This is a follow up story from Studying Servitude: An Article.
...it's probably worth reading that before this.
It's half term and Charles is busy following his daily rota and pottering around the house. His mother is at work. His big sister Emily stayed over at one of her friends and isn't expected back until the afternoon, and eleven year old Samantha is playing on her games console. Charles only had to make one packed lunch whilst he prepared the family breakfast, and the mornings aren't quite so much of a rush since he doesn't have to leave for school this week... but on the downside, no school means he has to wear his corset beneath his housekeeping uniform as well as a full face of make-up.
As usual, he quickly vacuums the landing and runs the hoover around his bedroom, his mother's bedroom and his sister's rooms. In spite of the fact his elder sister's not even been in the house since yesterday, her bedding still needs straightening and she's left her tights tangled up in her underwear again. After a quick tidy round, he pushes the hoover to Samantha's room where he knocks and enters. “Aren't you dressed yet?” he asked, finding her slumped on her bed in her pyjamas and fully focussed on her hand-held console.
“You haven't put anything out for me yet.” she replied with raising her eyes from the screen.
“It's the holidays... I only put your clothes out on a school day.” he reminded her. But knowing that Samantha would spend all day in her pyjamas if she could, he opened her closet and asked if she wanted jeans or leggings. Following her instructions he put out some leggings, some underwear, a pair of socks and a T-shirt for her, before quickly running the vacuum cleaner around. She tutted at the noise, and tutted again when he asked her to move so he could straighten her bedding.
After quickly cleaning the family bathroom and the en-suite in his mother's bedroom, Charles carried the vacuum cleaner downstairs and parked it in the hallway. He grabbed a stiff brush from the cleaning cupboard and proceeded to sweep the stairs from top to bottom. Perched on his knees, he quickly and briskly swept every step, letting the dust fall on to the next one down. Samantha emerged from her room, fully clothed and carrying her console. “So... you got any plans today?” he asked.
“Not really.” she replied. “Apart from this.” she added, raising the games console which these days is seemingly glued to her hand.
“You could give me a hand if you fancy.” Charles suggested
“Nah.” she bluntly replied. “Housework's for boys.” she said as she went on her way.
Charles often suggests one of his sisters give him a hand but he knows they'll never say yes. It's just something he says when they seem to have plenty of spare time on their hands or appear bored. He doesn't mind that they decline... doing all the housework isn't so bad and with no school to work around, he should be done soon after lunch, then he'll have some time to himself. He continues sweeping the stairs when the doorbell rings. “Can you get that Sammy?” he hollers. There's no reply. He sighs and descends the stairs, checking and straightening his apron as he passes the hallway mirror. Given the time of day, he fully expects the postman and hopes it's the regular one who won't gasp or stifle a snigger when faced with Charles in his full housekeeping uniform. “Mike!” Charles gasps upon seeing his school friend stood at the door. All of Charlie's friends know he's learning to be a housekeeper and know not to call around unannounced. He'd rather they didn't catch him doing the housework and see him in his uniform, although all are aware what he has to wear.
“Er... hi Charlie.” Mike meekly replied. “Er... my Mum's here too.”
Behind Mike stands his mother who greets Charles with a bemused grin. He invites them inside and shyly says that he's in the middle of his chores. “I gathered that.” Mike's mother says as she looked Charles up and down. “You certainly keep the place looking spotless.” she complimented as her beady eye scanned the hallway. There's barely a speck of dust anywhere. The sideboard shines, the ornaments and photo frames are gleaming and precisely positioned on its shelves. The brass door and drawer handles look as if they've been recently polished. “Do you do it all yourself?” she asked.
“Mostly.” Charles replied. Samantha hollered through from the lounge and asked who was here. “Just Mike and Mrs Peters.” he replied, before turning his shy attention back to the visitors.
“I was hoping to see your mother.” Mrs Peters said. “Is she in?”
“She's at work.” Charles replied, before stating when she'd be back.
“Oh well... could you tell her we called.”
“And ask her to give me ring.” she said. Charles nodded. “There's something I'd like to run by her.” she added as she sent a suspicious glance toward Mike.
“OK.” Charles replied. She and Mike left and Charles politely bid them farewell, before having a little panic. His hand rubbed his forehead as he grumbled “Why did they have to turn up?” Mike, along with most other people Charles knows, is fully aware that he has to wear make-up and a frock whilst doing his chores and a significant few have seen him. It's not as unusual as it may seem since plenty of househusbands have been frocked, and that includes some of his friends' fathers... but it's not common for someone who's still at high school. Charles faces his reflection and wonders what Mike must have thought. It wouldn't be so bad if it was just a frock and apron. It's the face full of foundation, the sandy eye-shadow and brown eye-liner, the mascara coating his lashes and the nutty red lipstick that's most startling about his appearance. Normally he only wears full make-up on the weekends and just wears lipstick on a school day (although he removes it before school)... but since it's the half term break, it's full make-up everyday until his daily shores have been completed. He returned to sweeping the stairs and worried about Mike gleefully telling all and sundry about Charlie's appearance.
He cleaned the hallway, lounge, dining room and utility room. He put a load of washing on before making Samantha some lunch and cleaning the kitchen afterwards. He had a little time to himself whilst he waited for the washing machine to complete it's cycle before emptying it, separating it and putting it to dry... and by 2pm he could finally change into his 'civvies' for a few hours until supper time when it's back to the grind for a couple of hours.
He removes his make-up and breathes a sigh of relief as his own face emerges. He unfastens his apron, unbuckles his shoes and unbuttons his frock. He pulls off his pop-socks and checks them for ladders before dropping them in either the bin or laundry basket, and clad in his panties and corset, chooses something 'normal' to wear. It's too much faff to remove his corset only to don it again a few hours later. Wearing his corset all day isn't as bad as it sounds. Saturdays are the worst when he's not worn it all week. Sunday's aren't much better but in the school holidays when he gets plenty of time to get used to it, he almost forgets its there... almost.
Samantha is still playing her video games and Charles joins her for some two-player action. Despite the fact his morning chores are done, he still finds himself fetching drinks and snacks for his sister and clearing up after her. Charles doesn't wish he was a girl but he does envy them. They've got a whole world of opportunity ahead of them whilst boys have little more than menial jobs and housework.
His mother arrives home from work at the usual time and he makes her a cup of tea and offers to fix a snack. She declines the snack. “Mike and his mum called round this morning...” Charles said. “She asked if you'd call her.” he added.
