The housekeeper showed me where the outdoor cleaning cupboard was.
Our walk from the hotel to the cupboard was supremely surreal. It was just becoming so actual now! This was genuinely happening and that was supremely difficult to accept.
I was in another country. I looked so different from how I usually did. And everyone here thought I was really Melissa Chapman. I was employed under that name! I was actually a cleaner for real!
“Start with the broom and dustpan,” said the housekeeper. “Work your way round the entire pool area. The dustbins are there. Then use the mop and bucket. You can get hot water from the tap here.”
I nodded, secretly thrilled by the nature of these instructions.
“When you’re done with the floor, wipe down all the tables and any sun loungers that need it. Is that all clear?”
She took the measure of me, eyes flicking across my face then, apparently satisfied that I was going to do as I was told, she gave me a reassuring nod and said, “Good. Welcome to the staff here Melissa,” she said (and I thrilled again at the use of my new name). “I’ll come and check on you later.”
She went back inside and I got to work right away. There was a lot to do and I was aware I had further duties inside when all this was finished.
The dustpan was built with a long handle for ease of use. I carried this across to the pool area with the broom and left it standing as I worked around and back toward it, sweeping the tiles. Because the land was so arid there was a surprising amount of dust that had blown in. I worked hard to collect it up, slowly filling the dustpan. When it was full I deposited its contents in the outside bin then came back for me. And more. And more.
The morning was much cooler than it would be later but it didn’t take long to build up a sweat. As I worked I reflected on the situation I had found myself in and on the actions Melissa had taken to put me here. I had mixed feelings about her taking charge and doing this without prior discussion, but I couldn’t deny it was the perfect extension of my seedy fantasy. Would I have chosen it myself? Set it up? I didn’t really know. Perhaps if left to my own devices I would have dilly-dallied and never quite raised the ante this high. I was glad of it, truth be told.
My eyes were a bit sore, especially being outside. Out here I had a longer focal distance and that pushed my brain to compensate for the incorrect visual prescription. Squinting down at the collected dirt exacerbated that. But it wasn’t too bad I could cope. I kept reminding myself of the scientist who was able to make his eyes adjust to upside-down glasses. Surely that was a tougher proposition than what I was doing.
What seemed like an inordinate amount of time later I finished the sweeping and disposed of the last of the dust then I switched to the mop and bucket, filling it with piping hot water.
As I carried that over into place it struck me that I was already getting used to this in a way, working for minutes at a time without stepping outside myself and questioning it. If I did this long enough would I go so far into it that I would all but forget my old life? This wasn’t meant to be anything more than a short to medium term thing, but it was a pleasant fantasy to imagine it going on and on. Imagine if I did this every day for weeks and months and years until a point was reached when I might go for extended periods without so much as considering that it wasn’t just normal for me. I could get so used to being called Melissa that it didn’t seem odd anymore. And by that time, if I went on gaining weight, might I really look like her?
Oooooh, the deliciousness of that fantasy.
I imagined myself, years from now, grossly obese and tottering about back home in Nockton Vale, riding the bus from one cleaning job to the next, lost in my new identity, almost forgetting that I was anyone other than Melissa.
That would be far too delightful for words.
I worked my way along the pool edge fastidiously, wringing out the mop periodically.
A family appeared, loitering near the doorway. I could see that breakfast wasn’t far away from being served. The father walked across with some towels. I tried to keep out of his way but the mop bucket ended up being in his path. He sighed heavily and said, “Can I get past please.”
“Sorry sir,” I said, pulling it out of his way.
He scowled and sighed and marched past, laying the towels out across four well-placed sun loungers.
He scowled at me again as he passed back toward the hotel and I gave him a nervous smile. The hotel housekeeper was watching from the hotel doorway with a stern look. I got back to work, mopping quickly and carefully, hoping she wouldn’t think I was shirking my duties. It was important to me that I did a good job. I didn’t want to mess this up.
I didn’t want to let Melissa down.