Sunday night found her still staring first at the mark on her leg, then to the telephone, to the front door, and back to the faint red streak. It could have been a dream, except for that one tiny abrasion. Had it all been real? How else could she explain the outline of the leather strap? It had been so real, the smell of the leather, the sound of his voice, even the aches in her muscles from being tightly bound.
It wasn’t a dream, so what should she do? Call the police, and then what? Tell them she had been abducted, held prisoner, and then returned unharmed to her couch the next day? If she were lucky they’d ignore her. If she wasn’t so fortunate they might ship her off to a psychiatric hospital for observation. The story sounded too much like an erotic dream twisted by spicy Chinese food and an overactive imagination.
The faceless stranger disturbed her more than anything else. He knew her darkest secrets, the ones she wouldn’t even admit to herself. Considering what he had done to her she should have hated him. And yet, when he had grabbed her ankles and started to drag her out of the cage it hadn’t been fear or anger that boiled over. No, it had been wild abandon. She had wanted him, wanted in a raw, sexual way she had never felt before. She wanted him to take her, demand everything she could give, strip her of her dignity and force her to beg for more.
She had to hold her hands together to keep them from trembling. Again she stared at the front door to the apartment. The deadbolt was closed and locked. It hadn’t stopped him. What could she do to protect herself? She looked down at her hands, clasped tightly together.
His words came back to her, did the cage confine her inside, or did it protect her against him, waiting outside? In the short time she had been held inside she had come to see it as protecting her, an illusion shattered the moment he opened the cage door and grabbed her. She knew the apartment door and deadbolt were no more a protection against him than the bars of the cage. Her security would last no longer than the moment he chose to come for her.
It was getting late, and she had to go to work in the morning. Work, she had forgotten all about it. Was he someone she knew from the office? That didn’t seem likely; the voice wasn’t familiar. None of the men she knew were even remotely like him. What would she do if he were to walk in one day? She would never forget that voice in her ear, whispering that he owned her, body and soul.
In bed she closed her eyes and tried to will herself to sleep. Instead the image of the cage came back. She remembered how it swayed, back and forth, the way he had effortlessly spun her around, playing with her, and the moment he had reached through the bars to touch her. What if he never came back? She buried her face in the pillow and cried.
She tried to get some work done on Monday morning but she couldn’t seem to focus on her current project. Every time someone walked by her cubicle she listened to the passing conversation, hoping to hear that one unforgettable voice. It had to be someone she encountered during the day.
But she didn’t hear it. Whoever he was, he wasn’t someone from the workplace. She forced herself to make some token amount of progress just to get through the morning. When the lunch hour finally arrived she nearly ran out the door.
She went across the street to the business district’s favorite deli. As usual it was packed but she managed to get a table. While she waited for her order she watched the people coming and going through the restaurant’s entrance. He must be following her; how else could he know so much?
The waitress delivered her sandwich and went back to the counter. She picked up one of the halves and took a bite. Doing something calmed her down. She knew she was acting paranoid. He wasn’t some kind of superman. Maybe he was stalking her but in a big crowd like the deli she was as safe as she could be.
The noise level was high and energetic. The cooks at the counter called out orders, and conversations were ongoing at every packed table. Normally she tuned it all out but not today.
"...anyplace, anytime...." She heard the snatch of conversation and froze. The voice, the tone, those unmistakable words were burned into her memory. Her hands were starting to shake as she nearly dropped the rest of her sandwich. He was here somewhere, watching her. Hesitantly she looked around. Where had it come from?
Her heart was pounding. What should she do? She didn’t recognize anyone, but there were so many people he could have been walking out the door. She had to get away.
Frantically she waved down the waitress to get her bill. She left half her lunch on the plate in her haste to get back to the office.
Two tables away he took out his pocket watch to check the time. She had left early today and hadn’t finished her meal either. That was a shame; the deli had some of the best pastrami in town. He took a sip of water before spreading some cream cheese on the Kaiser roll. A good meal was something to be savored in the fullness of time. He valued patience and the rewards it brought.
By Friday evening she was an emotional wreck. How many times had she imagined hearing his voice during the week? Were any of them real? She had received nothing from him, no phone calls, no email, not even a mysterious note under the door. Somehow she knew he was still out there, waiting.
