by Dave Potter
The sun shone brightly on the freshly-cut grass as the sound of children’s voices filled the air. It was three-thirty in the afternoon in sleepy English town of Loughborough and all the schools had just finished. Emma Perkins, accompanied by her friend Sally were walking out of the school gate where the stern Mrs. Chaplain waited to admonish any wrongdoers and down Conway Road towards their homes.
Emma and Sally, both sixteen were both students at Garedon High, a local mixed comprehensive. Although the Veiling Laws decreed that their faces be covered, the uniform of Garedon High was not strict and the mesh that covered their faces gave onlookers a clear view of the eyes that lay beneath it. It adhered to the law but that was it. The rest of the uniform was similar. Neither girl wore gloves and their white trainers clearly showed from beneath their trousers. Garedon after all, whose Headteacher was a woman, was a liberal school. After all, boys and girls wre taught in the same classes and even played sports together. And that suited Emma and Sally who could see no reason for the prudish rules and regulations that governed so much of girls’ lives in these times. They liked to flirt with boys and wanted the other sex to see the charms that had been bestowed upon them. Outside of school their outfits were even more lax. Both wore jeans as a matter of course and only the thinnest veil over their faces. The rest of their clothing was not as loose as the conservatives preferred either, but who cared? Certainly not their parents who had been quite happy in the more liberal times and like so many, could not fully comprehend the wave of modesty that had engulfed the British Isles in the last twenty years.
“I met Sam again at lunch today,” Emma said to Sally.
“I thought that was where you had got to. What happened?”
“We went behind the swimming pool and snogged.”
“Is he good?”
“He’s ok, better than Kieron, and he’s so hot…”
“I know! You’re dead lucky to get him!”
“You’re one to talk, what about you and Scott?!”
Sally smiled behind her veil. “Yeah, he is something, the beast, and…”
Their conversation was cut short however, by the loud toot of a vehicle’s horn. They moved to one side and turned round to see a big white bus pass them. The bus was full of girls, clad not as they were, but in full burqas of dark grey with an emblazoned gold crest on the facial panel, just below the two tiny tear-drop panels for the eyes.
“The St. Stephen’s girls,” Sally said. “What a bunch of prudes!”
“I’ve heard that they’re gagged beneath those burqas,” added Emma, “it’s compulsory.”
“I’m not surprised, gagging seems to be the latest thing that those sort of idiots are into. Apparently it increases modesty in speech, or some sort of bullshit like that. Can you imagine living like that, no guys and cooped up in those heavy things all day?”
“Sounds like hell to me but I bet half of them get off on it. Bunch of dykes!”
By this time Emma had reached her gate, so she bid goodbye to her friend with a promise to meet again after dinner and go down to the bus station and went on in.
The moment she was through the door, she ripped off the headpiece of her uniform, exposing her entire head and after hanging it on the hook, walked through into the kitchen with a loud, “Mum, I’m home!”
Her tone was not so chirpy however, when she entered that room only to find her father sat in there with a stranger.
A male stranger.
“Emma!” her father cried out, aghast.
“Oh, I’m sorry, I… I didn’t realise,” said Emma, reaching for a scarf from her pocket. “Please, forgive me!”
The man however, did not look at all offended. Instead he seemed shocked, very shocked. As if he had seen a ghost.
“Emma,” he father said, once she was covered, “this is Mr. Halstead, a business associate of mine.”
“Nice to meet you, sir,” said Emma, “and I’m sorry about that.”
Mr. Halstead however, just smiled. “No, no,” he replied, “it’s quite alright. In fact, and I know this may sound strange, but one might even say that it was divine providence. You my dear, I cannot believe this but you are the spitting image, an exact replica of my dear departed wife Rebecca. Indeed, I cannot get over the resemblance! I would show you a picture of her and indeed, I have one here that I always carry around with me but then again, it would not be appropriate would it?”
“No, not at all,” said Emma’s dad with a glance to his daughter. That last remark proved that this Halstead was a religious nutter as only the hard-core were reticent about showing photographs.
“Oh my dear, I cannot get over it, I really can’t!” exclaimed Mr. Halstead, still obviously in a flutter.
Emma left the room then to complete her homework and then go out and meet Sally and that was the last that she thought she’d see of Mr. Halstead, but to her surprise, a week later he appeared again, this time with the avowed intention of staying for the evening and, more worringly, bearing a gift. “For you, Emma,” he announced with a smile as he handed her the package. “I do hope that you’ll wear it tonight when we sit and talk after dinner. Emma went upstairs and opened the parcel only to find that a blue burqa was enclosed within. Her heart sank as she never wore burqas, finding them hot and uncomfortable, but this one was of the finest quality and Mr. Halstead had evidently spent a great deal of money on it. Reluctantly she put it over her head and went downstairs with it on. That evening, Mr. Halstead paid relentless compliments to both the burqa and its wearer and for the rest of the time talked about his late wife and how happy they had been together.
