Gromet's PlazaTG/CD Stories

The Professionals

by Charlotte Arabella Graham

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© Copyright 2014-20 - Charlotte Arabella Graham - Used by permission

Storycodes: FM+/fm+; cd; latex; maids; hobble; heels; boots; hatrack; objectified; bond; display; toys; insert; tease; cons; X

Continues from

Chapter 5

The dresses Leslie had ordered for the party had arrived from Ectomorph. What she had chosen for herself was still a closely guarded secret. The serving wenches, as she now increasingly referred to Amber, Charles and Gwyneth, had, however, been summoned to attend on the Presence in order to try on their uniforms and parade them for inspection.

Leslie had the dresses, shoes and other garments and accessories laid out on three chairs in her lounge. Amber took the dress from her pile and held it up.

“There’s an awful lot of it,” she said. “Couldn’t we wear something a bit, well, less?”

“No,” Leslie replied, hoping that she was not going to have trouble. “I’ve put a lot of thought into this. I want you all to look as alike as possible. You’ll each have a bit to contend with. You will have to wear platforms as well as heels to compensate for Charlotte’s extra height. And she’s going to have falsies and corset the likes of which she doesn’t yet know are possible.”

“And Gwyneth?”

“Well, she’s sort of in the middle. A bit of both, really.”

The dress to which Amber was objecting was Leslie’s interpretation of a Victorian parlour maid, brought up to date. In heavy black latex it had a rigidly boned high stock collar, long leg-of-mutton sleeves ending in tippets that covered the backs of the hands and narrowest of ultra-long skirts that tapered from the hips to be under sixty centimetres at the hem. And, if that was not a sufficient hindrance to easy locomotion, the garment also boasted an overskirt, divided in front to show off the full severity of the hobble and bunched up over a support to form a bustle in the small of the back. In Victorian times the original purpose of such an arrangement had been to produce skirts that appeared very straight, narrow and flat from the front, while allowing some movement by being held out at the back by the bustle cage. With Leslie’s design there was to be no such concession. The underskirt prevented all but the smallest steps. The rôle of the overskirt was quite simply to add extra substance, inconvenience and weight. 

Inconvenience did, indeed, seem to have been one of the main design criteria. As well as its stiff boning, the collar was trimmed round with several layers white latex ruching extending out under the chin and to brushing the ear lobes. Ruching also decorated the bodice, circling above and below ample moulded bust cups and round the sleeves where the puffs ended and tight-zipped continuations began, ending in tippets covering the backs of the hands. There was also a long white apron with ties long enough to make a huge bow in the small of the back but still dangle to near floor level. 

 “I can’t walk in this, on those shoes.” Amber pointing to the pair with five-centimetre platforms and twenty-two centimetre heels in a box at the side of her pile of things. 

Leslie let out a pained sigh. 

 “How many times have I heard that plea?” she asked.

Amber picked up a little maid’s cap, also with long streamers hanging from its back edge and plonked it on her head.

“It’s silly,” she said.

Leslie decided it was foot-down time.

“Silly or not, you and Gwyneth and Charlotte are going to wear it and you are going to like it. And you can do your magic makeup so that you all look as much alike as possible. Any questions?”

“No,” Amber replied meekly.

“Good. Strip off and let’s see what you look like. Gwyneth won’t be here until late but Charlotte should be here soon. I don’t want any argument for that quarter either, so if you are ready and smiling when she arrives, we will have the best part of a fait accomplis. Chop, chop.”

It was New Year’s Eve, 1999. Charles had finally convinced a concerned Barry that, despite all the scaremongering and silly talk, nothing untoward would happen to the computer systems, or anything else. In the end he had been allowed to send the entire staff home to celebrate the new millennium in whatever way they wished, though Charles continued to argue with anyone who would listen that it was really the following year. So the office was empty and silent as the four crept in and began to unload a series of large packages from a hire van. Leslie was still in her every day clothes but the others had changed back at the house in order to save time, Leslie had said.

“I hope that no one sees us and calls the police,” whispered Amber.

“Especially with what we are wearing,” laughed Charles.

