Afternoons of a Woman of Leisure (9781101623565) (6 page)

Chapter Thirteen

“This is Joanna,” she says the following morning when Pauline answers the phone.

“Joanna!” The voice is warm, delighted. “I'm so pleased to hear from you. Mr. Stephens was very impressed with you.”

“Thank you,” Joanna says.

“And you have had a chance to think about us?”

“Yes,” says Joanna.

“And you are still interested in working for ‘O.'”

“Yes,” Joanna says. “Yes, I am.”

“Good.” Pauline pauses briefly. “Then we would like to offer you a job.”

“I'm free to work in the afternoons,” says Joanna, grateful for the first time since her marriage that she is a woman of leisure.

Part Two:

“O”

Chapter Fourteen

Joanna's first assignment for “O” is to meet a woman named Clarissa in an apartment downtown, for a party.

“What kind of a party?” Joanna asks Pauline over the phone.

“For clients,” Pauline explains. “Clarissa will tell you what to do.”

Joanna asks what she should wear, thinking briefly of the conservative dresses she occasionally wears to dinner or parties with Curtis' friends, but Pauline informs her that Clarissa will take care of that. “She's an old hand at this,” Pauline laughs. “Just do as she tells you and you'll be fine.”

On the day of the party, Joanna takes the train to the city. The address she has been given is near the financial district, a low brick building nestled behind a street of depressed-looking shop fronts. There is no downstairs bell, so Joanna climbs to the top floor and knocks.

Clarissa opens the door, dressed in a hastily tied terrycloth robe, wet from the bath. “Come in, Joanna,” she says in a high, singsong voice. “You caught me just as I was getting out.” Joanna steps inside.

Clarissa is short but voluptuous, with flaming red hair hanging damply to her shoulders. “Come with me while I finish getting ready,” she beckons, turning back down the hall. “Then we'll start on you.”

Joanna follows her to the back of the apartment. There are no visible windows, and the overhead lighting is dim. They pass first through a large, comfortable living room, strewn with chairs. In the fireplace, a small gas fire dances and snaps. “Is this where the party will be?” Joanna asks, and Clarissa nods, yes.

“And back there,” she points, indicating a closed door. “I'll show you around before they arrive.”

In the bathroom, Clarissa pulls the plug in the bathtub, and water begins to drain. “Do you want a bath?” she asks.

“No,” Joanna says, noticing a bidet in the corner. “I think I'll just wash a bit. Pauline said you'd have something for me to wear.”

“Yeah,” Clarissa says, laughing. “But I doubt you'll be wearing it for long.” She turns and looks intently at Joanna. “This is your first thing for ‘O,' isn't it?”

“Yes,” Joanna says.

Clarissa smiles. “Don't be nervous,” she says. “I get to do most of the work here. You'll probably end up mostly watching.”

“Okay,” Joanna says, feeling nervous anyway.

While Joanna washes at the bidet, Clarissa slips out of her robe and begins to dry herself off with a towel. “Excuse me a minute,” she says, turning on an electric dryer. She bends slightly forward to rub her wet hair under it and Joanna notices, for the first time, the pale skin of Clarissa's ass. It is puckered with welts, thin red lines of healing cuts, the shadows of old bruises. Involuntarily, she shudders, unable to take her eyes from them. She stands and dries her crotch with a towel, then takes off the rest of her clothes and sits on the toilet to wait.

Clarissa takes a small pot of red lip gloss and darkens her lips, and then her nipples. “You too,” she says, passing it to Joanna and watching intently as she does the same. She unpins Joanna's hair and smooths it up and back, over her head. “Pretty,” Clarissa smiles. “You have great hair.”

“Thanks,” Joanna mumbles.

“This is what you wear,” she says, holding up a piece of black lace with stiff cupping at one end and no discernible zipper. “I'll show you how to get it on, it's a bit confusing.” She helps Joanna step into it, pulling it carefully up her torso until the stiff end comes to rest beneath Joanna's breasts. They aren't cups, she now sees. Instead, a stiff ridge supports her breasts from beneath, pushing them up but not covering the nipples. Clarissa, appraising her, frowns and administers more lip gloss to the tips and Joanna shudders slightly at the brush of her fingers. She has never been touched this way by a woman.

Beneath her breasts, the black lace hugs her torso, letting much of her skin show through. At Joanna's hips, the fabric expands slightly in a kind of skirt, covering her buttocks and descending a few inches down her thighs, barely hiding her crotch. “What do I wear underneath?” Joanna asks, but Clarissa only smiles.

