After numerous job offers, all of which were followed by a rejection once they found out about his past, Daniel is told by his work search advisor to go door-to-door to find work. Daniel has issues with this advice as cold callers are often met with suspicion, especially one who's currently on probation. He runs the idea past his probation officer, with whom he has a weekly meeting and the probation officer says that so long as he's honest, polite and prepared for plenty of rejections, there shouldn't be a problem with him going door-to-door to try to find odd jobs. “What kind of odd jobs?” Daniel asked.
“Anything really... weeding, sweeping leaves, cleaning.” the probation officer suggested. “Pack a rucksack with anything you think you'll need; a trowel and garden fork, maybe a pair of secateurs, a dustpan and brush, a roll of bin bags, dishcloths and dusters, a few cleaning sprays, one for glass and one for wood, maybe one for plastic... use your imagination.”
“And I’m supposed to charge them?”
“The point of the exercise is that you find work to earn money.” the probation officer replied. “If you spend an hour weeding or sweeping leaves then charge them seven or eight pounds... two hours, fifteen pounds.” he suggested. “Think minimum wage.” he added. “But you will get a lot of rejections and lots of doors slammed in your face. Just be polite. Don't be pushy and if you do get lucky, work hard and fast and thoroughly.”
“But... no one's going to let someone like me into their house... and I can't lie about why I'm going door-to-door.”
“Don't lie. Just tell them that you're an ex-offender struggling to find work and you've been sent door-to-door to satisfy your commitments in order to receive Universal Credit, otherwise you'll be sanctioned, which means at least six weeks with no payments.” his probation officer tells him.
“It doesn't sound like the best sales pitch.” Daniel grimaced.
“It's the truth though. Honesty is always the best policy.” the probation officer told him. “It will feel like a fruitless task but you need to do something to keep the Department of Work & Pensions happy.”
“But where?” Daniel sighed. “I can't imagine many people on the Foundry Estate giving out cash for odd jobs... and if I went up to Highgrove or Plushton they'd probably think I was a burglar doing a bit of reconnaissance.. especially if I tell 'em I'm on probation.”
“Some people are more trusting than others. It doesn't matter whether they live up in Plushton or down on the Foundry... but at least up in Plushton they've got large gardens and plenty of cash.” the probation officer advised. “And make sure you're relatively smart; smart jeans, an ironed shirt and clean shaven.”
Plushton is one of those exclusive villages on the far side of the greenbelt. The probation officer googled a map of the village and printed a copy so Daniel could keep track of all the streets he's 'knocked' and wishes him the very best of luck. “I'm gonna need it.” Daniel said as he put the map in his pocket.
Glumly, he packs a rucksack full of all sorts of gardening and cleaning stuff and spends an entire day knocking on doors and having them shut in his face. He gets the odd taker but after three days, he'd been offered only three odd jobs and earned the grand total of £18; three for sweeping a driveway and garden path that took a mere twenty minutes, eight pounds for spending an hour ironing a pile of bedding and seven pounds for an hour's weeding.
On Friday afternoon, Daniel attends his weekly meeting with his probation officer, who claims that the £25 he's earned in five whole days isn't a bad start. “It's dire!” Daniel replied.
“I know it's not much but it demonstrates that you're trying to find work and more importantly, are finding work.” the probation officer replied. “I trust you've got paperwork?”
“Er... yes.” Daniel said, showing him the four handwritten invoices; each signed by the householder and marked 'paid in cash'.
“Good.” the probation officer replied. “So what's the plan for next week?”
“More of the same I guess.” Daniel apathetically replied. “I've only knocked half the village so...” he shrugged.
The following week... he does the same. Gets more doors shut in his face and the odd taker; fifteen pounds for emptying the contents of a garage into a skip which took a couple of hours, a fiver for sweeping some leaves. He trimmed a hedge but didn't do a very good job so didn't get paid at all for that. He knocked on several more doors to no avail until a friendly middle aged woman who, after making it clear that she didn't have any odd-jobs for him, chatted for a moment with Daniel and empathised with his plight. “It's so hard for youngsters to find work these days.” she said.
Daniel agreed as a drop of rain landed on his forehead. He cast his eyes skyward. “I'd best be off Mrs... err....”
“I'd best be off Mrs Haverthwaite... I don't want to get caught in this rain.” he said as another drop splatted on his shoulder.
Mrs Haverthwaite cast her eyes skyward too. “Actually Daniel, there is something you could do for me... I've got a stack of laundry on the line... would you mind fetching it in for me... it'll only take you a tick.”
“Of course Mrs Haverthwaite.” he replied. She directed him around the side of the house to the back door, where she appeared with an empty laundry basket and peg bag. She watched as he quickly unpegged each item, swiftly folded them and dropped each in the basket. The rain pittered and pattered around him as he brought in the washing and just as he was making his way back to the house, the heavens opened and he rushed to the back door. “Phew... that was close.” he said as he handed her the laundry basket.
“Oh thank you so much Daniel... please, let me make you a cup of tea.”
“Oh no I'd best er...” he paused and cast his eyes toward the window and the torrential rain beyond.
“You can't go out in this... you'll catch your death.” she said. “Come in... I've already put the kettle on.”
“Thank you.” he shyly smiled as he stepped inside and removed his shoes.
“Do you take milk and sugar?” Mrs Haverthwaite asked.
“Just milk, thank you.” Daniel replied as he glanced around her large dated kitchen. She pulled out a chair at the small dining table. “Thank you.” Daniel smiled as he sat.
“I must say you've folded my laundry very neatly.” Mrs Haverthwaite commented as she peered into the basket.
Daniel smiled an appreciative smile, but didn't reply. Mrs Haverthwaite placed two mugs of hot tea in the table and slid one to him. “Thank you.” he said.
“You're welcome.” she said, sitting herself opposite. “So tell me, what odd jobs do you tend to do?”
“Anything I can get really.” Daniel replied, listing weeding, hedge trimming, sweeping leaves, window cleaning, clearing gutters, “...and fetching in laundry.” he smiled as the rain slammed against the window.
“It seems fortuitous that you turned up when you did.” Mrs Haverthwaite said as she glanced at the rain. “I'd have got soaked to the skin.”
“Another minute out there and I'd have got soaked too.” Daniel smiled before sipping his tea. “Thank you for this.” he said. “I doubt the rain will last too long.”
“It seldom does when it's torrential.” she said. “Do you live locally?”
“Not in Plushton... in town.” Daniel told her, but didn't reveal that he's from the run-down Foundry Estate. “I've been trying to find full time work closer to home but these days you need a stack of A levels or a degree before they'll even consider a job application.”
“So what kind of jobs have you been looking for?”
“Anything I can get really... labouring, factory work, shelf stacking...”
“Would you consider a cleaning job?” she asked.
“Yeah I guess.” he replied. “I did do one day cleaning in the Old Mill shopping centre... but they didn't ask me back and the agency haven't offered me anything since.” he apathetically added.
“Hmm.” she replied. “So cleaning isn't one of your strong points?”
“I did my best but didn't really get chance to prove myself, or get to grips with the floor buffer.” he told her. “That was driving me more than me driving it.” he smiled. “But I think they didn't ask me back for personal reasons... some of the other cleaners just stood around talking rather than actually working.”
“I ask because I had a regular cleaning girl until a few days ago and whilst I hold some hope that she'll come back... I might be looking for a new cleaner.”
“You mean here?” Daniel enquired.
“Yes... it'd only be two half-days a week; Tuesday and Friday from ten 'til one.” she informed him, before listing some tasks including hoovering, dusting and ironing.
“I can certainly iron.” he told her.
“Really?” Mrs Haverthwaite quizzed. “I was under the impression that most youngsters avoid ironing like the plague.”
“I worked in the laundry when I was er...” he paused and gulped, then frowned. Mrs Haverthwaite looked upon him with an expectant gaze, waiting for him to continue. “I'll be honest with you Mrs Haverthwaite... this is usually the point when any offer of a job is withdrawn.” he told her, before revealing that he's spent several months in prison.
“I see.” he cautiously responded. “Not for burgling old ladies I hope.” she added in a stern yet jovial tone.
“No... nothing like that.” he replied.
“Are you currently on probation?” she asked. Daniel nodded. “So that explains why you're struggling to find employment.” she said. Daniel nodded and gulped. “Well I believe people deserve a second chance, but I would like to speak with your probation officer.” she said. “...not to find out what you've done but to make sure that I'm not putting myself or my possessions at risk.”
“That's fine Mrs Haverthwaite... and I don't mind telling you what I did.” he told her, before beginning to tell his story, only to be cut short.
“Please, I don't want to pry into your past or personal life.” she said, before asking for the probation officer's name and number and said she'd try to contact them later that day.
“Err... OK.” Daniel said, retrieving his phone from his pocket.
“I'll need your number too.” she said.
“Course.” Daniel smiled. She jotted the details down on a post-it note. Having long since finished his cup of tea, Daniel said he'd best get going. Mrs Haverthwaite grabbed her handbag and removed her purse. “Oh, no... honestly Mrs Haverthwaite... I only did a couple of minutes work.” he said as she removed a five pound note.
“You saved both myself and my laundry from getting soaked Daniel... that's got to be worth something.” she said as she handed him the note.
Daniel took it from her. “Normally I'd charge a fiver for half an hour so if there's anything else you need doing...”
“That's very kind of you, but no, not today.” she smiled.
Daniel left with a warm feeling in his heart, but the pessimist inside him felt he'd never hear about the offer of her cleaning job again. He spent the rest of the afternoon getting doors slammed in his face before sauntering in a homeward direction.
Unbeknown to Daniel, Mrs Haverthwaite contacted the probation service a few moments after he left and spoke to his probation officer, explaining that young man has been going door to door seeking odd jobs. “That would be Daniel, I expect.” the probation officer said. They chatted for a few minutes and whilst Mrs Haverthwaite insisted that she wasn't trying to find out how Daniel got himself into trouble, she did quite directly ask if he was either violent or a thief. “No no... nothing like that.” the probation officer insisted. “Daniel's easily led and just ended up with the wrong crowd in the wrong place at the wrong time.” he informed her.
Satisfied that her instincts toward Daniel's good nature were correct, she sent Daniel a text message that evening asking him to return to her home at 10am on Friday morning, but stressed that she's only offering him a trial rather than regular work at this stage. Daniel replied by text thanking her and confirming that he'll be there.
Keen to make a good impression, Daniel makes sure he's smart and presentable for Mrs Haverthwaite. He irons a shirt, shaves his face, puts a sharp crease on his best trousers, scrubs his fingernails, polishes his shoes, combs his hair and sets off in good time. He walks up the hill to Plushton; a village that enjoys a lovely view over the valley in which the run down mill town and his home on the grotty Foundry Estate are nestled. Despite wearing his smartest clothes, Daniel feels like an intruder in the affluent village. He becomes increasingly nervous as he nears Mrs Haverthwaite's house, and takes a deep breath before knocking on her door.
“Daniel.” the lady smiled. “Do come in.” she said. No shoes are allowed in the house but she does have a small selection of slippers for her guests to wear. She gives him a routine which begins with changing her bedding, giving her bedroom a quick tidy/dust before vacuuming the carpet. Then he cleans the upstairs bathroom, followed by dusting the furniture and balustrade on the landing and vacuuming the landing carpet. After dusting the banister, he's on his hands and knees sweeping the stair carpet with a dustpan and brush. The hallway is dusted, its mirror polished and the floor mopped and dried. Next comes the kitchen floor, followed by cleaning the utility room and downstairs lavatory. Finally, he tidies the lounge, dusts the furniture, plumps up the cushions and vacuums the carpet and rug. Apart from changing her bedding, which is only done on a Friday, he is expected to do all the above on both Tuesday and Friday... plus any additional chores which she'll put on the fridge. Today, he also cleans her dining room; dusting, polishing and vacuuming, and in return she gives him £30 in cash.
Having never worked so hard in his life, Daniel feels exhausted yet proud of his efforts as he paces down the hill back towards town. Friday afternoon is the day he has a mandatory meeting with his Probation Officer, so Daniel heads directly to there and looks forward to telling his probation officer that he's got one regular job; two mornings a week. “Well done Daniel... but you'll need more than that if you're going to make something of yourself.” the probation officer advised. Daniel agreed and said he'd continue going door-to-door seeking odd jobs every Monday, Wednesday and Thursday.
Daniel spent the weekend killing time milling around his bedsit, watching TV, eating inexpensive ready meals and flicking through magazines. On Monday he goes door-to-door seeking odd jobs and after mostly getting doors slammed in his face, he's offered the task of clearing up a back garden after what appears to be a rowdy beer fuelled barbecue. The lawn and patio is littered with empty beer cans, bottles, cigarette ends, chicken bones, half eaten burgers, bits of salad, paper plates and greasy napkins. He fills two bin bags and charges ten pounds for the hour he worked.
On Tuesday he returns to Mrs Haverthwaite's where she points out a few areas in which he could improve, all of which are in the bathroom. He needs to pay particular attention to areas such as the back of the loo, back of the sink pedestal and the soap dish. He tidies and vacuums the bedroom, cleans the bathroom and landing, balustrade and banister, sweeps the stairs, mops the hallway and kitchen floors, cleans the utility room and downstairs loo, then tackles a stack of ironing. Once done, he loiters expectantly waiting for Mrs Haverthwaite to give him the money he's earned. Mrs Haverthwaite compliments his efforts today and says she'll see him again on Friday. To shy and polite to ask for the money he's earned, Daniel leaves hoping he'll be paid for both days on Friday.
Wednesday and Thursday is spent knocking on doors and getting them slammed in his face. He doesn't mind the fact that most people don't have any odd jobs to offer him but they could at least be polite about it. He'd expect to be told to f*** off on the Foundry Estate, but such foul rejections from residents in the posh Highgrove suburb take him by surprise each and every time.
Daniel returns to Mrs Haverthwaite's house in Plushton on Friday morning and puts every effort into the list of chores he's given. He tidies the bedroom, cleans the bathroom, vacuums the landing, sweeps the stairs and is halfway through dusting the hallway when there’s a knock at the door. “Would you get that please Daniel.” Mrs Haverthwaite hollers from her study. He opens the door to a woman in her twenties, about Daniel's height with an Eastern European accent. She abruptly asks who he is and Daniel says he's doing a few odd-jobs, before glancing and gulping at the feather duster in his hand. The woman hands him a garment carrier, saying she's returning it to Mrs Haverthwaite. “Oh I'll fetch her... one moment.” Daniel says.
“There's no need.” the woman abruptly says. “I'm returning what is hers.” She puts the carrier into Daniel’s hands, turns on her heel and strode away.
“Err... bye then.” Daniel mutters as she marches down the drive.
“Who was it?” Mrs Haverthwaite asked. Daniel described a woman about his own height and build with dark hair and a European accent. “Oh... that'll be Jolanta.” Mrs Haverthwaite frowned.
“I did try to fetch you but she just gave me this and walked away.” Daniel said, holding the plastic garment bag. “She said it belongs to you.”
Mrs Haverthwaite took the bag, unzipped it and sighed. “Jolanta was my cleaner but she left because she thinks I accused her of stealing.”
“Did she steal from you?” Daniel asked.
“I'd like to believe she didn't but I'd mentioned a misplaced ring to her and she instantly got defensive and a moment later she'd quit.” Mrs Haverthwaite sighed and paused. “It didn't cross my mind that she might have taken it... but her reaction when I asked if she'd seen it... well... I can't help but wonder.”
“I see.” Daniel replied.
“This is her housekeeping uniform which I presume means she definitely won't be returning.” Mrs Haverthwaite said. “But on the upside, you do have a more permanent position here Daniel.” she smiled.
“Thank you.” Daniel said. “I'd best get on.” he added as he reached up to a high shelf with the feather duster. After dusting, Daniel mops and dries the hallway floor before tending to the large sitting room, then cleaning the downstairs loo, kitchen and utility room. Mrs Haverthwaite pays him sixty pounds in cash which is graciously received.
The following week on Tuesday, Daniel's does his usual routine, starting in the bedroom and finishing in the lounge, then on the fridge is listed his additional chores which includes tackling a large stack of ironing, plus cleaning all the interior windows, frames and sills. “This might take me 'til about 2pm Mrs Haverthwaite.” Daniel says. Mrs Haverthwaite tells him she'll pay for the extra hour and asks if it's OK that he stays a little longer. “Yes of course Mrs Haverthwaite.” he says.
On Friday, as well as his usual chores, Daniel weeds tidies the border between the drive and front lawn and sweeps the entire drive which being in Pluston, is much longer and wider than the average drive. After his usual chores on Tuesday, she has him dust and vacuum the study which she uses as a home office, and the following Friday's additional task is cleaning the front door, scrubbing the front doorstep and polishing the brass house number, letterbox, bell push and door handle until they're all gleaming. When he returns home, he notices a number of pale patches on his pants, and recalls Mrs Haverthwaite advising him not to get the cleaning solution on his clothes as it contains bleach and will stain them. The splashes are all below the knee so he turns them into a pair of cut off shorts, but essentially, it's one less pair of smart pants he has.
After a fruitless Monday going door-to-door and being offered not a single job, Daniel makes his way to Plushton on Tuesday morning, over which an ominous black cloud lurks. He hopes he'll avoid the rain but as he strides up the hill through the greenbelt between the run down town and up-market village, the heavens open. Now's the time he wished he'd packed an umbrella or at very least, invested in a jacket that is actually waterproof. The rain has stopped by the time he's tramping up Mrs Haverthwaite's driveway, but Daniel is absolutely drenched.
The warm a friendly Mrs Haverthwaite insists he get out of his wet things so she can hang them to dry over the radiators. She'll find him something to wear whilst his jeans, socks, shoes, shirt and not very waterproof jacket dry... “I know this may seem unusual but... this is the only thing I've got that should fit you.” Mrs Haverthwaite hesitantly tells him.
“I can't wear that!” Daniel gasped as she presented Jolanta's old housekeeping uniform on a hanger.
“It's only for a few hours whilst your clothes dry.” she said. “...it is the only thing I have that will fit you.” she frowned. “...and you did say Jolanta was about your size.” she reminded him, adding “I very much doubt you'd fit into anything of mine.”
Daniel gulped as he glanced from the housekeeping uniform to Mrs Haverthwaite's stout rotund frame. “I guess I don't have much choice.” he conceded.
Daniel changed out of his sodden clothes in the utility room and donned the frock; jet black, knee length with press studs up the front. Its short sleeves are gathered a little on the shoulder, and trimmed with white cuffs to match its white rounded collar. He felt so incredibly shy as he opened the utility room door to present himself to Mrs Haverthwaite. She was stood at the kitchen sink with her back to him. “Erm...” he said, getting her attention. “Should I wear the apron as well?” he timidly asked.
“Yes I think so.” she said, smiling and looking him up and down.
Daniel was hoping she'd say the opposite, since the apron has frilly trim all the way around it and around its little pocket on the front, but he reluctantly donned it and tied its tapes in a bow at the small of his back. Mrs Haverthwaite adjusted the bow a little. “That's better.” she said as Daniel found an item in the apron's pocket.
At first the thought it might be an item of underwear. “Erm... what's this?” he asked, revealing something small and white and trimmed with lace.
“I'll show you.” Mrs Haverthwaite replied as she took the item from him. “There.” Mrs Haverthwaite grinned after placing it on his head.
Daniel's eyes rolled upwards but he couldn't see the dainty little thing in his head. “I can't imagine what I look like.” he gulped. “Actually... I can.” he added. “Did Jolanta wear this too?” he asked as his hands found the dainty little cap.
“She didn't like it.” Mrs Haverthwaite told him. “She said it made her feel like a servant.”
“I know what she means.”
“Have you hung your clothes over the radiator?”
“Good... they'll be dry in no time.” Mrs Haverthwaite smiled. “You'd better get started.” she suggested.
“Yes Mrs Haverthwaite.” Daniel replied. He pushed his feet into the slippers he wears inside the house and began his regular routine; giving her bedroom a quick tidy, dust and vacuum, cleaning the bathroom, dusting the landing, vacuuming the carpet, polishing the brass door knobs, sweeping the stairs, mopping and drying the hallway and kitchen floor, before dusting the sitting and dining rooms and running the vacuum cleaner over the carpets and rugs and finally plumping up all the cushions on the sofa and armchairs. Additional chores are usually listed on a note and stuck to the fridge and being a Tuesday, there's a large stack of ironing to do. Mrs Haverthwaite checks in on him and seems surprised that he's started the ironing so soon. “You're very swift.” she commented as he quickly ironed a bed sheet.