She didn’t want to go home. He had easily snatched her away last weekend; he might very well do the same again. She had to get away, find some place to hide so she could relax and think through the situation calmly. At home she couldn’t concentrate, knowing he might come for her at any moment. Whenever she tried to sort it all out the sound of his voice would intrude. Over and over, she heard his calm assertion that she belonged to him, that she was his property to do with as he pleased. It played over and over in her mind so many times it was becoming an obsession. She needed some peace and quiet in a secret hideout.
One of the pictures on her desk was of herself as a teenager standing in front of her uncle’s mountain lodge. It wasn’t that far out of town. She flipped open her address book and looked up her uncle’s number. One phone call later she had the place to herself for the weekend, no questions asked.
At her apartment she wasted no time throwing together a few things into an overnight bag before heading out the door. She didn’t even bother changing out of her office clothes. She could stop on the way to eat dinner, or pick something up to eat at the cabin. What was important was to put as much distance between her and the apartment as she could before he realized she was gone.
It was dark when she parked in front of the cabin door. There were no outside lights. She left the car door open so she could find the key to the door hidden in the hollow plastic rock near the door. Once inside she turned on the lights before going back out to the car for her bag and the sack of food from the convenience store.
The place wasn’t very big. It was a classic wooden A-frame, essentially one big room. Against the far wall was the big fireplace just as she remembered from years ago. There was one new addition, a large fur rug spread out in front of the hearth. Her uncle was single and not above seeking out the occasional companion for a weekend. It looked like the cabin had been transformed into one of his love nests.
She kicked off her shoes and walked across the rug in her stocking feet. It felt wonderful. Idly she wondered if the fur was animal or artificial but she didn’t really care. This wasn’t the time or place for political correctness.
She found bedding in the closet and made up the couch. The constant stress of the last week had exhausted her. She fell asleep in minutes.
Outside the window the sunrise flooded the cabin with light. Inside, sitting on the couch he took out his watch and checked the time. It wouldn’t be long now. She was stretched out on the rug in front of him, on her stomach, head to one side. The blindfold was in place, her hands were secured behind her back in leather cuffs linked close together, and her ankles were held by the same type of cuffs. A strap connected her wrists to her ankle but he had left it loose for now. If she began to struggle violently he’d use it to subdue her.
The morning air was chilly so he had the heater going to keep her comfortable. When she stirred he leaned forward, studying her carefully. It wasn’t a real surprise that she had tried to get away from him. He had expected she would make the attempt and planned accordingly. Still it was a disappointment. She would have to be punished for it. Discipline meant nothing if there were no consequences for misbehaving.
She felt cold. She tried to reach for the blanket but something was wrong. Her arms seemed to be stuck. Half asleep and fuzzyheaded she thought they were tangled up in the blanket. Something was wrapped around her head too, maybe it was the pillow.
When she rolled over she woke up to something very different than what she had expected. That leather smell brought back recent memories. She had the blindfold on again. A few tugs verified her wrists and ankles were bound too. Despite everything she had done he had found her.
"Why did you come up here? Were you trying to run away from me?" It was his voice. He was standing over her. His tone was steely calm, almost arrogant, but behind it she could hear his controlled anger.
She stopped struggling against the restraints, paralyzed by fear. He knew exactly what was on her mind. "I...I needed a place to think. I wasn’t trying to get away." She stalled, trying to come up with some way to explain away what she had done.
She couldn't think. The shock of finding herself at his feet again was too much. Once again she was completely within his power, lying at his feet striped and bound, helpless, open and vulnerable. He could do whatever he wanted and she had no way to stop him. No matter what she did he was always a step ahead.
"Don’t lie to me. One more time, were you trying to run away?" She could tell he had knelt down next to her. One hand grabbed her hair.
She didn’t answer at first. His hand tightened in her hair. "Yes, I was scared. I wanted to hide." He knew every time she stretched the truth. Whatever he used for a lie detector worked too well on her.
"You didn’t get very far, did you? For an intelligent woman you do some foolish things. You know you belong to me. Yet you ignore simple facts and try to hide away in the mountains.
"You need a place to think? About what, the way your life is changing? There is nothing to think about. I will instruct you on what to do and when you must do it. I will tell you what you need to know. I will choose the path you take for the future. All you must do is accept the inevitable and acknowledge your new role as my property."
He let go of her hair. "I am disappointed in you. I had hoped you would have the insight to understand you must ask for my permission before you came up here. From now on you will not leave town without my approval. As punishment you will be in your apartment by 6pm every night starting tomorrow. You will not leave until you go to work in the morning. Is that clear?"
