‘Now see here …! Dorinda sat up straight pulling futilely at her imprisoned wrists in instinctive anger. The motion thrust her breasts into a flattering prominence. She bore Mark’s appreciative scrutiny with flushed cheeks and an inward tremor. ‘I do not wish to be whipped,’ she assured them with flat finality. ‘Or anything else either,’ she added without being quite sure what she referred to. Having enjoyed her breasts, Mark’s eyes raised to meet her own angry stare. He was obviously puzzled. ‘Do you mean to tell us that absolute clod never briefed you on the drill?’
‘I’m not who you think I am.’
They were full of surprises.
‘Over to the column,’ Mark tersely ordered his s****r.
‘Oh no darling! Please …!’ Terry wailed.
Mark rose to his feet. He had suddenly ceased to be a boy. Terry gave him a penitent grimace, shrugged her shoulders and resumed the pose in which Dorinda had first beheld her. She offered her wrists for the fetters. When the metal bands circled them she pulled as though to assure herself that she was indeed securely chained. ‘I hate you,’ she said to her b*****r without conviction. She turned her mischievous eyes toward Dorinda.
‘You watch your P’s and Q’s,’ she warned. ‘He’s quite merciless.’
Dorinda yearned to run. But what was the use! There was still hope that she was involved in no more than a mild behavioural oddity. But she viewed b*****r and s****r with new and startled eyes.
‘I wanted to be in on it,’ Terry complained petulantly to her b*****r. ‘You’re an absolute b**st, darling.’ Suddenly, perkily, she thrust her tongue out at him in a provocative gesture of defiance.
Quietly, without haste and without anger, Mark lifted his s****r’s left foot off the floor and fastened it to the side of the marble by a shackle, already provided. Terry must now perf***e stand on one foot. I a little while it would become a real punishment. ‘Little girls should be seen and not heard,’ he admonished without anger.
‘Oh, Mark! I’m sorry. I didn’t mean … Oh, no, not on one foot … Please!’ Her captive ankle struggled against the metal that held it a foot from the floor.
Mark laughingly bent and kissed the pouting lips. ‘You asked for it, darling. You know you did.’
‘Oh, all right! So I asked for it!’ Terry admitted.
The siblings smiled at each other in pure love and perfect understanding.
Mark grasped Dorinda’s arm. ‘Come along,’ he said cheerfully. ‘I think we need to have a little walk.’
Dorinda could not have agreed more. But she felt little optimism. The sight of the naked girl chained to the pillar made chaos in her thoughts. It was too unreal! Terry, instead of struggling and complaining, contrived to make herself quite beautiful. Perhaps she posed? Or possessed some unnatural grace. Standing on her one free foot she leaned negligently against the stone to which she was chained. The one raised leg by which she was being penalised enhanced the appeal of the picture that she made, as did the seemingly effortless raising of her arms to the shackles that held them so invincibly. She radiated the perfection of line and posture of an artist’s model. She was very beautiful. She gave the departing girl a smile of encouragement, her own condition forgotten. ‘Don’t be awkward, darling,’ she advised. ‘Or you’ll hurt when you sit down.’ The silvery peal of her laughter followed them from the terrace.
It was a pleasant room. A lounge in which perhaps a nude girl with chained hands might not seem too incongruous. Dorinda sat stiffly in the big arm chair to which she had been guided by a firm but friendly hand.
!Bit early for a drink, I suppose,’ Mark smiled at her appraisingly.
‘Handcuffed girls can’t hold drinks,’ Dorinda pointed out reasonably, but with a hint of sarcasm.
‘No they can’t, can they?’ Mark agreed as though grateful for the reminder. He remained standing. She flushed under his scrutiny.
‘Couldn’t I be d****d in at least something?’ She pleaded with deliberate coyness.
‘No.’ He disposed of the request as though surprised she had made it.
‘I think I could talk better if I wasn’t so … so exposed.’
He dismissed the subject with an impatient wave of the hand. But his smile was again that of the boy she had met upon the road. ‘Young Terry’s a chatterbox,’ he confided. ‘She has to sparkle. We’ll get to wherever we are going better without her.’
‘So you just chain her up and leave her standing on one foot?’
‘What else? Besides, she loves it. Surely you saw that.’
Dorinda had seen it all too clearly. It made her next question inevitable. ‘I am supposed to like it too?’ She clinked her handcuffs.
Mark gave the question considered thought. ‘Actually I suppose not,’ he conceded. ‘We explained this to Dave at the time. The thing that really matters is that you are here. Crossed the Rubicon, so the speak.’
‘I was dumped here by a miserable S.O.B. out of spite. I was never offered a Rubicon to cross. I don’t know your Dave,’ she told him flatly.
