Carol lay on the sofa watching television and idly worked on her Christmas list. It was woefully short, a few gifts for people in the office, her secretary and a couple of co-workers she liked and a few for her neighbors and that was it.
She'd been an only child and, with her parents now dead had no family to keep in contact. She'd always been a loner and had never made friends easily. She had a good job and a comfortable home but it all seemed meaningless. She'd had dates with men but they never came to anything. She always put them off in some way. The only one who'd meant anything to her had been back in college. Bob and Carol had been quite an item and his friends and her acquaintances were all getting ready to hear the sound of wedding bells. But when he'd suggested tying her down before sex she'd simply taken one look at him and stormed out saying "I never want to speak to you again." And she hadn't and hadn't intended to. But circumstances had changed.
Tomorrow, Carol had to make a presentation to the board of directors. She had to get approval for her new project. It could make the company a fortune, but would need a big investment. To her chagrin, the presentation would include Bob, the new chairman of the board. Back in college, she'd known that he was wealthy, she just hadn't known how wealthy. His father's company had acquired hers as part of a large corporate takeover. Part of the deal had been to put Bob in charge. She hadn't spoken to Bob since that fateful night, even managing to avoid him as they finished college. The presentation would be a challenge but she felt that she could carry it off by simply ignoring the past and conducting herself as though he were nothing more than the new chairman.
As she lay there she mentally went through her presentation one more time, making sure that she had everything covered. She also mulled over the conversation she'd had with Jacob, her colleague on the project. He'd warned her that unless she did something and found herself a partner (Jacob was always careful about such things), she'd end up alone and bitter. An old black and white film started to play in the background she drifted off to sleep and dreamed of things as they once were, as they were today, and as they might be.
She was floating in the air, looking down at the house where she grew up. It was small and in need of paint but was comfortable and clean. Her parents eked out a living; her mother did house-cleaning and her father did any odd job he could find. The house was in a rural area with woods for playing. As her spirit gently descended she saw her young self go out to play with the other neighbor children. Even then she'd been something of an outsider most of the other children in the area were brought up on farms and were interested in tractors, crops, and hunting. Carol was interested in dolls and books and music, none of the practical things her friends liked. She wasn't good at sports and was always last to be picked for teams.
She played happily with the others -- mostly in games of cowboys and indians or pirates or cops and robbers. It was only as Carol watched her young self going out to play that she realized that all the games she really enjoyed involved some element of being captured and tied up. It was always Carol who was the white woman tied to the totem pole, or the beautiful woman stolen from the sinking merchant ship tied to the mast, or the bound hostage. The woods had many trees and they always doubled as a sturdy prop to which she could be fastened. Some of the other kids were good with knots and knew how to tie Carol so that she couldn't escape. Eventually, the good guys would win and she'd be rescued.
The scenery melted; she was in college. She saw the A student she'd been. She was pretty, in an unsophisticated way and dressed like all the rest: jeans and t-shirts or sweaters in the winter. She was carrying a heavy load of books and was bumped by another student hurrying to get to some class. He didn't stop but just shouted "Sorry" as he continued on his way. She watched his retreating back, sighed, and bent over to pick up the books.
"Here, let me help you," came a deep voice from behind. She straightened, turned and saw a young man, obviously at ease with his surroundings, and dressed in designer clothes. He picked up her books and handed them to her saying "I'm Bob."
"I'm Carol, nice to meet you. Thanks for helping." She started toward her class when she felt a touch on her arm.
"What's the hurry?"
She looked back at him. "I have class, don't you?"
He laughed, "Probably, but I don't go to that many of them."
She couldn't help it and asked "How do you manage to stay in school?"
He looked in her eyes and responded, "Easy, I have money and they want that."
Carol could have cried -- shed worked all through her high school years to earn a scholarship and enough money to live on while at college and here was this rich young man who didn't have to lift a finger. It was so unfair.
