A New Job (Part Five)
by Nye North
This is a continuation of ‘A New Job (Part Four)’, and the conclusion of the story of Marion Collins, who, upon acceptance of a job with London and Provincial Merchant Bank, is told by the bank’s owner, the Prince of a small but oil rich Arabian nation and known simply as ‘His Royal Highness’, that one of the contracts conditions is that she is required to wear a uniform. This uniform is far from what she expected. Marion’s career and personal lives are gradually interwoven as His Royal Highness continues to upgrade the ‘uniform’ she now wears and it becomes ever more confining and restrictive as each month passes by.
During those first few days at her new home Marion felt very relaxed. She spent most evenings in CA’s company in his part of the house, only returning to her own area at bed time. She found the less aggressive Zimba better company than Rachel, her most annoying aspect being to keep referring to her as Miss or Miss Collins. Marion knew that being called Mr. Lescott or Sir annoyed him just as much. Whether it was just being more relaxed or becoming more familiar with the way she was dressed, Marion felt more comfortable in that part of her life as well. She was slowly becoming used to having to continually walk and balance on her toes, getting used to the shortage of breath caused by the ever tightening corset and the thicker veils. Taking the tiny paces forced by the hobbling effect of her skirt had become second nature, as had her reduced vision. CA was also happy with Zimba. With her acting as cleaning lady while the pair were at work the house had never been so clean.
At work she was finding her new position with the bank less taxing than her previous one, guessing that the position had been specially created for her by His Royal Highness, because in reality, much of the work could easily be carried out by a junior earning much less than she did, especially after her little ploy for additional salary to continue with the bank seemed to have worked. On the first day at work after she had moved to Lescott’s home and the new ‘rules’ came into being, Miss Halliday was told that she no longer needed to pull the outer veil over Marion’s eyes providing he, Mr. Lescott, was the only male present.
Marion was sitting outside of the conservatory relaxing and enjoying watching CA mess about in the garden on Saturday morning when Zimba approached her. “Excuse me Miss Collins but it is time to get you changed.” Marion was confused. Changed? She never changed. Once dressed that was it for the day. CA had overheard the request. “Yes sorry Marion. I forgot to let you know of this. We are going out later and you are to wear another outfit. With Zimba’s agreement it was decided to leave the change of outfit until as late as possible.” Still confused she rose and followed her maid back to her own quarters. Zimba stripped Marion down until she wore only her corset, neck brace, stockings and gloves. The outfit hanging on the rack was familiar. At least it looked like the silver one she had worn to the races. “I understand you have worn this outfit before” Zimba said. Marion could do little to reply so just remained still. “And you wore it with the arms held in the number three position. Today I have been told the arms are to be in the number two position. Shall we get started?”
Marion waited while Zimba prepared the outfit. Finally she held up the piece that resembled a coat. Marion slipped her arms into the sleeves and recalled that the sleeves ended in mittens that she had to force her hands into Zimba pulled hard on the front of the ‘coat’ to get the zip fastened. She then walked behind Marion and took hold of her left arm which she gently eased behind her and attached a two inch wide cuff around the wrist. The same thing was done with the right arm, leaving Marion with her arms folded across her back. Zimba took hold of a circle of metal which she lowered over Marion’s head until it rested on her shoulders, checking that the two short lengths of chain hanging down the back were not twisted. Taking hold of Marion’s right forearm Zimba slowly lifted it towards her left shoulder blade until it was high enough to attach one of the chains to the cuff on the wrist. The action was repeated on the left arm until it was held at the right shoulder blade. Marion first reaction was to try and lower her arms. This being unsuccessful she tried to wriggle her shoulders, the position her arms were in was not painful but was uncomfortable.
Marion shuddered on hearing the click as Zimba engaged the locks holding the chains and cuffs together. She tested how much movement was permitted. Without any warning and millimeter by millimeter, Marion felt her arms being pulled a little higher. “I think that is about as high as I can get them without causing undue pain” Zimba told her “You are unable to lower your arms and I must tell you though that if you attempt to relieve the pressure by pushing your arms upwards too far the ratchets at the top of the chains will take up the slack and hold your arms in the higher position.” Marion wanted to plead to be released but knew that it was not possible, she was unable to speak and yet again use of her hands was denied her. Zimba reached to Marion’s sides and pulled a two inch wide strap around her at the waist then buckled the strap tightly, having looped the strap over both arms just above the elbows then threading it beneath the forearms. Zimba then took a metal device which she used to lock both wrists together. “I expect you remember that the time locks cannot be set for less than twelve hours?”
Zimba fetched the next piece of the outfit and fitted it in the same manner as Marion recalled Rachel doing last time she had worn it. As had happened last time Zimba lifted the piece of material hanging down and pulled it upward and outward, once again enclosing Marion’s head inside the hood and added the time locks. A further trip to the bed saw Zimba return carrying the abaya that Marion knew came next. Although she could not recall exactly the feel of the abaya the first time she wore it, this felt thicker and heavier than previously. Zimba made another trip to the bed. A final trip to the bed had Zimba fitting the niqab. “There you go Miss” Zimba intoned “All ready for your trip out. I’ll go and inform Mr. Lescott you are ready.” Marion was a little confused as normally she knew of any arrangements. Zimba returned from CA’s part of the house. “I am to take you to Sir while I prepare myself” she told Marion “There are about thirty minutes before the transport arrives.”
Sitting alone and rather uncomfortably due to the positioning of her arms in the conservatory Marion again wondered what was going on. It was some twenty minutes later before CA appeared dressed, for him at least, very casually in T-shirt and jeans. Marion tried to indicate that she wanted to know what was going on, but as she was becoming accustomed to, no reaction was forthcoming due to the fact that her movements were almost negligible. “I like you in that get-up” CA told her “I hope your arms are suitably confined?” he added, walking over and running his hands across the back of her waist. He looked at her with a mystified grin “Where are your arms?” he questioned, not feeling them tied across her back. She tried to wiggle her fingers or move her arms to show him. After a little searching he found where her arms were confined. “Oh” he exclaimed upon his discovery “I guess that you will find that placement much more stressful than the previous one.” She wanted to scream at him that she was already feeling the strain and that it would get worse if she tried to relieve the stress.
