HTG: Quarterly Gains & Losses
by Delilah Winston
Lunch with Cassie went well, as did early afternoon work. Donna left Cassie's office at 1:45 so she could work on her own. As she entered her own office, Donna slowly let out a breath. All that was left was to continue working until the aides came in to tie her up, and then see how the new hire handled first orientation day, come 4:30.
While she worked, Donna came up with a little idea for herself. To execute the plan would take a great deal of courage, and really test whether she was ready for the step of taking a new hire to dinner, as Mr. Stone and Christina had said she was. Donna began thinking about her first day at HTG; particularly the jarring shock and quickly building sense of intense fear she'd begun to feel when the aides began to tie her up for the first time. Her idea was to try and relive those emotions while she struggled in her bondage. Just the different position of lying on her stomach would be different, of course, but if Donna could recapture some of that feeling of being so frightened that day, it might help her better empathize with Cassie. Any new hire was always fraught with overwhelming remnants of fear, confusion, humiliation, and anger after they were untied. So it would be with Cassie.
Donna's ears perked up at the sound of her door opening. Without thinking, she glanced at her system tray on her computer monitor: 3:36 PM. She summoned up an imagined sense that the aides were really here to abduct her, and that there was a chance they would hurt her. In the back of her mind, she knew the aides wouldn't respond in any way to her acting so much more afraid, and in dread of them, than she'd been in a long time now; she knew how well-trained they were to handle young women being tied up for the first time, and who were this scared for real.
A burly hand quickly clamped down over Donna's mouth, cutting off her plea of protest. She squirmed futilely in their grasp as she felt the first ropes beginning to coil around her wrists. It gave her a new sense of appreciation for how strong they were. None of the aides working here were going to be winning any nationwide weightlifting competitions, but any one of them was much stronger than Donna, or any of the women working here. Holding her fast didn't take a lot of effort on their part, especially with the excellent teamwork they used. Donna felt her heart begin to beat more heavily in her breast as the ropes around her wrists were knotted. Right away she started tugging and twisting against these ropes, her eyes dancing from side to side. A flash of white before her eyes before the hand covering her mouth came off and pinched her cheeks just enough to part her lips, and the fold of cloth was pulled into her mouth. As always, two of the aides worked together in keeping the cloth tightly pulled back as the ends were knotted at the nape of her neck, and the two aides in front of her making sure her hair was neatly in place underneath the cloth. She whimpered fearfully as the ropes were coiled above and below her breasts, and then as she was sat on the stool and her ankles and knees were tied tightly. The aides carefully picked her up and lay her down on her stomach, gently but firmly pulling her feet upward and back toward her bound wrists, and the hogtie rope was tied in place.
Donna found that her mind and body obligingly played along once she'd started concentrating on those initial feelings, and on the imaginary plot that the four burly men in her office weren't there to 'play nice.'
* * *
Presently 4:30 came. The aides untied Donna with the clockwork efficiency she'd come to know them for. Another new step began for Donna as Christina brought her two lotion bottles and two packets of Epsom salt. Just as Christina had done before her, Donna was now to bring the second bottle and packet to Cassie. Christina nodded reassuringly and patted Donna's shoulder as the blonde took a deep breath and prepared to enter Cassie's office.
Donna unbuttoned the sleeve cuffs for her blouse and started rubbing a little lotion into her wrists. Opening the door to Cassie's office, she walked in to the soft sound of frightened sobbing. Cassie sat in her chair, her elbows on her desk, her face in her hands. She trembled softly but uncontrollably, as her brain struggled to make some kind of sense out of her first period of 'orientation.'
Donna took a few steps forward, staying silent. Through her tears, and her hands keeping her face covered, the new hire became aware of Donna's presence and slowly looked up at her, glaring at Donna with tightly clenched teeth.
'That must have been the same look I gave Christina,' Donna thought to herself. 'How different it feels now, being on the receiving end of it.'
Envisioning Amanda's daughter getting a boo-boo on her knee, back when she was learning to walk, helped a lot with giving Cassie the right look. “We ladies at HTG often hang out at a diner across the street, called Jackson's Bar and Grill,” she began, giving her pitch. “We have a tradition that at the end of a new hire's first day, a couple of us take her there for dinner. Come with me, and Mr. Stone's administrative assistant?”
