The Covered Cleaner
(Part 8 – Visiting Liz)
Back to The Covered Cleaner (Part 7).
Chapter 21 – Another corset?
The next few days were mercifully quiet for Nicole who managed to get well ahead with her academic work and spend some time searching on the internet for a pattern for her next corset. The one she was wearing was now fully closed and careful measurement showed that it had not stretched. Nicole therefore intended to make the next one three inches smaller. She was sure she would quickly get it laced down one of those inches and the other two would give her time. With her several bonuses she could now afford the materials, and eventually having downloaded several patterns and studied them carefully she chose one and sent off the for various fabrics, stays etc.
The next big event in her diary was her visit to Adam and Liz She was intrigued by Liz’s wish to be restrained but could not see the attraction. She had arranged to meet Adam at the Market Street cable car terminus as before. She decided not to wear niqaab, as this was not part of her life Liz knew about. However, she didn’t feel happy exposing herself so in the end she wore her gloves and a headscarf with a long sleeved blouse and long skirt. On a whim she put her leather mask in her purse.
Adam was waiting for her as the cable car drew up. “Good to see you again. I see you are keeping to your principles of dressing modestly. You look very attractive.”
As they walked towards his house he spoke again: “I think I should tell you that Liz has just started a very strenuous period of immobilisation which she intends will last six weeks. She is enclosed head to foot in a plaster cast and can move nothing except her face and toes. But she is very much looking forward to your visit. I hope you can cope.”
This was a bit of a shock to Nicole, but thinking about their other meetings she realised that it was not very different from having her arms pinioned or being hobbled.
“We‘re here,“ called Adam as he opened the door. “Come right in,” he invited Nicole, “Liz is in the room on the right.”
Nicole opened the door not knowing quite what to expect. Across the room she immediately saw Liz sitting in a wheelchair and wearing a long blue dress. Her head, hands and feet were visible, but everything else was covered by the dress. At least those parts of her which were not covered were mostly encased in white plaster. Her face was visible from her eyes to just below her mouth and the tips of her fingers and toes could be seen. And that was all. Her arms seemed to be held out sideways so that her elbows were level with her shoulders and her forearms were vertical. Her hips and knees were evidently bent as she was sitting upright in the chair.
“I’m really glad you’ve come”, she said enthusiastically but rather muffled. “It gets a bit lonely at times, especially when Mark is studying. Sorry about my speech but I can’t really open my mouth. But this cast is great fun so far. I feel really liberated by being completely immobile.”
Nicole was not sure how to respond.
“I hope this isn’t too much of a shock for you. By the way. We decided that while I was like this, for safety, Mark shound remove the wires from my teeth so I can talk. They will definitely go back afterwards.” interrupted Liz.
“No, nno, not at all, Adam warned me,” stammered Nicole. “I don’t think I could stand it, but that you probably wouldn’t enjoy the things I do.”
“Oh, and what may they be apart from Victorian clothes?” asked Liz.
Nicole realised that she was going to have to tell Liz about her veiling.
“I’ll tell you all about what I have been up to, but before we forget can I look at the bonnets you mentioned please?”
“Good idea,” responded Liz. “Adam, they are in the box on the wardrobe. Can you bring them in here please.”
Adam was soon back with an enormous cardboard box what was evidently not very heavy. He put it on the floor.
“Show her the ones I don’t wear any more – at least when I am not like this,” requested Liz.
Adam dug in the box and pulled out four bonnets each with an attached veil.
“Liz doesn’t wear these now because they are too revealing for her,” he explained. “The ones she wears now have much longer “tunnels” at the front so all she can see is ahead and down and no-one can see her face at all. But I guess even these may be a bit extreme for you. This is the least restricting. Try it.”
Nicole took the proffered bonnet and put it on. She was surprised to find that it restricted her view much less than her burqa.
“Can I try the others please?” she asked.
In the end the one she was happiest with was the one with the most restrictive view out. Even that was no worse than wearing a burqa.
“How much does Liz want for this one?” she asked.
Liz interrupted. “I don’t want paying for it. If you like it you can have it as a present. I shan’t wear it. But why not take one of the others as well for when you need to see rather more?”
Eventually Nicole chose two and Adam found a large bag for them. He disappeared with the box.
“Now, tell me about what you have been doing. From your choice of bonnet I guess you are used to being pretty restricted as well.”
Nicole told her the story of her cleaning job and how she had progressed first to wearing niqaab and then a burqa in the street. She took the mask from her bag, removed her scarf, put on the mask and then tied the scarf to cover as much as possible.