Mr. Halstead’s visits continued for several weeks, each time with him bringing a new present for Emma – a pair of gloves or a silk scarf – and each time with him boring the whole Perkins family to death with tales of his late wife Rebecca and her beauty and piety. Then, one evening about a month after she had first stumbled into the presence of her father’s business associate, Mr. Perkin’s called his daughter into the living room for a ‘chat’.
“Emma, sit down,” he said. She did so. “Now, this might come as a bit iof a shock to you Em, but today Mr. Halstead has asked for my permission for your hand in marriage.”
“Marry Mr. Halstead! You must be joking dad, he’s about thirty years older than me!”
“Actually, it’s nearer to forty and yes, I know that the offer doesn’t sound very attractive initially, but there are a few things that I should tell you. Firstly, Mr. Halstead, even though he is old, is actually a very rich man. In fact, he’s one of the richest men in all of Leicestershire, owning several large companies including H & M Paints and Electra Power. His house is an estate covering almost twenty square kilometres I am told, but more than that, I personally owe him a lot of money. You know how the company has been suffering and you know how I had to borrow money off a wealthy backer to keep us from bankruptcy. Well, Mr. Halstead was that backer and if he decided to pull the plug on us – which he could do at any moment – then we will all be destitute and with these new bankruptcy laws that means that I face five years behind bars. However, if you chose to marry Mr. Halstead, then he has promised, as a wedding gift to you, to wipe off all my debts and then give me a million pounds with which to re-establish the company on a firm footing. Now, I do not want to pressure you and whatever decision you make I will support you but well, that is the situation. Our fate Emma, rests in your hands. I have to say though, that old as he might be, he does seem to genuinely love you.”
Emma sat back and thought. True he was old and not particularly handsome, but she couldn’t see her family go to ruin, could she? And besides, wealth like that, why she need never work in her life and any luxury she wanted would be hers for the asking. So what if she had to put up with an old man for a few years?
“I shall marry him dad,” she said with a smile.
Emma sighed as her mother approached with the wedding burqa. Since she had agreed to marry Halstead, the days had passed by in a whirlwind of excitement. She had immediately been withdrawn from school, much to the surprise of her classmates. Sally had asked her what was happening and she had told her the entire story, well, all of it save for the fact that she wasn’t at all in love with Mr. Halstead and that her father owed her future spouse a hell of a lot of money. “He’s so rich you can’t believe it,” she said. “I’ll be living at Halstead Manor near to Market Bosworth which has acres of land and over twenty servants. Steve (for such was Mr. Halstead’s Christian name) has five cars you know, one of them a Ferrari and one a Lamborghini and we have our own pool…”
“But he’s so old Em!” said her friend, partially concerned and partially jealous.
“Old, so what? That just means that he’s experienced which is better than the lads at this school. And besides, he’s still handsome and I’m mature for my age or at least, that’s what Steve says.”
Sally looked away, dreaming of driving a Ferrari and diving into her own private pool.
After leaving school Emma and her mother had headed down to London to choose a wedding dress from the most exclusive designer in Europe. Emma was a bit disappointed when she learnt that Mr. Halstead had insisted to her mother than her dress be modest and that she don one of the traditional wedding burqas in church. These garments, white and covered in exquisite embroidery, were beautiful but heavy and of course, omitted no sight at all, the teardrop eyepieces being purely for decoration. Emma, who disliked burqas anyway, had protested but she knew that it was in vain. These days every girl except the most most avant garde and left wing wore such garments on their wedding day as it was considered only fit that one’s husband leads one literally as well as symbolically into one’s new life and home.
The dressing had started early that morning, with a set of new and sexy lingerie all in white including a racy G-string that emphasised her curves and youthful beauty. Over that came a shift and then the wedding dress that would be seen by no one but her husband. This dress, of white satin and hand-embroidered with tiny diamonds and buttons of pearl was exquisite but a trial to wear as its figure-hugging shape required a corset to be worn underneath. Such a garment Emma had never worn before and it squeezed her dreadfully making her short of breath, but the overall effect she had to admit was stunning. Lower down the dress flared out somewhat and was supported by several ruffled petticoats which made it heavy and cumbersome. More difficult however were the white high-heeled wedges that went with it that forced Emma onto her toes and transformed her walk into an ungainly mince. Then, her hair was tied back and the headgear fitted, a thick scarf of white decorated with flowers and gauze hanging down at the back. Finally her make-up was applied, her eyebrows formed into arches and a thick foundation all over. At the end she looked like a dream princess, but that whole vision was immediately hidden as the thick wedding burqa with its incredible embroidery was placed over her head. Immediately her world became black and muffled. Emma Perkins felt alone. She pushed her white-gloved hand through the arm hold and that of her father grasped it. Then, with a firm motion she was led away to church…
Emma Halstead stretched out on her bed of silken sheets and thought about her married life so far. Two months ago that day she had wed herself for all eternity to Stephen Halstead in a wedding that had been the talk of Loughborough. The town’s main church had been crammed with well-wishers and the curious, eager to see the wedding dress of the girl whom was marrying the richest man for miles around. That dress of course, or at least, the burqa that covered it, was spectacular but because of it the bride herself had seen nothing. This was the first time that Emma had worn blinding veils and she hoped that it would be the last. She knew that some religious girls wore then daily as an extra expression of their modesty and piety but the thought of doing so only filled her with horror. Blinded one felt so alone, meaningless and helpless.