Cassie actually smiled at Donna's offer, although it was plain that she was baring about two dozen daggers' worth of teeth. “You tie me up for an hour and then you want to fucking buy me dinner? First, I don't date other girls, okay? Second, if you think you're going to talk me out of calling the cops, you need to do a lot more than dinner, like maybe starting with kissing my ass like you're my bitch?!”
“It's not a date, at least not in that capacity,” Donna promised quickly. “And yes, we'll be doing a lot more than just paying for dinner and drinks. The ass-kissing is one thing I can't promise, though.” She offered a diplomatic smile.
The look on Cassie's face, daggers gleaming dangerously through a smile, continued as she stared at Donna like someone who'd just called her a Martian. “And just what are you gonna do? Do it or fuck off, all right?”
“I'll start by giving you these,” Donna said, putting the lotion and Epsom salt down on Cassie's desk, before she continued rubbing her own lotion into her wrists. “If you're willing to come along, you might find the conversation enlightening.”
Cassie stared down at the small personal-size bottle and the packet resting on her desk like they were moving of their own accord. Then she looked back up at Donna like the blonde herself was a Martian. “Who's coming along, your attorney? You're gonna need one.”
Donna smiled and shook her head. “Mr. Stone's administrative assistant will come along for dinner. Our attorneys can buy their own, right? They make enough.”
Cassie's face had Donna's mind racing. 'Was I giving all these looks to Christina and Karen? I don't even remember anymore.'
Cassie logged out of her workstation, stood and crossed her arms, tapping a foot impatiently. Donna nodded and went to get Christina. As the two of them paused outside Cassie's office, the new hire followed them to Jackson's.
* * *
Cassie downed the double martini in a single gulp without batting an eyelid. “Another?” she requested of a passing waiter, raising the empty glass.
Donna and Christina sipped their drinks more slowly, nursing them as they sat and waited patiently.
“So? Talk!” Cassie warned them.
Christina shrugged. “You might not immediately believe half of what I tell you, and proving any of it will take longer than just sitting down to dinner,” she said. “But HTG has been in operation since the turn of 1980. And every woman who's served as an investment executive and department manager started out in your shoes and went through the same orien--”
“Yeah. You're right. That's bullshit,” Cassie interrupted. “Look, who told you? Tell me who told you, and maybe I'll just kick their asses instead of yours too.”
Donna and Christina looked at each other. Christina shrugged, and Donna shrugged back.
“Told us what?” Donna asked.
“Told us what,” Cassie copied in a mocking tone. “You're trying my patience. Now start squawking like the jail birds you'll soon be.”
Christina fought to keep her smile a slight one. “We'll be happy to tell you what you want to know, Cassie,” she said. “That's the whole purpose behind this tradition of first-night dinner. “But you have to be more specific.”
“College!” Cassie pounded a fist down on the table. “My damn college days!”
“You graduated college two years ago, didn't you?” Christina answered with a question. “This is work, this is a job. Didn't you major in finance so you could work at an investment company?”
Cassie blinked incredulously and flashed a look of pure sarcasm. “Oh yeah, majored in finance so I could work at your company. Now who told you about him?”
“Ah, so you're talking about a who,” Donna said. “I hate to break it to you, but nobody told us about this 'him' you're mentioning. We don't know his name, who or what he is, anything about him.”
“Anton!...” Cassie's shout died soon as the name was uttered. Despite the semi-secluded nature of the booth, a few people across the room turned to glance over their shoulders.
Donna and Christina sat and waited. A waiter came to take meal orders, pausing to ask Cassie if she was okay. Cassie looked a bit contrite before nodding and giving her dinner order. Donna and Christina gave their dinner orders as well, and the waiter walked away.
“But they had to tell you about Anton,” Cassie protested. “Why else would those four assholes come into...”
Donna and Christina shook their heads. “Sorry, but no,” Donna said. “We swear to God, nobody told either of us about an Anton.”
“Then why did those four apes come into my office and... tie me up like that?” Cassie blushed, her face turning red through her Mediterranean olive skin tone.
Donna and Christina finally understood and chuckled low and long, putting their hands to their mouths. “No, Cassie, no,” Christina said. “You think this Anton told the aides what to do?”