“Oh, I don’t know,” Gwyneth chimed in. “They might rather enjoy the experience.”

“I doubt if I would. It should be all right, though,” Charles reassured her. “I went to see the security this afternoon to tip them off that we were organising a party for Barry. And if you think some are missing, I accidentally left a couple of bottles of fizz behind. Very forgetful of me.”

“Sign of getting old, my dear,” Leslie chipped in. “Now cut the cackle and help us with stuff, Barry will be here in an hour.”

They had removed the pieces from their packing cases before loading them into the van that they had borrowed for the occasion. Even so the life size figures were awkward to handle up the steep back stairs to the office. They seemed to have a mind and will of their own and be determined to be as awkward as possible. Charles and Leslie took the table base first carrying it horizontally between them. Gwyneth following behind managed one of the chairs while urging on Amber, struggling with the second chair, with jibes on the lines of, “you ought to come and do some five o’clock mucking out, then you wouldn’t puff so much.

“You don’t muck out wearing a dress and heels like this,” Amber retorted.

“I didn’t realise that the table would be such a problem,” observed Charles, wiping beads of perspiration off his forehead while checking that it was level and that all its fitments were all in order. “It seems to be all legs.”

“No,” agreed Leslie, “I hadn’t realised just how tight those stairs were. I think we’d better go and fetch the glass top. It is pretty heavy for two but I don’t think we can all get at it together.”

When they returned with the top they found a very much out of breath Amber sitting on one of the chairs.

“Hey, get off my chair. It’s not for you to sit on,” teased Gwyneth, pulling her to her feet.

“Why not?” grumbled Amber. “Just because it’s got your head. I’ll go and fetch the hat-stand. And don’t let me catch you hanging your coat on it.”

They all laughed as she flounced, as much as a sub-sixty-centimetre hem would allow, out and disappeared down the stairs.

Leslie plumped up the seat.

“Tell you what, Leslie,” said Charles. “Why don’t you start getting yourself ready or you’ll be running out of time. Gwyneth and I can start laying the table. Amber will be back soon.”

“I can help a bit more.”

“No, you get on. We can manage just as well with three as with four.”

At that moment there was a resounding crash for the stair well followed after a moment’s silence by a wail of anguish.

Gwyneth and Charles froze. Then rushed, if that was the right word for moving in fifteen-centimetre steps to the door. There, crying inconsolably sitting on the top step was Amber clutching the hat-stand. For a moment it did not register with Charles what had happened. Then he saw that the head was missing and was lying, face up at the foot of the stairs, its long wig some metres away to the side. He squatted at the side of sobbing girl and put his arm around her.

“There, there,” he tried to comfort her. “What happened love? Tell me.”

“I thought I could carry it on my own,” she stammered between sobs. “I know I ought to have waited for one of you to help, but I wanted to show that I could do it myself.” She sniffed back a tear. “Near the top I wobbled on these horrible shoes.” She waved a foot as though trying to shake the shoe off. Impossible because of its padlocked ankle straps. “And bumped the statue against the wall. And the head came off and…” At that she burst into tears again.”

Charles retrieved the head and examined the edges where it and the body had been joined. Amber was still crying. He tried again to comfort her.

“I don’t think it was really your fault, love. I think the join was not properly made. Any little bump and it could have come off. Even a jolt in the van on the way.”

“Yes, but I’ve broken it. She continued to sob. “What can we do?”

A half-dressed Leslie, alerted by the noise, appeared at the top of the stairs.

“What’s happened she demanded? Oh, no!”

“What can we do?” Amber repeated.

They carried the decapitated statue into the office. Charles tried to replace the head no way would it stay in place relying on gravity alone while the odd bit of Bluetack® and paper adhesive that a quick search revealed were far too weak for the job. After five minutes of futile fiddling Leslie had an inspiration. Turning to Amber who was still crying, tears dripping down the front of her dress where they dried to leave little white salty marks on the shiny black latex, she said,

“Because you broke it you will have to be the replacement.”

“What do you mean? Charlotte says it wasn’t really my fault,” Amber pleaded.

