The old woman looked at me and then said, “We’d better get you up to your room. A nice warm bath and you’ll be right as rain.”
With that she picked up my heels from the table, opened the door and beckoned me to follow.
I stood, dazed and confused, and then followed her along the passage and then up a staircase, all the while wondering what these new developments could possibly mean. Apparently Gertrude was neither guarding me, nor about to deliver any punishment.
I glanced out of one of the windows into the gloom of the night, wondering if I should make a break for it and run. I dismissed the thought as quickly as it came to me. I was still cold and wet, and the night looked forbidding, but most of all the question that filled my mind was, “where exactly would I run to?”
With no shoes, no proper adequate clothes, and no idea where I was it was a futile exercise.
Gertrude eventually opened one of the doors off the corridor toward the back of the house revealing a spacious bedroom, a comfortable bed with clean sheets and a large dressing table. If circumstances had been different I would have thought it an excellent room in a hotel in cottage country.
“Now, you get yourself ready for that nice warm bed. You’ll catch your death running about in the cold at night, you know,” she said, opening the wardrobe. “This nice dressing gown will keep you warm and there’s a few things for you here.”
With that she took the heavy coat from around my should and then said she was going to draw a warm bath for me.
“You’ll feel better after a hot bath, and I’ll bring you up some supper.”
With that she withdrew, leaving me sitting on the bed wondering if this were all some bad dream. I slowly stripped off the cold wet clothes and slipped into the warm black dressing gown. I folded my clothes and placed them on the chair across the room and then stood looking out of the window.
Gathering my thoughts, if I felt foolish it was only because it all seemed so surreal. I’d been kidnapped after all and held against my will on a ship. While I’d made good my escape, it appeared I had merely leapt out of the frying pan into the fire. This particular fire, however, had warm crisp sheets, and from outside in the corridor I could hear a bath being filled with hot water. And here I was standing in a comfortable robe, pink fluffy slippers, looking at a dressing table with a silver backed hand mirror and matching brush.
As I stared out of the window I could make out the sweep of headlights and then the sound of a vehicle. It must have been approaching from the river side of the house, but when it appeared it stopped and three figures climbed out. There were two men and a third more diminutive form that was led, into a side entrance at the rear of the building beyond my view. The third figure was stumbling and I realised this might indeed be another person from the ship.
Before I could explore this idea further Gertrude called out from the corridor, “You’re bath’s ready Miss Andrea. I’ll have your supper for you when you get out.”
For once I found myself quite speechless. Should I say ‘Thank you’, or voice some sort of protest? Gradually, with the warmth coming back to my body I found questions beginning to tumble to and fro in my mind.
I stepped out into the corridor in time to catch sight of Gertrude’s retreating form as she walked a little unsteadily down the corridor. I decided the best course of action would be to get warm in the bath and then consider my next move.
Settling down into the warm bath, a prodigious amount of bubbles and several different bath salts in glass jars on a small dressing table in the bathroom filling the humid air with gentle fragrances, I considered this new prison. For that is what it was. A beautiful and cultured one, but a prison nonetheless. After all, escape was rather more complex than it might at first appear.
I was here without male clothing, without suitable footwear, and with no clue where to run. Instead I was destined to be brutally confined here, or so it seemed, with these fragrant accessories, comfortable surroundings and luxurious towels.
Considering my position it did seem absurd. I resolved to wait and see what transpired. After all, what choice did I have.
I soaped myself down, feeling luxuriant and warm. The apple scent of shampoo and conditioner filled the air as I washed my hair, and I began to feel restored. I noticed how very little hair was growing on my legs as I stepped from the bath. They didn’t need shaving, though I’d not done them in several days. I was puzzled by that, however, while I was feeling revived I became aware of how exhausted I felt as I towelled myself dry.
I pulled on the big black robe and made my way back to the room, my hair wrapped in a fluffy towel.
Sitting before the big mirror in the bedroom I dried my hair and then took the hair brush and began brushing my hair in long slow strokes. There was something relaxing about the sensation. When I caught sight of myself in the mirror I gasped.
Here I was, ‘Andrea’, swathed in black cotton brushing my hair, looking feminine and desirable. Even after this ordeal, which was clearly far from over. My reflection said it all. As I looked in the mirror it was a woman in her mid thirties that looked back at me. An attractive woman, with a strong body and a look of defiance. It was me.
