I truly felt terrible. It was not that I could not handle getting up early. I had done so many times before to catch a plane or travel to some faraway meeting. The problem was that I was used to a room of my own and not sharing it with half-a-dozen other women. I seemed to have spent the entire night tossing and turning on that uncomfortable mattress, which seemed stuffed with nothing better than a cheap foam. I cursed my poor judgement and found myself unable to relax, torturing myself with anxious thoughts about the future and the mess I was currently in. I must have been asleep just an hour, perhaps two, before one of the other girls stirred and woke me.
I padded my way down the corridor to the shower, carrying a cheap cotton towel with me. I had forgotten to bring any toiletries, assuming that one would not need them in a hotel! However, as I was discovering rapidly, what was normal for guests was not the case for the staff. I had to queue to use the shower, running the tepid water over my aching body. The sheer degree of physical work I had endured yesterday was like nothing I had encountered before. A warm shower would undoubtedly have provided some modicum of comfort, but this was not to be. All I got was a drizzle of lukewarm water and nothing more.
Wrapping myself in my small towel, which just covered my bust and thighs, I padded my way back to the room. As I stepped back into the cramped room, I caught myself in a mirror and looked at the brown girl staring back at me. I saw that at least my hair had not frizzed up any more and that nothing of my actual self was showing through. I felt myself squirm and walked into the body of the room, my eyes still fixated on the unfamiliar woman in the reflection. For a moment, I forgot I was tired. My troubles seemed a long way away. Just for a second I considered what I now was, or at least represented. For all intents and purposes, despite my commendation from head office, everyone around me saw me as an immigrant maid, barely conversant in English. Someone at the very bottom of the pile, forced to share her room with other girls, not worthy of any privacy. I was at rock bottom! My hands were trembling as I checked my phone to see if any news had arrived.
I sat on the bed and drew my thighs together to contain the warmth radiating from there, choosing to quickly dress and make my way to the staff room for some breakfast. I felt my body radiate with heat as I walked. As yesterday had worn on and I had grown increasingly tired, I had not noticed people looking at me. However, I soon felt that outsider status return as I walked into the staff area for breakfast. A few of the other cleaners had already congregated in the canteen that ran alongside the maids’ main room. I picked up a tray and walked along the bar, surveying what to eat. It was quiet and I could hear faint murmurs and giggles behind me as I side-stepped along the tables trying to find something remotely healthy to eat.
To my dismay, the only things on offer were cheap cereals and pastries, as well as what I considered gluttonous offerings of bacon, potatoes and beans. I hesitated. I was so tired and really could do with a pick-me-up. I spooned the bacon onto my plate, followed by other equally unhealthy options. Turning and keeping my gaze to the floor, I carefully navigated my way through the chairs to a table alone in the far corner. I should have tried to mingle, but was fearful of the reception I would generate. Instead I found solace in my food. Back home, I was a very careful eater. I would never have considered chowing down on such fare there. The most I may treat myself to was an occasional croissant alongside some fruit and yoghurt. But my body was in the mood for fat and grease. Unused to such hard labour, I was hungry, famished even. I eagerly tucked into the plate-load of heavy food and had soon finished the lot.
It actually felt really good and, as I sat there, I scooped up the remaining grease with a bit of bread. Shocked at the speed at which I had eaten the pile of food, I was equally shocked to find myself wanting more. The tiredness shrouding my body, the aching joints, my general discomfort, it all seemed somehow softer after I ate that greasy mass. Looking over shyly at the table where the other cleaners were laughing and gossiping, I arose and went back for a second helping.
Though by no means a huge amount in weight, I had eaten almost three times what I would have done normally. Still any angst I may have felt at that fact was softened knowing that I was working hard and that I would burn it all off again. After all, I needed energy to make it through the day. I had felt tired yesterday after just a few hours, I knew that I would need to do better today, if I was not going to draw attention to myself.
If there was a moment that I felt myself, at least my current persona, start to peel away from Katherine it was that morning. On one particular occasion, I found myself cursing one of the last decisions I had made before starting this workman’s holiday: the distribution of new, cheaper uniforms. What had seemed appropriate to myself when dressed up in my exclusive penthouse, satisfying myself with my hungry fingers, was very different to what seemed appropriate at 7am on a Tuesday morning.
