My Life As A Maid
The house was quite big. No, the house was huge. It stood in the centre of the large town, like a monument. Gardens surrounded it, a long path leading up to the front doors. Large and wooden, they stood polished and complete with doorknobs that looked to be made of gold. Ivy grew along the red-bricked walls, like endless towers of green rising up into the cloudy, blue sky. That was my first impression of the place.
I was dressed in my everyday clothes. And by clothes I meant third-hand rags from neighbours. I was wearing my long, scarlet-red hair down - another thing we lower-class people didn't do was tie our hair up, until the age of eighteen. So it hung loosely, swaying softly in the slight breeze. In the lower-class regions of the city, we didn't have much at all to brag about. So, standing in front of this grand house, with not a trace of dust visible, I felt like a piece of dirt on the ground.
I'd come here to work as a maid; I'd come to the age of fourteen, and like other people of my class, I was to go looking for a job. Most girls worked from the age of fourteen to eighteen, four years, before we started to make our own decisions and start a family.
Mother had died exactly two years ago and left me in our single-room house, which barely even passed for a house. We lived in a tiny bungalow, sharing whatever we had with a goat. I didn't know what to do; I sat with her for a day, singing to her until I was hoarse. Mother loved my singing; when she was sick, I'd sing to her for comfort, until she was well once more. Mother said my voice was magical, but if it was, then I could have saved her. I could have sung something for her before she slipped away into heaven. I'd tried singing her back but it didn't work.
Eventually, I'd realized I was starving. I hadn't eaten one bite since Mother died. I used what little skills she had taught me as a young girl and lived off whatever berries or roots I could find. In the depths of winter, I hunted small animals like squirrels or rabbits.
When I reached age fourteen I immediately began searching for work. And now here I was, about to start. I lifted a hand and pulled the string. I jumped at the booming sound of the bell. For one so small, it made a huge noise.
The door was answered by what must have been the family's butler. He stood far taller than me, with a sharp face and dull grey eyes. He looked at me over his nose; I was surprised he didn't just shut the door at the sight of a dirty, wide-eyed girl on his immaculate porch. He gave me a once-over and raised an eyebrow.
"Who are you?" his voice was raspy, but it held the familiar sense of authority.
"I-I'm Flaky," I stammered. "I-I came t-to work h-here."
He nodded, and then walked away briskly. He left the door open, but I didn't dare step inside. I did take a glimpse at the house, though, unable to help my curiosity. The tiles on the floor looked to be made of ice, crystal clear; I could see my reflection in the one nearest to me. There were large stairs that broke off in two different directions, covered with red velvet. Potted plants sat in the corners of the hall, and white wooden doors led off into different rooms.
I jumped when the butler spoke again; I hadn't even noticed him return. "You may come in and talk with our Master of House."
I nodded and followed him through red velvet corridors, walking on my tip-toes for fear I'd dirty the floor. We came to a pair of large doors at last. The butler pushed them open with a practiced manner, and gestured for me to go inside. I took three nervous steps forward, and found my eyes meeting those of a large man's. He was muscular, but seemed to be ageing. What was left of his brown hair was turning grey at the sides, almost the same shade as his eyes. He was seated at a large desk, lined with paperwork and other documents. He put down his pen when he noticed me.
"I assume you are to be the new maid," he said.
I nodded, and then thought better of it. "Y-Yes, sir."
"I see... Very well. We'll have to find something better for you to wear, I suppose. Your room is on the bottom floor; the basement laundry room. It's been cleared out, and we have a new one now, but the chute is still there. It's connected to Flippy's room; it used to be a washroom until he took it. So be careful not to make too much noise; he doesn't like to be disturbed."
"Yes, sir," I replied, already wondering who Flippy was. By the sound of things, he was something of a recluse.
"Most likely he won't want to see you just yet," said the man. "But, I'm sure he will introduce himself soon enough. Now, tell me your name."
"Flaky, sir," I said.
"I see. And you are fourteen from what I hear."
"Tell me, have you any talents? Anything you're good at, besides cleaning up?"
I hesitated a little before answering. "I... I sing, sir."
A smile touched his face, just a flicker of a smile. "And what kind of songs do you sing?"
"Um, I know... A-A lot of songs, sir."
He paused, raising an eyebrow. "You're one of those country muckers, then? If you know any songs at all you must be."
I was used to being addressed by this name, however rude it might have seemed to some. Lower-class citizens were simply known as muckers to other people, which made sense, since we were all small farmers living in lowland areas.
"Yes, sir," I said.
"One more thing," he said solemnly. "There is a door on the top floor of the house, on the left side of the area. It's quite old, and dusty, but you are not to clean there. Do you understand?"
It was an odd request, certainly, but I nodded my agreement. "I do, sir."