She puts on boots, black leather, which lace up to her ankles and have high, spiky heels. Joanna, wobbly at first, takes a few steps around the bathroom to steady herself. Clarissa changes into a white silk slip, tight across her large breasts. Joanna watches as she steps into white underpants, also silk, and gently eases it over her scarred and bruised ass. Clarissa remains barefoot, but before she leaves the bathroom, she fastens a thin black band, made of some unidentifiable metal, to her wrist. Then, to Joanna's surprise, Clarissa hands her an identical band and tells her to put it on. “You'll keep this,” Clarissa says. “Wear it whenever you're going to meet a client. It's a way for him to recognize you.”

Joanna puts it on and admires it. The metal is cool against her skin, and shiny. “Let's go,” Clarissa says.

They walk back through the apartment to the large living room. Clarissa lights tall candles in brass candle holders scattered around the room and they flicker warmly, picking up the glow of the small fire. At a bar in the corner, she takes out crystal glasses and places them on a silver tray, nine glasses.

“Nine clients will be coming,” Clarissa says, opening a bottle of scotch and pouring generously into each glass, then adding ice. “You stand at the door and give them their drinks. They know where to put their coats, and whatever else they bring, so you don't have to worry about that. Don't talk unless you're spoken to, don't look anyone in the eye. When all nine are here, lock the front door and come into the living room. If anyone needs more to drink, it's here,” she says, indicating the bar.

“Where will you be?” Joanna asks.

“Come,” Clarissa says. She has finished with the tray and now beckons for Joanna to follow. “In here,” she says, opening the door she had indicated earlier.

They pass through it into a small room. Clarissa lights candles here, too, and Joanna can see that the walls are bare, stone colored. A series of chains hang from them in pairs, dangling manacles. In the center of the room there is a low platform, covered with some leathery material, black and shiny. At each corner of the platform, a wooden post rises, each with its own manacled chain attached. Looking at it, Joanna's heart begins to pound longingly. She suspects that Clarissa will be the one to be stretched here, and she wishes it were her, instead.

“You'll have to fasten me,” Clarissa is saying. She walks quickly around the room, plumping the chairs and couches which line three of the walls. A table is pushed against the fourth wall, near the dangled chains, and here she pauses, picking up a roll of black tape from an array of objects: whips and phalluses and fat tubes of lubricant. “Any more questions?” She smiles, ripping off a short section. “Speak now or forever hold your peace.”

Joanna swallows, watching her. “Clarissa,” she says, “do you enjoy being whipped?”

Clarissa looks at Joanna for a long moment before she speaks. “Yes,” she says finally, expressionless.

She walks to the wall and faces it, expectantly. Joanna lifts her wrists and fastens them into the manacles. Clarissa's feet are then fastened to chains on the floor, a short distance out into the room so that she is spread, slightly, and forced to lean against the wall. “The tape,” she says calmly, and Joanna fastens it across her mouth. As she does, they both hear the first knock at the door.

“You okay?” Joanna whispers. Clarissa nods. “Okay then,” she says, backing away. “See you in a bit.” She turns and leaves the room, closing its door behind her, then takes her tray to the entryway.

Two men brush past her when she lets them in, taking two of the glasses from her tray, shrugging off their jackets. She hears a rustle as they are hung up, a closet door closing. They go into the living room and talk quietly. Another knock and three men enter. Her tray lightens in her hands as more glasses are taken. Joanna looks at the floor. She is aware of eyes studying her body through the lace, lingering over her pushed-up breasts and darkened nipples, but no one speaks to her. From the living room she begins to hear laughter, as from old and intimate friends meeting. A man arrives alone. Joanna steals a glance at him as he passes her without comment: tall, bull-necked and broad. She senses cruelty in him, even from behind, and shudders. Finally, the last three enter, all together, and take the remaining glasses from her tray. She locks the door behind them and goes into the living room, her eyes on her own feet.

Low voices and sporadic laughter. Just like any other cocktail party, Joanna thinks, smiling to herself. An empty glass is presented to her and Joanna pours scotch into it, adding ice. As she does, a hand reaches to touch her breast, lightly, near the nipple. Involuntarily, Joanna looks up, meeting the eyes of the man, and instantly he slaps her, stinging her cheek. She gasps and looks down again. Across the room someone says, solemnly, “She's new. She'll need to be taught.” Joanna feels a room full of eyes on her and breathes heavily, the leather stiff against her breasts.

Suddenly, the crack of a whip shatters the silence, then a moan. Clarissa, she thinks. There is a collective shuffle in the living room. Someone takes Joanna's hand. “Come with me,” a voice says, kind and vaguely elderly. It pulls her gently and she follows. “Come,” it says again. “we'll watch together.”

