It Started With An Apron
by Monica Graz
Monday morning was quite hectic for Bob turned Betty, she struggled out
of bed a bit after 7.00am, feeling once more startled. She instantly
realized there weren't any Bob's clothes left in the house and not many
clothes for Betty to wear. She decided to keep her nightie on for the time
being. She rushed to the kitchen to start breakfast.
She knew Anita, her Mistress, as she should start thinking of her now, wanted a cup of tea in bed by 7.30 and then breakfast at 8.15. She remembered to put her red apron on and started breakfast. At 7.30 she carried in a small tray a cup of tea upstairs to Anita and went to the bedroom, feeling for the first time slightly as an intruder in this room. Anita opened her eyes as Betty said to her in a half playful manner, "Good morning Ma'am, you tea is here."
She looked at Betty also a bit startled and then a smile formed in her pretty face. "Well, good morning Bob,...oops, I mean Betty. Thank you for the cup of tea; it is such a treat to have a maid."
Betty felt a bit embarrassed but managed to say, "Thank you Ma'am and I am sorry I still wear my night dress, I have no proper clothes to put on until Miss Jennifer brings some for me later in the morning."
"Yes of course, I forgot about that," Anita said in a vague way, thinking already that she had to rush and start getting ready for work, "I expect to see you properly dressed in your uniform when I come back this evening, now run along and start my breakfast because I have to rush myself."
Soon Anita was out of the house and Betty sat down to have her own breakfast in the kitchen table.
It was around 10 o'clock and Betty still in her nightie was occupied with various chores when the door bell rang. She was certain who that was and she rushed to open it quite excited to see what sort of clothes Jennifer was bringing.
And Jennifer it was indeed. When she saw Betty still in her nightie she frowned and said rather sharply, "Now this in not a sight for a maid, you look quite dishevelled girl, but I guess it's not your fault, soon you will be properly uniformed as a domestic. Now grab those parcels and take them upstairs to the master bedroom."
Betty, was barely able to hide her excitement as she picked the parcels and run upstairs followed by Jennifer. Soon were spread on the bed three complete maids' uniforms, two for morning wear and a more formal black and white one.
The two morning ones were identical in style, but in different colors, one light blue and one pink. It was a basic short sleeved poly cotton frock buttoned in front, with white collar and white piping around the sleeves and the two front pockets. Both dresses were accompanied by identical cotton white bib aprons, with shoulder straps that crossed in the back and buttoned to the apron strings and small white caps. Soon Betty was dressed in her first maid's uniform, the blue one. Jennifer adjusted her apron's bow in the back explaining to her that she expected a symmetry, fixed her page boy style hair and added the cap. A bit of make up, some red lippy, the shoes she was wearing yesterday completed her appearance.
When she was allowed by Jennifer to look at the mirror she nearly fainted from excitement. She was the archetypal maid, nothing fancy, just a young and rather plain looking woman ready to start performing her domestic duties.
Jennifer was also very pleased with the result. The reality was beyond her expectations. Betty looked quite real and it was only the beginning. She didn't have to be pretty or particularly dainty; she had this efficient look that a servant should have.
And then the rigorous training started and Jennifer proved to be quite a demanding mistress for the new maid. But Betty was eager to learn and fast to perform, she was like putty in her hands! In the early afternoon everything in the house was in complete order and dinner already planned and organized. Jennifer sent Betty upstairs for a small rest and she departed herself for her own house saying to Betty that she would be back for dinner at about 7.00pm. She instructed Betty to change to her afternoon black and white uniform and wait for her Mistress' arrival.
When Anita arrived at about six o'clock Betty waited for her, properly dressed in her afternoon black dress and pretty white apron and cap. When she saw Anita coming in she performed a curtsey, quite clumsy and comical though, saying in her most low and feminine voice, "Good evening Ma'am!" Anita stopped in her tracks, stunned for several seconds as she looked at Betty and then she exploded, "Oh, my God, I can't believe it, what a sight!"
Betty, started going in a panic mode thinking that Anita was disapproving of her but her fear didn't last long because Anita continued, "My God, you look absolutely fantastic darling. That uniform suits you. I never expected to see such an unbelievable change in such a sort time. I must congratulate Jennifer and you of course for being such a good sport." And with that remark she took Betty in her arms and hugged her very strongly. All Betty managed to say was a 'thank you Ma'am, I am happy you like me dressed like this." She also was confused and preferred to stay silent under such bizarre conditions.
