Your Master Requires Your Attendance
She wouldn’t tolerate it any more, Laura told herself as the penthouse elevator doors closed. Frank could be so stubborn and infuriating at times, but this was too much. She loved him more than life itself and would do anything for him, but he had to respect her need for her own space and time. Tonight it had come to a head, first his smug declaration that she would attend the party with him, then his refusal to let her stay home after she had pleaded with him to let her finish talking with her friends on the Internet. The party was some kind of retirement dinner for one of Frank’s co-workers and a long-time friend of his. She knew it was going to be dull and didn’t want to go. He had simply turned off the computer and told her to get ready.
If he won’t listen to me, then he can talk to the walls instead, she told herself. She got dressed, but didn’t stop there. Some clothes in an overnight bag and out the door she went, not even stopping to tell him she was leaving or where she was going. She needed a few days to cool down. Maybe those few days would teach him to appreciate her more as well. She punched the garage button on the elevator panel. There were friends she could stay with, or maybe she’d just spend some time at one of the ski resorts up in the mountains. That would be a nice change, some beautiful scenery outside and maybe flirting with those good looking ski bums at the lodge would improve her disposition.
She got in and the elevator started down. Frank did treat her right in most ways. They had a luxurious penthouse apartment for the two of them, her own little sports car to get around town, and no need to work. She knew her friends envied her. Her life was good, a successful husband who provided for her and took care of all the problems, plenty of time during the day to pursue her own interests, and when he got home after work she got all the attention she could ever want. Except tonight the attention was too much. She did like the way he was so confident and self-assured, but his casual assumption she would drop everything to go to that stupid party somehow got to her tonight. Any other time she would have been happy to go, but she had been so engrossed in the online gossip with her own friends she didn’t want to stop. One time he could have gone alone. Laura smiled, tonight would be one of those times.
She watched the floor numbers count down. Her car was parked in the garage in the basement. She tried to remember if there was enough gas to get to the mountains. Maybe it would be better to spend the night at Samantha’s townhouse, and then she could drive out to one of the ski lodges in the morning. Sammie even had some skis she could borrow. She could come back Sunday night. By then Frank would have calmed down and she could explain to him the changes she wanted to make.
The first floor went by on the counter as the elevator slowed. Laura picked up the overnight bag as the elevator car stopped, “Garage” displaying on the panel. She stood in front of the door, but it didn’t open. Puzzled, she pushed the “Open Door” button, but nothing happened. Frowning, she pushed the door button several times. Great, she thought to herself, someone must have blocked the garage door. There was an entrance to the garage down the stairway from the building lobby. She stepped back and pushed the “Lobby” button. Nothing happened. The display remained on “Garage” and the car didn’t move.
Beginning to worry, Laura pushed several buttons on the panel. All to no effect; the car remained motionless, the door closed. She tried to open the elevator doors but couldn’t budge them. The elevator must be stuck, she thought. There was a button marked “Emergency” on the panel. Deciding this qualified, she opened the cover and pushed the red button. Again there was nothing, no sound, and no change in the display. She called out in a loud voice, thinking there might be a link to the building superintendent’s office. Then she realized that would be futile as the super’s office closed at 6pm. If there was a microphone it would make no difference as there was no one to hear her.
Laura took a deep breath. Now is not the time for blind panic, she scolded herself, think. The cell phone! She laughed at herself and reached into her purse. Frank had insisted she always carry one in case something happened. All she had to do was call 911 and tell them she was stuck in the elevator. She pulled out the phone and turned it on. She started to dial, then noticed the display. No connection. She cursed; the elevator shaft must be blocking the radio signal. She dropped the now useless phone back in her purse. Once again she pushed buttons randomly on the panel, and then in frustration tried without success both the door and alarm buttons one more time.
Nothing happened. And nothing left for her to do. In the movies passengers always crawled out of the top hatch, but looking up proved she had no way to reach it, and no idea what she would do if she did get on the roof of the car. Taking stock, she didn’t have too much to worry about. The car was at the bottom of the shaft so it wasn’t going to fall. Sooner or later someone else would try to use the same elevator, and then they would find out it was broken. The only question was how long. Given the time of night it could be hours before anyone noticed. And hours more before anyone came to fix it. Laura sat down on the carpeted floor, arms wrapped around her legs and chin on her knees. It looked like a long night ahead.
Boredom set in rapidly. She rummaged through her purse, more to have something to do than in any hopes of finding some miracle tool to fix the elevator. There was half a candy bar, which she proceeded to finish. She shifted her position to sit by the door, thinking she could call out if she heard anyone approach the door. Tomorrow this would be quite an adventure to tell her friends about, but at the moment it wasn’t so exciting. She leaned back against the side of the car and closed her eyes. Maybe she had been hasty about walking out on Frank.
Frank and the party! He would be coming down soon to go to that party. He was sure to notice the elevator was broke. She wouldn’t have to sit here all night after all. Unless he didn’t go, she thought, unless he was so upset she had left that he stayed home. No, he wouldn’t be upset. Frank never lost his temper. She couldn’t remember the last time he had been cross or angry. That was part of his attraction. He was always calm and level-headed. Like the Rock of Gibraltar, she thought, solid and reliable. He was always there for her, taking charge, solving the problems, getting things done. No matter what the situation he had a plan, and he saw to it she knew exactly what to do. She liked that too, no guessing. He would tell her what they were going to do, and then describe what he expected from her. She smiled. Once he found out the elevator was broken he would know what to do. All she had to do was wait.
She stood up to stretch her legs. She caught herself instinctively brushing off and straightening her skirt. Frank liked her in skirts, and reminded her of it almost daily. At first she had varied her wardrobe, but seeing how disappointed he was when she wore anything else had its influence. Virtually everything in her closet was now some kind of blouse and skirt combination. She had figured it was a typical male thing, that he liked to look at her legs, but he surprised her when he didn’t want dresses either. Sometimes she didn’t understand him at all, but thinking about it now she had to admit she liked it too. She saw how he noticed, the sweep of his eyes every night when he came in the door. That fleeting smile of approval became important to her, though she couldn’t explain why. He had never complained those times she had on something else, but the disappointment on his face had been plain.
How long had she been in the elevator? She didn’t wear a watch, something else she had changed for Frank. One night in bed the subject of jewelry had come up, motivated by her curiosity as to what he liked. To her surprise he had been very negative about wristwatches. She did have some, sitting in a box on her dresser, for those occasions she needed it but she hadn’t thought to pick one up on her way out. Laura sat down again, resigned to a long stay. Just her luck the elevator would break down on tonight of all nights. By the time someone fixed it Frank would be waiting for her. So much for her weekend at the ski resort. Even so, they were going to have a long talk. And this time he would do the listening.
Several times Laura stood up, walked around, and then sat back down. Good thing she wasn’t susceptible to claustrophobia. She couldn’t even stretch her arms out all the way without touching the sides. She was back in her sitting position, this time facing the door, when the lights suddenly went out. No matter how bad, it can always get worse, she thought ruefully. No flashlight in her purse either. She sat in the pitch black dark, no hint of light anywhere. Add fear of the dark to claustrophobia, she laughed out loud. Then the lights suddenly came back on, accompanied by a beep from the panel. Laura stood up, hoping something had changed. Looking up, she noticed the display panel now said “Ready”. With some trepidation she pressed the “Door Open” button. No luck, the door remained closed. Next she tried the first floor. The display changed and the car began moving up.
Laura was overjoyed. Fixed! And maybe she still had time to get to Sammie’s place after all, if Frank hadn’t discovered she was in the elevator. The car stopped at the lobby and the door opened. Laura cautiously looked out but no one was in sight. Quickly she grabbed her bag and stepped out before the door closed again. She definitely didn’t want to repeat that experience anytime soon. The lobby wall clock showed about three hours had elapsed. Not bad, her plans weren’t ruined after all. She walked to the garage stairway door at the end of the lobby.
She hadn’t tried the stairway in quite a while. About a year ago they had used it once while the elevator was being tested by some inspectors. She opened the door and looked in. Down a flight of stairs and the door to the garage would be at the bottom. She slung her purse over one shoulder, held her bag in one hand and onto the railing with the other as she descended. At the bottom there were some cardboard boxes stacked under the stairs and by the door, but she had enough room to get to the door.
Get the car, stop at Sammie’s for the night, and the ski lodge in the morning after breakfast. Maybe Sammie would come along; the two of them would have some fun. She opened the garage door and stood frozen in shock at the sight of Frank in front of her. Two police officers stood on either side, a man and a woman. “Frank! I’ve been trapped in the elevator for three hours and just got out. What’s going on…” she started to ask him as she noticed the police.
“That’s her,” Frank said, gesturing toward Laura. The police moved quickly, grabbing Laura’s arms and turning her around, forcing her against the open garage door. The man jerked her arms behind her as the female officer locked handcuffs on Laura’s wrists.
“Frank?! What are they doing? Why are they arresting me?” Laura cried out as the woman police office started to search her.
“It isn’t an arrest Laura, you haven’t broken any laws. The elevator wasn’t broke. I stopped it, until I could make the arrangements for you. You shouldn’t have run away. I won’t tolerate that. I’m regret having to do this, but it’s necessary. These people are going to take you to a place where you will learn not to do things like that again. I didn’t want this, but you’ve left me no choice.” Frank’s voice had the sound of sadness and vast disappointment in it. Laura could see the sorrow on his face. What was he doing?
Finished with the search, the woman officer held the door open while the larger man grabbed her arm and forced her out into the garage, past Frank. Laura turned back to look at him as they went past. “Frank, what are you talking about? Where are they taking me? I don’t understand, why the police? What did I do?” Laura was afraid and confused. Everything was happening so quickly.
“You are going to a school. I hope you will learn about yourself there. These officers are going to make sure you arrive safely. Do what you are told Laura, and nothing bad will happen.” Frank turned away and went into the stairwell, picking up her purse and overnight bag before closing the door behind him.
“Frank! Frank! Don’t leave me!” She pleaded to his back, to no effect as the door closed. The man’s grip on her arm was like steel, holding her in place as she tried to turn and run after Frank. Laura struggled with the handcuffs, but she was helpless. A van pulled up, driven by the female officer. “State Department of Corrections” read the lettering on the side.
The driver got out and opened the side door. Inside was a heavy gauge wire mesh screen enclosing the rear seats. The woman unlocked the screen door and held it open as the male officer forced Laura into the rear seat. The back of the seat had a cutout portion so she could lean back with her hands behind her. He fastened a seat belt with a shoulder strap around her waist. Unable to reach the seat belt buckle Laura couldn’t free herself.
The man stepped back as the female officer leaned in. She reached behind the seat for something, then fastened a larger version of handcuffs around Laura’s ankles, passing the chain through a large steel loop on the floorboard. Looking down Laura could see her legs securely locked in place. She had some movement but couldn’t get out of the back seat now, even if her hands were freed and the door open.
One small kindness, the woman pulled out and straightened Laura’s skirt where it had ridden up when she sat down. Then she closed the cage door, locked it, and shut the van door. As the man got in the driver’s side the woman officer opened the passenger side in front. He started the engine and drove toward the garage entrance. The woman next to him turned around and looked at Laura through the screen separating front and back.
“Listen to me,” she said in a gruff voice. Laura turned to her. “This is how it is. The van is real, and so are we. Our day job is to transport dangerous high risk criminals between jails or prisons. We are very good at it; not a single one has escaped. You are not going to be the first.
“As far as anyone knows you are one more prisoner being extradited to another state. We even have paperwork here with your name on it. No one is going to stop us or ask questions. If you start yelling or screaming, give us any kind of grief, then you get one of these little toys to wear for the rest of the trip.” She held up a large leather strap with a rubber ball fastened in the middle. “They make very effective gags, in case you don’t know what it is. Not very pleasant to wear, so think about it before you decide to make trouble. I guarantee you I can get it in your mouth no matter what you do. I’ve had lots of practice. Keep that in mind too.
“We are not going to stop. We are not going to let you go. We are not going to take off the cuffs, so live with it. We will not answer questions either, nor are we interested in your sorry tale of woe, so keep it to yourself. When you arrive at your destination you will be told what you need to know, when you need to know it. Till then sit back, keep quiet, and we’ll all have a nice drive.”
Laura stared at the gag, frightened at the prospect of being forced to wear it. What had Frank done to her? She pulled at the handcuffs but couldn’t slip them off. It was obvious to her the corrections officers were professionals and she wasn’t going to go anywhere but where they decided to take her. Frank had said the elevator was stopped by him. He must have seen her leave and realized what she was doing. Somehow he was able to control the penthouse elevator. He had left her trapped there while he called these people to pick her up, but where was the destination?
She was scared, of what would happen to her, and of the man who could do this. Frank was a powerful and influential man, but she had no idea he had the means to abduct her. She began to realize how much she had underestimated him. Part of his attraction was the aura of power and influence she sensed in him, but she never thought it would be turned against her. Her mind was in turmoil, but there was a strange sort of thrill to all this. She didn’t want to admit it, even to herself, but in a small corner of her mind was a fascination with the idea of being carried off, helpless, to some unknown place.
She shifted her legs, moving her feet around until they were brought up short as the shackles took hold. She looked down at the floor, seeing the gleaming rings around her bare ankles. There was a small keyhole on each one. Reaching with her fingers, she could feel the keyholes on the handcuffs around her wrists too. All she needed was the key. She looked up at the woman in the front seat, who was still watching her. No, no point in asking, Laura told herself.
She leaned back, trying to give herself more room to move her arms around. The woman was now facing forwards, apparently satisfied Laura wasn’t going to be difficult. The view out the front windshield was of city streets going by, followed by a freeway ramp as they headed out of town. There were no side or rear windows so she had to be content with the partially obscured sights through the wire screen.
Laura closed her eyes, trying to hold back the tears. The shock of being arrested, handcuffed, and now shackled in the rear of a police van still hadn’t worn off. This was something that happened on the news, to other people in a different town. Not to her. It’s not a real arrest, she reminded herself, I didn’t break any laws. That didn’t make the handcuffs any less real though. Once again she tested them. It was a futile gesture; her hands would stay locked behind her back until someone released them.
She wanted to fight them, resist any way she could, but they had moved so fast and been so well prepared she had no chance at all. Now that she was in the van she had no hope of escape. Merely the threat of that gag had intimidated her into silence. They had every possibility covered; even if she could somehow signal for help no one would pay attention to a prisoner in custody. As the van drove though the nearly deserted night time streets she told herself the only choice she had was reluctant cooperation, until a better opportunity presented itself.
Cathy looked up from her magazine as the phone rang. She watched as Robert answered it and began talking. She looked a question at him to see if he needed anything. Seeing her gesture he shook his head. She went back to reading, unconsciously touching the ring of steel around her neck. The magazine article was interesting, a commentary on the apparent rise of what the author called “traditional marriages”. Cathy smiled as she thought, if this woman only knew just how traditional it could be.
She and Robert had been together for several years and were now in the second year of making it official with marriage. He was a good husband and even better as her master. She wondered what that author would think of their marriage, especially if the part about Cathy being owned came out. Or the time when he had sent her to that school. Outrage and horror would be the most likely result, followed later by curiosity.
Robert finished and hung up the phone. As he turned back to Cathy she saw the odd expression on his face. She knew that look; he was making a tough choice, one she probably wouldn’t like. She put down the magazine and looked up at him. “Who was that on the phone?” she asked. She knew it helped for him to talk through his reasoning at times like this, so she gave him an opening to start.
He sat down in the chair across from her and took her hands in his. Oh oh, Cathy thought, this isn’t going to be good news.
“It was a call from someone I’ve known for many years, Frank Ferren. We aren’t close friends but we’ve worked together in the past and often cross paths. He called because he needs my help, and a big favor, right away. Our help to be precise.” He paused for a moment, thinking. She waited patiently, letting him sort out what he was going to tell her.
Holding her hands he looked directly into her eyes. “This isn’t easy for me Cathy, but I’m going to ask you to go back to the school.”
Cathy’s eyes went wide in shock. She knew he could only mean one particular school, the one where he had sent her two years ago. What had she done to bring him to this? Her heart sunk into despair, somehow she had failed him. “Master, I’m sorry for whatever I did. Please, tell me and it won’t ever happen again. I can do better if you help…” She stopped as Robert held up a hand.
“No Cathy, it’s nothing you did. You aren’t being sent there as a punishment or for any type of correction.” She heard the sincerity in his voice, and the strain that told her this was not easy for him. She looked at him, puzzled as to what was going on. What other reason could there be to send her back?
“It has to do with Frank’s call. His wife tried to walk out on him. He didn’t allow it, and is sending her to the school. He is worried about her though, not sure how she will handle the upset of being thrown into an environment like that. He wants someone to be there to help her adjust. He asked me if you could be that someone.”
Cathy sat back, surprised at the request. She had made it through the school that last time, but it wasn’t an experience she wanted to repeat. “Master, is it important to you that I do this?” she asked him. That was the deciding question. If he thought it was necessary, she would go. Not that she was going to refuse. Cathy had an uneasy feeling that he had already decided to send her and was trying to justify it to himself as much as to her.
“Yes it is important. I owe Frank a lot, for some things he’s helped me with in the past. He’s a decent guy, someone I respect for his honesty and integrity. I know he wouldn’t have called unless he was desperate. I want you to go, to do whatever you can to help her. Her name is Laura, by the way. And Cathy, I would never ask you to do something like this unless there was no other way.”
That settled the matter for Cathy. She was heading for the school once again. On better terms in some respects, but she also knew what it was going to be like. “Will you come to see me?” The worst had been the loneliness, being forcibly separated from him for so long.
He stood and drew her up to him, then put his arms around her. “Of course I will. And bring you home again, as soon as I can. One thing, no one must know the real reason you are there. The school Director knows, as well as Frank and I, but no one else. If anyone asks, you are being sent back for a bad attitude, okay? Frank asked the Director to admit someone to help his Laura. The Director agreed, primarily in recognition for all Frank has done, but that was the condition to get you in. The Director will see to it you have the opportunity to help Laura, but in all other respects your status will have to be the same as everyone else.”
“I understand. When do I leave?” She started to think of what she needed to do around the house first.
He grimaced, more bad news. “In about half an hour. They just picked up Laura and are on the way here now. That way you can be with her right from the start. The next few hours are going to be especially hard for her, but you know that.”
Thirty minutes? Cathy thought it would be a few days. She had to get ready, pack and…no, she thought, one thing I don’t have to do is pack. Where there any loose ends to take care of? “Master, I was supposed to have lunch with Lori tomorrow. Can you call her and explain I can’t make it? Umm, I’m not sure what reason to give; I guess you will have to come up with something. I can’t think of anything else that’s important, but you will know where to find me.” She smiled, trying to make this as easy as possible for him. He didn’t say it, but she could tell it was bothering him. His reluctance was real, and in an ironic twist that was reassuring to Cathy, for it confirmed that she hadn’t brought it on herself.
