by Freddie Clegg
This tale is set in the imaginary country of Trisban, the brainchild of Freddie Clegg. Before reading the tale it is recommended that you read the introduction to Trisban so that you comprehend fully just what it is all about.
Chapter 1: Flight AT101
The Air Trisban flight was on time. As the ‘plane was just starting its descent into Trisban International Airport, Sharon Collier turned to her boyfriend and said, “Why on earth are we doing this Josh? This must have been five hours flying to get here.”
“I told you babes,” Josh Graham tried to smile amiably but Sharon had been a trial for most of the flight.
The flight attendant came up. “Could you fasten your seat belts, please, sir? Madam?” she asked.
“Can I get another vodka and J2O?” Sharon countered.
“I’m sorry madam,” the stewardess said the word ‘madam’ carefully, evidently not happy with having to address a woman barely half her age that way, “but we’ll be landing shortly.”
“I thought this was first class.” Sharon sulked and grimaced at Josh for support. Josh shrugged his shoulders.
“I’m sorry, madam,” the stewardess countered. Seeing that the couple’s seat belts were fastened she headed up towards the front of the first class cabin.
Sharon turned back towards Josh. “And why are we doing this?”
“I told you babes. It’s the tax. With what I’m earning now I need to find something to do about the money. Like here I can clear 95% of everything that goes through the bank. Makes a big diff. We just have to stay here two months a year, pay the cash through their accounts, be Trisban residents, and there we go. Easy. Leastways that what Norris says.”
Sharon’s sulky face turned to a sneer at the mention of Josh’s accountant and, increasingly, adviser. “It’s all right for him; he doesn’t have to live here.” It had seemed like a good idea to Sharon when she’d hit on Josh at an event his company had organised. She’d been hired as a ‘hostess’ for the evening which basically meant she was paid to turn up and after that anything she managed to score was her own. She’d struck lucky. She wouldn’t normally have reckoned to have a chance with the man that owned the business, or that she’d want to, but Josh had caught her eye and her his. A pleasant evening had been followed by a dinner date and then the obligatory third date shag which had been pretty good as far as they were both concerned. After that she’d moved in with him. It hadn’t taken her long to get used to his lifestyle (or most of it). She wasn’t planning to bail out any time soon. The sex was good and the money he could flash around was even better. Especially since he flashed quite a bit of it her way.
“Yeah and he doesn’t earn what I do either.” Josh had made his money young and liked spending it. back where they came from it was easy enough.
“Not unless he’s got his sticky little fingers in your bank accounts.”
“Look Shaz, there’s other good things too. This place don’t have no paparazzi. No dodgy reporters, no spy TV. You and I can spend some time by the pool without looking over our shoulders for camera lenses every five minutes. Ain’t that worth a flight? Can’t get that many places these days.”
“S’pose.” Sharon didn’t sound convinced. “But maybe I like having my pictures in the papers. Don’t you like how I look?”
“Sure Shaz, look how much I spent on your last shopping trip. But I like some privacy too.”
“I think it’s fun.”
“You won’t after a year or two.”
Sharon became aware that the stewardess was standing waiting at the front of the cabin. A ‘bong’ sound called for their attention.
“Thank you for your attention, ladies and gentlemen,” Sharon looked around. They were the only ones in the first class cabin. The plane might not be on autopilot but the flight attendant most certainly was. “As you know we will shortly be arriving in Trisban. Please listen to some important information concerning arrival and immigration formalities.”
“More bloody crap,” Sharon said, only half to Josh.
“Shh,” he said, “Listen babes.”
“All ladies leaving the transfer area and entering into Trisban are reminded of the need to follow the guidelines printed in your arrival information sheet.” Sharon had screwed hers up and wedged it in the seat pocket as soon as she’d been given it, just after take-off. “Air Trisban is happy to provide a complementary burqa and gloves for our first class lady passengers.” Sharon looked puzzled. “For those of you that have not used a burqa before, it is opened like this .. and then unfolded so that the head and the body is covered, so. You will find that your burqa has a pierced grill so that you can see out. It may take a little while to get used to wearing your burqa because you will find that your view is restricted.” Sharon watched in disbelief as the stewardess unfolded the black cloth and draped it around herself, covering her from head to foot, leaving only her eyes free.
“She is joking! Fuck!” said Sharon to Josh. “I’m not wearing that. What’s that all about?”
“It’s the rules here, luv. It’s how the place works. For, like between the airport and the villa. Just go along with it. It’s no big deal.”
“Not for you, it isn’t. I’m not fucking doing it.”
“They won’t let you in the country if you don’t. That’s what that information sheet said. Do you fancy another five hour flight?”
Sharon looked even more sulky. “No I fucking don’t.”
The stewardess was at her side holding out a small package. “Your burqa, madam,” she said. Sharon could have sworn she was smirking behind her veil but she let it go.
“Flight attendants, places for landing!” the plane’s PA announced and the stewardess retreated.
Sharon leant across Josh and looked out of the window. The plane was already a long way down the approach to the airport following a path that took the plane between mountains on one side and tall apartment blocks on the other. Sharon found she was looking across to Trisbanian living rooms. It was terrifying. For the last few minutes before they landed it quite took her mind off the idea of having to wear the burqa.
Chapter 2 : Trisban International Airport
Sharon emerged from the washrooms by the arrival gate having struggled into the burqa given to her by the stewardess. “Are you just going to sit there or are we going to find our bags?” she snapped at Josh as he sat waiting.
He looked up. “Sorry, Shaz,” he said. “Didn’t recognise you with your kit on.”
“Great,” she said. “That makes me feel really great.” As she said it she caught sight of herself in a mirror and knew exactly what he meant. The all black robe covered her from head to foot; she couldn’t even see her own eyes clearly. As she stared at her reflection she saw four other, identical looking, women scuttle by behind her. “Oh, come on,” she said, exasperated. “Let’s get out of here and get somewhere I can get this off.”