‘Remember little s****r’s warning about hurting when you sit down?’ Mark answered nonchalantly.
He laughed amusedly at her motion’s admission of vulnerability. ‘For the moment you are saved by a discrepancy of a couple of days. You weren’t supposed to show up this soon. So I’ll listen to your story. Let’s have it.’
She told it in detail. ‘Mike’s a bastard!’
‘Sounds like a resourceful type. A bit crude perhaps. Makes hard work of things … This marooning lark …! I’d have you behaving in thirty minutes.’
‘Behaving?’ His use of the word was suspect.
He laughed at her groping for what was, for him, obvious. ‘For a girl, behaving is doing whatever a man wants her to do.’ ‘You don’t really mean that.’ Dorinda chided. She prayed inwardly that indeed he did not mean it.
‘I was never more sincere.’
They stared at each other in confrontation. Between them an invisible gage had been hurled upon the rug.
Dorinda temporised. ‘This girl your Dave is to deliver: what is she? What do you expect of her? If you’ll tell me we won’t be so at cross purposes.’
‘Of course, love. Sensible girl,’ Mark d****d himself in a chair facing her and eyed his guest as though striving to gauge the effects his words would have. ‘Frightfully simple, really,’ he said airily.
Dorinda listened. The way Mark told it made everything sound exquisitely simple. Frightfully so!
‘The fantasy had always been there,’ he explained musingly. ‘It was the same for Terry as for me. We were born with it as though we had carried it along from some other life or some other place. It was colored by that same wonder with which a c***d sees its first bird in flight or the branches of a tree against the blue sky. For us it had the beauty and rightness of all natural things. Scoff if you want. It was so. I suppose Terry was about six years old when I first tied her to the apple tree at the bottom of the garden. I wondered why she did not cry. But, for both of us it was the birth of an aesthetic glory most people never know.’
‘Aesthetic … tied to a tree!’ Dorinda protested.
His boyish grin was accusatory. ‘I watched your face when we left Terry chained to her column. You glimpsed it then.’
‘She’s an exhibitionist with a gift for posing. She is also very beautiful.’ Dorinda felt her defence slipping.
‘You don’t really believe that’s all you saw,’ Mark told her discerningly. His voice has become earnest as though she must be made to understand. ‘As c***dren we played. She was always the damsel in distress. But I was never the knight in shining armor. The fantasy cast me in a different role. I was The Male: the Male to whom all females must submit by right of conquest. The wicked baron who chained the poor girl in his dungeon. He never did get as much publicity as good old Galahad. But without him there would never have been a romantic legend.’
‘Terry was entrancingly attuned. She always resisted in about the right degree to maintain validity. The degree of resistance always briefed me as to what I should do to her. When adolescence came she accepted the same joy with which I used it. We found her striated skin that same quality of golden wonder that had pervaded the enactment of our fantasy from the start. It was about that time that we also became lovers …’
‘Whips and i****t! What are you trying to prove?’ Dorinda’s defences were still sliding away from beneath her feet. But she made her protest vehement.
Mark sighed tolerantly at her intransigence. ‘You don’t try to prove the Taj Mahal or Lake Louise in the moonlight. They are there. That’s the beginning and the end. Each is an entity with its own appeal and compulsion. So it is with our fantasy.’
‘And I suppose your parents approved these small pleasantries.’
‘We had to keep it under cover as we grew older. Awful bind actually. But they died in an accident not too long ago and left us quite a lot of money. That’s when we decided to buy The Island.’
‘Seems to me you have your heat’s desire. Why bother with some other poor girl?’
He shrugged. ‘Human perversity, I suppose. Always one more river to cross. Young Terry is absolute perfection. She and I have wondered how amusing it might be to have one that wasn’t.’
‘You mean k**nap?’
‘Well, that is where good old David comes in. He is one of those resourceful blokes you go to when you want the impossible. Put enough money in his hand and he’ll produce it for you. We made only one stipulation. She had to be beautiful.’ He paused to give his next words weight. ‘You are beautiful.’
The dark chasm had widened.
‘Know what I think?’ Mark asked good humoredly. ‘I think Dave persuaded you, and that everything probably went along OK until he hit on this quaint notion of setting you ashore to deliver yourself nicely stripped and handcuffed and ready for action. In the night you got scared and decided you had made an awful mistake and wanted out. Right?’
‘Wrong!’ Dorinda declared with all the emphasis at her command. ‘In a couple of days you are going to have an extra girl on your hands.’
‘Stretching coincidence a bit thin, don’t you think?’
‘I have to agree to that,’ Dorinda conceded dejectedly. She looked across at him brightly. But don’t you see, a couple of days will prove me right.’
