I had not counted on a potentially hostile manager. One reason I chose this particular hotel, apart from being out of the way, was its supposedly genial and pliant manager. Something had obviously gone wrong and would have to be careful of this new woman, who obviously did not like head office butting into her local business. I was already tired by the time I had finished scrubbing the floor of the toilets and was expecting some kind of break, when Linda told me that I was expected in the laundry room. It looked like I was to get no relief from this onslaught of menial tasks. For the first time, I truly felt what being trapped felt like and my powerlessness to do anything about it. My life had been one of privilege, opportunity and choice. The best education money could buy had underlined the status gained through unearned privilege. But not in this scenario. Here I was in a trap of my own making. That said, I comforted myself thinking that there was still an open door. I could just walk out and never come back again.
For a moment, I let that thought circulate in my head. Perhaps I am getting in too deep and I need to run while I can? Still the downsides to running were many and deep: who would get blamed? Most probably me! What if someone looked into the bogus scheme and saw all the lies I had concocted? My god, were someone to actually lift the lid on this whole idea, I could be ruined. My stomach ached. This time not from that delicious flutter of uncertainty and humiliation, but from a sudden bout of anxiety. No, running could prove very costly, I would have to try and see this out as Marta!
The woman running the laundry was just as imposing as Linda. She watched me like a hawk and gave me an equally hard time, leaving me to work on removing stains from the bedsheets collected that morning. I looked at the spots of food, drink and god knows what as I applied the powder to remove the markings. My hands stung as I scrubbed the stain with a coarse brush, leaving my delicate skin red, raw and likely to get callouses if I were to continue doing this. My nails, already cut short, were breaking and I soon had to cut them down to the quick. The smell from the chemicals made me feel light headed and dizzy. I actually started to wonder about whether this experience might damage me physically, if not psychologically.
The warmth of the room, fed by the steam from the machines, made me sweat profusely. I caught a glimpse of myself in the only mirror, placed above the line of washing machines. I almost gasped. I looked terrible. My hair, already damaged from the over colouring had frizzed up badly. Fortunately, it only added to my disguise, but I looked on mortified at just how damaged it was: a sea of split ends and frizz that probably required almost 80% of it to be cut off. Instantly, I remembered the Latino cleaner in that hotel I visited before I began this whole crazy adventure. Yes she was stout, with a terrible mullet, flecked with grey. Different to myself, yet not totally. I had stared at her wondering how anyone could let themselves get to that state. I felt my legs buckle a little, a little overwhelmed by the extent of the transformation I had unwittingly engineered.
I lifted a heavy basket towards a machine and crouched down to load it. As I did, I could smell myself. The odour from the previous maid to use the uniform was now largely gone. In its place was my own sweat, something I had smelt before only when I was at gym or exercising, not like this. I normally hated dirt and smell, finding it inexcusable when people around me had body odour, though for now I had to swallow my convictions. I knew I would have to walk around all day with this smell lingering on my body. I also knew that everyone else would smell it too. I felt a tremor of shame, a feeling I had grown somewhat more used to as the day progressed and which I knew was provoking a great deal of sexual tension inside of me.
Dozens of times during the day I recalled that image of myself in the mirror. I saw that girl looking back at me, but still did not see it as me. For now my disguise was just that: a disguise, a mask, which shielded me from the world. The door was still open and I could run away – at least in theory. Whenever an upsurge of anxiety took hold, I reminded myself that I was not trapped. I could get away. However, this assumption was built on sand and, as I was soon to discover, this makes for very bad foundations.
I have never considered myself a clock watcher, but those final minutes leading to the lunchbreak were agonisingly slow. I felt exhausted and dirty. Normally I tried to carry myself with a degree of poise and grace, though today I was the direct opposite: my cheap uniform clung to my sweaty body. Exposed to the heat and humidity of the room, the ends of my hair had continued to frizz into tight curls, nothing like my normal sleek blonde mane. My back hurt and for a while I found it difficult to straighten up fully. The poor posture in turn made me look submissive and ever so slightly bowed over. Somewhat irrationally, a part of me had expected the steam and dampness to somehow wipe off the dark stains from the tanning lotion that covered my body. I was still not used to seeing my dark skin: each time I reached out or extended my arm, it disoriented me briefly.
