Monday, November 28, 2016

Story: Maid in China. Part 3.

by Barefoot Servant

Lightning bolts struck Maddie’s ears… over and over again. “What’s that noise?” she mumbled to no one in particular. Maddie pulled the pillow, too thin to be her own, and blanket, thinner still, over her head. They provided little protection. Only then did she realize that she did not enjoy the comfort and security of her own bed. “What’s going on? Where am I?”

“Alarm,” someone—Rosario—answered, “and you’re in bed when you shouldn’t be. We’ve got work to do.” The answers were punctuated by two sharp jabs to Maddie’s ribs, courtesy, she knew, of Rosario’s chubby brown index finger. At least the blaring of the alarm had ceased.

Maddie stretched. Arms and toes extended, she easily exceeded the length of the small bed. I hope my bed in China is more comfortable than this. Her eyes stung and her whole body ached, especially her feet. “What time is it anyway?”

Rosario mumbled something Maddie couldn’t understand. The Filipina was in the attached bathroom, brushing her teeth.

Maddie rolled over to look at the old-fashioned alarm clock and blinked in disbelief. Four am. “Rosario, why are we up at four in the morning?”

Rosario spat and rinsed. “Maddie, our flight leaves at noon. We have a lot to do before then. We have to finish cleaning up from the party, prepare and serve breakfast, clean up after breakfast, and be at the airport two hours in advance. Now quit talking and get dressed.”

Maddie forced herself to stand, reinforcing that her feet did indeed ache more than all of the other parts of her body—combined. She smoothed her uniform. Evidently she hadn’t bothered to take it off last night. “Looks like I’m already dressed.”

Rosario emerged from the bathroom, head shaking in disapproval. Maddie had never really thought of Rosario as being impeccably dressed before, but compared to Maddie she was. The Filipina’s hair was still damp, but her uniform was neat and smooth. “Maddie you can’t serve breakfast looking like that. Your hair is a mess and your uniform is all wrinkled. Didn’t your parents teach you anything?”

Maddie flushed at her fellow maid’s criticisms.

“Now go wash your important parts and change your uniform. There’s an extra for you in the closet there. When you’re presentable, meet me in the kitchen. Now, chop-chop.”  

Stepping into the confines of the small shower, Maddie smelled herself. Gag. I smell like other peoples’ food… and Skye’s feet! Small comfort though it was, the shower water warmed quickly. Maddie scrubbed herself with orange-blossom body wash and honey treatment shampoo. Interesting choices, Rosario.  She stood under the shower water longer than she likely should have. Can I do this for an entire summer?
Hair still wet and feet still aching, but otherwise somewhat refreshed, Maddie found Rosario hard at work in the kitchen. “Maddie, how nice of you to join me. Did you enjoy your shower?”

“Yeah, it wasn’t bad. You have some—“

“I figured as much you spent long enough in there,” Rosario cut her off.

“Nice body wash,” Maddie finished glumly.

“Enough about the body wash Maddie. Mrs. Kim will be down shortly, and—“

“At four am?” This time it was Maddie’s turn to cut off the more senior maid.

“It’s almost five now Maddie, and Mrs. Kim is an early riser. She takes her breakfast in the nook while she reads her magazines and papers. I’m making boiled eggs and steamed buns stuffed with eggplant and chives. She takes that with orange juice, water, and coffee. Cream and sugar for the coffee. There’s a lot of cleaning up to do in the family room, and since you don’t know where anything goes, you are going to have to serve at table.” Rosario must have noticed Maddie’s eyes glaze over at the rapid fire directions. “You’ve got this Maddie, just pretend like you’re at a restaurant. Think about how you would like to be served and do that for Mrs. Kim. Mostly keep her drinks full unless she tells you otherwise. When she folds her napkin and places it on her plate that means she’s done. You can clear the table, rinse the dishes, and fill the dishwasher. We’ll run it one last time before we leave. Now hurry and set the table before she gets down here.”

