| DAMSELS UNDER GLASS: THE SERIES
— or —
When opportunity knocks,
try not to be tied up in the barn.
by Van ©2006
This one-chapter story introduces the character Jackie Silberston.
| OUR STORY BEGINS
DEDHAM VALE, ENGLAND, UK, EU
The old mews was probably the least used building on the Brightman estate. Originally built to house falcons, it was purposely positioned far from the main hall, the stables, and rest of the outbuildings, to give any resident birds of prey the required isolation; however, since none of the Brightman family had expressed the slightest interest in hawking in several generations, it had become the abode of mice and spiders.
These days, the mews proper was used for storage, and the remaining half of the building, the former Falconer's residence, had long since been gutted and converted to extra horse stalls. The stalls had been used to house guests' mounts during the previous weekend's riding party, and Jackie Silberston had just finished the required cleaning. The nineteen year old blonde coiled and hung the hose, then replaced the broom in its rack. The floor was still damp, but the stalls wouldn't be spread with fresh straw anyway, not until just before they were next needed.
None of her regular chores as a Brightman Hall groom needed immediate attention, so Jackie's thoughts turned to a cream tea. Her riding boots, jodhpurs, and cotton blouse were still more-or-less clean, clean enough that Cook would let her into the kitchen, anyway, so, she pulled a gray wool sweater over her head and turned towards the side door. Busy settling the folds of the turtleneck and straightening her long, blonde locks, she nearly collided with the back of the solid wood portal as it suddenly swung open.
"Watch it!" Jackie complained.
"Ouf!" The newcomer was Solange Paroux, Lady Brightman's personal maid. As it was her day off, the twenty-something brunette was dressed in a sweater, mini-skirt, tights, and short, stylish boots, as opposed to her usual black and white domestic uniform. A bulging canvas gym bag was in her left hand. Recovering quickly from the shock of the near accident, she favored Jackie with a saucy grin. "Oh, this is where you are hiding." She stepped inside and closed the door.
Jackie's answering smile was less than welcoming. "I'm working, not hiding... and like I told you before..." She crossed her arms across her chest. "...no chance!"
Solange crossed her arms as well, and struck a matching pose. This was not a real argument, but an amiable dispute between "old" friends.
Jackie, only daughter of the chauffeur, had lived in Brightman Hall all of her life. Solange had joined the staff at the age of sixteen, when Jackie and Chelsea Brightman were thirteen and fourteen, respectively. Together with Brightman Hall neighbor Connie Wright, the girls had all become something of a terrible foursome. Adolescent and then post adolescent companions, they had mixed the occasional surreptitious girl-on-girl fun with innocent bondage games.
With the departure of Chelsea to attend college in America, the exile of Connie as persona non grata at Brightman Hall [see Shorty & the Cowgirl], and with Solange's new "special relationship" with Lady Brightman, those days were gone. Of late, Jackie had concentrated on her work in the stables. She found her love of horses easily trumped her need for casual companionship... for the moment.
This didn't prevent Solange from attempting to cause mischief, of course.
"You lost the bet, and you must help me practice with the ropes," Solange said, affecting a wounded pout. "Where is the famous English sense of fair play?"
"That was no bet!" Jackie objected. "It was more like a silly riddle. If you want me to be your practice dummy, just ask."
Solange's pout became a cajoling smile. "Okay, I ask."
"Hmm..." Jackie tapped a boot toe and fluttered her fingers. Her arms were still crossed. "Let me think... Hmm... No!!"
Solange's smile never wavered. "Not even to help me perfect technique that will make even the great escape artiste Chelsea la Magnifique helpless?"
Jackie lifted an eyebrow. Chelsea and Jackie had been born almost exactly a year apart, so there was an undercurrent of sibling rivalry in their relationship; and whenever Chelsea had been designated damsel-in-distress in their games, she had exhibited a highly irritating ability to wiggle free of her bonds. Jackie continued drumming her fingers. It would be nice to bring the Honorable Brat down a peg, whenever she next visited home—but there was a problem. "You may have the day off," she noted, "but I don't."
Solange raised a single finger. "One hour."
Jackie stared at Solange for several long seconds... then sighed. "One hour."