I knew that when I finally found some time for myself, I would rush to the locker room. I needed to get hold of my phone and see what was going on. Who was this new manager? Where was the old one? Could I get a room arranged for myself? I needed to take back some control.
Leaving the laundry room was a massive relief in itself, the warm, humid air being replaced by a fresh, cool breeze. However that led to another problem as the heat and sweat on my body condensed, making the wetness under my arms and on chest more noticeable. The thin, light blue uniforms did little to hide the patches of sweat and I became conscious of eyes on me again as I walked back to the locker room.
Invisibility can be achieved in a number of ways. I remember reading comments from women in their later years saying how nothing was more invisible than a middle-aged woman. Everyone loves to look at pretty girls, but an old maid? Was that what I was experiencing now? Did people see me as ordinary, as looking plain? Was I no longer worth their attention? I was used to being admired for my looks. Now I looked a mess. Perhaps they were simply embarrassed to see me, like how people cross the street pass to avoid the stares from a vagrant or beggar. Whatever the reason, it was humiliating and I felt my confidence ebb to a new low. Picking up my pace, I darted across the lobby before diving back into the bowels of the hotel where someone like me belonged.
Katherine belonged upstairs, Marta downstairs. The reduction in status I felt at that moment was electric. I had already achieved a great deal of what I set out to do when the idea first struck me all those weeks ago. After seeing the look in that maid’s eyes as her boss confronted her over the spillage, I had wondered how it felt to be so utterly dominated. Right now, I understood how this uniform, my skin colour and general demeanour had started to impact me psychologically. The thing is, rather than reacting with indifference or trying to shunt the feelings to one side. I wanted to feel more of them. The submissiveness I had felt while on my hands and knees in front of Linda had shocked me. I had wanted to kiss her feet. I had wanted to demonstrate my position to her. As then, the revelation shocked me. I was playing with fire and had to douse the flames lest they engulf me completely.
I knew I still retained ultimate control of the situation. As I reached the locker room, I thought over what I needed to do, who to call and email to correct the numerous flaws now emerging in my plan. I was relieved to see the corridor outside the locker room was quiet. I needed some space and time to compose myself and take hold of the situation. But a serious dent was about to appear in my plan. I pushed on the locker room door only to find it firmly locked. I tried the handle again and found it secured firmly. It was only then I noticed the scanner for a keycard - a keycard I did not have!
I cursed the whole situation. I had so little time and now this! Flickers of anger rose in me, Katherine was growing impatient, while Marta, one step ahead, felt sick at the prospect of having to ask her fellow maids, or the manageress, how to get into the locker room. Katherine would not have thought twice about demanding a keycard, she was an assertive woman capable of great things, negotiating deals and formulating grand strategic visions. Marta was not. To put it mildly, she was discovering that, stripped of all her privilege and looks, she – Marta – was barely able to push her way out a wet paper bag. Right now Katherine could only exist, at a distance, over the phone or email.
She stood there trembling at what was happening. Was she going a little crazy? All this two-headed thinking was strange and it is easy to question your sanity when under extreme pressure. She knew what she had to do. She had to get a keycard, but she felt sick at the thought of trying to look and sound assertive in her current guise. Her poor English needed to shield her real identity. How could she hope to have a complicated discussion on the rules when she could not speak the language with any great fluency.
Instead of heading for the maids’ room. She opted for a darker path. She chose to explore her desires further, to let her fantasies spin out of control just for a brief moment. She pushed the door open to a cubicle in the nearby toilet and, head spinning, pushed against the wall for support. She was Marta, she dared not question her superiors, nor was she confident enough to stand up for her rights. Stood over the toilet she had cleaned just a few hours before, she spread her legs and pulled her dress up over her thighs and tugged her panties down. The climax that followed shortly thereafter was so strong that her legs buckled and her gently panting turned to moans of pleasure. It was only as she calmed herself that she heard the door to the cubicle next door slam. Someone else had been in the toilet next to her! Heart racing, she wondered what to do next. P.S. The author wanted to apologise in advance there won't be an update of this story for at least three weeks due to vacation. Watch this space as Marta's exciting story continues to unfold.