Maddie stared at the breakfast nook table, bare save for a pair of bold, red tablecloths. “Is there a certain way that the table should be set?” Maddie had a feeling the answer was yes.

“Maddie, I’ll ask you again—didn’t your parents teach you anything?”

“We’re pretty informal around our house.”

“Of course there is a certain—a correct— way to set the table. I will show you, but you have to pay attention. I can’t always be there to help you, and you don’t want to embarrass our mistresses, or the young master, when we get to China.”

Maddie shifted uncomfortably from foot to bare foot as Rosario set the table. Mistresses, master. I’m starting to feel more and more like a slave.

“Okay Maddie, pretend like your brain is a fancy telephone—one of those with a camera—and use it to take a mental picture of this place setting. You will have to do this again… and you may be tested on it.”

Maddie wasn’t sure, but she hoped Rosario was joking about the test part; she nodded anyway.

“Rosario, Maddie, good morning.” Mrs. Kim’s voice startled both maids who spun to face their employer.

“Good morning, Mrs. Kim,” Rosario replied with a curtsy.
A brown elbow to her arm sprung Maddie into action. “Good morning, Mrs. Kim,” she echoed, also attempting a curtsy.

“Maddie, it looks as though Rosario is getting you up to speed with things. Is everything okay so far?”

Maddie wanted to unleash a torrent of complaints, especially in regards to having to massage Skye’s feet during the movie, but she settled for a simple, “yes ma’am, everything is great so far.”

“Perfect.” With that, Mrs. Kim settled into the breakfast nook and took up reading of the latest issue of The Economist.

Rosario, though, pursued her. “Mrs. Kim, I have some picking up to do before we leave, would it be okay if Maddie,” Rosario paused to motion the junior maid forward, “would it be okay if Maddie served you during breakfast.”

“Yes, of course,” Mrs. Kim answered, “she’s here to work after all, not stand idle.”

“Of course, ma’am. Thank you ma’am.” Rosario turned to Maddie and whispered, “alright Maddie, you’re on.” And with that, Rosario disappeared into the family room, leaving Maddie alone with Mrs. Kim.  

After a day spent chasing after the needs of thirty of her classmates, Maddie found the pace of serving Mrs. Kim’s breakfast a welcome change of pace. Still something about her employer—my mistress, one of them anyway—made Maddie nervous. At five in the morning, Mrs. Kim was impeccably groomed, shiny black hair hanging to the middle of her back, gathered by a golden clasp set with little emeralds. She was dressed in a long, light summer dress and wedge sandals. Every movement, every turn of the page of weekly news magazine was… deliberate.

Mrs. Kim read more than she ate. Maddie only had to pour juice for her once, but had top off her coffee a couple of times, and fill her water glass more often still. Please don’t let me spill anything. Please, please, please. When Mrs. Kim had finished her steamed buns, she folded her napkin and placed it over the bowl. Maddie didn’t miss her cue to clear the table.

Before Maddie had a chance to disappear back to the kitchen, hands full, Mrs. Kim stopped her. “Maddie, you did an acceptable job with the party yesterday, as well as with my breakfast this morning; but the party was a casual event, and here in the breakfast nook, I only have one side exposed to you.”

“Yes ma’am, thank you ma’am,” Maddie answered, not sure where this was going.

“When we get to China, though,” Mrs. Kim continued, “there will be more people in the house—extended family, honored guests.”

“Yes ma’am.” Maddie shifted from one bare foot to the other, nerves building.

“The meals, most of them anyway, will be more formal events. You and Rosario will be expected to help serve at table, and I gather that you have little formal experience.”

“Yes ma’am, that’s correct. I mean no ma’am, I don’t.”

“Rosario and the other servants will help you of course, coach you, but I don’t want you to make a fool of yourself… or of me.”

“No ma’am, of course not. I don’t want that either.”

“Tell me this Maddie—at a formal meal service, from which side do you serve; and from which side do you clear the table?”

