot as the day promised to be.
Maddie was greeted at the front door by the barefoot, uniformed Rosario. “Oh Maddie, come in,” the maid said in her accented English.” Maddie stepped into the house, thinking it a little odd that Rosario didn’t address her as miss or take the present from her. Of course she knows that I’ll be her coworker soon. Why would she call me miss or relieve me of any burden?
Maddie’s thoughts were interrupted by Jenny bounding down the steps. Her eyes lit up at the sight of the present in Maddie’s hands. “For me,” Jenny asked, already knowing the answer.
“Of course. I hope you like it,” Maddie answered, handing Jenny the package.
Jenny took the present in one hand and Maddie by the other, dragging her friend toward the kitchen. Over her shoulder, she called to the maid, “Rosario, go get Maddie’s stuff.”
“Yes Miss Jenny, right away,” Rosario answered, already padding up the stairs on her bare, brown feet.
Jenny slid into one of the stools at the kitchen bar. “Have a seat Maddie,” she said, tearing into the present. Maddie thought it sounded more like an order than an offer of hospitality and quickly complied.
“You could have waited until the other guests arrived.”


“What?”


“The present, I mean, you could have waited to open it when everyone else gets here.”


“Nonsense, Maddie. You’re my best friend and you always get me the coolest presents.” Jenny laid the shredded wrapping paper aside and opened the box to reveal a distressed blue ringer tee with a Pepsi logo, much like the maroon one Maddie was wearing. “Ooh, I love this. I’m totally going to get some wear out of it this summer… and for the rest of my life.” Jenny threw her arms around Maddie, but the hug was short-lived, interrupted by Rosario’s return.


Rosario was carrying a small stack of clothing in clear plastic wrap. “Now,” Jenny said, eyes widening, “I’ve got something for you.” Rosario handed the small stack of clothing to Maddie. From the colors alone—dark blue and white—Maddie could tell that it was a uniform identical to Rosario’s own.  
***
Maddie emerged from the bathroom a short while later. Jenny and Rosario were waiting there to inspect her new uniform. Jenny’s mom, Mrs. Kim was there too. “Well, what do you think,” Maddie asked, smoothing her navy skirt and apron and tugging at the bottom of her white blouse.
Rosario was staring at Maggie’s brightly colored running shoes in silent disapproval. “Yeah,” Maddie started, “when I’m wearing this for real, I suppose I’ll need some little black flats, something cute.” Rosario shook her head.
“Actually Maddie,” Mrs. Kim started, “in the Hainan region of China—where we are from— maids traditionally work barefoot.”
“It’s always warm there, plus when have you ever seen Rosario wearing shoes,” Jenny interjected, pointing at the maid’s feet. Playing along, Rosario wiggled her bare, brown toes.
“Oh, okay,” Maddie acceded, “I guess I’ll be barefoot a lot starting next week.”
Mrs. Kim shook her head. “Maddie don’t you remember? According to our contract, your start day is today, June first.”
“But, but,” Maddie stammered, “Jenny’s party is today.”
“Of course it is,” Mrs. Kim explained, as if talking to someone of low intelligence, “which is why Jenny asked you to be here at nine o’clock sharp. Now, if you could please remove your shoes and socks, Rosario will get you started with your duties for the day.
“Yes ma’am,” Maddie answered reflexively, tugging at her left shoe while balancing upon her right foot. It was dawning on Maddie that she was going to be at her best friend’s birthday party, but not as a guest. I am the help.
Jenny shrugged and smiled.
***
“Maddie, gather your things and follow me.” It was odd, Maddie thought, taking orders from Rosario, but she complied all the same. Maddie padded on bare feet along behind her fellow maid, up the stairs and down a long hallway, to a door on the right. Rosario opened the door to reveal a small room with two twin beds, a shared nightstand, and a closet. There was another closed door in one corner of the small bedroom. “Bathroom,” Rosario said, pointing toward the closed door. “My bed, your bed,” she finished the tour pointing to each in turn. “Put your stuff down. We have a lot of work to do before the guests arrive.
What followed was a whirlwind of activity for the two maids. Rosario told Maddie over and over that most of the cleaning, the hard work, had been done the previous day. Rosario sliced cucumbers, tomatoes, and onions. Maddie emptied the dishwasher and quickly learned that even that task was not as simple as it was in her own home. As Maddie removed each item, Rosario instructed her to hand dry it, then hand wash any residual soap film, then hand dry it again. “This seems an awful lot of work,” Maddie complained.
“Have you ever seen a soap spot on any of our glasses when you came to visit as Miss Jenny’s friend?”
“Well, no, but, wait, did you just call Jenny Miss Jenny?”
“Of course, how have you always heard me address her? Miss Jenny or miss.”
“So, do I have to call her that too?”
“Well, you are a maid now too. It seems proper.”  
Jenny’s sudden appearance in the kitchen hushed both maids. She was dressed in the Pepsi ringer tee, a pair of khaki shorts, and blue flip flops. “Hello Miss Jenny,” Rosario greeted her. Maddie continued drying a glass and forced herself to smile.
“Maddie, get me a water. I’m going to go out back and sit by the pool until the guests arrive.”
“Um, okay, sure.” Maddie moved toward the refrigerator, the glass that she had been drying still in hand.
“Actually Maddie, if you could use a plastic cup that would be great. We don’t want to break any glasses near the pool. Oh yeah, and you should probably call me Miss Jenny, or miss, or something like that, I mean while you’re working and all.”
“Yes, Miss Jenny,” Maddie answered nervously as she filled a plastic cup with ice and water.
“That’s better,” Jenny commented, disappearing out the door to the pool.
“See, I told you so,” Rosario said, smiling and maybe gloating a little. Jenny started toward the door to the outside and pool. “Where are you going with that,” Rosario asked, nodding at the plastic cup of water.
“The pool,” Maddie answered matter-of-factly.
“Obviously,” Rosario countered, “I mean you can’t just carry it out there. You need to use a serving tray.”
“Oh,” Maddie seemed shocked. ”I don’t think I’ve ever used a serving tray before.”  
“It’s easy, especially with just one glass, and you’ll get used to it. You’ll be carrying one a lot today.” As she spoke, Rosario produced a small serving tray from one of the kitchen cabinets, dressed it with a royal blue cloth napkin, and passed it to Maddie.
Much more tentatively, Maddie loaded the tray with the single cup of water and, balancing it on one hand, took a nervous step forward. The tray tipped left, then right, but the cup did not spill.
“Maddie, don’t be afraid to stabilize the tray with your other hand, especially when you’re carrying more than one cup. I’ll get the door for you this time, but later today, you’ll be on your own.”
Stepping out of the shade of the house, the heat of the patio beneath her bare feet gave Maddie quite a start. She had spent countless summer days lounging on the patio with Jenny and knew, of course, that it could be hot. On those days, though, relief was only so far away as a dip in the pool or a pair of flip-flops. Today, as a maid, neither of those were an option. Quick steps carried Maddie to Jenny’s side.
Jenny was reclined on a chaise lounge, chatting happily on her phone. She did not immediately recognize Maddie’s presence. Jenny shifted from one foot to another. “Your water, miss,” Maddie started.
Jenny immediately turned toward Maddie and slipped her hand between mouth and phone. Sunglasses hid her eyes. “Maddie, it’s rude to interrupt me when I’m talking. Just put the water down, okay.”
“Yes, yes, Miss Jenny,” Maddie stammered, bending over to place the drink on a low, outdoor table at her friend’s side. With a casual wave, Jenny dismissed Maddie back to her other chores.


