HTG: Quarterly Gains and Losses
by Delilah Winston
Donna sipped a soft drink while playing a few rounds of Bejeweled on her home computer. Ethan had taught her the basics and she'd been improving her game with regular practice.
Donna was almost finished with a round when her phone rang. She gave a hurried glance to the caller ID. It was Deena.
Donna picked her phone up. “Hey sis,” she said cheerfully.
“Hey, Donna,” Deena's voice also sounded cheerful, although it also sounded...
“So what can I do for you?” Donna asked inquisitively.
Deena laughed. “For someone whose eyes are so easy to read, you're pretty good at reading voices, yourself,” she giggled good-naturedly, and Donna copied.
“So, talk to me, Deena,” Donna said. “What's up?”
Deena paused a couple of seconds, and Donna smiled. A couple of seconds later, however, and Donna's smile was horizontalized in a hurry.
“So, Donna, how did you learn the routine you do to keep in shape?”
Not that again...
“Come on, sis, please?” Deena begged.
“You're a trim and attractive woman,” Donna tried to reassure her sister.
“It's been a year and a half since that Christmas,” Deena said. “A lot can happen.”
Donna started to frown, but kept it under control. “You haven't put on a lot of weight, have you?” she asked, suddenly starting to get concerned. “I thought you or Mom would have let me know by now, if you were.”
“I don't want to get that way,” Deena protested. “My metabolism is changing, my body is changing, and my lifestyle is changing. I'm finding less time to keep active. I don't want to get heavy before I can make the right adjustments.”
“You know, sis, if you did get a few pounds over, it's not so bad,” Donna said gently.
Deena's voice started to turn a little sullen. “Easy for you to say, with your body looking the way it does. After Christmas when you went back home, a lot of the family were talking about how buff you were.”
Donna said nothing, letting Deena continue.
“Donna, maybe it's not the end of the world if I put on ten pounds. But if I let it be easy, then it'll be easy to put on another, and another, and soon I'll have gotten fat, and that's when I have to worry about my health. Come on, Donna. Please. For me? Help your sister out a little?”
Donna took a short breath. “Deena, I swear to God--”
“God doesn't have to worry about weight or shape,” Deena interrupted. “Leave him out of it.”
Donna suppressed a smile. “Okay, then, I promise you, it's not any specific routine.”
Deena sighed. “Well, whatever it is you ARE doing,” she insisted. Her voice changed tone in a way that showed her increasing displeasure at Donna's continued skirting of the point.
'NOW what?' Donna thought. 'How am I supposed to explain this? Sure, sis, ask your best friend to hogtie you for forty-five minutes, five times a week. Ask her to gag you with a strip of sheet so you can practice breath control. Struggle in the bondage like you're really a kidnap victim. If you can get free too easily and quickly, ask your friend to tie you up tighter.'
“Are you running? Swimming? Dancing?”
“Sometimes, when I'm going out with my boyfriend,” Donna said. “I dance with him sometimes.”
“Stretching? Crunches?” Deena pressed. Donna could see that her sister wasn't going to end the call without some kind of satisfactory answer.
“Can't be just regular crunches alone, though, right?” Deena thought aloud. “You learned how to mix them with stretching?”
Donna's lips parted thoughtfully. Her brow knit. Deena was on to something.
“Well, yes, it's certainly not regular crunches, we both know those don't really work,” Donna said.
“So, how are you doing them?”
Donna barely managed to stop herself from snapping her fingers before Deena heard the sound. Of course!
“It's an inverted crunch, combined with trying to touch my toes behind my back,” Donna said. “Lay ON your stomach, stretch your head and chest up off the floor. Alternate with bracing your knees and shoulders on the floor, and pushing your backside up.”
“Huh,” Deena sounded impressed. “And reach my hands back, stretch my feet up and back toward my hands.”
“Right,” Donna said. “Reach as far as you can like you're trying to grab your toes with your fingers. Stretch out that way, and rock back and forth a few reps. Then do a few reps raising your knees and chest as high up as you can, as far as your spine will let you go. Finally, brace your knees and shoulders, press your backside upward, a few reps like that.”
“That could improve my flexibility, at least I hope so,” Deena said. She was getting excited at the idea.
“You have a couple of those tension cords that you pull on to exercise your arms and pectoral muscles, right?”
“Slip your feet through the loops at one end, grab the loops at the other end with your hands,” Donna said. “That will help brace you, since not many people can touch their hands to their toes behind their backs.”