He took her face in his hands. “I wouldn’t do this if I had any other options. I love you Cathy, don’t ever forget it. I promise you this, I will come for you, just as I did the last time. I can’t tell you how long this will last, but never doubt that it will end. There will be a day you are back here in our home once again.” He kissed her, then held her close, his strong arms holding her in a tight embrace.
She melted against him. This man was her whole world. Whatever he wanted she gave him, and gladly, with all her heart. She didn’t need to think about it. Once again they would be separated, but it was for a good cause. Still, she didn’t look forward to the unforgiving conditions. In retrospect she had come to understand the reasons for the isolation, the regimented routine and strict adherence to rules. No question it was effective, she was living proof of that.
For the next half an hour they sat together, talking quietly. She knew he was doing it in part to keep her from brooding over her departure. She welcomed the distraction, treasuring the few moments they still had. The lights of the van turning into the driveway came all too soon.
Laura watched from the rear seat as the van pulled into the driveway in front of a house. Was this the school Frank had mentioned? The driver parked, stopped the engine and got out. She watched as he went to the front door and rang the bell. The woman in the front seat kept glancing over her shoulder at Laura, then back to the other officer. Something didn’t seem quite right. From what they had said she expected the trip to be several hours. Their travel time so far couldn’t have been more than half an hour, certainly less than an hour.
The door opened and the man went inside the house. A few minutes later the door opened again as he came out, leading a woman who had her arms behind her back. The officer in the front seat opened her door, got out, and then opened the side door of the van. Laura turned to watch as the female officer unlocked the screen door to the rear of the van, and then stood back as the male guard helped the new arrival into the seat next to Laura. Another prisoner in handcuffs, she realized. As he had done with Laura the man fastened a seat belt and shoulder strap around her, then stepped back as the woman officer fastened another set of leg shackles on her ankles. This wasn’t the school but another pickup.
Finished with the new passenger the man went around and got in the driver’s side. The woman repeated the same procedure, closing the cage door, locking it, and finishing by shutting the van door. Satisfied both prisoners were secure the driver started the engine and pulled out onto the street once more. The woman officer gave the same lecture, with gag, to the new passenger. Seeing no resistance the guards ignored them.
Laura turned to look at her fellow traveling companion. She looked to be a little older, but what stood out was the gleaming metal ring around her neck. In the dim night light the first impression was of some sort of necklace, but as Laura studied it she realized it was nothing of the sort. It was too large, and there was a bulge in the back, what looked to be some kind of locking mechanism. It was a collar. Who was this woman, and why was she here? What kind of place were they being driven to?
Cathy noticed Laura’s stare with some amusement. It must be the collar, she thought to herself, probably never seen one before. She looked over at Laura, wiggled her hands behind her back in a gesture of greeting, shrugged, and then smiled. It was a wordless confirmation that they were both in the same predicament. Their guards had made it clear they didn’t want any talking, so a friendly wave was all she could manage now. From what she could see Laura was a few years younger, and putting on a brave face while too frightened to even consider defying her captors. Cathy had the advantage of knowing what to expect, but to Laura it was a vast unknown. Her outward calm was a façade; behind it she had to be near panic or hysteria. The best Cathy could do for her now would be to set an example of relaxed acceptance, to try to keep Laura from losing her composure.
The trip continued in silence with not a word from anyone. This time Cathy could see out the front windshield through the wire mesh. The last time there had been no windows, only passing sounds to give her a clue. She could tell from the road signs they were out of the city and heading south east, but she still had only a vague idea of where the school was located. She knew it was located in the desert, so they still had a ways to go. She looked back at Laura again, who leaned forward against the shoulder strap and wiggled her hands too, an answering gesture. Good, they were off to a start, comrades in adversity. It was always easier if someone else was sharing the same hardships. Even the chains didn’t seem quite so bad as last time.
As they went through the mountains the driver pulled off the freeway onto a deserted overpass. He parked but left the engine running. Cathy saw the woman in front take something out of a bag then open her door. Curiosity was answered a moment later as the van door slid to the side and the cage door was opened. In her hand were wide leather straps, with a cushion of some material in the front and buckles in the back. Cathy recognized what they were from experience, blindfolds. The female guard got in the back, in the seat behind her and Laura, and proceeded to cover Cathy’s eyes first. She held still as the strap went around her head. So they weren’t going to see where the school was after all.
She felt Laura moving around, probably trying to avoid the blindfold, but the movement stopped abruptly as the guard told her to sit still. Neither one of them were in any position to offer more than token resistance. Cathy was grateful Laura seemed to come to that conclusion and didn’t make too much trouble. As much as she wanted to help, Cathy did not want that gag stuffed in her mouth for the length of the trip. She couldn’t say anything to Laura yet.
She heard the doors close, and a moment later they were back on the freeway. The blindfold was held on securely by the strap and wouldn’t slip off by itself. The rest of the trip would be in darkness as well as silence. Cathy knew it was deliberate, a psychological tool to make them feel helpless and dependent. All of this was intentional, from the restraints to the silent treatment. The blindfold was a change from her last trip, but it was even more effective that the windowless van two years ago. She knew what they were doing to her, but it still had the intended effect. She felt vulnerable, controlled, trapped, incapable of offering any resistance. Laura would be going through the same emotions but magnified by her lack of experience and no knowledge of what was to come.
Haughty, spiteful and petty were to be Cathy’s problems, according to what Robert had said. The school had to have a reason for her to be there, so the Director had made those suggestions. There had to be a bad attitude which the staff would work to correct. She would have to be careful about that and not forget her cover story. Robert was emphatic about keeping her real purpose a secret, so she had no alternative but to comply. She had no idea what the school had planned for her but she would have to endure it. No choice there either. In fact, she laughed ruefully to herself, she wasn’t going to be making decisions about much of anything for quite a while.
The van drove on through the night. Both of the women in the back seat were quiet, lost in thought. Cathy brought up old memories of her last visit, and her friendship with Paula. After being released they had kept in touch for a while but her master Big Mike had taken a new assignment at a mine site in Australia and they had lost contact. Paula had been her safe port in the storm, the one who had helped her more than anyone else when they had been incarcerated together. Her stoic determination in what seemed to be a hopeless situation had been an inspiration to Cathy. Paula had never lost faith in her master, even after it appeared she had been abandoned. Now Cathy would be the one playing the part of the older and wiser role model.
For Laura the trip was something out of a nightmare. Even being trapped in the elevator wasn’t as bad as sitting in that van. Her shoulders ached from holding her arms behind her back, and her wrists were sore from struggling with the handcuffs. They had put her in chains like a prison convict, and then forced her to wear a blindfold. It was all too much for her. She felt weak and defenseless, at the mercy of a pair of strangers. That woman next to her seemed so composed and worry free, not afraid at all, yet she was in the same predicament. She must know what’s going to happen, Laura told herself, that’s the only explanation. Maybe it won’t be so bad after all, if her companion wasn’t overly concerned. Deep breath, hold, release, the old yoga exercise came back to her. It was a way to relax and focus for meditation. She hadn’t thought much of that class when she took it but it did help now.
The van slowed as they left the freeway. Up an exit ramp, across the overpass, then they drove back down a side road. A moment later the van stopped and Laura heard the front passenger door open. The cool night desert air, scented with sagebrush, came in the open door. She heard what sounded like a gate opening, then the van pulled forward and stopped again. Once more she heard what must be a gate, then a moment later the passenger door shut and they drove on. This must be some kind of private road, perhaps they were close to the school now.
Frank had called it a school, but what kind of center of education brought in students blindfolded and bound in chains? Laura had doubts it was really a school. More likely it was some other kind of institution, maybe a mental hospital or a jail. A stab of terror made her shiver, had Frank committed her to a psychiatric hospital? She had no doubt he could find the doctors to claim she had some rare mental disease and was a danger to herself.
No, that didn’t explain the woman sitting next to her. Other than that steel collar there was nothing odd about her. She had been aware of her surroundings, even friendly. Besides, mental patients weren’t delivered in police vans. And why the blindfold? There was no need to keep the location of a hospital secret. That meant it had to be something else.
They must have driven for another hour before the van slowed. Wherever they were, it was isolated. Laura had not heard a single car go past once they left the freeway. The van made a turn then came to a stop. She heard the rattling sound of a garage door opening, then the van backed into the garage and stopped again. The louder rumbling sound inside told her the garage door was closing. The driver turned off the engine and the guards opened their doors to get out.
Both women turned toward the side door at the sound of it opening, followed by the sound of a key in the cage door as it was unlocked. Cathy felt the leg irons being removed from her ankles, then her seat belt was released. Hands on her arm and behind her head helped her out of the van. Still blindfolded she had to move slowly, feeling for the floor with her foot. Once out she stretched to get the stiffness out of her legs. She bent at the waist and raised her arms as far as she could behind her back, trying to relieve some of the pressure on her shoulders for a moment. The guards allowed it, pausing before one took hold of her arm and forced her face forward against the side of the van. “Stay there and don’t move,” he ordered.
Laura sat quietly as the guards took the other woman out first. Moments later she felt hands on her ankles as the shackles were unlocked. She heard as much as felt the seat belt buckle open, then hands were on her arm, pulling her toward the open door. She slid along the bench seat, then turned her body to get out. A hand was on top of her head to keep her from bumping it against the van roof. She dropped off the edge of the seat and felt the garage floor underneath her. An awkward and graceless exit, but the best she could do with her hands bound and eyes covered.
She stretched her legs and tried to move her arms around to give some relief to her painful shoulders. She felt a touch behind her head, and then the blindfold came off. They were in a brightly lit garage. Laura had to blink a few times before her eyes adjusted to the light. The female guard had a hand on Laura’s upper arm, holding her in place as the male guard brought up the other woman. A door in the side of the garage opened, revealing a room with two large uniformed men standing inside. Beyond the door Laura could see some type of counter and another door behind it.
They wore what was obviously some kind of uniform but there were no markings or insignia to give some clue as to what this place was. One man held a clipboard in his had as he peered intently at both women. He came over to Laura first, checked his clipboard once more then spoke to her, “tell me your first name only.”
“Laura,” she answered. She noticed he hadn’t phrased it as a question, more as an order.
The man turned to the other woman, “your first name only”.
“Cathy, sir” she answered. Laura watched how the woman, Cathy as she now knew her name, stood straight but lowered her eyes and spoke very softly. Laura didn’t miss the significance of the “sir” she had added either. No one corrected Cathy so it must be part of the protocol here. The man with the clipboard took two envelopes from it and handed one to each of the van officers. Both thanked the man and started to get back in the van. The two women were led into the adjoining room and the garage entrance was shut. Laura heard the outside door open and the van drive off.
As the two were lined up in front of the counter Cathy mentally kicked herself. Only here a few minutes and she had already slipped. She was supposed to have a bad attitude but the moment one of the wardens had spoken to her she had lapsed into her old submissive self. Too ingrained, she thought, I can’t even suppress it anymore. No point in trying to backtrack now and be a nuisance. She would have to find some other way for her “bad attitude” to show itself.
Both stood in front of the counter for several minutes while the man behind it filled out some paperwork. “Do either of you have any possessions? Purse, jewelry, anything besides your clothes?” he asked them.
“No sir” Cathy answered. Robert would have laughed at that question, knowing she was the possession. The warden hadn’t asked about the collar, but it was clearly visible. Cathy was relieved when Robert had told her it would not be taken away. It was her one tie to him, a symbol of his promise to come for her when she had finished her assignment.
“No sir,” Laura answered, following Cathy’s example. The officer who had first searched her had taken off all her jewelry and put it in her purse, then given the purse to Frank. She literally had nothing but the clothes on her back.
He made a few more notations, and then gestured to the other two men in the room. “All yours, you can take them to processing.” He turned and opened the gate of steel bars covering the door behind his chair. He inserted a key in a panel to one side and turned it. The doors slid open to reveal an elevator.
Laura hesitated for a moment, recalling her ordeal in the last elevator ride, but she had no choice but to enter as the man behind her forced her inside. She and Cathy stood facing the rear of the car as the door closed and they started to descend. Underground, Laura realized, the place is all underground. It must be a series of mineshafts or caverns. She glanced over at Cathy and almost laughed as she saw the wiggling fingers again.
The elevator car came to a stop. From the time it took to descend, Laura knew they had to be deep underground. The door opened to another barred gate, which her guard unlocked. The two of them were taken down a featureless corridor to yet another barred gate. Cathy’s guard opened that one, and then both women were led into a nearly bare room.
The room was sparsely furnished, consisting of nothing more than a small table and chair to one side, with two cardboard boxes underneath. There was only the one entrance, and that had a gate of metal bars in place of the door. Their guards took Laura and Cathy to the center of the room, turned them to face the table, and then removed their handcuffs.
The moment her hands were free Laura brought her arms forward and began exercising them while rubbing her wrists. She could see red marks where the cuffs had been. Best of all was the relief from the persistent ache in her shoulder. She glanced over at Cathy, who was also rubbing her wrists but otherwise appeared to have suffered no other effects from the prolonged use of the restraints.
One of the guards left, closing the barred gate behind him. The other one walked around the table, pulled out the chair and sat down. “Eyes front,” he ordered. Both women fixed their eyes on him as they faced the table. He placed one set of handcuffs on the table then folded his arms and leaned back in the chair.
“We have certain rules here, for security purposes,” he began. “One is that you are not permitted to wear street clothes. There is a box for each of you.” He paused to push the cardboard boxes out from under the table with his foot. “Remove your clothing, all of it, fold each item neatly then place it in your box. Shoes and belt too. Everything will be returned when you leave. You may begin.”
Strip in front of a strange man? Laura froze, not wanting to expose herself. Next to her Cathy kicked off her shoes and reached for the zipper behind her back. The dress fell to the floor, quickly joined by Cathy’s underwear. Cathy knelt to pick up her garments and folded them, placing them carefully in her box.
As Cathy finished and stood up again, she saw Laura watching her, eyes wide. Scared, Cathy thought, I’ll have to talk her through it. She turned to the guard. “Sir, may I talk to her for a moment?” Seeing Laura’s hesitation he had started to rise from the chair, but stopped at Cathy’s request. He waved his hand in a gesture of approval and sat back down.
She turned back to Laura, who was holding her hands together to keep them from trembling. “Laura, look at me.” Laura raised her eyes, a silent plea on her face for help. “You have to do this. This man is one of the wardens here. They must be obeyed, immediately, no matter what they tell you to do. If you don’t take your clothes off, right now, they will force you to do it. Then you will be punished. Please, do as he says. No matter what you do they are coming off anyway. You have to do this, right now. Don’t make it any harder on yourself.”
There were tears in Laura’s eyes but she began unbuttoning her blouse. “That’s it,” Cathy encouraged her. “Here, blouse first. Now your shoes, then your skirt.” Laura stepped out of her shoes and reached for the zipper on the side of her skirt. It fell in a pile around her feet. “You’re almost done,” Cathy whispered to her. Laura opened the catch on her bra and slipped it off her shoulders, exposing her breasts to the guard. Taking a deep breath and closing her eyes, she finished by pulling down her pantyhose. Straightening up, she started to cover herself with her hands but Cathy grabbed them. “No Laura, don’t do that. Keep your hands at your side.” Cathy knelt down again and gathered up Laura’s clothing, folded it and placed it in the box.
“Thank you for your patience sir,” Cathy told the guard, “shall I put the boxes on the table?”
“Leave them where they are,” he answered while standing up. As he walked around the table toward Cathy he picked up the cuffs from the table and opened one side. “Hold out your left hand,” he told Cathy. “Now you, the right hand,” and he closed the other cuff around Laura’s wrist, linking the two women together. He took a moment to ensure the cuffs weren’t too tight before he used a key to double lock them.
“I gather you’ve been here before?” he asked Cathy. “How far back?”
“It was about two years ago sir.”
“Good, for the most part the rules haven’t changed. Explain them to her,” he pointed to Laura. “Go to the far wall and stay there till I return. You may sit down after I leave. Now, back up to the wall.”
Looking over her shoulder Cathy started to step back. Laura said nothing but copied Cathy, slowly backing up but not turning away from the man in front of them. They stopped when they reached the wall, watching as the warden tucked the boxes under one arm and went to the door. He pulled out a key chain attached to his belt, selected a key, and opened the door. On the other side he closed and locked it, then walked down the corridor.
Both women visibly relaxed after he had gone. “C’mon, let’s sit down,” Cathy said as she lowered herself to the floor. Laura joined her, leaning her back against the wall. Cathy stretched out her legs but Laura sat with them together, raised so she could rest her chin on her knees. With her free hand Laura moved the handcuff on her other wrist, examining the metal bracelet.
“I’ve never seen handcuffs close up, much less worn them. Just the pictures on TV. I don’t suppose you know how to open them without a key?” Laura looked over at Cathy.
Laughing, Cathy shook her head. “No, afraid not. I’ve had the pleasure of wearing cuffs many, many times, but my master has never seen fit to give me a key. You get used to it. After a while, you don’t even notice them. It’s like wearing tight clothes or high heels, uncomfortable but something you have to do.”
“Master?” Laura asked, “what do you mean? I saw how easily you got around even with your hands behind your back. You mean someone makes you wear these things?” She shook the cuff on her wrist.
“Master as in the man who owns me. And he’s my husband too. Sometimes he likes to remind me who’s in charge, so he takes away my hands for a while. It can be fun, especially when he finds ways to point out how helpless I am.
“Listen Laura, we may not have much time, so I want to explain the rules here before anything else.” Cathy held up her hand as Laura began to say something. “I know you have a million questions, but right now I have to teach you the basics as fast as I can. Let me finish before you start.” Laura nodded in agreement.
“This place is a school, but attendance is mandatory. You’ve seen the security here. No one gets out unless they release you. Don’t even think about running away, it’s impossible. Even if you could escape we are at least fifty miles from the nearest road, across the empty desert. You wouldn’t make it, none of us would. No one has ever escaped from here.
“You are here because someone sent you. In my case it was my master, the first time and now once again. You will have to stay until the one who sent you decides you can return home. I don’t know how long it will be, none of us are told until that day arrives.
“The guards are called wardens. In here their authority is final. When one of them tells you to do something, don’t even hesitate or think about it, just do it. They are men who know how to handle women and won’t tolerate any disobedience. If you don’t cooperate they can make your life miserable. They are fair but strict and do not bend the rules for anyone. No matter how strong you think you are, you won’t get the best of them. I learned that the hard way the first visit here.”
“What happened?” Laura interrupted.
“I can’t tell you. We are forbidden to discuss any kind of punishment, what they like to call discouraging improper behavior. But trust me, you don’t want to learn for yourself. You came very close a few minutes ago when you didn’t begin taking off your clothes immediately. I think he was lenient because you didn’t know the rules yet. You won’t get away with that again though, so be careful.”
“Do we wear some kind of uniform? Did he leave to go get them?” Laura looked at Cathy, obviously concerned.