She lets herself be led into the adjoining room, sensing the bodies of the men before her and behind her, then gently, she is pulled down onto the lap of the man whose hand she holds. They are in a deep chair, plush but armless. Beneath her, she feels him, stiff inside his pants, probing her through the fabric. His hands fold across her waist. “Look,” he tells her, speaking into Joanna's ear. “It's all right to look.”

Joanna looks up. The bull-necked man she noticed earlier stands by the far wall, examining the objects on the tabletop. One by one, he lifts the whips, running his fingers along their lengths, bending them between his hands until they crackle. The other men, settled on couches and chairs around the room, watch silently, sipping their drinks. Clarissa, still clothed in her slip and underpants, is motionless, manacled to the wall, her head hung down, but each time a whip is cracked through the air she moans and cringes.

Finally, the man makes his selection, a slender riding crop, black, with no tassel. Turning to Clarissa, he takes a fist of her hair and raises her head, gliding the crop over her cheeks and throat. She moans in terror. Briefly, Joanna feels the lap beneath her shift, a low groan at her ear.

A hand runs down Clarissa's back, then reaches around her to feel her breasts and belly. Her legs are stiff, slightly apart, the calf muscles bulging. Carefully, her crotch is felt, in front and behind, then slowly the whip is inched beneath the white silk slip, and lifted over her buttocks. He pushes it up her back and rolls it in front of her shoulders, letting the whip brush her shoulder blades, then he steps back.

The first blow lands on the backs of Clarissa's thighs and is followed, immediately, by the man's other hand, tracing the sudden welts. Clarissa jerks from his touch and the whip descends again, punishing her this time, cracking against her flesh. The stiff length of leather is drawn lazily across her lower back and over her ass, then slowly between her legs. Clarissa writhes, moaning, and is punished again. “Hold still,” the man growls, speaking for the first time. “If you move again, I'll whip your cunt.”

Joanna's breath catches. Clarissa freezes, the muscles of her buttocks visibly tightening. The man leans his whip against the wall, where she can see it, and steps behind her. Kneeling between her legs, he slowly pulls at the white silk of her underwear, drawing it back across the marred skin of Clarissa's ass. An admiring finger is drawn over the scars. There is a murmur of approval from the watching men. He peels down the silk until it rests beneath her buttocks, held in place by its elastic, then stands and steps to her side again. “Nice,” someone comments.

The bull-necked man takes up his whip again, cracking it lightly against his own leg. The fingers of his left hand brush Clarissa's buttocks, patting them. Then, abruptly, he spreads her ass and probes stiffly against her anus, snorting with distaste. “Tight,” Joanna hears him mutter. “We'll have to fix that, won't we?”

He takes a tube of lubricant from the table and smears it thickly along the length of the leather crop, then slowly draws the crop through the crack of her ass. A finger follows in its wake, also lubricated, and rubs the hole, forcing it open. Clarissa groans deeply, her head down. The finger twists and presses and finally sinks, disappearing into her body. Joanna, remembering her own experience with Mr. Stephens, pities her.

When he finally withdraws, the man begins to whip her again, this time with a longer, more slender switch. Clarissa's buttocks jerk slightly as each stroke makes contact, snapping against her flesh. She screams into the tape over her mouth, but the sound only seems to drive the man further into a frenzy. He roughly fingers her inner thighs, grabbing between to feel her cunt through the bunched silk of her underpants. Then, leaning forward, he suddenly licks Clarissa's ass until it glistens, highlighting the fresh welts he has given her.

“Let's take her down,” someone says. The bull-necked man puts down his whip and unfastens her wrists. Clarissa leans heavily against the wall as her ankles are released, then she is harshly turned to face the room. For a long moment she stands, limply, in front of her tormentor. The white slip flutters to her hips. Then he reaches in front of her and takes her breasts in his hands, pushing them together. Clarissa's eyes widen and she looks fearfully around the room, taking in the watching men but avoiding Joanna's gaze. It is a long moment, tensely silent. Then the man behind her grasps Clarissa's slip in both hands and tears, pulling the fabric apart, releasing her large breasts. Several men get up from their seats and take hold of her, grabbing her limbs, pulling and lifting her towards the low platform. Clarissa struggles wildly, her shrieks muffled by the tape, but they are too many and too strong. They push her down and spread her open, snapping the manacles about her wrists and feet. The slip is ripped again and it comes apart. Someone pulls it from beneath her and throws it aside. Her underpants are yanked to mid-thigh then cut away with a pair of scissors, and she is naked, her breasts heaving. A pair of hands lifts Clarissa's ass and a pillow is slid beneath it, raising her open cunt until it is almost at Joanna's eye level.

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