“Oh what did she want?” his mother asked.
“Dunno.” he replied. “I wish she hadn't brought Mike though... I hate it when my friends see me in my uniform.” he added as he glanced at the time. It wont be long before he's back in uniform and back to his chores.
“Have you seen Emily today?” his mother asked.
“Nope.” he replied.
His mother sent her a text to find out of she'd be home for supper, then she contacted Mrs Peters and spent ages chatting. By the time their lengthy call had ended, Charles was back in his housekeeping frock and was applying his make-up when his mother entered and told him that she'd just been chatting to Mike's mother. “What did she want?” Charles asked in between applying his mascara.
“She'd read the article in Female First and wanted to talk about getting Michael trained up.”
“Really?!” Charles gasped.
His mother nodded. “She's popping round later... so if you don't mind, could you stay in uniform for a little longer tonight?”
“Yeah I suppose.” he sighed.
“And make sure you put a clean apron on.”
“OK.” he said as she hovered over him and perused his selection of lipsticks.
“Wear this one.” she said.
“I'm not keen on that one.” he replied. “It's too bright.” he added as his mother removed the lid and wound up the candy pink column.
“It's nice.” his mother insisted. Charles restated his opinion. “I know love... but when you're grown up with a wife of your own, she'll expect you to wear what she wants, not what you want.”
“She might not even want me to wear make-up at all.” Charles optimistically replied.
“Maybe so.... but until then, you'll wear what I want.” his mother stated as she handed him the candy pink lipstick. Charles frowned as he took it. As far as he's concerned it's too pink and too glossy but his mother thinks otherwise and obediently, he applied it. She left and he resumed his duties; sorting, folding and ironing the day's laundry before taking it upstairs and putting it way.
Emily returned home and complimented his lipstick, saying it was very fashionable. “Thanks.” he hesitantly replied, before cautiously asking her to separate her knickers from her tights and if she could put them in her laundry basket rather than just tossing them in the general direction. She said she'd try. “Thanks.” he said, although he didn’t have high hopes.
After helping his mother to prepare and serve supper, he did the dishes and cleaned the kitchen before mopping the floor. “What time's Mrs Peters coming?” he asked.
“She should be here in an hour or so.” his mother replied, before asking him to open a bottle of red to breathe as well as putting a bottle of white on ice in the dining room. “...and print off a copy of your current rota, and fetch your folder of fact sheets down.” she added, before reminding him to put on a clean pressed apron.
Charles did as asked, laying out wine glasses, nibbles, napkins and side plates. He doesn't like it when his mother entertains because she likes to have him serve them. She makes sure his hair and make-up is perfect, that his apron is clean and pressed and that the bow is neatly tied with even wings and tails. “Charlie you've laddered your socks.” she noticed.
“I know but it's my last pair... I've only got pelerine ones.” he humbly replied.
“Well they'll have to do.” she replied, specifying a pair with frilly lace around the cuffs.
“Which ones?” Charlie asked, since he has both knee and ankle socks like that. “Mike isn't coming too is he?”
“I don't know.” his mother replied, before sending him to change his socks.
Charlie donned a pair of white pelerine knee socks with an inch of frilly lace trim around the cuffs. He made sure the patterns were perfectly straight and the tops level, before donning his black Mary Jane’s and returning downstairs. “That's better.” his mother said as she inspected him. “I do like that candy pink lipstick.” she smiled. Charles gulped. Next to his grey frock, white apron and plain white Alice band, his bright pink lips really stand out. Charles is convinced that his friend Mike is going to proper take the piss out of him if he sees him like this.
Before long the doorbell rings and Charles is sent to answer it. He takes a deep breath before opening the door. Thankfully it's just Mrs Peters. He invited her in. “Thank you Charles.” she said. “Still in uniform I see.”
“Yes.” he replied before taking her coat and leading her to the dining room.
“How nice to see you!”
Blah blah blah... they sat and chatted. Charles poured the wine. Francine thanked him, as did his mother, before she gestured with her hand. Charles knew what the gesture meant; go but don't leave. He stands by the door, feet close together, hands gently clasped in front and eyes facing forwards. One of the fact sheets his mother had put together says that a servant should stand silent and still, looking at nothing in particular and listening to no one in particular. He mustn't allow himself to daydream, nor should he fidget or otherwise draw attention to himself. His sole duty is to await instruction.
Standing still and waiting is easy. Not listening and avoiding daydreaming... not so much. Charles' ears are open as Francine tells his mother that she'd read the recent magazine article about Charlie which got her thinking about Michael's future. “He'll do quite well in his exams I expect. He'll go on to do A-levels and possibly university too... but that doesn't alter the fact that when he's grown up and married, he's unlikely to be the breadwinner and he'll need some good practical housekeeping skills.” Francine explained that her husband didn't have a clue about housework and even after all these years, he struggles to keep on top of it all. “I've talked to him about getting a nice housekeeper's frock to encourage him, but he'd refuse to wear it... he does wear his tabard mind.” she added.
Marie can empathise. Her former husband was the same; approaching his chores with apathy, constantly cutting corners, letting standards drop, not completing his rota and always playing catch-up. “I put him in a pinny and frock which did help him focus... but after a couple of months, he just upped sticks and left us.” she said. “He's currently in Dunstable on the CWP which means he doesn't even pay maintenance, let alone get in touch with the kids.”
“Some men just don't have what it takes.” Francine said. “I suppose I'm lucky with Frank... he's not ideal but he's the best I’ve got.” she smiled.
A brief silence ensued. They drained their wine glasses. “Would you like a refill?” Marie offered.
“Oh yes please.”
“Charlie.” Marie said. The boy stepped forward and topped up their glasses.
“I'd forgotten he was stood there!” Francine chuckled.
“A good servant should be neither seen, nor heard.” Marie proudly stated. She tells Francine that she'd found a PDF of an old servant's manual online; dating from around 1900. “It's full of little sayings like that.” she smiled, “...not that I see Charlie as a servant.” she added, claiming she's merely teaching him how to serve when there's guests.
“I must say it is nice having my glass topped up for me.” Francine commented. “The article suggested that he's actually studying housekeeping... I wasn't sure if that was just spin or...”
Marie nodded and grabbed the folder containing the fact sheets she'd prepared over the last eight months. “Charles has been working through these.” she says, removing them. “Are they in order Charlie?”