Cathy knew the answer. There would be a uniform, but not the kind Laura was thinking of. She could explain, but it might take too long. Cathy decided to forego an answer and concentrate on what Laura needed to know immediately. “We’ll talk about that in a moment. I don’t know how much time they will give us, so I have to tell you about the rules here. Let me do that first, then I can get back to your questions.
“Above all we must do as we are told. I can’t stress that enough. Never, ever defy a warden. Don’t tell him you can’t do it unless it really is impossible. Don’t make excuses, they won’t accept it. And always treat them with respect. No swearing, no sarcasm, no snide remarks, they won’t stand for it. Oh yeah, they will come across as distant and unapproachable. Don’t bother trying to start a conversation or get to know one. They won’t even tell you their names.”
Laura nodded, showing she understood. “Cathy,” she asked in a low, almost frightened tone, “will they take advantage of us?”
“No, that you don’t have to worry about. Even if you think he’s cute they would decline an invitation. Being guys I assume they like the job, they get to look all they want, but one hard and fast rule is the wardens do not get involved.” Cathy did not add that there would be another reason the wardens didn’t make use of them, but she knew Laura would be discovering that one soon enough.
“Ok, next we have to talk about position. Whenever we are in a room like this, and a warden comes to the door, you must stop whatever you are doing and present yourself in a certain way. Let me show you.” Cathy rose up and gathered her legs under her, in a kneeling position with her knees together. She kept her back straight and head up, but lowered her eyes to look at the floor in front of her. Her right hand rested lightly on top of her right leg, palm down and fingers spread slightly. The left hand, handcuffed to Laura, she held to one side.
“See if you can copy this. Knees together, sit back on your heels, back straight, head up, but focus on a point on the floor directly in front of you.” Laura studied Cathy’s pose for a moment before attempting to imitate it. “No, put your free hand halfway down the top of your leg, like mine. Keep your palm down and fingers apart.” Laura made the changes as Cathy pointed them out. “Good, now if our wrists weren’t hooked together then both hands are to be in the same relative place. For now put that arm to your side and we’ll keep the handcuffs halfway between us.” Both women knelt side by side, practicing their presentation.
“You will learn when to present and when you can relax by watching the others. For now just do what I do. One thing, please try your best while we are hooked together. If either of us makes a mistake we are both held accountable.”
Laura looked confused and angry. “Why would you be punished for something I did? That isn’t fair. None of this is. They had no right to bring us here either. I don’t think any of this is legal.”
“No it isn’t but there isn’t anything we can do about it. I can’t take this off,” Cathy raised her wrist with the handcuff, “and I can’t open that door. I’m not going to overpower a man twice my size, somehow escape out of here, and run stark naked in bare feet for miles across the desert. It isn’t going to happen. What I do know, what I am sure will happen, is that they can force me to do whatever they want.
“I also know if I cooperate I have a chance to get out of here. Both of us are here for a reason. I have problems I need to overcome, and this place, this school, will teach me how to do that. If you make the effort you can learn too.”
“I don’t have any problems,” Laura said defiantly. “He has the problem. I have a life too. He has to lighten up and…” Cathy held up a hand to interrupt.
“This isn’t the time or place. You are here, he isn’t. Yeah, we’ve been abducted in the middle of the night and imprisoned against our will, but right this minute neither you nor I can change that.”
Laura was unimpressed with Cathy’s argument but couldn’t deny the fact that she was in no position to resist. “Alright, I can see your point. Anyway, I don’t want you to get in trouble because of me. What else do I need to know?”
Cathy breathed a silent prayer of thanks. Laura was adapting to the circumstances, even if it was with reluctance. No question she was submissive; she was trying to get along, making concessions instead of being confrontational. Real progress, and for Cathy some personal relief that there was now a chance she herself wouldn’t be dragged off for a lengthy session of “discouragement” in the next few minutes.
“Okay, some more obvious rules. We aren’t allowed to argue or fight with each other. No raised voices or shouting. Nothing physical either. Don’t hit anyone no matter how mad you are. No talking in classes, or while you are being escorted by a warden. Whenever they are around you sit or stand quietly, speak only to answer questions. When in doubt, wait to be told what to do.
“We eat and sleep according to their schedule. No matter how tired you are, don’t fall asleep until you have permission. And when it’s time to get up you do it right away. No extra five minute snoozes.
“We aren’t allowed outside a room unless a warden is with us. Get used to handcuffs, because they won’t unlock the door unless you have them on. Security rules here are rigidly enforced. You saw the corridor outside? The entire place looks the same, not a mark on a door or wall anywhere. It’s like a maze. Even if you get a door open you’d get lost in a few minutes. And there are those barred jail cell doors everywhere, always locked.”
“Has anyone ever escaped, or even tried?” Laura asked.
“No, there’s no place to start. No chance of an outside rescue either. No one knows we are here. No one even knows where this place is located.” Actually quite a few people knew where this place was, people like Robert. None of them were likely to be of help.
“Another rule has to do with what you asked about, the uniforms.” Here we go, Cathy told herself, if she can handle this we will survive the night. “We are in what is known as the secured area. Later on you will see the sign. We are not allowed to wear clothing. That’s why it was taken away. We aren’t going to get a uniform to wear. What we do get is a collar,” Cathy’s free hand went to the band around her throat, “like this. You will have to wear one too. They can’t be taken off.
“We get one more charming item of apparel. We are required to wear what they call a control belt at all times.” Cathy paused, to see if Laura would figure it out.
“What do you mean? I thought you said we won’t be given any clothes. Why would we need a belt?”
Cathy sighed, she hadn’t understood. “It’s a chastity belt. It’s made out of metal and locks around your waist. There’s a shield in front that fits tight against you, between your legs. It goes around and up the back, snug. You can’t take it off, and you can’t get underneath it. It has a narrow slit in front so you can pee. As long as you have it on you can’t have sex, or at least not where you can feel it.” There was no other way to explain it; she had to be blunt.
Laura said nothing at first. She sat back, staring at Cathy, absorbing what was coming. They were going to be locked up, in the most intimate way. Her first reaction was apprehension, mixed with curiosity. She would no longer have control over her own body.
Cathy heard a door and footsteps out in the corridor first. Quickly she assumed position, with Laura following awkwardly. “Someone’s coming,” Cathy whispered, “remember what I told you.” Both women knelt on the floor, side by side, linked by the chain between their wrists. Cathy risked a quick look to make sure Laura had it right. Close enough, she thought.
The sound of the key in the door was loud in the silence, but neither of them looked up. Cathy could see at least three guards enter the room, two of them carrying cardboard boxes, larger ones this time. Cathy knew what was inside. The third warden came over and stood in front of the women, but said nothing. Inspection, Cathy told herself, and if we don’t pass I’ll be the one to blame. She dare not look at Laura now but hoped she wouldn’t do something stupid, like jump up and demand to be taken home.
Focus on that spot on the floor, Cathy said to herself. Even breathing, don’t move, sit straight. Wait for him to say something, don’t look up or to the side. Maybe Laura was new to this, but she wasn’t. She knew she had to be perfect in every respect. The warden wouldn’t accept anything less. And maybe he would be distracted from any imperfections on Laura’s part.
It felt like hours as they knelt under his scrutiny, but it lasted only a moment. “Very good, a quick learner,” he spoke to Laura before turning to Cathy. “And your lessons were not wasted.” Simple words but Cathy still felt proud in being able to pry loose even the faintest praise from him.
“Both of you stand up,” he ordered. Cathy got to her feet first, with Laura behind. He reached down and took hold of the handcuffs joining them together. With a key he released Cathy’s wrist but left the cuff on Laura. “Both of you, turn and face the wall.” They both complied. From the corner of her eye Cathy watched as the warden grabbed Laura’s wrists and locked them together behind her back. A moment later Cathy’s own arms were pulled back and she felt the cool steel close on her wrists. Standing behind her the warden put a hand on her shoulder. “Spread your legs.” She widened her stance. “Farther,” he demanded, pushing against her ankles with his shoe. Satisfied, he repeated the same procedure with Laura. “Stay right where you are and don’t move.”
Cathy heard a box being opened and footsteps as another warden approached. She didn’t have to see to know what was about to happen. They began with Laura, using a cloth measuring tape, first around her neck, then her waist and between her legs. As one guard called out the numbers another wrote it down. Cathy feared Laura might react, but she stood facing the wall, enduring the indignity in silence.
Cathy couldn’t turn to look but she heard the clinking sound of hand tools. She knew what they were doing, making adjustments, most likely to the waistband. Sure enough, as one warden came into sight again she saw him placing the waistband around Laura. Smart, they chose to do her first so she wouldn’t see what was coming, Cathy thought, I’ve worn one before so they don’t worry about me.
She could see the warden take the belt off, to make another small adjustment. Then it was back on Laura. It must have fit because he reached around and pulled up the shield. That seemed to fit precisely because he placed a cover plate over the front and locked it shut with an oddly shaped round key. Cathy tried to get a look at Laura’s face to gauge her reaction, but couldn’t see well enough.
Another sound, as if someone was looking through a box, and then Cathy saw the warden return, with a metal object in his hand. He closed it around Laura’s throat, fastening it in the back with some type of tool.
Cathy felt the measuring tape around her own waist, above the hips. As with Laura they were quick and efficient in taking her measurements. A short delay, then once again she felt the familiar wide metal loop go around her body. Apparently they decided no adjustments were needed because he immediately pulled up the shield and locked it shut.
She had to close her eyes for a moment at the feather touch of the metal resting between her legs. Unlike Laura Cathy was no stranger to the grip of a chastity belt. In the years since her first visit Robert had ordered her to wear one many times. They would go to a party, or out to eat, with him often slipping his hand under her dress to touch it. Then when they got home he wouldn’t open it, to her great frustration. When she would beg him to use his key, he would laugh and say “convince me.”
The warden behind Cathy turned them both around to face him. “If either of you have any problems with the belt, chafing, bruising, sores, you have permission to speak up. There will be regular checks on the fit.” He turned back to the other two men by the table and gave them a nod. They gathered up the now empty boxes and left.
Turning back to the women he spoke again. “As a matter of policy you will be kept in a separate area for a period of time. This is to ensure you have no contagious diseases, colds, flu, before you mix with the rest of the visitors here. It is for health reasons only and is not meant to reflect on your status in any way. Your processing is finished for the moment so I will take you to your room in the quarantine area.”
As the warden left Laura looked over her shoulder to watch him walk away, then turned back away from the bars and faced their room. He had just released them from their restraints, reaching through the bars of their cell to remove the handcuffs and leg chains. Cathy was already sitting down against the far wall. To one side were toilet facilities, bare floor on the other. Laura’s hand went to the collar around her neck first. It wasn’t heavy or uncomfortable, but she could feel it resting on the back of her neck and above her collarbone. She pulled on the sides but it didn’t open. Exploring with her fingers she could feel some type of keyhole in back. There was enough space to put her fingers between throat and the band, but not nearly enough to slip it off. There was no mirror so she couldn’t see what it looked like, but judging from the one Cathy wore it wasn’t unattractive. There was something etched into the side but she couldn’t make out what it was from touch alone.
Maybe she couldn’t see the collar, but she could see what they had put around her waist. The waistband had the bright mirror polished look of chrome steel. With her fingers she could tell it was edged with some type of rubbery material. The inside of the waist band was padded with foam. In the front was a metal plate with a circular lock, the kind she had seen on candy vending machines. It appeared to hold the belt together, both the waist band and the lower section. It was that lower section that Laura concentrated on. Roughly triangular, it fit snugly against her body. It was slightly rounded to better accommodate her natural curves. It narrowed at the lower point between her thighs, then continued around behind her as a bar, attached to the rear of the belt. In back was a circular cutout. In front the shield portion had a narrow slit, too small for her fingers.
At least she could use the toilet, but it would be difficult. She ran her hand over the front, then tested the sides. “Don’t do that,” Cathy warned, “it won’t do any good but if you get caught then they put you in something that’s guaranteed tamperproof. And very unpleasant to wear.” Laura looked up as Cathy spoke, then jerked her hand away. Laura turned back to the cell door, trying to look down the hallway through the bars.
“We aren’t supposed to do that either. Unless told otherwise, we are supposed to keep at least an arm’s length back from the door at all times.” Cathy patted the floor next to her. “C’mon over and join me on our luxurious living room couch.”
With some difficulty due to the unfamiliar constraints of the belt Laura managed to sit down, but couldn’t find a comfortable way to sit. “You’ll get used to it,” Cathy advised, “try sitting slightly to one side.” That helped and Laura was able to relax, joining Cathy in leaning against the wall.
“Why all this?” Laura questioned. “Why the prison, the chains, locking us in these things? What’s the point? What am I supposed to learn from it?” She was still in a state of bewildered shock. So much had happened so quickly she hadn’t had time to think. And why did it happen to me, Laura asked herself.
“I can’t answer those questions Laura. I think I understand a little of it, but I can’t explain how the dominant mind thinks or justifies their actions. I can’t make my brain work that way. It’s true I went through this once before, but what I learned had more to do with admitting who I am, not the methods they used to open my eyes. The people here are not sadistic. They aren’t doing it for the sole reason of seeing us suffer. It all has some kind of purpose.”
“But what kind of purpose?” Laura argued. “This is degrading. Forced to strip, locked in handcuffs, kept in little more than a cage, even a collar for god’s sake, and then to put us in these things,” Laura pointed to her belt. “It’s like we are nothing but sex objects. No, not even that, our sex has been taken away too. And always follow the rules, jump through the hoops like trained animals.” The more she thought about it the angrier she got. “No one has the right to do this to me. I’m no criminal. I didn’t break any laws. And even if I have, crooks get better treatment than this.”
Reaction setting in, Cathy thought to herself, I need to get her talking about something else. “What did you do to wind up here? Are you married, a boyfriend?” Cathy actually knew, from the little Robert had told her, but she needed Laura to say it.
“My husband Frank. Up to tonight he’s been great, a real dream come true.” Laura told Cathy about the party and the fight, how she had stormed out, then wound up trapped in the elevator, and finally the parting scene with him as she was taken away. As Laura talked the tone in her voice became calmer.
“Tell me about Frank. What’s he like? Do you get along well?” Cathy could see it was working. The signs of anxiety were fading as Laura was distracted by talking about herself.
“We’ve been married just over a year. Frank was everything I could want. Good looking, smart, successful, funny, charming, all the things you look for. He gives me lots of attention and actually listens to what I say. He keeps his promises and handles all the problems.
“One time, we came home and the roof had leaked over the bedroom. There was water everywhere. I got so upset and started crying, but he sat me down in the living room and told me not to worry about it. The next few days he got the roof fixed, replaced the carpet, got us a new mattress and bedding, and handled all the paperwork for the insurance. A week later you couldn’t even tell what had happened. He does things like that for me all the time.”
Laura paused for a moment, thinking about Frank. She still couldn’t understand why he had done this to her. He had never even raised his voice to her, much less given her any indication he would do something as drastic as sending her to this place. He was always so patient, no matter what he had to deal with. But tonight a very different side of Frank had appeared, one she had not suspected.
“Why did you walk out on a man like that?” Cathy knew it was a leading question. She had done the same thing once before, which had landed her in the school the first time.
“He wanted me to go to this party, for some friend of his. I was tired and didn’t want to go, but he insisted. Truth is, I would have gone if he had said it was important, but he didn’t tell me that. It was the way he acted, like my going was a foregone conclusion. I don’t know, maybe I was tired and irritable, but I got so mad I walked out the door. I was going to teach him a lesson not to take me for granted.” As she talked to Cathy, her description started to sound childish and silly.
He doesn’t ignore me, Laura thought. He asks what I think about everything. Even the dull stuff, like the insurance, their investments, he always took the time to make sure she knew about it. Laura didn’t really care about most of it; she trusted his judgment. But his decision to send her to this place she did not comprehend at all.
Their conversation was interrupted by sounds from the corridor. Cathy immediately knelt facing the door. Laura was slower but copied Cathy’s position, concentrating on what Cathy had told her. The same warden who had brought them to the room earlier had returned, this time with a cart. Before speaking he took a moment to observe them through the bars. Laura felt nervous as his silent gaze took the two women in. From the way Cathy acted there was no question that the proper presentation position was essential.
“After you finish your meal you will be allowed to sleep.” He slid two covered plates through a slot cut out from the bars at the bottom of the door. Two cups followed. “You are required to eat the entire meal. When I return I will bring you some bedding. You have permission to eat after I leave.” Abruptly he turned and walked away, pushing the cart.
Laura started to get up but halted when she saw Cathy still in position. Not until they heard another door open and close out in the corridor did Cathy stand up. “You have to be careful about relaxing too soon,” she warned Laura. “If he comes right back you won’t be ready. It’s better to wait and listen.” Laura nodded, realizing she still had a lot to learn about surviving in the school.
Cathy picked up one of the plates, unwrapped it, selected one of the beverage cups and went back to her spot against the wall. Laura followed and sat down next to her, balancing the plate in her lap. The dinner was a warm roast beef sandwich and some salad greens. The cup held iced tea.
Laura hadn’t realized how hungry she was till the aroma of the food reminded her. The taste was plain but the added spice of an appetite made it a welcome meal. While they ate she asked Cathy about her reason for being her. Cathy hesitated for a moment before answering.
“I’m not allowed to talk about the last time here, but my master decided I should return because of an attitude problem. He thinks I have a quick temper and a sharp tongue to match, something he doesn’t approve of, so I’m here to learn about self-control. I didn’t even know about it until just before that van stopped to pick me up. He didn’t give me any warning, but as my master he can send me here anytime he thinks it’s necessary. I can’t say no to him; he really does own me. It may not be legal, but I can’t stop him. Truth is, he may be right about my attitude. In any case here I am. I know I won’t get out until he’s satisfied so I have to do the best I can.
“I don’t like being here Laura, and anyone who tells you different is lying. It’s a miserable place, intentionally so, they don’t want you to get comfortable. It’s unpleasant for a reason, to get all of us motivated to get out of here. No TV, no radio, nothing to read, it keeps you focused on the lessons. But I do know everyone who goes through this school comes out the better for it.” Cathy stopped to take a bite of her sandwich.
“But why am I here? Frank is my husband, but I don’t call him master. I’m his wife, not his property. What right does he have to send me here?”
She doesn’t know about domination and submission, Cathy realized. “Laura, let me ask you a bit about your marriage before I answer that question. Do you have what might be called a traditional marriage? He is the breadwinner, you take care of him and the house, that type of setup?” Laura nodded in agreement. “Do you like it that way, where each of you has a specific role?”
“Oh yes, I don’t want to be in charge. I love how he naturally takes over, how he always seems to know what to do. I know it’s supposed to be equal and sharing and all that, but it’s not for me. When he looks at me, telling me in that low, quiet but oh so confident voice exactly what he wants me to do, well, it’s like my head empties out and all I can think of are his words. And when he looks pleased afterwards, it makes me feel so good I can’t help myself.”