“That sounds like it could work,” Deena said with a slight chuckle. “That is REALLY smart. Who taught you that trick?”
Donna paused. “A few of my co-workers,” she said evasively, and bit her lip hard enough to make it smart.
“I'll try it out, and I'll send you an email to let you know how it goes,” Deena promised. “Thank you SO much, Donna. I'm gonna change clothes so I can give it a tryout. Love you!”
Donna clenched her stomach, kept her words controlled. “Love you too, Deena. Good luck!”
They hung up, and Donna turned to one side, staring off into space.
She slipped off her chair, holding her sides as she pulled her knees up toward her chest, laughing uncontrollably.
The next day at work, after Donna had been untied, Carla and Christina came into her office.
“Mr. Stone asked me to check in with you,” Christina said, looking a little concerned. “Said you sounded a little... off? He was going to have you untied early when it looked like you recovered.”
“I was on my way to the supply room when I happened across Christina,” Carla added. “She told me what was up, and I came here with her.”
Donna blushed. She'd had to fight back several rounds of the giggles during Down Time. She told Carla and Christina the story, and the three of them busted loose, slapping the top of Donna's desk until their palms smarted.
“DAMN,” Carla laughed until she suddenly winced. “I'm gonna need a dose and a half when it's time for my medication this evening.”
Donna decided to treat herself at lunch, buying an ice-cream sandwich for dessert. After paying the cashier, she carried her tray toward the employee seating and noticed KJ, Nancy and Bea all sitting together. KJ waved at Donna, all three women inviting her to join them.
“How do you like being an admin assistant?” Donna smiled at Nancy. Having a better head for numbers than KJ, Nancy had accepted the promotion to replace Barbie as Mr. Westman's administrative assistant.
“It's not easy. Really keeps me on my toes,” Nancy smiled, running a hand through her lightly crinkled hair. She'd been trying a new hair style, letting her hair grow an extra inch and a half. It made Nancy look more professional.
“Nancy's been coaching me on some of the number crunching,” KJ said. “I'm really gonna have to get on top of this if I want to move up into the investment work.” KJ was probably Nancy's best friend in HTG, and vice-versa. They had a lot in common, despite differing backgrounds. After KJ had missed the grade necessary on the math exam given by the board for promotion to an admin assistant spot, Nancy had begun helping her practice.
“It'll come,” Nancy smiled, taking KJ's hand and giving a gentle squeeze. KJ smiled back, returning the squeeze.
“And how's the new hire working out?” Donna asked Bea. “Congratulations on your first little sister.” Bea had moved up to the secretary position for Mr. Steward and was helping a new receptionist transition into 'life at HTG.'
Bea chuckled. “Thank you. Suzanne's a handful. She resents Quiet Time with a passion. But I think she's gonna pull through. Claire's been giving me some advice on helping Suzanne through it.”
“One last big sister act for her last hurrah,” KJ said quietly.
Donna did a double-take. “Claire's leaving too?”
KJ shook her head and smiled. “No. Actually, just the opposite. Claire's due for a promotion by the end of the summer. She'll probably be going to Mature Bonds as a junior exec. Not many people here, woman or man, reach that position without an extra year or two on the job, longer than Claire's been here.”
“That's quite a lot of reorg for our department in a pretty short time,” Donna said. “Usually it's just turnover from new hires that don't stick around.”
KJ nodded. “Took me three tries to get a stable big-sister relationship with a new hire,” she said, looking amused as she reminisced on it. After the debacle with Sasha, the next new hire flunked the 'loyalty test;' trying to pass herself off as having 'won the competition' as an act of spite. She stopped receiving support, including from KJ, on handling the transition into life at HTG and stopped coming in three weeks later. KJ's current 'little sister,' a mid-twentysomething redhead named Lara, had an emotional outburst after she was untied at the end of her first day, and coldly turned her back when KJ invited her to dinner. But the next day, without any explanation, she showed up for work again. Lara was glassy-eyed and cold for nearly half of her orientation, before finally starting to accept the TLC offered by her co-workers. Now, just shy of her two-year mark as Mr. Westman's receptionist, Lara had still never offered any reasoning for toughing out her orientation and reconciling herself afterward to being hogtied each day. None of the women in the department questioned her about it.
“She works hard, and gets along well with all of us,” Nancy said, half to herself. “Valuable member of the support network at all our meetings, and gatherings at Jackson's. But I wish she'd sit with us at lunch once in a while, maybe join one, or some, of us for coffee after the day's done, just for company.”
