by Noëlle Lague
(Freely based on "Maid in China" by Barefoot Servant)
VIII - Under Heather´s thumb
What followed was a whirlwind of activity for the two maids. Rosario told Maddie that she was expected to do all of the cleaning, the hard work, the coming 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, Mrs. Dalaga”, Maddie complained.
“Have you ever seen a soap spot on any of our glasses when you came to visit as Miss Jennifer’s friend?”
“No, Mrs. Dalaga but….”
”The word but will not come out of your mouth again Maddie”.
”I´m sorry, Mrs. Dalaga”.
Maddie started carefully to dry a glass.
“Do I have to call her Miss Jennifer too, Mrs. Dalaga?”
“Of course, Maddie, and that goes for all the guests including all your former classmates, for you they are Mr. or Mrs. followed by their family name, understood?”
”Yes, Mrs. Dalaga.”
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 Jennifer,” 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.”
Maddie moved toward the refrigerator, the glass she had been drying still in hand.
”You will use a plastic cup, we don’t want to break any glasses near the pool.”
”Ok”, Maddie answered as she filled a plastic cup with ice and water.
“And Maddie, I want you to answer me Miss Jennifer, didn´t Rosario tell you that?”.
“Uh…yes……she did…. I…”
”Then why didn´t you do that?” Jenny cut her off with a stern look.
”I forgot. I´m sorry, Jen….Miss Jennifer”.
Maddie bit her lip with a pained expression, shocked over Jenny´s scolding. It was embarrassing having to address Jenny the way Rosario always did.
“And you will curtsy when you answer me”.
Maddie complied immediately and curtsied.
”As you answer”, Jenny instructed with a stern look.
Maddie repeated the ritual, blushing furiously.
”Yes, Miss Jennifer….I´m sorry,” she said as she curtsied again.
”That’s better,” Jenny commented, disappearing out the door to the pool, leaving Maddie mortified, at attention for further instruction from Rosario.
The roles between the two friends were both about to become firmly established. Jenny the Mistress, Maddie the maid.
“See, I told you so,” Rosario said, smiling and maybe gloating a little, ”now go serve Miss Jennifer her water”.
Maddie started toward the door to the outside and pool.
“Where do you think you´re going with that?” Rosario asked, nodding at the plastic cup of water.
“The pool, Mrs. Dalaga,” Maddie answered matter-of-factly.
“Obviously,” Rosario countered, “you can’t just carry it out there. You need to use a serving tray.”
“Oh, Mrs. Dalaga…” Maddie seemed shocked. ”I don’t think I’ve ever used a serving tray before.”
“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, you must stabilize the tray with your other hand, especially when you’re carrying more than one cup, and you’ll be on your own to open the door.”
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 a number of 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. The inconvenience of her maid´s uniform struck her mercilessly, the heat caused her almost instantly to sweat. The shapeless humid smock clung to her protruding butt and caused Maddie´s generous bust to offer a rich spectacle of wrinkles as quick but careful steps carried her to Jenny’s side. Maddie hated her uniform, she tried desperately to move in a way that didn´t amplify the rustling noise it produced, it was so embarrassing she thought. But her effort only caused her to move in a way that made her look awkward, adding to her already ludicrous appearance.
Why must I wear this ridiculous and uncomfortable outfit, she wondered. Didn´t Jenny understand how unpleasant it was going to be for her to wear it on a hot day like today? Or how laughable the outfit looked? Maddie´s thoughts disappeared as she reached her goal, standing at attention, looking down at her tray placing her left hand behind her back.
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 Jennifer,” Maddie started, with a discrete curtsy.
Jenny immediately turned toward Maddie and slipped her hand between mouth and phone. Sunglasses hid her eyes.
“Maddie, you´re interrupting me when I’m talking.”
“Oh, s..sorry Miss Jennifer,” Maddie stammered.
”Just put the water down.”
”Yes, Miss Jennifer, I´m so sorry”.
Maddie bent 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. Maddie curtsied and hurried back to the kitchen.
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 tried 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.
“That certainly looks like real cheap underwear.”
In a flash, Maddie descended the ladder. It was Heather´s best friend Claire, another arrogant posh youngster.
“Stop it, go away”, Maddie hissed, tugging at her smock, “you shouldn’t look at people´s underwear”, Maddie whined.