"Y...Yes." She was so scared all she could think of was to do whatever he wanted. She could get home from work before six. She was so confused she didn’t realize the curfew meant he was going to let her go again.
He stood up and walked around her. She didn’t move or make a sound. This time there were no pleas to let her go. She had to be terrified. Fear had its place but he needed for her to move in a positive direction.
"I’ve set aside this morning for instruction. First, I need you to change position." He took hold of her shoulders and lifted her up. "Legs underneath, kneeling." He let her back down. "Sit back on your heels."
He stood back to get a better look. She didn’t have it quite right. "Don’t slouch! Straighten your back. Hold up your head." She answered to his commands right away. She would need to work on it but for now it was sufficient for his purposes. What he wanted was for her to focus on quickly responding to his orders.
"That’s better. You’re doing well." It wasn’t empty praise. He could see she really was trying her best. He slipped a hand between her knees. "Keep your legs this far apart, no more."
First he had to get her into a receptive frame of mind, and then make the point. "I’m going to release your arms. When I do, you will place your hands, palms down, fingers together, on the tops of your legs, about three inches from your knees. Is that clear? You may answer."
"Yes." Her tone carried a hint of uncertainty along with the expected anxiety.
Using a key he opened the locking buckles and removed the leather cuffs from her wrists. The moment he freed each hand she placed it as he had instructed. He left the cuffs on the rug behind her. They would be needed later.
"Good. Now I want you to listen to me very carefully." He crouched down behind her and to one side. Softly he whispered in her ear as he put a hand on her back. "Imagine a large mirror is in front of you. You can see your reflection. Look at yourself, look at the woman you see." He paused for a moment. "Do you know what the mirror shows? It is a picture of a woman who is proud of herself. Do you see it? A woman who can kneel before the man to whom she belongs, not ashamed to submit to his authority, a woman who knows she is someone special, someone who is proud she can obey him without hesitation or question." He brushed aside her hair and caressed the back of her neck.
"I want you to kneel on this rug, look into the mirror with your mind’s eye, and see yourself as the world will see you." He stood up and went behind her. She felt his hands on her shoulders. "Show them you are confident, that you know who you are and that you will not be swayed. Shoulders back, accentuate your breasts, show them you are very much a woman who is comfortable with her sexuality. Let them all know you are someone to be reckoned with, someone other women will envy."
With his words guiding her she did see the mirror, a large oval one with an ornate Victorian style frame. She could see herself, and someone standing behind her. She tried to look up, to see his face in the mirror, but it was cut off. If only he would remove the blindfold so she could see him. But there wasn’t anything she could do about it. Until he decided she should see him she would have to wait.
She heard him walk away. There was the sound of a pan on the stove, a burner lighting, and a cabinet opening from the kitchen. He must be cooking something.
She turned her attention back to her imaginary mirror. She knew she shouldn’t be distracted. For some reason she didn’t fully comprehend it was important she see the woman he described.
"Keep your head up." He caught her by surprise but she obeyed immediately. Even though he was cooking breakfast he was still watching her. She wanted to be perfect for him.
The picture his words painted in her mind struck a response from deep within her. The way he spoke seemed to hypnotize her: slow, deliberate, and with an assurance that he was describing a literal truth that could not be denied. Some small distant voice in her head was warning that he was controlling her thoughts, but she didn’t care. She wanted to be the image in the mirror. How many years had she turned away from that reflection, believing it was weak and wrong?
Could she do it? He seemed to think so. So far he hadn’t even given her a choice. He was forcing her to confront her core beliefs, her most basic assumptions about who she was. In the past she’d always turned away when the dreams came, the desire to be controlled, to submit to one special man, to trust him, to know she could always depend on him to be there. He wouldn’t let her deny her nature any longer.
Carefully she flexed her hands, but made sure she didn’t move them from the place he had designated. Holding the position was tiring but she had to keep going until he allowed her to stop. Right now, right this very minute there was no more important priority than proving to him she could live up to his words. No matter what it took, even though her legs were screaming in protest, she would kneel in position and look at his version of her reflection in the mirror.
He tightened the strap one more notch, pulling her ankles and wrists closer together. She was on the rug, on her stomach, legs bent back with her hands behind her back hogtied to her ankles. He knew it was painful so he wouldn’t keep her that way for very long. He had some final instructions for her and wanted to make sure he would have her undivided attention.
