[Hello — This story has been in the works forever, and I was very pleased to try this new approach of POV].
The boulanger has come to expect you every weekday morning. You breathe in the sweet smell of his shop as you descend from your chambre de bonne, winding down the worn wooden stairs. You save him the stamps on your letters from abroad. The most interesting ones wait in a Chinese finger bowl on the mahogany sideboard in the dining room.
You take out soft white Petit Bateau underpants and camisole from the girl’s walnut armoire. You washed these, as you have all the girl’s clothing. You launder all of Madame’s things, too, her panty hose, her huge bras and her blouses. You do the ironing, including Madame’s cotton underthings. You’re good at ironing, it’s how you earned your allowance at home. You carefully steam the distorted waistbands of Madame’s pleated skirts, which are all from Céline. You steam them until the folds refuse to relax, then you take them to the dry cleaner down the street. Madame says that someday you will make a wonderful wife.
You lay the set of underclothes at the foot of the girl’s bed. You call her name and shake her shoulder lightly. She wakes easily, but sometimes pretends to sleep. By now she knows you get cross easily in the morning, so she is usually cooperative, unlike in the afternoon at school pick up.
Then, she plays to her friends and taunts you by pretending not to know you’re there. Once you threw away her goutêr, the dark slab of chocolate tucked into a baguette that you’d stuffed into your coat pocket. You dare her to tell her mother why.
“Lève-toi, lève-toi,” you say, softly at first. You rock the brass bed frame a little. Madame is just across the hall, and you both know waking her would be a mistake.
You make her bed and hang up her nightgown while she goes down the hall to pee. When you arrive she is washing her hands. Madame is such a light sleeper, she has asked you to keep the door to the WC closed. As you must monitor the girl’s morning toilette, you step in and close the door, which traps you in the smell of fresh piss.
She holds up her hands for you to inspect. You squeeze Mustela cream into her pale pink palm. She rubs the cream into her face and neck, watching herself solemnly as she wipes it off with a ball of cotton. You rub a little Mustela between your fingers, then sniff them.
You remember when the boy you met in Rome came to visit. He asked to watch you piss into the tiny sink in your room, then cleaned it out with Ajax. The chiotte is close by to your room, but the steps are usually stained with shit, so you avoid it.
You have already mashed a banana into a bowl, squeezed one fresh orange and poured the juice over the banana, Madame’s mandatory breakfast for the girl. You quickly make hot chocolate, turn off the gas and cover the pot, while you dash across the street for fresh croissants.
The girl is sitting at the table, her hair brushed and school uniform on, waiting for her hot chocolate, when you return. She has finished her banana juice.
You sit down, you eat and you drink, staring past each other. Sometimes you read a few pages of a book and flakes from the croissants stain the margins.
Madame does not come out of her bedroom in the mornings. The girl loiters by her door but does not knock. You smell Madame’s first cigarette as you close the front door.
One afternoon you discover that you will not be able to give the boulanger the stamps after all. The girl has snipped them all into tiny pieces.