A knock at the door indicated that the car had arrived. Zimba, now suitably gagged and dressed herself, helped Marion to the car, the chauffeur assisting her to get Marion seated as comfortably as possible. Once settled Marion realized that she and CA were not alone. Seated beside CA was a man in full Arabian robes and from what she could see from her limited vision, a woman seated alongside herself on the other rearward facing jump seat. “Marion. This is His Royal Highness’s youngest brother Prince Farook and his first wife.” The Prince barely looked in her direction and she noticed that the wife’s name was not even mentioned. Marion’s main concern was their destination as it was unusual for CA not to let her know where they were headed.
The journey dragged on. From her view through the rear window of the car Marion could tell they had left London behind. At last the car came to a halt. She was surprised when Zimba assisted her from the car, she had no idea her new maid had made the journey. As she stood patiently beside CA she saw Zimba and the chauffeur helping the Prince’s wife from the car. From what she could see they appeared to be at some kind of airport, albeit a small one. Marion found that her thoughts were correct as she was walked towards an airplane still inside the hangar they had arrived at. She knew that climbing the steps in her skirt at the plane’s door was out of the question and wondered how she was to get aboard if that was indeed her destination. The problem was solved when a forklift with a special cage on the front was used to lift all five of them up to the rear door of the aircraft, CA steadying her as she had no use of her arms to hold on to the support bars around the cage.
Inside the plane was like a palace. After she had seen the wife safely strapped in Marion was assisted to her seat by Zimba. The seat, more an armchair Marion thought, she discovered that the rear of the seat had a special cutout for her folded arms to lie in, which made her feel a little more comfortable. The warning from her maid about what might happen if she moved her arms too much had Marion rather scared to try and relieve the ache that had set into her arms and shoulders. The flight to wherever they were headed was not very long and before Marion realized they were on the ground. They exited through a jetway and Marion found that she was inside an airport terminal. For some reason she found herself automatically falling into step alongside Prince Farook’s wife a couple of paces behind CA. As they exited the building Marion caught sight of a sign saying ‘Welcome to Belfast’, immediately wondering what was in Belfast that they wanted to see or do. A car delivered them to a hotel, Marion finding she was to share a room with Zimba.
Not knowing what she was supposed to do Marion waited for instructions. At six-thirty the telephone rang and was immediately answered by Zimba, who indicated that Marion should prepare to leave. It was only at this point that Marion realized that Zimba was still wearing her gag. Marion, CA, the Prince and his wife went down to the restaurant where the men enjoyed a meal while the women could only jealously watch. The meal finished the four headed to the hotel lobby where the chauffeur was waiting. Another short drive and the car stopped outside of a stadium and the four alighted. A security escort was waiting and led them to their seats. It was only now that Marion understood what was going on. They were seated in one of a number of special stage-side boxes and Marion saw the sign behind the stage ‘The Champions’. So that was it. CA had purchased tickets to see his old schoolmates play.
He leaned across and spoke in her ear. “Sorry about the deception. I wanted it to be a surprise” he told her. “Couldn’t get tickets to the London or Birmingham shows. The Prince here helped out by somehow obtaining these complimentary stage-side seats.” As the band strolled onto the stage Marion’s reflex action to join in the applause caused her a problem. As she went to move her arms she felt rather than heard the chains ratchet upwards, giving her momentary additional pain. It gave her an instant reminder that any ladies living under the terms of His Royal Highness’s patronage were not permitted any input into normal activities but had to remain passive and serene at all times no matter what was going on around them. Unable to clap along with the beat Marion found she was listening to the words and, as best she could through her veils, watching the singer strut his stuff.
The show over Lescott rose to leave. “Might be best for the comfort and safety of the ladies to wait until the crowd has left” the Prince suggested, to which he agreed. A few minutes later the curtain at the back of the box parted and the members of the band stepped inside. “A little surprise for you” the smiling Prince told Lescott “I arranged for you to meet your old school chums.” CA was flabbergasted. He finally recovered enough to introduce the Prince and his partner as well as Marion. Conversation was a little stunted to begin with but once the initial shyness was overcome the band and CA began to recall old times. The Prince excused himself, telling CA that he would personally see Marion back to the hotel and settled with Zimba. Marion was not too happy at the arrangement, she wanted to stay and find out CA’s little secrets should any be revealed.
On their arrival at the hotel the Prince escorted Marion into the foyer where he spoke to the girl manning the reception desk, asking her to phone Miss Collins’s maid and let her know her mistress was in reception. When Zimba stepped from the elevator the Prince walked over and spoke to her. At the end of the short conversation Zimba bowed before escorting Marion to her room. In the room Marion eagerly waited for Zimba to remove the abaya and release her arms, an action that did not occur. As best she could, by turning her back as an indication, Marion indicated that she wanted her arms freed. Zimba picked up on the action, telling Marion “I am sorry Miss but the Prince ordered me not to undress you in any way until instructed by Mr. Lescott.” Marion’s shoulders ached terribly and she wanted release but realized there was very little she could do to rectify the situation, if Zimba had been given an instruction there was no way she would ignore or vary from what she had been told. One of the things that was annoying to Marion was that as the Prince assisted her from the stadium he did so by holding her elbow, pushing it upward, causing the chain to ratchet up a couple more notches, an action Marion got the impression was far from accidental.
Marion could do little but wait. She was seated on the edge of a straight-backed wooden chair, careful not to press her numb arms against the back, scared that the slightest movement would result in her moving her arms even further up her back. It was some three hours later that the door to the room slowly swung open and CA appeared, the look on his face giving the impression he had been drinking alcohol. On seeing Marion he asked “What are you doing here? And still fully dressed?” He felt rather stupid upon remembering that she was unable to answer. Zimba entered from the adjoining room, bowing to him. She must have heard his question because she immediately said “Miss Collins is still dressed on the orders of the Prince. He told me I was not to remove any of her clothing until instructed by you to do so.” Slurring his words CA told her “You had better do so right now.” Having escorted Marion to the other room Zimba removed the niqab and abaya. “I am surprised at how much further up your back you managed to get your arms” she informed her mistress.