She had stayed in the blinding veil until they had reached the bedroom of Stephen’s house at which point he had disrobed her and they had made passionate love. Even though she did not love her new husband per se, for some reason the wedding dress and burqa had made her feel excited and once he had lowered himself into her, she had realised that her new husband was at least a competent lover. The only problem was that as he was climaxing, Steve started to shout the name of his ex-wife. Emma understood why, as he had obviously loved Rebecca dearly and her own physical resemblance to the dead woman had reminded him of her but even so, she couldn’t help feeling a little hurt although she was of course, polite enough not to let him know that.
The following day she was introduced to her new life. Her quarters in the house were sumptuous and she now had her own maid, a lady named Mrs. Barker who had also waited on Rebecca. In her room she discovered a huge wardrobe full of expensive designer clothes for her to wear which excited her until she realised that they all incorporated full face veils in some form or another. When she had asked Mrs. Barker about this, the maid had seemed surprised and made some sort of comment that indicated that any decent lady would not be seen without a full veil on, and so she had said no more and instead let herself be dressed by the maid. She was further dismayed however, when Mrs. Barker produced a pair of thick black gloves and when she mentioned the heat, she was told that in Mr. Halstead’s home, women wore gloves at all times and that Rebecca had never once complained about doing so. Seeing that a precedent had already been set, Emma thought that there was really nothing that she could say and so submitted to wearing them without any further comment.
Wearing full face veils and gloves at all times certainly proved to be irksome for Emma. Although her veils were never thick, nor the meshes of the burqas that Stephen liked her to wear, dense, she still had a constant haze over her sight and picking things up in the gloves – which were virtually always silken – difficult as they were so slippery. Once she actually mentioned this in passing to her husband but he only replied that a lady should not really be picking things up anyhow as she has servants to do such things for her and that Rebecca had always loved wearing silken gloves, to which she realised that any further hints would be pointless.
The biggest surprise in her marriage however, had come a fortnight after the wedding day when Stephen had called her to his study and given an envelope with the words, “A belated wedding present”. When she opened the envelope she found that it was an appointment, for the following evening, in a very expensive private surgery for breast augmentation. Emma knew full well that many rich women did have their breasts enlarged and indeed she had wondered about having her own done one day, but she was far from sure that she wanted them doing now and besides, she had always assumed that it would be her choice. However, one look in her husband’s eyes, which were full of love and adoration and she knew that his intentions were only the best and so she simply smiled and declared, “Oh Steve, you are so kind!” and then ran away to her room to write an email to Sally boasting about her present.
Emma lay back and fondled those new breasts. They certainly were much larger now and firm too but she couldn’t decide whether she actually liked them or not. Their weight was a bit of a nuisance for starters, but what irritated her more than that was the reaction of Mrs. Barker when she returned from the surgery and had her bandages removed. “Why Mrs. Halstead,” she exclaimed, admiring her mistresses new appendages, “those are an improvement, you will please the Master now. And do you know what, you remind me even more of the old Mrs. Halstead now as her breasts were 34D as well.”
Quite why this comment – another comparison of her to the omni-brilliant Rebecca – bothered her she couldn’t say, but it did. Still, as the “new” Mrs. Halstead, she would have to get used to it. Emma sighed deeply and got up to dress and go down to dinner with her husband.
Stephen Halstead’s face and demeanour that evening at dinner were uneasy and Emma suspected that something was amiss. To be honest, over the previous few weeks, (ever since she had returned from having her breasts enlarged in fact), she had suspected that something was wrong, but whenever she had asked, he had said that it was “nothing” and so she had assumed that the problem was all in her head. Tonight however, there was no room for doubt and so once they had finished, she confronted him about it.
“Steve, you’re not happy tonight and I think that the problem is me. Is there anything that I am doing or not doing that is bothering you as I try to be as good a wife as I can?”
“No, no, no, Rebe… I mean Emma, it is nothing. Don’t bother about me and my funny ways.”
“No, Steve, I do bother and I should. I am your wife and you are my husband and I want you to be happy.”
“No, no, it is nothing…”
“It is not nothing! Steve, tell me what’s up!”