& the Maid
"Merveilleux!" Solange gushed, then looked at the damp floor and shook her head. "This will not do."
Jackie pointed towards the interior door on the far wall. "The mews proper," she suggested, an unenthusiastic pout on her face.
"Oh, stop looking like it is the execution," Solange teased, smiling broadly. She crooked her free arm through her soon-to-be victim's left arm, and they headed for the door.
It was solid oak, bound with iron straps. Jackie threw back the heavy bolt, and they pulled it open. The room beyond was cluttered with stacked crates, barrels, old furniture, and obsolete farming implements. Antique harnesses and tackle hung from pegs in the timber rafters. The only light was leaking through the slats of a pair of shuttered windows, and everything was covered with dust and cobwebs. Jackie turned an antique light switch, and a bare bulb above the door added a dim, yellowish glow to the scene.
Solange dropped her bag, raising a puff of dust. "This will do." She nodded towards several old horse blankets, half-folded and draped over a horizontal plank nailed between two posts. "For the floor," she suggested.
Jackie helped her remove the top blanket. It was unfolded, turned dusty-side down. and spread on the floor. It was coarse wool, and very rough and scratchy, but it was better than rolling around in the dirt.
"Okay," Solange said, stooping and unzipping her gym bag, "remove the clothing."
"The clothing," Solange repeated. "I think we probably capture Chelsea in the sauna or the steam room, or maybe after the skinny-dipping in the mill pond, so she will be naked. We practice."
Jackie shook her head. "Not gonna happen."
Jackie crossed her arms again. "You can bat your pretty brown eyes all day. It's not gonna happen."
Solange sighed, reached into the bag, and produced a large coil of braided, white, cotton rope. "Okay, then, spoilspore. Cross the hands, please."
Jackie sighed, turned around, and crossed her wrists behind her back. "It's spoilsport, not spoil-spore. That's not even a word."
Solange's smile turned to an evil grin. "That is what I say: spoilspore." She shook out the coil, found the center, doubled it, and stepped forward.
& the Maid
Jackie flexed her fingers and twisted her wrists. She strongly suspected this was not the first time Solange had tried this technique. Her actions had been too quick and ordered, with no fumbling or false starts. One thing was for sure, first attempt or not, the result was highly effective. Jackie's wrists were crossed and held against her spine, with her hands and fingers pointing up, rather than down, as usual. Neat, horizontal bands of rope passed above and below her breasts, pinning her arms to her torso. Additional strands were hitched between her arms and body and served to anchor the main bondage, making it impossible to twist or wiggle any slack from the ropes. Finally, bands yoked Jackie's shoulders and met in front, between her breasts, where they formed an elegant lark's head.
Standing in front of her subject, Solange tugged single strands from left and right, tightening the final, elbow-locking hitches. She then threaded and looped the free ends through the lower breast ropes, and tied a reef knot. There were still several inches of rope remaining, so, she tied a series of running hitches, threaded the ends through the upper breast ropes, heaved, removing all slack, and tied a final reef knot.
"There," the maid said, a satisfied smile on her face. "I think that will hold, no?" She reached back into the gym bag and produced another long coil of rope.
Jackie was jerking and twisting in earnest, giving Solange's handiwork a real test. Finally, defeated, she turned to face her captor. "Funny thing," the prisoner mused, "it's not all that tight—tight enough, mind you—but the wrist ropes are almost... loose."
"With the arms pinned, the elbows locked, and the ropes hitched as they are," Solange said, "the wrist ropes are unimportant." She shook out the new coil and found one end. "Tightness is the key," she purred. "Too tight and the ropes punish. Too loose and the prisoner is helpless, but the pretty pattern is spoiled by the struggling. Just right, and the ropes squeeze like the lover's embrace, but remain where they belong. That is why I must practice."
"Well, untie me and you can do it again," Jackie suggested, still struggling against the ropes. "Maybe even a third time, before your hour's up—Hey!"
Solange had grabbed a handful of Jackie's bonds, nudged the back of her knees with one foot, and forced the captive to the ground. She then seized Jackie's booted ankles, crossed them, and bound them together with several turns of rope. "The hour has not even made the start, silly girl," she said.