Marion and CA both rose late, albeit in their separate rooms. Zimba assisted Marion with her morning ablutions then began the dressing procedure. Apologetically Zimba informed Marion “I’m sorry Miss but my instructions are that your arms must be fixed to the same position they reached yesterday.” Beneath the hood covering her head tears leaked from Marion’s eyes as her maid obeyed her instructions, instructions she knew that neither CA nor Zimba would be willing to override as they would have originally come from His Royal Highness. Fully dressed in the same outfit as yesterday Marion went to sit with her boss while he ate breakfast. “I think I drank too much last night” he exclaimed “And I am sorry that if by being so late I caused you any suffering.” Marion walked to his side and rubbed her hip against him, hoping her action revealed to him that she in no way held him responsible. The small smile that appeared on his lips gave her assurance that her action had been understood.
“Our return flight is scheduled for five o’clock this afternoon” he told Marion “Do you want to have a quick look around the city while we wait?” he asked. The only way she could think to answer was to bob a small curtsey. “I like that” he said, a broad grin on his face “Finally you are showing the correct manner of servitude to your Master. I take it that is a yes?” Marion performed a deeper curtsey in response. Outside the hotel Marion guessed that it was more to clear his hangover than his wish to see the sights that had made CA suggest they go for a walk. With her arms pinned behind her she struggled to stay balanced on her toes, glad of his arm around her waist, although she prayed he did not push up on her arms. As CA was very subdued it was a quiet time as Marion attempted to see where they were going through the heavy layers of veiling being in public meant she had to have in place. They did little more than walk around a couple of blocks of the city before returning to the hotel, of which Marion was in many ways grateful as walking too great a distance placed enormous strain on her calves and ankles.
The flight home was uneventful apart from CA confronting the Prince about leaving Marion fully clothed. As soon as they entered the house CA had Zimba take Marion to her quarters and release her arms and change her clothes, with orders to bring her upstairs when this had been done. They sat on two wooden chairs that he had placed side-by-side and talked while music played in the background. Marion wanted to tell him to stop apologizing for the way she had been forced to spend most of the weekend, she knew it was not his fault, but without a computer she could not tell him so, tapping his thigh in the hope he got the message that she understood.
Marion was glad when Monday came. At least with it being a work day she knew how she would be dressed. As was now normal she was accompanied to work by her boss. One of the first things that happened once she was settled behind her desk, computer booted-up ready for work, was that Miss Halliday came into Marion’s office. “How do you cope with these corsets?” she enquired “I think mine is tighter than on Friday. I can scarcely breathe.” ‘You never really get used to them, you just make the best of the situation’ Marion typed in reply. “I think you may have been right in what you told me earlier” the secretary continued. ‘Why what’s happened?’ Marion typed. “Well on Saturday a new outfit was delivered to my home, the one I am wearing. As I said the corset feels smaller in the waist, the heels on my boots are definitely at least an inch higher and it has an additional petticoat that is tight about my legs and makes me walk with small steps” she was told. ‘I feared something like that might happen’ Marion added to the wording on the monitor.
Lescott and Marion went to their usual spot for lunch. “I understand Miss Halliday is not exactly happy with her new outfit” he said as they sat down on the wall after placing the piece of plastic for her to sit on. Marion tapped his leg for the ‘no’ signal. “In that case, from my understanding at least, most of the female staff will not be happy soon. HRH intends to outfit all the females with the same style outfit.”
To Marion’s chagrin, all too soon it was time to visit Mr. Sadiq again. CA took both her and Zimba in his car. Once again, upon arrival at Mr. Sadiq’s, Marion was divested of her clothing until she wore only catsuit, gloves, stockings and boots. She always found this annoying and a little confusing. If it was known she needed to be stripped, why have Zimba spend up to ninety minutes fully dressing her. She wondered for the umpteenth time why she was not just dressed in the abaya and niqab for the journey. Fatima carried over the first item. Marion could see that it was her latest corset but it looked different from those she had always been fitted with before. As expected it was smaller in the waist, crushing her even further, with the bad news being that Zimba announced there was allowance for a further two inches of reduction. The corset was followed by what Marion thought of as the neck brace even though Fatima called it a collar. She was sure this new one was taller than the one recently removed as it seemed to force her chin higher and her neck felt as if it was stretched further.
So busy was Marion on concentrating on her neck that she barely felt one of the women take hold of her left wrist and pull it behind her. It was only when the stretching of the muscles in her shoulder became known that she realized. She tried as hard as she could to wrench her arm free of the grip but the shortness of breath caused by the corset and lack of balance due to standing on tiptoe prevented her getting any leverage. Marion continued to fight against whoever was holding her wrist as it felt as if something was being attached to the back of the corset. As she felt her fingers being straightened and spread realization dawned on what was about to happen but she was too late, straps gripped her fingers, wrist and elbow and were tightened too much to allow her to pull her arm free. The pouch that had been attached to the rear of the corset was slowly laced shut, trapping Marion’s arm high on her back, slightly above her right shoulder blade.
She realized that the intention was to leave her arm in this position when Fatima carried over the new dress and Marion saw it had only one arm. Fatima and Zimba helped her into the dress which was followed by a matching jacket. It was only upon seeing her reflection in the mirror after the abaya and niqab had been placed on her that Marion could see that nobody would be aware of the fact that she had the use of only one arm. Escorted back into the presence of CA and Mr. Sadiq, Marion moved to stand beside her boss. CA turned to face Sadiq “From the outward appearance, as usual, she looks exactly the same. What changes have been made to her attire?” he asked him. Mr. Sadiq shrugged his shoulders and looked at Fatima. Shyly Fatima replied. “Miss Collins has been fitted with a new corset designed to further reduce her waist size. She has also been fitted with a taller, sturdier neck brace Sir.” “Is that all?” CA enquired rather curiously, that seeming very little compared to usual.