“The aides,” Christina answered. She opened her personal-size lotion bottle and started rubbing the lotion into her wrists. “You know, the four men who you just called 'apes.'”
Cassie looked at Christina, and then at Donna. “You were doing that. What for?”
Donna smiled. “What do you think for, Cassie?” she asked, holding her wrists up.
The new hire's eyes crossed. “Then. You too?”
Donna and Christina chuckled again. “Yes, us too,” Christina said, as Donna raised a hand to shoulder level and nodded. “And you'll have a surprise in store soon enough.”
'HO-OO yes, that was a surprise, all right,' Donna remembered of her first day being hogtied post-orientation.
Cassie continued looking at them with a cross-eyed expression. “That's weird,” she said.
Donna almost fell off her chair. She couldn't stop laughing.
“Cassie, you don't know the half of it,” Christina grinned a big grin. “So... if you don't mind my asking, who's Anton?”
Cassie lowered her head. “I dated him in college,” she said softly. “He was into it, you know? I went along because he was hunk city, treated me like a queen, and he was a great lay.”
Christina almost choked on a sip of her drink, a mouthful of martini forcing its way back through her lips to drip on the tablecloth in front of her. Donna patted the brunette hard on the back repeatedly, trying to help bring the coughing fit under control.
Christina nodded to Donna to signal she was all right. “I'm sorry,” she said contritely, wiping her mouth with her napkin. “But college was then. It had nothing to do with today. Nothing.”
“So how the fuck do you carry it on?” Cassie now wanted to know.
“That was my exact same question when I sat in your seat, Cassie. The exact same question,” Donna smiled.
Cassie opened her purse and looked at the lotion bottle she'd been given, still glancing at it like it was moving on its own. Finally she took it out of her purse, opened it, and started rubbing lotion into her wrists. “And did you ever get an answer?”
“It took a while, but yes, I did,” Donna answered. She held Christina's hand the same way the brunette had done with Karen. “We all support each other and help each other through it. All of the women in the department do that: support and help each other through it.”
“You'll meet them, a few at a time,” Christina promised. “You might not want to swear at them quite so much, though.”
“Look, that's the way I talk, especially when someone pisses me off,” Cassie said defensively. “You want to be my friend, you gotta deal. Tough crap if it bothers you 'ladies'. I talk common American like any common American woman or man.”
Dinner arrived, and the three of them nodded politely in thanks to the waiter before digging in. Donna had to fight to keep herself from smiling as both her and Cassie's stomachs growled from the delicious smells drifting up from the plates.
Christina decided to change the subject. “So it's not what happened today that made you so angry, but because it made you think an old college flame put us up to it?”
“That was what rubbed the salt in the wound,” Cassie said. “I still think you're all a bunch of problem nutbags, doing what you do. And you can tell Mr. Stone a few things for me.”
“You can talk to him, Cassie,” Christina said. “Donna, you showed her how to work the speakerphone, right?”
“Maybe if he showed his face like most managers do,” Cassie said. “Now I realize, he was scared to show it. And rightfully so.” She took a bite of her meal.
Donna managed to keep her composure, but she was laughing on the inside as she chewed a bite of her meal.
“So what would you like him to know?” Christina asked.
“Well first, I've learned a few things about the safety side,” Cassie said. “They can't leave us alone in our offices like that, okay? It's not safe. Never mind they're a bunch of retards wanting to tie us all up like that in the first place, and I think you and the other girls are also retarded for accepting it. But they got no business leaving us alone in our offices.”
Christina and Donna glanced at each other again. Donna fought as hard as she could to keep from changing expression.
“Donna, you'd better never play cards with me or anyone else if that's the best you can hold your eyes,” Cassie told her, sympathetically but with overtones of, 'you're busted'. “So what's going on?”
Christina mimicked the gesture Donna often made, of putting up both her hands level with her ears, as a sign of surrender. “They don't, Cassie,” she said. “They monitor us to make sure we're okay. Maybe it's better if we don't say how, today. But they monitor us. The aides are in there immediately if you need them.”
Donna raised one hand to shoulder level, remembering how they'd come through for her. Cassie looked at her and understood. She snorted with a sardonic grin and took another bite of her dinner. “Well, at least they're not total morons,” she said. “Just 'Nuckin' Futs,' like the JibJab cartoon goes.”
