By Violet Carson Part 4
I awoke at 6:45 to the sound of my tinny alarm and sat up in bed after a fitful night’s sleep with my mind racing as to what the next six months would hold. I got out of bed and looked at myself in the hideous dressing table mirror with my lank dark brown slightly greasy hair looking back at me. I wouldn’t have time for a shower, as I would need to get Mark’s breakfast ready for 7:15. After popping to the guest bathroom to clean my teeth and use the toilet I started to get changed.
I slipped off the dressing gown and unbuttoned the floral cotton nightie, catching site of my old slim body in the mirror. I pulled up the padded spanks and added the large cotton pants and ill-fitting bra. Like yesterday I pulled on the saggy tights and cotton slip before putting on a housecoat. I felt like a change, so I wore the pale green one and matching tabard and tried on the beige elasticated sandals for the first time. They might have looked disgusting but wow, were they comfortable; they were amazing; far more comfortable than any of my old £500 killer heels! I popped in the coloured contacts, added the glasses and quickly brushed my hair. That alone used to take me 5 minutes, now it was 30 seconds. There certainly were some advantages to being plain – comfort and speed. I didn’t put on any of the cheap makeup I’d been given, simply a quick squirt of the overly strong perfume, horribly floral not at all to my usual tastes, but probably very Rose, I thought to myself.
I was about to rush downstairs when I suddenly remembered my cigarettes. I lit one and took a few quick puffs before stubbing it out in the ashtray. I hoped Mark would notice the smell. I then hurried downstairs, all within 15 minutes of getting up, definitely a record.
I got to the kitchen and quickly poured Orange juice for Mark and put bread in the toaster, laying the table with a bowl of his muesli, remembering to put some milk in a jug for him to pour in and a side plate with butter and marmalade.
He walked through the kitchen door saying, “Good morning Rose, did you sleep well?”
“Yes, thank you for asking,” I replied and started up the Nespresso machine.
I gave Mark his coffee and asked if I could be excused whilst he ate his breakfast.
A few minutes later he called me back from the hall where I was pretending to do some dusting.
“Rose, I’ll be going to work in a few minutes. In future I don’t want orange juice from a carton, I would like it freshly squeezed each morning. Two oranges should suffice and there is a juicer in the cupboard I expect it to be used from now on. I suggest you either have toast for breakfast or possibly corn flakes. No expensive orange juice for you and you can drink tea. If you remember Rose has it very milky with two sugars”
“Of course Mr. Parfitt” I replied. “I will buy oranges today.”
I couldn’t believe he would insist I drank my tea the way Rose did. I hated sweet milky tea.
“Oh Rose, don’t forget, Jim the gardener comes today, I’ll let you decide how you introduce yourself to him! I’ll be back at 7 pm for dinner in the dining room.”
“Oh no!” I thought, I had completely forgotten about Jim. He usually arrived by 9. I had just over an hour to have my own breakfast and work out what I was going to say to him.
I quickly made two slices of toast and then went and sat outside with my milky tea and then commenced my chores, washing and ironing Mark’s clothes mostly.
Shortly after 9 the doorbell went, it was Jim. I took a deep breath and before I could say anything, He instantly said.
“Good morning, Mrs. Parfitt”, quickly followed by “I hardly recognized you. I didn’t realize you were a natural brunette, your hair looks very nice.”
Was he blind, being sarcastic or being serious I thought, realizing there was no point in pretending to be someone else and I again broke down in tears. This was becoming a bad and embarrassing habit.
Jim quickly came inside and sat me down in the kitchen, wanting to know what was wrong.
I told him some half true story about Rose leaving and I had a bet with Mark that I could clean better than her. It didn’t explain the new hairstyle or glasses, but he appeared to fall for it.
I wiped my tears saying, “It had only just dawned on me how much work there was to do and that I’d been foolish thinking it would be easy.”
Jim made tea and took me out into the garden where we sat side by side on one of the benches. He asked me if I’d mind if he lit his pipe and I said “No, not at all, can I lit a cigarette?”
We sat side by side like some middle-aged couple (Jim must be close to 60) chatting away and Jim treated me like his equal. I couldn’t believe how happy I suddenly felt!
The time flew by and then I realized how much work I still had to do, so I made my excuses and told Jim I would make the tea when he returned on Thursday.
The days seemed to fly by in a blur of shopping, cleaning, washing and cooking for Mark. I tended to get up early to make Mark’s breakfast and possibly load the washing machine. Whilst that was underway I would do some cleaning. I’d then make myself a simple lunch, usually a sandwich and then do any food shopping in the afternoon, prior to a very quick shower before Mark returned and I cooked his evening meal. My only real respite from the routine was my simple romantic fiction and tea with Jim twice a week, but as soon as the summer was over he’d be returning to his winter routine of one visit per week. I think we had grown to thoroughly enjoy each other’s company. He now seemed to treat me as a friend and didn’t seem to consider that I was playing some kind of game at all.