He saw her look, "Don't worry about me, I'll get by. Want to go on a date?"
She thought quickly. Why not, said her inner voice, it would be one less meal you have to prepare. "Sure, meet me outside the Science Hall at 6."
He looked disappointed. "I meant now," he laughed.
"But I have class."
He shrugged, "OK, see you at 6" and walked off. Carol hurried to her class her thoughts in turmoil.
Carol remembered that they'd gone on the date; she'd been wearing her jeans and t-shirt while he was nicely dressed. "I thought we'd go to Antoine's," he'd said.
She'd looked at him horrified. "But I'm not dressed, they won't let me in. I'll have to go back to the dorm and change."
He'd laughed "Oh, I'm sure it will be OK." And they'd gone.
The Maitre'D had looked at her and had a shocked look, as if to say Let someone wearing jeans into Antoine's? I'd rather die, and then he'd noticed Bob and recovered, his face all smiles, saying "Right this way." And they'd entered and had eaten a meal Carol had previously only ever dreamed about.
Carol's spirit saw other meetings with Bob. She still despised the fact that he didn't study or go to class but she liked his gentleness. She liked his self-assurance. She'd grown to like him. No, "like" wasn't the right word. She'd grown to love him. He hadn't pushed himself on her, but had seduced her slowly. He'd bought her gifts of clothes and jewelry: designer jeans instead of the cheap pair she normally wore, delicate high-heeled sandals to replace her sneakers, and necklaces and bangles for her arms. Then other clothes: skirts and dresses. She wore makeup for him and dressed more elegantly. She cared more for her appearance and dressed as an elegant young lady. They'd spent all her free time with each other. She still went to her classes and, since he was always free when she was, she didn't think he'd changed in that respect.
Then her spirit flashed to that final evening. She saw the young Bob and Carol walk into his apartment; he looked at her in an odd way and said "How about something a little different?" She looked at him expectantly. "Why don't I tie you down and then have sex?"
She was shocked. Not about sex, they'd been intimate for months, but that he wanted to tie her down. It would be like rape. She couldn't do it. "I never want to speak to you again!" and she stormed out of his apartment, back to her dorm room.
It hadn't been difficult avoiding Bob -- they traveled in different circles, had different friends. She worked hard, finished college, and got a job. Then came the takeover. Every so often, though, her inner voice asked "What if?"
The scene changed again. It was the recent past. Carol watched herself at home, sitting at the computer browsing the web. She did this a lot. She didn't seem to attract men that she wanted to date. She was friends with some, like Jacob, but he had no interest in her. She'd become addicted to the various bondage sites and checked them all nightly. The Carol in front of the screen was as near naked as makes no difference. She wasn't wearing clothes, but instead wore a bra made of a soft white rope that she wound round her breasts to both support them and make them stand out. She wore, if that's the right word, another rope wound around her hips and through her crotch forming a rope panty.
Carol's spirit watched as her physical self flitted from web site to web site, occasionally rubbing her rope panty and sighing with pleasure. She knew how it would end. Carol would close down the computer, lie on her bed and tie her ankles to the bed corners, spreading her legs as far as possible. She'd slip her right arm through another rope loop and then finger herself until she came. Carol knew that she'd become addicted to bondage but didn't know how to find the right person to share that addiction. Certainly not her coworkers. She couldn't bear the thought that they'd know about her secret self.
Again the scene changed. This time her spirit stood in the hallway of what must have been a magnificent mansion. The hall was vast and tiled in marble. It was sumptuously decorated. There were large wooden doors through which she could see hints of other rooms, furnished just as expensively. In front of her was a staircase, wide, curving, leading to rooms a balcony and rooms above. Coming down the stairs were a couple. She didn't recognize the woman but the man was obviously Bob. Older, but still Bob. They were both dressed in office attire. Bob in a suit and she was wearing a long pin-striped skirt with a matching jacket with a white collar and cuffs. She wore stockings and high heels. The only odd thing about her was her jewelry. Carol could see she wore a necklace of steel -- or was it a collar? She had matching anklets; thick, broad cuffs that fit closely around her body. As the couple descended Carol caught a glimpse of matching bracelets under the white cuffs of the jacket.