“I volunteered in the laundry when I was on remand.” Daniel replied. “This pile of ironing is nothing compared to the stack I had inside.” he added.
“I hate to ask Daniel but since you're my employee... why did you go to prison?”
“I was with the wrong people at the wrong time.” he told her, before explaining in more detail. Daniel had got into a car with some 'friends', but had no idea the car was stolen or that some of the others were carrying knives. After a police chase, the car was crashed but a scuffle ensued between the suspects and arresting officers. If they weren’t wearing stab vests it would have been a murder charge. All the time, Daniel was curled up in the car, clutching his skull and cursing himself for getting into the car. It was only when the others had been cuffed and contained did the police find Daniel and he was arrested too. Due to the seriousness of the offence, all five were put on remand until the trial and despite Daniel not being part of the car theft or the scuffle, he was found guilty by joint enterprise. Luckily he was given a three month retrospective sentence, three-hundred hours community service and two year's probation. The others faced sentences between eighteen and thirty months inside.
“So you just accepted a lift in good faith and all hell broke loose?” Mrs Haverthwaite supposed. Daniel nodded. “There are motions in place to put an end to joint enterprise... so many innocent bystanders have had their lives ruined just because they were present when something bad happened.”
“Oh Mrs Haverthwaite... you're a diamond... do you know that?!” Daniel cooed. “Most people surmise my account as, I was with a knife gang in a stolen car and was involved in an assault.”
“I know you wasn't involved Daniel... you have an honest face and at my age, one knows honesty when one sees it.”
“Thank you.” he smiled. “I'd better get on with this otherwise I'll never get it done.”
“Yes sorry... I'm keeping you.” she said. Daniel pressed the iron on the sheet and ran it the full length of the ironing board before shuffling the sheet over a little and swiftly ironing the next section. Eventually Daniel finished the ironing and asked Mrs Haverthwaite if there was anything else he could do. “You can take the weight off your feet and have a cup of tea with me.” Mrs Haverthwaite replied.
“OK.” Daniel smiled. She pulled out a chair and Daniel sat, smoothing his apron over his lap. She made a pot of tea, poured him a cup and slid it to him. “Thank you.”
“You're more than welcome Daniel.” Mrs Haverthwaite replied. “You've worked ever so hard today... much harder than Jolanta ever did.” she told him. “...and that's not to say that Jolanta was a shirker. She worked hard to, albeit begrudgingly.”
“Well I'm happy for the opportunity... finding work is hard for someone like me.”
“I can imagine.” she replied.
They chatted about all sorts of things, mostly focused on Daniel; where he grew up, was schooled, his family and friends. “...although I don't really have many friends these days.” he glumly added. “The trustworthy ones have distanced themselves from me and I've distanced myself from the others.”
“Very wise.” Mrs Haverthwaite said, before offering him another cup of tea.
“No.. thank you.” Daniel replied. “I'd best get changed and get going.” he said.
“Are your clothes dry?”
“They should be.” he said as he stood. “I don't fancy walking home in this.” he jovially added.
Daniel returned to the utility room, kicked off the slippers and pulled on his socks, then removed the apron followed by the jet black housekeeper's dress. He hung it on a hanger and recalled the moment Mrs Haverthwaite suggested he wore it whilst his clothes dried. I seemed horrendous at first but after a while it wasn't so bad. He pulled on his jeans which were still warm from the radiator before buttoning himself into his shirt. His jacket is still a little damp around the cuffs but it'll do, he figured. “I expect you're feeling much more like yourself again.” Mrs Haverthwaite smiled when Daniel emerged wearing his own clothes.
“Yes... all cosy and warm.” he replied. “Well I'll see you on Friday.” he said as he grabbed his bag.
“Haven't you forgotten something Daniel?” Mrs Haverthwaite asked.
The mystified youth glanced around his person and the kitchen. “Erm... I don't think so.” he cautiously replied. Mrs Haverthwaite stepped to him and removed the white lace-trimmed headband. “Oh blimey! I'd completely forgotten about that!” he exclaimed before thanking Mrs Haverthwaite.
Daniel felt bashful as he left. Imagine the shame if he'd made his way home with a dainty little maid's cap on his head!
On Friday he returns to Mrs Haverthwaite's and knocks on the back door. She opens it and invites him in and after a little small talk, she says “I've washed your uniform but it needs an iron... it's hanging in the utility room.”
“Oh er... do I have to wear it again?” he asked.
“Well... I've been having a think.” she replied. “You don't really want to risk ruining your own clothes with a splash of bleach or something... new clothes are expensive and you are living on the breadline.” she explained.
“I know but... it's a dress.” Daniel gulped.
Mrs Haverthwaite smiled and told him that it's housekeeper's uniform, adding that it's hard wearing and stain resistant, particularly to bleach. “Wearing this makes a lot more sense than wearing your own clothes.”
“Yes I get what you're saying Mrs Haverthwaite but...” Daniel replied.
“You wore it on Tuesday with no issues.” she reminded him. “Plus it's a very good fit and perfect for the task at hand.”
“I know but... I did feel a bit silly on Tuesday... especially that lacy head-thing.”
“You forgot you were wearing that, remember.” she replied. “And you did seem much more focused on Tuesday. You'd got round to doing the ironing much sooner than I thought and I figured you must have cut corners elsewhere... but after a thorough inspection I couldn't find anything you'd missed.” she informed him. “I noticed that as well as polishing all of the door knobs, you also polished the hinges and latch plates too... something I don't recall asking you to do.”
“Oh don't apologise Daniel. Your attention to detail is meticulous.” she complimented. “There's an old saying; dress the part, play the part.” she said. “You surpassed your already high standards when properly attired, and like I say, I hate to see you ruin your own clothes.”
“Well... I'd rather not wear it but... you're the boss Mrs Haverthwaite.” Daniel glumly replied. And that was that. He spent ten minutes ironing the uniform and apron before donning it and the lacy little cap.
“That's much better.” Mrs Haverthwaite said when he emerged from the utility room. “May I see your bow?” she asked. Daniel turned to show her the back of his apron. “Perfect.” she smiled. “That's a much nicer bow than Jolanta ever tied.”
“Thanks.” Daniel bashfully replied. He set about his chores and climbed the stairs, getting one quick glance in the hallway mirror and another in the mirror at the end of the landing. He entered Mrs Haverthwaite's bedroom and being a Friday, his first chore was to change her bedding, but first, he had a good look at the bow he'd tied in her dressing table mirror. Daniel hadn't especially tried to tie a 'nice' bow. He did try to get the two bows the same sort of size but other than that, it's apparent perfection was a fluke. He stepped back to look at himself from the front, but being a small dressing table mirror, he could only see his reflection from his midriff down to his calves. He lifted the skirt a little above his knees and sighed. “It may be appropriate to the task at hand but it certainly looks ridiculous on me.” he muttered to no one but himself.
Daniel embarked on his chores and stripped the duvet, mattress and pillow cases and dumped them in the laundry basket. He grabbed some fresh bedlinen from the airing cupboard on the landing, stealing a glance of his full reflection as he did so. With the bedding done, he set about giving her room a quick tidy, which was just a little dusting and straightening of ornaments, before vacuuming the carpet. He gave the bathroom a thorough clean, wiping down all the wall tiles, the window and shower screen, then cleaning the sink and bathtub before getting on his knees and cleaning the toilet inside and out and not forgetting around the back. The floor tiles he scrubbed by hand before drying them with an old towel. He emptied the bin, cleaned to residue from the soap dish as well as the underside of the sink and bath plugs. He made sure the taps, shower head and flush-handle were gleaming before doing the same with the door handle, hinges and latch plate. He didn't think that Mrs Haverthwaite would have noticed he'd done those on Tuesday but now she has, he'll have to keep on top of them. Finally, he finished the bathroom by putting out fresh towels and a flannel. All the while he couldn't help but glance at his face in the mirror above the sink. The little lacy cap doesn't cover enough of his head to keep the dust out of his hair and as such, it has no practical use. With that thought, he figures that its only purpose is to denote the servile status of its wearer. After dusting and vacuuming the landing, he makes sure all the door knobs, latch plates and brass hinges are gleaming, then fetches Mrs Haverthwaite's laundry hamper down to the utility room and puts the bedding in with the rest of the whites. “Why don't you stop for a moment and have a tea-break Daniel.” Mrs Haverthwaite suggested.
“Well I haven't swept the stairs yet or done anything downstairs Mrs Haverthwaite.”
“That's OK... you're allowed to stop and have a tea break.” she said before insisting. However it was Daniel who made the pot of tea and served it, along with a small selection of biscuits arranged neatly on a paper doily on a posh looking plate. Daniel sat himself down and smoothed his apron over his lap. “Are you getting used to your uniform?” she asked. “You seem comfortable enough.” she added. As ever, Mrs Haverthwaite's tone and demeanour is warm and friendly and in her presence, Daniel can't help but feel at ease.
“It's not uncomfortable to wear.” he replied. “But every time I catch my reflection in a mirror I think 'yikes... I'm wearing a dress!'.” he said.
“Think of it as a uniform rather than a dress.” she advised. “I firmly believe that a uniform gives one a sense of place and purpose, which is why I insisted Jolanta wore one.” she said. “She wasn't happy about it but if she'd gotten herself of a job in Asda or McDonalds, she'd have had to wear a uniform there.” Mrs Haverthwaite smiled. “Putting you in Jolanta's uniform hadn't crossed my mind until you got caught in that downpour and it honestly was the only thing I could think of that would fit you whilst your clothes dried.” she explained.
“Yeah I understand that but...” Daniel replied.
“Good.” she said, cutting him short. “It seems almost fortuitous that it fits you so well.” she added.
“Yes I suppose.” Daniel glumly agreed.
“I hope it's not making you have second thoughts about working for me.” she said. Daniel gulped and reiterated that finding work for someone with his background isn't easy. “Nor is finding someone willing to work as hard and as thoroughly as you.” she complimented.
“Thanks.” he coyly replied. “But don't you think it's a bit weird?”
“Would you consider it weird had you been a young woman?”
“Of course not... it's a woman's uniform.”
“And some might consider the job you're doing is woman's work.”
“Not these days.”
“Then consider it an exercise in gender equality.” Mrs Haverthwaite suggested. “Since I insisted Jolanta wore it, it might be considered sexist if I allow you to work under different conditions based entirely on your gender.”
“Yes I suppose.” Daniel glumly replied. Not because he agreed with her point, but because he couldn't really counter it.
Daniel spent a good hour cleaning the ground floor before starting the short list of additional chores. Today it was sweeping the patio and cleaning all the patio furniture which took him out of the house and out of his comfort zone. He hardly ever wears shorts in the height of summer so having his calves exposed to a nippy September breeze is something he's really not used to. He fills a bucket of warm soapy water and washes the bird muck and atmospheric dust off the glass patio table. His leg hairs are on end and his calves are covered in goose pimples. Mrs Haverthwaite checks on him and reminds him to give the table and chair legs a good clean too. “Yes Mrs Haverthwaite.” he replied before crouching and wiping the cast iron frames. He couldn't help but glance up at the houses that overlooked the garden, then down at his servile attire. This part of the village boasts large houses and large gardens so the neighbours aren't too close. Daniel hopes that anyone who might see him will presume he's female, albeit one with short hair. He glances at his mirrored image in the patio doors and gulps at his dainty lace cap. He keeps forgetting he's wearing it until he catches his reflection. It seems like a strange twist of fate that him getting into that car all those months ago has somehow resulted in him working as a housemaid. He sighs and continues with his chore. Once the furniture is clean and gleaming, he begins to sweep the patio which is bigger than it looks when one only has a ten-inch broom.
Once done, he asks Mrs Haverthwaite if there's anything else he can do before changing into his 'civvies'. “No thank you Daniel, but please, have a cup of tea before you change.”
He glances at the time. It's 1.15pm. “May I have coffee?” he politely asked.
“Yes of course.” she replied as she sat. “You know where everything is.” Daniel made a small pot of tea for Mrs Haverthwaite and a coffee for himself. She requested a couple of digestives, which he knew she liked served on a paper doily on a side plate. “Thank you.” she smiled as he set them down for her. “You've done well today.” she said, before thanking him. Daniel politely thanked her as he sat, smoothing his frock and apron over his lap. “...but I think, instead of aiming to arrive by around five-to-ten, you should arrive a little earlier so you've got time to iron your uniform and be ready to begin at ten o'clock sharp... it was gone twenty-past when you started this morning.”
“Yes Mrs Haverthwaite. Sorry.”
“Oh there's no need to apologise Daniel. You weren't to know that you'd need to iron your uniform.” she smiled.
They chatted about this and that until their cups were drained. Daniel washed and dried them before changing out of his uniform and donning his own clothes. Mrs Haverthwaite handed him sixty pounds in an envelope and bid him farewell. “I'll see you on Tuesday... about half-nine?”
“Er... yes. See you then Mrs Haverthwaite.”
As Daniel made his way home, he couldn't help but reflect on his mornings work. “Maybe I should have been more assertive and refused to wear Jolanta's uniform again.” he pondered. “It's not like I'd got caught in a downpour again.” he grumbled, before wondering if by reluctantly accepting it, he's now a transvestite. “It's not like I’ve chosen to wear it.” he thinks. “...and I didn't exactly enjoy wearing it.” he mumbled to himself. “It wasn't that bad... until I went outside.” he mused, before recalling every glance at his reflection. He quickly raised his hand to his head to double check that he'd removed the little lacy cap, before picturing himself reflected in the large hallway mirror. It wasn't so much the uniform that looked ridiculous but combined with his hairy legs and grey ankle socks, the whole image did. He briefly pondered how he might improve the image but all he could think was either shaving his legs or donning a pair of tights. Neither sat easy with him, so instead he wondered if a pair of black knee socks might be better. They'd certainly be warmer the next time he has to sweep the patio.
Daniel has his regular meeting with his probation officer at 4pm, but beforehand, he goes shopping for an inexpensive yet decent raincoat. The probation officer is impressed that he's found some regular work and it appears to be going well for him. Daniel mentions nothing of the uniform but as he describes his cleaning routine, he can't help but visualise himself wearing it. “...and when you're not cleaning for this lady... are you continuing to go door-to-door throughout the rest of the week?” the probation officer asked.
“Yes of course.” Daniel replied, “I go round Pluston one day and Highgrove the next.”
“Well keep it up and keep records... you need to be able to show the DWP that you're trying to find work, otherwise they'll sanction you and suspend your payments.” the probation officer advised.
Daniel takes his wage receipts and work-search records to the DWP so they can calculate his monthly welfare payment. They're underwhelmed that he's only finding around eight to ten hours work each week but are satisfied that he's spending the rest of the time actively looking for work which means he won't be sanctioned... not this week anyway. Being on benefits is like living on a knife edge. There's a fine line between living in relative poverty and being absolutely penniless since all it takes is being five minutes late for a meeting and they'll suspend your payments for six whole weeks.
He enjoys a quiet weekend, tidying and cleaning his bedsit to the standards the Mrs Haverthwaite would expect. On Monday he trudges around, knocking on doors and getting them shut in his face and on Tuesday, he heads back to Mrs Haverthwaite's. “Good morning Daniel. Did you have a nice weekend?” she asked as she let him in
“Not bad thanks.” he replied. “Just hung out at home and watched TV.”
“Is it a nice apartment?”
“It's just a bedsit.” he confessed. “Although the agent called it a 'studio apartment' which is a bit of an overstatement for one room containing a sink, cooker, fridge, sofa and bed, and the smallest bathroom you've ever seen.”
“Sounds like my digs when I was at university.” she replied.
“What did you study?”
“Economics.” she replied.
“I'm not even sure what that is.”
“Its finance and stock markets, statistics and analytics.” she replied, describing it as boring but it did lead to her career as an investment banker.
“I'm not sure what that is either.”
“It's a lot of calculations and a lot of responsibility.” she said, before suggesting he get himself ready.
In the utility room hangs his uniform which has been laundered and dried since Friday but not ironed. He swiftly irons the dress, apron and cap before donning them, then he gulps and pauses before exiting the utility room. Mrs Haverthwaite, as usual looks him up and down as he emerges. “Are you wearing tights Daniel?” she noticed.
“Err... socks.” Daniel timidly replied as he raised his skirt just a little. They are in fact over-knee socks, the cuffs of which sit just an inch above his knees. “My hairy legs looked wrong with my dress.” he explained. “You don't mind do you?”
“Not at all.” Mrs Haverthwaite replied as he let the frock and apron drop. “But I don't mind you having hairy legs.” she said, adding that he is a boy after all.
“I err... shaved them.” he gulped.
“I see.” Mrs Haverthwaite cautiously replied. “May I see?”
“Erm...” Daniel blushed, before pushing one of his socks down to the ankle and explaining that it seemed like a good idea at the time, then had second thoughts and bought a pair of over knee socks to hide them.
“You don't have to hide them Daniel.” she told him. “And they do look much better... I don't mind either way.” she smiled. Daniel pulled his sock back up as Mrs Haverthwaite smiled and complimented his efforts to adapt to his uniform. “Well you'd best get on.” she said, glancing at the time which read nine fifty-nine.
As usual, Daniel's chores began with tidying Mrs Haverthwaite's bedroom. He tidies her dresser, dusts the furniture and vacuums the carpet before trotting down to the utility room with the laundry basket. The frock feels different next to his hairless legs and every time he catches a glance in the big mirror on the landing, he spends a brief moment observing just how much better his reflection looks as he adjusts the bow on the back of his apron, tightening it a little and making sure its loops and tails are even.
After cleaning the upstairs rooms, Mrs Haverthwaite suggests he has a break and yet again, he ends up making the tea and serving her. “I do enjoy having you around Daniel.” she said as he placed a plate bearing a small selection of biscuits laid neatly on a doily along side her tea cup.
“I enjoy being here Mrs Haverthwaite.” Daniel replied as he sat himself down. His lap felt like silk as he smoothed his skirt and apron over it. “I'm even getting used to my uniform.” he nervously chuckled as he discretely hitched up his socks so the cuffs sat just above his knees.
“I'm glad to hear it. You wear it well... and much more willingly than Jolanta ever did.” Mrs Haverthwaite replied, before backtracking and trying to find an alternative word to 'willingly'. She couldn't. “...you know what I mean.”
“Yes I think so.” Daniel replied. “The first time I didn't have much choice after getting caught in that storm.” he recalled. “Friday was a bit of a bombshell.” he admitted. “But after a while it didn't seem so bad.” he said. “It looks a lot better with knee socks than it did with hairy legs.”
“It certainly does.” she said with a smile. “I'd hate it if you resented me for making you wear a housekeeper's uniform.” she added.
“No I don't resent you Mrs Haverthwaite.” Daniel replied. “I'm grateful that you've given me some regular work.” he said. “I'm not sure what my probation officer would think if he knew about this...” he said, glancing down at his servile attire and nervously chuckling. “...but like you said... it saves me from ruining my own clothes with a splash of bleach... and it's the only uniform you've got.” he shrugged.
“Thank you Daniel. That means a lot to me.” Mrs Haverthwaite replied.
After his break, Daniel cleared the table and washed the cups, saucers and tea pot before continuing with his usual routine; cleaning the hallway, mopping the floor tiles, bottoming the utility room and downstairs loo, dusting and vacuuming in the lounge, and not forgetting to polish all the brass door furniture including the hinges and latch plates. “Jolanta never used to clean those.” Mrs Haverthwaite commented as she passed.
Daniel smiled proudly to himself. “They do look much better with a bit of a shine.” he replied as he hitched his socks back over his knees and commented on how they keep slipping down. Mrs Haverthwaite suggested he could simply wear them below the knee, or take them off, before offering to lend him a pair of tights. Bashfully, he declined, but couldn't help but wonder how they'd look or feel against his smooth hairless legs.
After finishing his usual rota, Daniel checked the fridge where Mrs Haverthwaite would list any additional tasks. 'Clean all inside widows, frames and sills – no streaks!' the note read. Daniel's heart sank a little as this chore would put him in each of the front windows, in full view of anyone passing by. He began with the rear windows on the ground floor, cleaning swiftly and thoroughly otherwise he'd be there all afternoon. After spending the morning hitching his socks every now and then, Daniel removed his over-knee socks and felt considerably freer as a result. However with his pale shaved legs exposed, he did feel more than a little self conscious as he stood on a little folding stool and reached up to the top of the window. The backs of his knees felt super sensitive as the hem of his skirt gently brushed against them. He cleaned the study window, the big patio doors in the dining room, then the kitchen window. “I see you've heeded my advice.” Mrs Haverthwaite said as she sauntered in and noticed his legs.
