Courage
by Leviticus

She sat for a long time in her car, staring at the supermarket just fifty feet away.† She was nervous, she was scared, and her heart was pumping a thousand beats a minute, but she knew she couldnít go back; something inside her just wouldnít let her do it.

"I need you to pick up some groceries this afternoon;" he had said to her an hour ago, "the list is on the fridge."

"But..." she had replied, the nearest she had come in a long time to ever questioning an order of his.† She left her mouth hanging open, letting her eyes finish her question.

He smiled at her in that way he had, that made even some of his strangest requests seem reasonable, and replied, "Thatís fine, and you can go as you are, although I would suggest your blue dress and sandals."

"Blue dress...sandals," she repeated, before retreating from the garage where he was fiddling with the engine of his truck.†† As if in a dream she went to their bedroom, selected the dress she knew he meant, slipped it on, and with her sandals made her way to the kitchen to pick up the shopping list and her purse.

Now she sat in her car, staring at the building she had to go into in order to complete her task, still feeling as if she was dreaming and not surrounded by the quiet bustle of a Wednesday afternoon.

There was a clinking sound from her lap and she glanced down to see the reason for her state of nerves, for locked about each of her wrists was a case hardened steel manacle, connected together with a bright steel chain only a foot long.† Sheíd been wearing them all week for she hadnít had any reason to leave the house until now, and was likely to wear them for much longer for he liked them on her.† They were comfortable despite their lack of padding, the steel worn smooth from years of use.† A jingle from below announced that her ankles too were encased in similar restraints, her stride limited to twelve inches, no more.

But now he was asking her to do something she had never done before, show her bonds in public, and she was scared although she knew that logically she had no reason to be frightened.† She wouldnít be doing anything illegal, she wouldnít be hurting anyone, and in such a public place she wouldnít be in any danger of getting hurt herself.† It was just...unusual.† And yet...

She closed her eyes a moment and tried to gather her courage.† She wondered what would happen if she just started the car and drove home without the groceries she was expected to buy.† How mad would he get?† Would he look at her in that disappointed way of his, would he yell at her, punish her for not obeying him?† Or worse, would he be understanding about her fear, holding her in his arms while explaining her fear away and gently helping her to come back here and do it anyway?†† What made that worse was how bad she felt disappointing him and not being punished for screwing up.† In circumstances like that she felt unworthy of the love and trust he showered upon her.

So it was either suffer that, or suffer this.† Taking a deep breath she reached for the door handle and opened the door.

In her mind she saw the whole world stop and stare at her as she began her quickstep toward the store, but in actuality she had made it almost all the way before anyone noticed the attractive young woman in the blue dress and steel chains.† People coming and going from the store all looked at her; some for just a moment before moving on with their busy lives, while others watched her for as long as she was visible.

An old gentleman in a tweed suit held the door open for her as she entered, smiling and saying good day in the manner of his generation, and she paused for a second, embarrassed and nervous, but managing to say hello all the same before continuing.†† As she moved toward the cart racks she became aware of how people stopped to look at her, of how they whispered and laughed behind her back, and for a very strong moment she desperately wanted to get out, to leave the store and head home.† Holding tightly to the handle of her cart though, she fought within herself to gain the courage to go on with her task.† She kept telling herself that all she was doing was something unusual, that she could expect people to stare at her and even laugh.† They wouldnít understand...couldnít really, why she was doing what she was doing.† What was it to them that in doing this she was being who she was and not hiding behind a veneer of supposed society that was intolerant of anything different?† Besides, she was also doing this because she loved him, and needed to display her love in this way.† Her need to serve, to be pleasing was strong in her; it would have to be in order to have the courage to go on sometimes.

So she gathered herself together and began her trek up and down the aisles, consulting her list and putting items into the cart.