Mark had very rapidly thoroughly brought into the role of Master of the house and I was very much the domestic. He shared nothing with me about his work, other than occasionally telling me he’d be working late and if he was going to eat out.
I was determined to try and rid myself of as many of the old Annabelle thoughts as possible. When I had a few spare minutes I would turn the TV on and watch a soap opera about working class Londoners, something I would never have done before and I very quickly became quite hooked. I also used my few spare pennies to buy Hello or any other celebrity magazine each week. Mark had thoughtfully cancelled my subscriptions for the Economist and Vogue and I avoided the news at all costs, trying to dumb myself down as much as I could.
Another strange thing that happened was that I really started to get used to my padded hips and bum. Whenever I sat down it felt as if I had my own cushion with me, rather than the uncomfortable feeling I would get with my old skinny backside if I sat still for too long.
During my fourth week as a domestic, one morning as I served his breakfast, Mark told me that Mr. & Mrs. Edmonds and Mrs. Edmonds’s sister Lucy Wu would be coming for dinner on Friday evening and I was to cook and serve. I knew them as Nigel and Jenny. Jenny and her sister were half Hong Kong Chinese, they were both stunning and Jenny had pretty much been my best friend for years. Her husband Nigel was a very successful property lawyer who had done a lot of work with Mark’s firm. I had only met Lucy once or twice before and thought she was a right bitch; way too full of herself and to cap it all, if anything she was a slightly more attractive and taller version of Jenny. Jenny knew about Mark and my S&M activities, although that seemed a distant memory now! I had even shown her the dungeon and I knew she was pretty adventurous in the bedroom, but I had no idea how much she knew about what I was now doing. Since Mark had taken my mobile and laptop I had no way of contacting her and her contact details were all programmed into those devices. She hadn’t phoned the home number, so my guess was she must have been told something. My real fear was that Lucy would make a play for Mark, as Jen had told me previously how much she fancied him and she seemed to go through a string of boyfriends. So adding Mark to her list of conquests, would be no surprise. I felt very vulnerable!
Mark presented me with a new outfit for Friday evening. Thankfully, I wasn’t going to be a saucy French maid, not with my hips! He gave me a plain navy blue knee length dress with a slight flair and plain white collar. He also gave me a plain white cotton apron. He told me that would be smart enough without looking too formal. He suggested I go into town later in the day to buy myself some new shoes suitable for the dress, but I wasn’t to spend more than £30. I wasn’t aware you could actually get shoes that cheaply. I asked him if Mr. & Mrs. Edmonds knew that I’d be the maid and he informed me quite curtly that I was employed to work and not ask impertinent questions.
I apologized and told him that he was very kind in letting me buy new shoes and that I would head into town shortly to buy them.
After cleaning away the breakfast dishes and having my toast, I got changed for town. It was to be my first shopping trip, other than for household essentials in over a month. I slipped off my tabard and housecoat and put on one of the blouses Mark had given me and picked one of the knee length skirts. I could actually only just do up the zip with my enormous hips, I really felt as though I might burst one of the seams, so that outfit wouldn’t do. I eventually settled on one of the floral dresses that had just enough spare room to be not be too tight and my plain blue court shoes with the 2” heels. They actually felt quite high after four weeks of flats and quickly changed back into the beige sandals; instant relief: especially if I was going to walk around town for a couple of hours. I was beginning to fully understand why women who did practical hard working jobs wore sensible shoes. I wasn’t going to rush to put heels on again. I thought I could actually wear the heels on Friday and save the £30 for some nice underwear but I knew Mark would check. I sprayed on some of the cheap perfume, put a little bit of powder on my nose and added a dab of one of the awful pink lipsticks. Finally, with my raincoat and blue shoulder bag I was ready to go. I looked like a spinster librarian! But looking in the mirror, I actually thought I looked great; I was really getting into this. I was Rose from head to toe.
I jumped in the car and on the second attempt it started and I pottered the few miles into town. I parked at the multistory car park and headed for town’s smartest department store. It was such an eye opener: there wasn’t a single suitable pair of shoes I could afford. They had some ballet pumps for less than £30 that AJ might just have worn occasionally but they were quite unsuitable for Rose. I also looked at the lingerie department being careful to only look at the plainest styles, I really had to familiarize myself with my new style, but I wasn’t buying anything there today. I finally picked up a couple of dresses in a size 14 and asked to try them on just for fun. The assistant must have been about 20 and pretty on trend with her undercut hair and although very polite, I could tell she was looking at me thinking how can someone relatively young, pay so little attention to her appearance.