Josh started off down the pier towards the baggage claim. Sharon found it difficult walking to keep up with him, practically tripping over the hem of her burqa on several occasions. The last time she had worn anything this long was when she’d been the decoration for some record company executive at a pop awards show. The band he was managing hadn’t won. Josh got further and further ahead of her until she found herself swallowed up by a group of several other women, all robed and veiled in various styles. Josh stopped and turned around. He realised he’d lost her, saying, “Shaz? Is that you?” in turn to one after another of the women he could see.
Sharon was fuming behind her burqa and let him go on embarrassing himself for a few times before saying, “No, it’s me. Bloody slow down will you?”
“Sorry, Shaz,” Josh said and the two of them carried on at a slower pace towards the immigration desk. As they got closer, Josh said, “Give us your passport, Babes.”
“S’allright, I can do it. Don’t know how he’ll check my photo though.”
“No, I’ve got to do it. You’re travelling with me. I have to show you through. Because you’re veiled but travelling with a man I have to vouch for you. It was all in the arrival leaflet. You should have read it.”
“I wouldn’t have come if I’d seen it before. This is just primitive. What sort of place is this?”
“Give us your passport, Babes. We can sort it out later.” Josh couldn’t see the scowl Sharon wore behind her veil as she dug out her passport and passed it out to him from under her robe.
At least getting through immigration was no problem. Josh passed their passports across to the officer at the barrier. He opened Josh’s passport and smiled. “Ah, Mr Johnson, please to be welcomed to Trisban, Nice to see you here, Sir. I read about some of your businesses …. You come to start businesses in Trisban?”
Josh shook his head modestly. “No, just a bit of a holiday and to see your tax guys. How come you recognised me? I’m not used to it.”
“In Trisban everyone is interested in trade and business, Sir. We all admire entrepreneurs like yourself.”
Josh smiled. “Well, that’s good,” he said, a little surprised by the man’s remarks.
Welcome to Trisban, sir,” the immigration officer said, passing back both passports and waving the two of them through without a glance at Sharon.
As Josh and Sharon went off to find their bags, Sharon was fuming. “He didn’t even look at my passport. What’s that all about?”
“Don’t worry babes, you’re with me, I’ll look after you.”
“Yeah like you did at that club last week.”
“Oh, come on, we had to get out of there quick. The last thing I need is my picture in the paper over a caption saying “Fact Cat Business Boss On The Piss.” The press were all over the exits.”
“Yeah and very happy they were to get pictures of me falling off my high heel’s, weren’t they?”
“Not my fault you had too many vodkas, Babes.” Their bags arrived. Josh hefted them onto a trolley. “Come on, there’ll be a car.” He pushed the trolley towards the exit, Sharon following along behind him in her robes.
They got outside but there was no sign of a car. It was sweltering hot. Josh looked up and down, irritated by the foul up. “Hang on there, Babes. I’ll got back and have a look inside.”
Before Sharon could protest Josh had disappeared back into the terminal. Irritated, Sharon sat down on the baggage trolley, getting hotter by the minute, squinting out through the mesh of her burqa, hoping to spot the car. There was no sign of Josh. Sharon was getting impatient. She reached across and grabbed a pack of cigarettes from the duty free bag. Pulling one out, she realised she couldn’t smoke with her burqa on, so she pulled the front of the robe up and back over her head. Breathing a sigh of relief, she snapped open the pack of cigarettes, and, with a little difficulty due to her gloves, pulled one out and lit up.
Moments later all hell broke loose. There was the sharp sound of a police whistle, blown several times and Sharon looked up to see a woman running towards her. The woman wore a uniform; peaked cap, khaki shirt, black trousers, black gloves and a black cycle mask that covered the lower half of her face. She was waving a truncheon and pointing at Sharon in an agitated fashion. Sharon looked blankly at the officer as the police officer shouted at her in a language that she didn’t understand.
The police officer snatched the cigarette from Sharon’s mouth and pulled at Sharon’s burqa. She stood there waving at Sharon and continuing to harangue her. Sharon was on her feet shouting back at the police officer when Josh emerged from the terminal with another man. Seeing the confrontation the two of them ran across. The man with Josh began speaking to the police officer in her own language. There was an exchange of words between them before he turned back to Josh and Sharon. “You shouldn’t remove your robe in public, Miss,” he said to Sharon. “You can’t show your face. It’s the law. I have explained that you are only just here in this country and she has agreed not to take things further. She also says that you, Sir, must be careful with your woman.”
“I’m not ‘his’ woman,” Sharon protested. “And what about her?” She pointed to the policewoman. “Her face isn’t covered properly.”
The man ignored her, he knew that women police officers were allowed to wear a half face mask as a concession. “She says it is most important for you to make sure she respects our laws and customs here.”
“Of course,” said Josh. “I’m sorry. Please tell her I apologise and it won’t happen again.”
A further exchange of words took place with the police officer. She watched as Sharon pulled the burqa back on over her head. Then, satisfied that Sharon was modestly veiled and robed once more, she nodded to Josh, touched the peak of her cap with her truncheon in salute and turned to walk away.
“Come on,” said Josh as the other man grabbed their luggage trolley and headed off towards a large limo. He took Sharon by the arm. “Let’s get to the villa where you can’t get into any more trouble.”
Chapter 3: The Villa
At least the villa was up to expectations, thought Sharon as they got inside. It really was as good as anything she’d ever stayed in and now, inside the villa, she could get out of the burqa.
It was a great relief as she pushed the robe off over her head.
“Oh there you are,” said Josh as he came into the room.
“Great, I’m invisible in that am I?”
“Just a joke, Shaz.” Josh smiled. But Sharon didn’t look convinced. “What do you think of it?”