“Well, if you must know, it’s stupid really, nothing…”
“Well, the thing is Emma, you are an excellent wife to me and your resemblance to my dear departed Rebecca pleases me and I know that you try your best, but sometimes it seems as if something is not quite right. The burqas that you wear, yes they cover your face but the mesh is so large that they conceal nothing whilst when you wear veils, they are virtually transparent and the whole world can see the girl that I have married. And what’s more, under your burqas and veils you continue to wear your old clothes, jeans and T-shirts and the like, not dresses. Such clothing may be alright for a teenage schoolgirl and that is why I didn’t complain when you wore such attire at home with your family, but you are a married woman now Emma with a name and reputation to protect and so perhaps your attire is no longer… appropriate. Rebecca never wore such garments and…”
“So you are saying that you would like me to wear thicker veils when I go out?”
“Well, it is your choice of course, but yes and the thing is not just that but like I said, your resemblance to Rebecca is so pleasing to me and well, now this may sound stupid, but I feel that it would be even more pleasing if you could wear some of the clothes that she used to wear, all of which I still have, but as I said, it is only a silly notion, so forget it.”
Emma sighed inwardly. She didn’t want to wear any thicker veils or indeed anything that had ever belonged to the omnipresent Rebecca, but on the other hand, she did want to make her husband happy and what real harm could wearing a few old burqas do?
“Steve, if it pleases you, I shall be happy to wear some of Rebecca’s old clothes.”
“Oh Emma, you are a darling! I shall inform Mrs. Barker tomorrow morning!”
Emma was awoken the following morning much earlier than she had expected. Mrs. Barker came into the room in a fluster urging her mistress to bathe quickly so that they could commence with the dressing. “But it is over an hour until breakfast!” she protested.
“I know,” replied the maid, “we have no time to lose!”
After she had bathed, Emma returned to her room to find a variety of clothes lain out on the bed. “Mr. Halstead has chosen the forest green outfit for today,” said Mrs. Halstead. Emma made to put the dress on first, but she was stopped. “Mrs. Halstead, to wear Rebecca’s clothes you must first put on a corset,” she explained.
Now Emma had only worn a corset – a relic from the times of Queen Victoria, before the ideals of veiling were popular – once before, on her wedding day and she had not enjoyed it. It had compressed her mercilessly and made her short of breath. Naturally, she was not looking forward to wearing another, an opinion that was only strengthened when the corset itself was brought out. This one was longer and more rigid than her wedding stays and as it was fitted around her, Emma knew that wearing them would be a trial as they were quite heavy too. Sure enough, Mrs. Barker began to pull and she immediately felt the wind being taken out of her. She accepted it for a time but still the maid kept pulling and when she complained, stating that they were too tight and that she was being strangled, Mrs. Barker merely replied that they had to be fully-closed for the forest green outfit to be worn and that Rebecca had never had any problem with them.
“Well can’t an easier outfit be found then?” asked Emma, who was by now beginning to regret having agreed to her husband’s request to wear his former wife’s old clothes.
“But Miss,” replied Mrs. Barker in confusion, “this is the easiest outfit that there is!”
Emma’s reservations continued when the corset was eventually tied off at an excruciating level and the next items added. Thick black woollen gloves were pulled over her hands and similar stockings adorned her legs, their garters biting deeply into her thighs. Then came a pair of white linen bloomers that looked as if they had come out of the Ark and were tied with red ribbons at the knees. It was what came next however, that bothered Emma more. Instead of her usual jeans and top, a vast, frilly dress in forest green was brought out. It contained numerous petticoats so that it puffed out quite a lot whilst the bodice – which was embroidered – fitted the tight corset perfectly. The sleeves were also embroidered and padded inside and they fastened at the wrists with a button. Once inside them, Emma found it difficult to move her arms. The dress had a high embroidered collar that kept her neck erect and to her surprise Mrs. Barker fitted a net over her hair, an item of clothing that Emma usually didn’t bother with. Its necessity however, soon became apparent when the outer covering, a thick burqa, was brought before her, as unlike any other burqa that she had seen before, this one contained a built-in hood with eye meshes which, when fitted over her head, revealed one other unexpected – and nasty – surprise; a large protrusion which fitted into her mouth!
Emma opened her mouth to ask Mrs. Barker just what the meaning of the protrusion was, when it was slipped inside her and the hood buckled firmly around her neck by means of an incorporated collar. Emma immediately found that her ability to speak was taken away from her and instead all that she could make were some indiscernible grunting and groaning noises. These she duly made, but Mrs. Barker bade her to hush with the words, “Do not try to speak Miss, as the hood prevents it. Both Mr. Halstead and the former Mrs. Halstead were very strict about modesty, both of the body but also of speech and all of Rebecca’s outfits have some sort of gag in them, some more extreme than others. This outfit, as I said before, is one of the easiest to wear and most relaxed and so it does allow you to make sounds, but I do know that Mr. Halstead doesn’t approve of such grunts and groans and so please try not to make them. However, I also appreciate that you still may wish to communicate so here is a small pad and paper which go here, in this inner pocket in the burqa. Anything you wish to say can be written down on it. I know that this may seem a bit of a pain at first, but I can assure you, you will soon get used to it and the former Mrs. Halstead never had any problem with this system, indeed she preferred it to speaking she once told me.”