“Yes Mother.” he replied.
Marie talked Francine through the paperwork which explains things like, why a home should be clean from top to bottom rather than bottom to top, various ways of getting a streak free shine on windows and mirrors, polishing wood and dealing with marks and scratches, removing stains from textiles, simple sewing and darning techniques and all sorts of other subjects. “Rather than just telling him what, how and when, Charlie's been studying these and working it out for himself.”
“You must be very proud of him.” Francine said.
“I am, but more importantly, Charlie's very proud of himself... the house is always clean, the laundry's always done, he lays the breakfast table, prepares our packed lunches...”
“Yes... it's all in the article.” Francine said. “Micheal's able to keep his own room relatively tidy and sometimes helps his father with the washing up but what I'd like is for him to have the ability to do everything as efficiently as Charles seems to do.”
“Well you're welcome to copies of these if you want...” Marie said. “...and there should be some assignments somewhere too.” she added, before asking Charlie. They're in a separate folder in his room and he's asked to fetch them.
“Yes Mother.” he replied.
Francine's eyes followed him as he left. She smiled at the big perfect bow hanging from the back of his traditional white apron. “I figured you were a 'mum' rather than a 'mother'.” Francine said.
“I am usually... but I feel mother is more appropriate when I'm entertaining guests.” Marie replied. Francine agreed and commented on his apron, wondering where one buys such a traditionally styled garment. “You can get them online but Charlie made his.”
Marie nodded proudly. She'd found a vintage sewing pattern on Etsy and dusted off her sewing machine. The fabric came from an old table cloth and following his mother's guiding hand, he learned to mark, cut, tack, pin and sew. He'd made the apron during the summer holidays as a 'rainy day' project. His mother told him that sewing is an essential skill and an apron is a good beginner's garment. It's simple and features several useful techniques; cutting and sewing long straight hems as well as a neat uniform curve, flat stitches and ruched stitches, sewing the pocket, adding trim, etc. She hinted that she 'might' wear it whilst making supper so Charles suspected nothing until the garment was complete. “I didn't let on that he was making his own apron until it was finished. He was so proud of himself.” she recalled. “Of course he was a bit hesitant when I gave him his frock... but I managed to convince him that a proper uniform will help him focus.”
“And did it?” Francine asked.
“I certainly think so.” Marie replied. “...but it's one of those never ending debates. It was on women's hour again only last week.”
“Yes I caught the tail end of that... I keep meaning to get the podcast so I can listen properly.”
Charles returned with a folder and placed it on the table before returning to his position by the door. His mother didn't thank him. In fact she barely looked up when he delivered the folder to her. She continued talking to Francine about the benefits of 'proper' domestic attire before showing her the essays that Charles had written in response to the assignments she'd set. “Oh now I see!” Francine exclaimed. “His hand writing's very neat.” she commented as she read his five-hundred words on attaining a streak free shine on windows and mirrors. It details a variety of methods including dedicated glass cleaners, just water and vinegar as well as whether newspaper, a microfibre cloth or squeegee is best. It appears that Charles has tried all the methods and concludes that the method that works best is any of them, providing they're done often. “How often do you clean the windows Charles?” Francine asked. She's somewhat taken aback to be told that he cleans the insides twice a week and the outside once a fortnight. “Even the upstairs windows?”
“Yes, Mrs Peters.” he politely replied.
Her eyes dropped to his feet and the sturdy three inch heels strapped around them. “In those shoes?”
His mother replied on his behalf and tells Francine that he wears deck shoes when using a ladder. “Health and safety is paramount.” she added. After some ninety minutes and a bottle of wine, Francine was satisfied that she has plenty to think about and bid Marie farewell. Peter tidied the dining room before asking his mother if he could change out of his uniform. She glanced at the clock. “You can but there's probably no point at this time.” she replied.
She's probably right so Peter removed his pinny and kicked off his shoes before relaxing in front of the TV for a while before bedtime. “So... is Mrs Peters going to domesticate Mike?” he asked.
“It certainly seems that way.” his mother replied. “I was thinking of suggesting he spend a day or two here... but figured I’d run it by you first.” she added. Charlie wasn't keen on having one of his school friends spend all day following him around whilst he works through his chores. He'd much rather keep the two separate, and reiterates just how mortified he was when Mike and his mother called this morning. “Well people are bound to call round Charlie... you always answer the door to the postman.”
“Yeah if it's not the usual postman, they just stare at me or snigger.”
“Did Michael snigger?”
“No.” Charlie replied, before claiming that Mike did look worried, probably because he knows what his mother's got in mind.
“Which is all the more reason why you could help him to adapt.” his mother replied. “Plus it's not just demonstrating how to be meticulous and thorough, you could also show him how to do his make-up and shave his legs, things like that.”
“I'm not gonna shave his legs!”
“I mean just show him how.” his mother chuckled. Charles suggested that Mike's mother should be the one teaching him about make-up, but... “Francine never wears make-up.”
“Yeah but she'll know how.” Charles reckoned. “You don't wear it very often but you still managed to teach me.” he added.
“Yes but Francine's not old fashioned like me. I don't think she's ever worn make-up and I've never seen her wearing a skirt or dress.”
“What about Mrs Peters?” Charles asked. “He does the housework, Mike can learn from him.”
“Well... that's part of Francine's problem... Frank's very willing but he's not very able, so she wants to get Michael fully trained so his dad can see how the housework should be done.”
“Ohhh.” Charlie said.
The following day after completing his morning chores, Charlie donned his normal clothes and walked over to Mike's house. He rang the door bell and waited. Mike's dad answered wearing a pair of comfy looking casual pants, a sweat shirt and a pale blue tabard. “Hello Mr Peters... is Mike in?”
“Hello Charlie... yes.” Mrs Peters replied. “Mike!” he hollered. “Charlie's here, should I send him up?” he asked, before turning to Charles and inviting him in. “You know where to go.” he said.
Charles trotted up the stairs, Mike loitered on the landing. He didn't seem too keen to see Charlie, but wasn't in anyway hostile. “Your mum was round at ours last night.” Charles said.
“Yeah I know.” Mike glumly replied.
“I think your Mum wants to turn you into a housekeeper like me.” Charles cautiously informed him.
“I know she does.” Mike replied. “I'm not keen on it though... I want a career, not a rota.” he sighed.