“That’s really neat,” exclaimed Liz. “I think I shall have to think about veiling when I am through this experiment, though probably with a good deal of hidden bondage under the burqa. You must tell me where I can buy clothes like that.”
Nicole told her that she knew where to buy some things but she had been given others. She would find out from Mohammad and let Adam know.
Liz suddenly looked rather tired.
“Are you OK?” asked Nicole.
“I’m fine but being completely still is very tiring. I need to rest a lot. It may be best if you go now, as I shall probably fall asleep anyway.”
Nicole said farewell, picked up the bag with her bonnets and left. It was only when she was getting onto the streetcar that she saw her reflection in the window and realised she was still wearing the mask. But the driver hardly gave her a glance and the other passengers completely ignored her.
Chapter 22 – A full time niqaabi
For the next few days Nicole wore her Victorian style clothes and one or other of the bonnets. The one with a bigger brim also had a much thicker veil, and this was the one Nicole felt happier in. But after a few days she decided that she would wear niqaab to college again, and quickly decided that she preferred it. For then on she wore it all the time, unless she had a seminar or a meeting with her tutor, where it would be necessary to speak. On those days she wore the leather mask instead. No-one commented or even seemed to notice her especially. She often had lunch with Zyrafete, and Mark sometime joined them.
One day when he sat down with his lunch Mark seemed rather flustered. He was very quiet through the meal, but as soon as Zyrafete left he turned towards Nicole.
“Can we meet somewhere private to talk please? And can you come dressed so you can speak, please?” he blurted out.
Nicole was not sure what to make of this. She was very fond of Mark, but was not sure of his feelings towards her. But she agreed that they should meet on the seat in the park below the chocolate factory after classes next day.
She didn’t sleep well, wondering what Mark wanted to say. She was very fond of him but was not sure how he felt about her. She thought about what she might say if her asked her to be his girlfriend. What would he want her to do about her veiling?
In the morning, she wondered whether to wear her Victorian clothes but decided after some dithering to wear niqaab but not her gag. At the last moment she threw a large black scarf into her bag to wear over the top of what she had learned was called a bushiyya. It would mean that Mark would be able to see nothing at all of her, and would perhaps be a test of his feelings. In her apartment it obscured her sight badly but she knew that in the bright sunlight it would not be a problem.
She put on the bushiyya before slipping out of college and was at the seat within quarter of an hour. Mark arrived a couple of minutes later and sat beside her.
“Shall we walk to the point and find a quieter place to talk?” he suggested, offering Nicole his hand. She stood and put her arm through his tentatively, but he didn’t move to change things so she decided to stay on his arm as they walked.
“You are heavily veiled today. Is that because I want to talk to you?” asked Mark. Nicole nodded. She wasn’t going to speak until they were alone and she had to answer more difficult questions.
They found a seat near the point above the main path on top of what may once have been a gun emplacement, and sat. For a few minutes Nicole just enjoyed the view, waiting for Mark to start the discussion. She could sense that he was on edge. Eventually, he took a deep breath and spoke.
“I’m very fond of you Nicole. You are very pretty, though I haven’t seen much of you for some time. And I really like your modesty. I would like you as my girlfriend, but I really have no idea how you feel about me. Not seeing your face makes it very hard for me to know what you are thinking.” He stuttered to a stop.
Nicole waited to see if he was going to continue. When he didn’t she turned to face him and put her hands on his shoulders.
“I’m fond of you too. I was afraid that my veiling would put you off, and I was certainly not going to start the discussion. But do you really want a girlfriend who you never see and who never speaks? If I do agree to become your girlfriend, those are the conditions.”
“So are you a Muslim?” blurted Mark. “What you are saying sounds like what I would expect from Zyrafete.”
“No, I’m not, and I have no intention of becoming one,” responded Nicole, hoping she sounded firm. “I think I had better tell you the whole story. You know about my job, and that I have to veil for that. You know that I enjoy wearing Victorian costume for the re-enaction events. But there is more than that.”
She told him how she had felt she was being spoken to my her great great grandmother, that she had found dressing modestly very satisfying but that once she had started wearing niqaab she had felt more comfortable completely covered. She warned him that she also owned a burqa though that she wore only rarely.