“The villa’s great. The country it’s in sucks.” Sharon was never one for holding back and she’d been seriously put out by the experiences since they’d arrived. But the villa itself was fine. In fact it was better than fine. The bedroom was enormous with a colossal bed practically big enough to land a helicopter on. The bathroom was bigger than their bedroom back home with a shower big enough for the both of them if they wanted, and a bath that you could practically swim in. The living room was even larger with a colossal television a bed sized couch and an encouragingly large drinks cabinet. Sharon went across and opened it. An array of bottles of various sorts offered the opportunity of getting drunk in wide range of ways. “Well that’s a relief. I thought these countries where women dressed in those,” she pointed at the discarded burqa, “didn’t do alcohol.”
“Lots of them, Babes. But Trisban isn’t like that. It’s not a religious thing or anything like that. They only took it up in the 60’s. It’s a social thing. They reckon it makes for a better society.”
“Barmy! I’m glad to be out of that robe.”
“Well you’re all right in here, Babes. Why don’t you get into your swimmers – there’s supposed to be a pool out back somewhere.”
“That sounds good.” Sharon headed up the bedroom. She spent ages looking for her case until she found it in the walk-in dressing room that she’d overlooked because it was hidden behind a mirror door. But with that achieved she slipped out of her clothes and into her acid-pink bikini.
When she got back down stairs Josh was on the patio at the back of the villa staring out across the garden. As he heard her he turned around. “Well, I like that,” he said appreciatively. “A big improvement on that robe.”
“Well it’s about time you took some notice. Where’s this pool?”
Josh pointed out beyond the patio. Sharon grabbed her towel and joined him. When she stood beside him and could see the pool her jaw dropped. Behind the patio was a three level pool. The first level just off the patio offered a bubbling spa, the next a diving pool and then, at the lowest level, a fifty metre swimming pool with sweeping lawns on each side led to a view out across the city of Trisban and the deep azure blue of the bay beyond.
“Now that is something!”
Josh handed her a drink. “Here you go.” He lifted his own glass.
“Thanks,” said Sharon sipping at the iced vodka and tonic. “Maybe this isn’t so bad after all.”
“It looks fine from where I’m standing.”
Sharon, seeing Josh was looking at her rather than the view laughed, put her glass down ran off to the diving pool and jumped in from the spring board. The water was delightfully cool in the heat of the day and Sharon took a few dives in before she decided to relax in the spa pool. “Bloody excellent, this,” she said, as Josh brought her drink across.
As he put the drink down on the edge of the spa pool the chime of the door bell rang out. “That will be our housekeeper,” he said. “I’ll go let her in.”
Josh was gone a while. Wondering where he had got to, Sharon climbed out of the pool, grabbed a towel and headed in to the house. Josh was talking to a woman in the lounge. As far as Sharon could see, she was a featureless heap of black cloth. “Blimey,” she exclaimed.
Josh frowned at her. “Sharon, this is Alissa. She’ll be helping around the house.”
“Hi,” said Sharon. She couldn’t even see the woman’s eyes. “Can you see enough to do things in that?”
“Hi, Graham Wife,” Alissa responded, offering a gloved hand and surprising Sharon with her colloquial response, “It’s an honour to meet you.”
“So, I get someone to be nice to me,” Sharon smirked, shaking Alissa’s hand. “But please don’t worry with the ‘Graham Wife’ thing. Call me Sharon. I’m not his wife”
“Oh. Not? But?” Alissa swivelled her head looking around the lounge as if in search of something, “Oh, of course, thank you, Sharon.”
“Sharon is fine,” Sharon gave Josh a ‘what is she on?’ look.
“Really? Well if that’s what you like. Sharon.”
“That’s fine. Were you looking for something?”
“Ah. Well, you said you weren’t married. I wondered if your father or mother was here as well.”
“I’m sorry. I know it is different where you come from. You must excuse me. Here an unmarried woman would have a chaperone. I should have realised. Things are different here.”
“You’re telling me. I mean I was serious when I asked if you could see out,” Sharon leant forward peering at Alissa’s veil. Her eyes were covered by an embroidered panel and even behind that there was another gauze that prevented her eyes being seen. “I certainly can’t see in.”
“Oh, thank you,” Alissa responded gratefully, puzzling Sharon, “that’s a nice complement. My parents cannot afford the best but they bought me this as a very good burqa so I should be a good, modest, Trisban girl. And yes, I can see enough.”
“You like being dressed like that?”
“Well it is our way.”
“I’ll leave you girls to your chat. I’ve got things to do,” said Josh.
“Oh, I’m sorry Mr Graham,” Alissa switched her attention to Josh immediately. “I shouldn’t have…. I mean is there anything I can do for you… Anything you need?”
“That’s all right Alissa, I don’t mind you and Sharon chatting.”
“Big of you,” Sharon interrupted.
“But I would like a beer if you can find me one when you’ve got a minute.” Josh picked up his phone and headed off towards the patio.
Alissa at once turned and went off towards the kitchen. “Hey,” said Sharon, following her. “Hang on, he can wait a minute.”
“That wouldn’t be right,” Alissa said. “Let me get his beer and then we can talk.” She opened the enormous fridge and found a can of lager and an iced glass. She put them on a tray and carried them out to the patio. Sharon was sitting at the table sipping on her vodka when Alissa returned. “There,” she said. “He is happy now. That is good.”
“Well he won’t get me running around after him as soon as he asks.” Even with Alissa’s face covered by her veil Sharon could tell from the way the girl was standing that her words were not approved of. “Do you have to wear your veil in here?” she went on.
“No, I can take it off if you don’t mind. With Mr Graham here.”
“Fine by me,” said Sharon. She watched fascinated as Alissa took off her burqa and the girl’s pretty, dark-eyed, face became visible. “That has to be better. Isn’t it?”
Alisa nodded. “Oh yes. To wear the veil is very good and very modest but it is nice to take it off too.”
“Well, if you’ve done all you need for Josh you can come and help me put my clothes away. I’ll show you some stuff that puts that burqa in the shade!”
Alissa looked at Sharon in her acid pink bikini and wondered what she could have that was more shocking. She followed Sharon into the bedroom. Helping to put Sharon’s clothes away she was both horrified and astonished by the short tight skirts and low cut tops that Sharon seemed to delight in. And, as for the shoes, well whatever anyone said, a girl could only sigh at the strappy high heeled creations that made up Sharon’s collection. Her own flat slippers didn’t really compare.