The dresses were perfect for Rose, but I didn’t have permission to buy either and I didn’t think Mark would appreciate me using Rose’s credit card which was safely stored in my plastic purse, so I just had fun enjoying my new reflection in the mirror. I made my excuses to the woman in charge of the changing room and left. I walked through the perfumery on the way out, but intentionally didn’t make eye contact with any of the staff the way I normally would and they all ignored me, obviously wisely realizing that there was no way I was going to be one of their customers. I laughed to myself at how shallow and predictable they were, with their hair all tied up in top knots or pony tails and wearing this season’s entire range of cosmetics. They would have been fawning all over AJ, but not Rose, I had become invisible, just the way I had dreamt it might be.
I finally headed for a more down-market store and instantly tried on some shoes that I fell in love with. They were in navy blue, soft leather, with a 1’ heel, super soft rubber sole and a round toe, a little like a loafer but with a perforated style upper. They were perfect for Rose and very comfortable and in my Rose persona, they were shoes to die for. Comfort had become very important to me and I was gradually coming to terms with Rose’s style. I clearly hadn’t lost the shopping habit though and if I ever had any spending money I was going to enjoy adding to Rose’s limited wardrobe. The shoes were only £25 and with the remaining money I hoped Mark wouldn’t mind, but I bought a packet of three pairs of 30 denier American Tan support tights, exactly the sort Rose would wear – size large. I had laddered one of the pairs that Mark had given me earlier when scrubbing the outside steps, so I was getting a little short. I paid and left, having spent all my money and drove home for another day’s cleaning.
After serving Mark’s dinner he told me he wanted to see me in my dress for Friday and see the shoes I’d bought. I rushed up stairs removing my sandals, tabard and housecoat and pulled the dress on zipping it up at the back. I slipped on the new super comfortable shoes and went down.
“Excellent” Mark said, “You look very matronly Rose, my guests will be suitably impressed.”
“I’ll be buying some champagne for Friday so on arrival I’d like you to take their coats and give them each a glass and then go back to the kitchen. After serving you won’t be required to wait at table unless we call you.”
“By the way, I’ve also noticed that your roots are starting to show through in your hair, that simply won’t do, so Zoe’s coming over tomorrow morning at 9:30, I expect you to very respectful to her as she’s a very expensive stylist and wouldn’t normally come out this far to do a domestic’s hair, you are a very lucky woman”
“Thank you, Mr. Parfitt,” I replied, secretly fearing what the Aussie dragon would have in store for me and also the fact that I wouldn’t be able to spend anytime talking to Jim, one of my few opportunities to speak to an equal!
The next day as expected, Zoe turned up at about 9:30. I’d hardly had a chance to speak to Jim at all by the time she arrived. If anything, I could swear she’d upped the tattoo count since we first met – but surely that wasn’t possible. However, what she had certainly changed was that today there was no septum ring on display and her hair had been shorn to about 1” on top in a peroxide spiky style with slightly longer stubble than previously on display around the sides. She wore a tartan mini skirt and black and red-hooped tights black Doc Marten boots and a biker jacket
“Good morning,” I smiled. “Do come in.”
“Hiya, Rose,” she replied.
“You’re looking every bit as smart as I remember!” she said.
“I guess I just don’t have your sense of style,” I snapped back.
“Look madam, none of your cheek,” she answered. “I can be earning a lot more money in London than coming out to see an old bat like you, I came because you intrigue me, so let’s get started.”
She washed my hair and then cut it into an even less stylish look than before, which I honestly hadn’t thought possible. It now tapered down from my eyebrows to the bottom of my ears and then ended just above collar length at the back, with no layering, so it sat perfectly flat. It was simply awful, but perfect for Rose. As she cut away I noticed in the mirror how bushy my eyebrows had become and asked if she could shape them, but she said she was instructed not to. I previously had them threaded every other week. If they looked like this after a month, what would they look like after six? Mark had also removed all my razors and tweezers so I was quickly turning into a gorilla, my Brazilian was long forgotten and I had had two forests growing under my arms – yuk! My legs were also getting beyond the stubble stage, but at least the thick tights hid most of my fair leg hair.
Strangely, I managed to get into conversation with Zoe. She was apparently bullied at school in Sydney for being thought of as rather plain and not being very sporty. She’d started a degree in Psychology, hence her interest in me, but had grown more into an alternative style as her confidence grew. She then dropped out after meeting her boyfriend, a musician in a grunge band that despite good reviews never quite made it in Oz. Through him she’d started to mix with a more “arty” crowd and had re-trained as a hairdresser before heading to London two years ago. We started to discuss her tattoos and she said I should try one. I confessed I had a small dolphin on my right hip but had never had the courage to try anything else. I was actually starting to like her and poured out some of my feelings that I never thought I’d express to a stranger. We then discussed my submissiveness. She basically said whatever makes you happy and that there’s no point being flash and unhappy if you can be plain but contented. Which I guess hit the nail on the head for me.