“Er.. yes.” Daniel coyly replied, glancing down at himself.
“My late husband used to shave his legs.” she said.
“Really?” Daniel quizzed.
“He was a keen cyclist.” she replied. “He used to do seventy miles every Sunday.”
“Wow... that's impressive.” Daniel exclaimed. “I don't think I could manage more than seven.”
“A young fit lad like you?” she chirped. “Of course you could. Gerry [her husband] cycled well into his sixties.” she claimed. “He'd still be cycling today had the cancer not taken him.”
“I'm sorry to hear that Mrs Haverthwaite.” Daniel respectfully replied.
“That's OK... I still miss him but I've got used to life without him.” she said. “Anyway... I'm distracting you.” she said. “You're doing a good job by the way... Jolanta always left streaks.”
Daniel soon had to put himself on display in the front windows, and his timing couldn't have been worse as the postman strolled up the drive. The shy boy quickly hopped off his little stool and put himself out of sight until the postman had pushed the mail through the letterbox and made his way back down the driveway. “Was that the postman?” Mrs Haverthwaite hollered from her study, before asking Daniel to fetch the letters. “Thank you Daniel.” she smiled.
“You're welcome.” he said, before returning to his chore.
After cleaning the large lounge window, it's frame and sill, he began cleaning the frosted window on the front door and the frosted pane beside it. All of a sudden, a dark blurred figure appeared on the other side of the glass. It's arm reached for the doorbell. Ding Dong! “Would you get that please Daniel.” Mrs Haverthwaite hollered.
Daniel gulped and felt himself blushing profusely as he hesitantly opened the door. “Oh!” a startled lady said. “You're not Jolanta.” she stated. “Is Marion home?” she asked.
“Er, yes... one moment.” Daniel bashfully said.
He trotted to the study, before trotting back and inviting the lady in. Mrs Haverthwaite appeared in the hallway. “I thought it might be you Denise... this is Daniel, my new cleaner.” she said as Denise looked the boy up and down with a most perplexed expression on her face.
Mrs Haverthwaite invited her guest into the lounge and told Daniel to continue with his work. “I say it's absolutely immaculate in here.” Daniel overheard Denise state as the lounge door closed, cutting him off completely from their conversation.
“His standards are far higher than Jolanta's ever were.” Mrs Haverthwaite told her guest.
“I can't believe you've employed a transvestite!”
“He's not a transvestite!” Mrs Haverthwaite sternly insisted, before recalling last Tuesday's torrential downpour and explaining that Daniel was absolutely drenched and needed something to wear whilst his own clothes dried. “Jolanta's old uniform was the only thing I had that would fit him and since he's my cleaner, it seemed quite fitting.” she added.
“Hmm.” Denise dubiously frowned. “He seems shifty to me.”
“He was probably just embarrassed answering the door dressed as a housemaid.”
“I'm not so sure.” Denise sneered.
“Well I am. He works very hard and I'm fortunate to have found him, especially after that kerfuffle with Jolanta.”
“Has the ring turned up yet?” Denise asked.
Mrs Haverthwaite shook her head. “I don't think for a moment that Jolanta took it but they way she flew off the handle and stormed out, I can't help but wonder.”
“Well you never know someone until you know them.” Denise replied. “I'd keep an aye on that boy if I were you. There's something shady about him.”
“What makes you say that?”
“Well... the fact that he willingly wears women's clothing for a start.”
“He's hardly willing... it's me who insists he wears it.” Mrs Haverthwaite asserted. Bewildered, Denise asked why. “Because it saves him from ruining his own clothes with a splash of bleach, and I insisted that Jolanta wore it so it's only fair that my new cleaner does too.”
“But he's a boy.”
“Equality works both ways.” Mrs Haverthwaite replied. “If it's good for a girl then it's good for a boy... plus, it's a perfect fit and he seems to work all the harder when dressed appropriately.”
“Was he sloppy before?”
“Not at all.” Mrs Haverthwaite replied. “Not only does he polish the door handles, but the hinges and latch plates too... he's so meticulous, doubly so since I put him in uniform.” she said. “If you ever need a cleaner...”
Meanwhile, Daniel was busy cleaning the interior windows and frames of the upstairs rooms and each time he crossed the landing from one room to the next, he couldn't help but glance at his reflection in the large mirror. His legs kind of look better yet also look strange, like they don't belong to him. He checks the bow on the small of his back, retying it and making sure the bows and tails are even. The servile lace headpiece didn't appear to need adjusting but he straightened it anyway, before heading into the next room and clearing the windowsill of ornaments. He begins wiping the frames from top to bottom, then cleans the sash and pays particular attention to the insides of the rebates. Mrs Haverthwaite probably won't even check such concealed places but since she's always praising Daniel for being meticulous and thorough, he's begun to pride himself on being just that. After an hour or so, he's finished and makes his way downstairs where Mrs Haverthwaite is chatting with her friend. “All done Mrs Haverthwaite.” he says.
“Thank you Daniel.” Mrs Haverthwaite replied. “Would you mind taking the tea tray, then you can get yourself off.” she asked.
Daniel could feel Denise's gaze upon him as he put the china cups and saucer on the tray with the tea pot, milk jug and sugar bowl before taking the the tray away. “I was half expecting him to drop a curtsey.” he overheard Denise say from the hallway. Rather than putting the tea tray on the worktop, he felt it best to wash the crockery and wipe the tray before drying and putting everything away, and with a heavy sigh, he took himself to the utility room where he finally changed back into his own clothes. “Right I'll be off Mrs Haverthwaite.” Daniel said. “See you Friday.” he added, before politely telling her guest that it was nice to meet her. Denise’s response was somewhat cold whilst Mrs Haverthwaite bid him a fond farewell, thanking him for his hard work today. “You're welcome.” he smiled, before leaving by the back door.
As Daniel makes his way around the side of the house and down the drive, he glances at all the outside window frames and all of those could do with a good clean too. And being September, the trees are beginning to drop their leaves which means the driveway will need sweeping and the lawns raking... it's only a matter of time, he figures, before his chores will put him out in front of the house, in full view of anyone passing by or paying a visit.
After a long walk home, Daniel arrives back at his modest little bedsit flat and showers; the first one since shaving his legs. Already he can feel the stubble coming through, but figures it's too soon to shave them again. He dons his bathrobe and makes himself a cup of tea, de-cluttering his small kitchenette and wipes the work surface whilst the kettle boils. With a mug of tea in hand, he switches on the TV and surfs the freeview channels. There's not much on at this time of day; quiz shows, property shows, home & garden and DIY shows, Judge Judy, repeated soap operas, endless repeats of Top Gear, old black and white movies and not so old TV movies. He soon settles on a reality show called The Edwardian House, in which a family goes back in time to experience life in Edwardian England.
It's not so much the family that grabs his attention but their maid, who in this period does not live with her employer as Victorian maids would. Her day starts at around 7.00am and ends any time between 7.00 and 10pm. She lights their fires, empties their chamber pots (ugh), makes and serves their breakfast, polishes their shoes, cleans their house, serves their lunch and afternoon tea, does all their laundry and ironing, runs errands, makes and serves their evening meal and scrubs the kitchen clean afterwards before finally going home. All the while she's expected to address her employer as Sir and Ma'am, dropping curtseys left right and centre. The girl playing the role of the maid in the TV show talks about the experience and describes just how hard life was in those times. She talks about the archaic underwear of stockings, corset, a slip, bloomers, petticoats, and her old fashioned ankle boots with seventeen tiny buttons on each shoe, the thick heavy floor-length frock and crisp white pinafore apron which in those days, the maids were expected to make themselves!
Much to Daniel's surprise, the girl claims to actually like the corset. She describes fetching pail after pail of hot water up one or two flights of stairs, scrubbing the floors, hand washing their clothes and beating the rugs and rugs as back breaking work and without the support of her corset, she imagines the maids in those days would be plagued with back problems. And in those days, if you didn't work you didn't eat so one couldn't simply take a day off sick if they're unwell. Towards the end of the episode, the cameras follow the maid home, but her working day is far from over. She has to hand-wash her uniform, apron and underwear, hang it all to dry near a small hot range, then bathe herself in an old fashioned tin bath, before ironing her clothing ready for the following day, and finally, before she can go to bed, she puts her damp hair in rags so she can put her hair in elegant ringlets in the morning. “I'm glad I don't have all that to deal with.” Daniel thought as the closing credits rolled.
He spent Wednesday morning in the library, using their computers to search the employment agencies and applying for anything and everything... but he knows it's a fruitless endeavour. Sending your CV to prospective employers is like throwing it into a black hole. You don't know if they'll even look at it, let alone reply. It's just one of the many hoops he has to jump through to keep the benefits people happy. Afterwards he did a bit of personal internet browsing and found himself getting some shaving advice on the WebHow website, which advised moisturising after shaving. He picked up some groceries from town and called into Wilkos to get some moisturiser, and found himself giving the hosiery section a lingering glance. He considered buying some tights but since there were so many different types to choose from, he decided not to.
On Thursday he went door-to-door in the affluent suburbs on the south side of town and apart from being given a two pound coin for putting out someone's bins, he had no takers at all. Considering the amount of time he's spent trying to find odd jobs, this has also been a futile endeavour... apart from Mrs Haverthwaite of course. A couple more like her would be ideal, he figured, providing they don't talk him into wearing a woman's housekeeping uniform.
The following day, Daniel's trousers seemed the glide over his freshly shaved legs. He didn't tell Mrs Haverthwaite that he'd shaved again and he didn't wear his socks either, although after he'd tidied her bedroom, cleaned the bathroom, dusted and hoovered the landing, wiped the brass ware, swept the stairs and polished the banister... he noticed the note on the fridge asking him to clean all the ground floor windowsills and frames, on the outside. “You don't mind do you Daniel.” she asked as he prepared the tea for his morning break.
“Err... no.” he gulped. “I noticed they needed doing when I left on Tuesday.” he timidly replied.
After cleaning the entire ground floor of the house, Daniel did don his over-knee socks before heading outside. It wouldn't have crossed Daniel’s mind so he was really quite thankful when Mrs Haverthwaite suggested he removed his cap and apron before undertaking the chore. “They'll only get dirty.” she said, before telling him that he'll need a stepladder to reach the tops of the windows and promptly fetched one from the garage. Not wearing his crisp white apron or distinctive lacy headband was a considerable consolation, and Daniel was glad he'd put his thick black socks on too. He'd have stood out a mile otherwise. Hopefully his jet black frock and its narrow white trim won't attract more than a passing glance should anyone stroll past, and hopefully another friend or neighbour of Mrs Haverthwaite's won't call round whilst he's cleaning the front of the house.
He felt a little precarious on the stepladder to begin with, and unlike cleaning the insides of the windows earlier in the week, cleaning the outside provides a very clear reflection. Each window doesn't take too long since he's only cleaning the uPVC frames. The windows themselves are done by a window cleaner once every six weeks or so. Going up and down the ladder isn't too bad in a skirt. He doesn't need to hitch it up but with all the up and down, he does finding himself hitching up his socks so they sit just above the knee rather than below it. Remembering what time the postman arrived on Tuesday, Daniel took the initiative to tackle the front windows first. It was an initiative that paid off since Daniel was cleaning the windows on the far side of the house when the post was delivered. He tried his best not to glare into Mrs Haverthwaite's study when he cleaned that window because she was inside sat at her computer. He refreshed his bucket of warm soapy water before doing the rear windows, and when he'd finished, Mrs H checked his work before telling him that he'd done a very good job. “I couldn't help but notice that you kept hitching your stockings up Daniel.” she said. The very word 'stockings' made him blush. “Why can't she call them socks since that's what they are?” he thought.
“Tights don't need hitching up.” she informed him. “Not so often anyway.” she added.
“I was looking at them yesterday.” Daniel confessed. “But I didn't know which to buy... there's so many to choose from.” he replied.
“Well... black ones obviously.” she bluntly replied. “Thin ones should be fine... about fifteen or twenty denier.”
“What's denier?” he quizzed.
“The thickness of the nylon.” she told him. “The higher the number, the thicker they are.” she added. “And look for the Lycra mark... they won't wrinkle if they contain Lycra.” she stated.
“Erm... OK.” he replied.
“Marks and Sparks do the best ones. Cheap tights aren't very sheer so it's worth spending a little more.”
“Erm... OK.” Daniel shyly replied. “I'm not sure what that means but...”
Mrs Haverthwaite explained as best she could what 'sheer' meant before advising him to look for an M&S own brand pack rather than branded tights such as Aristocrat or Pretty Poly. “..and don't worry about you being a boy... for all the shop assistant knows you're picking up a pack for your mother or girlfriend.” she added.
“Err... OK. Thanks.” Daniel timidly said... and that was that. She mentioned tights which to Daniel meant he had to buy some.
Mrs Haverthwaite paid him for his week's work, plus the extra hour he'd worked on Tuesday. Daniel thanked her and changed into his own clothes, and being a Friday, he has to take his proof of earnings into the DWP and attend his weekly meeting with the probation officer.
Daniel reminded himself which tights Mrs Haverthwaite told him to buy; black, fifteen or twenty denier... and he did consider calling into M&S on his way through town but had second thoughts. Tomorrow, being a Saturday will be better since it'll be busier, and he presumes he'll be less conspicuous buying a pack of woman's tights amongst all the other shoppers. He visited the DWP to hand in the handwritten payslips, which meant a twenty minute wait for his name to finally be called, then he had a couple of hours to kill before his 4pm probation appointment. Again he toyed with buying some tights but his nerves got the better of him when he was sauntering around the clothing department in M&S, sticking to the menswear section but scouting the women’s clothes to see exactly where their hosiery section was.
Daniel was glad he hadn't bought himself some tights today because when he did get to his 4pm meeting, the parole officer did a random bag and pocket search to check that he didn't have anything that would breach the terms of his parole; namely drugs or a knife or stolen goods. How would he have explained a pack of women's tights! “So how's the work search going?” the probation officer asked.
“Well... not great.” Daniel sighed. Apart from Mrs Haverthwaite who's given him two morning a week, all he's doing seems like a complete waste of time; he's got no replies from his job applications and going door-to-door just means getting doors shut in his face.
“You're well dressed and clean shaven?” the probation officer asked.
“Yes.” Daniel replied, although his hairless legs sprang to mind when asked if he was clean shaven.
“You're being polite and not pushy?”
“Of course.” Daniel claimed.
“Well just keep chipping away... something will turn up.” he said. “At least you've got a couple of mornings work and providing you record all your searching, you'll keep the DWP happy.”
“Yeah.” Daniel glumly replied.
“Well... I'll see you next week.” the probation officer said before letting Daniel go.
The following day, being Saturday, Daniel headed into town and went directly to Marks & Spencer's to purchase the tights Mrs Haverthwaite recommended. The store was significantly busier than it was the previous day and reluctantly, he headed directly to the hosiery display, reminding himself of what he was looking for; a pack of black tights, 15 or 20 denier. Mrs Haverthwaite didn't specify whether or not they should be matt, shiny or support tights, so he went for the least expensive and bought a pack of five pairs of 'light support' matt tights for five pounds. He did feel bashful as he queued for the tills and could feel his cheeks redden as the assistant gave him a perplexed glance. “They're for my mum.” he timidly claimed. She didn't respond. Daniel sighed with relief as he exited the store, feeling somewhat excited with his purchase. He couldn't wait to try them on to find out how they felt against his hairless flesh, although he felt more than a little bit weird about it. “Maybe I should wait until Tuesday?” he asked himself. After all, the only thing he has that he could wear them with is his housekeeper's frock at Mrs Haverthwaite's.
When Daniel arrived home, he wasted no time opening the pack of tights and unfolded a pair. They seemed so thin and delicate that Daniel feared he might damage them. Despite the temptation to try a pair on there and then, he resisted until Tuesday morning and wore them beneath his pants as he walked up to Plushton and Mrs Haverthwaite's house. Daniel also donned a pair of ankle socks to ensure that no one would notice that he was wearing a pair of woman's tights. He arrived soon after nine-thirty and his freshly laundered housekeeping dress and apron hung waiting in the utility room. As usual, he ironed them first and shyly emerged wearing his full uniform a few minutes before 10.00am. “You certainly do look the part today Daniel.” Mrs Haverthwaite smiled as she looked him up and down. “How do they feel?” she asked.
“My tights?” he bashfully asked. She nodded, smiling wryly. “Erm... quite nice actually.” Daniel confessed, before stating that he'd shaved his legs last night.
“Well you'd best get on.” Mrs Haverthwaite said. “I've got quite a lot of additional chores for you today.” she added, glancing toward the fridge on which they were listed.
Daniel scanned the list which was headed 'spring clean every room'. “Spring cleaning?” he quizzed. “It's September.” he added.
“Yes but autumn cleaning doesn't quite have the same ring to it.” she cheerfully replied.
The note told him to pull out all the bedroom furniture and dust and vacuum behind, then to do the same on the landing, hallway, lounge, study and dining room. “Is this every bedroom or just yours?” Daniel asked.
“All of them.” she replied, adding that it will keep him here for much of the afternoon before asking if that was OK.
“Yes of course.” Daniel replied. “But it might take me all afternoon just to do the bedrooms.” he presumed, before suggesting spring cleaning the ground floor on Friday afternoon.
“Just do as much as you can today and maybe you could come back tomorrow to finish off?” she said. “You'll be paid, of course.”
“Erm... yes, I could do that Mrs Haverthwaite.” he said. It's certainly going to be a better use if his time than knocking on doors and getting them shut in his face.
“Good boy... well you'd best get on.” she reiterated.
Daniel headed up the stairs, but not before checking his reflection in the hallway mirror where he made sure his bow was neat and even, before slightly adjusting his lacy headband. He stepped back for a full length view. Mrs Haverthwaite was absolutely right about his tights; he really does look every bit the housemaid now. As usual, he began in the master bedroom before thoroughly cleaning the bathroom, then dusting and vacuuming the landing and eventually sweeping the stairs. “Shall we break for some tea?” Mrs Haverthwaite suggested as Daniel went to fetch the mop and bucket from the utility room.
As usual, it's Daniel who fills the tea pot and sets a plate of neatly arranged biscuits on the table. “How are you getting on with your new tights?” she asked.
“OK I guess.” Daniel replied.
“You don't sound so sure.”
“They seem to stick to my skirt, especially when I’m up and down the stairs.”
“You need a slip.” she told him.
“Is that like an underskirt?”
“A slip is full length. An underskirt, or half-slip, hangs from the waist.” Mrs Haverthwaite told him. “Either would solve your problem.”
“I'm not sure I could buy one though... it was nerve racking enough buying a pack of tights.”
“I completely understand.” Mrs Haverthwaite replied. “I'll take your measurements and pick one up for you.” she said.
“Erm... OK. Shall I give you some money?”
“Oh don't worry about that Daniel. Consider it part of your uniform.” Mrs Haverthwaite replied.
Bashfully, the boy thanked her as he sat and slid his tea cup toward himself. He made small talk such as asking about her weekend, in which she'd tidied up the borders in the garden. “I noticed they were looking nice.” Daniel said.
“And the window cleaner came yesterday.” Mrs Haverthwaite went on. “He thought I'd had new windows fitted!” she told him. “Which just goes to show how good a job you did cleaning the frames last week.” she added.
“Thanks.” Daniel shyly smiled, recalling himself having to hitch up his frock a little each time he climbed the stepladders, and constantly hitching up his over knee stockings. “Hopefully they won't need doing again any time soon.” he hopefully added.
“Not until spring.” she said. “Now... I have to pop out for an hour or two this afternoon. You'll be OK on your own won't you?” she asked.
“Yes Mrs Haverthwaite... providing you're OK leaving me alone in the house.”
“You've already earned my trust Daniel.” she smiled. After their late morning break, Daniel cleared the cups and plate, washed up and wiped the table clean, before resuming his chores. Each time he crouched then stood, he found himself having to arrange his skirt over his tights. It almost feels like static or something that holds the two fabrics together, Daniel ponders as he runs his hands over his frock and apron. Maybe I should have bought the shiny ones instead of matt, he wondered, before wondering if that would make any difference.
He tidied the lounge and straightened the study, dusted the dining room before beginning in the kitchen; mopping the floor, wiping the worktops and making the stainless steel sink gleam as it had the day it was new. “Oh you're ever so thorough.” Mrs Haverthwaite said as she found him wiping each and every cupboard handle and drawer knob. “Jolanta was good but she was no Daniel.” she added. Daniel smiled a proud smile and thanked Mrs Haverthwaite, before stating that it's her high standards that he's aiming for. “You surpass them my dear boy.” she complimented, before telling him that she was going out but shouldn't be more than an hour or two.