Chapter 4: Shopping
Alissa and Sharon were shopping with a focused determination. Sharon had asked Alissa if she would show her some of the sites of Trisban but Alissa’s response had been a little reserved at first.
It had been Alissa’s fault, really. After all she had been the one that had mentioned the Femnaria, the curious, women only clubs, restaurants and bars on the west side of town. “They are the only places in town where you can go without a veil,” Alissa had said, “because there are no men allowed.”
Sharon looked across to the patio where Norris and Josh were deep in some discussion or other. She’d had enough of men at the moment. “Well it sounds like a great idea to me,” she said. “Come on, I’ll buy you lunch. You choose the spot, I’ll pick up the tab.”
“I’m not sure,” said Alissa. “Maybe that’s not a good idea.”
“Why not? You said these places were for women only. What harm could there be?”
“Well, no harm, certainly. But…”
“Well it’s your burqa. Some of these places are quite exclusive, a bit snobby. If you turned up in the burqa that the airline gave you people might make fun. Not every one is understanding of tourists there.”
“But it’s just a black sheet!” Sharon protested. “With some holes you can look out through. How complicated can that be?”
“Oh, everything has its fashion, you know that. And then there are different fabrics, different styles.”
Sharon was not to be daunted. “No problem!” she exclaimed. “We’ll go and buy the most fashionable one I can find. Come on. Let’s go to town.”
So Sharon and Alissa, both clad in all concealing burqa and gloved, headed off to the shopping district. Alissa showed Sharon the way to some of the more fashionable shops and Sharon was surprised to see the variety that could be achieved in what she had though was just a sheet. Eventually after spending half an hour or so window shopping they chose one shop and went inside to try on what Sharon hoped would be her highly fashionable burqa.
Sharon looked at the garments hanging on the rails in the shop. The burqa that had been provided on her flight had just been a sort of bag draped over her head but these were far more complex.
Alissa came over with one of the shop assistants a girl of about her own age. “Alnaq will explain things,” she said. “It’s not easy at first.”
Alnaq was very helpful. “Here,” she said, “there are two main styles of robe that you can adopt. Firstly there is the burqa like Alissa’s here or your own. Alternatively you could opt for an abaya and a niqaab.”
“Hang on,” said Sharon, “this is all a bit complicated. I just want to be legal and look good.”
Alnaq responded with patience. “Let’s try the abaya and the niqaab. I think you’ll find that more convenient.” She passed Sharon a scarf. “First,” she said, “this is a very fine silk scarf to cover the parts of your head the niqaab won’t cover. Drape this over your head like this.” With Alnaq assisting Sharon’s neck and head except the face was swathed in thick black silk.
Then she was handed the niqaab. “You simply hold the band to your forehead and let the ends of the band meet at the back of the head where velcro assures it stay closed.” Alnaq said “This has only two eye layers, but is still modest. And you can flip back the outer layer in public without getting arrested.”
Sharon tried putting the niqaab on. It was just as easy as Alnaq has said. The layers covering her eyes were more opaque than in the covering of the burqa that she had already and for a moment Sharon thought that she would not be able to see at all through it. Certainly the inside of the shop looked dark and murky through the veil.
“It will be better outside in the bright sunshine,” said Alnaq, understandingly. “Don’t forget that you only have to cover your face when you are outside.”
Sharon nodded. She looked across to the mirror. “Yes, I’m sure I’ll get used to it,” she said.
“Next is the abaya. Like this,” she said holding out a robe of dark heavy cloth with fine stitching on the hem and around the cuffs. “The abaya covers your body from head to foot. You can wear it with the bottom of the niqaab inside the face opening or out of it. Most wear it out giving more air to the face and allow drinking and eating by lifting the niqaab a little. I assume that you will be wearing your western clothes underneath the robe, so I have chosen a rather heavier material that will disguise that. It’s not strictly necessary but it will help you avoid unwelcome attention. Alternatively I can help you with a jilbab,” she pointed to a rack of the long, high necked dresses over to one side of the room, “if you like.” Sharon shook her head. If the outer robes were enough to keep everyone happy that was good enough for her.
“You’ll need some gloves too.”
With the abaya on, Sharon’s felt even more restricted. She wasn’t at all sure how she would cope with moving around in it. Alnaq passed her some gloves and she put them on.
Then Sharon took a few steps in heavy cloth robe. She had to admit that it felt a lot better to wear than the thing she’d been given by the airline on their arrival in Trisban. She even found herself peering out through her veil to admire herself in the shop’s mirror, watching how the over-robe swayed as she walked.
Satisfied with the abaya and niqaab, she took the niqab off so that she could see normally again.
“Well, thank you Alnaq,” she said. “You’ve been really helpful. And thanks Alissa for bringing me here. It’s all been much easier than I thought. Now how much do I owe you?” Sharon took off her gloves and reached for her purse.
Alnaq reacted in shock. “Oh no,” she said. “You don’t have a credit card do you? How strange! We will charge this to your family account or to your husband. I had heard that foreign women have bank accounts but we prefer to do things the traditional way here.”
“You’ll charge Josh’s account for my shopping?” Sharon was delighted.
“Yes, of course.”
“Sounds good to me,” Sharon laughed and gave Alnaq the details she asked for.
Sharon thanked Alnaq again for her help and then she and Alissa went to leave. Sharon was looking at some small mirror work purses on a table near the shop door as Alissa went out. “Don’t forget to put your niqaab and gloves back on,” Alissa called over her shoulder as the door shut behind her.
“Uh? Oh, yeah, sure,” Sharon said, going on looking at the purses before realising that Alissa had already left. Anxious that she shouldn’t get lost, she grabbed her purchases and followed her quickly, out through the shop’s revolving door.
Chapter 5: Arrest
Sharon emerged from the shop’s revolving door onto the street. Alissa was already fifty meters or so ahead of her as Sharon stepped out to catch her up.