“I, uh…” Maddie wracked her brain, trying to think back to the few formal dinners she had ever attended. Seventh grade soccer banquet, I was sitting… “I think you serve from the left and, ah, clear from the right, right ma’am?”

Mrs. Kim sighed. “If only it were that simple Maddie. Pre-plated food, as well as empty plates and clean utensils should be placed from the guest’s right. At the end of the course, they may also be cleared from the right. Wine and other beverages are also presented and poured from the right?”

“So what about the left ma’am?”

“You should approach a guest from the left to present platters from which you will serve or from which a guest will help himself; to place side dishes; and to clear dishes that were served from the left. Does that make sense?”

Maddie nodded that indeed it did. How am I going to keep all of this straight?


“Good. Now, you and Rosario need to get breakfast to Jenny, Billy, and Skye. They may be having breakfast in bed, but it’s about time those kids were awake.

40 comments:

  1. Waiting for more of this story is a beautiful sorrow.

    I love this story. Please continue to write as your schedule allows.

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    1. Thanks so much for the kind words. I will certainly continue to write as the time allows.

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  2. Good to have you back with the next episode. I'm looking forward of course for the Chinese experience of Maddie. Mrs Kim prepared the ground accordingly, 'extended family, honored guests, more formal events'.
    Monica G.

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    1. Thanks for the kind words... and thanks for noticing the foreshadowing.

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  3. Such a lovely surprise on Monday!
    As always a fantastic read. Can't wait for the trip to China!

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    1. Thanks much for the compliment. I'll be happy to just get Maddie to the airport. I have a recent real world airport experience that I want to draw on for the story.

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    2. Can't wait to read about it.

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  4. Can't wait to learn more details of the contract that Maddy signed. Waiting to see what traps await her.

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    1. I suspect that pesky contract will rear its head yet again.

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  5. OMG this is one of the best stories ever... I hope Maddie gets trapped in China!

    Hope the next one comes soon!!! Great story!

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    1. Thanks for the wonderful compliment. I will definitely write more as time allows. As for Maddie becoming trapped in China-- the world becomes a more nationalist, isolated, dangerous place each day.

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    2. Yes, it does become more dangerous. And if Maddie is off in some city where the name is not transliterated properly and contact information wasn't given to Maddie's parents, and if they were notified that she begged to stay (even if she didn't), by the time she disappeared into another city, she'd never be found or have any ability to leave

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    3. Yikes!

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  6. Thank you for this excellent story! I especially like the part regarding giving footmassages to the former equals... maybe china has something similiar to the kaffala system in the arab world, so that maddie cannot leave the country without the consent of her sponsor. I cant wait to see how the story will go on...

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    1. Glad you like it. I have actually been thinking about this. I sort of have an idea along these lines, but haven't taken the time to research the reality. Sometimes the truth is stranger (and more interesting) than fiction.

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    2. I would suggest looking into how Vietnamese women are kidnapped and brought to China and then have no chance to escape

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    3. Thanks for the advice.

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  7. I have lost more than one job due to lack of attention to detail, and/or an inability to absorb detailed instructions on the first try.
    This story awakens terrifying memories of humiliation and failure.
    Which, being what I am, makes me fucking wet as all get out....

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    1. I'll take that as a compliment... more to come.

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  8. Very realistic and evocative. It's a good bridge chapter. We'll have to wait and see what's on the other side of that bridge. The story is shaping up a having as distinct foot fetish element.(Maybe that's not the best way to put it, but I can't think of a better, concise way to say it.) Foot fetishism isn't my cup of tea, but as long as that's just a background element,and there are believable characters solidly in the foreground, I don't find it a problem.
    Personally, I always found any kind of fetish impossible to comprehend, but maybe that's just a failure of imaginative empathy on my part. Who was it who said: "Pity the poor fetishist. He falls in love with a beautiful foot, but then he realizes he has to court the woman that it's attached to."?

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    1. The other side of the bridge? Right now, some loose ideas and not a lot of time.