“I'm just about finished in here, then I'll start on err... spring cleaning the bedrooms.” he replied.
“Good boy.” she smiled, before telling him she'd call into the village bakery on the way back and asking his preference.
“Oh I'll eat anything Mrs Haverthwaite.” Daniel replied. She suggested a Cornish pasty and he was happy with that. She also suggested he stop for a quick tea break once he's finished in the kitchen.
He did take a brief break before gathering his skirt & apron and jogging up the stairs. Mrs Haverthwaite's bedroom has mostly built-in wardrobes, so he spend barely twenty minutes dusting and vacuuming behind the furniture in there. The other three bedrooms however, have free standing furniture; chests of drawers, bedside cabinets plus wardrobes of various sizes. Removing the drawers from the chests meant they were easy to shift. The wardrobes however needed whatever hung within them removing and laying on the beds before he could shift them to dust and vacuum behind.
In his own meticulous way, Daniel gave the insides of the wardrobes and chests of drawers a quick wipe before returning the drawers and clothes hangers to them, and it was whilst doing this that he noticed something sparkling in the back of one of the chests. He wiped the silver ring, encrusted with a few gem stones before putting it to one side and continues his task.
With two rooms finished, he heads to the forth and as he strides down the landing, he can't help but look at his reflection in the mirror. He's getting accustomed to seeing a housemaid, albeit one with his face, yet seeing his shins clad in thin black tights is the new addition to his reflection. “Oh damn!” he grumbled, noticing the he'd laddered his tights. “I thought I'd get more than one day out of them.” he moaned to no one but himself as he twisted his leg to get a better look at the large ladder running down his calf. “I knew I should have brought a spare pair.” he grumbled. Daniel had considered bringing a spare pair of tights since his mother always seemed to carry a spare pack of tights in her handbag, not that he made a habit of rooting through it. What's done is done, he figured before carrying on with the task at hand, but he found himself frequently glancing down at the laddered nylon. “I hope Mrs Haverthwaite's OK about it.” he mused as he emptied a chest of its drawers and placed them in an orderly stack on the carpet.
Next he emptied the wardrobe, which in this room is a relatively small one. He wasted no time laying the clothing inside on the bed before pulling it out, dusting the cobwebs off its back, wiping the wallpaper and skirting board, then vacuuming the carpet. However as he's hanging the dresses, blouses, jackets, jeans and jumpers back in the small wardrobe, he glumly realises that they're all much closer to his size than Mrs Haverthwaite's. “She could have loaned me something out of here instead of giving me Jolanta's uniform.” he thought, looking down at his black housekeeping frock & white apron and recalling the day he got drenched in that downpour.
Daniel checked the time. Three rooms in ninety minutes isn't bad, he thought as he started on the fourth and final bedroom. Mrs Haverthwaite should be back soon, he also figured... and within fifteen minutes, she was. She dropped her shopping in the kitchen before heading upstairs. She found him on his hands and knees, dusting the inside of one of the empty chests of drawers. She half expected him to have removed his servile lace headband the moment her back was turned, and possibly his feminine apron too, but no... his apron as always was tied in a perfect bow and his headband sat neatly about his skull. “How are you getting on Daniel?” she asked.
“OK thanks.” the boy smiled as he straightened his back and refolded his duster. “I thought I'd give the insides a quick wipe whilst I’ve got the drawers out.” he informed her.
“Are you this meticulous at home?” Mrs Haverthwaite asked. “I imagine your bedsit is spotless.” she presumed.
“Not really.” he replied. She told him she'd fetched a couple of hot pasties home and asked if he was hungry. “Starving.” he said.
“Well come on... they're best when they're still warm.” she said as Daniel got up off his knees. “Oh you've laddered your tights.” she noticed.
“Yeah.” Daniel sighed. “I knew I should have brought a spare pair.” he frowned.
“Well never mind, you'll know next time.” Mrs Haverthwaite replied.
The Cornish pasty from the Plushton village bakery was indeed very tasty and after a full morning's work, plus half an afternoon, Daniel was more than ready for some food. He was also impressed with Mrs Haverthwaite, who always acts very middle class, since she had her Cornish pasty 'the common way', with a big dollop of brown sauce. “I'll wash the plates before I get back to it.” Daniel said once they'd finished.
“Oh I'll do that Daniel... I’m sure you've got plenty to do and I don't want to keep you too long today.” Mrs Haverthwaite replied. “Really?” she exclaimed, when he told her that he'd done all the other bedrooms and was halfway through the last one. “My you are swift.” she said, before checking he hadn't forgotten the little box bedroom at the end of the hallway.
“No I've done that.” he told her. “In fact!” he said, before quickly leaving, darting up the stairs and returning to the kitchen a moment later. “I found this in the bottom of a chest of drawers.” he said, handing a silver ring to her.
Mrs Haverthwaite's jaw dropped. “Oh my!” she gasped. “I thought I'd never see it again.” she said. “I knew Jolanta hadn't taken it... I just knew it.” she announced. “Oh thank you Daniel! Where did you find it?” she asked. Daniel described the specific chest of drawers in the small bedroom. Mrs Haverthwaite expressed her relief and told him it was her grandmother's engagement ring and therefore very dear to her, before thanking Daniel again.
Daniel felt very proud of himself as he returned upstairs. He was glad Mrs Haverthwaite had got her lost ring back. He finished spring cleaning the bedroom and double checked that he hadn't missed anything, before gathering up his dusters, cloths and polish, packing up the vacuum cleaner and returning them to the utility room. “I've finished upstairs Mrs Haverthwaite... is there anything else you'd like me to do before I change?” Daniel asked.
“No I don't think so Daniel.” she replied, just as her telephone rang. “Ooh! You could fetch the wheelie bin up the drive... if you don't mind.” she quickly added, before answering the phone.
Obviously, Daniel changed into his own clothes before fetching the wheelie bin from the bottom of the drive. He checked with Mrs Haverthwaite to find out what time she wanted him to arrive the following day to complete the autumn 'spring' clean, and she suggested 11am. “OK Mrs Haverthwaite... I'll be here around twenty to.” he replied, before bidding her farewell.
The village of Plushton is home to many large, expensive houses. Some are old farmhouses or converted barns. Some are Victorian, some have a 1930s fee about them and some are relatively new, like Mrs Haverthwaite's, which he assumes was built in the 1960s or 70s. Daniel can't help but wonder what some are like on the inside as he passes by them. He'd love to live somewhere with a view, and a garden, but knows he probably never will. The village gives way to the green belt of open fields and a wooded copse before he enters the outskirts of town. This too is an affluent area, but soon the grim echoes of industry can be felt as he nears the run down estate on which he lives.
Inexplicably, the TV documentary about the Edwardian house pops into his skull, and specifically, the woman who worked as the housemaid. She was always filmed walking to work wearing her traditional frock and apron, which would have been odd as the series was film in recent years. This led to him considering Jolanta, the woman who used to be Mrs Haverthwaite's cleaner, whom he assumes also went to and from work wearing her uniform... which prompted Daniel to imagine doing the very same thing. Of course he imagines being glared at by all and sundry... a teenage boy dressed in a black housekeeper's frock would look completely out of place, even without his cap and apron on. He imagines being a girl his age and wonders what people might think, seeing 'her' in the traditional looking uniform; jet black with a white collar and white cuffs around its short sleeves. Most girls his age would be in 6th form or at college, so even if he was a she, working as a housemaid would still be unusual. Daniel’s eyes dropped to his feet and the rugged yet inexpensive walking boots he wore. He imagined what he'd wear if he was a she. Certainly not the footwear he's wearing, that's for sure. He visualised a pair of smart leather lace-up shoes, then some of those dainty ballet style shoes many women and girls seem to wear, then a pair of stout sensible heels his mother always wore; the sort that clicked and clacked loudly against the paving stones. Then he wondered why he was even thinking about this.
Daniel sighed to himself. Part of him is disappointed that he went along with Mrs Haverthwaite's reasoning when she suggested he wore Jolanta's old uniform again on Friday morning, albeit reluctantly. It's weird wearing a woman's uniform but it's not so bad, he tells himself... so long as he only has to wear it there and not to and from his cleaning job up in Plushton. Then he recalls Mrs Haverthwaite's delight when he gave her the missing ring and smiles proudly to himself, and wonders if she'll contact Jolanta to inform her that it's been found.
The following day, Daniel returns to Plushton. He wears a pair of tights beneath his pants and wonders if they'll ever feel normal. As usual, he irons his freshly laundered frock and apron soon after arrival. “Did you remember to bring some spare tights?” Mrs Haverthwaite asked.
“I did.” Daniel
“Oh good.” Mrs Haverthwaite smiled. “I did buy a pack just in case you'd forgotten.” she said, revealing a two-pack of fifteen denier tights in honeysuckle and saying that they'd make a nice change. Daniel thanked her, adding that he already had a pair of black tights on. “I also took the liberty of buying you a couple of slips... as a thank you for finding my grandmother's engagement ring.”
“Oh!” Daniel exclaimed as she presented him with a cellophane wrapped pack of slips. “Thank you.” he said, gulping at the photograph on the cardboard insert of an attractive woman wearing the silk and lace knee length garment.
“Sorry they're so lacy.” she said. “They're the only ones I could find that didn't have a bust.” she grimaced.
“Oh no... that's fine.” Daniel bashfully said, before thanking her again. Mrs Haverthwaite left him alone to finish ironing his uniform and change. He was a little overwhelmed when he unpacked and unfolded the two slips; one bright white, the other a shiny beige, both trimmed with a broad band of delicate lace around the low neck, shoulder straps, camisole back and hem. He pulled on the white one and it effortlessly slithered down his body and over his hips, landing a good few inches above his knees. Daniel soon emerged from the utility room and Mrs Haverthwaite looked upon him with a warm smile. He felt like his frock and apron were totally transparent as she asked if his slip was a good fit. “Erm... yes.” he said, before commenting on how well it stops his tights from sticking to his frock.
“That's the whole point of a slip.” she smiled, before revealing another surprise.
“Oh!” Daniel exclaimed. “I thought you didn’t want shoes worn in the house?” he quizzed.
“Not outdoor shoes.” she said, before explaining that the slippers he'd been wearing were a little tatty and since he clearly takes pride in his appearance, she though he'd like some proper 'house' shoes rather than slippers. “How do they fit?” she asked as he slid his stocking feet into them.
“Perfectly.” he replied. “How did you know what size I am?”
“I made a template from the insole of your trainers.” she told him, adding that he'd mentioned they were a little too big so she trimmed the template down a little and took it shoe shopping. “You really do look the part now.” she complimented.
“You can say that again.” Daniel smiled, albeit apprehensively. “I don't know what my probation officer would say if he could see me now.” he added.
“I wouldn't worry about things like that. He won't be doing any spot checks on you will he?”
“No I don't think
so.” Daniel replied. “I hope not any way.” he grimaced. Mrs
Haverthwaite suggested he pop up to the landing so he can have a
proper look at his shoes in the large mirror, and he did just that.
“All I need is a pair of knickers and I'll be dressed completely as
a woman.” he thought as he approached his reflection. On nearing
the mirror, he stopped and observed the new footwear from the back
and sides, and there's no denying that he really does look the part
He checked his little lace head band was straight and tended to his bow before sheepishly returning downstairs. Mr's Haverthwaite asked if his shoes were comfortable and Daniel said they were. “Oh I am glad... that last thing I want is you feeling uncomfortable.” she smiled.
“Well... apart from the fact I'm dressed as a woman.” Daniel bashfully replied.
“You're dressed for your job rather than your gender... I think the former is more important than the latter.” she replied in a friendly, supportive tone.
“Yes I suppose.” Daniel gulped. “Like I said... so long as no one like my probation officer knows, I'm OK with it.”
“Good, yes... right, I'd better let you get on.” Mrs Haverthwaite smiled. “You may as well start with the utility room, then the kitchen. I want all the cupboards emptying and cleaning, and down forget to do below and behind the washing machine, dryer, fridge and freezer.” she instructed. “You'll be OK pulling those out on your own won't you?”
“Yes I should think so.” Daniel replied.
“And the floor tiles need a really good scrub... not just a mop.” she added.
“I'm on it Mrs Haverthwaite.” he said.
Having flew through all the upstairs rooms the previous day, 'spring' cleaning the downstairs of her sizeable home all of a sudden seems very daunting, especially considering the total area of tiled flooring that needs scrubbing. Like a pro, Daniel started at the top and worked down, beginning with the tops of the built-in units in the utility room which had him repeatedly going up and down a stepladder. The difference his slip made was instantly apparent and wearing well fitting shoes instead of a pair of old loose slippers also felt much much better. He emptied the cupboards and cleaned the shelving, and gave each item a quick wipe before putting it back. An hour quickly passed before he found himself pulling out the washer and dryer and wiping away tons of dust and cobwebs that had collected behind them. Mrs Haverthwaite checked on his as he was scrubbing the floorspace where the washer and dryer sit. “Your fastidiousness always amazes me Daniel.” she commented, before asking if he'd like a break for some lunch.
“I'll finish up in here first Mrs Haverthwaite.” he said, sitting up and wiping his brow with the back of his hand. “It should only take twenty minutes or so the scrub the floor.” he figured.
He shoved the appliances back where they belong and filled a fresh bucket of soapy water before getting on his hands and knees and scrubbing the utility room floor and wiping all the skirting boards. He paid particular attention to the grout between the tiles, using the edge of the scrubbing brush to get right into them and after a frantic fifteen minutes of work, he stood up and arched his back, before tending to the bow on the back of his apron, mopping his brow and straightening his little lace headband. “That's one room done.” he said as he entered the kitchen.
“Wonderful.” Mrs Haverthwaite smiled. “Quick time too. Jolanta would've spent a good two hours doing that.”
“Have you told her that the ring's been found?” Daniel quizzed.
“No.” Mrs Haverthwaite thoughtfully replied. “I considered it but since I didn't actually accuse her of taking it, I felt I had nothing to explain.” she said. “Plus, she might presume I was asking her to come back and I don't want to lose you now I've found you.”
“Hmm. Thanks.” Daniel said as he prepared a pot of tea for them both. “This job does mean a lot to me.”
“Yes I know.” she smiled. “There's a couple of pasties in the fridge and the oven's already on if you want to pop them in.”
“How long will they need?”
“About twenty minutes.” she replied. He checked the time, poured the tea and placed the pot on the table, along with two cups and saucers, a jug of milk and the sugar bowl before sitting himself down. “How's the slip?” she asked.
“It's great.” he said. “It makes so much difference.”
“I'm glad to hear it.” she smiled.
“The shoes are really comfy too.” he added. “The slippers felt like they were hanging off my feet whereas these just fit.”
“Oh that's good. I was in two minds about buying you women's shoes, but considering your uniform, I didn't think you'd mind.” she said.
“At least they don't have heels.” he bashfully smiled as he poured the tea, then gulped as he imagined the scenario had she had. Mrs Haverthwaite smiled, before changing the subject completely and asking if he's still spending his free time going door to door looking for odd jobs. “Yes but it's mostly a fruitless endeavour.” he replied. “A lot of people are very suspicious, which is understandable, but some are downright rude.” he explained.
“There's just not enough trust in the world these days.” Mrs Haverthwaite said, before saying that if he ever needs a reference, she'd be more than happy to provide one.
“Thanks. That means a lot Mrs Haverthwaite.” Daniel replied.
They chatted about all sorts of things and Daniel kept his eye on the time, making sure the pies came out of the oven before they burned. When he did remove them, he suggested letting them cool for a few minutes and asked if she'd like some gravy making. “Do you do a lot of cooking?” she asked.
“No.” he shyly replied. “Unless heating up micro-meals counts.” he jovially added. He did admit to making mashed potato or boiled potatoes and boiling carrots or cauliflower to have alongside some sausages or an omelette, but confessed to being clueless about roasting meat or making a casserole. “I don't see the point when it's just me.” he added.
“Yes, I'm much the same these days.” Mrs Haverthwaite said. “But I do like to make a Sunday roast every Sunday.” she added. “Sometimes my daughter comes over or one of my friends, which is nice.”
“Yes.” Daniel said. “Does your daughter live nearby?”
“Not really.” she replied, stating the town. “But it's only forty minutes away.” she said. “You should come over one Sunday.”
“Oh I err.... wouldn't like to intrude Mrs Haverthwaite.”
“You'd hardly be intruding if I'm dining alone.” she smiled. “Plus it would be nice to have you over when I'm not putting you to work.”
“Yes.” Daniel smiled. “I'm free most Sundays.” he added.
“Well I'm actually going to my daughter's this coming Sunday... and I always have Marjorie and Joyce over on the third Sunday of the month... but I'll keep you posted.”
“Thank you... that'd be nice.”
“I could teach you to cook a full Sunday roast.” she suggested.
“That might be beyond my capabilities Mrs Haverthwaite.” he supposed. “I'd best serve these pies before they get too cool.” he said, standing and smoothing his apron. “Did you want gravy?” he asked, adding that he can only make instant gravy. Mrs Haverthwaite declined.
Afterwards, Daniel washed the plates, cutlery, cups, saucers and teapot, before wiping down the table and beginning the big 'spring' clean on the sizeable kitchen. Once again, he started at the top and worked his way down, beginning with the ceiling roses and pendant lamps that hang from the ceiling. “You be careful on those stepladders Daniel.” Mrs Haverthwaite said as she strolled through and found him reaching up to wipe the dust from the cord.
“I will.” he replied. “The last thing I want is you having to call an ambulance when I’m dressed like this.” he grinned. Mrs Haverthwaite smiled and said even she wouldn't have thought of dusting the light cords. “Well if a job's worth doing, it's worth doing well.” he replied.
“Very true.” she replied. She asked him the check all the use-by and best-before dates when he cleans out the cupboards and fridge, and to put anything that's out of date or near its date to one side. “...and if you could wash and dry everything in the utensil drawers before putting it back...” she added.
“Of course Mrs Haverthwaite.” he replied. He spend two hours dusting the tops of the units, clearing and cleaning all the cupboards and drawers, pulling out the fridge and freezer and cleaning behind and beneath them, before finally starting on scrubbing the tiled floor, which took the best part of an hour. As he neared the end of the mammoth task, Daniel checked the time and was shocked to discover that it's almost 3.30pm. He was hoping to spring clean the entire bottom floor today but having only done the kitchen and utility room, he apologised to Mrs Haverthwaite and reluctantly told her that he'd have to finish the other rooms another day.
“That's absolutely fine Daniel.” she replied. “You can come back tomorrow if you want.”
“If that's OK with you?” he said.
“Of course.” she said. “Are these all out of date?” she asked, seeing a load of jars, tins and condiments on the worktop.
“Out of date on the left and almost out of date on the right.” he replied.
“You are organised.” she smiled, checking the various tins and jars. “All these jars need emptying and washing to go in the recycling...” she said, separating them further. “Those can go in the bin, and the rest need putting in a box. I'll send them to the food bank.” she explained.
It was after 4pm when Daniel was finally changing back into his own clothes. “You look absolutely exhausted.” Mrs Haverthwaite said.
“Scrubbing floors really takes it out of you.” he replied. “Imagine being a housemaid in Victorian times; scrubbing the floors every day.. before starting all their other chores!” he said. “No wonder they worked from dawn 'til dusk.”
“Yes... we don't realise how easy we have it these days.” Mrs Haverthwaite replied. “I'll drive you home.” she offered.
“Oh it's OK Mrs Haverthwaite... I don't mind walking.”
“It's no trouble... and you have worked so very hard today.”
“I wish I’d got more done though... I hoped I’d have spring cleaned the whole ground floor today.” Daniel said as Mrs Haverthwaite grabbed her handbag and car keys. “I'll just put my uniform into wash first.” he said.
“Oh yes.” she smiled. “And don't forget your tights and slip.”
“I've still got my tights on.” Daniel replied. “I'll hand wash those at home.” he said.
“Okeydoke.” she smiled.
They chatted about nothing much as she drove him down the hill towards town. Daniel said she could drop him in the centre of town, but she insisted on driving him all the way. He felt embarrassed as she turned into the run down foundry estate; with its litter strewn streets and the occasional discarded sofa in someone's front garden. A small row of shops with a laundry, convenience store and a filthy looking take-away is where he asked her to stop. “I live above the take-away.” he told her.
“Handy for the shops and laundrette.” she replied.
“Yeah... that's the only good thing I can say about it.” Daniel replied. “What time do you want me tomorrow?”
“It's up to you. You can start at eleven again if you like, or ten if you prefer.” she replied.
“I thin ten would be best... so I'll see you after half nine.” he replied, before thanking her for the lift.