“No, but you were in charge so you have to make amends. You can be the hat-stand for tonight at least when Barry arrives. Quick, get your things off. Charlotte, get the clothes of the statue. Gwyneth, hide the wreckage, then finish setting the table while I help Charlotte. God, we don’t have much time.”

Amber, too upset to protest, peeled off her maid’s outfit and was soon being laced into the hat-stand’s crotch-high boots and the body harness with its large butt bung dildo and clitoris stimulator.

“It was you that suggested having them,” Leslie reminded her.

Together Leslie and Charles positioned her near the main office door though which they expected Barry to arrive.

 “I don’t think I can hold my arms out for very long like the model though.”

“That’s no good,” said Leslie. “It’s all part of the effect. I know.”

Leslie ran over to the table and removed the ankle straps linked by their leg-spreader.

“This was only for effect as far as the table goes, however,” she handed one end of the bar to Charles; “in this case we can put it to good effect.”

In a moment, Amber found that not only could she hold her arms out indefinitely, but that with a strap round each wrist and the bar nestling behind her neck, there was no other way for them to be. Especially after Charles had used a spare padlock to fasten the middle of the bar to the collar of the body harness.

“There, better than the original, isn’t it, Charlotte. Now darling, try not to breathe it spoils the effect. I must finish dressing.”

Amber would have retorted that she was not so much concerned about breathing spoiling any effect that Leslie wanted, but rather that it rubbed the nipple clamps inside her blouse in a most distracting way. She would have retorted, but at that moment she found that she required all her effort and concentration to deal with the greater wave of stimulation occasioned by the plugs filling her bottom.

Gwyneth had only just finished spray polishing Leslie’s black latex mermaid dress when there was a knock on the door. Leslie rushed to open it while Charles and Gwyneth positioned themselves behind the table, hands demurely on aprons; heads slightly bowed in what they had decided was an appropriate pose for Victorian serving wenches.

“Good evening, good evening,” beamed Barry, exuding exuberance and general good humour from every pore. “What a delightful idea for spending this evening dear madam,” he went on addressing Leslie while studiously avoiding looking at the others. Staff is, after all, invisible.

 “Much better than being bored at the Club. Allow me to give you these flowers and a little something with which to start things off.” He thrust a huge bouquet into, a momentarily overwhelmed, Leslie’s hands and, advancing into the room, placed a Jeroboam of vintage champagne on the table.

“My, my, what have we here?” he said running an appreciative finger over the glass top and then, more surreptitiously, on to the latex suited supporting figure.

Leslie made her way over to him, Gwyneth rescuing the bouquet and, with a curtsey, took charge of finding it some water.

“It’s a little present for you for all the help you gave me in the Sarah Turnbull business.”

“Tut, tut, it was nothing.”

“Nothing or no, I am very, very grateful, we all are. So, knowing that you were a bit miffed when I pipped you to those Allan Jones figures a year or two back, I thought that you might find something on that same lines, perhaps a bit more up-to-date, rather fun.”

“Well, yes, that’s very kind. I must say I do like your idea for the table. Reminds me of something. Come back in a minute.” He turned to survey the room. “And, the hat-stand, I say, that is something.” He stepped over towards it.

“Why, it’s Miss Amber, isn’t it?”

“Yes,” acknowledged Leslie and went on to explain the terrible accident while Amber struggled to simultaneously control an incipient orgasm, suppress the giggles and not breathe.

“So Amber volunteered,” Amber made a face at Leslie at the word, volunteered; she had hardly volunteered, had she? “To act as stand in, or rather hat-stand in, ‘til I can get the other one repaired.”

“On the contrary,” laughed Barry when he heard what had happened, “I think that your replacement is much nicer than the original. Would you mind if I kept it? Well, perhaps not. Would you be so kind as to wait a moment though?”

He went back into the outer office, returning with an umbrella and a bowler hat.