"No rough stuff, you bitch!" Jackie complained, "and of course the bloody hour has started. Now untie me, or I won't let you practice any more."
Solange laughed. "You won't let me? Very funny, Stable Boy." Stable Boy was one of Jackie's nick-names, and had been since she appeared at the stables at age eight, dressed in jods and boots borrowed from Chelsea, with her hair under a cap, demanding that she be put to work, and stubbornly refusing to take no for an answer. Solange reached into the open gym bag. Tell me, Stable Boy," she asked, "do you think anyone would hear the screaming damsel-in-distress, way out here in the mews? With all the doors and windows closed, I mean."
Jackie saw the crumpled cloth in her captor's hand, and would have none of it. "No you don't!—HEL-Mmmf!"
Sitting on the blanket, Solange cradled her captive's head in her lap. Her legs were scissored over Jackie's struggling, bound body, to keep her from rolling. She was using both hands to cram and tamp the cloth into Jackie's uncooperative mouth. "There, there," she purred, "I know it is quite large, but it will fit. I am sure. Hold still while I tuck in the corners."
Jackie continued squirming and kicking her bound legs, but it was pointless. She growled through the cotton packed in her mouth and glared up at her gloating captor.
Keeping one hand over Jackie's mouth, Solange reached back into the bag and produced a very long, narrow strip of cloth. She centered it over the wad protruding from Jackie's mouth, took a bight at the nape of her neck, and gave it a strong tug, with both hands.
Jackie grunted in complaint, and continued glaring as Solange took turn after turn of the narrow cloth across her mouth, from left and right. First, the smiling maid reinforced the cleave, but for the final two passes she stretched the cloth to it's full width to cover Jackie's mouth, lips, and lower face. "There will be no screaming now, no?" she gloated, then tied a final, redundant knot under Jackie's tousled blonde locks, behind her head.
With Jackie's head still cradled in her lap, Solange used her fingers to gently free any strands of her captive's hair trapped under the gag. Jackie had stopped her futile struggles, but her hostile glare remained. Solange nodded towards the still bulging gym bag. "Did you think I brought all this rope, only to practice with one coil?" She leaned close and kissed the tip of Jackie's nose. "Making you helpless and silent is only the beginning. What I really came here to practice was the suspension. When I am finished, you will be dangling from the rafters, with multiple bands of rope cradling your little body every few inches—as comfy as a bug in a rug... or more precisely, like the fly trapped in the spider's web, cocooned, wiggling, and helpless."
Solange continued stroking Jackie's hair, as if she were petting a sleeping kitten. "A pity I could not talk you into removing the clothes," she said, "but I can do that myself, tonight, when I return. And then we can play until morning."
"Or not!" an angry female voice announced.
Jackie and Solange looked towards the now open door—and their eyes popped wide! Lady Abigail Brightman had arrived, and she was not happy.
& the Maid
Solange scrambled to feet, causing Jackie to grunt in complaint when her head landed on the blanket with a thump. The maid stood before her mistress, hands behind her back, the very picture of the wide-eyed, naughty toddler, caught with an unauthorized ring of cookie crumbs around her mouth.
Lady Brightman was dressed in her usual tweed suit, expensive blouse, and even more expensive scarf. "So this is how you spend your day off?" she demanded. "Jaclyn has duties to perform. I know you treat your professional responsibilities as a minor inconvenience, but what gives you the right to lead my best groom into a life of sloth and debauchery?"
"We only play for one hour," Solange objected, "so I can practice the Japan ropes. She only take the little break from the work, no?"
"So she could... dangle from the rafters?" Lady Brightman suggested, "cocooned, wiggling, helpless? ...until tonight? ...so you could play 'til morning?"
Solange blushed. "It was zee joke, non?"
Lady Brightman stepped into the mews and closed the door behind her with a slam. She smiled down at Jackie. "Have you noticed how her accent thickens when she's nervous, or when she stretches the truth?" Jackie stared up at the Lady of the house, blushing with embarrassment. Lady Brightman stooped and pulled a large coil of rope from the gym bag, shook it out and found the center, then nodded to Solange. "Come over here, you lying baggage."
Solange took a step closer to her mistress, gave a sad, theatrical little sigh, turned her back, and crossed her wrists behind her back.