“But you must understand that this is simply my preference. It is nothing to do with religion. It is simply that I no longer feel happy out in public when people can see my skin or eyes. That applies especially to you if I become your girlfriend. I will never again speak in your presence and you will not see my face. In fact I shall cover even more, so you can’t see my eyes. Do you really want a girlfriend under those conditions?”
“Yes, I do,” blurted out Mark. “I know I shall find it hard but I am very fond of you. I think I love you. If you will just let me see your eyes one last time I will be happy. But what about the re-enaction events? Will we still go? I know you like going to them.”
“I am so happy. I was really afraid my conditions would frighten you off. And I think I love you too – and I hope we can still go to the events. I have the bonnets from Liz and I shall fit a much heavier veil. I will probably also cover my face but no-one will see that unless they peer under the brim. But I am afraid I can’t grant your wish to see my eyes. Even if I lift this outer layer there is another layer over my eyes under my face covering and I can’t remove that without undressing completely. Here, is this enough?”
She pulled off the scarf so that Mark could see her eyes through just one thin layer of cloth.
“I am disappointed not to see your eyes properly, but, yes, it will be enough. After all, it is all I have seen for months.”
With that he leaned over and kissed her gently on her covered forehead. Nicole put her arms around Mark’s head and held him close.
“Thank you,” she whispered. “Now I am sure I love you.”
After several minutes she released his head, and sat up. Picking up her scarf, she folded it into four and put it over her head, so it hung down to her shoulders. She didn’t speak. Mark knew that she was not going to speak again that afternoon, or for the foreseeable future. He reached for her hand and drew her to her feet.
“Let’s walk along the shore”, he said. “I need to get used to a silent and invisible girlfriend.”
Chapter 23 – Even more veiling
Nicole put her arm through his, rather glad of his guidance as she could not see a great deal except her feet. She began to realise that being even more veiled than in the past would be a challenge, but she was determined. As they walked she thought about how she could cover her eyes and still see enough to move around and, more important, attend lectures.
They were soon at Fisherman’s Wharf. The seals were basking in the sun. They stopped and watched the animals for some time.
“They remind me of you,” laughed Mark, “all black and shapeless.”
Nicole was not sure whether to be flattered or insulted so she dug Mark in the ribs.
“Oh, alright, I didn’t mean you are shapeless, just your clothes. After all, I assume you are still wearing your corset so underneath the outer layers there is a very shapely young lady.”
Nicole squeezed his arm to tell him he was right. They walked on, until Nicole saw a clock on a building. She scrabbled in her bag for a pad and pen and wrote a note:
“I have to go to clean now. It has been a wonderful afternoon. See you at lunch tomorrow.”
Mark pulled her to him and put his arms round her.
“I had better let you go I suppose. I shan’t see you tomorrow, of course, but I’ll see your clothes. But I’ll walk with you.”
Nicole laughed, dug him in the ribs again and turned towards the way they had come. It was normally only about ten minutes to Mohammad’s house but with her sight so limited she could only walk slowly. When they arrived she gripped Mark’s hands and held them for a few seconds before turning and opening the front door, quickly disappearing from Mark‘s view.
As soon as she started cleaning she decided that she would have to remove the scarf or she would never see the dirt. She thought as she cleaned about the events of the afternoon. Mark had never questioned her need to veil or be silent. And she had set herself a self-imposed further restriction by saying her eyes would in future not be visible when she was with Mark. She wondered if she could wear something which could be added easily when Mark was around and removed at other times. She would have to look on the net.
That night as she surfed she quickly found that her requirement was easily met by a multi-layer niqaab. She would still wear one layer under everything else but then she would make a three layer veil attached to ties which held it round her head and under her chin. She could flip one or more layers down as the occasion required. The top layer could be almost opaque for bright sunlight with the middle layer thinner and the inner layer quite fine.
By the time she went to bed, Nicole had finished her new veil. In the electric light of the apartment she could see enough to do basic tasks with one layer down but hardly anything with two and nothing with three except the slight glow of the lights. She knew the lecture theatre was brighter so she should be able to wear one and perhaps two layers and still see enough to read the board and her books and to write.
