A Very Rude Awakening
Lord Howard Neville slowly came to his senses to the sound of a woman quietly singing nearby. He felt particularly lethargic and there was an odd taste in his mouth but he felt that he’d had a very deep sleep.
It was a pleasant sound and he smiled, his eyes still closed, enjoying it. The slowly his thoughts started to form more coherently and he frowned, trying to work out how he could be hearing such a thing. The only thing he could think was if a maid had come into his bed chamber and was being impertinent enough to make a racket when she was supposed to be working silently.
He opened his eyes and sat up, glaring in the direction of the sound, opening his mouth to growl a nasty command but stopped, gaping instead in surprise at the sight before him.
There was a woman; a young woman; one of the maids surely; sitting on the edge of the bed in her underwear! Brushing her hair! It was a pleasant enough view – he certainly liked his women – but he was flabbergasted by the inappropriateness of the situation. He turned his head to look to see if his wife was awake but was surprised to see that not only was she not where he expected to see her; he was lying on the other side of the bed. There was only bare floorboards there where he’d expected to see her.
Which made him frown all the more, because he realised now that this wasn’t his bedroom. He glanced up, left, right, down. This was one of the tiny servant’s rooms on the top floor of the house.
He turned angrily back to the singing girl. “What the devil’s going—”
And then he stopped, his mouth wide, eyes staring. His hand rose very slowly to his mouth and then dropped to his throat, and then the smooth skin he felt there made him look down. That was when he saw his bare arm; his skinny bare womanly arm.
The girl on the edge of the bed turned round at the sound of his exclamation and said, “What you harping on about Nellie? It’s time you got up and dressed. There’s work wants doing.”
The Earl didn’t answer her. He couldn’t take his gaze off his new thin hands and smooth skin; the twin bumps on his chest; the blond hair handing about his shoulders.
“Nellie!” said the girl. Howard gaped at her. She was looking him right in the eye as though that name really belonged to him. “You ave to get up,” said the girl. “You don’t want to get in trouble. It’s only your third day as a maid. You’ll be out on your ear if you’re found shirkin, I can tell ye.”
Howard stared at her in disbelief as she turned back to her hair brushing, mouthing the words, third day as a maid, then he hurled the covers back off his legs and gawped at woman’s body; the white nightie he was wearing; his skinny legs and feet. He grabbed his newly long hair. He touched his new breasts. He started to shake his head.
How could this be? He was the Earl, Lord Howard Neville – not some skinny servant girl. He couldn’t possibly be a girl!
The other girl stood up and put her hands on her hips, affecting a scowl. “Don’t dawdle Nellie. You’ll get us both in trouble. I’m supposed to teach you wot’s wot. Get in your uniform, go on.” She pointed and Howard followed to where a black maid’s uniform was hanging, waiting for him.
“But I’m… I’m…” His voice; his powerful masculine voice was high-pitched now and tremulous, nothing like it should have been.
“You’re running behind; I know,” said the girl – Lottie was her name; that came back to him. “Urry up. Get dressed and do yer ‘air.”
“My hair?” He didn’t know how to react. He wasn’t himself anymore. She really thought he was another maid like she was. He looked down at himself. He was a maid like she was.
“Yes,” said Lottie. “I’ll help you with it again but only if you’re quick. We’ve got to get downstairs and start working.”
Lottie’s severe expression melted and she giggled. “You really are still half asleep ain’t you Nellie Barrow. Course yer’re gonna be working. What else did you expect when you took on a job in service? Sloggin yer heart out all day is what bein a maid is all about.”