It was then that things began to go badly wrong.
Alissa turned around, wondering where Sharon had got to. Seeing Sharon on the street behind her, Alissa’s hands flew up to her mouth. Her alarm at seeing Sharon in the street but without anything covering her face was well placed but too late. A police officer, standing on the far side of the street, had seen Sharon and was already advancing across the road towards the unsuspecting girl.
The first that Sharon knew of the trouble that she was in was when the police officer stopped her and pushed her back against a wall with a truncheon held against her throat. The officer, dressed just as the policewoman at the airport had been, barked a few words in Trisbanian, her masked face inches from Sharon.
Sharon, terrified and confused, coughed in response, “Please I’m English, I don’t understand.”
Alissa was running back towards the pair, hampered by her long robes.
“English! You still wear the veil here. It’s the law,” The officer snapped.
“Hey, hang on. Look I’ve just bought this.” Sharon tried to show the officer the niqaab she was carrying. I just forgot to put it on as I left the shop. No problem I’ll do it now. Come on, no one’s seen me. You can overlook it, can’t you?” Sharon went to fumble with her purse.
“You must be joking!” the officer snarled. “You can’t buy your way out of this. You’re coming with me.
Alissa reached the two of them. “Please officer,” she said. “She is just a tourist. She means no harm.”
“Huhh,” the officer responded, not letting go of Sharon. “If she can afford a niqaab like this then she can know enough to wear the veil.” The officer spun Sharon around so that she was pressed against the wall, and pulled her wrists together behind her back. Sharon squealed as cold handcuffs clicked shut around her wrists and the officer dragged her veil down and over her face. The officer pushed Sharon off towards her patrol car. “You’re under arrest,” she snarled.
“Call Josh,” Sharon shouted to Alissa as she was hustled away. “Tell him what’s happened. Tell him to get me out of this.”
Sharon was bundled into the back of the police car. The officer that had arrested her climbed into the front and drove off. “I want to see a lawyer,” Sharon howled from the back seat of the car.
“You keep shouting like that and I’ll push your veil down your noisy throat,” was the only response that she got. She took the hint though and sat quietly until they got to the police station. The officer half pushed half pulled her inside to the desk counter where a sergeant peered up in irritated mood, annoyed at having the peace of her morning disturbed.
“What’s with this one?” she asked.
“Veiling offence,” the officer responded. “Down at the corner of Forem Street and the Main Square. Have the prosecutors check out the CCTV for 11:50. That should have the offence on it.”
“OK,” said the Sergeant. “Put her on the bench. I’ll get someone to take her to detention.”
“Hey,” said Sharon, “What about me? Don’t I get to say anything?”
“Sure you do. You get to say, ‘Please sergeant I’ll be nice. Don’t put me in the cell with the dykes, please.’ Or maybe, ‘Put me in the cell with the dykes, please’. Depends on your likes, I guess.” The sergeant and the arresting officer laughed.
“I want a lawyer! Let me call my boyfriend! You can’t keep me here!”
The sergeant gave the arresting officer a look of amused tolerance. “Will you listen to her?” She turned back to Sharon. “Listen, girl. You don’t need a lawyer. This is all very easy. We get the tapes from the cameras. We look at the tapes. If your pretty face is on it, you don’t need a lawyer ‘cos you’re guilty and you’d be wasting your money. If we see a nice modest, covered up lady wearing niqaab like what she should be then you don’t need a lawyer ‘cos you’re innocent.”
“I wouldn’t argue, darling,” the arresting officer said, putting a hand that seemed more than friendly on Sharon’s shoulder. “She’s no fun when she gets pissed off. Even with us officers.” She led Sharon across to the bench where she was to wait. “And don’t worry; the Trisbanian courts are very efficient. You shouldn’t have to stay in detention for more than a week before a hearing.
Sharon sat down and sobbed.
Chapter 6: Criminal Justice
Sharon was led from her cell with shackles on her wrists and ankles. She had been frightened by the whole experience. The warders in the detention centre had been adamant that she would not get to speak to anyone from her own embassy until there had been an initial hearing in court. They hadn’t even let Josh visit her and he hadn’t been admitted to the court, either. Men weren’t allowed in the women’s detention centre or at hearings like this.
She was wearing the long grey robe that they had given her when they took her other clothes away. Her head was shaved. That had been one of the first things that they did when they took her into custody. Now she was taken into the large wood panelled court room and she was feeling very scared indeed. She looked around. The court was crowded with veiled women. She was the only one there with her face uncovered. Sharon couldn’t tell who was a lawyer, who an officer of the court or who was a member of the public. Two warders, one on either side of her, led her into the dock. She was just about to sit down when a woman that she assumed to be the court usher appeared and rapped a long staff on the floor of the courtroom.
“Stand for the Justices of the Court,” the usher called.
Sharon’s warders gripped her tightly by her arms and held her as three robed and veiled figures came in through a door at the back of the court and took their places at a high table that looked down on the rest of the court.
“Session of the Public Morals Division of the Trisban High Court,” the usher called. “Justice Ariannka Fariah presiding.”
The rest of the members of the court sat down. Sharon made to follow them but her warders gripped her arms and held her up. The middle of the three veiled justices, looked across at Sharon and shook her head. “The accused will remain standing,” she said sternly.
The hearing did not last long. Sharon was asked to confirm her name, her age, and where she was residing. Then the charge was read, that Sharon had been present in a public place without head and face coverings in contravention of the Public Decency Act 1987. The Justices called the policewoman that had arrested Sharon and asked her to describe what she had seen. They looked at still photographs from the CCTV footage. Justice Fariah asked Sharon if she disagreed with anything that the policewoman had said. Sharon just shook her head.
Fariah conferred briefly with her colleagues and then turned back to Sharon. “In which case,” she said. “I have no alternative but to find the defendant guilty.”
Sharon looked fearfully at the three Justices. Each staring at her reproachfully from above their veils.
“Do you have anything to say before I pass sentence?” Fariah asked, ominously.