“You're very welcome.” Mrs Haverthwaite smiled.
“I'll just check your
wheels haven't been stolen.” he said as he got out of the car,
before giving his employer an thumbs up and a wave. She chuckled and
waved back before driving away. Daniel climbed the steps to his dank
little bedsit, feeling thankful that she didn't want to come inside
and have a look around. Compared to her home, his is positively grim.
A damp patch flanks the window and the wallpaper is peeling in
several places. The carpet is threadbare and his furniture is tatty
and there's nothing to make it feel like a proper home, such as
ornaments or pictures on the wall. Still, it's better than nothing,
he thought as he removed his shoes and then filled the kettle.
With a much needed cup of coffee in hand, he parked himself on the sofa and rested his legs on the coffee table, feeling thoroughly exhausted. After a short while he pulled off his socks and massaged his feet for a moment, before put his stocking feet back on the coffee table. It's weird looking at his stocking feet and clearly seeing his toes through the thin black nylon. It's also weird that Mrs Haverthwaite not only bought him a couple of women's slips, but a pair of women's shoes too. “She'll be having me wearing make-up next.” he jovially grumbled to no one but himself. “But then again...” he thought. A lowly housemaid shouldn't really wear make-up. They're supposed to look smart and servile, not nice and definitely not attractive. “I'll refuse if she does.” he mumbled, imagining the scenario. “I'm just the housemaid, Mrs Haverthwaite!” he might remind her. “Make up and perfume is a bit above my station.” Daniel smiled to himself as he imagined Mrs H saying he was absolutely right, before sending him back to continue with his chores.
Later, after making himself a ready meal in the microwave, he removed his tights and hand washed them before having a shower, then watched some TV. All evening he couldn't help but glance at his tights, drying over the radiator and oddly, looking like they belong. He recalled buying them and blurting 'they're for my mum' at the store assistant. Daniel was certain she didn't believe him, but would saying I work as a housemaid be any more believable? In an equal society where a male undertakes what was traditionally a woman's job, then it stands to reason that he wears the same as a woman would. It's not the first time he's sat half watching the TV, pondering such things. Trying to justify him dressing as a woman whilst working for Mrs Haverthwaite. “It's not so bad once you get used to it.” he muttered under his breath. “They're just clothes.” he mumbled. “Lots of employers insist on a uniform.” he murmured, imagining a conversation about it at the DWP or with his probation officer. “Do I need to get up early and shave my legs?” he asked himself before going to bed, running his fingers over the slight stubble on his shin. “Yeah I may as well.” he figured, before setting his alarm an hour earlier.
As usual, Daniel arrives at Mrs Haverthwaite's house in good time to iron his uniform before beginning his jobs. “No tights today?” Mrs Haverthwaite asked as he emerged from the utility room.
Bashfully, Daniel replied saying he'd shaved his legs this morning and would put some on if he felt he needed some. “...if that's OK?”
“Absolutely Daniel. They’re your legs.” she smiled.
“I'll start with the downstairs loo.” he said. “When would be a good time to do your office?”
“I've got a few emails to answer and some phone calls to make so... after lunch?” she suggested.
“OK.” he replied. He spent a good half an hour thoroughly scrubbing the small downstairs toilet, then embarked on wiping and polishing the balustrade and staircase. Even without any tights on, his frock felt so much more comfortable with a slip beneath it. He worked his way through the hallway, into the lounge and eventually into the dining room where he polished the large table and every inch of the eight chairs wooden around it. Mrs Haverthwaite popped her head in and complimented his fastidious attention to the task. “I enjoy it.” he said, adding “If a job's worth doing...”
“Very true.” she smiled, before suggesting that he should stop for some lunch once he's finished in the dining room. “I've made some pea and ham soup, if you'd like some of that... or I could get some pies from the bakery?”
“Soup would be fine Mrs Haverthwaite.” he politely replied.
A while later, he'd finished thoroughly cleaning the dining room and headed for the kitchen. Mrs Haverthwaite stood over the hob, tending to a large pan of soup and Daniel offered to make a pot of tea. “You take the weight off your feet.” she suggested. “I've got everything in hand.” she said. Daniel pulled out a chair and sat himself at the kitchen table. Making small talk, Daniel asked if she ever used the large dining room. “Hardly ever.” she smiled. “I have no need for four bedrooms either but I like living in a large house.” she told him. “Emma, my daughter, keeps saying I should downsize to a nice little bungalow somewhere... but I can't see myself in a 'nice little bungalow'.” she said.
“Is Emma your only child?”
“Yes... which makes my four-bedroom home even more nonsensical.” she chuckled. “But so long as I've got someone to help me keep on top of the housework, I see no reason to leave.”
“Glad to hear it Mrs Haverthwaite. No one else seems to want to employ me.” Daniel replied.
“I just wish I could offer you more than two days a week.” she said. “Oh, which reminds me... I won't be needing you tomorrow because everything should be done today.”
“Yes I was thinking that.” Daniel replied.
“But you are entitled to paid holidays so you'll still be paid.”
“For tomorrow?” Daniel quizzed. Mrs Haverthwaite nodded. “Really?!” he exclaimed. She informed him that as a part time worker, he's not entitled to the full twenty-eight days but working a couple of days a week means he's entitled to around twelve days a year. “Oh, thank you.” he said.
“Don't thank me, dear boy. It's the Law.” she smiled, explaining that he earns one day holiday a month and since he's worked for her for almost two months, he's got a couple of days in hand.
“Wow... paid holidays never once crossed my mind.”
“Well you're entitled and as your employer, it's my duty to oblige.” she said, placing a bowl of soup in front of him.
They enjoyed lunch and chit-chat about this and that, and before long, Daniel was back to work spring cleaning Mrs Haverthwaite's home office. He dusted and wiped the tops of the bookshelves, ran the vacuum hose along the tops of all the books and down their spines. He pulled out her PC and wiped the dust from all the leads and cables, before rerouteing them in the most orderly fashion. He cleaned her monitor and mouse and keyboard, the telephone handset, desktop and chair. The filing cabinets were too heavy to move but he managed to dust behind them using the vacuum hose, and finally he vacuumed the carpet and put everything back where it should be. “All done?” Mrs Haverthwaite asked as he shuffled the vacuum cleaner into the hallway.
“Yes Mrs Haverthwaite.” he replied.
“Wonderful.” she said as she cast her eyes around the office. “It's a lovely afternoon so I thought we'd have some refreshments on the patio before you get yourself off?”
“Erm, OK.” he said.
On the patio table is a large jug of fruit juice flanked by two tall glasses. He sits and she pours. “Thank you.” he said.
“You're welcome.” she smiled, filling her own glass. “This is probably one of the last nice days of the summer.” she said as they sat in the sun. “...before autumn fully sets in.” she added. “Are you OK with no tights on?”
“Yes I'm fine.” he replied, although his shins and knees did feel a little bit on the cool side.
“And how do you feel about your uniform?” she asked, acknowledging that he was apprehensive at first.
“It's OK.” he replied. “I'm used to it now.” he told her. “
“Good.” she said. “You wear it well. I notice how you always sit with your knees together.”
“It's instinct I suppose.” he said, not really having thought about how he sits.
“Shaving your legs isn't instinct.” she stated.
“No but... they looked ridiculous when they were hairy.” Daniel replied, kicking out his foot. “Apparently around a third of men either shave or trim their leg hair these days... according to the internet.” he added with a dry chuckle.
“That wouldn't surprise me.” Mrs Haverthwaite replied. “My late husband and all his cycling buddies shaved their legs.” she said, adding. “You'll have to work on getting them tanned next summer. They're awfully pale.”
“Yeah... I don't wear shorts very often.”
“Well you should.” she smiled.
“I did cut those pants I ruined with bleach down to a pair of shorts.” he told her. “I'm not much of a sewer so I bonded the hems with some Wonderweb.”
“Good thinking. Much better than throwing them out.” she smiled. “And your shoes... how are they? Not rubbing I hope.”
“No they're fine... so much better than slippers.” he told her. “I'm amazed you got such a good fit.”
“So am I.” she smiled. “They do look much better with your uniform.”
“Yes.” Daniel gulped, sipping at his juice. “I just hope no one from the DWP or my probation officer doesn't do a spot check, to make sure I am working where I say I am.”
“Are they likely to?”
“I don't think so but you never know.”
“I think it's more likely that they'll just ring me and check that I'm employing you.”
“Yes I suppose.” he concurred. “I keep having conversations with myself, so I can justify it just in case.”
“Well... just what you told me really... that it's a housekeeping uniform rather than dressing as a woman, and that lots of employers insist on a uniform, and that it helps me focus. When I'm wearing it I know there's work to be done.” he replied.
“You did seem more focused that day you got soaked to the skin.” Mrs Haverthwaite told him. “Not that your work was sloppy before hand... I just saw a distinct improvement.” she explained. Daniel smiled but didn't really know how to reply. “I'm glad that you've accepted it.”
“So long as you're happy Mrs Haverthwaite.” he said.
“I want you to be happy too Daniel.” she smiled.
“I am. Very much so.” he replied.
They chatted for a while longer, enjoyed the afternoon sun and fresh air, before Daniel got changed and prepared to leave. “Don't forget this.” Mrs Haverthwaite said, handing him his wages in a small brown envelope, on which she'd written his name and details of this week's earnings which totalled £180.00.
Compared to his usual £60 a week, it seemed like an awful lot. As he walked back down the hill, past the post houses of Plushton and through the greenbelt before entering town, he wondered what he could spend his money on. He's got enough clothes and recently bought a new raincoat. He considered buying a second hand tablet to save him from going to the library to use the internet, but that would mean forking out every month on his own data usage and would ultimately be an expense he could do without. “I've still got plenty of tights.” he told himself, gulping at how odd it feels to think such things. He imagines a world where it might be normal for someone like himself to to work and dress as a housekeeper... so normal that he'd think nothing of walking to and from Mrs Haverthwaite's house wearing his uniform, apron and little lacy headband.
He passes a charity
shop which has a window display full of vibrant summery dresses. For
one who spends much of his time wearing a drab housekeeper's frock,
he imagines being enthused by the bright colours and fancy patterns
on display, or daring to wear a pair of red heeled shoes like those displayed.
Daniel quickly deduced that those dresses were all to busy and bright for someone such as himself; a lowly housekeeper, but his imagination ran away with him. In reality, the shop window was behind him, but in his vivid imagination he was inside browsing the frocks, wondering if he dare ask permission to try one on. “Oh no.” the imaginary assistant replied, looking him up and down. “You're just a housemaid... these dresses are for ladies.” she sneered. Daniel smiled to himself and the ridiculous scenario. The prospect of wearing a dress never once crossed his mind before Mrs Haverthwaite suggested he should wear Jolanta's old housekeeping uniform and now he's imagining wearing all sorts of different styles and colours.
On Friday, he went to the DWP to declare his weekly earnings, and his Job Search Advisor seemed happy with his documented efforts to find more work. Daniel also had a meeting with his probation officer who was pleased that his hours had increased. “They'll be back to the normal two half-days from next week though.” Daniel explained. “Mrs H. just wanted me to do a deep clean of the whole house.” he said. “Next time I guess will be spring.” he added.
“Hopefully by then you'll have found a proper full time job.” the probation officer replied.
“Or another part time job that fits around the hours I do for Mrs Haverthwaite.” Daniel suggested. “I like working for her and she trusts me.”
“Yes but six hours a week isn't much is it?”
“No.” Daniel replied. “I'm still looking for more but not getting much apart from the occasional odd job.” he added.
“Well just keep on doing what you're doing, and keep logging your efforts for the DWP.” the probation officer advised. The meeting ended after the usual bag and pocket search.
Things went back to normal for the next few weeks. Monday, Wednesday and Thursday were spent either applying for jobs in the library or going door to door looking for odd jobs. Daniel worked for Mrs Haverthwaite for his usual three hours on Tuesday, doing his regular chores before tackling a large pile of ironing, and three hours on Friday which began with changing Mrs Haverthwaite's bedding and ended with whatever additional chores she had listed on the fridge.
Having worked for Mrs Haverthwaite for a good three months, Daniel barely gives his uniform a second thought. Occasionally one of her friends or neighbours will call round and whilst they seem a little bemused that a teenage boy is cleaning her house dressed in a woman's housekeeping uniform, they don't say anything untoward about it, not to Daniel anyway. Daniel presumes Mrs Haverthwaite has explained that he's dressed for his job rather than his gender and providing none of her visitors ridicule him, he doesn't feel ridiculous in his uniform.
As the autumn takes hold, Daniel finds himself having to rake the leaves off the lawns both front and back of Mrs Haverthwaite's home, and sweeping the driveway too. “Hard at it I see.” One of Mrs Haverthwaite's neighbours says as he's scooping up the leaves and dropping them into a green wheelie bin.
“Yes.” Daniel replied as she looked him up and down. On his feet are his own outdoor shoes, his calves are clad in thin black nylon and his black short sleeved frock with it's white collar and cuffs seems totally inappropriate for the task at hand. He casts his eyes upwards. “There's still plenty more up there though.” he says, looking at all the dead and drying leaves, still clinging on to the trees that line the pavement.
“Is Marion home?” the neighbour asked.
“She is.” Daniel replied.
“Aren't you cold in short sleeves?” the neighbour asked.
“I'm fine so long as I keep busy.” Daniel replied
“Well I’ll let you get on.” she smiled. The neighbour strobe up the driveway and Daniel returned to his task; scooping up the leaves with a pair of plastic grabbers and dropping them in the bin, before dragging the wheelie bin to the next pile of leaves.
“Oh hello.” Mrs Haverthwaite smiled, upon answering the door and inviting the lady inside. “Tea?” she offered.
“Oh yes please.” the neighbour replied. Following Mrs Haverthwaite to the kitchen. “Doesn't Daniel mind being out there where all and sundry can see him?” she asked.
“I don't think so.” Mrs Haverthwaite replied. “My close neighbours all know who he is and anyone else will likely think he's a she with a pixie-cut.”
“..and a flat chest.” the neighbour grinned.
“A very flat chest.” Mrs Haverthwaite concurred.
“He is rather effeminate in his mannerisms.” the neighbour thoughtfully added.. “A glance from a distance could be quite convincing.” she added.
“He always crouches, never bends, and always keeps his knees together.” Mrs Haverthwaite smiled. “He says it's instinct because he's wearing a dress, but I think he's actively trying to be lady like.”
“Do you think he likes it?” the neighbour quizzed. “Dressing as a woman?”
“I think he just accepts it, as part of his job.” Mrs Haverthwaite replied. “At first he was very apprehensive, but he's very pliant.” she added.
“He must be!” the neighbour replied. “It's quite sweet really... how he just takes it in his stride.”
“Well he was down on his luck and desperate for work. I only hope he doesn't find a full time job and has to leave me.”
“You could always give him a bad reference.”
“Oh that would be cruel.” Mrs Haverthwaite retorted.
“The leaves are all done Mrs Haverthwaite.” Daniel announced as he entered through the back door, kicking off his own footwear and slipping his stocking feet into his indoor shoes.
“Thank you Daniel.” Mrs Haverthwaite replied. “There's tea in the pot if you'd like one.” she suggested as he washed his hands.
“No but thank you. I've still got a stack of ironing to do.” he told her as he dried his hands, then donned his frilly apron, tying a perfect bow at the small of his back.
“You iron as well?” the neighbour exclaimed.
“Daniel excels when it comes to ironing.” Mrs Haverthwaite complimented.
“I thought youngsters these days didn't bother.” the neighbour retorted.
“Well Daniel's not your average youngster.” Mrs Haverthwaite proudly stated. Daniel smiled appreciatively before heading into the utility and tackling the large stack of laundry that needed ironing. When he'd finished, the neighbour had gone so he washed the cups left by the two ladies and wiped the table and worktops, then popped his head into the lounge and asked Mrs Haverthwaite if anything else needed doing. “Oh just those cups please Daniel.” she asked.
“I've done those.” he told her.
“Oh you are good.” she said. “Why don't you take the weight off your feet for a moment.” she asked. Daniel sat and straightened his apron over his lap. “I'm thinking of getting you a new uniform for the winter... one with long sleeves.” she told him.
“And long trousers?”
“Well I'd like to keep you in a dress, Daniel.” she replied. “If that's OK with you?”
“Erm... I guess so.” he replied. “But I'd much prefer long pants.”
“I'm sure you would Daniel but you did say you'd got used to a dress and that it helps you focus.” Mrs Haverthwaite reminded him. “And you do spend a lot of time on your knees. The knees would quickly fade and wear through. You're better off in a skirt and tights.”
“Yes I suppose Mrs Haverthwaite.” Daniel said.
She could sense that he felt somewhat disappointed, but felt that his sense of disappointment was more with himself than anything else. “Good. Right.” Mrs Haverthwaite chirped. “I'll have to take some measurements.” she said, “...and you can jot them down.”
She handed him a note pad and pen, with hips, waist, chest, arm length, nape to waist and waist to knee already listed on the page. She unravelled a dressmakers tape measure and proceeded to take each measurement in turn. She made small talk as he jotted down his details such as asking his height, to which he replied “About five-eight I think.” Then Daniel asked if she was having his new uniform specially made.
“Oh no.” she replied. “That would be far too expensive for a mere housekeeping uniform.” she replied, before explaining the boys are broad on the shoulders whilst slight on the hip and that might have to have it taken in to compensate. “Oh, and you should buy yourself some thicker tights now it's getting colder.” she added, suggesting fifty or maybe seventy denier.
Daniel soon found
himself back in the utility room, removing his uniform and folding it
neatly, before pulling off his slip and pulling on his jeans and
jersey. He felt somewhat disappointed that he hadn't been more
insistent on a trousered uniform, but then persuaded himself that Mrs
Haverthwaite was probably right with regards to the knees wearing
The next day, Daniel went to M&S and bought two packs of tights; one being fifty denier and the other seventy denier, just as Mrs Haverthwaite suggested. He tried a pair on as soon as he returned to his flat and loved how cosy they felt. He could still see his toes through them but not so clearly as he could though the thin fifteen denier tights he's become accustomed to. “These are like schoolgirl's tights.” he mused. “...or the sort girls wear with little denim shorts.” he thought, and with that, he got his oldest pair of jeans out, cut off the legs with a pair of kitchen scissors and wore them for the rest of the day... but struggled to justify the 'why'. At least at Mrs Haverthwaite's he's wearing a uniform that's suited to his role. Wearing a pair of little denim shorts and thick black tights at home has no such explanation.
It took almost a fortnight for Mrs Haverthwaite to introduce Daniel to his new 'winter' uniform. Like the housekeeping frock he's used to, it has a white rounded collar, but no matching cuffs on its long black sleeves. “Now it differs a little from your 'summer' uniform Daniel...” she began, holding it proudly on a clothes hanger. “...as this one has its buttons on the back.” she informed him, turning it around to reveal a row of eight or ten big black buttons running all the way down the back. “You might find them a little bit fiddly but I'll be here to button you in if need be.” she said, turning it again so the front of the frock faced him. “And these buttons here...” she began, pointing out two smaller black buttons on either side of the chest. “...are what your new apron attaches to.” she told him, before revealing his new apron. It doesn't have a a broad frilly trim like his usual apron but it is trimmed with an inch-wide band of broderie anglaise and it does have a bib. “I didn't bother getting you a new headband.” she told him, adding that she's fond of the one he wears, before enthusiastically asking “What do you think?”
“Erm... it's very er... traditional looking.” Daniel replied, imagining how he'll look with a bibbed apron.
“Yes that's exactly what I thought.” Mrs Haverthwaite replied. “It'll be warmer too... especially when you're out sweeping the driveway.”
“Yes.” Daniel gulped. “Did Jolanta have a winter uniform too?” he quizzed.
“No but Jolanta didn't sweep the leaves.” Mrs Haverthwaite replied. “Just make sure you take the apron off beforehand because the can stain when they're mulching.”
“Will do Mrs Haverthwaite.” Daniel replied.
“Well, here you are.” she said, handing him the hanger. “It's been pressed.” she told him. “And let me know if you need any help with the buttons.” she smiled.
Mrs Haverthwaite left Daniel alone in the utility room where he apprehensively removed his own clothes and pulled on his slip before unfastening the buttons on his new housekeeping frock. He stepped into it and pushed his hands through the sleeves, realising that they too had buttons on the cuffs that needed unfastening. After a little faffing, he got the dress onto his shoulders and began trying to fasten the buttons starting at the small of his back and working upwards. He fastened as many as he could and tried to reach the rest from above, but could only reach the top two buttons. Daniel felt frustrated that he couldn't reach them all, leaving a couple of buttons in the middle unfastened. He slipped his feet in to his shoes and fastened the new apron around his waist, before buttoning the bib to the front of his frock. “I feel like a belong in Downton Abbey.” he muttered as he looked down at himself and noting that this frock is a good few inches shorter that the frock he'd become accustomed to. He donned his little lacy cap, took a breath and plucked up some courage before stepping out of the utility room.
