There is something wholesome and rejuvenating about hard physical labour. The three of us worked hard all morning in the stable block and between us we mucked out five well kept stables. With only a short break we worked together, all three of us methodically cleaning each stall and refreshing the straw, and filling the feed buckets.
Outside the stable block several horses grazed in a field, and in the bright morning sunlight the scene had an idyllic quality. In fact, were it not for the three slightly mannish gurls working just a little too quietly together one might be tempted to think this was a scene of peaceful utopia. It was the small details that made it all so disturbing. For example, 30 was chattering in hushed tones to our other companion, while I worked silently finding it wisest to just observe the situation. When we heard the sound of footsteps on the gravel outside all conversation stopped and as I watched the other two gurls I saw how suddenly intense and studious they looked about there work.
A moment later Mrs. Gravely appeared and walked quietly into the stables, her back ramrod straight, and clasping a riding crop nonchalantly. She eyed each of us in turn and looked at the stables we’d cleaned with an approving eye. 30 seemed to be working with increased intensity, avoiding looking at Mrs. Gravely. I sensed her fear.
After a cursory inspection and without a word said Mrs. Gravely left as quietly as she’d arrived. A few moments past before 30 went to the stable door and cautiously looked out to see Mrs. Gravely had gone.
“It’s all clear,” she said before returning to the work.
“Is she checking up on us,” I asked innocently.
“If you don’t want to feel that crop across your back you’ll make sure she doesn’t find you slacking,” replied number 30 quickly, before returning to the work, her broad shoulders hefting the pitchfork, and a few beads of sweat glistening on her cleavage revealed as she stooped and forked out the dirty straw. I began to notice how physically toned 30 was.
The atmosphere was a little easier a few moments later, when the other gurl add softly, “They only check on us once or twice in the morning, but you don’t want to be found slacking.”
I applied myself to the task of cleaning the stable with renewed vigor. By the time we’d finished the last stable I’d worked up a good sweat. There was not much doubt that this was more of a workout than my occasional and reluctant visits to the gym.
Before lunch we returned to our rooms, all of which were up on the third floor of the sprawling farm house, and number 30 showed me to the communal shower room. I suppose there was something rather comical about the three of us all in one big shower, standing there soaping ourselves, each one with a chastity device securing what was once our masculinity. Shampoo suds, spraying hot water and bars of pungent soap in our hands and chatting nonchalantly about nothing. With each movement our chastity cages seemed to wiggle and bounce in mockery of us, yet we were quite
“Don’t be late for lunch,” instructed number 30. “And remember, if any of the staff are around don’t speak unless your spoken to. They don’t like that.”
I towelled myself down with the two others and then returned to my room, and as I was blow drying my hair I heard a knock on my door, which then opened and 22 entered carrying an armful of clothing. The smell of baking bread wafted in as 22 marched in.
“You’ll put these on. Mrs. Gravely has to go into town this afternoon and you’re accompanying her. She needs you to carry some groceries.”
22 laid out a red polka dot dress, some stockings and a pair of red heels. I took in the details with a mixture of amusement and confusion.
“These are lovely,” I said looking at the clothes. “A bit ‘1950’s mid west.’ but nice.”
“Of course they are,” said 22. “Mrs. Gravely wouldn’t have it any other way. You might say, ‘she brings her own props’. Just be sure you’re outside the front door waiting for her at 2.00 pm.”
She then quickly withdrew. I got dressed quickly and then hurried downstairs where gurls were filing into the large dining room. This time there seemed a few more of us and I quickly counted what must have been 25 of us, all between twenty five and thirty five, and all well developed individuals of varying height and size, but universally what I’ve no doubt people would describe as passable young women.
Just like breakfast, lunch was a business like affair, with few words spoken, and simple but tasty food. A Mediterranean salad, fresh baked bread still warm from the oven, and a small selection of cheeses was served, along with a choice of one glass of wine, sparkling water or fruit juice. It was all really quite civilised.
I found myself standing outside the large front door in the sunshine a few minutes after lunch waiting for Mrs. Gravely. Gurls hurried in and out of the building going on about tasks and all wrapped up in their activities. I noticed one or two glances in my direction, but while I didn’t feel unwelcome, it was clear that I was one of the two ‘new gurls’ and I was still in the process of fitting in.
After a short wait Mrs. Gravely pulled up in a black Volvo station wagon. I opened the passenger door and slipped in.