“Maybe we are,” Christina said, finally trying to go along with Cassie's way of thinking to see where it would lead. “Maybe we've found a way to make it all work so we have a future as career women. There's nothing we can do to persuade you to want to come back tomorrow, Cassie. But I can tell you that all of us still working at HTG, some of us for quite a few years, don't regret having stayed. I'm even willing to bet if you can get yourself to put in 'one more day' enough times to stretch it out into a year, sometimes even a little less, as we're all different people... but put in one more day, enough times, and you might not regret it, either.”
Cassie shook her head and gave Christina a baleful look. “I already regret having just answered the stupid ad and relocating here,” she warned her. “But I tell you what. I'll take your bet, because I want to learn your philosophy, if you'll excuse my calling it that, and take it apart piece by piece. You told me Anton didn't put all of you up to this. All right, fine, I accept that. But it convinces me even more that you're all weirdos, all right? And whatever you do to make all this work, as you like to say, I bet I can prove I'm the one who's right.”
Christina's smile sparkled with mischief, like she couldn't wait to see how the little wager turned out.
“Oh, I think we're gonna get along great,” Donna laughed.
“Oh yeah?” Cassie challenged. “You really think so?”
“Yes, I do,” Donna grinned.
“Well, we'll see about that.”
“I guess we will, Cassie.”
The rest of the meal passed in more mundane conversation about current events and comparisons between their respective favorite sports teams: Christina was a hockey fan, Donna a baseball fan and Cassie preferred basketball. At the end of the night, Cassie declined any hugs, but accepted handshakes from both Donna and Christina, although to her, it was more to seal the deal on the wager.
Donna and Christina watched Cassie hustle down the street toward where she'd parked her car. Once the new hire was out of earshot, they both grinned wide and chuckled once again.
“Boy, she's gonna be fun,” Donna said.
“And how,” Christina nodded. “Too bad we had to lie to her.”
Donna glanced at Christina. “I thought nobody talked to you about this boyfriend of hers?”
“Not the boyfriend. That I didn't know. I just found out she'd let a couple of boys in college tie her up.”
Donna nodded. “But you were right about one thing. That went pretty easy.”
Christina slapped her thigh and chuckled heartily. “Oh yes, a lot easier than quite a few new hires. Including me.”
Donna popped her hand up right away, although she gave Christina a questioning look. The brunette pursed her lips a few seconds, then gave a big grin and nodded. Both she and Donna giggled again.
“You did good tonight, Donna. I'm proud of you,” Christina said.
Donna smiled. “Thank you. I'm glad you were in my corner, though.”
The two of them hugged good night and Christina watched Donna turn and head toward her bus stop.
Whether it was good or bad that Donna didn't turn around to wave good night one last time, the blonde would never know.
* * *
Donna grinned and shook her head softly as Ethan's final ball dropped behind a flipper. “You still had me beat by a lot,” she admitted.
“Another round?” Ethan offered.
Donna chuckled. “No. You're too good for me at pinball.”
“Well, is there anything here that you think you can win at?” Ethan enticed her with a small smile. Bringing her to an old-fashioned penny arcade was a clever idea for their date.
“Well, I haven't seen one in arcades since I was little,” Donna said, “but I played a killer game of home-console Donkey Kong.”
Ethan laughed and clapped appreciatively. “Donkey Kong. I think I have a vintage copy suitable for personal computer play. One day, if you're up for it, I'll bring you over to my place for a few rounds.”
Donna smiled. She was impressed that Ethan didn't press. He did nothing with Donna that he wasn't sure she was comfortable with. But the offer to play Donkey Kong with her brought a twinkle to her eyes. “You're so on,” she said, making it sound like a challenge.
Dinner was at a seafood restaurant. Both Donna and Ethan liked seafood, although Ethan was more into tuna and halibut while Donna liked crab and shrimp. The dishes came with sparkling water and a few pieces of bread.
Ethan walked Donna to her building after driving her home. They'd gone to a different part of town on this date, so they'd driven there instead of commuting by bus. “The band 'Mark VIII' is playing in Felmond park this weekend. Last indie band at the park for the year,” he said. “I'll send you a text the day after tomorrow, with more details.”
“Do you know what kind of music they play?” Donna asked.