As they reached the bottom of the stairs, Carol heard the woman speak. "This is getting too weird for me. Get me out of these and don't call me again." It seemed to Carol like she'd seen this before. Different woman, different home, but the same events as the last time she'd seen Bob. No, there was something else different. Bob took out his wallet and handed the woman some amount of money. He was paying her! He took a bunch of keys from his pocket and unlocked the collar and cuffs, putting them all to one side. As soon as the woman was free of them she said "Don't call me or the agency again. I'll warn them about you. Goodbye." And with that she turned and headed out the door.
The scene changed again. It was the future. Carol was back home. She watched herself walk into her bedroom. She was naked, except for the rope bra and panty. Carol watched as her future self lay on the bed, spread her legs and tied them to the corners of the bed. She watched as her future self push her right arm through the loop of rope. Carol's spirit wondered why this -- shed seen it all before. Then she saw something different. Instead of bringing herself to orgasm she watched as her future self pushed her left arm up through yet another rope loop. Clearly she'd found a way to restrain and subsequently free herself. Her physical being twisted and turned on the bed, obviously trying to bring herself to orgasm without touching herself. Prolonging the wait, prolonging the pleasure by postponing it as long as possible. Finally, Carol watched as her future self freed her left arm and, with the merest touch, brought herself to a screaming orgasm.
Again there was a shift, yet the scene was the same. Except that the future Carol's left arm was still in the rope loop. Carol's spirit watched as the physical Carol writhed on the bed. Then it looked like she was going to free her arm to repeat the process. But her arm didn't come free. The knot had tightened and Carol's arm was still stuck. Her spirit watched as her physical self's exertions shifted from pleasure to panic. Now she tugged at the ropes trying to free herself. She called for help. She thrashed. Carol's spirit tried to help. She willed herself to untie the rope but couldn't do anything more than observe. She prayed that a friend would call.
The scene shifted to a funeral home. There was Jacob and a few other colleagues from work. Carol only caught snatches of the conversation. "Who knew?" "Tied herself up with rope" "Bondage" "Poor Carol"
She watched as her coffin was taken to the cemetery and lowered into the ground.
Carol woke with a start to hear "God bless us, everyone" and the closing music of the film. She vowed she'd never, ever bind both arms. She thought again about tomorrow and knew she was prepared. She reviewed her clothing choices: the power suit, conservative heels, some simple jewelry. She was ready. She went to bed and slept.
Carol woke to the alarm clock. As she was getting ready her inner voice said What if? She ignored it and showered. What if? She ignored it and drank her morning coffee. What if?
She thought about it. Why not?
She dressed in a bright red satin blouse, a black leather skirt, stockings and high heels. She pulled her hair back into a pony tail. And she picked out a different bracelet. It was made of a silver mesh and closed with a buckle. It fit her closely to her wrist. Nothing like the cuffs she'd seen in her dream but, in a way, reminiscent of them. Carol only had the one bracelet but she knew it was the right thing to wear.
When she got to work Jacob looked at her in surprise. "What on earth? Who's this? You look like Carol, but you don't look like Carol," he joked. Carol was dressed more daringly than she'd ever dressed at work. Still business-like but, also, very sexy. They headed up to the boardroom to give the presentation.
As she walked in she saw Bob -- he looked just like she'd seen him in her dream. He saw her and, as she held out her hand to shake his she saw him notice the bracelet. He looked her straight in the face and, for a moment, had that same look on his face the last time she'd seen him. At that moment, Carol knew that her life had changed; that her future would be different. That she'd be wearing those cuffs and collar and also that they wouldn't be coming off any time soon.