Emma could not believe what was happening to her. She knew that some women gagged themselves to encourage modesty of speech – the girls at St. Stephen’s for starters – but she never entertained such notions herself and she would never have agreed to marry Stephen if she had known that he was into that kind of crap. Religion, modesty, piety and all such things had never either interested or impressed Emma. She had often heard her mum talk about the days before the Modesty Laws and wished that she could live then. Now however, it seemed as if she had unwittingly stepped into something far more serious that just standard veiling and piety. Equally worrying was that Mrs. Barker’s tone towards her had changed as soon as she had lost the ability to speak. Whereas before she had been the respectful servant, now she spoke to her as if she were a child, unable to understand the simplest things. And to top it all off, the accursed Rebecca seemed once again, to be behind it all!
Emma now considered that she was dressed and made to go to breakfast, but Mrs. Barker stopped her and said, “Not so fast, Miss, we still have your gloves and shoes to put on!” This puzzled Emma a little as she was already wearing gloves, but all was explained when another pair made out of thick green leather and buckled at the wrists and elbows were produced and fitted, Mrs. Barker explaining that the other gloves were underwear only and that all of Rebecca’s outfits had matching gloves. Finally, a pair of boots, also made from green leather, and with heels some seven centimetres or so high were fitted onto her feet and the outfit was declared complete. Emma, never before encumbered with so much cloth, made her way slowly down to breakfast.
Moving in Rebecca’s outfit was not easy. The veils were so heavy and the corset restricted her breath. Furthermore, her vision was poor as only two small grills gave her site through the hood and that coupled with the burqa on top meant that everything was hazy. Finally, her high-heeled shoes made her step unsteady. Emma would have been very happy to rid herself of the lot!
Her husband’s reaction though, was quite different.
“Oh Rebe… Emma, you make me so happy! You look stunning, I can’t believe that you have done this for me! It is like having Rebecca back, it truly is! Please, let me get the chair for you…” Of course, then a new problem was encountered as wearing the hood, Emma could now eat nothing, but she sat patiently whilst Stephen ate and talked to her and only had her food later on.
Stephen Halstead’s attitude remained so throughout the day. He displayed a kindess and consideration that he had never before demonstrated and Emma decided that, annoying as the garments were, the change in him was good. And that change got even better at night when the sex they enjoyed was the best that they had ever experienced. The all-day confinement seemed to have heightened Emma’s drive, but her husband was uncontrollable and even though she was divested of her clothes, he kept the tight corset on and kept squeezing her waist as he performed the marital duties. All of this made Emma decide that she would carry on wearing Rebecca’s old outfits for some period yet, despite how she personally disliked them.
The following morning Emma was dressed in a blue outfit similar to the one that she had worn before except that the gag in this inflated so that even her grunts were cut out. It being a Tuesday, the day when she normally went out to town, following breakfast she returned to her room and wrote a note to Mrs. Barker stating that she wished to do as she always did and go out and could a car be arranged. Mrs. Barker replied that it would but more clothing would be needed as the outfit that she was currently wearing was for within the house only. Emma did not understand what was meant by this and so wrote a note to that effect to which the servant replied:
“Miss, during the days of Mss Rebecca, a rule was established that free sight and arm movement are unsuitable for outside of the house, being symbols of immodesty and whilst this has been waved until now, it is now reintroduced since you are voluntarily endeavouring to live as Miss Rebecca once did. Now, come over here!”
Emma tried to resist but her wrists were grasped by Mrs. Barker who promptly fitted a pair of handcuffs over them. Then she was pushed firmly by the maid and a heavy black abayah fitted over her burqa and then a similar carsaff over her head. Finally, a matching niqaab veil was fitted and she was declared ready. Through the veil, only the dimmest outlines could be seen, and the realisation of what free sight was was learnt by Emma. She was then guided out of the house by Mrs. Barker into the car and driven to town.
That visit was the most miserable that she had ever experienced. She saw absolutely nothing save when she was taken into the shops and her niqaab lifted. Then items were shown to her and she either nodded or shook her head to indicate if she wanted them or not. Once she had done so, she was guided back out in darkness. The trip finally finished with a trip to a café which meant that Emma had to sit there in silence whilst Mrs. Barker enjoyed a cup of coffee that smelt heavenly. When she finally returned home, Emma was glad and she vowed never to go to town again unless she absolutely had to.
Life for Emma Halstead continued in a similar vein. Everyday she was dressed in a heavy outfit that both veiled and silenced her. Most were burqas, but there were also rubands and standard niqaab veils. She learnt to live in silence and to keep her movements to a minimum so that he outfit did not heat up. One day she noticed some extra body fat on her and so expressed worried of a lack of exercise to Mrs. Barker, at which point she was told that she could always use the pool. Excited by this opportunity to free herself of all Rebecca’s clothing and don a bikini, she stated that she wished to swim right away and so was led to the pool and stripped. The clothes that replaced them however, were no bikini or tankino. Instead there was a classic, one-piece green swimsuit and then over that, a full surfer’s outfit (also in green) then zipped up at the rear. Over that was a light green shalwar kameez made out of the same material as football kits are made out of and over that a latex green burqa with close mesh and hooks around the inside of the neck that were to be fastened onto the surfing bodysuit so that it would not slip off easily. Then, over the feet were green rubber socks and over the hands, green rubber mittens. This, Mrs. Barker declared, was Rebecca’s standard swimming outfit and was mandatory for all visits to the pool. That as may be, it did not facilitate easy swimming and Emma was shattered after only a couple of lengths.