The looks of disdain among all the maids as they pulled the new uniforms from the box was clear. I cringed, at least inwardly, for what had been my lust-fuelled stupidity. I greatly sympathised with the maids who threw their uniforms back into the box, indignantly proclaiming they would never wear such a ‘tart’s uniform’. Others stood there, like myself, waiting to see what the others would do. Suddenly, I became aware that the other maids were looking at me in a less than friendly manner.
“This kind of crap always comes from your lot at head office. They have no frickin’ idea what we have to put up with here!” Linda held her new uniform up towards me in a clenched fist.
I had to agree. With her figure and looks, she rightly feared how it would look. I nodded weakly, unsure of what to say, the last residues of my confidence draining away. It seemed even as Katherine, people did not respect me in the way I had always taken for granted.
Linda remained in my face. “Well.. you put yours on, ‘Miss HQ’. I mean you are so frickin’ perfect after all, huh?” Her mockery provoked a ripple of laughter and I felt all eyes on me again. This time not because of my skin colour or hair, but because I was emblematic of a division between management and staff. I tried to pick myself up: “Linda. I think also dis is a bad dress. We no need wear dis. I sure dis a mistake.”
I felt my insides lurch again. This was exactly what I should be avoiding. I was drawing unnecessary attention to myself and risked blowing my cover. What if my language did not fit my persona? The sudden rush of doubt ran cold through my veins and I chose the most sensible expedient – silence.
“No.. No.. you don’t get away wiv it that simple. Put the fuckin’ dress on! Stupid idiot!”
I simply could not summon any vestiges of courage or confidence, nor could I risk provoking a full-blown argument. No-one had ever spoken to me before in such a rough and direct manner and I felt alone and helpless, unable to draw around me that veil of protection my social status normally guaranteed. I picked up the dress and held it up. It was so short and relatively low cut. I looked up at Linda hoping she might have softened or turned her attention elsewhere but, if anything, her attitude was hardening.
In front of them all, I undressed. Some of the girls chuckled at my discomfort. In an effort to lessen my exposure and embarrassment, I pulled my arms in front of me, vainly trying to shield my bra and panties. I fumbled for the edges of the dress and dragged it over my lithe frame. Fortunately, with my gym-honed figure, the dress, though cheap, fitted me well and slipped on easily. I tugged at the hemline, feeling awkward at just how high it sat on my thighs. I was sure if I bent over it would skirt the very tops of my legs, giving an eyeful to anyone watching. Of course that was the intention when I was living out my maid fantasies hidden away where no-one would actually see me!
At that moment, standing helplessly in front of the gaggling women, I felt utterly humiliated and debased. At the same time, a certain degree of detachment remained. I was there of course. I experienced that humbling and degrading moment. But still, I was Marta. They were laughing at Marta and not at me. Deep inside of me, I knew – though an extreme variant – this was what I had come here for. Perhaps my subconscious had been working towards a moment like this? I felt a frisson of pure excitement run up my spine and a shield descend between me and them. They were mocking a fiction, a character, almost a parody. Inside my head I detected a sudden uncoupling of myself from this unreality, like I was watching it on television. I was literally buzzing, between my legs, into my loins. It felt so good. I wanted, no needed, to scratch that destructive itch now burning in my moist lips. I shivered, the erotic image of what was happening projected in front of me. It seemed to last for far too long, like time itself had ceased to function properly and only ended when the manageress stormed into the room demanding an explanation.
The sudden silence that descended on the room unnerved me enormously. “What is the meaning of this noise?” She sounded angry and instantly saw that I had been the cause of the ruckus. Her eyes seemed to linger on my dress for a moment. I saw her drink in my image and her eyes flick to my short hemline for a second more than one would suspect normal. I had no idea that she had spent the evening tapping my personnel file and the internet for more information about me. I was also unaware that she had been the one that had overheard me pleasuring myself in the toilets. Neither of these factors were present in my mind when I felt a different sensation creep up my spine. For the way she looked at me totally smashed that shield I felt between myself and this ‘reality’. Her eyes met mine and instantly I felt myself drawn back into that room: Katherine and Marta’s destiny was again entwined tightly.
“Go to my office, Marta”. As I slunk down the corridor to her room, I heard her remonstrating with the other cleaners. Part of me was happy to hear that. Perhaps someone was standing up for me at last? I felt like a naughty pupil as I stood outside her office. My imagination was running wild, fed by the many questions raised by the way she had looked at me. Perhaps it was just my imagination, but it seemed different, almost understanding? I looked down the corridor for any sign of her, listening attentively for any clacking of heels, but nothing.