***


The morning passed in a blur. Rosario worked chiefly at food preparation, arranging a custom vegetable tray, mixing up a homemade dip, and squeezing ground beef into patties for grilling. Maddie, lacking Rosario’s experience, still managed to be useful by putting up decorations.


Maddie was perched precariously atop a stepladder, trying to hang a ‘Happy Birthday, Jenny’ banner when she was assailed from behind and below. “I can see your underwear.” Jenny didn’t even have to turn to recognize the voice as belonging to Johnny Kim, Jenny’s little brother.
In a flash, Maddie descended the ladder. “Cannot, cannot,” she retorted, playfully smacking the fourteen year old on his bare shoulder. He was dressed in nothing but a pair of baby blue swimming trunks. “And even if you could, it’s not polite to say so.”


“Ow, stop hitting me,” Johnny feigned injury. “It’s not proper for a maid to go beating up on her master.”


“Proper! Proper? You were checking out my underwear.”


“Was not. You said yourself, I couldn’t see it,” Johnny continued to argue as he made his way toward the door to the back patio and pool. Disappearing through the door, he added “bring me a glass of water when you get a chance.”


Left alone with Rosario and a banner hung from only one side, Maddie threw her hands in despair. “How am I supposed to get anything done if I have to keep getting everything for everybody?” Maddie reloaded the serving tray with napkin and water, in a plastic cup, and trudged off toward the pool.


Rosario smirked.


***


Maddie was examining the banner, finally straight after five attempts, when doorbell rang.


Guests! The thought struck Maddie like a lightning bolt. It was one thing to work for Jenny and her family in exchange for a vacation to China; it was quite another thing entirely to be seen as—to be—a maid for her entire class. Maddie had had too little time to contemplate what exactly this job would do to her school social status. It’s my senior year, and everyone is going to know me as Jenny’s maid. How humiliating.


“Maddie,” Rosario’s accented voice crashed her pity party, “go answer the door. Show the guests to the pool house so they can change into swimsuits. Presents should be stacked on this table here.” Rosario pointed to a small kitchen table draped for the occasion with a blue cloth. “Oh and Maddie…”


“Huh,” Maddie looked up, trying to make sense of the rapid fire orders.