Life continued in such a way for a couple of months. Emma found her movements and activities far more restricted because of the clothes that she wore, but more worrying than that was the attitude of her husband which was slowly beginning to change. Whilst he was as attentive and loving as when she had first donned Rebecca’s clothes, (indeed, if anything, he was more so), he started treating her differently and even referring to her in a different fashion. Like Mrs. Barker, because she could no longer talk, he began to talk to her more as one would talk to a child or some simple girl who understands nothing. Then he started to refer to her as ‘Rebecca’ and because she could no longer correct him, then this became more and more common until one week she realised that he had not referred to her as ‘Emma’ once. More than this though, he also started to refer to past experiences that he had shared with his former wife and attributing the attitudes and opinions of Rebecca onto her with phrases like, “You’ve always said that women these days are too licentious haven’t you Rebecca?” or “I do admire your dedication to voice modesty Rebecca.” Finally, one evening he even began referring to herself, Emma, in the third person, telling ‘Rebecca’ that he knew of a girl who looked most like her in Loughborough. It was at this point that Emma realised that Stephen Halstead was perhaps not all there and she wondered what to do about it. She decided that the first thing she must do is find out more about her predecessor in the marriage bed so the following evening after dinner whilst they were relaxing together, she wrote a note to her husband that read simply, “Darling, please tell me all about Rebecca.”
“Rebecca and I met some twenty-two years ago. She was a student at the university that I went to and immediately I knew that she was someone special. She was beautiful of course – but you know that already don’t you? – but there was more than that. I first saw her walking across the campus, swathed in veils, only her dark eyes peeping out, those eyes so bewitching. Then, in a seminar, I got to meet her. I had assumed that she was a Muslim as one did in those days, but when she was introduced as Rebecca, then I knew that she could not be. ‘Why do you veil yourself then?’ I had asked her. ‘To protect my modesty,’ she had replied. ‘You do not have to be a Muslim to be modest.’ After the seminar we went for a coffee and that is when she explained it all to me, the Modesty Movement, that our country’s problems were all down to immodesty and that if we all took a leaf out of the Muslims’ book and returned to both our faith and traditional modest behaviour, then our society could get itself back on the right track. She was an activist. She had had a difficult childhood, her parents being divorced. Then, one year, they were both tragically killed, her mother in a car accident and her father in a terrorist bomb. She was sent away from Derby (where she had been born) to Loughborough, your town, to live with an aunt who was traditional and strict. She started to attend a school there, St. Stephen’s, that was one of the pioneers of modest, traditional behaviour. It was there that she saw the error of her ways. It was there that she found God.
I fell in love with her immediately and we started going out. She was uncertain about this as she didn’t want to violate her sacred modesty, but she acquiesced on the condition that we never had any physical contact, that I never saw more than her eyes and that I helped her campaign for a more modest Britain. I agreed and so we began, and never in my life had I been so happy, although my desire for my darling Rebecca burned inside me everyday. Eventually, once we had finished university, we got married.
Immediately after marriage, Rebecca announced to me that she wished to take a more conservative role and to stay in the house. It was then that she also started veiling her eyes. The Modesty Movement was growing apace at this time and so was my fortune. As my company grew, the Conservatives were elected into power and the Modesty Lobby grew in influence. Rebecca and I were crucial to the Veiling Laws being passed and since that day, our country has been the better for them. The licentiousness and immorality of the past, binge drinking, girls out at night in mini-skirts, drunkenness and drug-taking are almost a thing of the past. Britain is happier now.
Her life’s work completed, Rebecca then began to think about her own situation more. She read a book by some guru who had mixed Western and Eastern Religious thought and who taught that to change the world without one needs to concentrate on within. That is when she decided to introduce Voice Modesty and after that, Arm Modesty. She took to wearing corseted dresses beneath her burqas as the constriction reminded her of the suffering one has to undertake to reach inner peace. That was when she began tightlacing, with an aim to get down to 15 inches, (I am sorry but we still used inches in those days and centimetres are quite beyond me). This she achieved to her credit. Then she insisted on blinding veils outside and finally blinding veils inside. Towards the end she didn’t even want me to see her. We enjoyed congress using a sheet with a hole in it. She aimed to cut herself off entirely from life so that she could concentrate on within. She started to have periods of renunciation. Here Mrs. Barker would dress her in a full corset body suit, with the necessary plumbing attached, and she would be affixed to a pole in her room. Then layer upon layer of veils would be draped over her until she could neither hear, see or move and then she would be left, for a week at first, then a month, then more. She found the experiences liberating beyond belief, when in that cocoon she achieved union with the Divine. That was when I knew that the end was near, it pains me to think of it even now…”
Emma got out her pad and scribbled a note.