“I do too,” KJ said, “but I'll settle for what she's given us so far.”
Nancy nodded quietly, and Donna and Bea followed suit.
“And Bea, do the aides still need to peek in on Suzanne during Down Time?” Donna asked curiously. One key way that made Suzanne virtually unique among the women of HTG was that she didn't struggle in her bondage at all, and was always silent; never making a peep into her gag. She had no interest in the 'competition.'
“Not anymore,” Bea said. “She wised up to it eventually and asked me about it. When I explained how and why they monitor her, she started making small movements that Mr. Steward learned were signals that she was okay. She'll stretch and slightly shift position a few times, and look up at her door every so often.”
The four of them finished lunch and were each nursing a beverage refill while waiting for the hour to end.
“Claire's earned her promotion,” Nancy said thoughtfully. “But New Bonds won't be the same without her. I wonder what the next new hire will be like.”
“Just another chocolate bonbon in the box,” Bea grinned. “We never know what we'll get.”
“Thank you, Mrs. Gump!” KJ retorted, chuckling in amusement, and the rest of them followed suit.
Arriving at her door at home, Donna found Geri there, knocking.
“There you are,” Geri smiled, turning around as she heard Donna getting off the elevator. “What were you doing, working late tonight?”
Donna blushed. “I'm sorry, Geri, there was no way out of it,” she said contritely.
“Well, let's get downstairs, the Astros just took the field,” Geri said. The Houston Astros were playing the St. Louis Cardinals that night.
“Give me just one minute, I can't go downstairs like this,” Donna said, undoing her tie as quickly as she could.
Geri pursed her lips, but nodded. Donna hurried inside her apartment, kicking off her pumps just to the side of the door. Pulling off her jacket and skirt and laying them flat on her bed, she left her blouse and stockings on, putting on a pair of dark acrylic pants and stepping into some brown loafers. She left her purse on her bed, grabbed her baseball cap from atop the dresser (Thank goodness she'd placed it there as a preparation), and hurried back out. Geri nodded and smiled as Donna locked up again, and they hurried downstairs to Bobby's.
After the game, Donna checked her email. Her eyebrows raised as she saw a simple, “Hi Donna” in the subject line, and firstname.lastname@example.org as the sender address.
'Bbail... wait a second. Barbara Bailey?' Donna was surprised, although pleasantly. Mary had come through, after all.
Donna opened the email and her breath caught in her throat.'Your best friends, aren't always. I apologize, but that's all I can say. Please take care of yourself. BB'The blonde blinked at her monitor, completely bewildered.
* * * *
Donna gave two of the aides 'the look' again as they busied themselves tying her ankles. Even though they never responded to it, Donna took some satisfaction in one thing they couldn't hide: they were aware of her piercing stare. They knew she was watching them.
Because of their masks, Donna could never tell if the aide who copped a feel on her leg while he helped tie her up on her first two days at the company had ever helped tie her up again, or if he was even working at the company anymore. It was one thing that only managers were privvy to. And even among the managers, women knew less about aide personnel and rotation than the men. Women managers were tied up each day, same as any other corporate woman, so they had minimal involvement with organization and assignments of each department's aides. In fact, according to Mr. Stone, respect for aide anonymity among the corporate women of HTG was one (albeit minor) reason cited by some women executives for choosing not to move up to a managerial position. When Donna first began working at HTG, only twelve women had become departmental managers during their careers, and even now, a little over two years later, that number had only gone up by one, to thirteen.
But one thing Donna DID know, and often found herself silently thanking Mr. Stone for: he kept his word. Her leg had never been touched like that again while the aides tied her up. And even though they were all trained well enough to ignore her piercing looks, Donna was sure that they all knew, she was watching them.
Donna's knees were tied, and she was carefully lifted from the wooden stool and laid on her stomach on the floor of her office, and the short piece of rope used to tie her wrist bondage to her ankle bondage, completing the hogtie. Her phone cord was unplugged at both ends and placed in a drawer of her desk, and the aides left the office, taking the stool along, closing the door behind them, giving Donna her privacy as she began her struggles.
Even Donna's struggling to work herself loose had begun to fall into a pattern; a routine. More than once she stopped, paused, and reflected. Her head was always at work shaking from side to side, her tongue always pushing against her gag. But her wrists would twist and wriggle one way, then the other, back the first way, side to side, up and down. Her toes would kick back and forth, first alternating, then together. Her feet would try to kick out with a specific rhythm.