Cathy nodded. It was a typical story. “You gave him the right to send you here Laura. Not a legal right, in fact you could probably have him arrested for kidnapping and false imprisonment. But you gave him the moral right to run your life, and that’s what he’s doing now. You put him in charge, the dominant role, and chose the submissive role for yourself. You’ve just discovered how serious he is about his part in your relationship.”
Laura was quick to argue. “I didn’t tell him he could send me to jail! I obey him because I love him, not because I’m afraid of what he might do. Sure, it’s important to me that I be a good wife and see to it we have a nice home. In time we’ll have a family too, and I want to be able to stay home to raise our future children. But being the good wife doesn’t include something like this.” She waved a hand around their room.
Cathy sighed; it was going to be a long night. “You are wrong Laura. I want all the same things you do. But I do not decide what my husband can or cannot do. I trust him. Period. Do I want to be here? No. Am I mad he sent me here? You bet. What am I going to do about it? Nothing, except what I’m told, so I can get back to him as soon as I can.”
Laura opened her mouth to respond, but Cathy stopped her with an upraised hand. “I can guess what you’re going to say. But think Laura, you can’t have it both ways. Either he decides for you or he doesn’t. You don’t get to pick and choose. Remember the vow, for better or for worse? Welcome to the for worse part.”
Laura lost her argument with those words. She remembered the ceremony, how she had quietly asked the minister to use the older version of the wedding vows, the one that included the now politically incorrect “and obey” phrase. Frank had raised an eyebrow on hearing it but never mentioned it again. It was all too obvious he had not forgotten it though. Those had not been empty words. It was a promise she had kept till now. I can’t stop either, she realized. Cathy is right, I’ve had a very good life up to now, so if the time has come to pay the toll then so be it.
The Teacher stood in front of Laura and Cathy. “Since the two of you can’t attend classes yet, I’ve been given the assignment to tutor you both. You will address me as Miss Jennifer and I will be your only assigned instructor for the quarantine period. Learn what I teach you, and you will be able to leave this place. If you choose to ignore the information we present to you, then also be prepared for an extended stay here, for I promise you this. You will not leave until you demonstrate to everyone’s satisfaction that the circumstances that brought you here will not be repeated. Everyone, not only your master but the staff here at the school too.
“Your visit with us can be tolerable or a nightmare. The choice is up to you. Cooperate, obey the rules, study the lessons, think about what you are taught, and you will progress. Assume the wrong attitude and steps will be taken to correct it. You don’t want that to happen.’
Laura knelt on a cushion next to Cathy. Their lesson had begun shortly after breakfast. One of the wardens had brought the Teacher and two cushions to their cell. Cathy had talked about the classes over their food earlier, stressing how important it was to pay attention. Laura was still angry at being abducted but looked at her situation realistically. Her first inclination had been to adopt some kind of passive resistance, but Cathy’s warnings worried her. Even the Teacher’s lecture carried only veiled threats, but something in Cathy’s demeanor told Laura it wasn’t a bluff.
The lecture went on, covering specific rules they must follow and what they had to avoid. Laura listened, but in the back of her mind a new question had arose. Was Frank her master? Did he literally own her? Everyone here had referred to him as such, but at home they had never used such terms. Before she had met Frank the answer would have been clearly a no, but the question didn’t seem so simple now. The problem was something inside her found the idea appealing. She couldn’t deny those times he acted aggressively she felt compelled to comply with whatever he asked.
“At home your master may not demand you kneel before him, or address him as sir.” Laura’s attention turned back to the Teacher’s lecture. “That’s fine, at home you do as he requests. But here you will kneel, and you will show your respect for the Wardens by calling them sir. This is not the outside world; there is a different protocol to follow here. This is a closed world of absolutes. We are the submissives, we yield control of our lives to the ones who dominate us. Here there are no adjustments for public sensibilities. Everyone knows who, and what, you are. Any doubts or uncertainties are swept away by the simple fact of this collar around our necks.” Jennifer put a hand on her own collar. “Here you can no more deny your nature than you can take this off. See this as an opportunity, the chance to finally free yourself from all your inhibitions. Don’t fight what’s inside your head. You won’t win; I won’t let you, this place won’t let you.
“We’ll stop for a moment. You may stand, walk around, talk quietly. I’ll answer questions within allowed guidelines.” Jennifer finished and gestured for them to stand. “Please, relax, I’m not your adversary. My assignment to teach here is coming to an end. My master allowed me to stay on a few more days until you are moved in with everyone else. You won’t be seeing me once that happens.”
“Why the quarantine?” Cathy asked. “The last time I wasn’t isolated.”
“You’ve been here before? This whole quarantine procedure is new. Seven months ago someone showed up with the flu, but her symptoms weren’t obvious the first day. In an enclosed environment like this it spread rapidly. We had to have mass inoculations to stop it. The procedures were changed to add an observation period instead of relying on a quick visual examination. The school is still adjusting to the change. I don’t mind too much though. I had to delay my departure a few days, but my master asked me to do it. You know how it is, not like I’m going to say no.” Jennifer smiled and shrugged.
Laura felt a short pang of envy. She wanted to be the one leaving. While Cathy and Jennifer talked she walked around their small cell, stretching her sore legs. She noticed how both the other women seemed to be indifferent to their condition. For her own part Laura was constantly distracted by the weight of the collar around her throat and the press of the chastity belt against her body. The slow circulation of the air touching her skin accentuated her lack of clothes. Even the slightest movement brought a reminder that she was not in control, of her surroundings or even her own body.
To Laura it appeared that being a Teacher did not carry too many special privileges. Jennifer was dressed, or undressed, in the same manner as Cathy and herself, wearing only collar and belt. Nothing indicated her status. It seemed the only way she would recognize a Teacher is by how they were introduced. How did they get used to this, she wondered, how can they stand there chatting away as if they had met at the mall?
“Laura? Please resume your position. We will continue.” Jennifer gestured to Laura’s cushion. Cathy was already kneeling. Laura rejoined them, lowering herself on the cushion as she had been taught. “Eyes front, no talking. I will allow questions later. For now you listen.” Jennifer’s tone had shifted, becoming more assertive. She might not be their adversary, but Laura had no doubt the Teacher was once again in charge.
“We’ve gone over the basic rules that govern your stay here, now we’ll talk about why those policies exist,” Jennifer began her next lecture. “Foremost, we need structure, boundaries, we need to know what’s right and wrong. At home we each have a master to lay out a personalized set of rules. Here it’s one size fits all, even I have to abide by the same restrictions as the two of you.
“The organization that built and now operates this school is composed of men who have definite ideas about how we as women should behave. You may or may not agree with them but while you are here you will make every effort to see that you live up to the code of conduct they have given us. You will not be given a choice. I know it doesn’t sound fair. No one asked you if you wanted to come here, or if you agreed to all this. The man who owns you, whatever you call him, agreed for you when he sent you here. Maybe you didn’t know it at the time, but you attached yourself to a man who doesn’t hesitate to act when he deems it necessary. He is not pleased with your behavior and has taken steps to see you change for the better. You must now adjust to his expectations. It may not be reasonable from your point of view, but there is no other option.”
Laura was taken aback at the forcefulness of her words. It brought up her own internal confrontation, her desire to please Frank, to do whatever it took to make him happy and desire her. Against that was the conditioning that said she had to be strong and independent, that no man should run her life or make decisions for her without her approval. None of her friends had ever said anything remotely similar to Jennifer’s speech. The concept that a man had the right to simply dictate how she should conduct herself would have been absurd. Yet her relationship with Frank had turned out to be precisely that. Before today she had never looked at their marriage from the outside, but applying Jennifer’s description she had to admit that Frank did dominate her life, and she willingly accepted it. No, sought it out, Laura told herself. I deliberately looked for someone strong and decisive. It’s what I wanted, the structure and boundaries he sets.
Jennifer turned to Laura, almost sensing the inner turmoil. “Laura, you don’t have to hold back anymore. All of the women here think just like you do. The men in our lives are our masters, they own us, body and mind, and we are proud of it. Here you don’t have to follow the politically correct party line. When you say that word, master, everyone knows what you mean and who it is. No one will laugh at you, or criticize you for being dependent and submissive. In here those are virtues, not weaknesses. You are with your peer group now, among men and women who respect you for your devotion and obedience.”
Laura looked from Jennifer to Cathy, who nodded in silent agreement. It didn’t seem possible. Her friends from college had gone on to pursue careers while she had chosen to marry Frank and be a housewife. She was happy with her choice but sometimes wondered if she had done the right thing. The times she had met her old friends the conversation always seemed to revolve around how little time they had for themselves and how difficult it was to find the right guy. Though she had thought she would be out of place, it had proven to be just the opposite; she had everything they were still striving for. Some of her friends were openly envious of her life and joked about trading places. Laura had never elaborated on her own private life, how she felt about Frank and how he dominated their relationship. Now she was being told that what she had tried to hide from her friends was acceptable and openly discussed, even encouraged.
Laura turned back to Jennifer as she continued speaking. “Let’s start with this”, she reached up to the collar around her neck. “Why are we required to wear one? Why can’t we take them off? It is a badge of possession, a sign to the world that we belong to our masters and a constant reminder to us individually of who and what we are. We cannot ignore it, we cannot remove it; it is always there. His hand is always on us, holding us, pulling us toward him. Just as we cannot escape from the collar, so we cannot avoid his power to control us. When we see it reflected in a mirror, or feel the weight resting on our skin, we cannot help but respond, moving ever deeper into submission.”
Laura was surprised that she had reached up with one hand to touch the band of metal around her own throat. Jennifer was right, it’s presence did affect her mentally. It instilled a feeling of ownership that was hard to ignore. She was compelled to be pleasing, to be obedient, not to resist when the guards ordered her to do something.
Cathy spoke up as Jennifer paused. “I hate it when my collar is removed. When I have it on it’s like he is touching me. It’s a way for him to lay claim to me. When he places it around my neck, and I hear the lock snap shut, I know he wants me. Enough to never let me go. When I have it on I can’t say no to him, the word won’t come out. This collar doesn’t physically restrain me, but it does lock up my mind. I think he knows it too, because he makes me wear it most of the time, except when we are in public.”
Jennifer went on to explain to both Cathy and Laura that every woman in the school, even the staff, were required to wear collars at all time. It was a part of the school’s doctrine, to reinforce the roles of dominant male and submissive female, publicly and privately. She went on to show how the other rules fit in with the same philosophy.
“Look at this chastity belt,” Jennifer emphasized her point by placing her hands on her hips. Like Laura and Cathy she wore the same kind of belt of inflexible steel. “It’s obvious as to what it does, but why? Why must we wear one? Laura, you answer me first.”
Laura hadn’t expected to be called on to answer questions. Caught off guard, she had to think for a moment. “It’s like the collar, to remind us he is in control. We can’t take it off, and I sure won’t ever forget it’s there!”
Everyone laughed, and then Jennifer continued. “Yes, but that’s not what I was looking for. Cathy, what do you think?”
“I know there are a few places in the world where women wear belts like this out of necessity, because the incidence of rape is so common. Otherwise I can’t imagine anyone who would put one of these things on and hand someone else the key, at least not by choice.” Cathy paused a moment to gather her thoughts. “I wasn’t given a choice. He told me I was going to wear one, that I could not take it off, and I did not have permission to ask him to remove it. Then he put it on me, that first time years ago. And true to his word he didn’t give me a key, or put one in a place where I could get to it.
“The first day, it was all I could think about. He didn’t allow any discussion about it. I thought it meant he didn’t trust me, maybe even that he suspected I was having an affair. That evening we went out to dinner, with the belt on under my clothes. I didn’t want to go, but he insisted. All night it felt like everyone was staring at me, as though they could see it. I was so scared someone would find out.”
Cathy ran one hand along the waistband. “I had to get it off, but I couldn’t figure out how to do it. I couldn’t ask, and I had no way to open it myself. Sitting in the restaurant that night, right in the middle of a bite of spaghetti, it struck me. He knew exactly what was happening, what was going through my head, but he had done it anyway. It wasn’t that he distrusted me at all. It was all about control, just as Laura said. Not just that he now controlled my ability to have sex, but that he dominated me in a way I had not expected.
“He hadn’t told me beforehand. Bam, there I was, no time to prepare, or even tell him if I objected. He forced me to depend on him, in a most intimate way, and in a way that would have a tremendous impact on me mentally. In a matter of moments he had actually seized my body. What had always been mine now belonged to him, and there was nothing I could do about it. I hadn’t given it to him, he had simply taken it. Like nothing since it brought home to me the significance of being owned.
“Up to then, in my own mind at least, I had been giving to him. I granted him the power to control me. Suddenly the ground rules were different. Now he took, what he wanted, when he wanted it. It wasn’t up to me to decide to give. His order not to discuss it was key; that’s what turned give into take.” Cathy put one hand on the front of the belt. “That’s why we all wear one now. It’s a symbol of control, but one of unrestricted control, a reminder that he will take if it suits him, regardless of what we might think on the matter.
“To this day, I can’t have an orgasm with this thing on. It’s some sort of psychological conditioning I guess. He got inside my head and changed me. I suppose he does the same thing in other ways, even some I don’t know about. At the time it frightened me, that I had gone beyond some point of no return. Over time I’ve learned that he won’t misuse his power over me, to where I now trust him without question.” Cathy finished with a smile.
Jennifer picked up as Cathy finished. “That’s what I was looking for. You were correct Laura, in that it is control, but Cathy pointed out how it differed. Any other questions about the rules here?”
Laura spoke up. “Yes, why can’t we have any clothes? If not our own, at least a uniform or something?”
Jennifer smiled as she answered. “First of all, they are men.” Both Cathy and Laura laughed as they nodded in agreement. “Aside from that, it puts us at a disadvantage, in several ways. It’s part of the strict security here. Even if you could get out, how are you going to cross the desert dressed, or rather undressed, as you are now? It forces you to accept that you can’t leave, so you have to focus on learning instead of plotting some miraculous escape.
“When you interact with the wardens, don’t you feel self-conscious about your nudity? The rule about presenting yourself in their presence enforces it. Again, you are at a disadvantage, you have to please them by demonstrating obedience. Society has conditioned you to the necessity of wearing clothes whenever you are in public, and to a certain extent the type of clothes dictates one’s relative position in that society. Here they use it against you, depriving you of any clothes, and the status that goes with it. In your mind you can’t help but react to it, by being submissive.
“And then there is the disadvantage of being forced to depend on them for everything. You must submit to their authority out of a sheer need to survive. You have to rely on them to feed you, to take care of you, even to open the doors here. Taking away your clothes is a reminder you can’t even control that little bit of your life. It’s a not so subtle message that you can’t be independent here.”
A sound from the hallway interrupted Jennifer’s speech. The women heard the gate in the corridor being opened, a signal that a warden was coming. Cathy and Laura looked to Jennifer, unsure as to what they were to do. She pointed to the rear wall, and both of them quickly assumed the required presentation position, kneeling next to each other while facing the door. Jennifer didn’t move but turned to face the cell door, Standing with her back straight and hands crossed in front of her, eyes down, and feet slightly apart.
Footsteps, and then a warden was at the bars of the cell, looking in. He gestured to the teacher and ordered her to the door with a curt command, “hold out your hands, in front.” Both Cathy and Laura saw Jennifer hold out her hands through a narrow slot in the bars, as the warden locked handcuffs around her wrists. He opened the door and nodded for her to step out. After closing the door he led her away. At the sound of the corridor gate closing, both women relaxed.
Cathy sat leaning against the rear wall. After a moment Laura joined her. “What she told us, is it true? Are the men here so ruthless, deliberately forcing us go through this to make us more submissive? Is that why Frank sent me here? Is that why you are here?”
Cathy looked at Laura a moment before answering. “Ruthless? I suppose so. I told you once before, the men here are not what you encounter in the outside world. They are, hmm, determined. That’s a good way to put it. They are determined to have it their way, and will do whatever it takes to see we do it their way too.” Cathy stressed the we, meaning not only the two of them but all the women at the school. “Do they force us? Depends on how you look at it. For myself, it’s more a matter of bringing out the submissive nature that’s already inside me. It works too. Intellectually, I know what they are doing. But emotionally, I can’t help myself. Is it the reason Robert sent me here? I don’t know. I don’t really think about why he did it, except that I want to know how I can make it right again so he’ll come back for me.”
The two of them sat quietly for a few minutes, both thinking about the lesson for the day. Laura pondered Cathy’s last remark. Jennifer had offered the explanations, and now she could see how what seemed to be cruel and unnecessary conditions were in place for good reasons. Good for the men who run this place, she thought, but is it good for me? Just like Cathy the rules were working on her too. When a warden appeared the compulsion to obey was so strong that all she could think about was earning his approval. Was it brainwashing, or as Cathy called it merely her own nature being set free?
“Eyes front,” Laura heard, “concentrate on what you see in the reflection of the mirror.”
Both she and Cathy had been out of quarantine for at least a week, but keeping track of time was difficult. The schedule had been stringent. Get up when lights come on, eat when fed, shower and clean up when allowed, exercise when ordered, and always the lessons. So far there had been lectures or interactive sessions, like seminars. The mix of students in the classrooms changed constantly though she did see Cathy frequently. At the end of they day they were divided up, apparently at random, and taken to cells to sleep. At least there was time to relax and talk with whomever was in the group for the evening. Until lights out, or rather dimmed. Then it was no talking and go right to sleep.
The first day it seemed impossible to tolerate. The second day was a struggle to make it through without breaking down. But Laura adapted. She still had to watch herself and try to remember what seemed to be an endless list of rules, prohibitions and requirements. What had been a conscious effort seemed to happen by habit now. Laura found herself looking forward to the daily lessons, and the quiet time afterward when they could sit and talk. There were hardships, but she shared them with everyone else. Even the teachers, who presumably were at the school voluntarily, had to keep to the same regimen as the involuntary attendees. Laura suspected that in the staff area life might return to something like normal for them, but there was no way to know. Asking was forbidden, and the teachers never talked about it.
The high point of her day was being granted permission to take a shower. Not so much because the warm water felt so good but that for a few brief moments she was freed from the intimate confinement of the belt. Like the rest Laura was tempted in that short few minutes to seek relief by touching herself, but during showers the teachers were stationed everywhere and always watching. It had been made very clear on the first day that anyone making the attempt would simply lose her shower privileges. Fear outweighed desire, in Laura and the rest, for no one ever tried.
This morning had not been routine. Instead of breakfast and a shower, they had been taken directly to a long narrow room. One entire wall was covered in tiled mirrors. On the floor in front were mats. One by one they were assigned a spot and told to kneel facing the mirror. Cathy was to Laura’s right. Laura started to look a question, hoping Cathy could give her some idea if this was going to be a complicated lesson, but on hearing the command from one of the teachers she immediately turned to face the mirror. That was unusual, Laura thought, generally there weren’t more than one or two teachers in a class, today she could count at least five by their reflections.