We then went to the bathroom, where Zoe said I should be a little dowdier and she was going to give me some grey highlights. So finally, after drying my hair and putting on my glasses I looked in the mirror to see what could easily be mistaken for a frumpy 45 year old looking back at me. It was weird, but I actually hugged Zoe, which she wasn’t expecting, and we agreed she’d return next month. We both sat in the garden chatting to Jim, smoking away before she left.
I had to admit I was becoming totally engrossed by Rose and I might have the beginnings of an unlikely friendship with Zoe.
Friday was a crazy day. After getting Mark’s breakfast out of the way I cleaned as much of the house as I could, especially the dining and drawing rooms and carefully laid four places at the dinner table. After that I rushed to the supermarket, getting everything I needed. The car did not behave well, stalling twice and at one time I thought I might have to get the bus home with four heavy bags of shopping. Thankfully, it spluttered its way back to the drive. I hated that car! Once I got back into the house I realized that I’d been in such a hurry, that I’d gone out wearing my tabard over my beige housecoat. It was such a lovely day I didn’t think to wear my raincoat. Absolutely nobody batted an eyelid at the supermarket, I was probably seen as just another cleaner doing some slightly upmarket shopping, probably for someone else, which is basically exactly what I was doing.
I always got stressed cooking for dinner parties, which is why Mark and I so rarely hosted them. At least in the past I could laugh off any failures with our guests, as after a couple of bottles of decent wine no one seemed to mind. However tonight would be different, my cooking would be on display as would I as the hired help and I’d be open to some pretty harsh criticism if it didn’t go well.
I did a simple smoked salmon mousse starter, with coq-au-vin for a main course and I at least, was pleased with the results. I looked at my cheap fake gold watch to see it was almost 7. I had half an hour to get changed into my blue dress and change my shoes. I charged up the stairs and for the first time as I opened my tiny bedroom door I really noticed the stale nicotine smell. Did I really smell like that? Anyway, I lit another one, it was starting to become a habit and I was easily beating Mark’s target of three per day, even if I still managed to leave most of each one smoldering in the ashtray: I unbuttoned my dirty tabard and dropped it in my ever increasing pile of washing. I was constantly doing Mark’s but never seemed to quite find time to do my own. I hung up the beige housecoat; that would do for another day’s wear at least. I did however have to change my tights, as these were on their second wear and were decidedly sweaty. As I bent down to pull them over my toes I let out the most enormously loud fart. What on earth was happening to me? It was so embarrassing and really smelly! I’d eaten a tin of baked beans most days for the last month, as I didn’t have time to cook properly for myself that must account for it. I really had to make more of an effort. My unhealthy diet also seemed to be affecting my skin, which always felt slightly greasy and I also had a few spots for the first time since my teens and to cap it all, I had no cleanser or decent cosmetics.
“That’s the life of a domestic,” I sighed to myself.
Another problem was I didn’t have any anti-perspirant. I had snuck some onto the weekly shop on Monday, but I’d foolishly left it on my dressing table and Mark had obviously confiscated it. Nothing was said and I was too scared to ask.
I looked at myself in the mirror, old lady hair and glasses. Hairy armpits, cheap bra, the padded spanx and large white knickers revealing my increasingly hairy legs. Nobody would believe that a month ago I was wearing Alexander McQueen!
I opened the new packet of tights and carefully put a pair on. However, with tights that thick and the fact that I now had short finger nails as most had broken over two weeks ago, there was little chance of me laddering them.
I really did see why some women wore support hose though, they instantly firmed up my saggy bum and hips, which with the pads were really rather heavy and gave me quite a waddle. I zipped up the blue dress, tied my new white apron on and slipped into my yummy new shoes. I think it was the first time I’d ever worn new shoes that were comfortable on day one. I covered myself in the cheap perfume, quickly combed my easily managed hair and slapped on some lippy. Two last minute puffs of my cigarette and I was ready, just as I heard Mark’s key in the door.
“Rose, where are you?” he called.
“Just coming, Mr. Parfitt,” I replied, running down the stairs as I saw him laughing with Nigel and Lucy. Jenny’s jaw practically hit the floor when she saw me.
“Rose, please take my guests’ coats and then get us all a drink please, I hope you remembered to put the champagne in the fridge.”
“Of course,” I replied. I had no idea that Mark would bring them all here straight from work. I was totally taken off guard and had no idea how to react.
Lucy is probably about an inch shorter than me normally, but as I took her lovely soft leather jacket from her, she simply towered over me. She was wearing the most gorgeous black mini dress and killer platforms that must have had 6” heels. I felt tiny and pathetic. I don’t know why, but I almost curtsied to her.
Jen had at least taken her suede jacket off and handed it to me saying.
“Thank you, Rose, you’re very kind.”
This was quickly followed by Lucy’s comment:
“Rose, Mark has been telling us all about you, it sounds as though you’re a real find.” As she said this I noticed her staring straight into Mark’s eyes.