“Try to smile, okay.”


Maddie opened the door to not one guest, but two, the twins, Kimberly and Courtney Parks. Both girls, tall and thin, looked down at Maddie. That they were trying to make sense of why she had opened the door dressed as maid was written across both of their faces. Maddie’s nervous greeting broke the silence. “Uh, good morning, uh, ladies. Welcome to the party.”


“So, let me get this straight,” Kimberly, the twin with long, straight, blonde hair started.


“You’re Jenny’s maid now,” Courtney, the twin with long, curly, blonde hair finished for the both of them.
“Looks like it,” Maddie answered, poking at the tile floor with a bare toe.


“In that case,” the twins quipped in unison, “you can take these off our hands.” With that, each girl dumped an overnight bag into Maddie’s hands. “Oh, and what should we do with these?” Each twin held a package of identical shape, identically wrapped.


“Oh, I’ll, uh, take those too.” Kimberly and Courtney wasted no time further filling Maddie’s already full arms. “Jenny’s out by the pool. I’ll, uh, take your bags to the poolhouse. You can, uh, change…” The twins brushed past Maddie before she could finish, already on their way to the back patio.


Maddie padded back into the kitchen on bare soles. Sighing, she set the twins’ presents on the designated table.


“Well, that did not go so badly,” Rosario offered, pouring two glasses of lemonade. “Drop these off to the twins on your way to the poolhouse. Lemonade is their favorite.”


“Mine too,” Maddie muttered, half under her breath.


“I know. I’ve made it for you often enough, but for the foreseeable future, Maddie, it’s your job to serve the refreshments, not enjoy them.” Maddie huffed. The twins’ bags slung over one shoulder, Maddie balanced the proffered serving tray in the opposite hand and made her way toward the patio. “Pick up the pace Maddie. We’re expecting thirty guests, so there’ll be more at the door anytime.”


***


Over the course of the next two hours, Maddie greeted the expected thirty guests—and then some—at the front door. All of them, except the very last, seemed surprised to one degree or another to see Maddie, previously Jenny’s best friend, now working as her maid. The final guest to arrive though, Skyler Branham, did not seem surprised at all by Maddie’s new role.


Skyler, or Skye as she preferred, was a tall, perfectly-proportioned brunette with flawless skin and sparkling teeth. She beamed a smile down at Maddie. “Well aren’t you just the cutest thing in your new uniform, a regular mini-Rosario.”


“I, uh,” Maddie didn’t know what to say, so she fell back on the routine she had already developed. “Good morning, Sk—, I mean Miss Branham. Do you have a bag I can carry out to the poolhouse for you?” Maddie didn’t see any such bag, but she felt obliged to ask all the same.


“Actually Maddie, it’s in my mom’s car, along with Jenny’s present, and the rest of my luggage. If you could bring all of that in for me, I’d be most appreciative.”


“Luggage, why do you—“


Skye cut her off. “Maddie, it’s impolite for servants to ask such prying questions, but if you must know, Jenny has asked me to come to China with her for the summer.”    


“Wha-, uh, why? I don’t understand. I’m going to China with Jenny.”


“Again with the questions, Maddie. I’m well aware that you’ll be accompanying us to China, but you’ll be busy with your, ah, duties most of the time. Jenny needs a friend there too. Now, if you could be a dear and gather my things; my mother is waiting and has a spa appointment.”


Maddie’s shoulders slumped as she and Skye passed one another, Skye on her way to enjoy the pool party, Maddie out the door to collect her things.


Maddie’s first impression of Skye’s mother was every bit as negative as her long-held opinion of Skye herself. Tall and straight, Mrs. Branham had a hard face and a hard voice. She was talking on her phone, something about being late for an appointment. Off-handedly, she waved Maddie toward her car’s open trunk, but didn’t bother to otherwise address her.


Maddie retrieved Skye’s overnight bag and present for Jenny with plans to return for the two larger pieces of luggage. Starting back toward the house, Maddie froze at Mrs. Branham’s voice. “Come on girl, you have to do better than that. I have places to be. Unload the entire trunk—and be quick about it.”


Maddie’s heart froze. Never before had she been so talked down to, like an incompetent servant. But that’s what I am now, a servant—and, truth be told, not a very efficient one. “Yes, uh, ma’am,” Maddie stuttered, setting the overnight bag and present at the end of the walk to Jenny’s house and returning to haul the two suitcases from the trunk.


“Now close the trunk,” Mrs. Branham ordered in the most condescending of tones. Geez, I was getting to it, Maddie thought, but all she said was “yes, Mrs. Branham.”


As Maddie struggled to stack Skye’s luggage into a configuration that could be hauled in one load, Mrs. Branham drove off, leaving Maddie choking on her car’s exhaust.