Betty went back to the kitchen to finish the dinner preparations as Anita rushed upstairs to have a shower and change to something more homey and comfortable.
As soon as Jennifer arrived, dinner was served and Betty waited on them as instructed. The two ladies praised Betty for her cooking though they both said she had a lot to learn. They told her to clear the table as they moved to the living room, asking her to serve coffee after she had her own meal and before the washing up. They had to talk to her. Betty finished her meal quickly, after all she wasn't that hungry with all that excitement. She prepared the coffee and carried it in a tray to the living room. She found the door closed and she managed to knock with one hand, holding the tray with the other like a competent waitress. She heard Anita's voice saying, 'come in' and she entered carefully. She served them and they allowed her to have a coffee as well, sitting in a chair opposite them.
Betty felt awkwardly sitting down like this. It was amazing, how the way she was dressed affected her. She was feeling already her role to the bone. She sat at the edge of the chair, knees together sipping her coffee as delicately as she could, waiting for the ladies to talk. They both smoked but they didn't offer her one and she didn't dare to ask, regardless the huge craving.
Both ladies agreed that Bob's transformation to maid Betty was a full success so far, emphasizing his/her complete cooperation. Anita in her usual direct way asked Betty, "Now Betty I want a truthful answer from you. Do you have any reservations, or any other objection concerning your transformation to a female domestic? You are an intelligent person and I repeat, I want a truthful answer, if possible without any emotions." She stopped and looked at her intensely. Jennifer as well was looking in a similar fashion.
Betty's stomach tickled once more and this peculiar feeling of inner piece combined with an unknown form of excitement prevailed again. She felt the bra restriction around her chest, she felt her nylon clad legs touching each other, she looked at her frilly apron modestly covering her black serving dress and she felt ...happy like this! Yes, she knew that her answer would probably mark her foreseeable future but she knew also that she had to go ahead and accept her present condition without any reservation.
She answered trying to use a softer, more feminine voice, "I know that it is not logical from Bob's point of view what I am going to say, but there is a much stronger voice now inside me that urges me to accept my present condition, I feel that I discovered inside me a hidden side that I like, a side you two ladies try to bring out, so I can say that I want to continue this transformation, I want it to become more permanent." Betty finished her sentence with a certain amount of emotion, though she made an obvious effort to keep her voice even and calm. Both ladies were impressed seeing that inner need coming out so strongly and Jennifer thought once more that her assessment on Bob's character was correct but even she was surprised with the force everything came out. Anita spoke again and Betty realized that she gradually was taking the initiative from Jennifer who started it all. Somehow Anita appeared to be mentally involved in that transformation more and more. "So we should become practical here and make everything as real as possible. I will contact all Bob's close friends and colleagues and tell them that he suddenly found an excellent job abroad under a two years contract and had to depart at once. Nobody will be surprised since Bob was desperately looking for a job for several months now." At that point Jennifer interfered and said, "I fully agree, but I want to add here that you probably should move house and go to a different neighborhood where Bob or rather Betty will be known from the beginning as the live in maidservant. Then she will be able to circulate around for shopping and errands, as soon as we think she is ready of course, so don't panic Betty this will not happen for some time." Jennifer looked at Betty smiling mischievously. At that point Anita interfered again and looking at Jennifer said, "And probably this is the correct timing Jennifer to announce to Betty that you could move with me, since you have to change house within the next couple of months and Betty here will be our shared housemaid. How that sounds to you Betty?" Betty was overwhelmed, she was taken by surprise once more, she simply couldn't think clearly anymore, but she managed to say something totally innocent, "I guess it is all right with me if you two ladies agree to that."
Of course at the same time her mind was running with a thousand miles per hour. She was going to be the maid of both of them? And how her marital relation with Anita will develop? And is Anita sexually challenged by Jennifer, in other words are they about to start a lesbian relationship those two? She was thinking all that as she was sitting modestly in the chair, looking at the hem of her dress and apron. Life plays odd games sometimes. And yet she was excited ant thrilled at the same time. After all she was convinced by now that she probably was destined for that role!