Jackie watched with wide-eyed distress. Caught by Her Ladyship, playing silly games! ...and now she was going to play too??
& the Maid
Lady Brightman used the same technique to bind the unhappy maid's arms and upper body that Solange had used on Jackie, with one crucial difference: her hands were palm-to-palm, rather than crossed, and they were pulled up until her fingers were between her shoulder blades! "This is called the reverse prayer," she explained to Jackie. "I wouldn't use it if this lying little minx wasn't as flexible as, well, a lying little minx."
"The yoga," Solange said, sadly. "It is why she make me take the class."
"Silence!" Lady Brightman growled, then reached under the prisoner's skirt and pulled her tights and panties down to below her knees. Jackie's eyes popped even wider at the sight of the maid's pale thighs. Her Ladyship knelt and removed Solange's boots, and tossed them in the general direction of the door. She then lifted the captive's feet, one-by-one, and removed her tights and panties completely.
"Oh, madame!" Solange whined.
"None of your false modesty!" Lady Brightman scolded, pulled the panties free from the tights, and stuffed them in Solange's mouth. "Hold that!" she ordered, then busied herself straightening out the tangled tights. Both prisoners watched as the legs were tied together at the crotch panel, and the panties section tucked and folded into a compact mass. This was also stuffed into Solange's mouth, over the panties, and the tights' legs cinched and knotted at the nape of her neck.
Jackie couldn't help but stare at her fellow prisoner's legs and feet. They were so pale and... naked. Solange, on the other hand, was watching Lady Brightman rummage in the gym bag.
"Eureka!" Lady Brightman exclaimed, and produced a roll of silver duct tape. She pulled the end of the roll free, and walked towards the helpless, gagged, and obviously very unhappy maid. "Kneel!" she ordered, and Solange dropped to her knees. Lady Brightman stepped behind the captive, slapped the tape over Solange's cleave-gagged lips, and began taking turn after tight, horizontal turn around her head, until her entire lower face was wrapped from just below her nostrils to the point of her chin. Jackie stopped counting around twelve. Lady Brightman was very careful to get neat, uniform coverage, and not to get any of the maid's pageboy coif trapped in the sticky bands.
"There!" Lady Brightman exclaimed, and pulled Solange to her feet. Without warning, she placed one hand under the maid's skirt, grabbed a handhold of rope bonds with the other, lifted the captive off her feet, and carried her towards the plank supporting the remaining horse blankets. Solange kicked and squirmed, but soon found herself astride the wool-covered edge of the plank. It was high enough to leave her thrashing feet several inches off the dirt floor.
Jackie winced in sympathy. Solange's full weight was on her crotch, pressing it against the rough, scratchy wool. There were at least two remaining blankets "cushioning" the ride, but still, it had to be very uncomfortable.
"Sit still!" Lady Brightman ordered, "or you'll fall." She then pulled more rope from the bag.
& the Maid
Jackie had settled onto her side, in a semi-fetal tuck, to watch the show. By the time Lady Brightman was finished, poor Solange was in no danger whatsoever of falling off her narrow, wool-covered perch.
The maid's bare legs were at full stretch, with wide bands of rope around her ankles and single strands looped around her big toes. The ankle ropes were hitched to a taut, horizontal rope tied between the two posts supporting the plank. The toe loops were tied to the same rope, but the ankle ropes were taking the load. The toe loops were purely decorative, to keep her pretty feet on point.
Two diagonal ropes anchored her upper body. One was tied from the ropes between Solange's breasts and up to rafters in front, and the other from just above her "praying" hands and up in back. Neither rope was what you could call taut. They were safety lines, to take her weight if she slumped in her bonds.
It was clear Solange wasn't going anywhere. Lady Brightman made a show of straightening the miserable prisoner's short skirt, making sure it draped properly. "There," she said, "all safe and sound; and I can be sure you'll be here waiting for me, when I return to take you back to the house, for your real punishment."
Solange squirmed in her bonds, then shuddered, delicately.
Jackie watched, in open, helpless wonder, then realized Lady Brightman's eyes were on her!