This sucks.


***


If Maddie thought that, all the guests arrived, the pace of the work might slow, she was sadly mistaken. “Okay Maddie,” Rosario explained, “you’re on drink duty. I’ll set up the buffet line.”


“Drink duty? What exactly—“
“Just stand outside, in an obvious place, but out of the way of the guests. Believe me, they’ll call for you when they need something, usually another drink. If for some reason they don’t, feel free to walk around and politely ask if anyone needs anything.”


Maddie positioned herself by the door leading from the patio back into the kitchen and sighed. In a flash, her classmates were on her like a school of pirhanna.


“Lemonade, please,” Kimberly and Courtney asked in unison.


“Oh Maddie, more water,” Skye ordered. “I try to drink eight glasses a day—and that’s when I’m not out in the sun for prolonged periods.”


“Me too.” Jenny.


“Me three.” Johnny.


The work never seemed to end. Just as Maddie thought, she had topped off the last guest’s glass, the first one called for her again. “Oh Maddie…”
Water. Lemonade. Coke. Mountain Dew. Swimming it seemed was even thirstier work than drink duty, as Maddie never had time to stop for even a sip of water for herself.


On one of many trips back into the kitchen, this time for three more glasses of lemonade, Rosario pulled Maddie aside. “Maddie, it’s time for Miss Jenny to open her presents.” Maddie nodded understanding. “Well, don’t just stand there. Go call everyone inside.”


***


It took what seemed forever for everyone to dry off, don t-shirts and cover-ups, and make their way back into the house. Jenny presided over the guests like a queen over her court. Huge smile on her face, Jenny launched into her royal address. “Before I open my presents, I would like to thank all of you for being here today. It means so much to me that you can help me to celebrate my seventeenth birthday… and my imminent departure for China.”


Jeeny took a long drink of lemonade—Maddie knew she would soon be called upon for a refill—and continued. “I’d like to thank my mother for bringing me into this world, and my little brother, Johnny… no, wait, I don’t have any reason to thank him.” Mrs. Kim smirked and shook her head. Johnny booed his sister, though it was obvious to all that it was a good-natured booing.”


“I’d like to thank my father,” another long drink of lemonade, “who is always away on business.” Maddie moved to fetch Jenny’s nearly empty glass, but Rosario motioned for her to wait.


“Lastly, I’d like to thank the household servants, Rosario and Maddie. For those of you who don’t know, Maddie will be accompanying me, my family, Skye,” Jenny shot an excited grin at her travelling companion, “and Rosario back to China this year, and this party is her first taste of a summer of service.” Jenny finished the last of the lemonade. Again Maddie, now blushing furiously at the attention, moved to refill it, and again Rosario stopped her.


“But I digress. Even though it’s my birthday, as is tradition in my home province of china, I actually have presents to give to my servants.” Jenny produced two Identical boxes, blocky rectangles wrapped in blue paper. “Maddie, Rosario, go ahead. You can open these now.”


The box was heavy in Maddie’s hands. Carefully removing the paper revealed a plain cardboard box. Inside the box was a heavy roll of bubble wrap. Something fragile… what could this be? Maddie pulled the bubble wrap apart and frowned, not certain what she was looking at—two thick pads, each wrapped in blue silk and adorned with five rows of brass bells.


“Servant bells!” Jenny answered Maddie’s unspoken question. “You tie one around each ankle. They make the most beautiful music when you walk. Servants from my home province wear them all the time for festive events. Go ahead, Rosario, Maddie, put them on.”


Uncomfortably, Maddie bent to tie the servant bells around her ankles. She didn’t fancy showing her panties off to any of her classmates today—Johnny Kim had been one person too many already. Standing, Maddie took a tentative step. They were heavier and louder than she had anticipated. How humiliating.


“Give them a little shake, Maddie,” Skye called out, “let’s see how they sound when you’re really moving.”


Maddie answered Skye with a pained sigh and shot a pleading look at Jenny. Please don’t make me do this. Jenny responded by smiling and rattling the ice in her glass. Maddy slumped and moved to fetch the refill. The bells jingled wildly with each step. Jenny, Sky, and the whole class cheered for Maddie’s musical feet.

The soundtrack of a miserable life.

38 comments:

  1. Could we possibly see a second chapter, this was such a good read.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Barefoot ServantJune 21, 2016 at 2:37 PM

      Glad you enjoyed it. I will post more as I write it.

      Delete
  2. Can't wait to read how it all goes in China???

    Hugs
    Jackie J
    XX

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Barefoot ServantJune 21, 2016 at 2:39 PM

      I am excited for it to get there too... there's a bit more to go stateside though.

      Delete
  3. Just a perfect story as always :) Hope to see a next chapter :)

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Barefoot ServantJune 21, 2016 at 2:40 PM

      It's coming... eventually.