It was Anita who broke Betty's reverie. "You can go back to the kitchen and do the washing up now dear and in the future you will do it immediately after you serve the coffee."
As soon as she had finished tidying up the kitchen she went back to the living room to collect the coffee cups, but as she entered the room Jennifer called sharply, "I didn't hear you knock before coming in Betty," and it was clear that her coming interrupted something. "I'm so sorry Miss..." Betty replied abashed.
Then Anita spoke, "You should really have apologized to me dear. But I have asked Jennifer, Miss Armstrong that is, to help me get you properly trained as quickly as possible. She allows you addressing her as 'Miss Jennifer' but please remember to describe her as 'Miss Armstrong' when speaking of her. Also remember when speaking of me to describe me as 'Mrs. Burns' for you are now 'Betty the maidservant' and not 'Mr. Burns'. Now you may take the coffee things and finish clearing up in the kitchen."
Betty did not risk disturbing them again. About half an hour later she heard Jennifer preparing to leave and overheard her saying to Anita, "....I'll contact my solicitor for you, in strict confidence of course, and I'm sure she will advise on legal formalities..." As soon as she had gone Anita called Betty to go upstairs with her to the box room. This was a very small room with a bed in it which was used only in emergencies, because all the remaining space was occupied with cases and household things. She had Betty rearrange things to allow access to the bed, then sent her to fetch sheets, pillowcases and blankets and had her make up the bed. Next she sent her to bring her nightie, some other clothes and alarm clock. Not until all was ready did she explain to Betty was it was all about.
"From now on you will not sleep in my bedroom". Betty instantly noticed the emphasis to the 'my and not our bedroom'. Anita kept talking, "You will come to me when I want you and otherwise enter the room only as necessary in your duties. The alarm clock is to help you get up earlier. I want you to get up in time to wash, dress and bring my morning tea up to me at half past seven. Whilst I am drinking it you can be laying the clothes I choose to wear and run my bath. I am sure I'll enjoy having you to wait on me. You will then have to hurry downstairs again and have my breakfast on the table by quarter past eight. Remember those times, tea at half past seven, breakfast at quarter past eight." Betty was thrilled to have been given the duties Anita had descreibed and eager to show that she could do them well. but she was also shocked by her dismissal from the bedroom outside the course of her maidservant duties. But she didn't have an answer to that, so all she could say was, "Yes, Ma'am, I will remember that."
Anita then said, "I am afraid this room is not much for a maid to sleep and spend her spare time in, but I hope it won't be for long. Good night!" Her own face taut she studied Betty's face for a moment, thinking that probably she was a bit harsh with her, but suddenly, as if a decision was made, she turned away saying very softly to herself, 'Well, so be it then' and went into her own bedroom and shut the door. Betty stood looking at that door for a long minute, wondering if she dare go in. Then she looked down at herself, every inch a maid, with nothing else to wear except her other maid's uniforms. But what about the pretty nightie Anita herself had given her? That had played a big part in her submission to a position of servitude. So she accepted that her situation was now beyond her own control. She felt she had no choice of her own. She went downstairs again, checked the locks and put oyt the lights. These actions were almost automatic. But her return to the room now allocated to her was at a snail's pace. She set the alarm clock to ring at half past six, undressed, put on her nightie and got into bed. It was a long time before she went to sleep in those unfamiliar surroundings and she woke with a start when the alarm went off. Her mind was clear however on what she had to do and at half past seven precisely she knocked on Anita's door, waited five seconds, then carried the tray, saying, "Good morning Ma'am, shall I pour your tea now?" "Yes please," Anita replied without ant further comment. Betty set the tray on the bedside table, milked the cup and added the tea to suit Anita's taste.
"Oh! I left my handbag downstairs last night, please fetch it for me," Anita said as she started sipping her hot tea. Then, as she watched Betty come back with it she noticed her nice and tidy appearance. "Thank you Betty" she said, and added, "I must give you credit for coming in right on time and looking so neat."
She opened her bag and said, "I have a note here for you from Miss Armstrong. She will not be here until this evening: she will be busy making some inquiries for me. This is the list of household jobs due to be dealt with today in addition to those on the daily chores list in the kitchen. You will have to do your best to get them done properly without supervision."