"Oh, you poor dear," Her Ladyship cooed, then knelt and untied Jackie's ankles. "Come and look," she said, and helped the highly embarrassed blonde to her booted feet. One arm over Jackie's rope-bound shoulder, Lady Brightman led her to Solange, then reached out and lifted the maid's skirt. Solange shivered in embarrassed distress as Lady Brightman and Jackie stared at her shaved and mildly squashed sex. "Imagine how terribly uncomfortable that must be," Lady Brightman said softly. She tucked the hem of the skirt under the lowest of the captive's rope bonds, forming a stylish tent. She then pulled the sides of the skirt back, on the left and right. "She has such pretty skin, don't you agree?" Jackie nodded her gagged head, unable to take her eyes from Solange's pale, smooth, lower tummy, sex, and thighs.
Lady Brightman turned and lifted Jackie's chin, and smiled in her face. "You've had an expression of utter astonishment since I entered the mews," she purred. "I do hope your eyebrows aren't stuck in that position." Her arm still over Jackie's shoulder, she used her free hand to gently tickle the captive's ribs. Jackie squirmed and giggled through her gag, but was unable to escape. The tickling lasted only a few seconds, then Jackie found herself panting and smiling up at her tormentor.
"That's better," Lady Brightman said. "It was you I came to find, when I intruded upon your little melodrama."
Jackie forced a questioning sound past her gag.
"Yes, you," Lady Brightman laughed. "There was something I'd hoped to discuss, before a scheduled vid-link to America."
"Uh'm'm'uh?" The well-muffled, totally inarticulate question came from both prisoners.
"Yes, America," Lady Brightman laughed, "and now we're late—so late we must hurry to make the link, foregoing our talk."
Jackie's eyes darted to Solange's exposed sex, then back to Lady Brightman.
Lady Brightman reached out and restored Solange's skirt, and thus her modesty. "You know this little belette and I have been playing such games for some time," she purred, and Jackie nodded. Lady Brightman's smile turned... wistful. "And you've played such games as well—and with Chelsea, before she left the nest." Jackie nodded again.
"...before she left the nest," Lady Brightman repeated, in a whisper; then wiped sudden tears from her eyes. Jackie made a sympathetic moan and lay her gagged head against Lady Brightman's breast. "Not to worry," Lady Brightman laughed. "All little birds leave the nest." She gazed into Jackie's gagged face with obvious affection. "All little birds."
Jackie blinked, and cocked her head to the side. What was she talking about?
Lady Brightman laughed again. "We still have that link to make," she said, turned Jackie towards the door, and they stepped away. "I'll return for you later," she called back over her shoulder. "I hope the spiders don't eat you in the interim."
Jackie's last view of the mews was of a very helpless and somewhat anxious Solange staring up at the cobwebs overhead—then Lady Brightman turned off the light, closed the door between the mews and stable stalls with a bang, and slid home the heavy bolt.
& the Maid
They made it back to the main house without encountering any of the other staff, for which Jackie was very thankful. If the other servants saw her being led about as Lady Brightman's prisoner, she'd never hear the end of it. She'd tried to communicate her desire to be untied and ungagged, before they'd left the mews-stable, but Her Ladyship simply ignored her pathetic struggles and piteous moans. She finally sighed and accepted her fate, trudging along beside the woman she'd always considered to be her second mother.
Lady Brightman was still smiling, but Jackie could sense an undercurrent of sorrow. What was happening? Was this vid-link to America going to be with Chelsea? And why should that make Her Ladyship sad?
They entered Brightman Hall by a semi-secret portal tucked under an exterior stairway attached to one of the lesser-used wings of the house. They then continued, using side halls and back stairs, to the family residence. Eventually, Jackie found herself in Lady Brightman's private library and sitting-room. The helpless prisoner stared in wonder, her eyes wide once again. This was the first time she'd ever been this deep into the Brightman family's private domain. She'd explored the dungeons and some of the secret passages with Chelsea and Connie, when they were children (and later, after Solange joined the group, as part of their infrequent games), but what business did a groom have in the residence? None! ...until now.
Lady Brightman indicated a visitor's chair beside what was obviously her desk, and Jackie settled into the soft leather. The nearby credenza, like the bookshelves and side tables, were cluttered with family mementos, framed photographs, and books. Jackie could see several photos of Lord and Lady Brightman, documenting their travels, family milestones, etc. There was even a photo of their Lordships with the late Queen Mother, something to do with some charity event, Jackie suspected.