"Alright. Our butler will take you to your room. And remember - try to keep quiet."
I left the room and the butler showed me to my own one. It was pretty small, and dark. When I flicked on the light, there was a buzzing sound as the bulb flickered on and off repeatedly. After trying multiple times it stayed on,, and I was able to get a look at my surroundings.
My bed, complete with a white blanket and pillow on, was situated in the corner of the room. Deciding to investigate a little, I sat down to find it squeaked quite a bit. How on Earth would I manage to stay quiet down here? I noticed the laundry chute, on the wall across from me. Tempted, I made my way over and knelt at it–after a lot of careful footwork. Taking a quick look upwards, I nearly screamed when I saw two gold-yellow eyes staring back at me, narrow and alert. I could tell that the owner of those eyes was smiling, though - those eyes must belong to Flippy. They brightened suddenly, and I heard him ask, "Who are you, then?"
"Th-The new maid, sir," I answered.
"And I've been told that you're from the countryside? A mucker?"
"What's your name, little maid?"
"Flaky. Hmm. Well, Flaky the maid, show me your hand, please."
I was a little confused as to why he'd want it, but I knew I had to obey a superior. I stuck my hand up the chute and splayed my fingers. Tears sprung to my eyes when my hand was slapped against the side of the chute. I took my hand out and held it to my chest, shaking with fright.
"Give me my toy back," Flippy called teasingly. "I'm barely even started yet."
I shut my eyes as I put my other hand in instead, trying not to shake. I couldn't think what I might have done to make Flippy want to hurt me like this. I'd only gotten here, and I'd made as little noise as was possible while looking around.
Flippy flicked my hand away, then pulled it back pinched hard. It was then that I began to cry, which only served to amuse Flippy. He laughed maliciously, and ordered me for my hand again. And again. And all the while he laughed and laughed while I knelt crying on the other end, confused and hurt.
"Let's try a new game," Flippy called after a while. "What do you think, little maid?"
I hated that I couldn't refuse, couldn't smack Flippy myself. So instead I choked out, "O-Okay... sir..."
"Good," he said contentedly, and I could hear him clapping his hands lightly. "How about a time trial game, then? Stick your hand back up there again for me, sweetheart. I promise that I won't slap you this time."
I shuddered at the nickname and slowly put my hand back. This time, he pinched me, and I held back a cry of pain. I pulled away but he didn't let go; he actually dug his nails harder before releasing my arm, knocking my arm to the side. I suppressed a whimper.
"That wasn't very impressive," he said. "Let's try again."
He took my hand again, pinching the skin tightly. I bit my lip, and squeezed my eyes shut tightly while he counted the seconds.
"One, two, three... You're doing well, sweetheart. Four, five."
I gasped, pulling my arm back again, and Flippy laughed delightedly. We played the time game again and again, and my arms were red, riddled with tiny little markings when Flippy finally stopped. When he dismissed me on the grounds that he was getting tired, I crawled back into bed and cried into my pillow, shaking and shuddering the whole night.
The next morning I was woken up by the butler, telling me it was time to start. I was given a sweeping brush, a mop and bucket, and a scrubber. The butler told me to start from the bottom to the top. So I began, sweeping and cleaning for what must have been hours.
I got a true fright at the top floor. I was walking up the stairs, and found none other than Flippy standing in the hall, his back to a door covered in dust. His eyes didn't seem to be the same gold-yellow as yesterday, they were less bright now, calm. I saw he had forest-green hair and fair skin. He was dressed casually, in a green checked shirt and black jeans. He was rather nice-looking, but at the time I was far too scared to notice. When he spoke, it wasn't in the same teasing voice as last night either.
"I'm sorry about last night, if you had trouble sleeping," he said gently. "The music I was playing was quite loud."
I paused, unsure of what to say. I didn't hear any music at all. After my horrifying encounter with Flippy, I'd gone straight to sleep, exhausted.
"I-It's okay. I didn't hear any."
Flippy raised an eyebrow. "Oh, that's strange... I thought you might have heard because of the laundry chute. Well, I'll see you some time soon, hopefully."
"Ah... yes, sir."
"Don't call me sir, please," Flippy said with a smile.
"O-Okay... um... Flippy," I said tentatively. "Anyways, I-I'd probably better get going, like you said..."
"Of course. I'll see you around, Flaky."
After running away from Flippy -quite literally- and eating my dinner in the kitchen, I went back to bed. I kept as quiet as possible, but thanks to being swallowed up by my own fear, I ended up tripping, falling to the floor with a thud and just managing to land on my hands and knees. Over the noise of my thundering heart, I heard Flippy sitting up and walking over to the chute. He laughed quietly, and my stomach lurched.
"Is that you, sweetheart?"