"Yes Ma'am, thank you Ma'am," replied Betty and was about to turn away when Anita added, "and now I want my clothes for today, I'll wear my black skirt suit with the white silk blouse and under I'll have the pale green undie set and darker shade tights." With some help from Anita Betty found them and laid them out across the bed as required. Time seemed to be slipping by so she ran to get the bath running and as soon as Anita let her go she ran downstairs to prepare the breakfast. Fortunately she knew that unless told otherwise she need only make coffee and toast and put some cereal in a ball. Nevertheless, she was only just in time for Anita was down at exactly quarter past eight. In fact Betty was helping her put on her coat, with five minutes to spare and she was about to go, but Betty then turned to her and said hesitantly, "Ma'am... could you spare me a few cigarettes and bring some in for me tonight? You can take the money from..." Anita cut her short saying, "I don't approve smoking by a maidservant, but to help you break the habit, here is a packet with seven in it, which you may smoke one a day, in your own room, nowhere else in the house mind you, and when they are gone you have mo more. Is that understood?" Betty was clearly disappointed, but as Anita stared at her awaiting a reply, it finally came, "Yes, Ma'am."
Then Anita went to the door. Betty opened it and watched her, a very smart, businesslike lady, as she got into her car and drove away. At that moment she was intensely proud of her Mistress. But when she had shut the door she looked at the cigarettes Anita had given her, fingered one, then hastily shut the packet and returned it to her apron pocket. Then she stood looking up the stairs absentmindedly trying to understand Anita's change of attitude towards her; previously it had been Jennifer who had been sharp with her. She couldn't get an immediate answer. Then she thought about Miss Jennifer's enquiries on behalf of the Mistress and of her reference last night to legal formalities. Remembering how she had been named 'Betty' she supposed she should have a surname to go with it. Perhaps that would involve legal formalities. Suddenly she knew what she would like it to be, her mother's maiden name of 'Martin'. She had been very fond of her mother and would have loved to have been a daughter to her and to have grown up to be like her. 'Elisabeth Martin' she thought, I like that! She shook herself mentally and physically and went to the kitchen and was reminded that she had not yet had her own breakfast, she made coffee and toast for herself. This would have not been sufficient for Bob, but her instructions about food for herself were, that unless told otherwise, she could have the same as the Mistress's meals at home and tea and sandwiches when the Mistress had a meal out. She was washing up when the door bell rang. Hurriedly drying her hands, she went into the hall and then hesitated, wondering if she could cope as a maid answering a caller. The figure of the man at the door moved as he heard her coming, so she opened the door a short way and then she saw it was the postman with a registered letter for Mrs. Burns. "Just sign here please miss," the postman said and added, "You are new here aren't you?"
She was afraid to speak so she just nodded and accepted the offered pen to sign the receipt. As Bob, she had taken in similar letters in the past, signing as 'R.J.Burns'. Obviously she could not do that now and it seemed natural to her to sign "E. Martin'.
The postman looked at her signature and said, "Thank you Miss, Miss Martin, is it? And as Betty nodded again, he added, "Nice to see you here Miss, good morning to you!"
She closed the door with a big sigh and returned to the kitchen to finish clearing up there. After checking her progress with the daily chores list she drew from her apron pocket the list that Anita gave her this morning with the other jobs for the day. The first item on that was 'hand-washing' on which Miss Jennifer had given her one lesson. This was to wash by hand and rinse out undies etc.. too delicate for machine washing. She collected the items form the baskets upstairs and after washing them put them out on the line in the little courtyard outside the kitchen. As it was a fine day, it needed but a short time to dry them, but putting them out and bringing them in again involved some risk of being seen by a neighbor. So she performed both of these operations as quickly as possible and with intense concentration, without daring to stop or look around.
She felt that the other jobs she had to do that day were not likely to involve any risk of detection, so she relaxed and once more looked at those cigarettes. Anita had made it very clear that she was determined to impose a ban of smoking to Betty. But she had offered the allowance of one per day for seven days. Betty thought about it and decided she might as well make the best of it and follow her Mistress's instructions. She had her light lunch of tea and sandwich and then she put a box of matches in her apron and went to her little room. She lit up and the first few draws on that cigarette were sheer joy.