      Delete
  4. Please this just has to continue!! It is one of the best stories here. Hoping both Jenny and Skye become even more catty with poor Maddie and Jenny questions how she could ever have been friends with her. I imagine Maddie with long shoulder length hair....not very maid like and it needs to be cut much much shorter. This story line has so much potential.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thank you for the very kind words. I definitely plan to continue the story. As a matter of fact, I may do some writing tonight.

      Delete
  5. Let me start off by saying I like this story. Both from my general love of the genre, and the setting, as one might guess from my name. But I am worried this might too easily slip into some of the unfortunate tendencies such stories often fall victim to. Here you have life-long best friends, and as soon as Maddie puts on a maid dress, her friend stops seeing her as such and goes out of her way to torment and embarrass her? For good characters, you need motivation. You described their relationship wonderfully, with trademark statements, call signs, squealing with eachother over stuff, etc.  Why would she suddenly do a 180? Perhaps at least have her talk to Maddie afterwards, apologizing and explaining, making a joke of it. Have her give Maddie a few encouraging winks and grins, to let her know its all in fun, and give Maddie some support for pushing through this experience.  At least at first. Can always develop along new lines as time goes on and they settle into and adapt to their roles. Same for Maddie. She's obviously mortified and not liking her situation. What is her motivation for putting up with it? With Skye's arrival, its obvious now that she won't be sightseeing in China. (though to have her along on such trips while in livery to tend to her employer's needs would both follow the implied letter of the promise, and allow for fun opportunities). Wonder what her parents thought of her bargain? The servant bells though, seemed to be a bit gratuitous and unlikely. As well as unrealistic. Again, I love the story, the genre, and the setting. I only want it to be not only good...umm...fantasy fodder, but a good story as well. The Molly series is a brilliant example of what this genre can do. Look forward to future installments of this one!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Barefoot ServantJune 22, 2016 at 3:06 AM

      Thanks for the incredibly thoughtful comments. I must admit that I share a lot of your same concerns. I originally started writing this story solely to please myself (and that can lead to a lot of the gratuitous scenes, like the servant bells); but now I want it to be something that others will enjoy. To that end, I will give some more thought to the characters' motivations, especially Maddie and Jenny's (Skye is just naturally a bitch).

      Along these same lines, I apologize for anything that is completely wrong regarding Chinese culture (like the bells). I actually considered using a fictional location or even a sci-fi setting with travel between planets, but ultimately chose to keep things a bit more grounded in reality.

      I think Maddie will definitely get to go on the sightseeing trips (as a liveried servant, of course). Are there any particular locations that you would like to see them visit?

      Delete
    2. Oh well, China is so vast and diverse in peoples and cultures, you could get away with that. I actually did some googling of china servant ankle bells, and pictures did come up, so that wasn't so bad a deal in principle. It just didn't feel right in that setting. I understand from your name that the barefoot thing is "your thing" and that's cool. Just don't have them be in bare feet walking around the cities! at home in country or something, that's a different story. I don't think you have anything to apologize for. At this point in the story you could still totally fix the concerns I shared. I'd love to toss some ideas around with you if you like, though I hope you dont think I'm being presumptive in saying that. And it is your story and your final say. Collaboration and feedback from other authors is hugely useful I've found for my own writing. I'm an aspiring author myself. (dont see my ad-hoc writing in this reply as indicative of my formal writing style, lol)
      Locations..well I've been in Beijing and inner mongolia myself. perhaps decide where your character is from and research it to get some ideas, but I know Jenny mentioned several sites around Beijing. I also know bejing in summer is horrendously hot and humid. poor maddie will be drenched and miserable in her livery. when you climb the great wall, you really CLIMB it. its a serious workout. the other girls can be dressed lighter. maddie can carry drinks and supplies wherever they go. picnic lunches for instance at summer palace. would carry any purchases they made in the bazaars and stores. I totally understand your position in wanting to write something for yoruself and then wanting to make it for others afterwards. I have a whole book trilogy that i wrote that i want to see go that way. i have some ideas for how you can rein in some of these issues if you want to bat ideas around and wont be put out by my making suggestions. also have some ideas from my own china experience that might add color. hard to do all that in this tiny little space. feel free to drop me a line. qing.luan@yahoo.com

      Delete
    3. Barefoot ServantJune 22, 2016 at 1:47 PM

      Thanks for the advice and offer for more still. I will likely be in contact as Maddie's period of servitude continues.

      Delete
  6. This is just delicious.
    If I were going to suggest an edit, it might be to introduce the "servant bells" only after Maddie arrived in China.
    Maybe, once in China, the Western-style livery will be replaced with some even more humiliating "traditional" livery, such as a gray sackcloth shift with no shoes, and no undergarments (making Maddie wish she had panties to protect her modesty), and maybe just a loincloth when doing groundskeeping work.
    A party at the villa might result in Maddie being given a bright and pretty silk gown to wear -- but also servant bells.
    Well, just a thought. Or two.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Barefoot ServantJune 22, 2016 at 1:49 PM

      Thanks for the thoughts. I am glad you are enjoying the story so far. I will keep your ideas in mind, and we'll see how things go.