“No, Madam, err, Madam Justice.
“Very well. You have been judged guilty of compromising public morals through defiant disregard of the Public Decency Act 1987. There are extenuating circumstances in this case. You have only recently arrived in our country and that no members of the opposite sex were present at the time of the offence. As a result I do not believe in this case that a custodial sentence is appropriate.” Sharon breathed a sigh of relief. “However the Court is concerned by the number of instances of this form of behaviour, especially by foreign nationals, coming before it. We are not prepared to allow visitors to disregard the traditions and laws of our country. My colleagues on the panel have consulted on this and our decision is that you are to be sentenced to enforced veiling for a period of one month or until you leave the country.”
Justice Fariah banged her gavel down on the counter.
“All Rise,” called the usher as Justice Fariah and her two companions go to their feet.
Sharon watched them go, wondering what the sentence meant and what would happen now.
The Usher turned to Sharon’s warders and said, “Take her down.” The two warders hustled Sharon out of the dock and back down into the cells beneath the court. Another of their number was waiting for them. Sharon was told to sit on a heavy wooden chair.
“One month,” said the first of Sharon’s warders.
“Very well. Seems light to me. Still that’s the law.” She turned to a row of drawers that line the wall behind her, slid one out and pulled out a folded length of heavy black looking material. To Sharon it looked like a heavy piece of canvas and to her surprise the warders started to fit it to her draping a length over her shaved head.
“Hang on,” she said. “What’s all this?”
“You heard the sentence,” the warder snapped.
“But I have a veil, I can wear that,” Sharon protested.
“Oh no, that won’t do. The sentence is for enforced veiling. This one will make sure that you will be veiled at all times.” As she said this she started to fit a series of stiff straps beneath the piece of canvas and around Sharon’s head. One strap went around her forehead, another beneath her chin and over her crown, a third across her upper lip beneath her nose, a fourth around her throat. The straps were linked together, pulled tight, and held in place with buckles. The heavy black canvas held clamped against Sharon’s scalp. Another piece of canvas was brought out. This had a series of eyelets punched in its top edge. The eyelets fitted over pegs in the strap around Sharon’s forehead and as it was lowered covering Sharon’s face she suddenly found she could hardly see. The canvas did have some further holes punched in it just in front of her eyes but they only gave her a very restricted view. The warders linked its bottom edge to the strap around her neck and Sharon realised that, while she just might be able to feed herself or drink through a straw, she would not be able to lift it up.
“This is awful,” Sharon went to complain, discovering that the straps around her head made it difficult for her to speak clearly. Her words came out sounding as “Gis igs orrgul.”
“It’s a punishment,” the warder gripping her arm firmly, responded unsympathetically.
The woman that had been fitting the heavy canvas veil turned again to rummage in the drawer of her desk. She came out with a handful of tiny padlocks which she fitted in turn to each place where one of the veil’s eyelets was pierced by a peg from the harness of straps around Sharon’s head. The veil was locked in place.
“You will report daily to your local police station so that the veil can be checked.” The officer declared. “Under no circumstances are the locks or straps to be tampered with. If such action is detected an immediate custodial sentence will by imposed. I hope that is clear?”
“Yuurgs, Ma’aarng,” Sharon muttered from behind the heavy veil.
“Good,” said the officer. “In which case you can put on your abaya and gloves and leave.”
Sharon got slowly to her feet, realising for the first time how heavy the canvas head scarf and face veil were. She caught sight of herself in a long mirror on the wall. Her face was completely obscured, her head was covered and the heavy black cloth reached the ground behind her. The row of padlocks across her forehead announced to any Trisbanian just why she was dressed as she was. She struggled to put on her abaya. It was difficult given the weight of the punishment head covering and veil but she had to be wearing it before she could be released.
Now wearing her robe, gloves and the locked head covering and veil, Sharon was released from custody and allowed to make her way out of the court house.
Outside, Josh and Norris were waiting for her. Josh thought he recognised Sharon from the robe she was wearing but he couldn’t be sure with the way her face was hidden by the veil. “Bloody hell, is that you, Sahzza?” he called as Sharon emerged.
“Ynng,” Sharon responded, her voice little more than a squeak from behind her heavy veil and its straps.
Josh looked at the padlocks and the way that her head was covered with the canvas veiling. “How long have you got to wear that?”
“Ang munngf,” Sharon replied, almost sobbing.
“Blimey! Oh well, looks like I’ll have a quiet time for a bit doesn’t it Norris? I’ve got my own harem girl here by the look of it.”
Josh smiled. Norris chuckled. Sharon growled beneath her veil.
Chapter 7: Invited for Dinner
A month later when Sharon had been released from the humiliation of the enforced veiling, Norris turned up with a proposition for Josh.
“You’ll like this Josh,” he said. “A nice bit of profile. Chance to get in with the people that count. I’ve managed to wangle you an invite. This will be good.”
Sharon looked suspiciously at Josh’s PR manager. She didn’t trust him at all.
“Sounds good to me,” said Josh, disappointing Sharon. “What’s the deal.”
“Dinner with the Trisbanian Minister for Trade and his wife,” Norris said. “He’s looking for someone to be a sort of ambassador for international entrepreneurialism in Trisbanian schools. Wants to chat to you about it.”
“OK. When is this?”
“Tomorrow. Sharon will need a traditional Trisbanian outfit though. The Minister is a stickler for doing things the right way.”
“Hang on,” said Sharon, “what with this ‘traditional outfit’? I’m not spending another evening in one of those canvas veils.”
“No worries, Shazza,” Norris smarmed, irritating Sharon further. “Your girl will sort you out don’t worry. She’ll know what’s needed.”
When Sharon asked Alissa what was involved the response she received was only partly reassuring. “Oh yes, of course you will be veiled,” Alissa said, “but traditional dress for a dinner is very glamorous. I will help you choose it. We must go shopping again.”
