The building manager where Anne lived was a tall black woman about her age. Named Martinique after her place of birth, she was the descendant of slaves. Anne's family came from Martinique too, from a plantation in the hill country. She shuddered at the thought that her ancestors might have owned Martinique's and wondered if the woman suspected as much.
Anne longed to explore the curves of her dark skin; she showed signs of interest when Anne flirted with her on a few occasions. But it was not to be, at least not the way Anne imagined.
One evening Anne returned home from work as usual. Paul was showing some "inventory" to a Brazilian client and she was not to come over tonight. She went to her closet and began to shed her clothes.
Anne savored this transition from one life to another after work. She took off her businesswoman's suit jacket; then she loosened the waistband of her skirt and stepped out of it before smoothing wrinkles with her hand and hanging it in the closet. Already she was bare from the hips down and enjoying the sensation. Only her blouse remained.
She removed it slowly, taking pleasure in the emergence of her breasts and belly before placing it in the laundry basket. There; she was naked again. This was how she was meant to be. She recalled Iris's statement that Anne wouldn't "be wearing clothes at all in a few months"; not as a proposal or a claim, just an observation. She was on her way.
She got a shock when she went to the kitchen to measure out her dinner and looked for her jar of feed pellets. It was not on the counter, and the cupboard above it had a newly installed padlock. She was no longer allowed to feed herself, even at home. She knelt down facing the door of the apartment.
Martinique entered about a hour later. She said Paul asked her to begin supervising Anne and to assist the syndicate with her training.
"Stand up - hands behind you." She fastened the bracelets. "Kneel." Anne heard the woman unlock the cupboard and pour out a measure of feed before summoning her to dinner. It was less than Paul allowed her, but she had learned to accept what she was given and touched her forehead to the floor in gratitude. Women were harder on her, they understood her better.
Martinique stood over her as she dined and stroked her soft pink derriere; Anne ate slowly and wiggled her hips invitingly. But when the bowl was empty, Martinique turned out the light and walked away leaving Anne in darkness.
A thin glow from the street outside filtered in through the window. Careful to avoid falling, Anne went to her rug.
Martinique returned each morning and fed Anne breakfast before releasing her bracelets. Anne bathed (if there was time), dressed and went to work. She wore her leash beneath her clothes, a new order of Paul's.
The link under her chin was barely visible except to those who knew what to look for; but the rough leather strap rubbed between her breasts and against her belly as she sat at her desk and consulted with clients. It was a good feeling, reminding her of Paul's presence and reassuring her somehow. And exciting her, sometimes leaving her wet in anticipation of her next lesson; she was glad to have the desk in front of her.
Martinique began to use Anne as her cleaning lady. On weekends Anne went down to the manager's apartment at daybreak. The woman she once hoped would become her lover handed her a brush and a bucket of soapy water; on her knees she scrubbed the hallway, lobby, and restroom floors until noon. Martinique inspected her work and made her redo places she missed.
Bent over wearing only Paul's shirt, she was an irresistible target for some boys who liked to goose her. The first time she fell on her face on the wet floor. But she learned to put down her brush and prepare herself for it when she heard them come up behind her. Soon it was a sort of game with them to see who could do it fastest, except for a couple of the older ones who let their hand linger. One of them learned how to probe her until she moaned while the others gathered around to watch and listen.
Her lunch was a bowl of water and raw vegetables coarsely chopped. This was a nice change from Paul's monotonous feed pellets. She did not care for some of them - she left the beets and turnips for last - but she ate them all. Once she found some chunks of stale bread in the bowl; softened by the water, they were almost like custard. Perhaps they were a special treat, a reward for cleaning the dirty bathrooms.
She spent the rest of the day mopping and polishing until after dark. Tired and sweaty, she followed Martinique up to her apartment and took her dinner. She collapsed on the kitchen floor till dawn came through a window or a man entered the apartment. She was grateful to Martinique for the opportunity to serve her. It was a form of love, she felt; as much as she deserved or dared to expect from the woman.
The next weekend Paul was away and Anne was not to visit him. He did not say why and she never learned.
Friday was uneventful. Anne returned from work, took her clothes off and hung them in the closet. The day at the office had been good. Management was pleased with her handling of the London case, she might be in line for a raise. She washed her face, amused at how her lack of makeup caused a stir at the office, and lubricated herself. She drank some water from the bowl in the kitchen and knelt on the living room rug to wait.
Martinique arrived and fastened Anne's bracelets with a satisfying click - the firm metallic sound that pinned her hands behind her - before pouring out her dinner. By now she was used to being bound in her own apartment and was surprised how quickly it became natural to her.