      Delete
  7. Thank you for always sharing your blog. and this is interesting story

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Barefoot ServantJune 22, 2016 at 1:51 PM

      Thank you for reading.

      Delete
  8. Mrs Kim said that the family comes from the Hainan region which is an island off the south coast of mainland China with a semi-tropical to tropical climate. I assume that the Kim family have a large mansion there and Maddie will end up working as a maid in this big mansion. It sounds very promising.
    Waiting for the next chapter.
    Monica G.

    ReplyDelete
  9. Barefoot ServantJune 22, 2016 at 4:33 PM

    Exactly... plus some vacation/tourist stops along the way.

    ReplyDelete
  10. i hope n' pray for a continuation of this wonderful and exciting story. i enjoyed every paragraph and just love it. Thank you.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Barefoot ServantJune 22, 2016 at 6:55 PM

      Glad to hear it. There is more written, but more to write before it will be posted.

      Delete
  11. Thank you for this exciting and very promising story! I'm eagerly looking forward to the next chapters.
    As for the servant ankle bells, this detail is deliciously degrading and humiliating. Bravo!

    Richard
    Marl / Germany

    ReplyDelete
  12. I also enjoyed the story, but had the same concerns regarding motivation that Qing Luan did. I'm glad you're going to address that in future chapters.

    I loved the cultural tidbits about the bells and walking barefoot. On that note, another tradition was that prostitutes had to wear their shoes around their necks when walking from house to house serving clients. It could be a nice humiliating twist if Maddie had to wear Jenny's shoes around her neck while at the beach or something.

    There are a ton of interesting sights to see in China, from the great wall, the summer palace, the forbidden city, the terra cotta warriors...but honestly I see the most fun happening in the more rural settings. Like if they go to a rural market village to visit family, or to see a less westernized area of the country and Maddie is forced to be more traditional submissive as per her station.

    It would be a nice contrast to go from Maddie sightseeing in Beijing as more of an equal to being a submissive maid out in the countryside.

    Anyway, I enjoyed the story and hope to see more. Thanks for writing!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. One more thought...as to motivation, it might be that Jenny does treat her as more of a friend, but Jenny's traditional mother forces Maddie to be more servant-like to save face when in more traditional parts of the country.

      Delete
    2. Barefoot ServantJune 22, 2016 at 9:56 PM

      I had that exact thought. Jenny has already been a little mean, but sort of in a playful way (that said, she had a lot of experience keeping servants in their place). For the time being, I do think I am going to let Mrs. Kim and Skye be the primary antagonists.

      Delete
  13. I agree with the consensus that this is the start to a very good story. Thank you for sharing your imagination and talents. I have not seen this plot before and love the originality. The story can go in so many directions I am eagerly awaiting the next chapter and read this one several times. Again thank you for sharing!

    I have some thoughts and suggestions, please do not take them as criticisms as I love the story so far and my mind is just working overtime with the possibilities.

    I don't necessarily think Jenny went full bitch mode on Maddie. From Jenny's point of view since birth she was taught how to treat maids and the help so to see Maddie dressed as a maid and from a visual not a lot different than Rosario other than age, looks and experience she found it easy to consider or see her as just another servant. Her Alpha side becomes more pronounced to her friend. I do love the cattiness in the story. Having been a girl that age I know how easily opinions change and how critical we can be of each other. Teasing can bite deep but is also very real.

    Plus as they said it is what Maddie signed up for. She should have read the contract a little closer to realize the start date. I wonder what else she missed. Perhaps she did not realize the free plane tickets and living expenses are not a gift but a loan that she is paying back through her earning from being a maid. However if she is compensated at minimum wage here and in especially in China it may take quite a while for that to happen especially if she breaks some expensive glasses or vases.

    Another reason I don't think it is full bitch mode is there are parts where Jenny smiles at Maddie. I took that as teasing. No one forced Maddie to sign the contract and Jenny seemed to be unaware of it.

    The bells were a great gift and I imagine not inexpensive. I enjoyed how Maddie had to put them on herself.

    I do see an issue that has not been addressed. Maddie would need to go pack for the trip and say good bye to her parents. I did like the exchange with her parents over the cost as it was very realistic. I suggest that after the party and Maddie is done cleaning everything up including scrubbing the floor while Jenny and Skye are relaxing and talking about everything they will be seeing and doing in China. They drive her over still dressed in her maid clothes. Her mother questions why she is dressed that way and her very bedraggled appearance after working the entire day. Maddie would not want to miss out on the trip and convincingly in the typical teenager tone tell her mom and dad that it is only part of the deal for her to get a free trip to China with her best friends and no big deal. I do imagine Maddie either forgetting her suitcase with having to load up everyone else's or being told my Jenny's mom that everything is provided and she should know that from reading and signing the contract.