“No Sir” Fatima continued “Miss Collins has had . . . er . . .umm . . .she has had . . .er . . ..” “Come on girl. Out with it” CA demanded of the spluttering woman. Nervously Fatima told him “It is a special corset Sir. It . . . well . . . it . . . the best way I can put it Sir is that it denies Miss Collins the use of one of her arms.” It took Fatima a few more spluttering attempts to tell him of how Marion’s left arm was trapped by the corset. “That’s unbelievable” CA finally roared “I’ll have words with His Highness about this. It’s monstrous. How’s she supposed to work?” Without thinking of the condition of the two women, a very irate Lescott stormed from the shop, leaving both Zimba and especially the hobble-skirted Marion, trailing in his wake. As they drove home Marion guessed that from his aggressive manner, doing something he rarely did, abusing both motorists and pedestrians, that he was seriously upset by what Fatima had told him in the shop. On their arrival home Marion was escorted, not as she expected to CA’s part of the house, but to her own quarters.
Left to her own devices Marion decided to read the morning paper. She instantly realized she had a problem. With only her right arm free she found it impossible to hold the paper in such a way so that it did not crease in the middle. She took the paper across to the table and laid it flat but found she could still not read it as the stiff collar she wore prevented her looking down far enough to see what she was looking at. In disgust she threw the paper on the floor. Zimba had watched her efforts and came across the room, wiggled her finger at Marion in a ‘don’t be a naughty girl manner’ and picked up the paper. A few minutes later Zimba had rigged up a ‘reading table’ for Marion. She had placed a large tray propped up at an angle by a breeze block that was used to keep the rear door open on the table in front of Marion and placed the paper on the tray. Providing Marion kept her hand on the paper to stop it slipping the idea worked a treat.
By early afternoon CA’s temper had subsided and he invited Marion into his part of the house. Once she was there he apologized for his actions, telling her he should not take out his frustration at the actions of HRH on her. The only way Marion could think of telling him he was forgiven was by patting his thigh as they sat side-by-side on the settee. The pair spent the rest of the day together, spending the evening watching television, although for Marion it was still a bit of a trial peering through two layers of gauze-like fabric, his arm around her shoulders while they watched. As Sunday began with bright sunshine they decided to spend the day at Kew Gardens. Even though Marion could see very little through the multiple layers in front of her eyes and her boots made walking any distance painful to her toes, she was happy to be out of doors and in the company of the man she was sure she was falling in love with. For his part, CA gave Marion a commentary of the flowers and trees as they strolled around the grounds.
On Monday morning, as early as he felt it wise to do so, Mr. Lescott telephoned His Royal Highness. He was only able to reach an aide who promised to pass on the message that he wished to speak with His Highness on a serious matter as soon as possible. He then had to wait until mid-afternoon before the aide phoned to say that His Highness was on the phone waiting to speak with him. With his anger having increased at being kept waiting so long Lescott had a job to keep his temper in check. His mood was not helped when after he had explained his reason for calling he was told by His Highness “This is far too complicated to talk about over the phone. I will have someone call you tomorrow to let you know when I am available to meet with you at the bank.”
Marion meantime struggled along as best she was able, learning to type one-handed being one of her main difficulties. CA checked on her several times throughout the day and Miss Halliday also kept an eye on her and assisted her when necessary. The meeting, when it happened late on the Tuesday afternoon, HRH did not arrive until almost four o’clock, quickly became rather heated with CA fighting to keep himself under control. His Highness told CA that he would think about what had been said, calling a further meeting for Friday afternoon. Unaware of what had occurred as CA did not want her to get upset at his arguing on her behalf, Marion struggled on through the week.
His Royal Highness arrived at the bank at eleven o’clock on the Friday and immediately called CA to the boardroom. The meeting was again private, no secretarial staff present. His Highness got straight down to business and told CA of his decision. Lescott began to speak but His Highness cut him short. “The matter is not up for discussion” Lescott was told. “There are only the two choices I have just told you of.” It took many minutes for Marion to make her way to the boardroom after she was ordered to do so. Once there and seated with the two lights in front of her as at previous meetings since she had been gagged His Highness wasted no time in telling her of what was going on. “Miss Collins. Mr. Lescott informs me you are not happy with the way you are dressed. Is that correct?” Marion hits the button to turn on the red light. His Highness turns and looks at Lescott. “That is not what I said Sir” Lescott told him “I told you I was not happy with the way Miss Collins’s clothing is hampering her ability to work.”
His Highness continued as if Lescott had not spoken. “We” as he indicated himself and Mr. Lescott “Had a meeting on this subject earlier in the week and, as I have just informed him, there are only two choices and these are not up for discussion. One or the other has to be accepted by you.” Marion listened as His Highness told her the choices facing her. She was a little upset that her boss had taken matters this far without consulting her, but it seemed there was nothing she could do about it. His Highness began “The first choice is that you fulfill the contract you signed and follow my ‘experiment’ through to the end. From what Mr. Lescott tells me and from what plans I had to alter your outfit over the next months, it seems that to do this would mean that you could no longer function at all, but I am intrigued to know how the final result would work out.” Marion took in a deep a breath as the corset allowed and blew it out sharply through her nose, wondering as she did just what was being planned for her future.
“The other choice is that, apart from your waist remaining at its present size and your veiling staying at its present levels, you revert to how you were dressed at the beginning of this contract. I must however point out that if you make this choice a new contract will be drawn up for a period of two years with your remuneration reverting back to what it was during the course of the contract you signed upon joining the bank.” His Highness paused then continued “I do not expect an answer now. Miss Collins. We will meet again on Monday morning, giving you the weekend to consider the offers made to you.” With those words he declared the meeting closed, rose and left the room without another word. CA and Marion looked at each other for a moment before CA escorted her back to her office where he instructed Miss Halliday to adjust Marion’s veils as appropriate.
Over the weekend CA and Marion discussed the offers. At first Marion indicated she was very upset that her boss had spoken to HRH without consulting her, telling him she was quite capable of fighting her own battles. His response had been “I just didn’t like to watch you struggle to do your job.” She thanked him for his concern. By Sunday afternoon they seemed have come to an agreement as to which choice Marion would take. The meeting did not take place until late Monday afternoon due to His Highness having another meeting to attend. With Mr. Lescott and Marion present he very formally called the meeting to order. “There is only one matter on the agenda of today’s meeting” he unnecessarily informed the other two present “That is to find out whether Miss Collins wishes to fulfill her current contract or sign a different one yet to be drawn up.” Marion could see that CA wanted His Highness to get on with things but he continued speaking “Miss Collins. As you can see, on the table in front of you are two light bulbs, one green the other red. You will use one of these to indicate which course you wish to take. Is that clear? The red bulb indicates no, the green indicates yes.” Marion reached forward and pressed the button connected to the green bulb. “Miss Collins. I will now ask you the pertinent question. Do you wish to fulfill your present contract or sign another yet to be drawn up?”