“I hope you’re settling in, Andrea” she said as she pulled away. “I’m sure you’re going to be very happy here.”
“Yes, Ma’am,” I replied remembering the way she’d talked to me this morning, and the images of Veronica. However friendly she appeared, Mrs. Gravely was someone to be taken very seriously.
I sat in silence as we drove by well manicured fields with immaculate white fences. I could tell this was no hick town or run down farming community. There was an air of opulence in this landscape. After several miles we past a few large houses, all set well back from the road. I couldn’t imagine where I was and saw no place names until we finally reached the small town which announced itself on an ornate sign as ‘Oakville – home of traditional American values and prosperity. Population 3767.’.
I’d never heard of it.
It was just a shopping trip. Nothing complicated. Except, of course that it was far more than that.
“You will walk behind me, Andrea,” instructed Mrs. Gravely. “Two steps. If I stop, you will stop. If I stand and talk to anyone you will stand quietly and look attentive. Is that understood?”
“Yes, Ma’am,” I replied, noting her use of my name. And here you might notice I say ‘my name’, for in truth by now I completely thought of myself as Andrea. I felt comfortable with this identity and hearing MRs. Gravely use it made me feel almost grateful to her.
I am not so naïve as to misunderstand what was happening here. I was being trained. My apparent subservience was in part contrived, but in a strange way it was also comforting. Not needing to think too much for myself was actually quite empowering, as odd as it sounds. I could see that if I was compliant, just as all the other gurls at the farm, I would be treated quite well. I was also aware that if I was not compliant Veronica, back in Chicago, would pay for it. I’d figured out she was my ‘whipping gurl’. Any infraction on my part would result in her punishment, or my own, judging from what little I’d been able to pick up.
In the store I carried a few groceries for Mrs. Gravely. She busied herself picking out the choicest items, and then handed them to me, muttering a few words about quality and price, but I could tell I was not expected to contribute to this monologue. I was here only as a pack horse.
Once we’d completed the shopping I carried two heavy bags and we walked along the sidewalk back toward the car. Ahead of us a station wagon pulled over to the side of the road, dust rising from the gravel, and a large man and his son, a boy of 17 or so climbed out. Turning, the gentleman recognised Mrs. Gravely and with a beaming smile turned to greet her.
“Ah, Mrs. Gravely. In town stocking up for the week?” came his words.
“Oh, yes. It’s so nice to see you Mr. Butterworth. How are things at the bank?” she replied.
“Oh fine, fine. You know. A bankers work is never done, but I can’t complain. And who is this fine young lady,” asked the portly man turning his attention to me, a glint of mischief in his eye.
“Let me present to you my niece, Andrea,” said Mrs. Gravely.
In a moment of inspiration I curtsied to Mr. Butterworth, and said “Pleased to meet you.”
I glanced at his son for a moment, recognised a stare of pure lust, and then returned my stare to the space between my highly polished shoes.
After a moment of awkward silence Mrs. Gravely said with ease, “Can I expect to see you this evening, Mr. Butterworth?”
“Oh yes, my dear. I wouldn’t miss it for the world,” he replied.
“And Mrs. Butterworth?”
“Visiting her mother,” he quickly replied.
“Oh really. Again. How unfortunate. She still has trouble with her heart?”
“Her heart?” said Mr Butterworth, taken unawares. “Oh yes, her heart. Yes. Terrible. Can’t possibly come tonight. But I shall be there, never fear.”
“Well, I’ll look forward to seeing you tonight then.”
With that Mrs. Gravely swept on, leaving an excited looking Mr. Butterworth in her wake, and his son leering after me. I added a little swing to my hips almost feeling his stare between my buttocks, and I have to admit feeling a guilty pleasure in the certain knowledge that he was staring at me.
Once back in the car, Mrs. Gravely drove in silence for a few moments before saying, “That curtsy was a nice touch. It’s a pity his son is an idiot. Practically retarded, if that’s the right word these days. All the same, he seemed to be quite taken with you, Andrea. How amusing.”
I found myself blushing. A glance from Mrs. Gravely and the hint of a smile crossed her face. And in that moment I sensed that this woman was capable of the most overwhelming cruelty. I felt a shiver run down my spine.
“Yes. We may be able to use that, of course,” she said cryptically. “We may be able to use that.”