    In my opinion what makes a truly great story which this one has a terrific beginning to is describing the emotions and thoughts of all the main characters. I would have liked to have seen the author described the emotions of Maddie more during the party. I can easily imagine her being a frazzled mess fetching things continuously, having to be out in the hot sun all day dressed and also noticing how happy everyone else is playing by the pool in their swimsuits, flirting and having a great time. This is not a criticism but merely a suggestion

    I guess my comments are too long lol I have to break them into two parts.

    ReplyDelete
  14. Thank you for this ,the ankle bells worn by servants are intended for festive occasions commensurate with tradition.get over it Maddie. I find it odd neither Maddie or Rosario performed any curtseys in the story? Deep formal ones,head bowed when greeting the two mistresses,the young master and the party goers showing true deference to their social betters! The same when being dismissed.Can I humbly suggest you stress Maddie's subordinate status to Rosario having to address her as Mrs Filipino surname and perform clipped curtseys when recievig Rosario's instructions,it would be deliciously ironic and killer role reversal!

    ReplyDelete
  15. Evidently I did not post the second half of my comments correctly as they did not show up. Again this is a wonderful start to hopefully a lengthy story and I do have to thank the author for sharing their imagination and the time it takes to craft an exquisite tale. These are just suggestions and please do not take them as criticisms.

    I did recently re-read An Interview with Madame Nguyen which is a terrific psychological tale from both the Alpha and Beta sides on how thoughts and behaviors are conditioned and enforced. I can see those psychological aspects in this story and that is what is making it appeal to be greatly.

    I would like a scene where Jenny talks up their friendship and how much it means for her to accompanying her to China. A lot of that can play on Maddie's emotions perhaps this can be in a scene where Skye asks Jenny within ear shot of Maddie as she cleaning or scrubbing the floor that she noticed Jenny did not open a gift from Maddie and asking if she bought her one. Jenny's response would be along the lines of she did but one never opens a gift from a servant in front of others as they usually are something trivial and meaningless. When Maddie questions her about it later Jenny reminds her she said "usually" and talks about how much she loved the ringer tee and even wore it during the party. Again this would play on Maddie's emotions that she is just being silly and insecure and she really is Jenny’s “best friend.”

    I do read comments after stories and I liked one about Maddie getting a "maid cut" done to her hair. Perhaps the three of them go to a salon during an outing. Both Jenny and Skye get terrific hairstyles, Maddie not so much.

    There is another one about maids in China wearing gray sack clothes and nothing else. That might be a nice gift from Skye to her when the three of them are out on a shopping trip with Jenny and Skye loading Maddie down with bags and packages and Skye commenting they need to buy Maddie something too. Of course it would not fit correctly be too short and cut deep under her arms and chest.

    If Maddie is too slow keeping up during their sightseeing or shopping trips a collar and leash would solve that problem to help her along.

    I do imagine Jenny having friends in China and they being extremely complimentary to Jenny for having a Caucasian maid and even more catty and derogatory towards Maddie as she is white. I imagine they would be very complimentary towards Skye.

    There was no description of what Maddie looked like. I picture her as very cute but not spectacular, on the petite side with a very nice figure but not overly busty with brown hair with a length that beyond her shoulders.

    I do hope the story continues as I check the blog every day for a new chapter. I look forward to seeing how Maddie’s adventure continues and the psychological affects on her, Jenny and Skye.

    Thank you again.

    Kathy (morrisonkathy35@yahoo.com)

    ReplyDelete
  16. Barefoot ServantJune 23, 2016 at 7:06 PM

    Thanks for the kind comments and delightful ideas. I am writing as quickly as work, housework, and my reading schedule will allow.

    ReplyDelete
  17. I am enjoying this story so far. Jenny has certainly shown that she sees Maddie as her best friend, but also as her maid. However, what Maddie needs to fear the most (in my opinion) is that with Skye coming along as Jenny's friend and equal, as opposed to Maddie's status, Jenny may eventually see Skye as her new best friend. Should that happen, things could change even more drastically than they have so far.

    I wonder about that contract's wording. Does it say Maddie specifically will get college money from Jenny's family or does it state that Jenny's best friend will? Something for me to keep in mind until/if the contract's exact wording is known.

    ReplyDelete
  18. I must admit that your post is really interesting story. I have spent a lot of spare time reading your content, thanks for the share.