Closest to her chair, Jackie found framed photos of Penny and Chelsea, a photo of Margo Wells, and another of Margo and Lady Brightman together. Both images had been taken when Lady Brightman and Ms. Wells were in their mid or late twenties. Margo was a frequent visitor to Brightman Hall. In fact, Jackie couldn't remember a time when she did not know the fabulously wealthy and famous "Auntie Margo".
There was another photo Jackie couldn't quite make out, a small one, in an oval frame. It was a child, a young girl, sitting astride a pony. Her face was shaded by an American cowboy hat. Jackie leaned close... and her heart skipped a beat. It was Jackie herself! She remembered the occasion, now: a fancy-dress party the Brightmans had held for all the children of the village and neighboring estates, when Jackie was... seven? Yes, seven. Her father had taken the photo. Lady Brightman had a copy? And why did she keep it in such a prominent position?
Meanwhile, Lady Brightman had opened a lower drawer in the credenza and extracted a large coil of what appeared to be silk sash cord, in an antique gold color. She had noticed Jackie's examination of her photo collection. "You were absolutely precious in your little cowgirl costume," she said, "with the braids and the two six-shooters? Absolutely precious!"
Jackie watched as Her Ladyship used the rope to tie her booted ankles together, then lash them to one of the legs of her chair. This was followed by loops of rope used to bind her in the chair across her thighs, around her waist, and across her chest. A little experimental squirming confirmed that she was completely helpless.
Lady Brightman tied a final knot, then stepped from behind the chair. She smiled down at Jackie, reached out, and lifted her chin. "I don't think I've ever told you this, face-to-face, but I've always considered you to be as precious as one of my daughters, and your father and mother are much more than servants. All of us at Brightman Hall are a family, regardless of our surnames. I-I'll be sorry when you..." Her eyes welled again. She turned away and headed for the door. "I think some tea would be nice," she said as she left.
Jackie watched the door close. This was insane, she mused. First I get caught playing with Solange, then Her Ladyship takes me into the house, and then, rather than untying me or un-gagging me... she ties me up tighter! Insane!
Suddenly, a melodic chime sounded, there was a mechanical noise across the room, and a section of wood paneling lifted into the ceiling. Behind was a large, flat-panel TV. Its screen glowed a uniform blue, and words formed:
SEATTLE, WA, USA
Several seconds passed, then the screen rippled into a view of a modern office of mirrored walls and polished wood. The image zoomed in on a woman seated at a large desk—and it was Margo Wells!
& the Maid
Margo smiled at the crushingly embarrassed Jackie. "Hello, Jaclyn," she said. I'd ask for an explanation for your condition, but you don't seem to be in a position to provide an answer."
Jackie's cheeks burned and her heart pounded. She flexed her arms against the ropes, but it was pointless. Solange had done her work too well, as had Lady Brightman.
"I always knew she had a curious sense of humor," Margo continued, "but this is a bit much, even for Abby."
Just then, the door opened and Lady Brightman returned, carrying a tray with a tea service for two. "Hello, Stretch," she called towards the screen.
"Hello yourself, Legs," Margo answered. "Finally lost it, I see. Poor Abby, hopelessly bonkers, tying up and gagging her staff, for no apparent reason."
"Look who's talking," Lady Brightman laughed.
Jackie looked from the screen to Lady Brightman, in mortified confusion.
Lady Brightman stepped behind Jackie's chair and untied her gag. The still blushing Jackie could see Margo watching this process with a bemused smile. Finally, the stuffing left her mouth and she licked her lips and worked her jaw. Meanwhile, Lady Brightman poured milk into the two cups, followed by tea. She held one of the cups to Jackie's lips, and the still blushing prisoner took a delicate sip.
"Thank you," Jackie whispered.
Lady Brightman gave her captive a second sip, then set the cup and saucer on the side of the desk. Then, taking the second cup with her, she sat in the desk's throne-like main chair. "The rope is courtesy of Solange." she explained to Margo, then took a sip of tea. "Well, most of it, anyway."