She watched as her boss sitting opposite wriggled in his seat. Marion sat quite still staring straight across the table. She slowly moved her hand towards first towards the button connected to the green bulb then to the red, enjoying the moment while the men waited for her decision. She slid her finger onto the top of the red button then moved back to the green. Hesitating for a moment she pressed her finger down and watched the green bulb light up. There was a sigh of relief from His Royal Highness and almost simultaneously Mr. Lescott spluttered “But . . . but I thought . . ..” “Thought what?” His Highness asked. “Nothing Sir” Lescott sheepishly replied. His Royal Highness rose from his chair and departed the boardroom without another word. Upon returning to Marion’s office an obviously rather angry CA said to her “I thought we had agreed that you would not be continuing with this ‘experiment’” with emphasis on the word experiment. Marion sat down at her computer ‘We had. If you recall my finger was right over the red button moments before I pressed the green one. It was a spontaneous reaction and I took a woman’s prerogative to change her mind. I was suddenly curious to find out what His Royal Highness has in mind for me’.
The next weeks were hard for Marion as she attempted to work and also not worry too much about what her future might hold. Eventually the fateful Saturday came, the day she had to pay another visit to Mr. Sadiq’s shop. She was stripped down to bare skin by Zimba and Fatima then, in a variation to the usual routine, a lotion was rubbed over her entire body before she was dressed in a fresh catsuit, stockings, gloves and her boots replaced, her left arm hanging rather uselessly at her side. Marion watched as Fatima carried over what was obviously a corset, but this one appeared far more substantial than those she had worn previously. The corset was placed around her torso, held in place by Zimba, and did indeed feel far heavier than the corset recently removed. She felt the corset begin to tighten and automatically pulled in her stomach as far as she could, as well as breathing in the manner she knew was required.
When the corset had reduced her waist to the designated size Marion felt the laces being tied off. Zimba lifted her unresponsive left arm and folded it up behind her, pulling it a little higher than had been its earlier position and slid the arm inside a sheath on the corset. As she felt hands on her right arm begin to pull it behind her Marion panicked and attempted to fight against Zimba’s pull, a fight which proved useless as the maids superior strength combined with Marion’s shortness of breath and inability to get any purchase as she balanced on her toes. With Fatima’s assistance Zimba soon had Marion’s right arm enclosed in its own sheath. The two women now pulled flaps attached to each side of the corset across Marion’s back and began the process of lacing it closed over her arms. Marion was in such a state of shock at what had happened that it barely registered in her brain that the neck brace had been fitted along with blouse, skirt and jacket. The sleeveless, back-buttoned blouse and jacket were cut to show the minimum amount of bulge where her arms lay, the skirt designed to again keep her steps to no more than a few inches in length.
The only thoughts running through Marion’s head as the special armless abaya and niqab were fitted were asking herself how she was supposed to work without the use of both arms. She had found it difficult enough with the use of only her right arm, but without both she could not figure out how she could do anything. It suddenly crossed her mind that this might be His Royal Highness’s intention. He was going to have her live with him as one of his concubines. Before she realized it Marion was back in the shop standing facing her boss, Fatima supporting her by holding gently at the waist. As she fought to remain on her feet Marion found that without the use of even one arm to help with her balance she had to do the dreaded and embarrassing toe-shoe shuffle more quickly. The general message she received from listening to Mr. Sadiq’s broken English explanation to CA was that from this time forward she would need to be chaperoned on an almost constant basis as without the use of her arms, balance would be a major factor, even rising from a chair without assistance might prove impossible, emphasizing the point that she was unable to do even the simplest tasks for herself.
With Zimba having an arm around her waist Marion was led from the shop towards where CA had parked the car, the two hundred yard distance seeming to be many miles for her as she teetered along on her toes. “I think we’ll head straight for home” CA told her once they were in the car. Unable to communicate in any way Marion had little option but to go where he, or anyone else she realized, might take her. The enormity of her position quickly became apparent when she tried to read the newspaper, there was no way she could turn the page and no way to ask Zimba to help her. The evening was the same. She was seated beside CA watching television, absolutely reliant on him for the smallest need. Marion spent a mostly lonely weekend all the time wondering what Monday morning and work was going to bring.
The fateful day came around and CA treated her very thoughtfully as he escorted her to the bank. He led Marion straight to her office and told her to wait until his return. She was a little confused and concerned that he left her fully veiled as he usually removed the outer layer. Unable to do anything but wait patiently Marion remained in her chair. Some time later she thought she heard movement in the outer office which meant that her secretary had arrived so it must be close to nine o’clock. To Marion’s surprise her secretary did not come into her office as she normally did to remind Marion of the day’s schedule. Time passed slowly and Marion had no way of telling how long she was left alone in her office. The first she knew of somebody having entered was when the light changed as a shadow fell across her. She looked around as best she could to see her boss and another man she thought she recognized standing beside him. “You remember Nathan O’Brien?” CA asked. Marion tried to respond but any response she may have made by the attempted nod of her head was lost due to the all-covering niqab. “Hello Miss Collins” Nathan said “It’s nice to see you again.” “Nathan is here to teach you how to use the computer without the use of your hands” she was informed “I’ll leave you alone to get on with it” CA said as he turned to leave the office. “It might be best if Miss Halliday was present for a short time” Nathan said quickly “There are a few things she will need to know.”