She was tired from work and from Paul's lessons. Mostly the latter; Paul had several men over Thursday evening and she was still recovering from them. The memory of the youngest one came back to her. He was very sweet, he even gave her a cookie when Paul was not looking, and he mauled her almost unconscious when he was in her.
Two men visited her after dark, both strangers, in their thirties she guessed. The first one used her mouth and the other had her "the usual way"; she loved Ernest's boyish pretense at sophistication.
The second man was still there when Martinique came by in the morning. With a vigor renewed by his night's sleep he took her again while the woman stood over them; then dressed, put another twenty on the table and left. Martinique refilled her feed and water bowls without a word. Anne hoped she was not offended.
Penned in her apartment Anne passed the day quietly; with her hands tied behind her, there was little she could do but exercise patience. At noon she drank some water. She began to feel sorry for herself and cried for half an hour. Her feed bowl was empty and she was unable to open a door, read a book or even turn on a light. Martinique had raised all the blinds and she could not stand at a window without being seen from the street.
Reluctant to show herself today, Anne crept to one on her knees and looked out, only her eyes visible. It was a beautiful sunny day; people were walking about, laughing and talking. Sadness welled up in her that she was deprived of these simple pleasures.
She wept now in frustration. She must learn to accept her confinement, to honor Paul's decisions, all of them. Anne knelt facing the direction where she imagined he was, lowered her head, and said a prayer of thanks to him. Even in his absence he was teaching her to be unfree and she was grateful.
Just before sunset she heard the door open. For a moment Anne thought it was a man and looked up hopefully from her devotions, but it was Martinique. She fed and watered Anne; eating brought comfort, the water was cold and fresh, and the lady stroked her buttocks as she took her meal. By the time she emptied the two bowls she was at peace in her condition again.
Martinique released her bracelets and led her to the bedroom. She selected two garments from Anne's closet and told her to put them on; they were going out tonight.
The choices told Anne this was going to be an occasion. The black skirt lent an air of formality; it was knee-length, showing a bit of her legs but saving the rest for later. She kept the sheer white blouse for special times, and with no bra it was quite revealing.
Anne followed her new mistress out of the building and down the sidewalk a demure three paces behind. The outfit Martinique chose suited her; Anne had lost her summer tan and the white blouse and black skirt showed off her pink body.
The woman displayed good taste in her own attire; the brown wool slacks emphasized her warm skin tone. The padded beige jacket complemented them; and it reminded Anne of how lightly Martinique had clothed her. The wind chilled her to the bone. Martinique must know this - she selected Anne's lightest garments - and Anne endured it as a lesson, shivering in silent acceptance of the woman's authority.
Fifteen minutes of this brought them to the store where she bought the leash. Anne noticed a poster in the window advertising a tournament again tonight. It was closed but at a knock Maude opened the door. Martinique turned and saw Anne shaking with cold; she pushed her girl ahead of her into the room. Anne blessed her for this small act of kindness.
Two younger women knelt in the center of the shop, each with an older one standing behind her. Anne took her place with them in front of Martinique.
A fourth couple was expected but had not arrived; after a few minutes Maude gave up on them and began to explain the rules of the contest. Just then someone knocked on the door and Cher let them in. Two women, out of breath from running, entered and took their places.
Maude led them all into the theater and arranged them on the platform. Before Cher turned on the stage lights, Anne saw it was larger than she realized; it could hold over a hundred people.
Within minutes, audience members began to pour in. When they had seated themselves Maude looked at her watch and began, welcoming them and introducing the performers. Unable to see into the audience, Anne looked around at her fellow contestants as Maude described each.
The tall beautifully proportioned Ashley was a doctor who gave up her practice last year and herself to a patient, the woman who stood behind her.
Young Kay was a waitress in a diner at the other end of town and belonged to its owners, one of whom was here tonight. After hours they let her walk the streets to supplement their income.
Anne was still in training and had no formal owner; Maude named the firm she worked for and described her position there. She cringed when Maude said two of her colleagues were here tonight. Paul must have invited them, or Martinique.
Susan (looking nervous and ill at ease, Anne thought) had been an art history student before giving herself to her professor, who had not decided what to do with her yet.
Maude described tonight's contest. Audience members were to score each entrant on three events plus "general deportment". Two of the events tested their dexterity: picking up a ball and carrying it across the stage, and arranging stones into a square. Anne did not think either of those sounded very hard, she could surely handle them.
The third (Maude smiled and said it was back by popular demand) was the waltzes. Each contestant was to dance in turn with each of the other three while the audience rated them. Anne looked forward to that, especially with Ashley.
As if on cue, each of the owners told her girl to stand and released her bracelets. They were to be judged as they undressed on stage.