Rituals are important; so say the Sun Horizon Female Employee handbook. Okay, so it didn’t actually say that but it might as well because the handbook was filled with them. As a girl at the company, I’m supposed to follow all of them and I, along with all the other girls in the company, intended to do just that.
On the first official day of the takeover, I woke up earlier than I ever did for work. I awaken at 5am to brush my teeth and took a morning bath. I took pains to tie my hair in a neat bun before taking a quick breakfast. After the breakfast, I walked to the bus pick-up point near my house.
Usually I don’t do that, I do have a car, but since only men were allowed to park their vehicles in the building carpark from now on, driving to work was no longer a viable option for girls. For us, the company had a company bus to pick up and drop us off from work.
Around 6.30am, the Sun Horizon company bus arrived. I entered it after thanking the bus-driver for picking me up. There were already several girls on the bus and most of them had their hair tied up. Some had even did what I did and tied their hair were in neat buns. The attire was uniformly casual and demure. Any accessories like earrings, necklaces or watches were absent. About the only exceptions were wedding rings and a small handbag here and there.
I saw Sylvia and took a seat beside her. We smiled at each other, both of us a little overwhelmed by the fact we were both going to work as second-class citizens, and also by the fact we were actually looking forward to it. All the girls were seated quietly with their hands on their laps and I took care to follow them. It was a strange ride.
I was seated beside a girl who was formerly my superior but from today onwards, we would be of the same rank in the company; which was at the bottom of the company totem pole. I knew from talk in the office that almost all the female executives in the company had joined Sun Horizon and many of the men had wondered why. As a girl, I knew the reason. However strange it was to see former executives, including a former VP, boarding the bus to go to work as assistants to men, the payoff at the end of the day would be worth it. It might just be the start of our first day, but this was just a feeling I had. A feeling I was sure of.
The bus stopped along the road outside the building and as the door opened, we stood up. Before alighting however, we had to thanked the bus driver for safely bringing us to work. Some of the girls bowed at the waist but others curtsy. I choose the curtsy.
We need to take a short walk from the bus to the entrance of the building and it was unexpectedly free of protestors. Even though the takeover by Sun Horizon was friendly, there had been fears of protestors due to the company’s infamous policy on gender roles. Guess all the public relations work the company did had worked.
The security guard at the door was male so as I passed, I did a curtsy. I could see he was trying to stop a smile coming to his face and had to silently laugh at that. If the guard was going to continue working here, he might as well get used to this and enjoyed it.
We went down the stairs to the basement where it had been converted to the girls’ locker room. To get the locker room, the girls had to pass the carpark and it was another strange experience. In the past, I would be driving into this carpark, but now I was just walking to a room to put on my uniform. I admit; I felt nervous walking to the locker room but once I entered the room, I took a deep breath and…once the “Sun Horizon” air filled my body, my anxiety just went away.
The lockers were assigned via your name and I quickly found mine. I opened it and found the clothes given to me by Sun Horizon. Just the sight of them made my pulse quickened. I almost tore off my clothes to put them on.
First was the black dress. The length of the dress reached my ankles and the long sleeves on it totally covered my arms leaving only my hands uncovered. With my hair already in a bun, I decided to do my veil first. I wrapped a white cloth over my head, leaving my face uncovered. Thank god for Youtube or I would never have gotten it.
Next came the face veil. Called the niqaab, it was a veil I had to strap around my head just above my eyes. The veil dropped down in front of my face, covering it. I then pulled up the hood of the dress and pulled it tightly around my head using a drawstring. Tying the string into a knot, I left the knot dangling below my chin. With the face veil, you couldn’t see the knot from the front but from the side, you could. I had to wonder why Sun Horizon designed the uniform this way. It looked different from the uniform they had for the girls of other companies they had taken over.
Well, that was nothing I had to worry about. I was just glad to wear it.
I walked out and back to the staircase. Walking up to the ninth floor, I and the rest of the girls assigned to the floor began our work. We cleaned the tables, wiped the phones, watered the plants, placed sweets into the meeting bowls, and tried to make the office as pleasant to the men as possible.
Although there was no rule stating it, all of us were silent when cleaning. It just didn’t seem right to be speaking when we were working and unsupervised by any men. If someone had walked in on us, we would looked like black ghosts walking around the office. That would not be an unfair description.
Once everything was done, we looked over each other’s work and pointed out the minor mistakes each of us made. It was here that female cattiness began to show and a new hierarchy began to form.
Agnes Allen was just a secretary in the office but she was also a mother of 4 boys who did all her housework on her own. She has a lot of experience cleaning up after her boys and it showed in her work. Her area of the office was almost free of mistakes. Kylie Bentley however was a young executive who was on a trail up the corporate ladder when the Sun Horizon takeover happened. As a young twentysomething born to upper class parents, I wouldn’t be surprised if she hadn’t done a day of cleaning in her life. Her area was terrible and Agnes called her out on it.
To her credit, Kylie tried to correct her mistakes but her inexperience showed. In exasperation, Agnes told her something that would shaped the relationship of the two from then on. “Stop. You’re just making it worse. I’ll do it, you just go kneel over there.”
Everyone stopped. Some of the girls looked at each other in uncertainty and while we were wondering if this was just a slip of the tongue from Agnes, Kylie stepped to the spot Agnes pointed out and did as she was “told”. Kylie knelt and put her hand on the hand as it was stated in the handbook.
Just like that, a new hierarchy between the girls began to form. It didn’t matter what job you used to hold or if you got a MBA or a high-school diploma; what mattered now was how well you can do your new job. What mattered now was how well you clean, how well you served, and how submissive you were. In the new order, Agnes was queen of the floor and Kylie was the dirt on the ground.
The rest of us continued our cleaning, ignoring the kneeling Kylie. When the clock reached 7.30am, Agnes clapped her hands to get everyone’s attention. All of us including Kylie went to the entrance of the office. There was a corridor where you had to pass to enter the office. It was here where we placed ourselves.
We girls divided into two rows and dropped to our knees. Then we waited. Strangely, while waiting there for the men, I felt a joy I could not describe. It just felt right. Logically I know it wasn’t right but…it just did. It just felt natural and correct.
It soon began. The bell of the lift stopping on our floor rang and I put my hands on the ground in front of me. Looking down at the floor, I couldn’t see the men but I could hear them walking in. Then I heard the signal from the two girls in the front of the rows. As soon as I heard the sound of their foreheads slamming to the ground, I too lowered my head to the floor. The submissive sound it made was music to my ears. I shouted out the morning greeting.
“Welcome Sir! This girl wishes you a good day at the office!”