She had also spent some time during the evening thinking about her vow not to speak to Mark. She was not sure she would be strong willed enough if she could just remove her gag whenever she wanted to. Therefore it would have to be locked when she was out of the apartment. She had browsed the web and found a supplier of as suitable design – not intended for Muslims but for sex games, she noticed – with a hole for a drinking tube and had ordered two. But she wanted something for while she was waiting for the gags to be delivered. She decided to replace the elastic in her gag by a piece of string which she could tie firmly and tightly enough that she couldn’t push the gag out of her mouth with her tongue. She tried it and it seemed to work. The downside was that she couldn’t eat or drink. But it would be only for as few days
The next morning she dressed in what she had decided was now her minimum level of covering, including a long straight black skirt which was not narrow enough to force her to walk in ladylike steps though was too tight to allow her to board a bus or tram. As she left her apartment building she flipped down all three layers of her new veil. As she had expected it allowed her just enough sight in the bright sunlight to walk safely to the school. She had allowed extra time but arrived with a few minutes to spare. As she entered the building she flipped back the top layer of her new veil and was relieved to find that she could see enough to move round the building. When she sat in the lecture theatre she realised that she had been right in expecting to have to remove the middle layer. When she did she could see the board and her books but she knew that reading and writing would be a challenge. Still, it was her decision, and one she was happy with.
At lunch she sat with Zyrafete who immediately got out her pad and commented on Nicole’s new veiling. Nicole explained her decision, only mentioning Mark briefly. Zyrafete responded:
“I admire you. I don’t think I would be brave enough to do what you are doing. It’s not so much the veil as the idea of wearing a gag I can’t remove. What will you do during tutorials?”
Nicole hadn’t thought of this: she couldn’t go through tutorials or seminars without ever speaking.
“I’m not sure. Perhaps I will have to wear an elasticised gag on those days.”
Zyrafete had another question: “You are not a Muslim so it is not that you think your voice is awrah. So why have you decided not to talk to Mark? Perhaps you shouldn’t be writing either if it is what you are saying that may tempt him.”
Nicole was taken aback. She had not thought of it this way, but Zyrafete was right. Could she cope with never even writing messages to Mark and how would he react?
She thought about this new problem as she walked to Mohammad’s house and started the cleaning. And if it applied to Mark should it be the same with other people? But how could she exist if she could never communicate with anyone? And what about nodding or shaking her head? The more she thought about it the more she reached the conclusion that with Mark at least she should impose this new rule: no notes and no nodding or shaking her head. She would listen and she would obey. But she would have to tell Mark and see how he would react.
Mohammad was away for the next few days so the cleaning was not too onerous, which was just as well as Nicole had exams in a few weeks. She didn’t avoid Mark but she hardly saw him and when they were together she managed to avoid the need to write him a note. But she knew that as soon as the exams were over she must broach the subject.
On the days when she had a seminar or tutorial she wore her old gag with the elastic restored, and left off her extra layers of veils as she was afraid her tutor might be difficult about things. A week before the exams started her tutor asked a very awkward question. She had never previously mentioned Nicole’s clothes but now she dropped a bombshell.
“When you take your exams we shall need proof that it is really Nicole under your veils. That means that you will have to show us your face. Are you willing to do that?”
Nicole took a few seconds before responding as she thought frantically.
“I am willing to show my face but it is not easy to do so without taking most of my clothes off. Will I have to show my face at every exam?”
“In theory, yes, I’m afraid you will. But we do have another way. If you are willing to expose your face and at the same time let us take your finger prints and fasten a chain with a chip in round your wrist in such a way that you can’t remove it, we will then let you in the exams if you have the chip scanned by a reader. We may also ask you to give your fingerprints but that will not be every time, just often enough to discourage you from trying to get the chain off and passing it to a friend or relation.”
Nicole’s sigh of relief must have been audible in the corridor!
“That would be fine. When can we do this?”
“I’ll have to check with the office but I think it is the day before the exams start,” responded her tutor. “I’ll get a message to you. By the way, you’re friends with Zyrafete, aren‘t you? She may want to come with you.”
Zyrafete did want to go with Nicole to have her identity checked. So at the appointed time two niqaab clad girls entered the admin building and headed for the purser’s office. One at a time they stripped to their salwar kameez and were photographed and fingerprinted. Each was fitted with a steel chain which was spot welded carefully round their left wrists, tight enough that it could never be slipped off. Attached firmly to the chain was a small steel object which looked much like a locket. The woman who had fitted the chains tested that they worked using a hand held scanner.
“There. That’s all. Now your identity code is recorded on the college computer along with your photos and fingerprints. Now you can go to exams without having to undress. This system will work right through your college career as long as you pay your fees.”
The two girls said their thanks, dressed and left. They couldn’t help examining the chains as they left the building. They were obviously very strong and far too tight to remove, but they were in an attractive design and looked like bracelets.
The story continues in The Covered Cleaner (Part 9).