‘Suppose I have to concede that unlikely possibility too,’ he admitted unwillingly. ‘Seems sort of a silly game …’
‘So, couldn’t be real nice and treat me as a sort of guest in the meantime? I like you both. You might like me. Please unlock these handcuffs and give me something to wear.’ She put all the feminine appeal at her command into her plea.
‘Get the old cerebrum working, love. You’re not that dim.’
‘Spell it out.’ Dorinda said resignedly. ‘Maybe then I’ll believe.’
‘Oh, you will, ducky. You will.’ He was exasperatingly cheerful. ‘You see, darling, the crux of your situation is that it does not really matter whether you are Dave’s girl or someone else’s. If your story is true it puts you in about the same boat that Dave’s girl will be when and if she arrives. As far as Terry and I are concerned you are a simply first class bit of good fortune.’
‘You mean I’m k**napped. First Mike, than you?’
‘Let’s call it displaced, shall we. Sounds less mercenary.’
‘Either way I am a prisoner?’
‘What about the other girl when she comes? Will you free me then?’
‘No. If one is good, two might bet better.’
‘What will you do about Mike when he roars up here looking for me?’
‘If the apocryphal Michael shows up demanding female flesh, we may hand him the extra girl. Or give him some sort of fairy tale. We think you’ll do nicely for us.’
How neat it was! Dorinda knew herself trapped by circumstances no one had contrived. Taking this engaging young man at his own face value she could understand the plausibility of his thinking. Now that the truth was out she relaxed into the depth of the chair and struggled absentmindedly with her handcuffs.
‘What are you going to do to me? Chain me up to see how pretty I look?’
‘Oh, that’s just part of it,’ Mark exclaimed with boyish enthusiasm. ‘You’re not a natural, are you’ I mean, not like Terry and me.’
‘Good heavens, no!’
‘That’s all right then. ‘He sounded relieved. ‘Think what a marvellous time we’ll have training you.’
Dorinda groped for the right approach. ‘What about conscience? Do you have any? What right have you to make me a prisoner? You can’t possibly expect me to play your silly games?’
‘You will, y’know,’ Mark sauntered over to a cupboard. When he retraced his steps he was flexing the slender length of a wicked looking riding switch. Calmly he offered it for inspection. ‘You’ll do whatever this tells you to, darling,’ he chuckled. ‘Terry always does.’
Dorinda cringed. She was naked and afraid. She knew nothing of pain. But looking at the thing he held she knew it foolish to suppose herself impervious to what it might do to her. She was bewildered. ‘But … that’s cruelty! You are spoiling something good. Out on the road, there where we met, I liked you. I was glad you’d found me – even though I was … like this. With most men I’d have wanted to run away. But I didn’t with you. Please ….’
Mark resumed his seat, one leg d****d over its arm. The riding crop resting across his knee where she could never be unaware of it. ‘It’s a bit of a poser, dear girl,’ he admitted. ‘You see, we really do want you to understand. We don’t want you tot think we’re a couple of absolute bastards: we like you too. I’m in a similar position to some johnny who can play the piano by ear, or a chap who can do a long division in his head. They were born with it. They can never explain it. They can never get rid of it even if they wanted to, and they don’t want to. See what I mean?’
‘You feel that just because you’re obsessed with this … This ‘gift’ shall we call it, that any inconvenience or pain I may suffer is purely incidental and should be borne gladly …’ She looked at him beseechingly. ‘That I am … That I’m well … Sort of privileged to be chosen?’
‘You put it rather well, old girl!’ Mark admitted wryly. ‘Not fair to expect you to digest out fantasy all at one sitting … hence the handcuffs. There’s one thing I want to avoid in speaking of the fantasy and that’s to be flippant. We British … you’re American, aren’t you! We British tend to use flippancy to get us over the hurdles. But it’s not appropriate in this. Honestly it isn’t.’
It was hard to be angry with him. Dorinda listened quietly. Tension dissolved.
‘The word transcendental comes to mind,’ Mark continued thoughtfully. ‘Terry and I are governed by this thing I am trying to make explicable. It is the most powerful f***e in our lives, except perhaps our love for each other. But even there I’m not sure … The nub and essence of understanding it is to face the fact that we are driven by a f***e, a compulsion that gives us an extra dimension in life beyond the norm. We still move within the framework that contains others. But we have been given an additional faculty of sexual expression. Even that does not say enough, because above and behind it always is a glimpse and awareness of an ineffable beauty, something subliminal.’
His voice trailed into silence as though the effort of expression had wearied him. He sat, pensive and distant.
Dorinda knew he would not break the silence. Her heart went out to this man who would always be a boy. She might fight him. But nonetheless he had managed to evoke a picture in her mind. She knew herself within the grip of something she was ill equipped to cope with. She wished the whip was not so blatantly evident. Was it only by the medium of its bite that she would fully understand?
To Be Continued…