“Oh that looks perfect Daniel.” Mrs Haverthwaite immediately exclaimed. “I see you bought some new tights too.” she added, noticing his thicker fifty denier hosiery. “They look nice.” she smiled.
“Thank you.” Daniel meekly replied. “I err... couldn't reach all the buttons.” he humbly confessed.
“Oh never mind. Turn around. I'll do them.” she said. Daniel felt more servile than ever as Mrs Haverthwaite fastened the final buttons for him, effectively trapping him in his new uniform. “Perfect bow as usual.” she noticed, checking the bow on the back of his apron.
“It's a bit shorter than my other uniform.” he commented.
“Yes.” she said. “The skirt's a little straighter too... it's a little more stylish I think.” she added as he turned to face her.
“Yes.” Daniel shyly agreed, although he was clueless with regards to such things. “I supposed I’d best get started.” he said, glancing at the time. It's three minutes to ten. As usual, he began upstairs and with the vacuum cleaner in one hand and his cleaning caddy in the other, he climbed the stairs. The first thing he noticed was how the skirt becomes taught as he ascended each step and on reaching the landing, he put the vacuum cleaner and caddy down and spent a brief moment looking at his reflection in the large mirror. The thicker tights make his legs look as black as both his shoes and dress ,and being straighter in style as well as a few inches shorter, the frock follows his slender frame much more closely than his A line 'summer' uniform. Having an apron with a bib, he looks and feels more like a proper housemaid then ever before, and as he observes himself form this way and that, he notices a small slit on the back of his skirt, through which he can detect the white slip he wears beneath it.
As usual, he wonders what his parents or probation officer would think if they could see him now, before putting such thoughts out of his mind. He begins, as usual, in Mrs Haverthwaite's bedroom; straightening her bedding, plumping up her pillows, then tidying her dresser, wiping all the surfaces and windowsill, before finally vacuuming the carpet. He makes sure the door handle, latch plate and hinges are gleaming before thoroughly cleaning the bathroom.
It's doing this that it becomes apparent just how different his new uniform is. The narrower skirt gives him less freedom to move than his roomier 'summer' frock did, and lace hem of his slip becomes visible as he crouches to clean around the toilet. He dusts and vacuums the landing before getting on his knees and sweeping the stair carpet with a dust-pan and brush. Again his slip emerges from the hem of his skirt, which he mentions to Mrs Haverthwaite as she passed through the hallway. “Oh I wouldn't worry. It's just because it's a shorter frock.” she told him. “Is ti comfortable?” she asked.
“It's different... but yes I think so.” he honestly replied.
“Good.” she smiled. “And of you're too warm with those thick tights on, you can always take them off.” she added as he mopped his brow. “You have shaved your legs haven't you?”
“Yes of course.” he replied. “But I'll be OK I think.” he said. “I'll need them when I’m sweeping the leaves.”
“True... it is a bit chilly out.” she said.
Daniel gave the hallway and lunge a good clean, then Mrs Haverthwaite suggest he break for some tea and biscuits, which as usual, he prepared and served. “You do look very smart.” she said as he placed the tea tray down, before asking where he bought his new tights from.
“Marks & Spencers.” he replied.
“They do do the best ones.” she smiled.
“Yes.” he shyly agreed, but really had no idea. “They're nice and cosy.” he added.
“Just what you need for winter.” she said, before asking how his job hunting was going.
“Same as usual.” he replied. “Lots of applications but no offers.” he said. “I'm still going door-to-door but apart from the occasional odd job, there's nothing happening there either.”
“Ooh.” she cooed. “Well you've always got a reference from me should you need one, but I'd hate to lose you, Daniel.” she told him. “If I could employ you full time, I would.”
“I know.” he said. “Another part time job would be ideal if I could fit it around the hours I work for you.” he told her. As he sat, he kept glancing down at his bib and noticed that unless he keeps himself absolutely upright, at goes baggy and frankly looks odd.
“Well I'm glad to hear that Daniel. It means a lot to me that you're happy, despite my er... somewhat unusual conditions.” she replied, glaring at his uniform.
“Oh I don't mind really.” he said, running his hands over his apron. “Having to wear a housekeeper's dress is a small price to pay for regular, reliable work.” he told her.
“I'm glad you think that way Daniel.” she replied. “It's actually a waitress dress.” she informed him. “I thought something a little shorter and more fitted would make a nice change.” she added. “Has it been comfortable to work in?”
“Yes.” he replied. “Shall I pour the tea before it stews?”
“Please do.” she smiled. Her eye's became fixated on his legs as he stood and began to pour. Jolanta's housekeeping frock has a fuller, knee length skirt whereas this skirt is more fitted, and around five inches shorter. “You do have lovely slim legs.” she said as he sat himself down.
“Erm... thank you.” he bashfully replied. “I think they look better with tights than without.” he added, cupping his knees with his palms then pulling them over the nylon, before smoothing his apron. “The skirt feels really short when I'm sitting.” he timidly told her.
“It's not short short.” she told him. “But shorter than you're used to.” she smiled.
“Yes.” Daniel replied. “You'll be having me wearing make-up next.” he jovially added.
“Would you like to wear make-up?”
“Oh no Mrs Haverthwaite... I wasn't suggesting... I mean... I don't know... not really.”
“I don't think it would be appropriate.” she replied, adding “...considering.” as she glanced at the white bib, buttoned onto his frock, then his head and the servile little cap he obediently wears. 'Considering I'm a teenage boy?' Daniel openly presumed. “I was more considering the notion that traditional housemaids never wore make-up because they were supposed to be presentable rather than pretty.” she retorted.
“Yes of course.” Daniel replied. “One day I'm going to slip up and say housemaid when some asks what I do.” he playfully said as he dunked a bourbon biscuit into his tea cup.
“Housekeeper is a more neutral term.” she suggested.
“Yes.” Daniel smiled. “Really I just say I'm a cleaner.”
“You're much more than a cleaner Daniel.” she smiled.
After their break for tea, Daniel set about cleaning the kitchen, downstairs loo and utility room, then he removed his apron and donned his own footwear before heading to the garage to get the rake and broom so he could clear the fallen leaves from the lawn and driveway. Halfway through this chore, he realised that long sleeves and thick tights do make a difference. “I can't even undo a couple of buttons.” he sighed as he stood and wiped his brow with the back of his hand. “Oh bloody 'ell.” he grumbled, feeling the trim of his little lacy headband brush the back of his hand. He keeps forgetting he's wearing it and fears that it's only a matter of time before he walks home with it on.
With all the leaves raked and swept into neat little piles, Daniel strides up the driveway to fetch the leaf grabbers and wheelie bin. He can't help but look at his legs, clad in thick black tights through which the pinks of his knees are barely visible. Without his apron on, the new black frock looks and feels much more 'smart' than it does servile. The slimmer skirt becomes taught with every stride and Daniel makes a conscious decision to take shorter steps. “All done?” Mrs Haverthwaite asked as he entered the kitchen via the back door.
“Not quite.” Daniel replied. “I'm just popping this in.” he said, removing his little lacy headband. “I keep forgetting I'm wearing it.” he confessed as he hung it with his apron. Mrs Haverthwaite smiled warmly, but didn't reply. Daniel went about his chore, fetching the grabbers from the garage and pulling the wheelie bin down the drive and around the lawn, scooping up the neat piles of fallen leaves. He notices Mrs Haverthwaite watching from the lounge window. He sends her a smile, then casts his eyes up to the tree tops and tried to gauge just how many leaves are yet to fall... and there's quite a lot still up there. “I'm gonna be doing this for a good few more weeks.” he tells himself as he drags the wheelie bin back to where it belongs, before returning indoors.
“That looks so much better Daniel. Thank you.” Mrs Haverthwaite said as he joined her in the lounge.
“You're welcome Mrs Haverthwaite.” he replied. She told him that his new uniform looks very smart, and that he wears it well. “Thank you.” he said. “Not that I really know what that means.” he added. “I'm just wearing it.” he bashfully added. She smiled warmly on him, but didn't reply. After a moment he said he'd give the kitchen a 'quick once-over' before getting changed.
“Yes of course.” she said.
Daniel washed the few pots by the sink, wiped the worktops and table and went to change into his own clothes. “Oh dang.” he grumbled to himself. He's forgotten that he can't unfasten the buttons on his own, and sought out Mrs Haverthwaite. “Erm... could you help with the buttons, please.” he meekly asked. “It seems strange wearing something that needs someone else to get me in an out of.” he said as she slowly unfastened the buttons for him. “It would make more sense to just put the buttons down the front.”
“Yes I suppose it would.” she said. “But a back fastening is very smart, I think... especially from the front.” she added. “...and I'll always be here to button you in.” she told him.
“So long as you're here to let me out again.” he nervously added as an unwelcome scenario popped into his mind... Daniel, I' need to go out for a the evening, you'll be OK locking up won't you? She might say one day. “I've have to be a contortionist to get to all the buttons.” he mused.
Mrs Haverthwaite chuckled. “There you are.” she said. Daniel bashfully thanked her, before returning to the utility room; the back of his dress hung open, revealing his slinky satin slip.
As the days and weeks passed by, Daniel soon got used to being butted in and out of his new housekeeper's uniform, but he much preferred being let out of it than being buttoned in. He knows that Mrs Haverthwaite doesn't have a malicious bone in her body, but can't help but feel that he's stuck in this dress until she decides otherwise. He can't help but imagine a variety of scenarios which might lead to him having to walk all the way back to his gloomy little bedsit flat wearing it. These include a sneak thief creeping in and snatching the first thing they find, which is his bundle of clothing and backpack in the utility room... or the aforementioned 'leaving him to lock up' scenario, which is infinitely more likely... and a marginally less likely scenario in which Daniel and Mrs Haverthwaite have a disagreement and crossed words which results in her saying something like I've a good mind to make you walk home in your uniform... in fact you'll be doing just that young man! Then you might realise who is subservient to whom. Such a fall out is highly unlikely since Daniel and Mrs Haverthwaite get on so well, but since he does need her to let him out of his dress at the end of the day, he's consciously playing the obedient little housemaid and pandering to her whims all the more.
It's Tuesday morning and they're making small talk as Daniel is being buttoned into his housekeeping frock. She asked if he enjoyed the weekend and he described not doing much other than watching TV and tidying his flat. She asked what TV he watches, and he enthused over the historical reality shows such as Victorian Farm and The Edwardian House. “It's amazing how they managed without vacuum cleaners and washing machines.” he said. “The maids started work at 6am and didn't leave 'til sundown.” he added. “I guess I'm lucky only having to do a few hours a week.” he said.
“We do live in an age of convenience.” Mrs Haverthwaite replied as she fastened the final two buttons. “There you are.” she said. Daniel thanked her and donned his apron; tying a perfectly presentable bow before buttoning the broderie anglaise trimmed bib to his frock. He checked his reflection, front and back before straightening his little lace cap, just a fraction. In addition to his usual Tuesday chores, there's a short list of additional chores stuck to the refrigerator door. These include sweeping the leaves and doing the ironing, plus tidying the garage and making space for the patio furniture. Since September's 'spring' clean, keeping on top of the house is far easier and quicker which leaves more time for extra chores. Sometimes he wonders if Mrs Haverthwaite invents little jobs to keep him occupied. Does the wrought iron patio furniture really need to go indoors for the winter? And do the leaves really need sweeping twice a week? He doesn't complain though. He gets paid relatively well and it keeps the DWP off his back.
After tidying her bedroom, cleaning the bathroom, dusting and hoovering the landing, polishing all the door handles, latch plates and hinges, sweeping the stairs and polishing the balustrade, he breaks for tea with Mrs Haverthwaite. They talk about all sorts of nothing, then out of the blue, Mrs Haverthwaite says, “Now Daniel I’ve been meaning to ask for ages... Would you like to come for Sunday lunch this weekend?” she paused, briefly. “It's OK if you've got plans.” she added.
“No... no plans.” he replied. “I'd like that.” he smiled. “Thank you.”
“Oh it's nothing really. Just an informal meal.”
“Does that mean I have to dress smartly?”
“No that's formal.” she told him. “Informal means you can dress down.” she said.
“Yes... sorry, I misheard.” he bashfully replied.
“It'll be a nice change having you around when I don't have a list of chores for you to do.” she chirped.
“Yes.” Daniel smiled. “But I insist on doing the dishes afterwards.” he told her.
“And I insist on you doing nothing of the sort. You'll be my guest, not my servant.” she said, glancing from his eyes to his attire and back again.
“Well if you insist Mrs Haverthwaite.” he smiled. “...and seeing as I'm your servant today, I'd best get on.” he said, draining the last of his tea before beginning to clear the table.
He dusted and hoovered the hallway and lounge, cleaned the kitchen and downstairs loo, tackled the huge pile of ironing in the utility room, swept and raked the leaves, tidied the garage and shifted the patio furniture into the space he'd cleared. Being wrought iron, he built up a proper sweat shifting the table. “I would have helped you with that Daniel.” Mrs Haverthwaite said as she appeared
“Oh that's OK... I've done it now.” Daniel said as he shoved it into its resting place. “It's heavy.” he said, wiping his brow with the back of his hand, then placing his palm flat on the top of his head. “And I've forgotten to take my cap off again!” he grimaced. “It's only a matter of time before I walk home with it on.”
“That would be a sight down on the Foundry estate.” Mrs Haverthwaite smirked, before telling him that she wouldn't let that happen. “You almost did the very first time you wore Jolanta's uniform... do you remember? The downpour when you got soaked to the skin?”
“Yes... how could I forget.” he said, recalling the very same day. “It felt so strange wearing a dress and apron.” he reminisced. “I must have looked ridiculous... I didn't have any tights and hadn't shaved my legs.”
“You looked fine.” she told him. “You wore it well. You still do” she said. “If you didn't I’d never have asked you to wear it again.”
“And here I am... three months later.” he said, glancing down at the clothing he's become so accustomed to wearing.
“Is it that long?” she asked.
“Hmm... maybe two.” Daniel reconsidered. “I never imagined I’d get so used to it.” he told her, looking down at his frock and apron once more. “In a weird way I feel kind of proud when I'm wearing it.”
“Jolanta always felt it demeaned her.”
“I can understand that. I suppose she bigger ambitions whereas I'm happy to be offered any work at all.” he replied. “Even if it is just housework.”
“You must have ambitions though.” Mrs Haverthwaite quizzed. “What did you want to do when you left school?”
“Anything... I might have done an apprenticeship as a plumber or electrician, or just got a job in a supermarket or warehouse or something... I didn't give it much thought and then all of a sudden I found myself inside.” Daniel sighed.
“Well you're not inside any more and you're making something of yourself.” Mrs Haverthwaite reminded him.
“I'm only a cleaner though.”
“You're much more than that, Daniel.” Mrs Haverthwaite told him. “Society needs cleaners because cleaners provide a great deal of society's welfare and you mustn't consider it a lowly position. It's as important and essential as heart surgery.” she claimed. “Without cleaners we'd be overrun with rubbish, filth and detritus.”
“Yes I suppose Mrs Haverthwaite.” Daniel said. “I guess I need to stop looking down on myself.”
“You need to take as much pride in yourself as you do your work.” she told him.
“Yes.” he replied, grabbing hold of the yard brush. “I'll give the patio a sweep.” he said. “I'm getting chilly just standing around.”
“Yes it is getting colder.” she replied. “Would you mind giving the furniture a proper wash down when you've done?” she asked, running her index finger over the ornate iron table top.
After sweeping the patio, Daniel began washing the patio furniture. As he did so, he thinks of his mother and wonders how impressed she'd be with all his new-found domestic skills. The last time he lived at home, Daniel could wash dishes and just about push a vacuum cleaner, but nothing more. Now he knows how to dust, polish, mop, launder and iron. He knows exactly how to remove a variety of stains in fabric, from red wine to turmeric, and is a whiz with the kitchen chemistry set when it comes to cleaning the oven and bakeware. “At least she couldn't accuse me of slobbing around the house if I did go back.” he mused, imagining himself back at home and willingly doing all the housework and amazing his mother with his ironing skills. What's not quite so amazing is where he came across those skills, and with that thought, Daniel remembers that his parents haven't been in much of a forgiving position since his conviction, or release.
This weighs heavy on Daniel's mind as he walks back to his dank little flat. His parents only visited once whilst he was inside, but separately so two visits all in all. Both his mother and father talked of how he's let everyone down, brought shame on the family, how they always knew he'd never get to university but.. prison! They never expected that either and they're never going to let him forget it. Even after release the phone calls have been blunt and resentful. They made it clear that he would not be welcome to live with them, but may visit on occasion, providing he lets them know in advance. Daniel hasn't visited them but intends to. It's a ninety minute bus ride and is therefore easy to put off... and he knows he won't be made to feel welcome, at least not at first. And are you making a living? he imagines his father ask. He envisages the look of disappointment in his father's face as he proudly explains that he's a cleaner and lives in a gloomye bedsit above a take-away that features the stench of chips and kebabs filtering up though the floorboards, and the occasional drunk pissing in the doorway.
It's early on Sunday morning when Mrs Haverthwaite receives an unexpected phone call from Daniel. She lets it ring for a moment, wondering if he's calling to cancel Sunday lunch and presuming he must be. She glances at the clock before picking up the telephone. “At least he's giving me plenty of notice.” she thought, since it's barely past 7.30am. “Hello.” she said.
“Mrs Haverthwaite!” Daniel said, sounding very panicked. “I'm sorry, I didn't know who else to call.”
“Daniel! Is everything OK?” she asked
“Yes. I'm err... at the hospital.”
“Oh my word! You're not hurt are you? What's happened?”
“There was a fire at my flat... but I'm OK... the fire brigade got me out.” he told her. The fire was in fact in the take-away below Daniel's bedsit at around 2am. The bedsit was filled with smoke, he could barely see or breath, the fire brigade got him out via the window. As the fire took hold of the two stories above the take-away, Daniel was sat in the back of an ambulance, wrapped in a blanket and being treated for smoke inhalation. “They brought me in just in case... but I'm fine, really.” he told Mrs Haverthwaite.
“I'll be right over Daniel... is there anything you need?”
“Well... some clothes, but err... not my uniform.” he cautiously replied.
“Yes of course.” she chuckled. “I'm sure there'll be some jeans that should fit you in Emma's room.” she said. “I'll be about half an hour... which ward are you on?”
“Erm... it's Ward 3. Thank you Mrs Haverthwaite.”
“It's the least I can do Daniel.” she said. “I'll be as quick as I can.” Mrs Haverthwaite arrived at Ward 3 about forty minutes later, apologising for taking so long. “I hope these will be suitable.” she said, removing a bundle of clothing from her bag, followed by a pair of trainers. “These should fit, they're the largest I could find.” she said.
“Thanks Mrs Haverthwaite.” Daniel said, trying not to seem to disheartened by the baby pink details on an otherwise white pair of training shoes. She left him alone to change and Daniel found placed discreetly between the jeans and the top,a pair of relatively plain white knickers, a lace trimmed vest and a pair of black ankle socks with pink and purple polka dots. Under the circumstances, he figures she did the best she could. The boot-cut jeans fit him really snugly around the bum and thigh but have plenty of stretch in them, and the grey hooded pullover has the Pineapple logo emblazoned across the front in purple lettering. The trainers do fit and the boot-cut jeans just about conceal their pink details.
“Are they OK?” she asked as he opened the curtain.
Daniel nodded. “Yes, thanks.” he meekly said. After filling in a few discharge forms, they left the hospital and got into her car. Mrs Haverthwaite asked if his flat was habitable. “I doubt it... the entire roof was ablaze.”
“Oh dear... I hope no one was seriously injured.”
“I don't think so... but I think all my stuff will be gone.” he replied. “Not that I had much anyway.” he mournfully added. “I'll have to find out who I need to talk to about getting me rehoused.” he said.
“That could take time.”
“Yeah.” Daniel sighed.
“Well don't worry Daniel... you can stay with me for as long as you need to.”
“Are you sure Mrs Haverthwaite?”
“Absolutely.” she replied.
“Thank you... that's so kind of you.” said Daniel, feeling a little overwhelmed by her generosity.
“It's the least I can do.”