So, they did know all about me! I could have died and I so hated Lucy, I could have killed her! This had never been part of the plan, how could Mark be so cruel I thought.
“I thought he still loved me!”
I dashed to the kitchen and opened the champagne without spilling any. I had had plenty of practice at that. I just stared at the bottle; alcohol hadn’t passed my lips in over a month. It was very tempting. I brought the bottle into the drawing room and poured each of them a glass. Although it was even more tempting to pour its entire contents over Mark and Lucy.
Nigel simply stared at me. I think it was the first time I’d ever known him to be lost for words.
Jenny was of course being very polite and thanked me for getting her drink.
As I put the bottle down on the coffee table and started to return to the kitchen Lucy piped up with
“Rose I must admit I do admire the practicality of your uniform and your shoes. Life must be so much easier for someone like you, without having to worry about what’s in fashion and matching her shoes and handbags, don’t you agree, Jen?”
“Oh, Lucy, do behave, you are such a troublemaker. Just let Rose get on with her work, I’m sure she doesn’t want to listen to you all evening.”
“Thank you, Mrs. Edmonds” I replied, I am rather busy.
“How long will dinner be, Rose?” asked Mark.
“Its ready whenever you would like to eat, Mr. Parfitt, but please don’t wait too long as I don’t want it to overcook.”
“Thank you Rose, we’ll top up our drinks and come through to the dining room in about 15 minutes, so please serve it then.
“Of course” I replied, hastily retreating with a sarcastic “thank you, Rose” from Lucy ringing in my ears.
A few minutes later as I checked my cooking, Jenny came into the kitchen walking as quietly as she could in her stilettos on the tiled floor. She gave me a huge hug and said:
“What the hell is going on, AJ, I knew you were a sub but this is incredible! You’d dropped hints at being unhappy, but I never thought the two of you would take things this far and I must have called your mobile a dozen times and emailed. Why are you ignoring me?”
“I’m not, but Mark took my iPhone and I don’t have your number and your home number is ex directory!”
“Shit, I never thought of that,” she replied.
She quickly grabbed a piece of paper from the kitchen table, scribbled down her number and handed it to me.
“Call me,” she instructed
She then gave me a quick peck on the cheek and disappeared off to the toilet prior to dinner.
I served dinner, a second bottle of champagne and a rather nice Burgundy that they polished off without complaint.
There was lots of laughter and they had seemed to forget about me.
It was quite obvious that Lucy was rather drunk and was all over Mark.
When I came in to ask if anyone wanted coffee, hoping they would all then leave, I walked in to see Nigel snorting a line of coke with the others ready to have their share. I could have died! I knew Mark was partial to it, but I hadn’t done any for over two years and here they all were drunk and getting high in my house.
I somehow managed to preserve my dignity and asked if they’d require anything else.
Mark asked me to book a taxi for Mr. & Mrs. Edmonds for 45 minutes time and that Ms. Wu would be staying the night.
“Shall I make sure the guest bedroom is ready?” I hopefully required.
“No, Rose, that won’t be necessary,” I was told sternly.
“Just book the taxi and then you can clear the rest of the table and go to bed.”
“Thank you, Rose” Jenny apologetically offered up, “You’re an absolute treasure, Mr. Parfitt doesn’t know how lucky he is”
I could have hugged her, but simply replied
“Thank you, Mrs. Edmonds, you are very kind. I hope you all had a lovely evening and I’ll simply tell the driver to ring the doorbell. Will you be able to let him in, Mr. Parfitt?” I inquired.
“Yes, of course, Rose, please don’t fuss and go off to bed and thank you for your cooking, it was first class.”
“Thank you and goodnight,” I replied retreating to the kitchen with some dishes.
I spent the next 20 minutes washing up in the kitchen. I still wasn’t allowed to use the dishwasher and earlier in the week Mark had confiscated all my rubber gloves after I’d dropped a crystal glass whilst wearing them. So I scrubbed away in the sink, with my hands deeply immersed in Fairy liquid.
I then headed off to my room, removed my contacts and clothes and slipped into a floral nightie, thinking how much I hated the two of them. Before I went to sleep, I heard the taxi pull up and Nigel and Jenny leave, with Lucy sending them off as if she was the lady of the house.
I simply could not get to sleep and soon to make matters worse, although the Master bedroom was at the other side of the house all I could hear was the sound of their love-making. Lucy just had to be faking it, nobody ever had an orgasm like that. She could put Meg Ryan to shame. I cried and cried and cried.