Maddie hated the girl. Claire was often taking part in the cruel bullying Heather orchestrated. Claire burst out laughing at Maddie´s childish comment. She suddenly stopped laughing and looked sternly at her.
“Well Maddie, it’s not proper for a maid to have a temper tantrum in front of her betters. And not addressing them properly,” she answered, knowing very well how to put Maddie in place.
Rosario, having witnessed the scene, looked furious.
”That´s right, Maddie, you´ll immediately apologize for being insolent and rude toward Miss Claire,” Rosario barked.
”I apologize for being insolent, Miss Claire,” Maddie meekly said offering a curtsy.
Claire enjoyed the scene.
”Now get back to your work. And hurry up, get that banner in place”, Rosario scolded her, grabbing Maddie by the arm.
”Ow, yes Mrs. Dalaga….ow, your hurting me…. I´m sorry.”
“I will tell Heather about your imprudence, she won´t like it, trust me,” Claire said menacingly.
”Klutz”, she added staring at her with a triumphant smile.
Maddie looked aside, blushing with anger but, most of all, feeling ashamed. She realized too late that she had behaved like a little girl. She glanced at Claire who, disappearing through the door, added “bring me a coke. Two ice cubes and one slice of lemon.”
”The banner first, then the drink for Miss Claire”, Rosario barked.
”Yes, Mrs. Dalaga”.
Rosario supervised Maddie in her struggle with the banner. The banner hung from only one side, Maddie threw her hands in despair and groaned as she saw the right side fall down the moment she got the left fixed. Maddie was interrupted in her pitiful activity by a sudden outburst of laughter below her. She looked down to find Jenny at the door, witness to Maddie´s clumsiness. Jenny stared at Maddie before waving theatrically to her. After further failures Maddie eventually managed to get the banner in place, finally straight after five attempts. She reloaded the serving tray with napkin and the drink, in a plastic cup, and trudged off toward the pool. Rosario met her at the door, Maddie on her way to serve her bully, Jenny´s little sister´s best friend.
”Hasn´t Miss Claire gotten her coke yet?”
Maddie almost stumbled as she stopped in front of her superior maid.
”No,…er…. I´m sorry…Mrs. Dalaga……the banner was…”.
”Well, hurry up”, Rosario cut her off.
”And I want you to apologize to her, for making her wait for you to serve her the drink. Understood?”
”Yes, Mrs. Dalaga”.
Maddie did as she was told and padded behind Rosario out to the pool, the rustling sound of her hideous uniform increasing her distress. Blushing she curtsied in front of Claire who was sitting right next to Heather by the pool. Both looked sternly at Maddie.
”…..I….. apologize for …making you wait for me to serve you your coke Miss Claire”, Maddie meekly said.
The scene was highly comic and Heather couldn´t hold back a snicker.
”Put it here”, Claire snapped.
Jenny, sitting not far from the two girls, now intervened.
”I´m, glad to see that you´re ashamed of yourself Maddie, and I´m sure Claire is happy to see you admit your insolence toward her. You will from now on be particularly attentive to her needs the rest of the day, is that clear Maddie?” Jenny lectured her.
”Yes, I´m sorry, Miss Jennifer.”
”You´re ashamed of yourself aren´t you, Maddie?”
”Yes, Miss Jennifer.”
”You´re glad to show Claire that you have to obey Heather, isn´t that so, little one?”
”Yes, Miss Jennifer.”
”Now curtsy nicely in front of Heather and repeat after me; I´m so glad to please and obey you, Miss Heather.”
Maddie repeated the humiliating sentence tears in her eyes, her tormentors savoring the scene.
”That´s better Maddie, and thanks Jenny for your help in disciplining her,” Heather concluded before dismissing her blushing maid.
”Now get back to your chores.”
Rosario smirked to Heather while Maddie hurried toward the kitchen. Rosario turned to Heather whispering.
”Miss Heather, I´m starting to think that we are going to need to keep a tight rein on Maddie”.
”Yes Rosario, she needs to be thoroughly put in place and I will see to that”, Heather answered.
In the kitchen Maddie was busy swabbing the sink when the 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 already low social status at school. It’s my senior year, and everyone is going to know me as Jenny’s and Heather´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.
“Miss Heather is very strict about your manners, you will curtsy to everyone and smile. Is that clear?”
”Yes, Mrs Dalaga.”
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 as she awkwardly curtsied in front of them, trying to smile. That the twins on their hand were trying to make sense of why Maddie 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.
