A New Life
At five to seven I stood in front of the mirror in my room, looking at my new self.
I was a cleaner for real now.
I was no longer playing dress-up within the comfort of my own home. This was the real thing.
I had put on the uniform they gave me. It had short sleeves and a skirt down to the knee, made of light grey material. Over the top of it went a white apron. The sleeves had white cuffs and the collar matched. It couldn’t be mistaken for a normal outfit; it was undoubtedly a uniform.
My hair was washed and brushed into a smooth bob. I had my glasses on; an extra prescription stronger now (probably prematurely) that warped my vision and gave me a misty-edged streak of eyestrain. That distortion added to the preternatural quality to what I was seeing before me, as though it were a mystical vision.
My mother had told me stories when I was little; local legends about magical transformations. I’d believed them wholeheartedly as a girl, longing for something like that to happen to me, until I’d grown old enough to realise what a naive idiot I’d been. This wasn’t unlike that though. This transformation seemed almost as mystical.
Was I even fatter now?
I felt bloated from the overlarge banquet the night before. Surely I would gain weight rapidly if I ate like that every night.
Tingles in my crotch.
I felt shattered. The time difference told me it was still the middle of the night inside my body. This new zone was going to take some getting used to.
Feeling very nervous, I went to the door and let myself out, tucking my room key in the front pocket of my apron. I made my way down to the foyer and recognised the housekeeper I was meant to be meeting immediately. She was a round middle aged woman with grey-streaked hair tied into a bun. Her skin was like the outer shell of a baked potato that had been left in the oven almost too long. She was speaking intently to another cleaner but made a shooing gesture as she saw me approach.
“You are Melissa, yes?” She smiled agreeably. Her English was better than the manager’s and she didn’t have his hostile intensity. I had half expected her to be a tyrannical caricature, yelling at me and running me down. She wasn’t I could see immediately that she was just a normal woman of responsibility – a bit harried perhaps but wilfully pleasant enough.
I nodded. “Yes. I’m Melissa.” It was a delight to say those words to her; to be in this environment where I really was another person as far as all were concerned.
“Good. Welcome to the staff here. You will be treated well but I do expect high standards. Is that clear?”
I nodded. “Yes. Of course.”
“Some of the people we get think they are here for an easy life; a free holiday. That is not the case. I expect you to work hard throughout the day. It will not be easy and the pay isn’t great but you will have my gratitude and the pleasure of knowing you are making the hotel look beautiful for the guests.”
“You will start outside; mopping the pool area. After that I want you inside, mopping the corridor floors, starting at the top and working your way down. Do you understand?”
I nodded, appreciating how surreal this all was.
“I will show you where the cleaning equipment is. There is a cupboard on each floor and another one outside. When you have done the mopping I will show you how to prepare your cart to start work on cleaning the bedrooms.”
“Thank you.” I wondered how Melissa was getting on. She was probably still fast asleep.
“I wasn’t happy that I didn’t get to interview you before you took on the post,” she said. “The manager made the decision. I believe a payment was made.”
I shuffled, unsure how to respond to that. I had been curious exactly how Melissa managed to arrange this.
“I will be watching you carefully to check the quality of your work. If you do well then all will be well. If your work is shoddy then you will be dismissed. Is that clear?”
I nodded, feeling a pinch of stress. This wasn’t like my fantasy, but in other ways it was. I was really going to be a cleaner. I was really Melissa.
Or I would be soon.