"On Thursday you wore a pink pantsuit to work. Do you remember?" He tested the tension on the restraining strap that held her arched back like a bow. There was just enough slack that she could use her legs to giver her arms some momentary relief. He pushed in the locking button on the buckle.
"I, I guess so." She knew which outfit he was talking about but didn’t remember if she wore it that day. She tried to keep her legs bent. Any attempt to straighten out sent jabs of pain into her shoulders. Even the cage hadn’t been this bad. Her only hope was that he wouldn’t keep her tied this way for very long.
"You will not wear it again. It’s not an honest representation of who you are." The strap pulled taut as her legs tired. He reached out and pushed her ankles back down, easing the strain on her arms. "Sunday night, before you go to bed, you will take it out of the closet, get a pair of scissors and cut it into pieces no bigger than your hand. Then you will collect all the pieces, put them into a clear plastic bag, and hang it in your closet. Every morning you will look at that bag before you pick out what to wear."
What he told her was true enough but not the entire story. He had other reasons for this particular order. His goal was to begin to influence her common everyday life, at a level she wouldn’t normally think about. What she usually took for granted, dressing in the morning, the time she got home at night, would now be structured according to his wishes. It was an incremental approach, starting with a few specifics. It would be gradual, there would be no single point at which she lost all control over her life, but in the end she would reach the point where his approval mattered more than her own preferences.
He ran his hand up and down her leg again. She was hardly in a position to enjoy the caress but he could see it affected her. Not only would he control her but she would be doing her best to help him. She was a classic overachiever with one blind spot. Someone else had to provide the motivation. She would never be satisfied with setting and meeting her own goals. He would see to it she had a challenge worthy of all of her skill and talent.
Their first meeting had intentionally left her frightened and disoriented. Now he would provide her with the stability she needed to recover. He had given her a set task to accomplish every day, to be home at a specific time. By appearance it was simple but he knew it would have an effect on her far beyond the obvious.
He had reached out and changed her perspective. Her daily schedule now revolved around a point in time he had designated. She had to plan her entire day based on what he wanted.
Her second assignment regarding her clothes was a bit more subtle. He’d deliberately been vague as to his reasons. She’d want to know the why behind it. He was sure she’d solve it quickly. She was smart, probably more intelligent than he was, and would intuitively pick on what he wanted in record time. Keeping information about himself to a minimum was essential to ensure she didn’t get ahead of his plans.
When she left the cabin she thought she’d have plenty of time to get home before six o’clock. What she didn’t count on was a livestock truck overturning on the freeway. Traffic slowed to a crawl and backed up while the police shut down the road, chasing after wayward cattle. As it dragged on she began to worry. The problem was, she was too far out of town to get off on a side road. She had to sit it out.
He’d left the cabin the day before. How she didn’t know. He had placed her on the rug, in her kneeling position, and placed a simple mechanical egg timer on the fireplace hearth. "Keep your eyes closed. Do not break position until the timer goes off. When it does you have the rest of the weekend to yourself. You will stay here in the cabin tonight. Tomorrow you will return to your apartment. Be home before six." And that was all it took. He’d removed all her restraints, even the blindfold, and left. Motionless she had knelt on the rug listening to the timer until it released her.
When traffic did start to move again she had no margin left. Every time the radio announced the time she cringed. It was going to be very close. She was tempted to speed up but she couldn’t risk being pulled over for a ticket. That would be a certain guarantee she’d be late.
What would happen if she didn’t make it? She had no idea what he would do. Nor did she want to find out. The evening curfew was bad enough. She’d have enough time after work for one errand but nothing more. It would take careful planning, groceries one day, her dry cleaning the next, the gas station, and she had better leave a day open for the unexpected. There would be no eating out, no drinks after work with friends, and no dates. Dates, those were out of the question now. She couldn’t imagine him allowing her to go out with someone else.
He hadn’t been specific about the weekend. Was she allowed to go out, as long as she was back in time? His instructions had been to stay in until she left for work. She’d have to think about it. What would he expect her to do? Maybe she could limit herself to just essential trips, and make sure she was back before noon. Then again, he might be supervising her weekend directly.