They were soon headed up the hill to Plushton and Daniel commented on how odd it felt, being driven the route he's so often walked. When they arrived back at Mrs Haverthwaite's home and she put the kettle on and Daniel offered to make the tea as he usually does, but Mrs Haverthwaite insisted. “You're not at work today Daniel, you're my guest.” she told him. “Please, sit and let me wait on you for once.”
Daniel pulled out a chair and sat. She offered him toast and cereal but Daniel said he wasn't hungry. She asked if he got much sleep in the hospital. “Not really.” he replied.
“Well if you need a few hour's sleep?” she suggested.
“I think I might do.” Daniel sighed. “But I'll have some tea first... might perk me up a bit.”
They sat and chatted. Daniel recalled the events and realised just how close to death he'd been, being sound asleep when the fire broke out. He cursed himself for sleeping in his birthday suit which meant he had nothing but a blanket whilst the paramedics checked him out and gave him some oxygen. “So you really have lost everything.” Mrs Haverthwaite said. Daniel nodded and frowned. “Well at least there's a few boyish clothes in Emma's room, which will see you through until you get some of your own.”
“Yes, thanks.” Daniel smiled, albeit through pursed lips. “I'll have to go to the bank tomorrow, and the DWP, and my probation officer.”
“Yes... I've got a really busy day tomorrow so you'll have to walk down.”
“That's fine Mrs Haverthwaite. I'm used to walking and the air will do me some good.” Daniel replied. They chatted for a while, not just about Daniels ordeal and predicament, but all sorts of things. Mrs Haverthwaite suggested him letting his parents know what's happened, but Daniel was reluctant. “They'll only assume I'm looking for a handout, or somewhere to stay.” he glumly replied, stifling a yawn.
“You've got somewhere to stay Daniel.” she told him. “Now you're looking tired so I suggest you try to get a few hour's sleep.” she said. “I'll put you in the small back bedroom if that's OK.” Mrs Haverthwaite told him. “...but I don't think there's any pyjamas so you'll have to make do with a nightie, if that's OK?”
“I'll be OK in my birthday suit.” Daniel bashfully replied. Mrs Haverthwaite was having none of it and explained why bedclothes should always be worn. “Yes of course Mrs Haverthwaite.” Daniel replied.
He loitered in the doorway of Emma's old bedroom as Mrs Haverthwaite removed a bundle of nightdresses from a drawer. Most were satin with thin or broad lace shoulder straps in feminine colours, some with floral or heart patterns. “I think this should do.” she said, selecting a blue cotton nightie with short sleeves. She apologised as she handed it to him.
“It's fine Mrs Haverthwaite.” Daniel said, frowning a little at its ditsy floral print and lace trimmed yoke. “Beggars can't be choosers eh?” he chirped.
She led him to the small back bedroom, turn on the light, lowered the blind and closed the curtains. “I'll erm... leave you to it.” Mrs Haverthwaite smiled. “Take as long as you need.” she said before leaving Daniel alone in the bedroom. He glanced around the walls and gulped. Never in a million years did he ever expect to end up sleeping at Mrs Haverthwaite's house but here he is.
Pretending everything was normal (yet knowing it wasn't), Daniel laid the nightdress neatly on the bed. Not only is it very feminine, it's also rather old fashioned or maybe middle-aged in style. Not the sort of nightie a teenage girl or young woman would wear. He pulled off the pineapple hoodie and folded it respectfully, before glancing at his reflection in the dressing table mirror. He considers the fact that now he's lost everything, he's reliant on borrowing borrowing Mrs Haverthwaite's daughter's clothing, including her underwear. “Only for a couple of days though.” he muttered to himself, knowing that he'll be able to withdraw some cash when the bank's open and can at least buy himself some of his own clothing. On the downside though... he's only got around fifty pounds in the bank and the hundred or so pounds he'd saved probably went up in smoke with everything else. Daniel unbuttoned his jeans and gulped at the nightdress. Surely it would have been OK for him to sleep in the knickers and vest, but Mrs H insisted so he'd best wear it.
Tired as he was, it took Daniel ages to get to sleep. He couldn't help but think of how lucky he was to be rescued from the fire, but also how bad his luck has been in recent years. He ended up in prison through no fault of his own. His family don't want to know him when they should be at their most supportive. He's lost what few possessions he had and is having to make do with Emma's old clothes. At least she wasn't a real girlie girl who'd left nothing but prissy dresses when she vacated her parental home, so it could be worse, he figured.
Daniel eventually drifted off to sleep to the sound of his wheezing chest and woke several hours later, coughing. The digital clock read 10:54am and Daniel pulled aside his duvet and swung his legs out of bed. The nightie Mrs Haverthwaite loaned him had ridden up to his waist and dropped to his knees when he stood. He exited the small bedroom and went to the bathroom, sighing at his reflection in the mirror above the sink. Mrs Haverthwaite responded to the sound of the toilet flushing and trotted up the stairs, telling him that she's put some clean undies and a T-shirt out in her her daughter bedroom. “You'll be OK in the same jeans won't you?” she presumed.
“Yes Mrs Haverthaite. Thanks.” Daniel replied, although he figured he'd be OK in the same underwear too. On the bed is another pair of relatively modest knickers, another camisole vest and a pale blue T shirt with a white Reebok logo. The socks are also pale blue but have a slight scalloping to the cuffs and are quite clearly women's socks. He takes them to the room he'd slept in and changed. The T-shirt looked relatively plain until he donned it and realised it's capped sleeves are gathered and have a slight puffed appearance. Still... beggars can't be choosers, he figured as he returned down stairs.
“That T-shirt's a good fit.” Mrs Haverthwaite smiled. “Did you get much sleep?”
“A couple of hours I guess.” Daniel replied. He drank coffee and felt like a spare part whilst Mrs Haverthwaite busied herself preparing the Sunday lunch. She declined all his offers to help, reminding him that today he's the guest and not the housekeeper. Sounding somewhat flustered, Daniel said he had to do something, and asked for a note pad and a pen so he could make a list of everything he has to do on the following day, such as visiting the DWP, his probation officer, his bank, etc. “...and when I’ve got some cash I'll get myself some clothes.” he said, listing a few essential items including the word underpants and double underlining it.
“There's plenty of Emma's for you to be going on with if you don't have enough money Daniel.”
“Yes. Thank you... but I at least need some underpants. It doesn't feel right wearing your daughter's... erm...” he stammered, struggling to actually say the word.
“They're from a pack that she'd never actually worn.” Mrs Haverthwaite replied. “Granny panties, she calls them.” she smiled.
“Granny panties?” Daniel quizzed.
“Yes, high waist, low leg.. rather than the skimpy little things she preferred.” Mrs Haverthwaite informed him. “How much money have you got in the bank?”
“I'm not sure. Not much. Fifty pounds maybe?” he guessed.
“Is that all?” Mrs Haverthwaite exclaimed.
“Most of my money was in cash at the flat... I kept meaning to put it in the bank but...” he confessed. “All gone up in smoke now I expect.”
“You need to check with the fire station to see if you can go in to salvage anything.” she suggested. “Maybe not everything went up in smoke.”
“By the look of the flames bursting out of the roof, I've got a feeling everything did.”
“Well at least you've got somewhere to stay and you've still got your job.” she smiled. “Even if you do have to make do with wearing girls clothes for a day or two.”
“Yes... and at least Emma left some jeans behind... otherwise I'd have been walking out of the hospital wearing a dress.” he imagined. Mrs Haverthwaite smiled. Daniel smiled back, albeit through pursed lips.
A short silence ensued. Mrs Haverthwaite tended to the various pots and pans simmering away on the hob. Daniel stared blankly at his 'to do' list. “If you did want to try something a little nicer... I've no objection.” Mrs Haverthwaite cautiously said. “Not necessarily one of her dresses, but a skirt maybe?” she added.
“Erm...” Daniel apprehensively replied.
“I mean... you've said quite a few times that you've become accustomed to your housekeeping dress...” she mused.
“Yes but that's different Mrs Haverthwaite.” Daniel interjected.
“It is. It's plain and somewhat drab... purely functional.” she replied. “Surely you've wondered what a proper dress might feel like?” she asked.
“It's what I'd look like that worries me Mrs Haverthwaite.”
“Well there's plenty to choose from.” she said. “And I can tell that you're intrigued... you had a dreamy look in your eyes when you imagined leaving the hospital wearing one.” she told him. “What did you imagine?” she asked.
“Erm... I don't know. Something flowery I guess.” he gulped. “But I don't want to wear one.” he added.
“You didn't want to wear your housekeeping dress to begin with.”
“I know but...”
“Oh come now Daniel... it'll be fun. And it'll help take your mind off things.” she said. “Dinner won't be ready for another half an hour or so which gives us plenty of time.”
Just as he had done so many times before, Daniel conceded and found himself stood in front of Emma's open wardrobe whilst Mrs Haverthwaite presented him with a variety of options. “Does it have to be flowery?” he quizzed.
“OK.” Daniel said, taking the hanger from her and gulping.
“Don't look so nervous.” she grinned. “It's just a dress. It won't bite you.”
“I know.” he bashfully said. “It's just a lot more feminine than I'm used to.”
“Your housekeeping dresses are just as feminine Daniel.” Mrs Haverthwaite told him. She pointed to a drawer in which he'll find some tights and returned to the kitchen, leaving Daniel to change. He hung the dress and gulped at it. “I can't believe I'm actually going to wear a proper dress.” he said to himself, recalling all the times he's imagined about doing just that.
Five minutes later, he entered looking bashful and shy. “It looks lovely.” she told him. “How does it feel?” she asked.
“Nice I guess.” he replied, adding that it feels very different to his housekeeping frock. The dress fits him closely around the body and its long thin sleeves reach his wrists. It has a skater style skirt that flares from his hips and the hem hangs curtain like a few inches above his knees, which are clad in opaque black tights. “Shall I put my house shoes on?” he asked.
“If you like.” Mrs Haverthwaite smiled, adding that Emma would wear either plimsolls or Doc Martin boots with a dress like that. Daniel slipped his stocking feet into the black dolly shoes he always wears with his housekeeping frock and returned to the table, which is now set with knives and forks, place mats and a variety of condiments. “It's very swishy.” he said as he sat, smoothing the skirt at he did so.
“It suits you.” Mrs Haverthwaite told him. Daniel wasn't so sure about that but he felt comfortable enough. “Now... are there any vegetables you don't like?” she asked as she began plating up the Sunday roast.
“No I'll eat anything Mrs Haverthwaite.” he told her.
The lunch was the best he'd eaten in years and he was full of compliments; the gravy was tasty, the roast potatoes were perfect, the beef succulent and even the sprouts, which he's not too keen on were the best he'd ever had. Afterwards, he insisted on washing the dishes but Mrs Haverthwaite insisted on him doing nothing whatsoever. “Can I put some make up on you?” she asked.
“Erm... yes, I guess.” he sheepishly replied. “I've come this far so I may as well go the whole hog.”
Daniel sat with nervous apprehension whilst Mrs Haverthwaite washed the cutlery and crockery before putting the ovenware on to soak. Then he followed her up to the small box room in which he'd slept and she sat him at the small dressing table. Butterflies were erupting in his tummy as he faced his reflection. He can't imagine what he'll look like with make-up on and he can't wait to find out. Mrs Haverthwaite fetched her vanity case. “Now... I'm not going to put too much on because it's Sunday afternoon rather than Saturday night.” she told him.
“OK.” he meekly said. She began by placing a band in his hair to hold his fringe off his forehead, and talked hi through the process; a light dusting a foundation to give him a nice even skin tone, a little eyebrow pencil to define their shape, a touch of eye-shadow to brighten up his eyes and some mascara to make his lashes look nice and long. Finally, she painted his lips in a pinky red which she said matched the flowers on his dress. “I look so different!” he gasped when he faced his reflection. “If my hair was long I'd probably pass as a girl!”
“Let's see if we can pixiefy it a little shall we?” Mrs Haverthwaite suggested.
“When women and girls have short hair it's called a pixie cut.” she told him, before applying gel and faffing with it, adding a slide and quickly swapping it for a different one. “How's that?” she asked, prompting Daniel to look in the mirror.
“Erm... it's certainly different.” Daniel replied, before bashfully thanking her.
“Oh you're welcome Daniel.” She replied. “Shall we see if there's a good film on?”
“Yes.” Daniel smiled.
“Here.” she said, putting the lipstick in his hand. “I'll get you a purse.”
“We're not going to the cinema are we?”
“No of course not.” she chuckled. “But lipstick needs reapplying regularly and you've no pockets, so you need a purse.”
Exiting the box room, Daniel glanced at his reflection in the large mirror on the landing. He's more than accustomed to seeing himself in his black frock, white apron and dainty little headband in this mirror, but today's reflection is something very new. His hair and face looks as feminine as his clothing. “I expect your housekeeping frock will feel rather drab on Tuesday.” Mrs Haverthwaite commented. “Here.” she said, handing him a small satin purse with a little floral embroidery.
“Thank you.” Daniel quietly replied. He opened it and put the lipstick inside, then looked in the mirror once more. The dainty purse only added to just how feminine he looked, and felt.
Mrs Haverthwaite chose a film called The Parent Trap, which Daniel had never seen. It's not the sort of film he'd choose to watch but it was enjoyable enough for a family friendly Disney romp. Mrs Haverthwaite thoroughly enjoyed it and reminisced going to see it at the cinema when she was a girl.. She used to dream about finding a long lost twin sister and being able to swap places with her. “Do you have any brother or sisters?” Daniel asked.
“No I was an only child.” she replied. “I'd have loved to have a sister though, which I suppose is why I loved this film so much.”
“I kind of feel like I've switched places with a long lost twin sister.” Daniel jovially mused as he observed his attire. Mrs Haverthwaite didn't say anything, but they did share a smile.
A while later, Mrs Haverthwaite put the kettle and Daniel popped to the toilet. On his return, he noticed his 'to do' list on the kitchen table.”You were right about this taking my mind off things.” Daniel said, lightly grabbing his skirt. “I'd forgotten all about this.” he added, putting his fingers on his to-do list
“Oh I hoped it would Daniel.” Mrs Haverthwaite smiled. “Now I tend to go for a stroll on a Sunday... you're welcome to stay here but if' you'd like to join me, you might want to change into something else.” she told him.
“Erm... where do you go?” Daniel asked.
“Just along Church Lane, up Station Road, through the recreation ground and back down Windy Lane... it takes about forty minutes.” she said, adding that the fresh air will do him some good.
“Yes.” Daniel agreed. “I'd best put some jeans on.” he said. “Will it be muddy?”
“No.” Mrs Haverthwaite replied. “But those are your house shoes remember.”
“Yes... I was thinking about Emma's white trainers. She mightn't be too happy if I got them muddy.”
Daniel changed into the stretchy boot cut jeans, pulling them on over his tights and donned the sporty T shirt. Mrs Haverthwaite fetched him some make-up wipes “I thought you might want these.” she smiled.
“Oh er... thanks.” he said. He sat himself at the dresser and wiped away the lipstick. “It seems a shame to take it off after you put so much effort into putting it on.” he said.
“It has to come off at some point.” Mrs Haverthwaite smiled. “I'll see if I can find you a jacket.” she said, leaving him alone to remove his make-up. “Is this OK?” she asked, returning a few minutes later with a quilted down jacket; charcoal grey with purple piping.
“Yes, thanks.” he said. She handed him a comb and he handed her the diamanté hair slide. “Back to being a boy again.” he said as he brushed his pixiefied hair back into it's usual style.
“Danielle becomes Daniel.” Mrs Haverthwaite smiled. Daniel chuckled nervously. He may no longer be wearing a dress or make-up, but every stitch of clothing he wears belongs to Mrs Haverthwaite's daughter. He grabbed the pineapple hoodie thinking he might need that too, but Mrs Haverthwaite told him the down jacket was very warm and he'd be fine with just his T shirt. “Do you want a hat?” she asked.
“Is it cold out?”
“It can get chilly, and you can always put it in your pocket.” she said.
“OK.” he said.
She rummaged through the coat cupboard under the stairs, saying there's plenty of hats but not many to choose from, before offering him a knitted lilac beanie with the Kangol logo in pink. “It this OK?”
said. “I'll wear the logo at the back.” he added as he donned it.
Mrs Haverthwaite told him the colour suited him. The jacket fitted
his slender frame snugly and unlike a man's down jacket, this one is
shaped to define the waist. Daniel felt his clothing was androgynous
enough that he wasn't worried about it, yet figured from a distance,
anyone might think he was a teenage girl.
They set of whilst the sun was low in the sky, casting long shadows across the lane. The trees are mostly leafless and the mulch has mostly gone. “I love the old buildings.” Daniel said as they passed a converted barn. “I often try to imagine what it was like when it was just a hamlet surrounded by a few farms.”
“There's some old aerial photographs in the Village Hall... and in the Queen's Head.” Mrs Haverthwaite told him. “We could pop in for a pint.”
“I'm only seventeen Mrs Haverthwaite.” he reminded her.
“Well, the village hall then, when it's open.” Mrs Haverthwaite said. She pointed out where the old train station used to be before Dr Beeching dropped his axe, and told him that the park above the recreation area used to be a limestone quarry. The view over the village was lovely, yet this high exposed vantage point is rather breezy. The town below fills the valley and Mrs Haverthwaite described how it used to be littered with tall chimneys before the industrial decline. “That was all long before my time though.” she added. “Are you warm enough?” she asked as she buttoned her coat.
“Yes plenty.” Daniel replied. “This jacket's really warm and I've still got my tights on.” he said.
“Very wise.” she smiled. “You did look nice today.”
“Thanks.” he bashfully replied. “Not that I can take any credit... you did my make-up.” he said. “...and hair.” he added. “I wouldn't have known where to start.”
“Well... one can't make a silk purse out of a sow's ear.” she said. “You're a handsome boy Daniel.” she told him. “Do you think you'd wear another dress?”
“I will on Tuesday.” he knowingly replied.
“I mean another nice one.” Mrs Haverthwaite grinned.
“Oh I don't know.” he coyly replied. “What if one of your friends called round?”
“They'd understand under the circumstances.”
“And if Emma visited?”
“She seldom calls unannounced.” Mrs Haverthwaite replied.
“It'd be a bit weird if she did though.” Daniel mused.
“It's highly unlikely Daniel.” Mrs Haverthwaite replied. “Not that I'm twisting your arm.” she added. “I just got the feeling that you enjoyed being someone different than your usual self.” she told him.
“It did help take my mind off things.” Daniel replied. “And it was nice wearing a dress that isn't a housekeeper's dress.” he admitted. “I just worry that if I try another one that I might become trans.”
“You're not trans Daniel... if you were you'd know it in your heart.” she replied. “It's not something you become.”
“Yeah I guess.” he replied. “You remember the day I got drenched and you gave me Jolanta's uniform?”
“Why didn't you give me a pair of Emma's jeans instead?”
“And risk ruining them with a splash of bleach?” Mrs Haverthwaite countered. “Truth be told I'd been considering giving you Jolanta's uniform ever since she returned it.”
“Even though I'm a boy?”
“You're a young man Daniel.” Mrs Haverthwaite said. “But had you been a young woman...” she mused. “...I'd have insisted you wore it and the more I thought about that, the more I felt I was displaying double standards; one rule for her and no rule for him.” she explained. “Then when you got caught in that storm I figured it was now or never.” she smiled. “...and I figured if you really didn't want to wear it than you wouldn't have, but you did and you seemed comfortable enough.”
“At the time I felt like I didn't have much choice.” Daniel recalled. “But you're right... it wasn't as bad as I thought it would be.” he said. “I couldn't believe it the next time I came and you told me it would be my permanent uniform.” he added.
“I couldn't believe it when you said you'd shaved your legs.” she told him. “But I'm glad you did.”
“Yeah me too... I can't stand it when they get stubbly.” Daniel told her. “...and I quite like wearing tights.”
“They are cosy. Especially at this time of year.” Mrs Haverthwaite said.
“Yes.” Daniel agreed. “It's a shame about that cloud.” he said, looking toward the horizon. “It's ruined what might have been a good sunset.”
“Ahhh.” Mrs Haverthwaite sighed. “Sod's Law.” she said. They soon exited the recreation ground and strolled down Windy Lane which leads back into the village of Plushton. They passed the pub and the post office and before long the small row of shops, all of which were closed apart from the convenience store. A couple of people said a cheery hello as they passed but other than that, no one was encountered on their evening stroll.