“Never quite sure where to keep these,” he said to no one in particular. “But there, excellent.” And he hung the handle of the umbrella on one of Amber’s wrists and popped the hat over her other outstretched hand. Amber was furious. Leslie gave Amber a quick look that said, “Behave yourself, or else,” in big letters and lead Barry to the table where Charles and Gwyneth were waiting with chairs pulled back.

“Dinner is served, I believe,” she said.

More than replete, Barry pushed his chair back.

“Excellent meal, Ms Weston.” Leslie inwardly grimaced, though she had long given up on trying to get Barry to use her Christian name, it still sounded oddly pompous.

 “Excellent, quite excellent. Good choice of wine too. Some might prefer the ’47 but this was very good.”

He picked up one of the empty bottles surreptitiously checking that there really was none left while pretending to look at the label.

“Sir Henry, you know Sir Henry don’t you my dear? He’s a bit of a ‘47er, but I’m inclined to think he’s getting rather old fashioned. Suppose you get like that dealing with all those antiques every day.”

Leslie didn’t let on that, almost literally on hands and knees, she had begged the Petrus ’61 from Sir Henry.

“And the service,” Barry went on, “thank you ladies.” He gave a little seated bow in the direction of Charlotte and Gwyneth. “Very appropriate costumes, too. Did you design them, my dear?”

“Well sort of,” Leslie responded. “Charlotte has a couple of French Maid’s uniforms she uses when cleaning up and so on.” She momentarily broke off and looked at Charlotte and Gwyneth who were trying to look inconspicuous not to fidget. “You can clear the table now girls,” she said.

“Now, where was I,” she went on again turning to Barry. “Oh yes these costumes. Initially I thought that you might like the French Maid style. But really, that is not right for serving at dinner. All those frills tend to get in the way rather. Then, having decided on the Allan Jones theme for a present I remembered the waitress outfit he did as a possible for the Clockwork Orange, you know, sort of all covered up and demure at the front, but with the bottom bare, but Charlotte didn’t like the idea of that.”

Barry nodded. He was pretty sure he knew why.

“So, in the end I thought, ‘what better than something modelled on a Victorian parlour maid style, brought up to date a little?’ A kind of homage to the last century as we move into the next one.”

“Quite so, quite so, and absolutely splendid if I may say so. What time is it? Half-past eleven, emm. Perhaps we can save the bubbly till after midnight. I expect Charlotte will want to be slipping upstairs soon just to make sure all is well, so if you could call the girls in for a few minutes I have a little something for you too. Could you lend me a hand with the box, it’s rather big.”

The box, concealed in a small cloakroom off the office was indeed big, a metre square at the base and half as tall again.

“I think,” said Barry as he and Leslie dragged it out, “that it would be nicest if you were to open it where Amber,” who was still acting hat-stand, “could see.”

So, while the other looked on, Leslie opened her present. She removed the ribbon and lifted off the lid. The sides fell down to reveal a piece of sculpture inside. It was a lamp in Art Deco style. A girl, naked but for a ribbon round her waist, standing one foot on tip-toe, the other drawn up to her knee, leaning backwards for balance and holding a large glass globe in her outstretched hands. And the figure was that of Amber, from the casting taken in Nigel’s studio.

Chapter 6

One day in late spring, Charles received an internal telephone call. He had been expecting it for some time; but with increasing dread as each day passed. 

 “Would Charlotte come and see Barry, please?” 

That was it. The programs were all up-to-date; most, indeed, better than they had ever been. For a month now Charles had essentially been twiddling his thumbs. Everything had been done; as a consultant; he now had no rȏle to play. 

With a heavy heart he went up to Barry’s office. On the way he had to pass Barry’s personal secretary. She gave him a quizzical smile. It was not just the shoes they wore, a truce - or was it an armistice? - having been called by unspoken mutual agreement in the battle as to who could brave the highest heels; she knew something that Charles did not. He feared the worst.

Barry was not in his outer office but the door was ajar to the sanctum sanctorum. He was justly proud of his collection of erotic art that had been accumulated over many years; buying privately or at auctions, sometimes competing against Leslie though, with his much deeper purse, he usually won. Recently he had seemed to be spending even more time with it. In the past he had wandered around the offices most days. Charles suddenly realised he had not seen him for a long time; several weeks, it now seemed.