“Well….uh…yes….. I…” Maddie answered blushing, poking at the apron.
“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.
“And…… what should we do with these?”
Each twin held a package of identical shape, identically wrapped.
“I….I’ll, uh, take those too, Mrs. Barker.”
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 pool house, Mrs. Barker. 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. Rosario poured two glasses of lemonade.
“Drop these off to the twins on your way to the pool house. Lemonade is their favorite.”
“Mine too, Mrs. Dalaga”, Maddie muttered, half under her breath.
“Talk when I ask you something Maddie, otherwise you´re quiet. I’ve made lemonade for you often enough, for the foreseeable future 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. She was having a hard time remembering all the family names and when she didn´t her classmates happily enlightened her. All of them, except the very last, seemed surprised to one degree or another, most of them remarkably amused, to see Maddie, previously seen as one of Jenny’s friends, 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 little thing in your new uniform, a larger version of Rosario.”
Maddie blushed furiously at this intimidation, pouting.
“I, uh,” Maddie didn’t know what to say, “Good morning, Sk—, I mean Miss Branham.”
Skye studied her newfound inferior. Maddie nervously continued.
”Do you have a bag I can carry out to the pool house for you, Miss Branham?”
Maddie didn’t see any such bag, but she felt obliged to ask all the same. Skye noticed a vague but discernible attempt to be ironical in the way Maddie asked the question. Maddie was immediately and firmly put in place.
“You´ll find all the things you need to carry for me, Maddie, in my mom’s car, Jenny’s present and…. the rest of my luggage.”
Luggage…. why would Skye bring luggage with her to Jenny´s birthday party, Maddie asked herself. Skye cut her off in her thoughts.
“That´s right, luggage Maddie. Jenny has asked me to come to China with her for the summer,” Skye continued, staring at her confused classmate.
“Wha-, uh, why? I’m going to China with Jen….Miss Jennifer….I don’t underst….”
Skye interrupted her.
“You’ll be accompanying us to China, yes, but you’ll be busy with your… ah, duties. Jenny needs a friend there too, why would she want to spend all of her time with her maid?”
Skye touched playfully the bib of Maddie´s apron while Maddie seethed, fighting back her tears.
”Now, gather my things, my mother is waiting and has a spa appointment, hurry up,” Skye instructed with a stern look on her face.
Devastated Maddie did as she was told. Her 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, Miss 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 stiffened at Miss 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,” Miss Branham ordered in the most condescending of tones.
Geez, I was getting to it, Maddie thought, but all she said was “yes, Miss Branham.”
As Maddie struggled to stack Skye’s luggage into a configuration that could be hauled in one load, Miss 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, Mrs. Dalaga? 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, then 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 piranha.
“Lemonade, Maddie,” Kimberly and Courtney asked in unison.
“Oh Maddie, more water,” Skye ordered.
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.
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 Jennifer to open her presents.”
Maddie nodded understanding.
“Well, don’t just stand there. Go call everyone inside.”
”Yes, sorry Mrs. Dalaga.”
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.”
Jenny 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 sister, Heather … no, wait, do I have any reason to thank her?”
Jenny chuckled and Mrs. Kim smirked and shook her head. Heather booed her 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.”
Maddie was suddenly reminded of the countless hours she had already spent at the Special Unit, trying to learn how to serve correctly. Jenny finished the last of the lemonade. Again Maddie, now blushing furiously at the attention, moved to refill it, 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 a present to give to my new servant.”
Jenny produced a box, blocky rectangle wrapped in blue paper.
“Maddie, go ahead. You can open it 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 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, Claire 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, Skye, and the whole class cheered for Maddie’s musical feet.
The soundtrack of a miserable life.
With Mrs. Kim’s permission, Rosario retreated to the kitchen to set out lunch for the family and guests. Maddie was, by default, left to hand out presents. She had attended enough of Jenny’s birthday parties, seen Rosario do it often enough, that she was familiar with Jenny’s preferred protocol. Maddie carried one present at a time from the table where they had all been stacked to Jenny, read the tag indicating who it was from, and handed it to Jenny. She opened the presents at a perfectly humiliating pace, quickly enough to keep Maddie’s servant bells really jingling, slowly enough to savor the moment.