“Yeah, me too.” Charlie said. “At least your Mum's gonna let you do A-levels and go to university... mine's made it perfectly clear that I won't even be going to college.”
“Yeah true... I've nothing against learning to do the housework, I help my dad often enough 'coz he's always behind.” Mike replied. “But Mum wants me to learn how to be a proper housekeeper... like you.” he added.
“It's not so bad once you get used to it.” Charles claimed. “The uniform does help me focus I guess... I try to wear it for as little time as possible.” she said, smiling nervously. “It's the make-up I could do without... that takes ages and I don't see the point of it.”
“How long does it take?” Mike asked.
“Err... about ten minutes I guess, then another ten to remove it.”
“That's not so bad... I was expecting something like half an hour.”
“It took me at least that to begin with. The eyes are the hardest. Lipstick's the easiest.” Charlie said. “Has er... your Mum said anything about me teaching you?”
“My mum mentioned it after your mum left last night.”
“Well... me teaching you.”
“Teaching me what? Housekeeping or make-up?”
“Both I think.” Charles hesitantly replied. “Maybe it was just my mum thinking about how I could help.” he added.
“Oh.” Mike replied. “I hope my mum doesn't expect me to wear a dress and make-up.” he said. “Dad doesn't so it wouldn't be far if I had to.”
“Well I hope you're right Mike... they way they were talking last night suggests that she might.” Charles told his friend pretty much everything that'd been said, but left out the details about his father being barely able to manage. “Then when your mum left, my mum started saying that you could come round and watch me work and that I could show you how to do your make-up and stuff.” he explained, adding. “I'd prefer it if I wasn't involved... I;d rather keep my housekeeping and my friends separate... I was mortified when you called round yesterday morning.”
“I know... sorry 'bout that... Mum insisted that I came and I told her you wouldn't want to see me.” Mike replied.
Changing the subject, Mike asked Charlie if he had any plans for the rest of the afternoon. “Not really...” Charles replied, arching his back a little and pushing his hand into his waist. “I've got a few more chores to do before tea time, then there's the dishes to wash and the kitchen to clean and I can finally take my corset off.”
“You wear a corset?!” Mike exclaimed. Charles nodded and said it's to protect his back and maintain his posture. “I had no idea!” Mike gasped. “Can I see it?”
“I'd rather you didn't... it is underwear and I’m not gonna show you my undies Mike.”
“Fair enough... soz.” Mike bashfully replied. “You wear one everyday?”
“Unless it's a school day.” Charles said, before muttering something about not looking forward to actually leaving school.
“Shit... then it'll be everyday, forever.”
“Well... hopefully not forever but for as long as I'm living at home.” Charles glumly replied. “It's not fair... just because my sisters are expected to do better than me, they don't have to do anything. Even when I’m not on duty they expect me to fetch them drinks and fix them snacks, then clear up afterwards.” he moaned.
“According to my Dad, there's no such thing as off duty.” Mike replied.
“You can say that again.” Charles agreed, before saying that it's no so bad, providing you keep on top of the rota and constantly tailor it to maximise efficiency. “I do get a few hours of 'me' time in the afternoons and evenings... otherwise I wouldn't be here now.” he said, checking his watch. “Ohhh.” he sighed splaying his fingers. “I've chipped my nail varnish.”
Later that day, as Charles was clearing up after supper, he overheard his mother on the phone to Francine. “Oh Mu-um.” he groaned to himself, hearing her excitedly suggesting that Michael could benefit from some time watching Charlie work. She went to to suggest that he could also teach Michael to do his make-up, shave his legs and things like that. “Oh god!” he groaned.
Two days later, on the Wednesday, Charles finds himself doing exactly what he didn't want to do. He'd been up since 5.30am, lacing himself into his corset and applying his make-up, donning his frock and pinny ready to start his chores for the day at 6am. Mike was due at 8am and at precisely 7.55am, as Charlie was clearing the breakfast table, the doorbell rang. No one ever answers the door these days unless Charles is out, so he stops what he's doing, dries his hands and answers the door. “Hi Mike.” Charles gulped, before inviting his friend inside.
“Hiya.” Mike nervously said as he quickly stepped inside. “Mum made me wear this.” he said, nervously looking down at his navy blue housekeeping dress and frilly white apron.
“You look OK.” Charlie said. “What's in the box?” he asked, staring at the box tucked under Mike's arm.
“Oh er.... my shoes.” Mike sheepishly said. “Thank fully Mum didn't make me walk over in them.” he added, removing the lid and revealing a pair of heeled Mary Jane's. Glumly, he said that his mother insisted that he wore them when he arrived.
“Come through.” Charlie said, inviting Mike to the kitchen and pulling out a chair for him. “I'm just clearing up after breakfast.” he said, resuming his chore.
“Hello Michael.” Marie said when she entered. Michael shyly returned the greeting as he fiddled with his buckles. “I love your uniform.” Marie smiled. Michael went bright red as he thanked her, before confessing that he's not keen on it. “Charlie didn't like his at first either... but it does help.”
“Yeah, Charlie was telling me.” Mike shyly replied. By this point, he'd buckled his shoes. Charlie's mother suggested he stood up so she could have a proper look at him. “Err....” Mike said as he stood. “I'm not really used to heels.”
“Well you soon will be.” Marie said as she looked him up and down. “Haven't you got a head band?” she asked. Mike shook his head. “Maybe Charlie could lend you one of his.” she suggested. “You'll need make-up too.”
“Mu-um.. he's only watching me work... he doesn't need any make-up.” Charles said.
“I know but he needs to learn how to do it... and you're the best person to teach him.”
“Well I can't teach him whilst I’m doing my chores.”
“True.” his mother replied. “Maybe give him a lesson when you've finished.” she suggested, before asking Michael what time his mother's expecting him back.
“Errr... tea time.” Michael replied.
“Well you can show him after lunch.” Marie said to her son. “Have you got my lunch?” she asked.
Charles handed his mother the packed lunch he'd prepared and Marie thanked him. She looked Michael up and down and made him blush when she described his socks as 'cute'. Unlike Charlie who wears a pair of white knee high pop-socks, Michael wears a pair of white pelerine ankle socks with frilly trim around the cuffs. “You've shaved your legs too.” she noticed, causing Mike to go crimson. “right, I'd better be off... I'll see you boys later.” she said.