Donna made an exasperated noise into her gag. What had happened? She felt less like she was really struggling to get free from her bondage, and more like she was struggling just to pass the time, or worse-- to put on a show for the camera?
'Fuck you, Karen!' Donna thought to herself, as she snorted into her gag. 'This time I really mean it; Fuck you!' Donna had grown so accustomed to being bound and gagged for 45 minutes each workday, that she'd organized her struggles into a ROUTINE. No wonder she'd been able to suggest an exercise regimen to her sister based on it! Donna grunted into her gag and rolled her eyes. Drawing in her breath, she started to yank and kick at her bondage with redoubled vigor. She'd pay for it later with more aches and pains that would need some extra time in the tub with the Epsom salt, but right now she didn't care.
'Tune in at 3:45 for Donna's bondage workout routi--'
“mmmmRRRRRRMMmmMMMMMrrmmmRRRMMMM!” Donna's outcry was half grunt, half-screech, her lips writhing around her gag as much as the pulling against the corners of her mouth would permit. She wanted to kick herself right in the gut just for letting that idiotic thought into her brain.
Donna struggled fiercely, going all out into fighting her bondage.
Donna's door suddenly opened, and two aides came in, kneeling beside her. Donna twisted and managed to get a glance at the wall clock. It read 4:10 pm. One aide was pressing his hands on her shoulders to steady her, so the other could put the scissors in place to cut her hogtie rope.
She snorted once more, but took a deep breath, trying hard to calm herself. She turned to the aide with the scissors and shook her head firmly. The two men paused, looking close at her. For what Donna thought was the first time ever, the one with the scissors made eye contact. His burly shoulders twitched in a silent question whether Donna was certain. She nodded an affirmative, pushing her weight so she tipped over onto one side. She closed her eyes, taking a deep, calming breath.
The aides looked at each other for a second, and then nodded, righting Donna again so she was back on her stomach, and readjusting the cushion so it was centered under her chin. Before leaving the room, the one who'd made eye contact silently held up ten fingers and tapped his left wrist. Donna understood this meant they were going to peek in on her in ten minutes to make sure she was okay, and she'd really calmed down. Donna nodded to them. They looked at her for a second more before leaving the office. Donna decided to lie still until 4:30 came. She took a couple more deep breaths.
'A bit of a close call,' she thought to herself. She'd let herself lose her temper, and over what? Bragging rights? A few hundred dollars in the betting pool pot? Donna had always been a competitor as far as the betting pool went, but she realized she'd been getting overzealous. She'd gotten carried away with her desire to win. Neither Christina, nor Karen, and especially not Mary, would be proud of her for that.
It had gone far enough that the aide had looked her right in the eyes. She tried to think of one time any aide had ever made direct eye contact with her for more than a second or two. She couldn't. It hadn't happened. She even made out the brown color of the aide's eyes, through the eye holes in his mask, as he gave her the shrug to ask if she was sure she was all right. Remembering the colored contact lenses KJ wore, Donna wondered if the aides all did the same, just in case any woman got a square look at any of their eyes.
4:30 came, and Donna was untied with the usual efficiency. She gave the aides a small nod of thanks as they finished, which they returned, without looking directly at her. A few minutes after they walked out, Christina and Karen came into Donna's office.
“Please, don't say it,” Donna pleaded.
The two of them looked at her; their eyes telling Donna all she needed to know. Focusing on Karen, Donna remembered her outburst. Her lips quivered slightly, and she went up to Karen, hugging her.
“I promise you both, I'm all right, or I will be.” Donna told them, as she hugged Christina. “But please, I'd rather not talk about it.”
Donna backed away, and they looked at her for a few more seconds, and then at each other, before nodding quietly.
“If you change your mind, you can come to us, or Carla,” Karen reminded her gently.
Donna nodded in grateful acknowledgment and the two women left her office.
'Fuck you, Karen! This time I really mean it; Fuck you!' The outburst rang in her head, and she hung it, feeling ashamed.
Lifting her head back up, Donna let her lips stretch into a sardonic smile.
'THAT'S why I'm gagged, during Down Time. And for the first time in my life, I'm glad I was.'
She plopped back into her chair, putting her face in her palm, and chortled for the next few minutes.
End of part 5
Copyright© 2014 by Delilah Winston. All rights reserved.
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