Lunch service, to Maddie’s surprise, provided something of a breather for Rosario who had a break from supervising Maddie´s work. Lunch, cheeseburgers with sides like chips and dip, potato salad, baked beans, pasta salad, and, of course, Rosario’s vegetable tray, was served buffet style. The guests assembled their own burgers, and Maddie, with her bells still around her ankles, had to dish out the side items. Once everyone had been served by Maddie, Rosario stayed behind the buffet to serve anyone who returned for seconds; and Maddie was again dispatched on drink duty. How much lemonade can these people drink?
“Maddie,” it was a voice Maddie hadn’t heard so far today, but one she recognized—after a second of thought—as belonging to Graham Buckley.
Maddie was sweating, the humiliation of being seen in her ridiculous maid´s uniform by the guy she had a crush on, was close to unbearable. For someone who had been in her class forever, since Kindergarten, Gram was an enigma. For most of elementary school and junior high, everyone thought of Graham as a skinny, weird kid—if they thought of him at all. All of that, though, changed this year. The smart kids, the kids who were very obvious about their grades, learned that Graham had every bit as high a GPA as did they.
The athletes watched him fill out into his current, lean form, and wondered why they had never encouraged him to play football, or soccer, or any sport. This year, he had finally quit wearing what for most of his life had amounted to a uniform—jeans and a black turtleneck. Today, for example, he had on a pair of loose-fitting cargo shorts and an orange t-shirt with some band logo Maddie didn’t recognize. As usual, he was carrying a well-worn book. Maddie couldn’t see the title, but she knew it was something she would never be able to read. So, yes, Graham Buckley was an enigma. But above all, he had not only shown complete disinterest in Maddie, but lately started to taunt her for being put in the Special Unit. That he now was Skye´s boyfriend, was an overpowering humiliation.
“…get me a lemonade, will you.”
Maddie snapped out of her daze.
“Yes sir…. er….Mr. Buckley…..I didn’t see you come in, I´m sorry.”
“I slipped in through the back gate while everyone was swimming, well not you of course, that is,” Graham chuckled.
“That sure looks like an uncomfortable outfit you´re wearing,” Graham continued, following Maddie to the kitchen.
Maddie blushed filling a glass.
“I…… wouldn´t be wearing it if I had any say in the…” she explained but was interrupted by her classmate.
“No, of course, why would you have any say in matters? Maids follow the instructions of their betters, don´t they?”
”Yes Mr. Buckley”, Maddie weakly answered.
”But you´ve already had your say in the matter, haven´t you, Skye told me you willingly signed a contract. Did you?”
”How do you feel in your maid´s uniform?”
Graham was beginning to take pleasure in teasing his admirer. Maddie bit her lip, feeling the humiliation build up.
”It´s…… embarrassing, I was…..”
Graham cut her off again with a snicker.
“Well, there´s no doubt about what your place is at this party.”
Taking the glass from her he continued.
“The bells do seem a bit odd here in the States, but they are common attire for servants in the Guangdong Province of China, at least, during festive events, like birthdays parties.”
Maddie, suddenly captured by her admiration for Graham, lost contact with her role as a maid.
“How do you know so much about the Guangdong Province?”
“Mr. Buckley,” he corrected her.
”I´m sorry, Mr. Buckley.”
”And….aren´t you told not to get involved in conversations with your betters Maddie?”
”Yes Mr. Buckley, I´m sorry.”
”And……I was talking about Guangdong,” he corrected her pronunciation, ”and finally, answering your little question, yes, I read a lot, that´s how you learn things of importance Maddie.”
Maddie blushed, close to tears.
“I understand Mr. Buckley…. I´m sorry…. Guangdong,” Maddie repeated with a low voice as if practicing the pronunciation of the word.
Graham once more corrected her, Maddie again repeated.
In the short silence that followed Graham sipped on his drink, Maddie a second time forgot her station and fell into the trap of wanting to attract Graham´s attention.
“Earlier Miss Jennifer’s mom…..er, Mrs. Kim, said their house was on Hainan Island, Mr. Buckley.”
“Maddie, I will have to tell Jenny about your obstinate attempts to talk to her guests, you will hopefully be reprimanded for it. Well, Hainan Island was part of the Guangdong Province until 1988, when it became its own separate province. Still the areas share much culturally.”
I could listen to him talk all day, Maddie thought.
”I suppose history isn´t the core of the education for you at the Special Unit, Skye tells me you´re practicing mostly practical skills there, household chores and…..serving tasks, subjects more suitable for you Maddie, am I right?