“Definitely a little more hard rock than Pia M.,” Ethan chuckled. “Wouldn't hurt to pick up some ear plugs.”
“Thanks for the warning.”
Donna offered her cheek to Ethan, who gave her a small peck and squeezed her hands the same way as before. “Good night,” Donna smiled.
“Good night, Donna.”
* * *
Donna felt like a little company as she stepped away from the cashier's counter at the employee cafeteria. She walked among the tables and happened across Bea, who was just starting on the soup of the day: minestrone.
“Hey, Bea,” Donna smiled. “Mind if I join you?”
Bea glanced up and then waved her hand at the empty chair across from her. Donna smiled and sat down.
“How's your new spot working?” Bea asked.
“It's coming along nicely. New hire is a lot of fun.”
“A little crude in her conversation, but she knows her stuff.”
Donna nodded. “Great with numbers,” she said of Cassie.
“Today's her acid test, right?”
Donna nodded again, looking thoughtful.
“Nancy and I think she's gonna flunk it. KJ does, too.”
“She does project that attitude,” Donna admitted. “But we'll see.”
Bea sipped her coffee, nodding in response to Donna's statement, but keeping quiet.
“Can I ask you something, a little personal?”
Bea smiled. “Are you sure it's just 'a little' personal?”
Donna chuckled briefly. “I hope so. We've never really gotten that personal about ourselves with each other before. Least, not yet.”
“So what's happening, Donna?”
Donna chewed her chicken Caesar salad slowly. The dressing bathed her tongue with the tart accents of vinegar.
“Why am I doing it?”
Bea gave a quizzical look. “Doing what?”
Donna made a few side to side hand gestures.
“This. You know, why aren't you doing this instead of me?”
Bea was silent for a few seconds before her face showed recognition. She smiled slightly, taking another bite of her lunch.
“Didn't Christina and Mr. Stone say they accepted that I had my reasons?”
“Well, they did. And I accept it, too. But I'd like to know what they are, if you'd be okay with telling me.”
Bea lowered her head for a bit, taking another bite of her meal.
“I thought you knew I didn't want to work with her, Donna.”
Donna blinked. “Who? Christina?”
Bea was silent again, but Donna saw the way Bea's face set. The blonde took a slow breath.
“So, it's you?”
Bea arched her eyebrows. “She didn't tell you?”
Donna shook her head. “No. Just admitted there were a few women with whom she didn't get along. One from here in New Bonds. Didn't say you were that one.”
“Well, I'll give her credit for that.”
They were quiet again as Donna sipped her coffee. Finishing it, she smiled politely and excused herself while getting it refilled. Employees got one free refill on all beverages, and then up to two more for $1.75 for coffee or tea, and $2.25 for soft drinks, milk or hot cocoa.
“I take it you'd rather not talk to me about it,” Donna said as she sat down again.
Bea shook her head. “Not now, no. Look, Donna, she's done a lot for you. Enough that it's best if I don't sully her name in your eyes. But even she's got to have showed you by now that she's no angel.”
Donna cut off a chuckle. “I never thought she was an angel,” she said quickly.
Bea opened her purse and took out a square of special tissue for cleaning her eyeglass lenses. The look in her eyes with her glasses off seemed harder, more focused as she ran the tissue over the lenses, wiping them clean.
“You're a good person, Donna. And if you'll let me say this, I think sometimes you're a harder worker than me. You couldn't have asked for a savvier big sister than Christina.”
Donna's lips parted slightly, watching Bea's face as she slipped her eyeglasses back up the bridge of her nose, over her eyes, again.
“But as much as I respect her, I've also seen some things I hope you don't have to. And I really would rather not recollect on them because I don't feel good about myself, either, if I do. We all help each other through Quiet Time, as I call it. But I couldn't work under her. She couldn't work over me. It's best if you don't ask her, but you can bet she's really glad I didn't accept the promotion to transfer to Mr. Stone as his secretary. Don't worry about me, Donna. I'll fit into an opening that will come up sooner or later.”
Bea smiled again, more reassuringly, and took another bite of her meal. Donna smiled back.
“Good. You'd make a great secretary. A great admin assistant, too.”
“Thank you.” Bea touched Donna's hand in gratitude.
End of part 2
Copyright© 2014 by Delilah Winston. All rights reserved. I welcome your comments. Email me at email@example.com