While she smoked however her thoughts returned to the events of the previous night and she wondered what would have happened if she had stripped of her maid's clothes outside that closed door, and provided it was not locked, walked in with nothing on, saying to Anita that it all was a great joke and she wanted to be Bob again. But she wasn't at all sure she wanted to be Bob again and in any case Anita had become a 'Ma'am' she was quite unable to defy. Not even her directions on smoking. It was amazing to think about it, Betty felt as if she was programmed to follow her new path in life and all attempts to see it differently and more logically were rejected by her attitude so far.
After finishing her cigarette Betty took off her apron and morning dress and in her undies, washed (and shaved) for the second time that day. Then she put on her pretty afternoon uniform, added just a touch of powder and lipstick to her face, she still needed tuition and practice in make up, but already knew too little was much better than too much, and returned downstairs.
She had been entrusted with the job of preparing the meal for that evening, the mai part of which was to be soup, cold meat and a salad she had been shown how to make. She was very slow in her preparations, lack of experience of course, but she managed to finish laying the table when Anita arrived back in the house.
Betty opened the door for her and gave her a curtsy as she had done the previous day, but this was different. It was not as theatrical, it conveyed simply but sincerely the maid's pride in her Mistress and pleasure on her return from work.
"Have you had a good day Ma'am?"
"Yes thank you," replied Anita adding, "with you here to keep the house tidy, prepare a meal for me and welcome me like this I am much more inclined to seriously concentrate on my work." This appreciation completely overcame the disappointment left in Betty's mind by Anita's change of attitude last night and this morning. Anita relaxed into a chair and kicked off her shoes while Betty fetched her soft slippers. Then prepared for her the martini she liked. "This is very relaxing," Anita said with a sigh of pleasure, "but if you do this every night you better give me a smaller glass." Betty handed the maid while Anita was having her drink and told her about the postman and his reaction of seeing the new maid. Also of how she signed as 'E. Martin'. Anita knew of course it was Betty's mother's maiden name and said, "So you are now Elisabeth Martin, are you? Well, you will make a very good maid if you live up to it." Betty felt satisfied at the implied compliment to her mother and hurried away to finish laying the table and serve the meal. Anita enjoyed it saying so, and asked about her progress with the other jobs. It occurred to her, considering Betty's inexperience she had done quite well. Referring back to Betty's caution in avoiding conversation with the postman, Anita warned her that she must never turn her back on a stranger at an open door. She recognized the fact though that Betty's voice needed training and she hoped it would not take long for Betty to develop a much lighter tone as she would have to answer the telephone and the door on a regular basis from now on.
Soon Anita moved to the living room where Betty served her coffee. Anita lit a cigarette and the smell of fresh tobacco tormented Betty for a moment but she did not dare to make any comment. Anita then said, "Have you had yours yet?" and Betty nodded, "Yes Ma'am, just the one allowed for the day." Anita seemed satisfied but not surprised.
At that moment the door bell rang. "That will be Miss Armstrong" Anita said and continued, "Please bring another coffee and then you can have your dinner."
Betty left the two ladies in the living room and had her dinner fairly quickly, she wanted to go back there, she felt that important thinks concerning her future were about to be discussed. So she went back to clear the coffee cups, remembering to knock at the door. Anita told her immediately not to bother with the coffee things and sent her to fetch her business case. Betty knew this case quite well, it looked like an attachι case but could be opened out and laid on a table as a portable bureau. It was always kept locked.
"Put it on the dining room table please and wait there for us" Anita said and dismissed her. Betty did that and she was waiting in the dining room standing of course, she wouldn't dare to sit down. She was soon joined by Anita and Jennifer who sat together in one side and motioned to Betty to sit opposite them. Anita unlocked the case and opened it and Jennifer passed to her some papers she had brought in with her, which were then sorted into the case.
Anita looked across the table to Betty and said, "When we commenced training you in your domestic duties it certainly started as a light hearted adventure, but it has very quickly become serious. On one hand you took to the work like a duck to water, showing amazing aptitude once you had overcome your shyness and without the slightest complain or objection you allowed us to put you into complete subjection as a humble and obedient maidservant. There can be no doubt that you are well suited to your new situation and that you enjoy it. On the other hand, Robert John Burns, alleged to have gone abroad in search of a job and disappeared. He has forfeited his right to live as my husband and abandoned his responsibilities towards me and our home. Therefore I must take over complete financial control and make our new household arrangements official and permanent."