From time to time she would notice people watching her, customers, store clerks, and at one point a man in a suit almost approached her, indecision clear on his face.† But she was able to make her way through the store with surprisingly little resistance, her ankle chain striking the floor every time she stopped to look at something, her wrist chain jingling as she reached for this and that.† At one point a clerk held open a freezer door for her as she took some bags of frozen vegetables from it, and she could see the questions in his eyes as he examined the chains and cuffs close up.† She smiled at him though, amused and somewhat relived at his discomfort, realizing that she wasnít the only person feeling uncomfortable about all this.

"Are you okay, Maíam?" asked the clerk, concern in his eyes also.

"Iím fine, thank you," she replied, touched that he would ask.

The clerk nodded and his eyes gave her body a quick once over before he moved away.† She wasnít surprised he had looked at her that way, her blue dress while seasonal and quite decent, still left most of her back bare as the top tied about her neck, and her deep tan and slim figure was always a draw for men.

She was actually beginning to relax a little by the time she finished selecting her items, although that relaxation was clearly a relative thing to how she felt when she entered the store.† But once at the check out, where a lot of people waited and stared, things got more difficult.

The check out girl was young, heavily made up, and seemed to find the sight of a woman in chains to be quite funny.† She had laughed about it with her friends as they watched the young woman in the blue dress go about her shopping, and now here she was standing at the check out, her purse in her closely restricted hands.

The check out girl started passing items through over the scanner as usual, but couldnít resist talking to this strange woman.† "So, whatís with the chains?" the girl asked.

"Whatís with the make up?" she replied, never liking the kind of woman who would do that to themselves.

"No, seriously...why all the chains?† Are you someoneís prisoner or something?† Or are you just weird?" continued the girl.

Now while the young woman in the chains was submissive, one thing she wasnít was a doormat.† She had pride in herself just like anyone else would have, and also wasnít the kind of person to let an insult slide.† So she bristled somewhat at the girlís comments.

"Do you normally insult your customers?" she said, trading fear for annoyance for a moment.

The check out girlís eyes opened wider and her gum chewing smile actually faded.† "Iím sorry...gee, I was just asking!"

"Itís none of your business," our heroine replied, taking a credit card out of her purse.†

The rest of the transaction was done in silence until the bag boy asked her if she needed help with her bags.† She gave him a look that wiped the smile off his face as well and was about to say something scathing when out the big front windows of the store she saw a police car pull up.

All her confidence and anger left her and the fear returned, yet the courage she had that had brought her this far stopped her from collapsing completely, and she stood to face what ever music was coming down.†† So she watched as the man in the suit, the manager probably, talked quickly outside with the police officer, before both men entered the store.

The officer looked her over, curiosity on his face, before walking over to her.† A big man, he exuded the sort of domineering presence that got her heart racing, and she automatically slipped a little further into her submissive persona as he approached.

"Maíam, can we talk outside for a moment?" he asked her.

She nodded and followed him out the store, chains jingling as she walked.† Standing beside the police cruiser she really did draw the eye now, and she wondered if the officer was going to take her in for some reason.

He asked her for some identification and she handed him her purse, which he looked through before taking her driverís license.† But his eyes never really left her and it wasnít lust or other manly interests that was in his eyes, but concern and curiosity.

"Maíam," he said, a little quieter now that lots of people were looking, "letís sit in my car so we can talk."

"Am I in trouble, Sir?" she asked, both wishing that her Master was there and yet hoping that he wouldnít find out about this.

"Well, Iím not sure yet, thatís why we have to talk.† Come, sit," he said, opening the back door for her.

She did as she was told and got into the car, and he quickly joined her, sitting in the front.† He looked at her ID again and now that they were in private, asked the question that was most on his mind.† "Maíam, why are you wearing chains?† Are you in any sort of trouble?"

"No, Sir."

"Then why?"

"I want to, Sir."

"You want to.† Well...why here, at this store?"

She wondered if he would understand the truth, but somehow she doubted it, so few did. She looked away.