After the boss had left the office Nathan spoke to Marion. “Miss Collins. I Understand from Mr. Lescott that you have temporarily lost the use of your arms and hands.” Marion thought this an understatement but wondered if it meant that having her arms behind her back was indeed a temporary thing. “I have been engaged to teach you a way to use your computer without the use of hands and arms, being the system devised for use by amputees and paralyzed people.” From his briefcase Nathan extracted a circle of metal that had a second piece of metal several inches in length with a rubber tip attached to it. “For want of a better description this is called a ‘pointer’” Nathan explained to Marion and Miss Halliday. “The circular part goes around your forehead like this” he said as he placed the circle in position, ensuring that the secretary knew how to fit it. “As you are heavily veiled I hope can see the ‘pointer’ that should now extend into your field of vision” he added. Marion tried to let Nathan know that she could indeed just about make out the strip of metal.
Following instruction Marion tried to tap the rubber tip against the keys but found the restrictive corset did not allow her to bend forward far enough. “Not to worry” Nathan told her “I have something in the van outside that will overcome this problem. Just wait a few minutes while I go and fetch it.” He came back carrying a thin metal frame. Picking up the keyboard he slid it into slots on the edges of the frame so that it sat at a slight angle several inches above the top of the desk. He then picked up the slim-line monitor and did the same thing so that it was positioned above the keyboard. “You should be able to reach the keys now” he said to Marion “And also keep an eye on the monitor.” She tried again and found that she could reach the keyboard without the need to bend forward. Nathan now began the process of teaching Marion how to use the Windows program he called ‘sticky keys’, explaining that this enabled the keyboard to be used without the need to depress more than one key at a time. By days end Marion was exhausted and she still had not fully mastered the new program.
As Nathan had spent nearly all day with Marion, CA had no idea as to her progress learning the new program. After his evening meal he had her explain to him how her day had gone. One point she did discover when sitting at the computer was that it was easier to work with the outermost veil lifted. The thing that did not change was how awkward she felt trying to use the pointer. It seemed to take forever to position the pointer over the required key, even finding the key took a few moments even though she knew the keyboard layout by heart. When the pointer had been placed on the key Marion had to jerk her head forward as much as the neck brace permitted to depress the key. Her mood was not helped by CA’s continual comments as he tried to keep the situation light-hearted.
At work the next day the program gradually became easier for Marion to use especially with the outer layer of veils lifted. The secretary entered the office. “Miss Collins. Mr. O’Brien is here to see you” she announced, walking over to put the outer veil in place as was required when a male was present. Nathan basically wanted to know how Marion was coping and whether she had any further questions to ask. She slowly pecked away at the keyboard until her was able to read the message that told him she was just about managing and that she did not have any further questions. “Don’t try and rush things” Nathan advised “Take it easy and you will find it a lot less frustrating and difficult to handle. You will be surprised later at how quickly you can type.” ‘Thank you for your confidence’ Marion managed to type after many attempts to get it correct.
She was relieved when Nathan finally departed the office and Miss Halliday came and lifted the outer veil. Permitted slightly more vision made typing a lot easier she soon discovered. Time alone with CA she found hard to handle if there was no computer available as it meant she could not converse with him even by their leg-tapping method. Without any luck Marion tried various ways but all proved too difficult to achieve with any regularity. She became used to the strange looks received whenever she and CA were out in public and guessed that these looks were mainly bought about by her strange toe-prancing gait.
After two weeks without the use of her hands and arms Marion noticed that it no longer worried her that she needed assistance to do every tiny task, even sitting in or rising from a chair required help and even if standing still it usually needed a hand against her if she was not to fall over from loss of balance. Walking was impossible without a hand around her waist and she felt important at needing a maid for such simple things. Marion slowly began to understand how life must be for the females of the Royal family. They were even more stringently controlled than she was.
Yet another month had slid past, it was time for Marion to undergo the latest, and according to His Royal Highness, the final upgrade as determined by him under the terms of her contract. This was to happen not on a Saturday morning as it normally did, but late on a Friday afternoon with herself and CA being told to take the afternoon off work. Also as a departure from the normal routine they were not to report to Mr. Sadiq’s shop, but to an address they had been given, which research on the internet to find out where it was by CA, had revealed was some kind of clinic, which both found highly confusing. On arrival at the clinic the mystery deepened when Marion, CA and Zimba discovered the office number they were to report to was part of audiology.
A very nervous Marion entered the part of the office that appeared to be some kind of surgery. She was dying to ask what was going on but the gag prevented her from doing so. CA had been escorted into another room at the time she was taken into this new area. A hijab wearing female entered the room from another door, introducing herself as Yasmin Hebab. “I shall be performing today’s operation” she told Marion. At hearing the word ‘operation’ Marion’s heart almost beat from her chest until Yasmin added “It is a non-intrusive operation and requires no anesthetic.” Even more confused as to what was going on and having no way to ask, Marion sat in the chair indicated by Yasmin. Zimba was directed to remove Marion’s head coverings then leave the room and go to another room where she would be attended to. Yasmin placed headphones over Marion’s ears and turned on a tape. Marion heard the voice of His Royal Highness, the message telling her what was to be done at this final stage of her contract changes. She panicked. One part of her mind told her to leave immediately while another part wanted to know what it would be like once this operation had been performed.
While Yasmin was performing the task she had to do, CA was in another room receiving instruction. “These plugs will completely fill your ear canals and cut out just about all sound” Marion was informed by Yasmin “But they do however contain tiny radio receivers that will permit those with permission to speak to you.” Thirty minutes later the now again fully veiled Marion sat in utter silence. She was happy to see CA enter the room and rose from the chair to greet him, watching as he took a small device that looked like some kind of remote control from his jacket pocket. When standing alongside her he pressed the button on the device and a screech of sound assaulted her ears. The screech lasted only moments before she heard his voice. “I understand that HRH has spoken to you by recorded message. I also had a message from him. From a personal point of view I am not happy about what has been done, but as you indicated some months ago that you wished to see things through to the bitter end, there is little I can do about what has occurred.”
Marion listened carefully as CA explained how he understood the device to work. She had to do this to fully understand herself, as when His Highness’s message was delivered she was in such a shock after the first few words the rest were lost on her. “Can you hear me?” CA asked Marion. The only way she could think of responding was by bending her whole torso forward from the hips. CA must have understood her action as he said “Okay. From what I was told and if I understand correctly, you can hear no sounds except for my voice and at work that of Miss Halliday, and only then providing we have our remote turned on and are no further away than five feet. If the remote is on while we are further away than that distance you will only hear static.” Marion was shocked at what she was hearing, she had been mute and virtually blind while in public for many months and now had her hearing taken away from her.