She made up for lost time when she got off the freeway. It being a Sunday afternoon, street traffic was very light. When she arrived at her apartment building she parked as close as she could and ran to her front door. Inside she went straight to the kitchen and turned on the lights. The clock on the stove said she had made it with ten minutes to spare.
He went into the small news stand and bought the evening paper. As he came out he looked up at the apartment window across the street. While waiting he glanced at the front page of the paper. There was a short notice below the fold that an accident involving a cattle truck had closed down the Interstate that afternoon.
When the light in the window across the street came on he took out his pocket watch and opened it to check the time. Ten minutes before six, she had cut it close but it was within her bounds. He dropped the watch back in his pocket, tucked the paper under his arm, and continued walking.
He was relieved she had made it in time. He hated to make exceptions after the fact. He would make a point of telling her she had done well.
In her bedroom she sat on the edge of the bed and looked in her closet. Why had he picked out that one particular outfit? That question had been on her mind while driving home. She couldn’t figure out why he had chosen to mention her clothes on one particular day.
She took the pink pantsuit out of the closet and laid it on the bed. There had to be something she was missing, some small but significant detail he didn’t like. She held it up in front of her and looked in the dresser mirror, the best she could do. She couldn’t put it on; he had expressly forbidden it.
She laid the outfit back on the bed and got her scissors out of the nightstand. She’d need a clear plastic bag for the remains when she finished. There was a bag in the bottom of the closet, from the drycleaner’s, that would work. She could tie it to a hanger when she finished.
It still bothered her that she couldn’t see the connection. She’d seen men give her the visual once over while wearing it, so it couldn’t be that unattractive. What had he said, something about it not fitting her image? Not an honest representation, that’s the way he had phrased it.
She jumped up and went to her closet. What had she worn the rest of the week? Why hadn’t he singled out anything else she had worn to work? She went down the line of hangars, picking out Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday. Friday was still in the car, since she hadn’t changed after work. Her overnight bag was still in the back seat too. She’d been in such a hurry to get inside she’d left it behind. By the time she remembered it was past six and she couldn’t go back for it. She would have to wait until morning.
She laid each day out in order on the bed, trying to see the pattern. Monday had been the pink blouse and a long skirt. She remembered picking it out because it would cover the mark above her knee. Tuesday she had worn a dress, Wednesday a shorter skirt, and Friday had been a dress again, a light peach colored pink, the one now hanging in the back seat of the car. It wasn’t the color.
She thought back to what he had been doing while he gave her this assignment, the way he had continually ran his hand up and down her leg. Even though he’d had her in painfully restrictive bondage the touch of that hand had made her shiver.
She stared at the week’s wardrobe when the common element struck her. It was obvious now. Sighing, she picked up the other outfits and hung them back in the closet. She would have to go through the closet sometime this week to sort out the allowed from the forbidden. She sat down on the bed, picked up the scissors and began cutting up the pants. She knew what he meant now. She could wear whatever she liked, any color, any style...just as long as it was a dress or skirt. Anything else would get the scissors treatment if she put it on. Hanging the bag of sliced up material in the closet would ensure she never forgot.
It took a while but she finally had a pile of material in place of what had been her pink power suit. She checked one last time to make sure no individual piece was larger than her hand. She bundled the pieces into the bag, rolled the top shut, and then tied it to a hanger with some ribbon. Hopefully no one would see it hanging in the closet. She’d have to come up with some explanation just in case.
She put the hanger with the bag in the center where she couldn’t ignore it. Making all those cuts had taken longer than she expected. The alarm clock said it was nearly her bedtime. She pulled out her pajamas from the dresser drawer and headed for the bathroom.
When she emerged she went to her bed and turned down the covers. A good night’s rest would do wonders. And she wouldn’t have that pink suit haunting her now that she understood what he wanted. She turned and looked at her reflection in the dresser mirror. She’d solved it on her own. Maybe he was right after all. She did see a woman who could be proud of her submission. She did feel a definite sense of accomplishment.
Pride turned to anger as she saw something else in the reflection. The anger was directed at herself. She’d figured out his intent but then she’d gone and ignored it minutes later. Furious that she could be so stupid she sat down and took the scissors out of the nightstand. She wasn’t done after all. Glaring at herself in the mirror one more time she reached down and pulled off the pajama bottoms. The top would be okay but that was all he’d approve. No excuses this time, she thought as she began cutting the lower half of the pajamas into hand sized pieces. If she didn’t shape up and pay attention she’d have to get more scissors.