”Yes, Mr. Buckley.”
Graham looked towards the patio while Maddie, now feeling utterly ashamed, cringing in her rustling outfit, despite Graham´s superior and mean attitude toward her, still couldn´t resist the temptation of trying, a last time, to get his attention.
“Do you have any plans for…”
Maddie was unable to finish her question.
“His immediate plans involve accompanying me back out to the pool.”
It was Skye, of course, interposing herself between Maddie and Graham.
“And yours include fetching me another water.”
Left holding Skye’s mostly empty glass, Maddie watched her and Graham disappear out the door to the patio. Maddie’s face was turning red again, but this time it was out of anger, not only embarrassment. She turned to stomp toward the refrigerator, but was stopped by a hand on her shoulder. “Maddie,” it was Rosario, “no stomping, okay. Servants should step lightly about their betters.”
“But, but Mrs. Dalaga, they’re not my betters. They’re my classmates, Jenny, Skye, Graham, all of them, …well not Heather.”
“Don´t contradict me girl. Yesterday they were your classmates, but for today and the rest of this summer, Jennifer and Heather are your mistresses, Skye and Graham are Jennifer´s guests, and you’re a servant. They are your betters, is that understood?”
”Yes, Mrs. Dalaga, I´m sorry.”
”That´s better, Maddie. And if I´m correctly informed, you´re retaking a year and you´re moreover placed in the Special Unit at the school, aren´t you?”
”Yes, Mrs. Dalaga.”
”Which means that you under no circumstances are neither their peers nor classmates, not now and not in the fall either. Am I not right Maddie?”
Maddie slumped as Rosario looked condescendingly at her.
“Yes, Mrs. Dalaga.”
”Which means that you´re going to find yourself in Heather´s class, aren´t you?”
”Yes, Mrs. Dalaga.”
”She told me she was very happy about that. How do you feel about it?”
”It´s humiliating, Mrs. Dalaga, Heather is always mean to me,” Maddie whined.
”Well, you can´t blame anybody else Maddie, for your study results at school, now go get Miss Skye her water.” Rosario concluded staring with a stern face at a shamefaced Maddie.
“Yes, Mrs. Dalaga.”
Maddie found Skye and Graham sitting at the edge of the pool. Graham had his shoes off now, and they were both dipping their feet in the water. As she approached, Maddie heard Graham whispering something in Skye’s ear. Maddie had no idea what he could have said, but she caught a glimpse of Skye, giggling with a broad smile on her lips and intensely watching Maddie´s rustling walk towards the pool. Swallowing her rage, about to serve her classmate, Maddie stopped in a rigid posture right next to the couple, in profile against them.
Her eyes fixed straight ahead, she found herself silently standing with her serving tray, waiting to be acknowledged by either Skye or Graham. After several painful minutes, emotionally and physically, sweating profusely in her hideous garment as the concrete was getting hotter all the time, Skye finally spoke up.
“Just leave the water here, Maddie”, she told her, swiftly pointing to a spot on the ground.
Graham offered a smile, awkward and weak.
“Yes, Miss Branham,”, Maddie quickly answered, bending down to place the glass on the ground within Skye’s easy reach, with a twisted grimace to her face.
”No Maddie, there”, Skye corrected her, grinning derisively, again pointing to the ground, this time on the other side of her.
”I´m sorry Miss Branham”.
Maddie seethed with anger but complied and clumsily moved the glass before regaining her position, at attention at the side of the relaxing couple. Graham let out a snicker, smiling condescendingly at Maddie. She met his amused look and had to fight hard to hold in her tears, conscious that Graham was noticing it.
Her mind was in turmoil. What was I thinking? There’s nothing special about Graham Buckley. Nothing at all, she tried to convince herself. But the more she thought about him, the more she remembered him being nice to her, hanging around with her at recess. She had been hoping for him to ask her out for a date. Now he was sitting next to her rival, Skye, as her boyfriend, Maddie being reduced to waiting on them.
”Now leave us alone.”
Maddie noticed Skye dismissing her with a nonchalant wave. She curtsied, turned and scurried for the cool tiles, and relative privacy, of the house with her bells ringing cheerily. Graham´s loud laughter drifted away as tears welled up in Maddie´s eyes.