“Bye Mum.” Charles replied.
“Bye Mrs Jackson.” Michael timidly said.
Before actually leaving, Marie reminded Charlie to fetch one of his headbands for Michael, and suggested that Charlie also teaches his friend how to tie a nice neat bow, describing his current bow as looking a bit shabby. “Sorry about her.” Charles said once his mother had gone. “You don't have to wear a headband if you don't want to.”
“It won't make any difference.” Mike gulped. “A headband won't make me feel any more ridiculous than I already feel.”
“You'll get used to it.” Charlie assured as he washed the last few pots. “Right... I’ll just leave them to drain for a minute whilst we sort out your apron.”
“What's wrong with it?” Mike asked.
“I'll show you.” Charles took his friend into the hallway and parked him in front of the mirror. “Instead of just tying any old bow, you need to make sure that the tails are pretty much the same length, that the bow isn't too big and the hoops aren't hanging or twisted.” Charlie explained, retying Mike's apron so it's more like his own. “There.” he said.
Mike claimed that the tails are too long when the bow is so small, but Charles said that the bow needs to be able to hold its own weight so it looks presentable and the length of the tails don't matter. “Maybe your mum won't be quite so finicky as mine is... but I guess whilst you're here, its best to adhere to my mum's standards.”
“Yeah I guess.” Mike replied. “But I think my mum's going to be just as finicky.... I mean... look at my socks... they're horrendous.”
“Yeah... I've got some like that but Mum prefers me in knee socks.” Charles replied. “These aren't much better.” he said, referring to his thin pop-socks. “They ladder really easily.”
The two boys spent a moment observing themselves in the large mirror. Charles in his charcoal grey frock and frilly white pinny, white headband and prettily painted face. Mike wears a navy blue frock with a frilly white apron and his unpainted face looks plain next to Charlie's. “You won't mention this next week will you?” Mike asked.
“Nah.” Charles replied. “But they'll notice your legs in PE.”
“Shit. Yeah.” Mike sighed.
“Did you shave or use cream?”
“Cream.” Mike confessed. “It really stunk, and stung.”
“Yeah it does. I prefer shaving these days.” Charles replied. “Well... given the choice I’d rather do neither but...” he added.
“Hmm.” Mike moaned. “So... what do you have to do next?” he asked. “Is the kitchen done?”
Charles needed to dry the dishes and put them away, then quickly clean the sink, wipe the draining board and worktops before quickly mopping the floor. Then it's upstairs to straighten the beds, gather the laundry, hoover the carpets, clean the bathrooms, dust the furniture and ornaments, wipe the windows if needed and check them for bird droppings. “Do you want me to do anything?” Mike asked as he simply stood by and observed as his schoolmate dusted, wiped and tidied one room after another.
“Nah... just watch.” Charles replied. “If it's not up to standard Mum'll make me do it again anyway and it's best to do it once and do it right.” he explained before knocking on Emily's door before entering. “You know Mike?” he said, introducing his friend to his sister.
Emily grinned as she looked him up and down. “I love your dress Michael, and those socks, very prissy.”
Bashfully, Mike thanked her.
“No make-up though.” Emily added.
“Er... no.... not yet.” Mike gulped, before saying that Charlie's going to show him how to do it.
He got a similar reception in Samantha's room, she grinned and giggled and belittled the boy who, being fifteen years of age is four years her senior, but considering his subservient attire, he feels every bit inferior to her. After quickly, swiftly and thoroughly tidying her bedroom, Charlie and Mike exit. “I didn't realise your sisters were in.” Mike grimaced.
“Well it is the school holidays.” Charlie replied. “Think yourself lucky you don't have any... I spend more time tidying up after them than I do cleaning the rest of the house.”
“Yeah I guess.” Mike agreed.
After cleaning the entire first floor, including Charles' bedroom in which Mike was given a white Alice band to wear, Charles got on his knees and swept the stair carpet whilst also dusting the banister and balusters. The hallway itself is dusted, the mirror wiped, the doormat shaken outside, the floor is swept then mopped then dried and after getting up of his knees, Charles quickly checks his reflection in the mirror and tidies his ruffles and bow. He tells Mike that it's a habit he's got into, whenever he sees a mirror, he quickly checks his appearance to make sure he's up to standard.
“My Dad's got it easy... all he wears is a tabard.” Mike says as Charlie reapplies his lipstick.
“I wish I only had a tabard.” Charles sighed as he put the lippy back into the pocket on his apron.
“Me too.” Mike gulped.
After tidying the lounge and dining room and making his sisters a mid morning snack, Charles began separating the laundry into lights, darks, colours and delicates before putting the first load on. “You'll need to time your washing machine so you know how long each cycle takes, and check the time when you turn it on.” he explains. “Non-fast coloureds takes about an hour and ten, a white wash is closer to two hours. The sooner you get the clothes out, the easier they are to iron.” Charles tells his unwilling apprentice as he dumps the delicates into a sink and begins to handwash them. The first loads of laundry is removed from the washing machine and separated. Some go in the dryer, some get hung on the washing line. “You can stay inside if you want.” Charlie suggested as he picked up the washing basket and opened the back door. “I hated having to go outside at first.” he added, before saying that it doesn't really bother him now because all the neighbours who might see him wearing his domestic dress, frilly pinny and high heeled shoes, have seen him, and on numerous occasions.
Mike watched from the back door whilst Charlie hung out the laundry. The tails of his perfect bow fluttered in the breeze as he crouched and stood, hanging each item and securing them with pegs; bath towels, hand towels, bedsheets and pillow cases. It's clear that Charles has done this hundreds of times before as he takes advantage of the breeze, swinging the huge bedsheets over the line, making sure they never touch the ground, spreading them out and pegging them in place before crouching and grabbing the next item. He walks effortlessly and elegantly in his heels as he returns whilst Mike stands uncomfortably in his. “Do you do that everyday?” he asked.
“Unless it's raining.” Charlie replied.
“Yes, of course.” Mike realised, before suggesting that it might be quicker if he bent rather than crouched.
“Not so easy when you're wearing a corset.” Charles replied as he began quickly sorting more laundry.
“Oh yeah... I'd forgotten about that.” Mike said, feeling somewhat stupid.
“I take it you're not.” Charles asked, glancing at Mike's midriff.