“I presume that's the village hall.” Daniel said as the passed a building with Plushton Village Hall written above the entrance in big plastic letters. The notice board advertised a twice weekly coffee morning, a bi-monthly astronomical society meeting, a weekly bridge club and an indoor car boot sale. They continued along Church Road and back to Mrs Haverthwaite's home. “I enjoyed that.” Daniel said as he unzipped his jacket. “There's nowhere nice to stroll down on the Foundry Estate.”
“Hopefully you'll be rehoused somewhere not quite so bleak.” Mrs Haverthwaite replied.
“And ideally not above another kebab shop.” Daniel added.
They enjoyed an evening meal concocted from the leftovers of the Sunday lunch; bubble 'n' squeak, reheated beef and a roast potato each. Having barely slept the previous night, Daniel took himself to bed early and slept very soundly indeed.
On Monday morning, Daniel was faced with the daunting task of trying to sort his life out. But first he has breakfast; a bowl of cereal and several cups of tea, wearing the blue floral calf length nightdress he'd slept in. Mrs Haverthwaite apologised for not having any pyjamas to offer him. “I don't mind Mrs Haverthwaite.” he replied. “I did wear a dress most of yesterday.” he reminded her, before musing on buying some pyjamas when he gets some cash from the bank.
“I know you don't have much money Daniel, so only spend it on things you actually need.” she advised. “If you don't mind sleeping in a nightie then don't waste money buying pyjamas” she said.
“Yes I suppose you're right Mrs Haverthwaite.” he said. “I best get dressed.”
Daniel donned clean underwear and socks and wore the same slim fit bootcut jeans he wore the previous day, with a plain jumper and the same down jacket. The baby pink details on the training shoes were his main concern but the jeans mostly concealed those. Daniel was slightly worried that he was wearing girls clothes yet felt he looked androgynous enough not to raise any eyebrows.
“I'd drive you down into town but Monday is such a busy day for me.” Mrs Haverthwaite told him.
“Oh that's fine Mrs Haverthwaite... I'm used to walking and the fresh air will do me good.” he replied, wheezing a little.
“Good luck.” she said. “And don't worry.” she added.
“Thanks.” he said. It's over cast and chilly as he walks down the hill but the cold fresh air feels like it's doing his wheezing lungs the world of good. Daniel heads directly to his bank and explains the situation and asks to withdraw whatever fund he has in the account, but without his bank card, passport or driving licence, they refuse to give him any money. He suggests bringing them a letter from the DWP or Probation Service confirming his identity, but they reiterate what he needs and Daniel reiterates that his bank card would have been lost in the fire, and he doesn't have a passport or driving licence.
Disheartened, he heads to the DWP and tells them his story. They put him on the housing register, update his address to the temporary one up in Plushton and he asks if they can give him a crisis loan as he's lost everything. They can give him a loan, but that would have to go to his bank account and under no circumstances can they give him it in cash.
Doubly disheartened, he heads to the Probation Service and tells his probation officer all about the unfortunate turn of events. “You're lucky to be alive Daniel... and lucky that Mrs Haverthwaite has offered to let you stay with her for a while. I can contact the housing department and let them know that you need rehousing ASAP but I can't do anything about your finances... sorry.” the probation officer tells him.
Daniel goes to the fire station and tells them who he is. They have his name on record but unfortunately, there is no chance that he or anyone can enter his flat to try to find his bank card because the roof is unstable and presents a serious health and safety risk.
He walks back up the hill to Plushton feeling very down in the dumps. “How did you get on Daniel?” Mrs Haverthwaite enthused.
“Well... I'm on the housing register and they'll be in touch when they've found me somewhere, but I couldn't get any money from the bank without any ID.” he frowned. “...and I can't go back to my flat to see if my bank card survived the fire because the roof's about to fall in.” he informed her.
“Oh dear.” Mrs Haverthwaite said. “I suppose I could pay you tomorrow instead of on Friday, then you can get yourself a few bits in the afternoon.” she suggested.
“That would be great Mrs Haverthwaite. Thank you.” Daniel smiled. “But I'll have to pay you some board and lodgings.” he said.
“Did he housing department give you any idea of a time scale?” she asked. Daniel shook his head. “Will it be days or weeks?” she quizzed.
“I've honestly no idea Mrs Haverthwaite... but I honestly don't expect you to house me for nothing.” he told her. “Plus there's food to consider.” he added.
“Yes.” she said. “You're a proud boy Daniel and even if I insisted you don't worry about any of that, you'd insist otherwise.”
“I certainly would Mrs Haverthwaite. You know I can work but I don't think my two mornings would be enough to cover the cost of a rented room down in town, let alone up here in Plushton.” he replied. “Plus there's food to consider.”
“How much is a rented room in town?”
“At least eighty pounds a week including bills.” he mused. “I suppose housing benefit would cover that... but if they know I’m renting a room off you they'd take me off the housing resister.”
“Hmm.” she replied. “I'll have to have a think.” she told him.
Daniel ironed his housekeeping frock and apron before bed on Monday and took it up to the box room so he could don it first thing. He rose early on Tuesday morning and after visiting the bathroom, he pulled on a clean pair of knickers and a lace trimmed vest, slipped on his slip, rolled a pair of tights up his legs and donned his frock. He didn't want to disturb Mrs Haverthwaite so endeavoured to fasten all of the buttons running up the back himself and after some very awkward and tense stretches he managed to fasten them all. “Phew.” he said to himself, feeling really quite proud. He donned the apron and tied the bow, checking it was perfect in the dressing table mirror, before sitting down and positioning his daily little lace trimmed head band. In stocking feet, he quietly crept downstairs and slipped his feet into his house shoes. It's barely 7.00am and by rights, isn't due to start his chores for another few hours. He made a cup of tea for himself, trying to be a quiet as possible.
“You're dressed already.” Mrs Haverthwaite said when she appeared soon afterwards.
“Yes.” Daniel replied, offering to make her some tea or coffee. “I wasn't sure if I should start my chores early?” he asked.
“I think we stick with your usual routine, Daniel.” Mrs Haverthwaite said as he placed a cup of coffee in front of her. She thanked him. “I'm not much of a morning person Daniel and need a good hour to 'come round'... so, would you mind staying in your room until say, eight-thirty?”
“Not at all Mrs Haverthwaite. Sorry.” he sheepishly said. He spend a very long hour feeling confined to the box room before returning downstairs at around 8.40am. Mrs Haverthwaite seemed much chirpier and noticed that he'd fastened all the buttons on his frock by himself. “Yes... it was a bit of a struggle but I managed it eventually.” he replied. “Can I do anything?”
“Erm... you can fetch the milk in from the doorstep.” she suggested. “I'll draw up a list of additional chores for you.”
Apart from actually waking up in Mrs Haverthwaite's house, Tuesday was a normal working day for Daniel. He spent to morning meticulously cleaning, tidying and straightening. He served her tea and biscuits and took the weight off his feet for twenty minutes at around 11.00am. They chatted as they always do and Daniel continued working down the list of additional household chores until the early afternoon. Mrs Haverthwaite spent much of the day in her study, typing letters, updating spreadsheets, telephoning her clients and doing whatever else her job involves. She did tell him that she'd pay him today but Daniel was too polite to ask. “Is there anything else Mrs Haverthwaite before I change?” he asked.
“I don't think so.” she said. “Oh, actually.... you'll have a few pairs of socks and knickers that could do with a quick hand wash.” she suggested. “No point putting them in washing machine.” she smiled.
He hand washed the socks and underwear, all the while wondering if she'd forgotten about giving him some money so he could go down to town and buy himself some of his own underwear and maybe a cheap pair of trainers or some jeans. He reminded her countless times about it, but only in his mind because he felt too shy and polite to actually ask. He put the knickers and socks to dry over the radiator in the box room and changed out of his housekeeping uniform. This time though, Mrs Haverthwaite unfastened the buttons for him. “I think you should wear your other dress on Friday.” she suggested. “That'll make a nice change.” she said.
“Yes.” Daniel replied. “I'll have to get myself some clothes of my own too.” he added.
“Oh yes. I meant to give you an advance didn't I?” she replied. “But I completely forgot to get some cash and I never keep any around the house.”
“That's OK.” Daniel timidly replied.
“You've got plenty of underwear to be going on with.” she said.
“Yes.” Daniel blushed.
On Wednesday he walked down top town and tried and failed once more to withdraw some money from the bank. But the bank clerk was helpful and advised him to order a replacement card which would be delivered within a week, but only to his registered address and not Mrs Haverthwaite's. He calmly explained that his flat burnt down and suggested the card be delivered to the bank instead and he could come and collect it. That apparently would be fine but he'd need to bring some ID such as a valid passport or driving licence. “But I don't have either of those.” he replied. The best the clerk could do was advise him to get a passport. “But... they cost a fortune and take ages to arrive.” he informed the clerk.
Next he went to the DWP and asked if there'd been any progress in rehousing him. The answer was no and Daniel stressed that he was in dire need of rehousing. “According to our records you have found lodgings up in Plushton. We have homeless single mothers who really are in 'dire need' and they'll always be prioritised over someone who has accommodation.” he was told.
Daniel stressed that it's only temporary but they didn't seem to care. “So... you're telling me that I won't be rehoused unless I’m actually homeless.” he asked. They told him he'd be higher up the list and stressed that there is a nationwide housing shortage, so being homeless doesn't actually guarantee being rehoused. They also suggested that he sign up with various letting agencies and try to rehouse himself, which he did but all the agencies want fifty pounds to register, charge thirty pounds to do a credit check and some also levy viewing fees.
Once again he returned to Pluston feeling very down in the dumps. “I don't want to be a burden on you Mrs Haverthwaite.” he said. “You've been too kind already. But they're telling me that I can't get my money without a new bank card and I can't get that without some ID, and I can't get a passport without any money nor can I even register with a letting agency. I honestly don't know what to do.”
“Well you'll get paid on Friday from me...”
“I know but, you have to take my room and board into account. I don't want you thinking I'm a sponger.”
“Yes there is that to consider.” Mrs Haverthwaite replied. “But you're not a sponger Daniel and I would never think that.” she stressed.
Thursday was spent in his room, but he also went for a stroll around the village at Mrs Haverthwaite's insistence. On Friday he works as normal, wearing Jolanta's old uniform which does make a nice change from the house keeping dress Mrs Haverthwaite bought for him. Once he's finished, Mrs Haverthwaite gives him his sixty pound wage in full, despite Daniel trying to give her some money back to cover his food and the bills. “Don't worry about that this week.” she told him. “You go and get yourself the things you need.” she told him.
“Yes. Thank you Mrs Haverthwaite.” Daniel said. For the first time since the fire he felt delighted and was eager to go to town.
“Erm... Daniel!” she chirped as he headed toward the door. “Aren't you forgetting something?” she said, looking him up and down.
Daniel looked down and gasped. His own eagerness meant he'd completely forgotten that he hadn't changed out of his housekeeping uniform and he almost headed down the hill wearing it; apron, lace cap and all! He changed into Emma's jeans, trainers and a top, donned her snug down jacket and headed down the hill. He wondered how far he would have got before he realised he was still dressed as a housemaid if Mrs Haverthwaite hadn't stopped him.
He went to the DWP to declare his earnings for the week, and the stern woman behind the desk informed him that he'd failed to turn up for an appointment the previous day. “No one told me I had an appointment.” Daniel said. “I was in here on Wednesday and on Monday.” he stated.
“You'd have been informed by post... and it would have been delivered on Monday.” she told him.
“But my flat burnt down on Saturday night... that's why I was here on Monday, to get on the housing register and to give you my temporary address.” he told her. “Why didn't you tell me about the appointment then?” he quizzed. “It was pretty obvious I wouldn't be going to my flat to pick up my mail!”
“Don't take that tome with me young man!” she spat. “I didn't speak to you on Monday so what you was and wasn't told has nothing to do with me!”
“I don't mean you personally!” Daniel said. “I mean whoever I spoke to on Monday... they should have told me about the appointment. The person I saw on Wednesday could have told me too!”
“Maybe they did and you forgot?”
“How can I forget something I didn't know about in the first place?” Daniel retorted. “What was the meeting anyway?”
“Your twelve week claimants case review.”
“Well... can't we reschedule it?”
“We'll have have to.” she said, tapping away at her keyboard and huffing. “But failure to attend a meeting means I have no choice but to suspend your payments for six weeks.”
“What?!” I yelped. “You can't so that! My flat burnt down!!”
To cut a short story even shorter, Daniel was escorted from the DWP office by a security guard. He was furious and went for his weekly probation meeting and told the officer all about the woes he's facing. His probation officer listened and empathised but ultimately told Daniel to count his blessings. When Daniel returned to Plushton, he just wanted to cry when I he told Mrs Haverthwaite what had happened at the DWP. “...and to top it all, they suspended my payments for six weeks!”
“Oh dear Daniel.” Mrs Haverthwaite replied. “I've read countless reports about how they stop payments at the drop of a hat... it really is awful they way they treat people.”
“And that woman just wasn't interested that I wouldn't have got their letter due to my flat burning down... she just didn't care!” Daniel sighed. “I wouldn't mind but I was there on Monday and Wednesday and they knew full well that I wouldn't have received any letters... yet no one thought to inform me that I had a claims review on Thursday!”
“They're beyond incompetent.” Mrs Haverthwaite said. “What are you going to do?” she asked.
“I don't know. But if I don't get any payments for six weeks, I cant register at a letting agency and I can't offer you any money for my room.”
“Well like I say, don't worry about that Daniel.” she told him. “Did you buy yourself some things?” she asked, changing the subject.
Daniel looked startled and clenched his eyes. “No.” he sighed. “I completely forgot.”
“Well never mind... there's plenty here to keep you going.” she said.
“Yes. Thank you. I don't know what I'd do without you Mrs Haverthwaite.” Daniel sighed. “You've given me a room, put food in my belly and clothes on my back... how can I ever repay you?”
“You don't need to repay me Daniel.” she said. “But I have been having a think about your board and lodgings.” she added. “How about you become my full time housekeeper?” she suggested. “You can work for your room and board and I’ll give you a small allowance so you'll have some money of your own.”
“Really?!” he gasped. She nodded and stressed that the allowance wouldn't be much. “Thank you Mrs Haverthwaite... you're so kind!” he said, almost welling up.
“Well you will be working everyday so we'll spread your Tuesday and Friday chores out accordingly. You'll have to help with the meals and learn to cook...”
“Anything Mrs Haverthwaite.” he said.
“You'll have to be in uniform everyday.” she stated. Daniel gulped. “...which means I’ll have to get you another one so you can wear three in rotation; one to wear, one to wash and one spare.” she told him.
Daniel gulped and nodded. “But I'll be able to wear my own clothes too?”
Mrs Haverthwaite nodded. “When you've got some.” she said. “Lets have a sort out of Emma's things so you've got a few things to tide you through.” she suggested. “But if you are going to be my full time housekeeper, I don't want you spending your down time milling around in tatty jeans and an old sweatshirt.”
“No Mrs Haverthwaite.” he glumly agreed.
“I want you looking nice.”
“Yes Mrs Haverthwaite.”
“The dress you wore on Sunday was nice on you so we'll put that in your wardrobe.” she said. Daniel gulped. “..and there's a couple more I think you'd suit.” she added.
“Erm.... I can't just wear dresses Mrs Haverthwaite.” Daniel cautiously stated
“Like I say, when you've got your own clothes, you can wear what you like, providing you look smart and presentable... in the mean time, I'd like to dress you, if that's OK?”
“Erm... yes I suppose.”
“My house, my rules...”
“Yes Mrs Haverthwaite.” Daniel hesitantly agreed.
“...my housekeeper.” she added, smiling wryly.
“Yes Mrs Haverthwaite.” Daniel humbly said.
“Right well... let's begin as we mean to go on.” she said. Daniel is sent to his room and removed his housekeeping dress from the wardrobe. Mrs Haverthwaite fetched a bundle of underwear, plus a few flowery frocks to add to his wardrobe; the dark long sleeved dress he wore on Sunday, plus a pale blue frock with bold lilac flowers, and a leaf green tea dress with a ditsy print in white. She buttoned him into his housekeeping dress and laid down some ground rules. “I don't want you inviting any friends round and I don't want you going out without permission, or coming home late at night...” she said. Daniel timidly agreed, adding that he doesn't really have any friends. “I know it's bit of a trek but I'd rather you used the downstairs lavatory, particularly at night.”
“Yes Mrs Haverthwaite.” he replied as he buttoned his apron and tied its bow.
“You may wear a little make-up in your own time but none when you're in uniform.”
“Yes Mrs Haverthwaite.”
“In fact put you a small make-up bag together to keep on your dressing table.” she added.
“I'm err... not sure I really er... want to wear any make-up Mrs Haverthwaite.”
“Like I said, I want you looking presentable in your down time. It'll just be a little powder, a touch of mascara and some lipstick... nothing drastic.” she smiled.
“OK.” he meekly agreed.
Daniel spent an hour dusting and wiping the already spotless shelves and furniture in the hallway. Part of him felt relieved that he needn't worry about his housing or work situation but part him felt demeaned by his new full time position. But having lost absolutely everything he called his own and being totally reliant on Mrs Haverthwaite's good nature, what choice does he have? Mrs Haverthwaite called him into her study and handed him a bundle of brown envelopes and a pack of 2nd class postage stamps which needed sealing and a stamp putting on each one. “...and if you don't mind, would you pop the in the post box by the village hall?” she asked.
“Erm...” Daniel grimaced and glanced down at his servile attire.
“I hope you don't mind running me the occasional errand Daniel?... be it posting a few letters or popping to the shops for groceries.” she told him. “It's not like I'm sending you into town... it's just at the end of the road.” she smiled.
“I'll get you a coat.” she said. "...and you'll need some outdoor shoes." she added, glancing at his feet. She returned a moment later with a black coat over her arm and a pair of shoes in hand. "I hope these will be OK." she said. "They're an old pair of Emma's so they should fit." she told him.
"They've got heels Mrs Haverthwaite." he hesitantly observed.
"Barely more than an inch." she replied. "I'm sure you'll be fine in them."
Daniel took the shoes and placed them on the floor, sliding his stocking feet out of his house shoes and into the low heeled loafers. They fit him well but the prospect of walking up to the village hall in such feminine footwear terrified him. "I do appreciate this Daniel." Mrs haverthwaite said as she handed him the coat; double breasted with brass buttons and a belt about its waist. "I'd go myself but I'm waiting on a phonecall from a very important client." she told him, adding that the post is due to be collected in fifteen minutes and the letters need to be posted today.
"I understand." he timidly replied as he buttoned up the dress coat. A hoard of butterflies erupts in his tummy as he walks down the drive, taking care to be aware of the heels. “What have I got myself into?” he whispers to himself as he reluctantly heads toward the village hall and the post box opposite it.
The chilly autumn air nibbles through his tights and he ups his pace, stopping briefly at the corner of Woodridge Place to allow a car to pass before crossing. “Hello Daniel!” A voice chirps from behind him. “It's not often we see you out and about.” Mrs Haverthwaite's friend Denise looks him up and down.
“I'm just err... posting some letter for Mrs Haverthwaite.” he bashfully tells her.
“I was just going to call round. Is she in?” Denise asked.
“Yes, she is.” Daniel replied. Denise thanked him and smiled wryly, looking him up and down one last time before continuing along Church Road.
He continued to the post box and pushed the letters through the slot. He's raked the leaves on Mrs Haverthwaite's lawn and swept the drive numerous times wearing his housekeeping frock, but this is the first time he's ventured so far wearing women's clothes. Daniel looks down at his feet and gulps, wondering what his probation officer would think if he knew just what working for Mrs Haverthwaite involved, or what his parents might say if they knew how his life has turned out since his release from prison.
Daniel returned home to find Mrs Haverthwaite telling her friend Denise all about the recent developments. “Being able to stay here must be such a relief after everything that's happened.” Denise said to Daniel as he unbuttoned his double breasted coat.
“Yes.” Daniel sheepishly replied as he revealed his servile uniform. "Mrs Haverthwaite's been very kind to me." he said as he swapped his footwear.
"How were those shoes Daniel?" Mrs Haverthwaite asked.
"Fine thanks." he replied.
“You should try him in some stilettos.” Denise smiled.
"He wouldn't be much use to me if his twisted his ankle though." Mrs Haverthwaite replied. “Shall we go through to the lounge?” Mrs Haverthwaite suggested. “Daniel, would you mind serving us a pot of tea and some biscuits?” she asked.
“Yes Mrs Haverthwaite.” Daniel obediently replied. He assembled a tea tray and boiled the kettle, all the while wondering if it would only be a matter of time before he is tottering around in high heeled shoes. After all Mrs Haverthwaite is very persuasive and Daniel knows he can be easily led, and she has brought him this far.