Even though the party was starting to wind down, there was no rest for Maddie. Rosario saw to that. Certainly, there was no time to cry. As guests departed, Maddie was, of course, charged with retrieving their bags from the pool house. Between such runs, she was also expected to start to clean up. Leftovers had to be put away, counters wiped down, floors swept, the dishwasher loaded. The list of tasks went on forever. In ways this was a blessing. When Maddie did dare pause for a second, she actually noticed the ache in her back, her legs, and her feet.
”Mrs. Dalaga, when do we get to eat?” Maddie asked trying to sound polite.
“You’ll eat when I tell you to, leftovers. This is hard work you’ve signed on for, Maddie, and it takes a toll on your body.”
Maddie was saved from further discussion of the impact of domestic work on her body by the departure of the final guests, Courtney, Kimberly, and Graham. Graham hadn’t really brought anything with him, but Maddie had to fetch the twins’ bags. Opening the door for the trio, she forced herself to smile and thank them for coming, curtsying. The twins didn´t seem to take any notice of her at all. Maddie´s crush, Graham, gave her a condescending smile before lighting a cigarette. He took a puff on it and let out the smoke through his nostrils, staring at Maddie. Maddie looked aside, blushing.
”Maddie, I´m finally going to China with Skye and the Kim family. Besides all the fun we will have visiting the country I´m looking forward to seeing you perform all the cleaning duties and, even more perhaps, serve us, especially Skye in fact, my…… girlfriend.” Graham dragged teasingly on the last word, noting Maddie´s pain.
”Maddie, it´s priceless seeing you being disciplined by Heather. We have a looong summer ahead of us, enjoying life while you will be busy with your, ah.. interesting chores. Jenny and maybe even more, Heather, will have lots of opportunities to deal with your behavior.”
Graham took a second drag on his cigarette, this time blowing out the smoke in Maddie´s face. Maddie winced, trying to escape the smoke. Graham was already on his way out of the Kim´s house.
I´ll be serving his new girlfriend, Skye, the whole summer, Maddie thought. She´s so mean to me, how can I endure her?
And Graham, he´s mean too. I hate them both. Maddie woke up from her thoughts to the shrill sound of Skye´s voice.
”See you later Gra´m”. Graham waved smiling, he was apparently coming back later.
Skye was standing at the entrance to what was called the reception, a big room facing one of the living-rooms. She had evidently witnessed the scene. Maddie had just the time to close the entrance door and motion for the kitchen before being stopped by Skye who blocked her way. She was standing right in front of Maddie, seizing her chin and forcing Maddie to look at her.
”Graham´s right Maddie, I am his girlfriend. How do you feel about that? Didn´t poor Pudgy have a crush on him?”
The taunting became too much for Maddie, she burst out in tears.
”Let me go….I…” Maddie groaned, trying to get loose from Skye´s grip.
But Skye hardened her grip.
”So, you´re trying to tell me what to do, are you, you stupid loser?” Skye hissed and now pulled Maddie´s ear.
Maddie wailed in pain.
”You´re hurting me….stop….”
”You´ll be sorry for your insolence Maddie, Heather will know everything about it”, Skye warned her with a stern look.
Skye adjusted Maddie´s cap and let her loose. Maddie ran sobbing to the kitchen, her uniform rustling wildly. Skye chuckled.
Maddie found Rosario working over some food.
“Stop being such a crybaby this moment Maddie. You need to eat now to get the necessary energy to deal with the cleaning up after the guests. There wasn’t much left Maddie, but I have put something together for us.”
Rosario slid a clear glass bowl toward Maddie. Studying the contents, Maddie turned up her nose.
“There was only one burger left Maddie. Your friends eat a lot. I divided it between us and added it to last night’s leftover rice. Now eat. You need your energy.”
”Yes, thank you, Mrs. Dalaga.”
Resigned, Maddie took the bowl and slumped into a chair at the small breakfast table.
“No, Maddie,” Rosario practically hissed, “get up. I can at very special occasions but you are certainly not allowed to use the furniture, except in our room. Eat standing here at the counter with me.”
”Oh…I´m sorry, Mrs. Dalaga.”
Maddie picked at her beef and rice, as well as the vegetable tray, wondering more and more what she had signed herself up for.
“That goes for the toilet too. If you have to make water, Maddie, you must go to our room to do so. Speaking of, drink,” Rosario passed her a glass of water, “or you’ll get dehydrated.”