      As for the foot fetish, I can't deny it; I have one. I started writing the story purely to entertain myself; only later did I decide to share it here. It'll continue to have a place in the story, though I can't see it becoming any more prominent than it already is.

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  9. Replies
    1. You're most welcome!

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  10. This site hates robots! I'm starting to think that it may have outsmarted me.

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  11. Another aspect of Maddie's servitude that has not yet manifested itself is her relationship with the younger brother, whom I suspect Maddie had treated as an annoyance during her days as a guest in the Kim household.

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  12. Indeed! Maddie has had very little interaction with Billy since becoming a maid in his family's employ. That should change soon.

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  13. I love the exceptional detail, which of course a real servant would have to memorize and perform on command.

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  14. One of the best stories in this blog. Cant wait to read the next chapters.

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  15. Such a pity this story was abandoned, or .......isn´t all hope gone? In my opinion it´s by far the best written story here, it definitely deserves more chapters; the expected airport scene, the stay in China, and, what I´m personally looking forward to most, Maddie´s coming back to her senior year.
    The story has maybe taken a couple of steps away from realism - as I read it - but an ambiguous positioning in time opens for a more saga- like narration, with perhaps more extravagant debauchery. I´m not into foot fetishism, but if it doesn´t play the first violin in the plot, which I think it doesn´t so far, I can appreciate it.
    Once again Barefoot Servant, I´m one of your fans, thank you for sharing and pleeeease continue.

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    1. I definitely hope to write more... and soon. Sadly, my day job is incredibly taxing and I have some pretty lofty reading goals on top of that. This weekend may actually allow an opportunity to write.

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    2. I wonder whether Maddie will be forced to undergo a stirp search at the air[port?

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  16. Thank you, Barefoot Servant, for your writing. Please write another instalment soon. It's been a long time xo

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  17. Dear barefoot servant, i simply love your story incl. the foot fetish aspects. Do you have any websites you could recommend? Thank you so much!

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  18. Please, please publish another episode soon xo

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  19. One of the best story of this site, please please let us see more of it :) :) :)

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  20. It is my favorite story! Pls keep on your excellent writing!! I hope there will be a new part soon.

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  21. I hope this brilliant story has not been abandoned... I simply love it so far....

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  22. I have found great interest and inspiration in this wonderful story. It´s powerful plot, full of imaginative elements, the rich language in combination with the fact that it unfortunately seems to have lost it´s momentum, finally pushed me to try to somehow develop it. I´m reluctant to present the result of my work, this for several reasons. Firstly, english is not my mother tongue, I´m therefore interested in finding someone willing to correct the text. Secondly, I have not been able to get in touch with Barefoot Servant. Finally, I´m not convinced that my work, considering it´s wider perspective of downgrading, would be appriciated in this forum. Those interested in the novel - it stops right now at approximately 250 pages...sorry - feel free to contact me at galonklubben@outlook.com.
    The story is altered in order to solve one for me important psychological problem in the way the original develops the characters; Jenny´s motive to go from being Maddie´s best friend to exposing her to cruel humiliation. In my version Maddie´s loss of status is double, she submits to her maid´s role at the Kim´s house, but before that she becomes a bully victim at school, partially because her grades are falling. She is placed in a Special Unit for students with learning difficulties and at the same time set up by Skye and finds herself subjected to a particularily strict discipline. Jenny´s little brother is replaced by a sister, only slightly younger than Jenny. The sister is a notorious heartbreaker and a successful student, in glaring contrast to Maddie, who she despises. The sister orchestrates, together with Skye, Maddie´s gradual degradation, at school but later also at the Kim´s house. She manages to convince Jenny to stop protecting Maddie. As a consequence of Skye´s setup Maddie´s mother is having a hard time too. The version stops right before the departure to China.
    As said, maybe this is too far from the main theme of this site, but still, it´s basic theme is downgrading.

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    1. I love your concept. Would it be possible that you share your novel? My email: freiburgv30-money@yahoo.de thank you very much!

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