When I awoke at 6:30 I crept downstairs, as I felt they were both finally asleep. I was still wearing my nightie and disgusting dressing gown with awful furry slippers. I went into the drawing room to clear up the remaining mess and there were Lucy’s platforms discarded on the floor. They were Charlotte Olympia’s Dolly shoes, black with a gold platform and the highest stilettos you could imagine. I used to own a pair of her shoes but not that high, but did remember being very tempted by them in the shop a few months ago. I don’t know why, but I simply couldn’t resist trying them on. They were tight, probably one size too small, especially as I wasn’t wearing tights but I walked around the room very gingerly, admiring them and dreaming of my lost world of designer clothing. With that I looked around to hear Lucy screaming at me.
“What the hell do you think you’re doing Rose, who do you think you are, you’re a damned maid and you’re trying on my shoes, were you trying to steal them?”
“No of course not,” I blubbed.
“I’m so sorry, I just couldn’t resist.”
I took them off and handed them back to her and with that, she slapped my face so hard. I was just about to retaliate when I thought better of it and apologized again.
“Don’t let me ever catch you touching my things again, do you understand?”
“Yes, of course, Ms. Wu, I really am terribly sorry it will never happen again, I promise.
“You damned right it won’t,” she said,
“I wasn’t going to wake you but as you’re up, fetch Mr. Parfitt and I breakfast in bed. You’ve got 5 minutes, so move it, you clumsy cow!”
“Of course straight away”
“Coffee, juice and toast,” demanded Lucy as she stormed back upstairs carrying her shoes by the heels.
I felt sick serving the two lovebirds their breakfast in what had been my bed, but at least Mark had the decency to look suitably sheepish and say that after I’d done the shopping I could have the rest of the day off.
I had a shower, the first time I’d had one in the morning since my first day as Rose and got dressed in the pair of blue trousers I hadn’t yet worn. They certainly made my bum look big. I paired that with a Lilac blouse and cream cardigan. I put on the beige sandals. grabbed my matching shoulder bag and headed for the car with my shopping list. I took my time in the supermarket for once, as I wasn’t in a hurry to go back and see them and I’d become so accustomed to being Rose, it was about the first time that I felt totally relaxed in my new persona, despite cursing Mark and Lucy.
I kept thinking “Was this the end of my marriage? Had he ever been unfaithful before?”
I hated Lucy and I could never forgive or trust Jenny again. Her number was in my bag, but I wasn’t in a hurry to phone her.
I finally paid for the shopping and loaded up the small car. It started first time and I felt good, then about a mile up the road it stalled at a roundabout and simply would not start. As AJ I’d have instantly been surrounded by men trying to help, but as Rose all I got were angry jeers and the sounds of car horns as the traffic built up behind me and cars slowly weaved their way past as I sat there fretting.
I was determined not to cry, but had no choice but to phone Mark. It took ages for him to answer and by his breathlessness I could tell they were both still in bed with Lucy giggling away in the background.
He gave me a really hard time and said he couldn’t come to get me as he was busy! He did however phone a garage to come and tow me away. Before the breakdown truck arrived, thankfully two very helpful young men, probably not much out of their teens, pushed me to the side of the road but were unable to start the car.
“Is that ok, dear?” one of them asked as if I were his mother or possibly even grandmother. I dread to think what they thought of me.
Anyway, after almost two hours, the tow truck arrived. His garage was the other side of town and he wouldn’t take me home. Other than collecting the car, he was about as gruff and unhelpful as it was possible to be. As AJ I’d have given him a real mouthful, but all I could think of to say was
“Yes, I do understand, you must be very busy. It’s very kind of you to collect my old car. I’ll find my own way back, thank you.”
He gave me the garage’s number and was off, leaving me at the side of the road with six heavy bags of shopping. I walked almost half a mile to the nearest bus stop. The one consolation was that I wasn’t wearing heels!
After another 30 minutes, the bus arrived and I had to search through my purse to just come up with enough change, with two tartily dressed teenage girls muttering under their breath about me in the short queue behind. The nearest stop to home was easily half a mile from the house, so I had another long walk ahead of me. I finally turned the corner, absolutely exhausted at about 3 o’clock, only to see Mark and Lucy driving away in his Porsche.
My one day off was ruined! I didn’t know whether to laugh at the irony of my situation or cry. I was also desperate for a cup of tea and the first thing I did was to make a milky sweet cup of the stuff once I finally got through the door. My back was killing me after carrying the shopping, combined with all the bending down I’d been doing cleaning the house and sleeping on my uncomfortable bed. I hadn’t been to the gym or an exercise class in almost five weeks and I couldn’t really see me doing that as Rose! My new role was taking its toll.
The garage phoned the following Monday to say that the car needed a new alternator, but also the clutch was on its last legs. They hadn’t done any of the work, as the total repair would come to over £700 and they didn’t think the car was worth that much. I told them I would have to ask my husband if we could afford it and call them back.