She remained seated in the chair. CA had turned off the sound after telling her that he needed to go and check on Zimba who was in another room. Marion wondered what was being done to her maid, was she being deafened as well. Her thoughts turned to things she recalled being told by His Highness many months ago, during the period of her first contract, that some of the females in the Royal household spent their lives completely deafened to the world around them, glad at that moment that she had not been treated the same way, at least she was to be permitted limited hearing. As Marion waited her thoughts drifted. She tried to recall exactly how long was it since she was permitted to utter a sound. It had been many, many months she thought, probably close to a year. Would she ever be able to wear shoes that did not keep her on her toes again? Then there were thoughts of taking an unhindered stride, a step of more than a few inches.
Marion suddenly realized that CA was standing beside her. The sound she waited to hear, the click as he turned on her hearing came then his voice. “We are ready to leave now” she was told. “In case you are wondering Zimba has been fitted with a gag the same as yours” he added. Now she knew. That statement also answered something else she had wondered about, which was why Zimba’s voice was not among those she would be permitted to hear. On reaching the car CA said “I am going to switch off your hearing while I concentrate on driving.” She had known the system was on only because she could hear static every now and then, CA had barely said a word during the slow walk to the car. As she sat in the car Marion strained to hear a sound, any sound, but was sorely disappointed as only total silence remained. It was not until the next day that the full impact of the earplugs came to Marion’s attention. That was when she was taken to CA’s part of the house and she saw the lights flashing on the CD player but she could hear no sound and she now understood that no sounds apart from CA and Miss Halliday’s voices meant just that. This knowledge was further experienced later when the pair was watching television. Marion could only follow the dialogue by reading the captions on the screen. Due to the layers of veiling still covering her eyes this soon became a tiresome task.
By the time Monday morning and work came around Marion was getting used to living in the silent and mute world she was confined to. This was the first time that Marion had been in public while deaf and was very nervous. As they rode to work on the underground she tried to read the lips of those talking close by and found it was a lot harder to do than she imagined. Once Marion was at her desk Miss Halliday entered and lifted the outer eye covering. “Good morning Mr. Lescott” she said as he entered her office. “Ah. Miss Halliday. Good morning. I have something regarding Miss Collins that I need to discuss with you. Will you please step into Miss Collins’s office for a few minutes?” Miss Halliday shuffled into Marion’s office as quickly as she was able, having difficulty adjusting to the tightness of her new corset and hobbling petticoats.
Lescott explained Marion’s situation to the secretary. “That explains why she did not respond when I spoke earlier” she told him. She was shown the remote control and watched as CA demonstrated its workings. She felt rather embarrassed at switching the thing on and off to test how it worked without speaking, guessing it would be very annoying to Marion. Once CA was satisfied that Miss Halliday knew how to operate the control he left for his own office. He turned in the doorway and said “Don’t forget Miss Halliday that you must be no further away than five feet for Miss Collins to hear you. If you are too far away all she will hear is static.” “I’ll try to remember Sir” she replied. After he had departed she turned on the remote. “Oh dear Miss” she said “What have they done to you now?”
Strangely, Marion found that once she got used to the silence of the office she found it easier to concentrate on her work without any background noise. Later she heard the tell-tale little click that she now understood meant the system had been turned on. CA’s voice came to her ears. “It’s lunch-time Marion. Do you want to stay in the office or go outside? The weather is very nice.” The question was mainly rhetoric as Marion had no way of answering unless the used the computer. Without waiting for an answer CA helped Marion rise from her chair and led her towards the door. “Don’t forget to let me adjust your veil before you leave the office” she heard him say “And I think I’ll let you spend your lunch-time in peace.”
As the days and weeks passed Marion found working easier and slowly became used to her lack of hearing, hardly hearing the click as the sound was switched on and jumping at the sudden sound when CA or Miss Halliday spoke when at work, or at CA’s voice when home. Four weeks after Marion had been placed in the deafened state she received a message to report to the boardroom. Using the pointer to press a button on her desk that let Miss Halliday know that her presence was required in Marion’s office, she signaled for her secretary. Again using the pointer Marion bought her secretary’s attention to the message on the monitor. Miss Halliday put the additional veil in place and assisted her boss from her chair and to the boardroom. It took her many minutes to make the journey and upon entering she found His Royal Highness and CA seated at the large table. It was indicated that she should occupy a seat next to CA where a large screen computer sat on the table. ‘Welcome Miss Collins. I understand from Mr. Lescott that you are coping well with your restrictions’. Marion understood that it was typed by HRH and wondered if he expected a reply. Her thoughts were answered by her boss. “Please answer His Highness Miss Collins” CA told her. ‘I feel I am coping to the best of my ability Sir’ she wrote. ‘That is very good to hear. It means my experiment is somewhat of a success does it not?’ HRH typed. ‘I guess it does Sir’ Marion typed slowly, picking at the keys with a pointer, her only way of communicating. ‘I will not keep you from your work longer than necessary. What I wish you to do some time within the next week is give me a short description of your daily life. Tell me how the restrictions I have placed on you affect your ability to do the easiest of tasks. I notice that you type very slowly. That should make writing the report even more interesting from both our points of view’.
The ‘compliment’ received from His Royal Highness regarding her work and adaptability greatly pleased Marion and encouraged her to continue trying her best. The news that most of the selections she had made of people asking for loans had been found acceptable was also good for her ego. She diligently wrote the report asked for by His Highness, making it as truthful as she thought prudent. She found that as time went on she was spending more and more of her free time in the company of CA, finding she was developing feelings for him that went further than being thankful for his friendship and assistance. Most weekends saw the odd looking couple, he in casual trousers and shirt, she in what, outwardly at least, appeared to be clothing of mid-eastern origin, out and about at various places. It took Marion two weeks to compile and laboriously type the report for His Highness, she having handed it to CA to check and pass on to HRH on the Friday. Later that same evening CA and Marion were ‘chatting’, CA’s face suddenly becoming serious before he asked her a question “Marion, I wondered if you would be willing to volunteer to have your waist reduced a little further. If you would be agreeable it would please me greatly.” ‘Is this another of HRH’s tricks?’ she wrote in reply. “Certainly not”CA replied all too hastily and loudly, adding “He knows nothing about this. This is for my, well, I hope, our, pleasure” CA informed her, leaving Marion unsure if he was telling the truth or not.