‘How did she die? In one of those cocoons?’
Stephen Halstead took the note, read it and smiled. “Rebecca, die? No my dear, you do not understand, Rebecca did not die, she is still very much alive. When we got to that point we knew that her attachment to me was a barrier to her Release. When in the cocoons, she felt guilty as she had left me alone and she had a duty towards me as a wife. And so it was that we separated and she went off to the Monastery of the Senses up in the Welsh Mountains near to Betws-y-Coed. I don’t know if you have heard of the place, but it is where girls with views like Rebecca’s often end up. It is Christian but the ideas of Inner Realisation and Full Modesty are promoted. Upon arrival the girl has to make a vow to enter into Permanent Modesty. Then she is taken to a room, stripped naked and sealed, yes, literally sealed into a white suit of latex that covers her entire body, the only opening being tiny holes for breathing and at the buttocks for her enemas and on one arm where her food is injected. Then her arms are fastened behind her in a way to ensure complete Arm Modesty and finally she is dressed in the monastery uniform of furs so that she is kept warm. And that is it, those girls’ lives, like that of my dear Rebecca, are completely given over to contemplation and inner realisation with the hope that they can experience spiritual Release. Oh, my dear, I know that she is happy there, but it was so hard for me, so difficult to live alone, without the woman that I adored. I prayed to God to lessen my burden and so it was that he put you in my path. How I thanked Him for it! I have my beautiful darling Rebecca back at long last, to have and to hold, to enable to live a modest life! Rebecca, you are with me again and this time I shall never let you go!”
Stephen Halstead’s tale of the life of Rebecca affected Emma greatly. After all, what effect is any tale of a woman who chose to have herself permanently sealed in latex and cut off from the world have on a girl and when that woman is your husband’s other wife, a wife whom he consistently confuses you with and wants to turn you into, then it is only natural that you be disquieted. And soon it became clear that any forebodings that Emma was having were indeed, quite justified.
The crucial day came some two months or so after the telling of the tale of Rebecca at the time when the country went to the polls. During the interval things had not being going well for Emma; her corset was consistently tightened so that she was now down to a 17 inch waist and the high tight collars on Rebecca’s dresses were now laced and like mini corsets themselves. Furthermore, on her feet, the heels that she was forced to wear were growing higher and higher until she now spent all her days tottering about on tiptoe. However, none of this was to prepare her for what happened on Election Day.
The day started well enough. Stephen, being an advocate of modesty, naturally supported the Conservatives and assumed that his wife would be of the same mind. As the election was very much in the balance, every vote would be needed and so he demanded that she leave the house and vote too, and so she donned some thick Saudi-style outdoor veils with a blinding veil, had her hands handcuffed in front of her, was driven to the polling station and guided to the booth and had her outer veils removed. There however, without her husband knowing, she committed a small act of revenge and put a cross in the Labour box. That night, when the results came through, it transpired that the Bosworth Constituency had become a Labour seat by, (and would you credit it?), one vote and when it became clear that the Labour Party with their Liberal allies had in fact won a narrow victory, then Stephen Halstead lost it. He called his wife to him and then ranted for hours to his wife ‘Rebecca’ that the country was ungrateful, that the people had lost all common sense, that society was doomed and that the wrath of God would no doubt soon be called down upon the British Isles. “But not on us though, darling, not on us! I realise now that we who should have been a shining light to the masses, a beacon of piety and modesty to all, have let our own standards slip. I do wonder if perhaps it is not in some way our fault that this seat was lost for if we had been better, would not more have been inspired by our example and shied away from the Labour parasites. But fear not my darling Rebecca, this calamity has brought me to my senses! For so long have you been asking me – nay, pleading with me – to let you embrace Arm Modesty, and for how long have I resisted, loving as I do the touch of your gloved hand and reading those sweet notes that you write. However, I shall deny you no more Rebecca, for what you so desire is right. From now on you may enjoy Arm Modesty at all times and I shall arrange that in the future, whenever your signature is needed, Mrs. Barker and I shall be able to assist you.”
Emma then realised that her husband was in fact completely mad now, pushed over the edge by the election that she had helped to sway against him. He was no longer in this time but instead the past, reliving past conversations with her beloved Rebecca, but gagged, veiled and restrained, (for no one had undone her hands from the morning’s polling), she could make no protest. She was led away by Mrs. Barker for this fearful new addition to her life.
Arm Modesty means restricting the use of the arms. For Emma this meant that a leather sleeve was produced, her arms tied together behind her back and the sleeve fastened over them. From that day forward, she never again had free use of her arms and thus never managed to communicate with either Mrs. Barker or her husband. Instead she merely walked around the house, slept and ate and when her husband wanted her for sex, she was summoned, her burqa thrown off her head, (but the hood never removed), and he had his way, caressing her painfully-thin stem waist as he went about his business. Such was the life of Emma – or is it Rebeeca? – Halstead.