“Your master works himself to death to support you. He lies awake at night worrying about you, trying to decide what’s best for you with little regard for himself. He would risk his life to protect you, and not even question the danger to himself. Every moment of the day he thinks about you, constantly reviewing everything he does, looking for things he forgot, signs you might be unhappy, making sure he lives up to his own standards about how you should be treated.” The teacher lecturing was someone Laura hadn’t seen before. From the way the other teachers seemed to defer to her it was apparent she was one of the senior staff.
“All of you are some of the most fortunate women on earth. You have found someone who is dedicated to giving you the best life he possibly can. Does he want your gratitude for all this?” The teacher’s tone was abrupt.
“No! Don’t thank him; he doesn’t want to hear it. What he wants, in very simple terms, is you. All of you, not what you see in front of you in the mirror. He desires your body, but even more he needs what is inside each of you, to take hold of your mind and spirit.. He lives to possess all of you. Now, you will stare into the mirror in front of you, and you will tell him, silently, what he wants to know, that he owns you. He has an unbreakable hold on you. A hold you cannot break away from, a hold you don’t want to end.”
Laura watched out of the corner of her eye as the woman walked back and forth, scrutinizing all of them. She stopped behind Cathy, staring intently at both Laura’s and Cathy’s reflection. “Eyes on yourself, girl” she admonished Laura. Cathy didn’t escape the teacher’s sharp eye either. “And you, pull those shoulders back. Make him look at you. Grab his attention, don’t take it for granted.” Cathy did, forcing her breasts out. “You were born with everything you need to catch his eye. Use it, and don’t be ashamed to flaunt it. This isn’t a stranger in front of you, so don’t hold back.”
Everyone in the line came in for some kind of criticism. The teachers patrolled back and forth behind them constantly, looking for any sign of inattention. Laura stared at her reflection, picturing Frank sitting in front of her, looking down at her kneeling at his feet. She stared at her reflection, imagining him looking at her. The collar around her neck gleamed in the light. She lifted her chin slightly, thinking to draw his attention to it.
“My job,” the head teacher continued, “is to instruct all of you on how to communicate. Not with words, but in the way you present yourself to him and the world. Don’t ever underestimate his powers of observation. He sees everything. It may not make a conscious impression, not right away, but everything you say and do goes into the back of his mind. It rolls around in there, mixes together, and out of it comes his impression of how well he’s doing. What you have to do is make sure that impression is the right one.
“He has his pride. That pride comes from his image of himself, whether or not he’s living up to his own standards. He’s no sociopath, born without a conscience. He cares, about you, about your problems, and about doing a good job. He wants you, on his terms and never doubt that, but he has to know you are getting everything you want and need too. That’s why you are looking at your reflection. You have to learn to see yourself as he sees you.”
What does Frank see when he looks at me? Laura wondered to herself, does he know how much I really do love him?
Cathy knelt next to Laura, lost in her own reverie. The image in the mirror was familiar to her. Robert didn’t know it, but when she was home alone she still faced herself in the bedroom mirror doing the same thing as now. They had been together long enough for her to learn what he liked. She tuned out the teacher’s lecture and thought about his instructions to her.
No one must know the real reason she was here. If she was too perfect there would be suspicions. Already she had heard veiled remarks about not belonging with the rest of the group. She had to do something, but what kind of mistake would be reasonable for her? It had to be believable, but not overboard. She thought about the last time at the school, when she had lost her temper. If they took her away then she would lose contact with Laura. But if it were so minor as to be overlooked then there would be no point.
Robert had sent her to the school on the pretense of having a bad attitude. Disobedience and backtalk, that’s how she would define it. So whatever she did had to incorporate those problem areas, but in a passive way. An idea began to take shape.
As soon as the lights came on Laura woke up. She wasn’t sure of the date or time, but her internal calendar said it had been three weeks since they had been released from quarantine. She and Cathy had been separated several times, but last night had found them in the same room again, along with two others. The four of them had talked for a while before lights out the night before.
Immediately she got up and began folding the bedding. The other women were doing the same but Cathy remained in bed asleep. Concerned, Laura went over to her as soon as she was finished. “Cathy, get up! A Warden will be here any minute.” Laura shook her shoulder.
“I’m awake. Leave me alone. I don’t care who’s coming, I want to go back to sleep.” Laura couldn’t believe what she was hearing. Cathy had been the one who always told her rules here were paramount and never to be violated. There was no sleeping in. “Come on! You don’t have much time, you’ve got to get up.” Laura pleaded with her. She had no idea what would happen if they found Cathy still in bed but it had to be serious. She looked over at the other two women but they were already taking positions against the rear wall.
Too late she heard the corridor door open and the familiar sound of the bedding cart. Laura hesitated only a moment before joining the others against the back wall. Cathy didn’t move under her blanket. Within moments the Warden was in front of their door. At first he said nothing, only staring at the blanket and Cathy’s head. The woman with the bedding cart started to reach in but he stopped her with an outstretched hand. Laura could see her back up to stand next to the cart.
“Is there a reason you are still in bed?” he asked. Inwardly Laura cringed at the flat emotionless tone in his voice. She wanted to plead for leniency for Cathy but knew it would serve no purpose other than to get her in trouble too. She kept silent and held her position, as did the others.
“I don’t want to get up. I’m tired. Master lets me sleep in when I want.” Cathy turned away from him as she finished and pulled the blanket over her head. Laura was horrified. Was she crazy?
“I see,” was all he said in response. He gestured toward the rest of the bedding. The woman with the cart reached through the bars and picked it up. They moved to the next cell.
Laura had no opportunity to speak to Cathy. Two more wardens came to the door almost immediately. Both looked down at Cathy but said nothing. One looked over to Laura and the others. “The three of you stand and line up in front of the door.”
The rest was the standard procedure. Each was taken out of the cell and cuffed to a long chain. Laura was the last to leave. As they were led down the corridor she looked back to see Cathy still on the floor. For the moment it appeared she was going to be ignored, but Laura didn’t believe it would last.
The day was routine. It began with breakfast in the dining room, then showers followed by an inspection, leading into the classes. There was a break for lunch, more classes, and some cleaning duties afterward. Not once did she see Cathy, an ominous sign. At the end of the day they were taken back in small groups to the dormitory cells. Usually the company changed every day but this time Laura found herself back with the two women from last night. They were not taken to the dining room for supper so Laura figured they would eat in the cell.
A single warden was in charge of the three of them. Chained together they were easy for him to handle. As he led them into the dorm area Laura wondered if she would see Cathy again. Her curiosity was answered in seconds as they stopped at a cell. Inside Laura could see Cathy, standing in the middle of the floor. Laura’s eyes went wide in surprise as she saw what had happened.
The night before Cathy had finalized her plan to show everyone the perceived reason for her presence in the school. She had considered several scenarios, settling on oversleeping as the least risk, figuring that minimizing the number of people who saw her performance would influence the guards to go easy on her. That and she didn’t have the courage to stand up and openly defy the Wardens. While covered by the blanket no one would see how scared she was.
When the others had been taken away and she was alone in the cell her first reaction was surprise at being ignored. After she heard the corridor doors close she got up to look out into the hallway. She pressed against the bars, trying to see if anyone had stayed behind, but no one else was visible. Her initial trepidation at facing a swift and certain punishment gave way to puzzlement. Had the Director intervened, knowing she was acting? It seemed unlikely since it would immediately single her out as someone who had received special treatment. From her last experience she knew the Wardens reacted immediately and forcefully when faced with any hint of insubordination.
Her hands gripped the bars of the cell door. She had wanted to push the door open and run away, to hide somewhere, but it was only wishful thinking. The door was locked and didn’t budge. For the first time she noticed how the bars were recessed into the cell room, limiting her ability to see to the sides.
The sounds of a door opening and marching boots on the concrete floor brought her back to reality. Real fear gripped Cathy. Several men were in the hallway, heading her way. In seconds they came into view, at least four of them, dressed entirely in black, wearing helmets and some kind of mirrored faceplate. All she could see was her own terrified reflection in their faces. She backed up as they stopped in front of her. One of them had a large transparent plastic shield, curved forward at the sides, with what appeared to be strips of reflective tape across it. Another guard began to unlock the door.
Their ominous appearance frightened Cathy, bringing her close to panic. “Please sir, don’t hurt me. I’ll do whatever you tell me.” She pleaded with them, but they ignored her. The guard with the plastic shield entered first, holding it out as he approached her. Two others came in and took up positions on either side of him. The last man stayed by the door.
Cathy backed up as they came closer. She had tried to move to one side, but they tracked her movement, keeping her centered between the three of them. Then she ran out of room as her back hit the wall. They were inches away when in desperation she reached out to push the shield away.
It looked like they were going to crush her against the wall. She put her hands against the shield trying to hold it back. As her hands came into contact with the front she discovered the reflective tape was not a decoration. She saw the man behind the shield press a button on the handle. The shock of the stun gun discharging into her hand from the conducting foil convulsed her muscles, throwing her back against the wall. Before she had fallen the guard used the shield to pin her body against the wall. The jolt of high voltage had left Cathy disoriented and only semi-conscious.
By the time she had become aware of her surroundings again she was on the floor. Something was wrapped around her upper body. Cathy tried to move her arms but they were held tightly against her body. Opening her eyes she saw the front of the straitjacket imprisoning her arms. One of the men behind her pulled on the last strap, the one between her legs, as he tightened it behind her back. She felt something being fastened to her legs too, but couldn’t see it.
When they finished with her one man rolled her onto her side. Her ankles had been crossed and tied with some kind of strap. Two more held her knees together. Another ran from her ankles to her back, forcing her to keep her legs bent. She tried to struggle but it was too late; by the time she had recovered from the stun gun they had progressed too far for her to attempt to stop them.
The two who had been restraining her legs picked her up and placed her on the bedding. The third one picked up the blanket and covered her, telling her “since you wanted to sleep in, take all day.” After the three men who had subdued her left, the last one closed and locked the cell door behind them. Lying on the floor, barely able to move, she stared up at the lone remaining warden. She could only guess at his thoughts; the helmet hid his face and any sign of reaction. A moment later he walked away as well, leaving her alone.
The shock from the stun gun had hurt. Cathy was content to lie still while the aftereffects wore off. If she had known it was coming it might not have been so bad. She would have gone straight to the floor if he had been approaching her with the kind she recognized. That plastic riot shield had confused her. The metal strips on the front looked nothing like the kind of stun guns she had seen sold in stores. Those were about the size of a TV remote control, with small metal prongs in front.
Feeling better, she started to explore the limitations of her bonds. She managed to shrug off the blanket by sliding to one side. Looking over her shoulder she had seen her ankles bound tightly by a wide leather strap. The buckle holding it together had a small slot on top, probably for some kind of key. Straps above and below her knees had the same kind of buckles. Another long strap, of what looked to be nylon, ran from her ankles to her back. She couldn’t see how it was attached to her back but the end at her ankles had a large metal ring through which the strap around her ankles had been threaded. The only way to remove it would be to free her feet.
Convinced she couldn’t release her legs, she had turned her attention to the straitjacket. The material appeared to be a stiff heavy cotton cloth, probably canvas. Her arms were in sleeves that wrapped around behind her. In the front both sleeves went through a loop of material sewn into the front that prevented her from moving her arms up or down. She could see a wide strap stitched to the front bottom, starting just below her arms and extending down between her legs and up behind her. She could tell it was tight by the press of her chastity belt underneath the crotch strap.
From the feel against her body the neckline ended just below her collarbone. It completely covered her shoulders preventing any attempt to slip it down. Rolling on her back she could feel where the straps were buckled behind her. Just below her neck, several down her back, and one to either side, probably the sleeves. Although she knew there was little chance of success she still tried to get it off, pulling the jacket up, down and to either side, hoping something might come loose. She remembered a scene from one of the Houdini biography movies, where he had managed to work an arm over his head, but apparently the designers of this jacket had seen the movie too. The restraining loop in front made it impossible for her to move her arms up more than a few inches above her waist.
Having given up hope of escape, she tried to make the best of the situation and find a comfortable position. At first she tried laying on her side, but soon found it hurt whichever arm and shoulder was underneath her. Then she had tried on her back, with her knees raised. That had been a relief for her arms, but all too soon the buckles in back had begin to feel like sharp stones under a sleeping bag. Rolling back on her side, she tried to sit up. That’s when she discovered how important arms were to one’s balance. Several times she tried to get her legs under her and sit up, but each time she fell over. No leverage, she thought, I need my arms to lift myself off the floor.
After the fourth attempt she gave up. It would have been easy with her legs free, but no doubt the Wardens knew that. Her comfort had not been the overriding consideration. She even tried kicking her legs, jerking against the holding strap on her ankles, but it wouldn’t pull loose. There was enough play in her legs that she could manage a slow crawl across the floor. On her side she surveyed the cell, looking for something that could help her to sit up. There had to be some way.
When she finally figured it out the answer was simple. She pushed herself across the floor with her legs, into a corner. With her back against one wall and leaning into the other, she worked her way up into a sitting position, with the added benefit of something to lean against. It had left little play in her legs but if she was careful she could raise or lower her knees to the floor to help keep her muscles from cramping. Sitting up was an improvement over the floor but she still had to move around to give her legs a rest.
If only they had allowed her to straighten out her legs, then she could have sat all day. The straitjacket was more of an inconvenience than a punishment. There was some pressure on her shoulders but nowhere near as uncomfortable as handcuffs behind her back. She could move her arms a little, but the thick, stiff material rendered her hands useless.
The worst part was the boredom. Cathy found herself missing the classes and having others around. The silence got on her nerves. If she could stand she would be pacing the floor by now. She had no idea how much time had passed but it must have been hours. This is deliberate, she realized, the isolation and monotony is the real punishment, not the restraints. The bonds are just to make sure I don’t get comfortable. It’s working too.
Cathy tried to pass the time by bringing up past memories with Robert. She couldn’t concentrate though, her legs and shoulders were starting to hurt, a dull throbbing pain that couldn’t be ignored. It was too much; she had to get the jacket off. She started struggling again, pulling on the sleeves with all he strength. In the process she fell over on her side. She started pulling against the straps holding her legs, trying to work them loose. So intent was she on trying to find some escape, rolling around on the floor, that she didn’t even notice the Warden standing at the door, watching her through the bars of her cell.
“Take your time, I’m in no hurry,” he spoke quietly. Cathy jerked to a stop, surprised by his voice. She hadn’t heard him enter or walk up to her room. Breathing hard and sweat glistening on her brow from her efforts, she looked up at him from the floor. Seeing she had finished, he continued, “what are your instructions when a Warden is present?”
Cathy stared in confusion, unsure as to what he was asking. “Sir, we are to kneel at the rear wall in a respectful manner and await orders.” He didn’t answer. Instead he waited, staring at her. What does he expect? She could hardly move, was that what he was waiting for? She couldn’t do it by herself in the middle of the floor, so she began crawling back to the corner of the room. Using the walls she was able to raise herself up again, with her legs under her. She shifted around to face him, back straight, first looking directly at him, and then lowering her eyes.
“That’s better,” he finally answered. Taking out a key he opened the door and came in to stand in front of her. Cathy could feel the straps on her legs digging in to her skin as she knelt, but knew she dare not break position now. “There will be no sleeping in from now on.” He towered over her, not moving. She looked up once then back down again. So helpless, she thought, no matter what I do they will always get their way. “Do you understand? This will not be tolerated. There will not be a next time.”
“Yes sir, I understand. It won’t happen again.” She was trembling as she spoke. Her words were contrite and sincere. The stunt had been a poor choice; she should have thought of something else. She knew they were manipulating her, the confinement, the restraints, and now the Warden’s stance as he stared her down, but she could not resist the effects. All she could think of was pleasing the stranger in front of her, doing whatever he ordered, anything to get the straitjacket off.
Holding her shoulder with one hand he reached down behind her back and released the strap holding her legs back. “On your stomach” he ordered, and helped her lie face down on the concrete floor. “Hold still,” as he undid the straps on her knees and ankles. He lowered her legs to the floor. Relief flooded Cathy as her strained calf and thigh muscles were finally able to relax. She waited patiently for him to open the straitjacket, but he made no move to release the buckles. After a few moments he took hold of one arm, within the jacket’s sleeve, and began to lift her. “Stand up” came the crisp command. With his help it was far easier to get her legs under her and then rise up off the floor.
Cathy’s sore legs protested against bearing her weight but he held onto her until the shakiness passed. When she was finally able to stand on her own, he gestured toward the open cell door. “Let’s go” was all he offered by way of explanation.
First stop were the showers, where he finally removed the straitjacket. He waited patiently while she took a shower and cleaned up. Cathy was uneasy about the sudden change and what was still to come. A few hours of solitary confinement seemed to be far too little in the way of correction for what she had done. And there had to be some significance to the change in procedure; he had not removed her belt while she showered.
Dried off, teeth brushed, hair combed, she felt much better. Crawling around on the floor in that straitjacket had been sweaty and dirty work. If she was lucky the guard would take her to rejoin the group for lunch. A growl from her stomach reminded her she had skipped breakfast.
“Turn around, hands behind your back” came the expected command when she had finished. In the hallway she tried to spot something she could recognize, to give her some idea of where they were headed. But the same bland paint scheme and lack of signs left her as unsure as ever about where they were. Everything looked the same. Finally he stopped at a solid office type steel door. Cathy sighed inwardly, definitely not the lunchroom.
The first thing Cathy saw when the door opened was her clothes, on a hanger attached to a hook mounted on the wall. Next to them were a table and chair. Her shoes were underneath the dress. Something isn’t right, Cathy thought, I can’t be leaving this soon. After what she had just done the punishment had been too mild.
“You have an appointment with the Director, in his office. While in the administrative area you will be allowed to wear these clothes. Do not speak to anyone unless you are asked a question. Do not make eye contact with anyone. Keep in mind you are being granted a rare privilege, do not abuse it.” He removed her handcuffs and gestured to her clothing. “You may dress now.” He sat down in the chair by the table.
Cathy was surprised. It was indeed unusual. During her first visit she knew of no one taken to see the Director. The only possible explanation was that it had something to do with the real reason she had been sent here. Although Robert had been adamant that she would tell no one, he had worked out the plan for her visit to the Director. She took the dress off the hanger and slipped it on, reaching behind her back for the zipper. No underwear, she noted. This was for the benefit of anyone who saw her, not to help her own self-confidence. She finished by slipping on her shoes.
“Sir?” she asked, “I had a belt with the dress.”
“I have one for you. Turn around, back to me.” She heard him open a drawer under the table as she turned. A moment later she felt him threading two ends of a belt through the loops in the skirt, working from the middle of her back. “Turn around, face me, hold your hands out to your side,” he ordered. She watched as he finished with the ends of the belt, and then pulled it tight. Satisfied it was a snug fit, he pushed in a small button on the closed buckle. The warden tested it to make sure it wouldn’t open.
“Turn around again, this time with hands behind your back.” Cathy had already figured it out. A locking belt, there had to be something on the back to hold her hands. Sure enough, he placed her wrists in handcuffs held close to her back by a ring sewn into the center of the belt. “Don’t move.” She heard him taking something else out of the box.