This time Sharon was careful to ensure that she was properly veiled before they left the house. She wanted no repetition of her arrest, trial and sentencing. She and Alissa made their way to the fashionable part of town and Alissa took Sharon into one of the grandest of stores. There were plenty of shops sporting the names of Western designers but, as Alissa explained, “We need a good Trisban designer for such a party. Other guests may play with mixing fashions but you should demonstrate that you embrace the Trisban culture.”
“Well, that’s fine,” said Sharon, “I can see that would be diplomatic. Just as long as I don’t end up looking like a freak.”
They were greeted by an imposing looking Trisbanian matron of ample girth and wider bosom. Alissa explained their quest and the woman disappeared to return with a range of items on hangars. “For such an event, tradition dictates clothing that presents the woman as attractive the men present. Your will wear your robe and veil to travel to wherever the dinner party is taking place but once you are there it will be usual to wear a blouse, a waistcoat and a long tight skirt,” the woman said. “Then of course a dress veil. How much do you intend to reduce?”
“I’m sorry?” Sharon was puzzled.
Alissa whispered in her ear. “She means for corseting.”
“Yes, a corset is worn underneath to reduce the waist and emphasise the breast and buttocks. Two inches or so is all a beginner would try.”
Two inches didn’t sound like much to Sharon. “Four inches,” she said to the woman.
“Really,” the matron responded with a quizzically raised eyebrow. “Very well.” And with that she disappeared in search of more items. She came back with a stiffly boned basque that was designed to run from hips to breast. “This should meet your ambitions,” she said with the air of a woman that didn’t believe Sharon had the slightest chance of reducing her waist by so much.
Alissa helped Sharon to undress and put on the corset. Sharon gasped as Alissa tightened the laces that pulled it closed but she was determined not to let either Alissa or the woman think that she couldn’t cope with a paltry four inch reduction, even though the tightness and rigidity of the corset was much more constricting than she had imagined was possible.
Eventually Alissa declared herself satisfied and fetched a white, long sleeved, high necked blouse to put on over the corset. She followed that with a waistcoat that was cut to fit tightly under Sharon’s breasts so that, in combination with the corset her bosom was heavily accentuated. Next came the skirt. It was floor length in a heavy taffeta purple material. As Sharon stepped into it, pulled it up over her hips, fastened the waist band and closed the rear zip, she found that it was cut so tightly from her waist down to her knees that she could barely move her legs. It flared out below the knees so that she could at least move her ankles. Sharon looked across at herself in the mirror.
“I can see why Trisbanian men like this look,” she said.
“That is exactly why it has proved so fashionable,” the shop assistant responded. “I would venture, Madame, that your figure does rather complement this outfit. I think you will be a great success at any event you should attend wearing it.”
Sharon smiled. She enjoyed being the centre of attention and she could quite see how this outfit would achieve that. “Provided,” she though to herself. “That I can work out a way to keep breathing in this corset.”
“And now, Madame, perhaps you would like to make your choice of veil.” The woman led Sharon, wiggling as she walked with difficulty in the tight fish tailed skirt, towards a rack holding a wide selection of colours of different clothes. “I think a matching purple would be the best choice.”
“Well,” thought Sharon, “Since I have to wear one, I might as well choose one that will really look good.” She looked at the various purple veil sets and liked a heavy purple cloth which was edged with black embroidery. In the material, she picked a long head cloth that would hang to the floor behind her. Then looking in the mirror, and after trying several, she eventually chose a short face veil that barely covered her chin. She could tell that with her long neck the short veil allowed glimpses of her neck between the top of her blouse and the bottom of the veil. She could see that the shop assistant disapproved. That was enough for Sharon, she chose it.
Even Alissa was uncomfortable with Sharon’s choice of veil. “You don’t think it’s, well, a bit risqué?” she said. “The sort of thing that a not entirely respectable woman would wear?”
I don’t care,” said Sharon defiantly. “I’m very happy if people think me ‘not entirely respectable’. Besides, Josh will love it. He got quite keen on that dreadful punishment veil, I think he’s a bit kinky for some of this.”
Alissa gave a resigned look. Sharon took off her new clothes and dressed again, greatful to be free of the rather over ambitious corset. The shop assistant packed away Sharon’s outfit, while Sharon and Alissa put on their veils before leaving the shop.
“I do hope you enjoy your evening, Madame,” the shop assistant said handing the bags of clothes to Alissa. “I’m sure you’ll be the centre of attention.”
“Suits me,” thought Sharon and the two of them headed homewards.
Chapter 8: Evening Out
Her outfit, as she had predicted, met with Josh’s complete approval. She finished dressing only just before they were due to leave. Josh was standing in the hall looking impatiently at his watch when she appeared from the bedroom.
“Wow!” he said. “That was worth waiting for! How do you get to look like that?”
“I’m just my normal beautiful self, Josh,” she smirked pleased with his response.
“Well, it’s certainly something. Let me see.” He reached out to grasp her waist and found himself gripping the stiff boning of the basque that held her in under the waistcoat and blouse. “Oh, I see! A little bit of assistance, eh?”
“It’s more than ‘A little bit of assistance’ that’s doing this,” thought Sharon. It had been a fight to get into the corset. She’d put on a pound or so since the original fitting and it had been very constrictive anyway. Alissa’ efforts had paid off though and she’d finally got it on.
“Well you look pretty cute. And that skirt is sensational.”
Norris, who was lurking in one corner of the living room looked across to where Josh and Sharon were. Sharon didn’t like the look on his face. His tongue was practically hanging out of his mouth. She liked getting the attention of men, Sharon thought, but there were limits.
There was a knock at the door. “That’ll be the car,” said Norris. “Have fun.”
Sharon shot him an acid look as she pulled on her abaya over her outfit.
“Have you got your veil, Shazza,” Josh asked. “We don’t want any more trouble do we?”
“Don’t worry,” she said, fastening the short veil that she would use once they got to the party. “There, I’ll be quite legal!”