In that moment I think I realised that whatever may befall me I would overcome. Whoever this was, she was not a shrinking violet. She was a person, a woman, of strength. Perhaps I was displaced, and confused, but one thing I was not was beaten.
I climbed into bed, and in the warm began to take stock. I had my health and whatever this place was I was not under any threat at this moment.
There came a knock on the door, and Gertrude politely asked if she could come in I replied, “Yes, come in.”
Gertrude entered bearing a tray, some warm soup and a bread roll still warm from the oven. Over the tray was a fine cotton cloth, hand embroidered with a design that looked like a deer of some sort. The cutlery was heavy silver, and clearly expensive. A cup of warm milk, and a single packet of brown sugar rounded off the sustaining meal.
“You rest up now and Mrs. Gravely will sort everything out in the morning.”
I watched Gertrude busying herself in the room, gathering up my clothes and fussing about the covers of the bed.
“Who is Mrs. Gravely,” I asked.
“She’s your host, Miss Andrea. But don’t you worry, you’ll have the chance to meet her in the morning after breakfast. I’ll rouse you at 8 and you can join the other girls for breakfast at 8.30. Now, don’t you worry. You get some sleep.”
With that she left the room. That phrase ‘the other girls’ settled into my mind and I turned it over and over. As I lay back on the crisp white sheets I felt a mixture of anxiety and excitement at what tomorrow might bring.
I woke at seven thirty to the sound of a bell. It was not a harsh ringing, as one might hear at a school or in some institution, but instead a gentle peel of bells. Enough to wake one, but not startle or alarm.
I soon became aware of other sounds, people moving about, and increasing activity. From my window I could see one or two people outside. Two young women were arriving, evidently having been for a run, and a workman was wheeling a barrow toward some unseen garden task. None of it looked the least malevolent.
I went to the wardrobe and found some things to wear, clean and pretty underwear, a bra precisely my size and some tights, a long skirt and a loose cotton blouse, and I selected a pair of sandals that were a perfect fit and both elegant and practical. They were my size, and as I looked at myself in the mirror I was surprised how good they looked on me.
True to her word Gertrude knocked on my door at precisely eight o’clock, by the little clock on the dressing table, and enquired if I’d slept well. She told me that if I went downstairs to the big dining room I’d find coffee and some breakfast.
“Mrs. Gravely’s looking forward to introducing you, but just be aware there’s a few little guidelines. She doesn’t like a lot of noise first thing, so there’s no talking until breakfast starts.”
“Of course,” I replied, feeling anything but confident.
As I left my room I glanced about at the others I saw in the corridor, or about the place. I quickly realised that these lovely women were not so much ‘women’ as people like myself. At least, as far as I could tell. Perhaps some were biologically female, but to be honest it was anyone’s guess.
All the while I noticed how unsupervised I appeared to be. The thought of making a break for it and running was quickly dismissed, as I could clearly see in daylight that there was nowhere to run to. I left my room and made my way to the stairs, encountering several other girls who greeted me with nervous smiles and nods, but no words. Apparently our hosts wishes were not to be questioned.
Off the entrance hall a pair of double doors were open revealing a large dinning room, dominated by a table set for twenty people. On the table were cereals, milk, various yoghurts, fruit bowls, and a selection of fried eggs prepared with sausages and some hash browns.
I took a seat, only to be gently told that my place was further down the table, and I moved place accordingly. Once seated I was about to reach out to serve myself when I realised no one else had done so, so I waited taking in the scene.
I did not have to wait for long. A few moments later the woman I’d met the previous night with the captain entered the room. She wore a long dark dress and looked quite severe. So, this was Mrs. Gravely. Grave by name and apparently grave by nature.
As she entered all the girls around the table rose as one, and waited for her to be seated, before sitting down. Only then did there develop a subdued hubbub of voices talking, and people reached out for some of the various offerings before us, including coffee.
The person to my right looked at me and asked if I’d like a coffee, and then poured a cup into the fine cup and saucer before me. I smiled, still unsure of what to say.
“Thank you,” I said softly, still unsure of myself.
“I’m 22,” she said quietly.
“Really,” I replied thinking she looked a little older, and how it seemed an odd thing to say by way of introduction.
“No,” she said smiling pleasantly. “I am ‘22’. You’ve not been numbered yet, I know. But you will be. But you can call me 22 anyway.”
I found this puzzling, but my mind was absorbed in the coffee and I said nothing. How wonderful that coffee tasted. How many days had it been? It didn’t matter. The coffee was wonderful.