Betty once more was confused, she felt delighted with the praise accorded to herself, but utterly dismayed by the hardness of Anita's feelings towards Bob. She was also frightened with the finality of the phrase 'official and permanent', especially in recollection of Miss Jennifer's promise to anita that she would contact her solicitor. She was staring open-mouthed at Anita. Suddenly Jennifer spoke sharply, "Well girl, what do you say to the Mistress about that? Do you agree to what she mentioned to you so far?"
Betty struggled to think of something to say, she simply wasn't able to think very clearly. But the familiar flickering in her stomach was present again. Her inner self was telling her simply not to argue and go ahead with whatever Anita was proposing.
The only words she finally said were, "Yes Ma'am I am willing to go ahead with what you have in mind."
Anita drew some papers from the case and said quietly to Betty, as if she was a bit hesitant too, "You will recognize this as Bob's cheque book, please sign one cheque, the top one only, with his usual signature 'R.J.Burns'. Betty did so and Jennifer's outstretched hand took the book form her and put it back in the case. Next it was a building society form to be signed and after that an insurance company policy. Betty realized that these papers would enable Anita to have access to Bob's accounts, but did not object.
Anita then explained that she would go to the bank with the cheque book and statements signed, and explain to the manager how Bob wanted her to take over their affairs under the present circumstances and transfer to her own account both the cash and bankers standing orders for paying various rates like water etc. and any other responsibilities which may cause dept to arise if not attended to. The only signed cheque would be made out for the balance transferable on closure of the account. The building society form would enable a similar transfer of savings to Anita's account. As for the insurance company policy, she explained that as Bob's policy had as yet very little surrender value, she would herself keep up the payments due on it, with whatever amount that became due on maturity assigned to herself. In other words all Bob's assets would be transferred to Anita!
Arrangements would soon be made for Betty to change her name by Deed Poll, but as these would take some time to put into effect and would also require notification to various authorities, she would be given a legal contract of employment as a maidservant of course, which would guarantee her employment as at present, for at least three years. In return Betty would undertake to serve her employer with all due diligence and obedience to lawful commands for as long as she remained under contract. Anita then asked Betty if she would like Miss Armstrong to read out and explain all the legal clauses, but she declined that offer. So Jennifer then filled Betty's name 'Elisabeth Martin' as the employee and 'Mrs. Anita Burns' as the Employer, passed three copies of the contract over to them for signature and then signed herself as a witness to the signatures. At this particular moment Betty thought of something, but kept her mouth shut. She thought that there was a small discrepancy in the contract they just signed, because she signed as 'Elisabeth Martin', but legally she was still 'R.J.Burns'. This contract could be contested in the future, if needed. For the first time since her transformation started Betty kept an ace in her sleeve for future use. In the meantime Jennifer put one copy aside for herself, handed one copy to Anita and then another copy to Betty. As she did so she said to her, "You should really have read the contract carefully before you signed it. However, it's done now and you will not be bale to change it. But you ought to know more about what is in it. First your Mistress undertakes to pay wages to you, but of course the amounts will be significantly smaller after all the deductions to be accounted for, in particular the deduction for your board and lodging. Next, you have undertaken to serve no other employer in any capacity, except as directed by your Mistress and any money paid for part time work outside the house will belong to the Mistress as she will be paying your legal wages. After the first year, the Mistress will have the right to assign her interest in the contract to another employer, but if she did, the new employer would also have to guarantee the job for at least three years. Finally, except for some matters which are not important, your employer at the end of each period of guaranteed employment will have the option to renew the contract unless she has already given you at least six months notice of termination."
Anita interrupted Jennifer at that point, "I think it is probably enough for tonight Jennifer, I am exhausted as it is and it would be cruel to Betty to make her listen to any more details now."
Then she turned to Betty, "Would you please go and make fresh coffee for the three of us and bring it here with some biscuits and then we will try and answer any questions you have so far."
Betty left for the kitchen even more confused with all this legal jargon and as she was preparing the coffee she tried to think what she was going to ask. Her impression so far was that the contract was totally one sided but she signed it and she was committed to it.. She prepared a tray, adjusted her apron and cap and started, careful not to spill the coffee, towards the living room.
To be continued
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