    ReplyDelete
  19. Isn't corporal punishment of children and servants legal in China? Isn't it also encouraged to incentivize performance and discipline? Could be a scenario you might employ in the further chapters I humbly suggest.
    The language problem might condemn our heroine to be bottom of the pecking order in the Chinese household, a government directive for foreigners to do 20 hours Chinese language study per week to assimilate could be a storyline with poor Maddie put in a language class with seven or eight year old diplomatic brat children because of an admin error they refuse to correct!
    Hope the muse inspires you soon
    Suz xx

    ReplyDelete
  20. This is one of my absolute favourites, great plot, strong tension, and, as far as I can judge, beautiful language, english is not my mother tongue. I like some of the ideas that have come up; language class with 8 year old kids calls for a an extremely childish uniform, sewn especially for poor Maddie. She will hopefully suffer teasing and punishments at school, with the support from the family.
    Skyler should replace Maddie as Jennys best friend, is there actually a plan already made up for poor Maddie to slowly become Jennys and Skyes bullied victim?
    Maddie needs a bowlcut, this can be combined with a painful shopping with Jenny and Skye, Maddie getting a new wardrobe, dressed down to a little girl, (for her time (short of course) off duty), the other two in expensive designer clothing.
    I´m thinking a little about Maddies character, she is up to now somehow oscillating between submissiveness and cluelessness, per se a dazzling combo. I´m not absolutely convinced that it works all the way though. For ex, her reaction to the package with the uniform given to her, doesn´t quite convince me, she should, I think, have manifested more reluctance and, once clad in it, more shame. By the way, the uniform could have been a little different to the one Rosario wears, to emphasize the hierarchy between the two servants, maybe baby blue or,,, why not....pink. It could also have been in for ex nylon, making her life out at the pool even more difficult.....and more inspiring for her future tormentors.
    Anyway, Maid in China is brillant, fantastic, thank you so much Barefoot Servant!
    I can´t wait to see the continuation.

    ReplyDelete
  21. Barefoot ServantJuly 7, 2016 at 2:55 PM

    A quick update to those who are interested. I wrote a fair bit more yesterday, and the story is quickly approaching a natural break point-- not the end of the story by any means, but a comfortable spot to pause and post.

    ReplyDelete
  22. I've been an occasional lurker - I really like this story! Just read it a few days ago, so not in time for what you've added recently.

    One thing I might suggest (probably pointless now, but anyway) - perhaps Jenny's mother had more to do with Maddie's demotion - mothers often take an interest in their children's friends, wanting "appropriate" friends for their children. Mrs. Kim might have thought a less affluent girl like Maddie was not as appropriate a friend as Skyler, and manipulated events to suit.

    Also, I like the previously posted suggestion that the tuition bonus go to Jenny's "friend" not necessarily Maddie - another of Mrs. Kim's machinations? Either way, it is a devious concept - Maddie having to work to pay for Skyler's schooling, and put off her own college plans.

    Perhaps if Maddie did have to stay behind in China to work as a maid (or at the Kims' American residence), then she might receive photos of Jenny and Skyler having fun socially at school. Mrs. Kim might expect Maddie to put them prominently in her quarters, so she would have to see Jenny and the usurper Skyler every day.

    Just my two cents worth. Perhaps these ideas could be incorporated into other stories, if not this one? Hope to see more soon!

    RV

    ReplyDelete
  23. "No stupid, you can't naturally wear your own clothes while not wearing your uniform. And shoes are out of question for the likes of you. But why not wear these our former servant girl left after her?" said Mrs. Kim. "And you need your servant girl's hair cut and the local ID."

    ReplyDelete
  24. Biggest hurdle in this story is Maddie's parents. No chance of her getting kidnapped in China without parents throwing a fit. Unless there was some backstory. Say, Maddies dad actually was involved with a chinese slavery operation and Mrs Kim was trapped in that, or had someone she knew trapped in that. And this is long range plan to get back at him by trapping his daughter into same scenario. He can't raise a fuss or he'll get exposed....I dinno. Gotta do something or this really will just be for the summer.

    ReplyDelete
  25. Madley could be half Chimese, to fit better in her role in China. And there "half-breeds" are usually dispised being often children of prostitutes.

    ReplyDelete
  26. Glad to hear that the second chapter is on its way. Can't wait.
    Some small remarks, someone mentioned the necessity of curtseys, and yes, I agree, I do think it is odd that this is not part of the behaviour Maddie is forced to embrace.
    I may have misunderstood this but, the classmates showing up at the party, are they only Jenny's?
    A natural ingredient that could come up, maybe not at this point but a little later, is an outspoken rivalry between Skye and Maddie, beyond the best friend aspect, a love story in which Maddie of course becomes the loser, eventually already being a second choice girl, or a classmate discovering Maddie's social descent at the party and starting an affair with Skye right there.
    I would not opt for an extension of the chinese episode (it is not easy to make this credible) but rather delight in the pityful comeback poor Maddie will experience as a senior student, with an established social status, close to the bottom.
    Just can't wait.....
    Galooon

    ReplyDelete