"Solange," Margo said. She then reached out of the camera's frame, retrieved an earthenware mug, and took a sip of her own. "Perhaps I should send Jodi out for a visit, to teach her some manners."
Lady Brightman laughed. "Solange and The Trickster together, on the same continent? Is the world ready?"
"Probably not," Margo admitted. "How much have you told her?"
Lady Brightman glanced at Jackie and smiled, then turned back to the screen. "Nothing. Dealing with Solange upset my timetable. And speaking of Solange..." Lady Brightman took another sip of tea, then rose from her chair. "I'd better go rescue the poor thing."
"And escort her to your dungeons?" Margo suggested, "for some proper discipline? I expect to hear all the details."
"Perhaps," Lady Brightman answered with a chuckle, as she headed for the door. "Later!"
"G'bye, Legs!" Margo called after her, then focused on Jackie.
Jackie swallowed nervously, staring at the closing door, then shifted her attention to the screen.
"And now we can talk," Margo said.
Jackie squirmed in her bonds, then smiled at Margo. "I'm not going anywhere," she noted.
Margo laughed, then grew more serious. "That may change, very soon. I have a proposal for you."
& the Maid
Jackie blinked in surprise. "Proposal?"
"We're constructing riding stables on Gondaloo Island," Margo explained. "You're familiar with the place?"
Jackie frowned. "Gonda—Oh! That's Penny's island, isn't it?" Jackie loved Penny Brightman, like a big sister.
Margo laughed again. "Yes, Penny's island. Anyway, when it's completed, someone will have to care for the four or five horses we'll keep on the island—and I'd like that someone to be you."
"You," Margo confirmed. "I'd like you to visit me here in Seattle, see the stables we keep on the Headquarters campus, meet my staff, etc. I'll be perfectly frank. I need my Riding Mistress to evaluate your professional qualifications. Not to worry, though. If she decides you require additional training or education before accepting the position, you'll get it, at my expense. And if, after visiting the island for a while, you don't like it... What's wrong, Jaclyn?"
Tears were welling in Jackie's eyes. "I-I'd have to leave Brightman Hall?"
Margo nodded. "Is that so frightening?"
"No!" Jackie blurted. "I-I-it's just... Oh, bloody hell! This is wonderful! It's just—so much to think about!"
Margo and Jackie laughed.
"It is indeed," Margo agreed. "I tell you what. I'll send you some material to read, plans of the stables, boring Human Resources brochures, etc., and we can talk again in a few days. Before visiting Seattle, I may send you to a ranch in Arizona to look at some quarter horses, but that may change." She smiled, brightly. "Happy?"
Jackie nodded. "Very! Thank you."
"You're welcome," Margo answered. "How's Fanny?"
Jackie's smile broadened. Fanny was her favorite mare, and Margo's favorite as well, when she visited Brightman Hall. "Sassy as ever," she responded.
"Good!" Margo chuckled. "That material should reach you early tomorrow. I'll include a laptop, so you can link to the TESSERACT net; and don't be surprised if you hear from Penny in a few hours."
"I—Thank you," Jackie said, her eyes welling again.
"You're welcome," Margo said, "and welcome to the team, Jaclyn. 'Bye!" She reached out and tapped something on her desk.
Jackie only had time for a quick "Good-bye!" before the screen went blank. A few seconds later, the paneling slid closed over the monitor.
"Stables of my own to run!" Jackie mused, then her smile faded. "On the other side of the planet! ...with Penny! ...a tropical island!" She started to stand, and was stopped immediately, of course, by the ropes still binding her to the chair. She blinked her eyes, realizing her situation: still helpless, still tied up, and sequestered in a sound-proof room. "Telling Mum and Dad will have to wait, I suppose," she sighed. Solange's ropes were totally inescapable, of course, and Lady Brightman's rope had only two knots, one at her ankles, and the other somewhere behind the solid chair back, and both were totally unreachable.
"Lady Brightman??" Jackie shouted. "Your Ladyship??" There was no response. "Anybody??" Jackie sighed. She had no choice but to wait for her eventual release.
"Happy-lovely," Jackie muttered, under her breath, then her smile returned. "Gondaloo Island!" she sighed. "Well, at least I'll be far from all this silly damsel-in-distress nonsense."