Mike shook his head and said that his mother can't decide whether to get him a proper corset or a posture girdle. “The girdle sounds more bearable...” he figured. “...but I’d rather have neither. Dad doesn't have to wear one.”
“I had a girdle for a bit... they're really tight” Charles replied. “At least with a corset you can lace it so it's taught rather than tight... plus, corsets provide more support than girdles, which is the whole point I guess.” Charles explained that his mother took him a corsetiere for a proper fitting and claimed that 'off the peg' corsets aren't quite so comfortable. “...maybe 'comfortable' isn't the right word.” Charles added as he pressed his hands into his waist. “...but I prefer it to my girdle.”
“It must take ages to lace it though?” Mike said.
“Five minutes.” Charles shrugged before quickly checking the items in the tumble dryer. “It's no different to tying your shoe laces really... only they're behind your back.”
Mike glanced down at his shoes and recalls how fiddly the buckles were. “Why do we have to wear heels?” he asked.
The only reason that Charles could suggest is that heels are just part of the traditional housekeeper image. Similarly, there's no real reason for them to wear dresses. They're just part of the 'look'. “Flat shoes would make more sense.” Charles reckoned. “...but I quite like being a bit taller.”
“I'm petrified that I'll twist my ankle or something... it's weird being this high up.”
“You'll get used to it.”
“How did I know you were going to say that?” Mike dryly retorted as Charles sorted and folded a big pile of socks. “Can I help?” he offered.
“Sure.” Charlie smiled. “I know it sounds sad but I quite like sorting the socks.” he said. “It's like a game of snap but with socks, pairing the colours and patterns... and if you finish with no oddies, you win.” he smiled.
By the time the socks had all been sorted, the first load came out of the tumble dryer and the second load went in. “The quicker you get stuff out of the dryer, the easier it is to iron.” Charles explained as he quickly sorted and folded the bundle. “...and some things don't need ironing at all.” he added as he placed a blouse on a hanger.
Mike was impressed by the way that Charles works. But he wasn't inspired. Charles doesn't stop for a moment, even when talking he's either folding something, wiping something, straightening something, tidying something... not a second is wasted. The prospect of doing what Charlie does, day in day out from crack of dawn until everything's done is a daunting one.
Charlie glances at the clock on the wall and since it's nearing noon, it's time he checked if his sisters want some lunch. “Surely they should make their own lunch if you're doing all this.” Mike quizzed.
“Yeah... it'd be nice if they lifted a finger, but they don't.” Charles grumbled.
“Shall I wait here?” Mike asked as Charles headed to his sister's rooms.
“You can put the kettle on.” Charles suggested. Mike watched Charlie trot into the hallway. The bow on the back of his pinny floated behind him and his heels clacked loudly against the tiled floor. Charles paused briefly in front of the hallway mirror and checked his bow, adjusting it slightly before trotting up the stairs. Mike stepped over to the sink and paid particular attention to the sound his own heeled shoes make... there's no way to walk quietly in them.
Charles returned as the kettle bubbled to a boil. “Do you want soup or a sandwich?” he offered.
“Err... whichever you're making.” Mike replied. Charles is making both since Samantha wants soup with toast floaters and Emily wants a sandwich. Mike settles for a sandwich and offers to help. Charles politely declined, claiming he does this most days and suggests that Mike has a rest. “I haven't done anything apart from watch you do everything.” Mike said, feeling a little guilty.
“That's why you're here... just to watch.” Charlie replied.
Mike pulled out a kitchen chair and sat whilst Charles busily heated the soup, made some sandwiches, watched the toast and laid the table. Several moments passed before the girls appeared. They sat at the table and Charles placed their lunch in front of them; soup for Samantha and sandwiches for Emily and Mike. Mike was the only one who said thank you. The girls chatted as they ate and asked Michael some awkward questions, such as asking him if he likes his dress, telling him that it suits him, asking why he's only wearing an apron instead of a proper pinny and why he isn't wearing any make-up. Timidly, Mike tried to reply but he was so embarrassed that he stammered and stumbled over his words. Charles apologised for his sisters and suggested that Mike takes no notice of them. “They're going to have to learn to respect boys if they want to find a loyal husband.” he claimed. The girls responded with a snigger and a sneer, but otherwise had no comeback.
Charles cleared up after lunch before emptying the tumble dryer. Mike followed and watched. Once everything was sorted, folded or hung, he checked the washing on the line which was predictably was still damp. “So what's next?” Mike asked. He'd noticed a detailed cleaning rota on the utility room and perused it. “Ironing?”
“I do that later.” Charles replied. “Normally at this time of day I have a couple of hours to myself.” he added, glancing at the clock. It's just gone 1.00pm and he's worked endlessly for little over seven hours. “But I guess I should show you how to do your make-up.” he said.
“Yeah... not that I’m looking forward to it.” Mike gulped.
They went up to Peter's room which like the rest of the house, is absolutely spotless, tidy and organised. Mike glances around the room which is much the same as it's always been; helicopter wallpaper, stars and galaxies on the curtains and his shelves filled with the books, games, gadgets and gizmos he's collected over the years. The only recent addition is a dressing table which is home to his cosmetics, all neatly laid out beneath its oval vanity mirror. It looks very out of place in a typical boy's bedroom, but that's not the only thing that looks like it shouldn't belong. Hung from the back of the door is a grey domestic dress, identical to the one Charles is wearing and a frilly white pinny assembled over it. A rack on his radiator holds numerous pairs of pelerine knee socks and nylon pop-socks along with a couple of white lace trimmed slips, and Charles hastily shifts a small bundle of frilly white underwear from his bed into one of his drawers. He suggests that Mike sits at the dressing table and Mike does. “I forgot I was wearing a headband.” he gulped as he peered at his reflection.
Charles also forgets that he's wearing one sometimes, and on more than a handful of occasions he's set off for school wearing it. Mike looked nervously at the items in front of him and Charles told him what was what; foundation, eye-liner, mascara, an eyebrow pencil, an eye-shadow palette, several tiny jars of nail varnish and lots and lots of lipsticks. He pulls open a drawer which contains cotton buds, make-up wipes, cleansing wipes and a variety of brushes and sponges. Mike was visibly trembling as he cleansed his face. Charles gave him a compact and explained how to apply a light dusting of foundation. “That tickles.” Mike said as he dusted his nose.