Josh opened the door. A uniformed driver smiled at Josh, saw Sharon and gave her then Josh a puzzled look before looking back at Sharon with a leer that was a pronounced as any of Norris’s. Sharon put her niqaab and gloves on and she and Josh followed him out to the car.
The Minister’s house was not far. The drive across the centre of town took only fifteen minutes or so and soon, Josh and Sharon were climbing out in front of an imposing white stone building. Josh led the way up the steps to the portico that surrounded the front door. The Minister was waiting to greet them. Sharon took off her niqaab revealing the short veil beneath it.
“Well this is both an honour and a pleasure,” he said shaking Josh by the hand. He looked at Sharon. “And I am pleased that you managed to find a woman for the evening.”
Sharon looked affronted but her veil hid her feelings.
“For the evening?” Josh said, puzzled. “Oh, no. Well, no I’m not married but this is my partner. Sharon. I think Mr Norris would have mentioned her.”
“Of course,” said the Minister, “It was just… Well never mind. Come in. Both of you. Come in.”
One of the Ministers servants helped Sharon out of her abaya and gloves.
The Minister showed the way into a large reception hall where the rest of the guests, perhaps twenty or so members of the Trisnarch and their wives, were milling around exchanging gossip and conversation. Everything stopped as Sharon and Josh appeared.
Sharon who always enjoyed making an entrance was delighted by the response. She was pleased to note that her outfit was as fashionably tight as every other woman in the room and the cut of her skirt and waistcoat the equal of any. A number of the men came across to be introduced to Josh and Sharon. The women seemed to stay in their little clusters, talking in hushed tones and looking across every so often at the two newcomers. “Well,” thought Sharon, “I’ve put in an effort and tried to fit in. If they don’t want to talk to me it’s their misfortune.”
Eventually dinner was served. Josh and Sharon followed the others into a long dining room, the table set with a disconcerting array of cutlery. Sharon taking her lead form the other women there fastened her veil back as she took her seat. Josh was sitting beside the Minister chatting away, no doubt recounting some tale of his sporting prowess. The minister’s wife was sitting next to Sharon.
“Have you found it easy to pick up your profession since moving here?” she asked.
“Oh, I’m not working,” Sharon replied. “I have just been enjoying myself.”
“Ah,” said the Minister’s wife. “Well, it’s probably just as well. From the response you got this evening you’d have a hard job fighting them off.”
Sharon was confused but luckily the subject changed to a discussion of how exciting it was that Trisban could now attract international attention and Sharon was happy to listen to the other women around the table swapping tales of just which celebrities they thought should be encouraged to visit.
The evening went along splendidly. After the dinner Sharon was left somewhat on her own while the other women chatted together but she amused herself by looking at the antiques that the Minister had on display in cabinets around the room. “And people talk about bling today!” she thought to herself looking at some of the extravagant pieces.
It was while she was peering at an array of gold ornaments that she became aware of someone standing close behind her. Startled, she turned around to see a short dark Trisbanian man smiling at her. “Dohortiz,” he said, offering his hand. “Minister of Foreign, ah, Affairs.”
“Mister Dohortiz,” Sharon said. “How nice to meet you. I think I should wear my veil if I am talking to a man alone. Is that not the custom?”
“Yes, indeed,” Dohortiz replied. Sharon fastened her veil in place. Dohortiz gave an almost audible sigh. “Ah, well,” he said, looking over his shoulder in a rather furtive way. “I wondered if you might call me. Perhaps we could talk. On a professional basis, you understand. Here.” He slipped a business card into the pocket of Sharon’s waistcoat and looked over his shoulder again. “Ah,” he said, “my wife, excuse me,” and scuttled off as suddenly as he appeared.
A similar thing happened three of four more times, puzzling Sharon deeply but eventually Josh emerged from his discussions with the Minister, smiling and laughing. “Come on,” he said to Sharon. Its time to go.”
“Good,” she said, “I thought you’d abandoned me to the massed attentions of the Trisbanian Government.” Sharon put on her black outfit and they got into the car and headed back towards their villa. “Look,” she said, showing Josh the array of business cards that she had been left with. “They all wanted me to give them a call.”
“Well it’s a pity,” Josh said. “You could have made quite a killing.”
“What’s a pity?”
“It’s a pity you aren’t a hooker like they thought.”
“A hooker!” Sharon exclaimed. “Whatever would give them that idea? Here I am dressed in the best of Trisbanian traditional fashion. I wasn’t wearing anything different to the rest of the women there and it couldn’t have been anything I said.”
“It’s that veil,” Josh said. “The Minister explained it to me. It’s far too short to wear in decent company. You can almost see your chin. The Minister said he’d only seen one like it in two places – the Trisban red light district and the boudoir of his mistress! That’s why you were such a success with the men and why the women were little cool towards you.”
Sharon felt humiliated. Now she understood the looks of the other women and the remarks of the Minister’s wife; not to mention the lascivious behaviour of all of the men that had spoken to her that evening.
“Don’t worry, the Minister was amused. He’ll straighten things out and he’ll get his wife to talk to the other women too. They know it wasn’t your fault really.”
“Well,” Sharon said, a little bit remorseful remembering that both Alissa and the shop assistant had suggested that she wore a different veil. “I’m sorry the evening was such a disaster.”
“Oh no, not at all,” said Josh. “It was quite a success. The Minister wants me to do that job as Trisban’s ambassador for entrepreneurialism in school. What’s more he wants me to help with Trisban’s international contacts. We’re off on a ministerial jolly.”
“Ace,” said Sharon. “I think I’ve had enough of this place for a while. I could do with a change of scene. Where’s this trip to?”
“Ah,” said Josh, “it’s a bit further east. It will be interesting. Place called Vippon.”
“Great,” said Sharon. “Anywhere has to be an improvement on Trisban.” She’d had enough of its very strange customs.
Acknowledgements: Many thanks to Bo_Emp and GhostWriter at Tales of the Veils for technical advice and editing on this tale.
Copyright: Freddie Clegg © 2008
All rights reserved.
All Characters, Events & Locations Fictitious
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