The lights went out a moment later as he covered her eyes with the blindfold. A simple and very effective way to make sure I don’t stray, Cathy told herself. Or there is something in that area she wasn’t supposed to see. Maybe an emergency exit, some way to get out of this place. She hadn’t thought much about where the wardens and teachers lived, or any of the other people who had to exist to keep this place in operation. It was off limits and inaccessible under normal circumstances.
“Let’s go.” He took hold of her arm and walked her out the door. Cathy was grateful he took it slow. She didn’t like not being able to see. It made her feel clumsy, as if she was about to walk right into a wall.
They went through two security gates before Cathy realized the surroundings had changed. She was now walking on carpet, and the sounds reaching her were muted compared to the brittle sounding echoes from the corridors. A few times she heard voices, as if they were passing open doors. Once she even heard music.
They must have reached the Director’s office because her guard stopped, and then opened a door. A real door, as Cathy could tell from the sound of the door knob. He led her inside and closed the door behind her.
“Catherine Kincaid, to see the Director,” he told someone. Cathy was surprised at hearing her full name, but it made sense since they would have records about her. She heard the sound of a keyboard as the receptionist typed in something, probably Cathy’s name.
A short pause then the receptionist answered. “He will see her shortly. Sir, the Director indicated I should inform you that you are welcome to have lunch while waiting. We will take responsibility for her while she is in the office. He asks that you return in one hour’s time.”
“Alright, I’ll be in the cafeteria if the meeting ends early and you need me back.” There was a rustle of paper. “If you could sign this receipt? She is all yours.”
The warden took Cathy to one side and used his hands on her shoulders to position her. “There is a couch directly behind you. You may sit down.” Cathy felt the edge of the couch against the back of her leg. With some idea of it’s location she sat down. He leaned close to her and whispered in a low yet ominous voice. “Don’t try any of your stunts here. Remember where you are, and keep in mind you won’t be leaving any time soon. Act up in front of the Director and every single one of us will personally take the time to make your stay one long bad memory. Understand?”
Cathy had no intention of attempting anything but her very best behavior but even so the warning from the warden scared her. She had no doubt he wasn’t bluffing. And if Robert kept getting reports on her poor progress he would assume she was doing it deliberately, to stay and help Laura. “Yes sir, I understand,” she answered. Her throat fell dry. Behind her back she clenched her imprisoned hands into fists and pulled at the bonds holding her, frustrated at her helpless condition.
It was all she could do to keep from shaking in fright. The past few days she had been so intent on helping Laura she had forgotten about her own situation. She might have played the part of troublemaker too well for her own good. Robert wasn’t here to protect her. If she earned the special attention of the wardens they would see to it she had plenty of their particular brand of discouragement. She would be isolated and unable to help Laura in any way. By the time Robert found out it would be too late to do any good.
And he would not be pleased she had failed. This was important to him, so she had to do her very best. She didn’t want to think about facing him and explaining what had gone wrong. He might even decide to leave her here for real. Her attention returned to the office as she heard the door close. It must have been her warden leaving, she thought.
She leaned forward and shifted position, trying to get comfortable on the couch. “Stay right where you are, dear. I may be the same size as you but I’m not wearing handcuffs. Just sit there quietly like a good girl and wait till he’s ready for you.” The receptionist’s condescending tone irritated Cathy but she bit her tongue and said nothing. She never had a problem responding to a man controlling her but she hated the idea of a woman telling her what to do. This isn’t the time or place, she told herself.
She could hear the receptionist working on a keyboard but didn’t hear anyone else. Either there was a partition blocking any other sounds or they were the only ones in the office. Undoubtedly the warden had brought her early so she would have plenty of time to worry in advance. Always at a psychological disadvantage, that’s how those dominant personalities liked to operate. It works too, a nervous Cathy realized.
After a while, it seemed like hours, she heard a door open and someone enter. “This is your next scheduled appointment sir, Catherine Kincaid.” From the way the receptionist was so polite and deferential Cathy was sure it had to be the Director himself. The door must have been to his office. The blindfold forced her to listen for any clue as to what was going on around her.
A strong grip on her arm raised her up off the couch. “Come with me,” he ordered her in a gruff tone of voice. She heard the office door close behind her. Still holding her upper arm he guided her to a chair and helped her to sit down. She heard him sit down across from her and pick up some papers from his desk.
“Now then Mrs. Kincaid, my name is James Polson. I am the Deputy Director of this establishment, filling in for Director Harfield, who is not available at the moment. I apologize for the restraints but as you are currently enrolled here there is nothing I can do. I’m sure you understand about our policies.
”I have been reading this report of your difficulties in adjusting to the school’s rules. It is especially troubling when your prior attendance is taken into consideration. There is no question that you are aware of all the regulations, in particular the sleeping arrangements and the necessity of rising in a punctual manner. The justification for your actions that you communicated to the warden is not satisfactory either. Now that you have had time to reflect on the matter, would you care to offer a better explanation for your lapse of judgment? Take your time.” His chair creaked as he leaned back in it.
Cathy thought fast. He doesn’t know the real reason or he wouldn’t be asking about the sleep in. Only the Director knows. And she was forbidden by direct order from telling this man. She couldn’t disobey Robert but she had no other story to offer. The fact she was here meant it was being viewed as an extremely grave matter. What could she say to him?
“I have no excuse for what I did sir. It was foolish and I promise it won’t happen again.” Even to Cathy her statement sounded like an insincere formula response.
“As you wish. I gave you a chance. You must understand that a returning student reflects poorly on this institution and the staff. We do not like failures. On the rare occasion when one does return, we hold that person to a higher standard than first time attendees. If this incident had happened to anyone else we would have taken the usual steps to discourage a repetition. However, in your case the standard procedures will not suffice. You are already familiar with the operations here, which tend to diminish the effectiveness of normal corrective measures.
“I think the best solution may be to transfer you to a program where you can focus on achieving your goals without the distraction of other people about. A program where you will receive intensive personal instruction every moment of the day. I’m sure after three or four months we will see a substantial improvement in your attitude.”
Cathy was horrified. It couldn’t get any worse than that. It meant solitary confinement and teachers or wardens jumping all over her if she even blinked without permission. Robert would be so mad at her he’d probably leave her there. And all because she had thought it would be a good idea to act up so no one would be suspicious. “Please sir, I promise, just let me have another chance. I’ll prove to you I can do better.” She was desperate, reduced to begging as she had no other option.. There had to be some way to persuade him. If only she could see his face. With the blindfold in place she had no visual cues to go by, only the sound of his voice.
“Quiet! Will it be necessary to call in your escort to gag you? You will speak only when asked a question.”
Cathy stopped. She had no hope now. His order had effectively blocked the only way she had to try to avert the worst. If the warden was called in he wouldn’t hesitate to carry out his threat. She hung her head in failure. She could feel the tears running down her face from under the blindfold. The Deputy Director said nothing as she silently cried.
“There is one other possibility.” Cathy raised her head, confused, not sure what he meant. “You arrived with another woman, one Laura Ferren. Her husband is a leading member of the oversight board for this school. While he has not asked for special treatment, he did ask that we do anything possible within the regulations to make her adjustment to life here as uncomplicated as is possible. I’m sure you know her. The two of you arrived here together.
“I see a notation here in your records that on your arrival you intervened on her behalf and were able to talk her through a stressful moment. The warden overseeing your processing was impressed by your skill in handling the situation. If you are willing to continue assisting her in reaching her goals while she is staying with us, and in the process demonstrate to my satisfaction that you are working toward a more positive attitude yourself, then it will not be necessary to transfer you to another program. I believe a more favorable report to your master would be appropriate as well, though you do understand he will have to be told the details of the incident today. If we give you this second chance, do I have your solemn promise there will be no further problems like this morning?”
Cathy couldn’t believe her good fortune, from complete failure to success within minutes. She could see it was a classic carrot and stick approach; the carrot of a good report if she agreed, and the stick of being dumped into solitary if she declined. The report to Robert didn’t concern her too much. He would know she was acting to stay in character. No need to conceal her relief and gratitude for his offer.
“Of course sir, I can assure you it will never happen again. And whenever I have the opportunity I would be happy to provide Laura with the benefit of my experience. I know all too well how confusing it can be.” In other words, Cathy told herself, you go easy on me and I’ll help you look good for your board. It was a simple trade. He didn’t need to know it was the only reason she was here in the first place. Nor did he need to know she had no real bargaining position.
“I’m glad we were able to work this out, Mrs. Kincaid. I don’t like to resort to extreme measures. I will be reviewing your progress on a timely basis to confirm those measures will not be required. Please take this in the proper spirit, but I hope we shall not have to meet like this again. I will see to it that your assignments will correspond to those for Mrs. Ferren. Naturally you will not be together at all times but I will adjust your schedules so that the potentially difficult areas for Mrs. Ferren will be those times you have the same classes.
“Your escort will return you to the secured section. You can wait in the outside office until he is ready. Here, let me assist you.” He took her arm and helped Cathy stand up. As they went to the outer office he helped her sit down on the couch before addressing the receptionist. “Miss Wu, could you inform the warden that he can return Mrs. Kincaid at his convenience?”
“Yes sir, I’ll see to it right away.” She was on the phone before he had even closed the door to his office. Cathy listened as she called the cafeteria. For the first time since her little act of defiance she was able to relax. She was still stiff and sore from wearing the straitjacket all day, but the worst was now over. In less than five minutes Cathy heard a door open and someone come in.
“Let’s go,” he ordered, a familiar voice now, as he took hold of her arm and steadied her as she stood. “Any problems with her?” He directed the question to the receptionist.
“No sir, her visit was normal in all respects,” the receptionist answered. Cathy was relieved to hear her say it. The warden said nothing as he took hold of her arm again and led her out the door. The walk back to the secured section was uneventful.
Cathy knew she was back in her area when she heard him start to use a key to unlock doors. They went through several. After the last door, he stopped her in the middle of a room and removed her blindfold. Blinking at the return of the bright lights, she saw they had returned to the same dressing room. The empty hanger for her dress was still on a hook on the wall. She watched as he used a small key to open the belt buckle. Then he went behind her and opened her handcuffs. “Arms at your side,” he ordered. Cathy wanted to stretch and rub her wrists but she did as he commanded. He finished by taking off the belt.
“Remove your shoes and clothing, hang up your dress.” With a silent sigh of regret Cathy reached for the zipper and pulled the dress over her head. She placed it on the hanger and returned it to the hook on the wall. Her shoes went underneath. Once more in regulation uniform, collar, chastity belt, and nothing else, she turned to see what the warden wanted next.
He was sitting at the desk, reading something on a sheet of paper. He looked up at her. Seeing she had finished, he pointed to a line painted on the floor in front of the desk. “Stand there quietly, facing the desk.” A few steps and she was in front of him, about three feet from the desk. He returned to the note he was reading.
A noise from the corridor distracted her. She started to turn to look but a sharp “eyes front” from her guard stopped her. He continued to read, making notations every so often. This went on for several minutes before he stopped and looked up at Cathy.
“You are a problem,” the warden spoke suddenly, startling her. Her attention had been wandering as she stood in front of him, apparently being ignored. “We are not stupid, you know. What you did this morning, you know better. So we have to conclude it was willful. For some unknown reason you have decided to test our resolve, even though you know fully well games like that are not tolerated here. There are no mitigating circumstances to take into account on your behalf.”
Cathy opened her mouth to try to offer some explanation, but stopped before uttering a word as the warden held up a hand. “No, don’t say anything. It won’t make a difference. You have the experience and training to do better. You have also learned from your last time here that actions have consequences. I’m sure you expected something to happen, even if you weren’t sure what it would be. I assume you are also smart enough to figure out your quiet time today was not the sum total of the penalty that would be exacted.”
He stood up and took out a set of handcuffs from a holder on his belt. “Stand still, hands behind your back,” he ordered. Here it comes, Cathy thought, I knew this was too easy. Her hands went behind her back in a well-practiced move as he walked around behind her. Swiftly he applied the cuffs, rendering her virtually powerless to resist whatever was to be her fate. Please don’t hurt me, she prayed silently.
He led her out into the corridor and through a maze of hallways and gates. By the time he stopped she had no clue what direction or how far they had walked, or if he had deliberately run her in circles to heighten her anxiety. When he did stop her mouth was dry from fear, and her knees felt so weak that she might collapse at any moment.
At the door Cathy could see some kind of elaborate fixture beyond the bars. Inside the cell she saw it was some kind of wooden stocks, similar to those in old drawing from centuries ago. At about shoulder height were two wooden pieces, hinged together, with cutouts for hands and neck. This one differed from others she had seen in that there were stocks at the bottom with cutouts for ankles. She knew it would soon hold her prisoner.
He unlocked the cell door and forced her to the front of the device. Bending down he opened the bottom portion. Cathy could see the oval shaped holes cut into the wood were padded, and the stocks were raised off the floor several inches. “Step forward, ankles inside the keepers,” he ordered. She placed her feet against the fixed part, legs spread beyond the usual standing position. He closed the ankle stocks and used a padlock to secure the hasp.
Standing up, he opened the top part. Reaching behind her he removed the cuffs from her wrists. With her ankles already secured Cathy had no chance to make a dash for the open cell door. She rubbed her wrists while looking at the warden. He gave her a moment to stretch her arms before gesturing to the open stocks. Resigned to an unpleasant afternoon she leaned over, placing her hands and neck in position. He quickly closed the top part, again using a padlock to secure the hasp.
Standing sideways, immobilized in the stocks, she couldn’t see the door but could see part of the corridor to one side. She heard him walk out and go past her view as he walked along the hallway. Oddly he had not closed the door. Alone, she tested the limits of her new prison. The stocks were not uncomfortable but she had virtually no freedom of movement. Nor could she see behind her. The worst drawbacks were the wide spread of her legs and being forced to lean forward. At the moment it didn’t bother her but she could feel the strain on her legs, back, and shoulders.
She heard footsteps behind her as someone came into the room. Shoes, so it must be another warden. He came up close behind her but she couldn’t see him. The sudden sharp pain as he grabbed her hair and pulled up her head made her gasp. A stifled gasp as a stiff spongy foam filled her mouth. He held the gag against her face with one hand while he took hold of some straps attached to it with his free hand. Bound in the stocks she couldn’t dislodge it or pull her head away. She felt a wide strap go behind her head, securing the gag. More straps went over her head and under her chin, making it impossible to remove.
Finished with silencing her the warden walked around and stood in front of her. Cathy froze as she recognized him. He had been the first one to speak to her that morning, the one who asked her why she hadn’t got up with the others. The one she had told off.
“You were not pleasing this morning.” His hand tightened painfully in her hair. “You earned some quiet time in the straitjacket for sleeping in, but for talking back you earn a different penalty. You are going to stand here while considering the wisdom of making the same mistake in the future. Ponder who you are and why you are here. You had better consider how to explain this to your master as well.” He let go of her hair and walked away. She heard the door close and lock behind him.
The spongy material in Cathy’s mouth was expanding, turning into a tight fitting soggy mass. She tried to push it out with her tongue but the harness it was attached to held it firmly in place. She tried talking, even yelling, but only garbled incoherent sounds came out. Her hands were too far away to reach her head. Once again she tried to slip a hand out of the stocks but the fit was too close. Around her ankles the boards left little room for her to lift a foot. The height of her neck and wrists was just enough to be uncomfortable. Even though it had only been a few minutes her legs and back were starting to protest their unnatural position.
This is going to be a lot worse than the straitjacket, she realized. No wall to lean on now. The height and spacing of the stocks were designed to be unpleasant, deliberately. Cathy had hoped the worst was over when she was taken to the Director’s office. Instead it was only beginning.
A hellish device, a machine of misery, that’s what the stocks became for Cathy. Her impression of stocks had come from movies and grade school history lessons about the Puritans. She had thought they were solely for public humiliation, the petty thief forced to stand in the village square while his neighbors laughed at him. First hand experience now taught her the reality. Whoever had built this particular version knew exactly how wide to limit her stance and how far apart her hands should be. It couldn’t have been more than an hour before every muscle in her body began to protest. The worst part was how she was forced to stand without moving. She tried to shift her weight from one leg to the other but they were too far apart for it to be effective. The height and spacing between top and bottom was just enough to make her lean forward, straining her back and shoulders. The pressure of the gag only added to the discomfort.
Her neck and wrists were imprisoned between two thick heavy pieces of stout wood. The cutouts were padded but too small for her to slip through them. The boards were both wide and tall enough to cut off any view behind her, including the door and most of the hallway. Beams on either side held the lower board firmly in place, while grooves let the top board slide up and down on the same beams. She had seen the latches that secured the top piece, cleverly mounted on the other side so she couldn’t reach them. Looking down she could see how the base was firmly bolted to the cold concrete floor. A similar design laid out horizontally at the base held her ankles. She could even see the latches holding it shut. All she had to do was reach down and open it, providing she had a key. Undoubtedly the inventor had put them in plain view deliberately, a tantalizing freedom just out of reach.
Cathy closed her eyes, tired of looking at the wall in front of her. How long will they make me stand here? If her legs collapsed she would choke. And with the gag in place she couldn’t even call out for help. That scared her; trapped in the stocks with no one around was a real danger. She tried to yell through the gag, but all that came out was a muffled “oomph”.
Time slowed to a crawl. There had been times Robert ordered her to stand in a corner, for an hour or more, and once he had made her hold a quarter against the wall with her nose, but those time outs weren’t even comparable to the stocks. Every minute that went by seemed to be worse than the last. She tried to bend her knees, lean forward and down, but it didn’t help. Any imagined relief quickly vanished as the strain moved to a different set of muscles.
Desperate, she struggled to free herself, trying to slip through the holes, pushing up with all her strength to try to open the boards. Her eyes were squeezed shut with the futile effort. Somehow she had to escape; she couldn’t survive another minute imprisoned like this.
“That won’t do you any good.” Cathy’s eyes flew open at the sound of the familiar voice. It was Robert, standing in front of her, arms folded, staring at her. Hopes of rescue crashed to the ground when she saw the expression on his face.
Master, she wanted to say, but it came out “mffph.” It was the gag, she couldn’t speak. “Mfff” she tried again, slowly drawing it out. Hopeless, the warden had shut her up quite effectively. Cathy looked at him, pleading with her eyes for him to help her.
“Look at you. They told me all about this morning. I was not pleased to hear what you did. So I let you sleep in whenever you want? What else? Do I let you run wild, do anything you want while I stand by with a sheepish grin? You seem to have forgotten why you were sent here. No more.” He reached out and lifted up her chin, making her look straight at him. “Listen to me Cathy. This isn’t some kind of vacation. I expected when I arrived we would spend some time together, maybe even take you home if the time was right. But instead I find you being punished and a sizeable negative report on your activities. Inexcusable behavior. Whatever possessed you to talk back like that?”
Cathy balled her hands into fist, frustrated at not being able to tell him what really happened. She tried to shake her head, to tell him somehow that’s not what happened. She wanted to yell “no” through the gag, but it came out as an incoherent mumble.