“Try not to breathe in through your nose or you'll sneeze.” Charlie advised. “There's no set order to this... some people do eye-shadow then liner but I prefer doing my eye liner first.” he said. Despite already wearing a full face of make up, Charles demonstrated first and gave him some tips on how to avoid flinching. Since he's a beginner, eye-liner is applied to the lower lid only and eye-shadow to the top. His palette contains natural beige and sandy shades and Charles suggests something that won't be too drastic. “When I started wearing this stuff it just looked like a had two black eyes.” he said as Mike cautiously brushed the powder over his eyelids.
“I see what you mean.” Mike gulped as he observed his uncanny reflection. “I wouldn't mind if Mum wore make-up but she doesn't... so why is she insisting that I should?”
“I guess only your mum can answer that.” Charlie replied. His own mother is quite old fashioned in the sense that she occasionally wears skirts and dresses and often wears a little make-up... both have been steadily dropping out of favour for years. “Mum reckons its to do with marketing... the cosmetics companies aren't selling as much to women so they're pushing their products towards men instead.” he explained. “But she also reckons that because women used to prettify themselves when men were the breadwinners, that it's our turn now.”
“Whether we like it or not.” Mike sighed. “I sometimes wish I was a girl.”
“I don't.” Charlie stated. “But I've got two sisters and I know what they can be like.”
“Yeah... they didn't even thank you for making their lunch.”
“They never do.” Charlie said. “Right... this is the hardest one.” he said, handing the mascara to Mike.
He twisted open the pen-like object and pulled out a tiny spiral brush and gulped. Charles demonstrated on his own lashes and said that flinching when something touches your eyelash is a natural reaction, “...so you will flinch until you get used to it.”
“Couldn't I practice with a cotton bud or something?”
“That's a good idea.” Charles reminded Mike to focus on the reflection as he leaned into the mirror and carefully brushed his lashes with a dry cotton bud, and he did flinch. The second time he flinched again, but only a little. He soon got accustomed to the feeling and requested the tiny spiral brush. Charles watched as Mike successfully applied his mascara in his first attempt. “I wish I'd thought of that when I started... I used to end up with it smeared across my eyelid which is really boring because that means make-up wipes and having to do your eye-shadow all over again.”
“I guess I’ve just got the knack.” Mike said, somewhat proudly.
“Looks like that from where I'm sitting.” Charles replied, somewhat enviously.
“So...” Mike began, casting his eyes over the selection of lipsticks. “...which one of these shall I wear?”
“Errr....” Charlie thought for a few seconds. “This one.” he said. “I've never worn it and sharing lipsticks would be a bit weird, so you can keep hold of it.”
“Errr... you sure?” Mike asked. He got the idea of not sharing something like a lipstick, but he wasn't sure if Charlie was being over generous.
“Yeah I've got loads.” Charles replied. The reason being that his sisters gifted him cosmetics for both his birthday and Christmas, and his mother often buys him one as a little treat. “I'm hardly gonna run out.” he glumly said.
Mike applied the lipstick and rolled his lips together. He'd seen it done numerous times watching old films. He looked at his friend and smiled nervously. Charlie said it looks OK. “Would you think I'm weird if I told you I enjoyed doing that?” Mike nervously asked.
“If you did then all the better... we don't seem to have a choice so you may as well enjoy it.”
“Don't you?” Mike asked.
“Not really... I don't mind it so much these days but that's only because I've been doing it so often.” Charles replied. “It's an unnecessary chore.” he claimed. “I could have an extra fifteen minutes in bed if didn't have to do my face.”
“Yeah true... I guess girls only wear it when they want to.” he said, turning to his reflection once more. “I don't look quite so much like a panda with the lipstick.” he said.
“It kinda balances the eyes.” Charles said.
“so... what next?” Mike asked.
“Dunno...” Charlie replied, glancing at the time. “I don't usually start my afternoon chores 'til about 4.00pm which gives us the best part of two hours. We could watch TV maybe.” he suggested. “What time do you have to home?”
“Mum said tea-time, which I guess is around six.”
“Is she coming to get you?”
“I hope so... I don't fancy walking home like this.” Mike replied. “So... what do you normally do in the afternoons?” he asked after a brief silence.
“Depends... watch TV, surf the net, pop into town, visit someone...” Charles replied. “...and get changed.” he added. Mike offered to step outside if he wanted to change, but Charlie declined. “You're stuck in your dress so I may as well keep mine on. I might take off my pinny though.”
Michael followed suit and they watched some trashy afternoon TV in the lounge. Charles kicked off his heels and suggested that Mike did the same. “Blimey it's good to get them off.” Mike said as he arched his feet and flexed his toes, before frowning at his feet and saying how much he hates that frilly ankle socks his mother made him wear. “She reckons the tide is turning and what was considered girl stuff will soon be boy stuff.”
“Yeah mine says that too... could you imagine growing up having to wear prissy dresses all the time?” Charlie said.
Mike grimaced at the thought. “But if we had it wouldn't feel so weird now... and these would be normal.” he said, wiggling his toes inside his pelerine ankle socks.
As the time neared 4.00pm, Charles donned his shoes and said he'd better get back to it. He trotted upstairs and fetched their aprons. “I wish mine was a little one like yours.” Charles said as they donned them. “This one's far too fussy.” he added as he faffed with the frilly straps.
“Did you really make it yourself?” Mike asked.
“With lots of help from Mum.” Charlie replied. “She said it was a summer project to teach me to use the sewing machine... little did I know that I'd end up wearing it everyday.” he told Mike as he tied his bow.
Mike turned and checked his reflection. “Thanks.” he said, seeing a perfect bow on the small of his back. “These shoes don't feel quite so bad now I’ve taken them off and put them on again.” he commented as they returned to the utility room.
“Like I say, you do get used to them.” Charlie replied. He plugged in the iron and set up the ironing board, before trotting outside to bring in the laundry from the line. He began ironing, but had a little grumble about having to iron the bedding. “There's no point so long as it's clean.” he reckoned. Mike asked if he could have a try but Charles said he'd best do it all himself, what with the price of cotton sky-rocketing since the import tariffs were raised. “Soz, but Mum'd go ballistic if it got burnt.”
“Fair enough.” Mike replied. It was a long boring hour watching Charlie tackle the pile of ironing, yet it was impressive seeing how quickly he ironed and folded each piece.