I phoned Mark at work, but he wouldn’t take my call as he was in meetings for the entire day. He finally arrived back at about 10 pm with Jenny; they’d been out to dinner. I’d cooked him a meal that had been ruined and had simply eaten a tin of vegetable soup myself. I’d sat around worrying that something might have happened as he hadn’t returned my messages, whereas the reality was, he was out enjoying himself with the evil Chinese bitch. I cursed myself for being such a fool.
To cap it all, Jenny instructed me to make them both coffees before they went to bed – Arggh!
I tried to speak to Mark about the car, but I was told he had other things on his mind (I knew what!) and it had to wait until tomorrow,
Thankfully the next morning they at least had breakfast in the kitchen. Serving them there was slightly less humiliating than having to look at Jenny’s tits poking out from under the quilt in my bed.
I plucked up courage to tell Mark the cost of the car repair. Thinking to myself, “Why I am I not just telling him straight, what was happening to me?”
So I took a deep breath and said. “Mr. Parfitt, I’m afraid the car is going to be terribly expensive to repair, over £700.”
“What?” he screamed back at me “Do you think I’m made on money. I only just bought you that car, what on earth did you do to it?”
“Nothing,” I stammered. “It was a hopeless old car, it’s just reached the end of its life and needs a thoroughly good service and some new parts.”
“Rose, you’re a greedy ungrateful old woman, how many employers do you think give their cleaner a car?”
“You’re probably right, not very many, Mr. Parfitt.”
“Well I’m afraid you’re not getting a car from now on either, Rose. Unless you have the money, which I very much doubt, you can tell the garage to sell it for scrap, is that agreed?”
“But Mr. Parfitt how will I get the shopping and get into town, I really need the car.”
“Rose, on your income I don’t see how you can afford a car. What we’ll do is, I will give you £30 a week to cover all your sundry expenses, bus, cigarettes etc. and everything else will go on the credit card as before, you may even be able to save yourself a couple of pounds each week to buy some clothes or a magazine to read, one of those gossip rags that you seem to enjoy so much. So that’s settled then we’re agreed,” he said, reaching to give me £30 from his wallet.
“Thank you, Mr. Parfitt” I replied.
I couldn’t believe that I actually felt grateful for a measly £30. But the thought of not being able to drive was very sobering. Other than the train into London once or twice a week in my past life as AJ, I’d barely used public transport since I was a student. The prospect of waiting for a bus in the rain once the summer was over appalled me!
To rub salt in the wound, I heard “Rose you disgust me with your cheap perfume and your nicotine smell” Lucy offered cattily as I turned to waddle out of the room.
“She really is repulsive,” I overheard her say to Mark who unbelievably made no effort to reprimand her for her rudeness.
“But oh no,” I thought, “Why did she say that?” I must really be starting to smell like a smoker. I was still only smoking about five each day but it must be the fact that it was seeping into my clothes when I was told to smoke in my room. I’d just have to use more of the disgusting floral perfume, it smelt so tacky and was sticky on my skin, but I imagined that at least it was better than the smell of stale tobacco.
Over the next couple of weeks I became used to waiting for the bus to go into town, although it never seemed to run to timetable and I always had to wait at least 10 minutes, often 20 or more. It was always a real juggling act, trying to balance the amount of shopping I could carry back whilst minimizing the number of trips into town. Last week it was three times, but this week I had to make a fourth trip to the chemist owing to an idea Lucy had, that Mark had instructed me to follow.
Last year, Mark had had to have some root canal surgery and as part of the recovery he’d been told to rinse his mouth with Corsodyl, an antiseptic mouthwash, twice each day. However, it came with strict instructions that he was not to eat any dark foods like berries or drink tea, coffee or red wine for at least two hours afterwards, as it would really stain his teeth.
Whilst my teeth were not quite their normal sparkling white as I hadn’t had them whitened for about three months now, Lucy had convinced Mark that they were far too white for an old low-class domestic cleaner. She had told him that I looked ridiculous with my dreary drab clothes, but with what she called “sparkling teeth” and that it was simply unrealistic! So they had the idea that each day I would have to rinse with the Corsodyl and then drink a cup of sugary black tea immediately afterwards. The sugar would really help the black tea coat them and then I was told that I could only clean my teeth once a day, before I went to bed.
I was mortified. Within a couple of weeks I’d have a mouthful of stained teeth that would look suitable for a junkie or pensioner and probably with the cigarettes I was smoking and all that cheap greasy food I’d end up developing halitosis as well. Could I really sink any lower? So I headed into town later that day having to wait over 20 minutes for the bus to arrive. I paid the driver and made my way to an empty pair of seats just in front of a teenage girl who was probably skipping school and fondling what was undoubtedly her first boyfriend. As I lowered myself into the seat, I broke wind very loudly, I could have died: and then to make matters even worse - if that was at all possible -as the smell started to waft up around me, the girl announced much too loudly:
“Oh, that’s really gross, that old woman just farted, that’s disgusting, come on, Darren, let’s move further back.”