Robert turned to go, then stopped and spoke to her one last time. “One more incident like this and you are here for an extended stay, understand me? No excuses. Just one more report, and you go into the remedial discipline program. From this moment on the only reports I want to read are the ones describing your outstanding example to everyone else.” He pointed at the bare gray wall in front of her. “Anything else, and that will be your view of the world for so long you won’t even remember what color the sky is.” He walked away, past the edge of her limited vision. The cell door clanging shut was unnaturally loud, as though her future was closed as well.
If only he had loosened the gag long enough for her to say something. Cathy could feel the tears running down her face. How could it have gone so wrong? It was only supposed to be a minor temper tantrum, to convince everyone I had a reason to be here. She ran through the morning once again, in her head. Now I’m in here for real, instead of acting.
More sounds from the hallway. Her heart leaped at the faint hope Robert was coming back, but what she saw was a warden leading Laura and the other two women who had been in the cell with Cathy that morning.
Laura rushed to Cathy’s side and knelt down. Cathy’s lower face was covered with a wide leather strap, holding in some kind of gag. Attached to it was a harness that went under her chin and over her head, making it impossible to remove or slip off. Laura tried to open the buckles but they appeared to be locked shut. Cathy shook her head, as if to tell Laura not to try. Cathy tried to say something but the garbled sounds escaping around the gag were unintelligible.
Laura wiped the dried tears from Cathy’s face then turned to examine the restraints. Cathy’s neck, wrists and ankles were secured in some type of wooden stocks. Cutouts in the lower set of planks held her ankles while the upper set held her wrists and neck. Her arms were held wide apart, so that her hands couldn’t reach her head. Her ankles were far apart, making her stance awkward and uncomfortable.
Laura saw the pleading in Cathy’s eyes but couldn’t figure out what she wanted. There was no way to release her or help relieve the cramped position she was in. “What is it? What do you want me to do?” Laura asked her.
Cathy thought for a moment, and then began moving her shoulders, as much as she could. Laura didn’t understand but one of the other women did. “It’s her shoulders, and her back,” the woman spoke, “they must be sore from standing like that.” Cathy nodded vigorously.
Laura stood behind Cathy and began massaging her shoulders. “That was a stupid stunt this morning. You were the one who told me it was so important to keep to the rules here. What were you thinking? You must have known something like this would happen, or you wouldn’t have lectured me about it so often.”
Cathy rolled her eyes and shrugged. Laura took that to mean a lecture wasn’t needed. Laura stopped the massage for a moment to rest. One of the other offered to continue, so Laura sat down in front of Cathy. There wasn’t much any of them could do for her, but Laura figured they could at least keep her company. “They put you here as an example to the rest of us, didn’t they? That’s why we were kept together tonight?”
Cathy nodded her head. Once again she attempted to speak, slowly pronouncing each word, but Laura couldn’t make out what she was trying to say. “I’m sorry Cathy but it’s the gag, I can’t understand you”
At the sound of a hallway gate opening Laura and the other two women immediately knelt at the back of the room, behind the stocks holding Cathy. Two wardens stopped at the door, one with a cart in tow.
The one not holding onto the cart spoke up. “The three of you, turn and kneel facing the wall. No one is to speak or break position until I allow it.” He waited while they turned around and settled into a new position before he unlocked the door. He entered the cell and went directly to Cathy, in the center of the room. The other guard stayed at the open door, ready to close it at the first sign of disobedience. Unable to see what was happening, she was surprised when he began to remove the gag. He bent down to open the stocks holding her feet, followed by the ones holding her neck and hands.
While he held onto her around the waist he helped Cathy stand up. “Slowly, move your arms and legs.” The relief at being free of her wooden prison was quickly replaced by the aches and pains of her protesting body. He let her stand still and slowly straighten up before he helped her walk around. Once she could stand on hr own, he took her back to the other women and told her to face the wall. He went to the door and stopped just inside the door. “After we leave you have permission to speak and move around. There is a meal for each of you.” They took the covered plates and cups off the cart and placed them on the floor before closing the door.
Once the wardens were gone Cathy slumped to the floor, grateful for a chance to finally sit down. The others gathered around to see if they could offer some assistance. Cathy waved them off, “all I need is to stay off my legs for a while.” Laura brought one of the plates and a drink to Laura, and then sat down beside her. The other two women joined them as they all began eating.
“It wasn’t right, them putting you in that thing,” Laura began. “What are we supposed to learn from seeing someone tortured like that? I thought this was supposed to be a school, not a dungeon where we are the victims. That was cruelty, not correction.” Laura’s voice got louder as her indignation grew.
“Stop it Laura.” Cathy sighed, she doesn’t get it.
Laura ignored Cathy and kept on. “No I won’t stop. You should understand better than any of us. We have to make a stand, tell them this is too much and we won’t allow ourselves to be used this way.” Laura stood up and went over to the stocks, now opened up. “We did away with things like this two hundred years ago. There is no reason anyone should ever have to suffer in one again.”
Cathy shook her head and carefully stood up. Her legs were still wobbly but she needed to move around to prevent muscle cramps. “Sit down Laura, and listen to me.” The stern tone in Cathy’s voice startled Laura, who meekly sat back down in her spot against the wall. Cathy held onto the front of the stocks to steady herself and began. “Ever hear the old cliché about not seeing the forest for the trees? That’s what you are doing.
“You look at this piece of furniture and see some evil instrument of torture and abuse. Because it’s evil anyone who uses it must have some nefarious intent as well. To think that way is to be lazy. You aren’t using your own brain to look at your assumptions critically. You made your point about what you think, now I’m going to tell you how I see it.
“All of you know what I did this morning. It’s not something I’m proud of, and I don’t want to go into the reasons why it happened. The rules here are clear, and everyone is aware that violations are severely punished. That’s a given, up front, as soon as we arrive. None of us may like it, but those are the conditions we must live by. I know we aren’t here by choice, but that doesn’t matter. Our masters sent us here, and they do have the right to make that choice for us. What the guards did was put me in that contraption, but for the why, there you have look beyond the obvious.
“First, I have to tell you about myself. I love my husband, my master, and I’d do anything for him. He knows that too. It’s not some abstract idea. I really do expect him to tell me what he wants me to do. Just as he assumes as a matter of course that I will obey him, in turn I look forward to him using his control over me, preferably to my benefit. When he orders me to do something for him, or sets up rules for me, I know exactly what I have to do to please him, no guessing. That’s important to me. He’s special, one of a kind, and I’ll do whatever it takes to hold onto him.”
Cathy walked around the stocks, pausing a moment before continuing. “If he thinks it’s necessary for me to spend some time in this particularly nasty thing, well then I do it. There is no question in my own mind that I needed to be punished for what I did. How it is done, and the severity, are not up to me. I hope he will be fair but whatever he decides I will have to accept. I didn’t much care for this,” Cathy slapped a hand on top of the stocks, “but, bad as it was, it wouldn’t even compare to him ignoring my disobedience.
“I have to know he is concerned, about me and about what I do for him. My submission would be meaningless if he didn’t care about it. That’s what makes Robert stand out. He does pay attention to everything I do. He watches, and if I slip he’s on me about it. Most times it happens if I’m starting out on some new rule and I forget. He is patient but insistent on compliance. It may be nothing more than a raised eyebrow or a frown. I remember and adjust my behavior to his satisfaction.
“He is understanding but only to a point. Then he takes steps to make sure I appreciate he is serious. That’s what happened here. The wardens put me in this but Robert knew about it and did not intervene. That’s the why of it Laura, to prove he cares enough about me, to hold onto me, that he will resort to the harshest of measures if needed. It wasn’t cruel, making me stand here. Robert was doing his job, proving to me he is my master and that he can be strong when there is no other way.
“The wardens were doing their job too. Their place in this school is to oversee us, and that includes what they like to call discouragement. The rules here are not the same as at home, but that’s no excuse to ignore them. If I break those rules I will suffer the consequences. It is inevitable, cause and effect. I knew better but for reasons I won’t explain I broke the rules anyway. The wardens determined these stocks were the proper punishment for what I did, so I do not criticize what is properly their role. It was not abusive, Laura.”
“I like to hear Robert tell me he loves me and wants me, but I need to see it too. Whether it’s just a look or I get the full lecture, or this,” Cathy gestured toward the stocks, “he cares. I mean something to him, and that’s my security. He values my submission and my obedience, the effort I put into it isn’t wasted. I’m proud of who and what I am. My self-esteem is based on how well, in my mind, I meet all of Robert’s needs.
If a guard comes back in the next few minutes and orders me back into this, I’ll do it. I wouldn’t like it, but it’s not my place to say yes or no. Submission isn’t about just the times when it’s fun. There is a serious side too. I made a commitment to my master, a promise I have to keep. I gave him my obedience, for better or worse. Now I have to live up to my promise.”
Laura stared at Cathy in awed silence. Could she ever be as devoted to Frank?
Laura found herself at a lecture with Cathy. As usual there was no prior notification as to what the subject would be. When that same older teacher came into the classroom, the one who had been so stern at the mirrors, Laura unconsciously sat up straighter. She knew from experience that whoever this woman was, she didn’t miss anything.
“My name is Marie, and I will be your teacher today. This afternoon we are going to talk about masters, and about Mr. Vader and Mr. Wimpy. Remember those old cartoons, with the imp on one of the character’s shoulders and the angel on the other? Always a struggle between wild abandon and conscience. Your master has one of those on each shoulder. To the left sits Mister Vader, a little devil in a big black helmet constantly prodding him with the light saber, whispering in his ear, telling him to come to the Dark Side. Mr. Vader is your friend, for he’s the one that tells your master it’s okay, make her do what you want, keep her in line, grab her whenever you feel like it, don’t pay any attention to what society says is right or wrong.
“We all want a strong master. Not so much in the physical sense but strong in how he acts, in that indefinable something he projects. I’ve been doing this,” she reached up to point to her collar, “longer than some of you have been alive. I still get a shiver when my master looks at me, eye to eye, and orders me to follow some new rule he just dreamed up. That’s Mr. Vader at work inside his head.
“Mister Wimpy is not on your side. He sits on master’s other shoulder, telling him to hold back, think about what he’s doing, don’t be so harsh, show some consideration, remember he has responsibilities, what will people say if they find out what he’s doing. We need Mr. Wimpy to keep Mr. Vader in check, but if Mr. Wimpy ever gets the upper hand you have lost your master. He’ll turn into one of those shy, sensitive, New Age kind of guys who talks about sharing and getting in touch with his inner self. He wouldn’t dare think about telling you what to do, that might intrude on your personal space. You like those times master gets rough, maybe he throws you down on the bed, rips off your clothes, ties you down, and makes you moan all night long? Well, with Mr. Wimpy in charge he might dare to touch you gently on the arm and ask if you would like to indulge in some quality time together. Any questions or comments?” Marie stopped and faced the class, waiting for a response.
One woman in the back raised her hand. Laura recognized her, and remembered her name was Elise. She had a slight European accent. “If my master ever heard me say anything about a personal space he’d smack my bottom till I couldn’t sit down, then put me in a cage all day long and tell me that’s as much personal space as I get.” They all laughed, with some nodding in agreement that the same might well happen to them.
In the past Laura had felt a little guilty at how much she enjoyed Frank’s aggressive bedroom style, especially the ways he would surprise her with something new and unexpected. In the few weeks she had been at the school, talking with Cathy and the others, she learned that what she considered an exotic sexual fantasy many of the other women took for granted as everyday life. Even Elise, the one who had just spoken, had one evening casually described how her master calmly ordered her to strip and then chained her ankle to their bed every night, and how she couldn’t fall asleep as quickly now because she missed the reminder tugging at her leg. Laura wasn’t sure if she could handle that, but had to admit where once she would have been shocked, now her first reaction was curiosity, what it would be like, and if Frank would enjoy it.
Laura turned back to face Marie as the teacher continued with her speech. “This may surprise you, but we control our masters.” There were some indignant mutters but no one spoke up. Laura looked to Cathy, puzzled as to what seemed to be a contradiction. Marie elaborated. “No, not in the sense that we can tell them what to do. What we control is the balance between Mr. Vader and Mr. Wimpy. It may not even be a conscious effort, but you do change him to suit your needs.”
Marie held up a hand to stop what was becoming a groundswell of protest. “Wait! I know you all have an ideal image, where he reigns supreme and you are the lowly powerless servant devoid of even the faintest bit of influence. It’s a nice picture, but you will do better to look at what really goes on inside his head. There is this horrible tangled web of conflicting emotions: his need to dominate you mixed in with more than a little lust; his need to control his environment, and you are part of it, stemming from a fear of losing everything he has; his instinct to keep you safe from harm but doing whatever it takes, even taking advantage of his greater physical strength, to force you to yield to his will. It sounds like a mess, and one I’d never be able to sort out, but we don’t have to worry about all that. In some way we will never be able to understand, he figures out how to make it all work together.
“Our job is to give him some feedback. If we need more of Mr. Vader, we nudge his dominance thermostat up a bit. If he’s turning into some kind of self-centered male offspring of a dog, we move the thermostat down toward Mr. Wimpy. Of course that’s easier said than done. What can we do to encourage Mr. Vader?” She looked over the class, then pointed a finger at Laura. “You, what do you do to bring out your master’s dark side? Tell me your name too.”
Caught by surprise, Laura didn’t answer immediately. She had to think fast, for no one was allowed to pass on answering a teacher’s question. “I’m Laura. I never thought about it before,” she said, stalling for time. “I think I encourage him by doing things he likes.”
“Exactly!” The teacher interrupted, letting Laura relax. “You show him it’s okay to be assertive, that it’s what you need too. You submit to him, in simple terms. He starts out with something simple, sees that you don’t have a problem, and goes a little further. Laura, describe something you did for him, some way you had to change just because he wanted it. How did you nudge Mr. Vader?”
On the spot again, but Laura had an answer to this question. “Not long after my husband Frank and I first met, when we were dating, I sensed a sort of appreciation or annoyance whenever we would get together. I wasn’t sure if it was something about me, or something I had said or done, that didn’t quite suit him on one day, but did the very next day. Then one particular evening over dinner he started talking about himself, and about the kinds of movies he liked to watch, in particular the old classics from the 1930s. In an offhand way he mentioned that he really liked the costumes the actresses wore. Not just those glamorous evening gowns, but the everyday styles popular back then. The way he explained it, a woman should strive to look as different from a man as possible, and in his mind he associated that with women who wore a skirt.
“Our next date, I wore a nice long skirt that could have come right out of one of those movies. His approval was obvious in the way his eyes lit up. Next time it was a modern style pantsuit, something that would fit in the office. I saw just the barest flash of a frown cross his face. But even more, his whole personality seemed to hold back. Frank was still very nice, but I could feel he was just a little on the distant side.
“I didn’t think that much about it, but I found myself dressing to his taste more than mine. I think it was bringing out his Mr. Vader because he became more dominating towards me. To this day Frank has never actually ordered me to wear only skirts, but that’s all I have in the closet now. When I go shopping I don’t even look at anything else.”
The teacher nodded in approval as Laura ended her story. “An excellent example Laura. It illustrates how you adapted to what he likes, in a way that brought out what you saw as the best points of his own personality. You definitely lured your Frank to the Dark Side.”
Laura looked down in embarrassment but had to smile at Marie’s observation. Cathy and several of the other women turned to Laura with what she took to be a look of surprise mixed with some new-found respect. That meant something to Laura, for since the first day in the school she had been treated as something of the neophyte, with little to contribute due to her lack of experience.
“And what about Mr. Wimpy?” Marie asked the class. “This is a tough one to handle, especially for us. It’s just as easy to sprout wings and fly off into the sunset as to stand up to him and tell him to cool it. How do we get our masters to come back to the real world when they’re on one of those macho power trips? Anyone?” She looked around for someone to answer. No one seemed to have any idea until Cathy hesitantly raised her hand.
“Cathy isn’t it? Let’s hear what you think.”
In a quiet voice Cathy explained in one short sentence, “I tell him when I’m worried or scared.”
Marie smiled knowingly, “and why does that work?”
Cathy answered. “He has this tremendous capacity for responsibility, a need to take care of me. One moment he can send me to a corner for an hours long timeout, for the most trivial infraction of some minor and silly rule. And then the next day I casually mention something that concerns me and suddenly he’s sitting down in front of me with this look of total concern, asking me all about it and planning what we should do about it.
“There was an incident a few months ago. Robert had been working a lot of overtime. That and work related stress were causing some problems for him. He was irritable and, hmm, let’s call it overly diligent in overseeing me. Late one evening I told him I was worried, that his health was suffering and I was scared he might wind up in the hospital. I did not tell him that I felt he was being especially critical of me for the same reasons, but he saw the connection. He wasn’t able to stop the work problems immediately, but he did slow down, get more sleep, eat better, and backed off on the discipline. I did better, and I was able to approach him about some things I thought I could do to help him. Fix him a good lunch, pick out healthier snacks for those times he was at the office late, and when he was home make sure he relaxed and got plenty of rest.
“The crisis at work passed and we got back to normal. He never stopped being my master, and if anything is more strict now than ever before. I have noticed that he adjusts more to my moods though. Not that I can get away with much on bad days.”
The teacher started walking back and forth in from of the class. “Cathy makes a good point here, and one worth repeating. Masters are not monsters, all Mr. Vader and no Mr. Wimpy. They do care about us, no matter how they choose to show it. In Cathy’s story, her master needed an elbow in the side to realize he had to get back on track. That’s our job, to make sure he knows if we are happy and content, if we need more attention, or if we need him to ease off for a little while.
“Don’t mistake it for trying to manipulate him. It’s nothing more than communicating to him how well he’s doing. We don’t tell him how to adjust or what to do or not do, we just indicate in a respectful, subtle, submissive way that a bit of a change might be nice. He figures out the rest. Cathy did nothing more than point out something he would have seen himself if the situation had been better. And Laura, she made changes in herself to bring out what we all like to think are a master’s best qualities.”
Cathy, Laura, and two other women had just returned to a cell and were eating dinner when a warden approached the door. The four of them immediately knelt in position, surprised by his visit during dinner.
“Cathy Kincaid? Come to the door,” he ordered, his voice carefully neutral to give no hint of what was happening. Cathy stood up and walked slowly to the door, uncertain and apprehensive at being singled out.
“Turn around, hands behind your back,” came the usual command. With her back to the door she felt the handcuffs close around her wrists. She was going somewhere, but had no idea why. The door opened behind her and Cathy was pulled out by his grip on her arm. While she stood in the hallway he closed the door, told the rest they could resume eating, and then still holding onto her upper arm he began leading her along the corridor.
Based on both her current and prior experience she knew it was rare to interrupt a meal, which implied that whatever reason demanded her presence wasn’t planned. Had she done anything today or in the past few days that required some kind of reprimand? Nothing came to mind, and she knew better than to ask the warden.