Maddie had, despite her initial apprehension, just finished her beef and rice, when Jenny’s shrill voice rang out from the family room.
“Maddie, we’re starting a movie. Come here!”
Rosario ordered Maddie to be quick. Maddie practically ran toward the family room and curtsied.
“Miss Jennifer, Miss Branham, would you like drinks or a snack during the movie?” Maddie asked politely, curtsying.
After a quick return to the kitchen to pour drinks and make popcorn, Maddie carried the serving tray laden with drinks, then the tray of popcorn.
“Anything else, Miss Jennifer, Miss Branham?” Maddie asked curtsying with bowed head.
Jenny dismissed her with a nonchalant wave with her hand, already zipping on her drink. Maddie offered Skye and Jenny another quick curtsy and left them to their pleasure.
”Now you go look for Mrs. Heather, Maddie, she will show you your cleaning uniform.
”Yes, Mrs. Dalaga.
Maddie soon came back with Heather, followed by Claire who was still enjoying the evening at the Kim´s. They motioned toward the kitchen and the closet where Maddie´s uniforms were kept.
”There Maddie,” Heather started, getting hold of a pink nylon scrub. It had a white round collar and half long sleeves, ”your cleaning uniform for tonight.”
It looked like something in between a raincoat and a scrub, the fabric was thick and shiny, actually much like the hideous uniform Maddie had gotten used to wear at the Unit. This one was completely shapeless, it had big white buttons all the way up to the top and puff shoulders.
”Do you like it, Maddie?”
”No, Miss Heather.”
”But why? It´s simple, practical and easy to wash. You´re not here for a catwalk, are you?”
”No, Miss Heather.”
”And it´s humble, just like it´s wearer, isn´t it?”
”Yes, Miss Heather.”
Maddie felt anger but answered the way she thought Heather wanted.
”That´s a good girl, now you come with me honey, I´ll follow you to your room and get you changed for your cleaning up after the party,” Heather concluded handing over the uniform to Maddie.
Maddie glanced indignantly at her tormentor before motioning to the maid´s quarter behind Heather.
Heather made Maddie take off her serving uniform, then her bra and even her panties. She had to put on the scrub directly on her naked body. It was awful, Maddie tearfully did as she was told. Heather finally replaced her cap with a large white hairband.
”There you go Maddie, you don´t need anything else for your important tasks tonight and I think your uniform suits you so well. How do you feel in it?”
Maddie hated Heather more than ever and, thinking of the degradation she was subjected to, strong feelings of anger and hate invaded her mind. Incapable of controlling them Maddie´s resistance rapidly vanished and the revolt finally exploded in her. With a childish expression she gave Heather an ironic smile as she answered.
”I feel….. ridiculous, Miss Heather.”
”Smack… oww..smack..ouch.. smack…ohwww….”
Maddie was slapped hard.
”Don´t you play smart with me you pathetic toddler.”
”I´m sorry, Miss Heather.”
Maddie regretted her theatre and was put in place with another hard slap by a stern looking Heather. Maddie somehow stoically received the abuse, looking her tormentor in the eyes almost as if begging to be slapped. Heather was furious and ecstatic.
”You will soon regret your silly humor, blockhead.”
”I´m so sorry Miss Heather, it was…”
”Shut your mouth and go fetch your cleaning supplies and start swabbing the floor out on the patio. I´ll be there in a minute and I want to see you scrubbing on all fours when I come. Get going.”
The correction had taken Maddie down to a new level of submissiveness, obliterating all remaining traces of Maddie´s resistance to Heather´s will. She curtsied obediently and hurried to get the floor cloth and the bucket Rosario had shown her. Claire and Rosario watched her as she hastily tried to get out the stuff from the closet, then rushing away to fill the bucket with hot water.
She was soon on her knees swabbing outside, sweating profusely in her uncomfortable attire. Shortly thereafter Heather came out to the pool to supervise her disciplined maid, energetically scrubbing the floor, Heather herself, sitting in a reclining chair, smoking and directing Maddie´s movements.
The doorbell rang.
“Go get the door Maddie,” Rosario yelled from the kitchen.
”Yes Mrs. Dalaga,” Maddie answered leaving the floor cloth on the bucket, curtsying to Heather.
”Hurry up,” Rosario added.
Maddie jogged toward the front door. The Kim family, including their maid Rosario, now had Maddie in a firm grip, she obeyed orders in a flash, without questioning.