Marie returned home from work and asks Charlie what they've been doing as he takes time out from his chores to make her a cup of tea. He lists his chores, mentions making lunch and that they spent an hour or so watching TV before embarking to the big pile of ironing. “Charlie you're supposed to be teaching him, not watching TV... don't you think your time would have been better spent showing him your fact sheets?”
“Er... yeah, I guess.”
“Well tomorrow, make sure you do.”
“Is he coming back tomorrow?” Charles asked. “Are you?” he said to Mike.
Mike shrugged at the same time that Marie said “Yes... today, tomorrow and Friday.”
When Francine turned up to collect Mike, she also confirmed that he'd be back the next day and back he was, at 8.00am sharp wearing his navy blue domestic dress and his little white apron. Charlie is once again clearing up after breakfast and preparing his mother's packed lunch. “Am I just observing again today?” Mike asked as he donned his heeled shoes.
“Yeah.” Charlie replied. “I know it's a bit boring but...”
“I can think of better things to do over half term.” Mike frowned.
“Me too... but the house won't clean itself.” Charlie shrugged. “Shall we sort your face out sooner rather than later today?”
“You mean my make-up?” Mike asked. Charlie nodded. “OK then.”
After tidying the kitchen, Charlie took Mike up to his room and sat him at the dressing table. He applied the foundation, then a little concealer before doing his eyes; a little eye-liner on the lower lid, shadow on the top lid and mascara. Mike's efforts certainly weren't perfect but for a beginner, he's very good. Charles complimented Mike's adeptness. “It's just like painting a drawing really... only on my face rather than on paper.” Mike replied.
“Did you bring the lipstick I gave you?” Charlie asked.
Mike pulled it from the pocket on his apron and applied it. “Is that OK?” he asked. Charles nodded. “Now what?” Mike asked.
Charles handed him the same white headband he'd worn yesterday and said, “Pretty much the same routine as yesterday... clean and tidy upstairs first, then the hall, lounge and dining room...”
“...then laundry and ironing.” Mike added as he donned the band.
“You got it.” Charlie replied. Yet again, Mike watched from the sidelines as Charles worked through his chores, stopping only to make his sister's a mid-morning drink and snack.
After lunch, when Charles would normally change out of his uniform and enjoy some time to himself, he showed Mike the fact sheets detailing the various cleaning methods for streak free windows, removing stubborn stains from fabrics, dealing with marks and scratches on furniture, all sorts of stuff. Mike was overwhelmed with just how much information there was. “Mum's way of making sure I'd read and understood all of these was to set me homework assignments.” Charles said, showing Mike some of the resulting essays he'd written. The titles included Cleaning the Oven and Hob, Hand-washing Delicates, Various uses for Vinegar... “It's all pretty boring really... but handy to know.” Charles added.
Charles resumed his chores around 4pm and Mike, like a lapdog followed and observed. “I know it must be boring, just watching...” Charlie said as he worked his way through a pile of ironing. “...I would let you help but Mum said not to.” he added.
“Yeah I know.” Mike replied. “It is a bit boring but all the standing around is getting me used to these shoes.” he said, looking down at his feet. “I'll never get used to these socks though.” he added as yet again he wears a pair of white pelerine ankle socks with frilly cuffs. His eyes shift to Charlie's calves, clad in a pair of white knee high pop-socks. “You've snagged yours.” he observed.
“Oh bother!” Charles says. He puts the iron down and roots through one of the laundry baskets. “These'll do.” he says before perching on a footstool, unbuckling his shoes and swapping his pop-socks for a pair of pelerine knee highs. “Mum's really picky about these... the patterns have to be perfectly straight, which is why I prefer plain pop-socks... only downside with these...” he says as he tosses the pop-socks into the bin, “...is how easily they snag and ladder.”
Charles resumed the ironing and Mike stood and watched. “How do you manage to get through all this when it's a school day?” Mike quizzed.
Charles replied saying that it's bit of a juggling act and just gets as much done as possible before he has to go to school. “..then when I get home, I put the laundry on and do my homework for an hour or so... then tackle the drying and ironing. But there's no way I can do everything and go to school, so various tasks get shunted to the weekend, which means Saturday is busier than it could be.”
“So it's pretty much non-stop then?” Mike supposed. “In term time.” he added.
“Pretty much.” Charlie sighed.
Yet again Mike's mother came to collect him at around 6pm and once again, Mike returned at 8am the following morning and spent the entire day observing Charles as he works his way through his chores for the day. In their free time after lunch, Charlie explains to Mike the tasks that should be done daily, weekly and monthly and shows him the various rotas he follows. In spring and summer there's lots of weeding in the garden, and autumn means clearing leaves... “Then there's things like clearing out and cleaning all the kitchen and utility room cupboards, cleaning under the sinks, pulling out the furniture and dusting and vacuuming behind them... which I do once every two or three months.” he informed Mike, showing him the diary in which he keeps track of these irregular tasks. “
Since it's Friday and the final day that Mike spends seeing how Charles copes with all the housework, they probably wont see each other before school on Monday. Mike seeks assurance that Charles won't tell any of their classmates about this. “Course not.” Charlie replied. “Sorry it wasn't exactly interesting.”
“Nowt you can do about that.” Mike replied. “It's been an eye opener though.”
“Mum asked me to print these off for you.” Charlie said, handing Mike a folder. It contains copies of all the fact sheets and cleaning guides that Charles learned from.
“Thanks.” Mike half-heartedly said. When Francine came to collect him, she was more enthused by the folder full of cleaning tips than Mike was. She tells him that he'll have to make sure he reads and understands them all, because she'll be setting him essays, just as Charlie's mother had done. “Great.” Mike frowned.
“You ready then?” Francine said to her son. He nodded. She thanked both Charles and Marie for the last three days and said that Michael has learned a lot from observing Charlie. “I'm looking forward to having a home as well managed as this.” she added as she glanced around the spotless home.
“Providing he's focused and manages his time properly, it's not hard to achieve.” Marie replied. “If Charlie can do it, any boy can.” she added.
Mike didn’t' bother changing his footwear before they left, since he only had to walk to the car, but as Charles showed them out of the door and Mike couldn't see the car, he was horrified to learn that his mother had walked round rather than drove. “Loads of people will see me at this time of day!” he whined.
“They'll see you sooner or later Michael, and being a charboy is nothing to be ashamed of... isn't it Charles?”
“No Mrs Peters.” Charles replied... although being labelled a charboy is nothing to be proud of either.