A few moments later they arrived at what she came to think of as the wardens’ room. The last time she had been there it had been a trip to visit the Director, or as it turned out his assistant. Once more she saw her clothes hanging from a hook on the wall. A sense of dread ran through her as they stopped next to them.
“You will put your clothes on immediately,” he told her as he removed the handcuffs. “You are keeping the Director waiting, so I suggest you dress quickly.”
His brusque comment confirmed her fears, another trip to the Director. It only took a minute to get her dress and shoes on. Someone had cleaned and pressed the dress, for which she was grateful. Why had he sent for her? She had done her best to keep to their agreement. Laura seemed to be doing well and neither of them had gotten into any trouble recently. What if he has decided to send me to solitary confinement anyway? Her mind ran wild with speculation. Maybe he wasn’t satisfied with her own progress. Maybe she had missed some crucial point while helping Laura. Or worst of all, Robert wasn’t pleased with her attitude.
“Alright, let’s go.” The warden’s words brought her back to the present. He took hold of her arm and gestured toward the door that she knew led to the staff area. Oddly, he had not handcuffed or blindfolded her, unlike the last time. She puzzled over the significance of that small detail as she stopped at the door, waiting for the warden to open it. Hands at her side, and ironically feeling out of place because they were not restrained behind her back, she watched as he unlocked the solid door and opened it.
The door swung open. The sight in front of her so surprised her that she couldn’t even speak. There stood Robert, a smile on his face, arms outstretched. In the next moment she was inside those big strong arms, her arms around his neck as bent over to kiss her in a long embrace. Tears of happiness clouded her eyes and time seemed to slow as he held her. All the long days of loneliness that she had tried to block out came rushing back now that they could be satisfied.
“I missed you, Master,” she whispered in his ear. It almost sounded silly, but she was too preoccupied with him to think of anything clever. She laid her head on his shoulder, content to enjoy being held by him while she shut out the rest of the world. Cathy wanted the moment to go on forever but knew it wasn’t possible.
“We’ll get caught up later, but right now we are keeping the Director waiting.” He reached up and took her arms off his neck. “I think we should be going.”
The Director’s office, I knew this wouldn’t be good news, she thought to herself, the sense of dread returning. I’m not going home. And if he called in Robert it was very serious. Her last visit had included an implied threat of being transferred to a remedial disciplinary unit if she didn’t perform to expectations. If Robert is here, that has to be it, they are going to punish me. She closed her eyes for a moment to concentrate on staying calm.
Robert started to turn toward the hallway in the staff area, a hand going to her back. They had all but forgotten the warden behind them when he interrupted. “I’m sorry, but as she is still enrolled I must insist on regulations being followed.” Robert stopped and looked back over his shoulder. Cathy turned her head and saw the warden holding out a set of handcuffs in one hand.
“Oh yeah, forgot all about that.” Robert took the handcuffs and turned back to Cathy. “Hands behind your back,” came the familiar order delivered in his familiar crisp, matter-of-fact tone. She had heard it so many times it had become an ingrained habit, an automatic response whenever she heard him say it. The cuffs were already on her wrists before she realized she had obeyed instinctively.
He does that to me every time, she realized, all it takes is hearing his voice and I can’t even think straight. In his typical fashion he took hold of her upper arm, firm but not painful or bruising, a not so subtle reminder he was in control. The warden shut the door behind them as Robert led her into the staff area, heading to the Director’s office.
This was the first opportunity she had to actually see the nicer part of the so-called school. The corridor was carpeted, painted in a soft shade of blue and decorated with the occasional picture. A far cry from the concrete floor and bare gray walls she had stared at day after day. Most of the doors were made of wood, all were numbered, some with names or titles as well. A few were open, and twice she saw someone inside working at a desk.
Once two women were walking toward them, talking quietly. They both stopped and quietly stood to one side when they saw Robert. Cathy noticed they both wore collars around their throats, but otherwise they were identically dressed in conservatively tailored business suits, white blouse and jacket, knee length skirt, and neither wore restraints. Except for that one discrepancy they could have been in an office building anywhere. One of the women smiled at her as she and Robert walked by. Neither seemed surprised at the sight of her hands locked behind her back.
Robert seemed to know the way as they quickly arrived at a door with the modest title of Director’s Office engraved in a small brass plate on the door. He opened the door with one hand and urged her forward with the other. With no choice in the matter, she walked into the reception room. Robert entered and stood behind her, closing the door.
“Mr. And Mrs. Kincaid? The Director is expecting you, one moment.” The woman seated at the desk pickup up her phone. Cathy recognized the voice immediately, the same woman who had spoken to her on the last visit. This time she had a person to put with the voice, a petite woman, about Cathy’s age, with distinctive Asian features. This was the same one who had threatened to subdue Cathy if she misbehaved on the last visit. Then she saw under the receptionist’s desk the short length of chain running from the woman’s ankle to a ring embedded in the floor. It had been a bluff, she couldn’t leave her chair.
The woman hung up the phone and turned back to them. “The Director will be right out.” She noticed Cathy’s pointed look and smiled. “Yes, my master likes to know where I am every minute. I get to sound mean but anyone who sees me knows I’m pretending. Lucky you couldn’t see.”
The inner door opened and a tall burly man came out. The crown of red hair was distinctive. He reached out to Robert as they shook hands, and then he turned to Cathy. “Thank you for coming on short notice. A pleasure to see you again Mrs. Kincaid. Please, come in and sit down. We have much to go over.” He led the way back into his office.
Again? But I’ve never met him before. Cathy ignored the slip, assuming he had confused her with someone else.
Robert helped her sit down in a chair facing the desk. Looking around, she saw his face in several photographs on the wall. Obviously this was the Director. Her eyes narrowed, something about his voice and the way he had used her last name made him seem familiar. But the last time she had been called in it had been his assistant in this office.
“Thanks again Robert, I know a trip all the way out here takes up most of a busy day for you, but I felt the seriousness of this matter could only be handled in a personal meeting. And my apologies Cathy, for interrupting you. I asked your husband here to discuss your progress and what options lie open for the future. He thought it appropriate that you join us.”
Yes, it would be nice to know what fate these two men are going to decide for me, Cathy thought. It isn’t always so easy though, to let go and blindly trust someone else to choose wisely. Both of them were looking at her, as if expecting her to say something. “Thank you for allowing me to attend, sir.” A nice safe noncommittal response, but she had to be very careful here, the Director’s point in stressing how important this meeting was dictated she sit back and listen. Too, Robert was here, and she found herself slipping into the old mindset of letting him take charge.
Cathy was overwhelmed by all that had happened. This whole adventure was to be a short visit while she helped Laura adjust, followed by a passionate reunion with her master when he came to take her home. Instead she had made a stupid mistake that had turned into a catastrophe, one that would probably keep her in this place for several more weeks or months. She couldn’t see any way to avoid further incarceration either. The handcuffs pinning her arms behind her back were a constant reminder of just how helpless she was.
“Now then,” the Director continued, picking up some papers on his desk, “I’d like to start with a review of a recent event here concerning Cathy’s conduct.”
Oh no, here it comes, all over again. Cathy spoke up without even thinking. “Sir, I’d like to explain about that. When I slept in it was only to reinforce the cover story, how I was supposed to be here due to a bad attitude. I didn’t mean anything I said to the warden. It was all part of an act…” She trailed off as both men started laughing. The Director held up a hand to stop her.
“Sorry Cathy, we shouldn’t have laughed. We both know that stunt you pulled was pure acting. Of course no one else knew that, so your punishment was rather harsh considering your intentions. Still, I’m sure you knew what would happen. Not the precise details, but that you would pay a stiff price for talking back and failing to get up on time. Don’t concern yourself with it. I’m sure your master will find a way to make up for any hardship you had to endure while quite properly obeying his explicit instructions to you.”
Now Cathy was confused. If she hadn’t been called into the office over the disobedience, then what was the reason? If her task here was complete then why didn’t Robert simply take her home? She should be sitting in the car next to Robert right now, eagerly anticipating the coming evening as they drove home. Why were they still holding her here at the school? She had been on her very best behavior since that one time, a model student by any standards. What was the incident he was bringing up now? What had she done, perhaps unwittingly, to earn even one more day in this place?
“The incident I’d like to talk about happened yesterday. I’ve already mentioned it briefly to Robert, but you don’t know about it yet. This is a printout of an essay your friend Laura Ferren prepared yesterday. She was assigned the task of writing out what she has learned since her arrival, and how it has changed her. I’d like to read a few excerpts to you.” The Director turned to the paper he was holding.
Cathy looked over at Robert, then back to the Director. Something was going on here, and she was the only one who didn’t know what it was. She was certain Robert and the Director had already gone over all this and made their decisions. This was all a little play being acted out for her benefit. She turned her head to one side and studied Robert. That enigmatic smile, almost a smirk, that flashed across his face before he regained his composure confirmed it. She knew what the expression meant. He was, as he often put it, “messing with her head” and thoroughly enjoying the process. Cathy turned her attention back to the Director as he began. She relaxed and settled back in her chair. Experience had proved that if Robert was having fun she didn’t have to worry.
“Mrs. Ferren came to us under less than ideal circumstances. As her husband predicted, this school was quite a shock to her. She describes her pick up and arrival here, then follows it with her interpretation. I quote,
“Everything had been so fast, one moment I was planning a trip to visit a friend, the next moment arrested, handcuffed, and taken away in a police van, all at the instigation of the man I loved. I was so frightened I couldn’t even speak. Then they picked up Cathy. I found myself sitting next to a woman who seemed so calm and unconcerned, though she was just as helpless. She acted like we were heading to Sunday School instead of prison. Her attitude was infectious, I couldn’t help but slow down even though we weren’t allowed to talk.
Without Cathy I could not have made it through that night. She told me what I needed to know and how to act. She helped me through the worst of it. I didn’t realize till much later that she had shown me how a truly submissive woman looks at the world. We had been sent by our masters, as I now know my husband, and it was our duty to obey him as best we could. The moments when I would have rebelled, she showed the other path, the one of submission to authority, and how it led to harmony instead of confrontation. In the daily lessons since then I have learned how to look for that other path, to remember my place is at my master’s side and not in his face. Now I have a name for what I am, submissive, but I have not changed for in my heart I have always belonged to him, from our first moments together.”
The Director paused for a moment to catch his breath. Robert put a hand on her shoulder to have her lean forward, and then reached behind her and removed the handcuffs. He smiled at her as she sat back up. She was still perplexed as to the reason for this meeting. Her expectation had been an indefinite sentence to the remedial discipline section and unending misery for months to come. But after listening to Laura’s moving words there had to be a different purpose to this little get together.
Robert put his arm around her. She leaned into him, her head resting on his shoulder. Whatever the reason for her being here, it wasn’t something to worry about now. The warmth expressed in the heartfelt words in Laura’s essay, and her master’s arm around her, banished any fears. Cathy closed her eyes as the Director continued.
“I’ll skip down to a section near the end, as it has special relevance. I quote,
“I have learned much from our lessons, but it doesn’t compare to what my friend Cathy has taught me. At first I envied her. She always knew exactly what to say or do, while I was so clumsy. She was perfection, I was the poor excuse. And then one morning she proved just as human as me. All those times she had told me, over and over, how important it was to never ever disobey a warden or break a rule, then she refuses to get up one morning, and even talked back! I was so scared, not so much that the rest of us might get in trouble, but for what would happen to my friend. I wanted to yell at her to get up, but when I saw the warden I was frozen. I don’t even remember what he ordered the rest of us to do, but I guess I obeyed well enough. I remember walking away with Cathy still under her blanket, and wondering if I would ever see her again.
Of course I did see her again. At the end of the day they brought us back. The three of us, the ones who had been in the room with her that morning, were kept together. A warden took us to see Cathy. I couldn’t believe what they had done to her. She was locked in stocks, unable to move, and a large gag prevented her from speaking. The warden left us there. Cathy was obviously in pain but there was nothing we could do to help.
Eventually another warden came back and released her. She was so sore she couldn’t even stand, we had to help her out of the stocks. I was outraged at what they had done to her! I wanted to yell, fight, make someone pay for it. But Cathy’s quiet words, whispered because her mouth was still dry and sore from the gag, brought me back to the core of who we are. No anger, she said, understand the why, not the what. I didn’t see her point at first, but as she explained it was as if a door had opened for me.
The what, that she had been punished, wasn’t so important. It was only a means to accomplish an end. It was the why that mattered. Why she needed to be corrected. Whether it was a warden or her master, she told us how she absolutely had to know that they cared. If her disobedience had been ignored, then everything she valued in herself would be made instantly worthless. When I heard those words I had to stop and think, for what she described was the key to unlock my own inner struggle.
I love my husband. From the first day I met him, to the wedding, even now after what has happened. That night he sent me here I thought it was over. He was getting rid of me, he didn’t want me anymore, I was a failure and a mistake he was sweeping under the carpet. Cathy proved to me how wrong I was. He acted to save our marriage. I was slipping away and needed him to bring me back. Far from discarding me, I now know his love is so strong he will risk everything for me. That first night I could only see the what, that he had sent me away, but more than anyone else it was Cathy who made me look at the why, why I was here, why I had to learn the lessons, why I was one of the most fortunate women on earth, for I have a master who will never let go.”
The Director laid the printout on his desk and looked up. “I thought, Cathy, you would like to know that Laura will be going home in a few more days. Her stay has been shortened in no small part because of your effort. You have the ability to sense exactly what needs to be said, and a way of making what you say real and immediate.”
Cathy wrapped her hands around Robert’s arm as he patted her knee and smiled down at her. Robert spoke up. “She has always been good at empathy, understanding emotional need. She is very talented at reading my mind. That’s what made me think she would do well here.” Cathy looked up at him with a puzzled expression when she heard that last sentence.
What does he mean, do well here? I hate this place, and look how I screwed up. “Sir? I don’t understand what’s going on here. I’m very happy for Laura, and glad I was able to be of some help to her. But I haven’t done nearly as well as she has.” Now it was Cathy’s turn to envy Laura, for she would be going home. Somehow Cathy sensed she would not be leaving so soon.
“Sorry Cathy, but you are wrong on that one point.” The Director picked up on her comment and continued. “You have exceeded our expectations, both your master’s and my own. What you do not know is the real reason your master required your attendance here. You were told it was to help Laura, and while that was true, it wasn’t the primary cause of your return to the school. Robert?”
She turned to look at her husband as he spoke. “Cathy, as you know any school, even this one, depends on the people who run it. The Director contacted me several months ago, to ask about the possibility of you becoming an instructor. I wasn’t too keen on the idea of sending you off again, but the Director can be very persuasive as well as accommodating. We eventually reached mutually agreeable terms, but one question remained.
“Teaching, especially in this environment, can be a very stressful experience. It is essential for everyone on the staff here to remember the ultimate goal, to draw out what exists within every student, to help them see what they need, even if it is emotionally or physically painful. It’s easy to lose sight when someone is in distress. That’s the test the Director set for you, Cathy. To throw the worst at you and see how you coped.”
Cathy’s eyes widened in sudden realization. It all made sense, how she could do no right, yet she always seemed to have the time and opportunity to talk to Laura.
“And you passed that test Cathy,” the director told her. “Better than we had hoped, in fact. Not only did you keep to your ostensible assignment, helping Laura, but you also endured what appeared to be a mean and spiteful punishment far in excess of your transgression. You set an example not only for Laura but everyone else. I don’t think you comprehend how many of the others were influenced by your role model.
“That’s why I would like to formally offer you a position on the staff as a Teacher, effective immediately or whenever your master makes you available to us. You should also be aware that Robert has graciously volunteered to serve as a warden here on a temporary basis to help us with a manpower shortage. We would be grateful, and honored, if you would accept.”
Cathy stared at the Director, not believing what she heard. Could she stand in front of a class, with all those eyes on her, and lecture them? Apparently both men thought so. They were looking at her, waiting for an answer. She could do it, but she could not answer them. That wasn’t her place. She looked to Robert.
“Master? Should I do this?” There was one distinct advantage to being the submissive partner, Cathy told herself, and that’s the privilege of passing on the difficult choices. If she asked, it became his problem to solve. She waited patiently for him to decide her future.
It only took a moment. Robert took her hands in his, looked her in the eye, and answered with that tone of absolute certainty she found so attractive. “Yes you should. You have the talent, and the inclination to do it right. I have no doubt at all this is the best course for you.” He let go of her hands and folded his arms, leaning back. “I knew you’d ask me too, which is why I told the Director you would accept. All the arrangements have been made.
“I came for you Cathy, but not to take you home. For the next few months, this is our new home.” Once more he took her hand as he stood up. She followed, standing beside him. His arm slipped around her waist.
The same old Robert as always, she thought. He set this all up knowing exactly what she would do. He was in control of her all this time, and she didn’t even realize it. He’s a manipulative control freak, and oh how I love it.
The Director stood up and offered Robert his hand. “Welcome aboard, I think you’ll both find this a memorable experience, and a rewarding one as well. Now, I must apologize for ending the meeting so abruptly but duty calls. Your apartment in the living quarters is ready, and I believe Robert knows the way. Once again, I want to add my personal welcome to you both.”
“Thank you sir,” Cathy answered. “One thing, your assistant, has he been informed, about how I was disobedient purely to keep in character? At our last meeting he seemed quite upset with me.”
Robert and the Director started laughing. “Don’t worry about that, Mrs. Kincaid. You see, I have no assistant. You were not the only one acting that day.” The Director smiled. “Wheels within wheels, as the saying goes. You knew I, as the Director, was aware of the reason for your presence so I had to be someone else. Someone who could send you to that entirely imaginary disciplinary section. I deliberately dangled the sword over your head, all part of the test.”
“But…” her voice trailed off. Then she understood. No wonder his voice had sounded familiar when he used her last name. Dominants, she shrugged, they always had to be one step ahead.
The Director saw them to the hallway door of the outer office. Robert took a moment to orient himself before they started down the corridor. His hand slid across her hip and pulled her close as they walked. His hand resting on the belt under her dress reminded her that she still had that infernal chastity belt locked around her waist. And with that reminder came a surge of lust that almost overpowered her. Suddenly her only concern was to get it off by any means at hand.
It took only a few minutes to reach the door to their apartment, but to Cathy, burning with pent up desire, it seemed an eternity. No sooner had Robert closed the door behind them than she had her arms around him, pressing herself against him. But how could she ask?
He took hold of her upper arms and held her back. One hand lifted up her chin till he could see her face. “Is there something you want? Something you need to tell me?” The serious look on his face almost made her laugh. He couldn’t be that dense. But she had to be careful how she phrased her request. He had a long standing order that she was not permitted to ask this particularly delicate question directly.
“I’m sorry master, and I know I shouldn’t mention it, but I still have on the chastity belt.”
His brow furrowed in mock concentration. “Hmm, you want me to take it off?” His hands slid around to her back as he pulled her close. She felt one hand going to the zipper on the back of her dress, slowly pulling it down. Cathy knew exactly what he was going to say next. “Convince me.”