He watched her for a moment, noting her figure, her posture, and with a sigh he called in her ID to see if there were any warrants open on her.† Her chains werenít standard issue for his line of business, but it paid to be thorough.† While waiting for the results though he asked her another question.† "Do you have the keys to those things somewhere? †I didnít see them in your purse."

She shook her head.

"Where are the keys?"

"My...husband has them," she replied.

"Did he put those things on you?"

Another nod.

"Did you want them on you?" he asked gently.

"Yes, Sir," she said quietly.

"Do you want me to take them off you?"

Silence, not even a move of her head, then after a moment she shook it.† "No...I want them on."

The officer bit the tip of his tongue in thought, a nervous habit, before getting back a report from his dispatcher that she was clean as far as the law was concerned.† No warrants.† So he put her ID back in her purse and handed it back to her.

"I got called here," he said, "because the manager said you were disrupting his store, did you know that?"

"No, Sir."

"Do you think you were disrupting his store?"

She glanced up at the officer. "No, Sir.† Not really.† People looked...but that was all."

"I expect they would.† The thing is, I see no evidence of what he was talking about, and while I would advise you leaving the chains at home next time you come here, you arenít legally doing anything wrong.† People wear some strange things at times, but unless it is sexually or racially offensive I canít really order you to stop or take you in for it.† Understand?"

"Yes, Sir," she replied, feeling somewhat relieved that she wasnít going to jail.

"Iím going to let you go, and Iíll go talk to the manager while you get your groceries together and go home.† By the way, did you drive here like this?"

"Yes, Sir, I did.† And itís safe, the chains donít interfere at all, I can reach everything I need to comfortably," she replied, needing him to understand that.

The officer nodded and got out of the car, walking around to open her door.† He helped her out and the couple reentered the store where her groceries still waited for her.

"Thereís no problem here," the officer said the manager, "she can shop here like this if she wants to."

"What?† But thatís...it canít be legal!" protested the manager.

"Sheís perfectly within her rights to do this as long as she isnít overly disruptive, and I see no evidence of that. †Okay Sir?"

The manager didnít seem satisfied, but he could do nothing about it.

Meanwhile, the woman in the blue dress and silver chains, directed the bag boy to pick up her groceries, and after a shy smile at all watching, they left the store.

The drive home passed by almost without her realizing it, and it was only as she pulled into her own driveway that she began to truly relax.

She carried the bags one at a time from the car to the kitchen, before returning to the bedroom to remove her dress and shoes and present herself before him in the garage where he still worked.

"How did it go?" he asked her with a smile.

She related all that happened, not leaving anything out, even how she felt, and was actually able to chuckle with him about it now that it was past.† He came over to her and kissed her, telling her how proud he was of her, and she felt happy, not even minding much when he left an oily handprint on her bare butt.† His last comment before ordering her out though, put a little fear back into her heart.

"Good, Iím glad it went okay.† You can go get the groceries from now on then!"

FOUR MONTHS LATER.

She parked and got out of the car, digging in her purse for a Kleenex as she made her way across the parking lot to the store.† A surprised looking middle aged woman held the door open for her but otherwise she didnít attract the attention she had when she had first come here to shop in her chains.† People still looked, but she was no longer the curiosity she once was, although she suspected that the increase in business the store was enjoying now had to be partially because of her.

Word had spread, people talked, and for a short while she had felt a bit like a celebrity with all the attention people almost gave her.† But just like any other strange fad, like the first punk hairdo, or the first really tall platform shoes, her chains slowly became less shocking and a part of life in general -- especially when others started to copy her.

At the check out, the checkout girl needed a hand lifting a case of Pepsi up over the scanner because her hands were chained together, separated by only twelve inches of chain.† The girl smiled as she worked, enjoying the feel of the metal about her wrists, and gave our heroine a wink.

"You may have something here," the girl said.

"I always have!" was the reply, and life went on.

End