Her husband’s madness however, did not disappear after the election. Instead, it grew and grew. He now referred to her continually as ‘Rebecca’ and any knowledge of Emma seemed to have left his head. His talk was all in the past, of his time at university with Rebecca, of his wedding day with Rebecca, of the morality and piety of Rebecca. Emma could do nothing but sit and accept it, imprisoned as she was within the clothing of her husband’s other spouse.
The madness however, did not contain itself within the house. Soon Stephen Halstead began to demonstrate it outside on occasions, and soon after that it became chronic. Doctors were called in but all of their remedies or solutions failed. Then a further Labour victory sent him worse and it was declared that there was no choice but for him to be sectioned. Three years and five days after they married, Emma’s husband was taken away. Not that this changed Emma’s life however, for Stephen had left firm instructions that his wife was to remain modest and in the care of Mrs. Barker and that maid, whose reign over the house was quite tyrannical now that both master and mistress were effectively removed, was quite happy to carry on keeping Emma as she always had been kept. Her reign however, did not last much longer, for only eight months after he was admitted, Stephen Halstead died in the Herrick Mental Health Ward of Leicester General Hospital. With her husband gone, Emma’s wishes would now become paramount and there was nothing that Mrs. Barker could do about it. On the fateful day after the funeral, they were both called into the offices of Straw & Pearce Solicitors in Loughborough.
“And now the Will of the late Stephen Cedric Halstead of Market Bosworth, Leicestershire. ‘I do hereby leave all my worldly goods to my beloved spouses Emma and Rebecca Halstead, save for the event of their deaths, then all shall go to my housekeeper, Mrs. Barbara Sharon Barker.’ Ahem, well, all seems in order and quite simple there save for the fact that we have only one spouse here, Mrs. Barker, so which one is she and what has happened to the other?”
“Sir, one of Mr. Halstead’s spouses, a most pious lady and modest, requested to her husband that she enter the Monastery of the Senses so that she may further pursue her relationship with the divine. Sir, she felt able to do that as he had another spouse to look after him and indeed she did enter that place some three years ago, the documentation for which I have here, although sadly she passed away within those walls some two months ago, a tragic event that Mr. Halstead was not aware of.”
“Indeed, I see. So which spouse is deceased then?”
“Mrs. Emma Halstead, sir.”
Emma gasped! It was a lie, an outright lie! She was Emma! It was Rebecca who had gone to the Monastery of the Senses! She began to shuffle and groan to attract the solicitor’s attention.
“What is the matter with the other spouse, Mrs. Barker?”
“Rebecca is evidently distressed, sir, for she and Mrs. Emma were most close and I had not told her either of the death. Please, Rebecca, be still. You may weep later.”
“So, then it all goes to Mrs. Rebecca Halstead here then. Please my dear, you are a rich lady now, do not cry.”
But Emma carried on shuffling and groaning, eager for the solicitor to un-gag her so that she could explain.
“Well sir, whilst she is, that will be of no comfort to Mrs. Rebecca, sir.”
“And why ever not Mrs. Barker?”
“This document, sir, I believe it will explain all.”
The solicitor took the proffered document and read it out loud.
“‘I, Rebecca Daphne Halstead, nee Evans, do wish to enter a state of purdah and extreme modesty so that I may follow God fully until the end of my earthly days. Thus it is that should my husband, Stephen Cedric Halstead ever pre-decease me, I wish only to be transported forthwith to the Monastery of the Senses in Betws-y-Coed in the County of Gwyness, Wales, where I may live out my life in perpetual modesty. Consequently, aside from the yearly stipend from the Monastery for my keep, I wish any monies that I would inherit from my husband or that I do possess on my own to be passed on to the next claimant in my husband’s Will.’ And this is dated on the 8th March, four years ago. Well, Mrs. Halstead, it seems that you will get your desire and Mrs. Barker, the money and property is all yours. However, just to legalise this finally, I do need your signature here Mrs. Halstead, on this paper…”
“But sir, it is not possible. My mistress accepts Arm Modesty. She may not sign anything!”
“But Mrs. Barker, I do need some sort of legal stamp to this. It is the law!”
“I know that sir, but several years ago Mr. Halstead legalised matters so that I or he may sign for his wife. Here is the paper…”
“Well, so he did. Alright then Mrs. Barker, sign on this line here and good luck to you madam, with your new-found wealth and good luck also to you Mrs. Halstead, in your new life in the Monastery of the Senses…”
Author’s Note: Thanks and recognition must go to Mike whose tale ‘Rebecca of Halstead hall’ was an inspiration for this story and also Daphne du Maurier, author of the original ‘Rebecca’. Thanks also to Bo_Emp for the picture manipulation and suggestions.