As a result of her finally agreeing, unless it was some perverse pleasure to please her boss, why she had no idea, Marion was taken to Mr. Sadiq’s shop the following morning. “Nice to see you both again” he greeted them even though the greeting was lost on Marion. Fatima busied herself and with the help of Zimba soon laced Marion into a new corset. When she reappeared in the shop CA placed his hands around Marion’s waist, a big smile crossing his face. She heard the radio receiver click on and she wondered exactly what he meant by the words “Your waist feels minute even through the abaya. I hope that one day I shall actually get to see it.” As CA, Marion and Zimba walked towards the car, Marion had the distinct feeling that something else was also different about the way she was dressed but was unable to bring to her mind exactly what it was. As soon as CA fastened the seatbelts that ran over her shoulders, pulling her back against the seat, Marion understood what was different. It felt as if her arms had been pulled much higher up her back and towards her spine having been wrenched way past its previous position where her immobile fingers were at about the height of her armpits but now she felt as if her fingers lay halfway across her collar bones.
On the Tuesday of the following week Marion was summoned to CA’s office, a very rare occurrence. She arrived short of breath, still getting used to the new corset. Upon entering the office she saw that CA was not alone, another man sitting in the chair reserved for visitors. She moved to where CA indicated, which was alongside the desk. Looking at the man Marion thought she recognized him but could not be sure. She heard a click as he turned on her hearing. “Marion I’m sure you remember Marty Lee from ‘The Champions’.” Now Marion recalled his face, one of the guitarists in the band they had seen in concert in Belfast. “Marty has some money, about a million pounds he wishes to invest. What I need you to do is find a fairly safe investment for him to place his money in. Perhaps in a scheme we already are looking at that requires a little extra money”. Marion moved to a computer and typed a response as quickly as she was able. ‘I’m sure I can find something suitable Mr. Lescott. When do you require an answer by?’ “I’m sure Marty is not in a hurry and would prefer to wait for something suitable rather than make a rushed decision” CA informed her. A click told her that her hearing had been turned off and she watched as the two men conducted a conversation that even her boss’s side of was not for her ears.
It took Marion a week to come up with what she thought might be suitable projects for Marty to invest in. They were schemes that were already viable but would be just a little more so with an additional injection of cash. These she supplied to her boss to make the final selections to present to Marty. In her personal life Marion felt she was growing ever closer to CA as she came to rely more and more on him, finding that at times she was glad to be in his company while at home simply to be able to hear his voice. On the downside of that he was leaving her in her deafened state on more occasions when they were out, especially she noticed while travelling to and from work. Marion was also certain that many mornings Zimba was pulling her arms further up her back and towards her spine as it now felt as if her fingers came to rest close to the side of her neck.
On a Friday evening CA took Marion out to celebrate the completion of the first year of her contract. It was not really much of a treat for her as she was in no position to partake of the meal. CA told her that he has to pay extra because she was not eating but still taking a seat. He made sure she understood he did not mind having to do so. “Glad of your company and all that” she was told. For all of his joking and light-hearted chatter, he left her hearing on all evening, Marion got the impression there was something on his mind, not happy at not being able to discover what it was. On arriving home Marion was a little surprised when they entered the house through the front door, she rarely entered this way, usually using the rear entry that led straight into her quarters. Still concerned that something was on his mind she went to the computer and typed a few words, asking him what he was seemingly worried about. “Nothing” was the reply. Around midnight he called for Zimba to come and take her mistress to her own quarters. The two women were just about to go downstairs when he called “No wait. Please return your mistress to the lounge room Zimba. There is something I need to ask her.”
Seated on her chair while a very edgy, she thought agitated, CA paced the room. Marion wondered just what was going on. At last he seemed to come to a decision and walked across to sit next to her. “Miss Collins . . . Marion” he spluttered “I have something to ask . . er . . no. . to request” he continued. Marion had never seen him like this, he was normally so in control of himself. “Oh bother” he grunted “I had a nice little speech in my head but now it’s all gone” he told her. She longed to be able to take hold of his hand or touch his thigh. “Marion. Will you marry me?” he suddenly blurted out. Marion was not sure if she heard him correctly. “What I mean is” he blustered “Would you do me the honor of becoming my wife?” She had heard correctly, he had just proposed marriage. Marion’s chest constricted and she had a job to draw breath. “I do not expect an answer right away” he added “In fact I would like you to hear me out and give me your answer in forty-eight hours time.”
Marion listened intently as her boss, now maybe future husband, continued to speak, sounding much more like the usual assured bank manager that he was. “I wish to put a ‘pre-nuptial’ type condition on your acceptance” she was told “That being that you continue to dress in the manner you do now and with continued waist training for the duration of the marriage” he added. Marion was now a little stunned at his revelation and sat perfectly still, her raised heartbeat seeming so hard she was certain it was going to explode. “I will call your maid now” she heard him say “I will leave you to consider your answer over the weekend and will call for you Sunday evening when you can tell me yes or no.” With that Marion found herself sitting alone waiting for Zimba to take her back to her own area of the house, where upon arrival she was immediately prepared for bed.
Lying strapped in her bed Marion tried to get her thoughts into perspective. Her heart told her Yes, Yes, Yes. Her head then interrupted her thoughts asking if she really wanted to spend the rest of her life dressed in her present manner. Heart again came to the fore. ‘Just marry the man’ it told her. Head butted in. ‘Does he want to marry Marion the person or Marion the clotheshorse?’ it asked. Heart just kept telling her to, say Yes, say Yes, say Yes before head would again have its say ‘What if in the future he wants me to dress in the same way as the wives of His Highness. I would have to give up work and be no more than a statue’. So the thoughts kept coming as Marion fought to get some sleep.
Decisions . . .
Decisions . . .