I didn’t know what to do, I could have slapped her, but also wanted to apologize and I think, due to what I had to admit was a pretty awful smell, none of the other few customers reprimanded her at all. To make matters worse, I noticed the middle-aged man on the other side of the aisle to me discretely put his hand over his nose.
If only I had the time to eat decent food! My stomach had started to behave even worse since I had had to start using the bus, as what used to be a 20 minute round trip in the car, was now always well over an hour, giving me even less time to cook properly, It was beans on toast or scrambled eggs with the occasional apple or banana. I had to find time to care for myself more. I never thought my life could be this difficult or degrading. I kept re-assuring myself that this is what I wanted to experiment with. If it wasn’t really different, would it have been worth it and that it would only be for just over another four months until I could return to being my old self. Even if I would require a new short haircut! I almost fell asleep and missed my stop dreaming of going back to Tony’s salon in Chelsea!
I walked back the best part of a mile to the chemist cursing myself for daydreaming, but I bought the mouthwash and popped into an Oxfam shop. This is what I had become, someone who hunted for bargains in charity shops!
I flicked through the racks of discarded clothing and although I had no intention of buying anything I did realize that for only a few pounds, Rose would be able to buy an entire new outfit, which was something worth remembering. The forty something year old, very well spoken woman volunteering behind the counter had the nerve to say:
“Do let me know if you want to try anything on, dear, we have a changing room at the back.”
“She actually called me “dear”, I thought to myself, how old must I look to people, I must be at least 15 years younger than her!”
Anyway, the visit wasn’t totally wasted, I found an old romantic fiction paperback set in the 2nd World War for 50p and bought it immediately. It would be just right for me as Rose to read on my ever-increasing number of bus journeys.
On the bus ride back, which I practically had to run to catch, just as I was about to start reading I had a dreadful thought. I hadn’t spoken to my mother in about 7 weeks. Whilst she knew we were supposed to be in Dubai, she must have been ringing and emailing and not getting a response. I would need to discuss that with Mark, as even he was bound to agree that we couldn’t run the risk of her phoning his office to check on us, or, even worse, deciding to turn up at the house. I made it top of my list of things to mention to him. The only problem with that was that in the few short weeks since the dinner party I barely saw Mark without the dreadful Jenny. She had virtually moved in, and if she wasn’t around then Mark was either out with her, or staying at her place. He made no effort to hide their affair from me. It was as if I had become invisible to him and simply an object to be humiliated by Lucy. I swore that once this was all over, she was going to pay somehow.
Thankfully, that evening he was in alone, although he told me to expect Lucy later and that she was bringing her washing over for me to do!
I grabbed my moment to mention my mother and for once he saw sense in my argument and agreed I should make contact.
He seemed to have an answer for everything. I was to phone straight away using his mobile and say that my bag had been stolen with my laptop and phone and that was why she hadn’t heard from me. I was to say Dubai was great and that we were staying longer, as both Mark and I were loving it there and I had also picked up lots of work, I called and although the call lasted about 30 minutes and she put my father on the line for some of it, I assuaged her initial concerns and she seemed eventually to fall for it. It was agreed with Mark that I’d call every couple of weeks from now on. I suppose it was at least one less thing to worry about.
With that, the Chinese dragon arrived, kissing Mark overly affectionately and towering over me as she clattered around on her mega heels.
“Rose, please go out to my car and collect my washing, will you? Mark was kind enough to offer your services and I knew you wouldn’t mind. You are such a help for a busy professional girl like me!”
She took the car keys out of her Louis Vuitton handbag and handed them to me. I could tell they were for a Porsche and beside Mark’s car, there sat a new shiny black Boxter.
How the hell did she get that I thought, she used to have a Mini Cooper, I desperately hoped that Mark hadn’t bought it for her!
Anyway I opened the door and was almost overcome by the smell of new leather and her Black Opium perfume. The washing was in another Louis Vuitton bag, a large holdall this time. It was on the passenger seat and there were a pair of practically unworn discarded Chanel stilettos on the floor as well as a pair of flat Tod’s loafers that she presumably wore for driving. After the incident of a fortnight ago, I was certainly not going to try either pair on this time!
“I so hated that woman!”
I brought the washing in, to be told that it was all made of silk and had to be hand-washed only.
“You do know how to wash silk don’t you, Rose?” she commented, “It needs to be well cared for, not like your cheap polyester stuff.”
I promised to take good care of it and retreated to the kitchen with the bag load.Over their dinner I could hear Lucy egging Mark on to get me to do some real work, saying how easy life was for me and that I was just taking advantage of him, by playing my silly games. I didn’t know quite what she was planning, but Mark was clearly so infatuated with her that he was putty in her hands. Bloody men! I thought. Then I heard him say that he’d take care of it and I wondered with some trepidation what exactly that meant.