“Let me serve you,” said 22 and with that she placed a small serving of eggs and sausage before me, with a little melon on the side of the plate. This was better fare than I’d enjoyed on board the ship and I had to restrain myself from scarfing it down like a refugee. I could tell by those about me that whatever this place was, there was a sense of decorum that had to be respected. I ate quietly observing everything.
It wasn’t till breakfast had been completed that Mrs. Gravely rose to her feet and tapped the cup in front of her to bring the table to silence. With that all chatter came to an abrupt halt and all eyes turned to the woman at the head of the table.
“Good morning girls,” she said, with the air of a headmistress. “We have two new guests today, ”and then indicating a waif like girl at the other end of the table, and myself, she invited us to stand. As I did so I felt every eye in the place on the two of us. For the first time I took a moment to inspect this formidable character. I guessed at her age being between 55 and sixty. She had steel black hair, was tall and while not slim, she had the body of an athlete. She moved with confidence. Her gaze seemed to meet each one of us and hold us, as though we were caught on a barbed hook.
Indicating the slim girl across the table Mrs. Gravely said, “Welcome number 37, and,” she then indicated myself, “number 38. I will see you both directly after breakfast, and only then can you interact with the rest of the girls. Now, get about your chores, as we have visitors tonight and I want everything to be in order.”
That was it. With that she left the room, the girls on the other side of the table began clearing everything away into the kitchen, and the person I can only call ‘Number 37’ and I looked rather lost. I walked over to her and was about to say something when ‘22’ intercepted me and pressed her fingers to my lips. She indicated I should follow and led me out into the entrance hall and then to the door of what appeared to be an office, where she knocked on the door. After a moment Mrs. Gravely called out, ‘Enter’, and 22 opened the door and ushered us in, before withdrawing.
The two of us found ourselves standing before a large desk, neatly arranged with a few papers, and a laptop. It appeared the essence of well organised.
“Welcome to Stoneleigh,” said Mrs. Gravely. “If you obey the rules here you will find it a very pleasant place to be and you’ll quickly earn privileges. You are to be known to the other guests as 37 and 38, but the staff will call you by your names if they so wish. Misbehave, and they won’t. Until you are given the privilege of a pass you are to stay within sight of the building and be prepared to return to the hall immediately should you hear either your number announced on the speakers or the bell ring. Now, 37 you can go an find 19 who will help you understand the rules, I need to have a little talk with you, 38.”
With that 37 rose to her feet uncertainly and at Mrs. Gravely’s invitation retreated to the door. I glanced back at her and as the door opened I saw someone waiting outside for her. I felt an ominous foreboding as the door quietly closed.
“Andrea,” said Mrs. Gravely with a tone at once soft and menacing, “Your arrival last night was,” and here she paused, “unfortunate. I understand one of the deck hands was slightly injured during your little adventure. He will need a few days off. That’s most unfortunate.”
I had the definite sense that I should not ask questions. A moment later Mrs. Gravely opened a draw in her desk and drew out my cell phone and a brown folder containing a few sheets of paper. I watched as she scanned several of the sheets, and fingered a small envelope stapled to the folder. She opened the envelope and removed a small key that I instantly recognised. Suddenly the weight of the chastity device between my legs seemed to increase a little.
She fingered the cell phone, then turned it on. Handing it to me and said “I’d like you to check your email.”
The thought of calling 911 flitted across my mind and was quickly discarded. I clicked onto email app and several messages came up on screen. There was something from Steve, predictably, but only one stood out. It was the latest message, and it was from Devina.
I hurriedly opened the message wondering if this could be some kind of apology, an explanation for this misunderstanding, but the message was empty but for one small video attachment. I opened it and stared at the screen.
At first I couldn’t make out the image at all, it looked like someone preparing meat, but then it quickly came into focus. I watched as someone laid stroke after stroke onto the back of a young woman. The flesh started creamy white but quickly deteriorated into a bloody mass. And the sound of whimpering with each stroke, not a scream, not a sob, but a whimper.
As the camera pulled back I could see hands holding her. And then the pan around to her face. Veronica.
“Please, Andrea. Don’t misbehave. Please!” Her words were simple and were all that needed to be said.
And then the video ended. Quite suddenly most of my questions were answered. No, I wouldn’t be running or trying to escape. I simply couldn’t do that to Veronica. I knew I would be here for a while.
+++Join as a Seahorse today!