Charles pushed gently on the door. Barry, wrapped in what he was doing, failed to notice.

Charles gave a discrete, though perhaps not altogether lady-like, cough.

Barry looked up.

“Oh Charlotte, my dear. It’s you, come in, come in. Have a seat. So good of you to come.”

‘But I was summoned,’ thought Charles.

He sat down on the proffered chair as Barry slid it under him. Barry, ever the gentleman, now treating him like a lady.

Barry went around to the other side of his massive desk and sat down; put his fingers together and looked up at the ceiling. Then he looked at Charles.

Charles waited for Barry to begin. When he did so it was not at all what he had been expecting.

“You’ve done a great job sorting out the programs. Everything’s running like clockwork; never been better, in fact. Thing is, there’s nothing left for you to do in that department. Done yourself out of a job really.”

‘Here it comes.’ though Charles, ‘thank you and goodbye.’

Abruptly changing the subject, Barry went on.

“I’ve been going through the collection. You have seen it haven’t you”

Charles, remembering only too well, nodded.

“Been cataloguing it properly for the first time. Now I look at it again there are an awful lot of gaps in it that ought to be filled. I’ve been talking to Henry about them. He reckons that a lot of good stuff will be coming up in the New York salerooms over the next several months. And, actually, I rather enjoyed being back at the auction when we were doing that Flame Dancer thing, even if it was rather, shall we say, unconventional. Knocked matron’s knickers into a cocked-hat, so to speak,” he chuckled, relishing the double entendre.

“Anyway, to cut a long story short and come to the point, I fancy being in the States, at least for the season, and wondered if you would take over the running of the business while I’m away? Sort of general manager cum CEO.” 

For several moments Charles was speechless. This was not at all what he had expected. He didn’t know what to say.

Barry fidgeted.

“You could do it? I mean, you haven’t got something else lined up, have you?” He was almost imploring, willing Charles to say, ‘Yes.’

“Well, I’m dumbfounded,” said Charles at last. “Quite dumbfounded. I came up here fully expecting you to say that my services are no longer needed. It’s very generous of you to think of me but I’m not at all sure I’m the right person. There must be plenty more with lots more experience that I have; after all, I’m a computer consultant not a businessman.”

“Yes, yes,” said Barry, “but you now know more about this business than anybody. You’ve got a doctorate in theoretical physics; they don’t give them away for nothing.”

Charles laughed.

“Maybe, but they don’t teach you how to handle people.”

“Handling people wouldn’t be a problem,” said Barry quickly. “We’ve got a good personnel manager who will look after that side of things, no what I want is someone who knows the business inside-out and will run it properly on a day-to-day basis. And I think that person is you.”

Barry paused for a few moments while Charles let it soak in. Then he began again.

“Look, it’s Friday and it’s getting late. Why don’t you take the weekend to think it over, then come and see me first thing on Monday so we can sort out the details?”

Clearly, in Barry’s mind it was a done-deal; Charles having now choice but to say, ‘Yes.’

By Sunday evening Charles was no nearer making up his mind than he was two days before. Turning Barry’s proposition over in his mind, yet again, he was late going down to the dungeon. Leslie and Amber were already there, Leslie temporarily having given up her task of trying to keep Amber still.

Charles had arrived wearing his new Victorian parlour maids dress with its long white apron and mop-cap, with ribbons at the back on his head, modelled very much on the one Leslie had chosen for the party.

“The old one was getting the wrong shape or me for it,” he explained lightly though, really, he had several ideas for a new one so needed any excuse to try them out. “For a while I thought about having it in bubbly-gum pink with electric-blue trim but, in the end, I reckoned that the traditional black-and-white was the best; sort of more serviceable, and the black came in thicker gauges than the colours so the dress could be made much heavier”

“It’s not exactly standard issue, is it though?” observed Amber after he had given the assembled company the customary, ‘twirl.’

“Well, no. For a start, the old one was very nice but after a while when it had got sweaty inside you got little drips from the wrists. This new dress has the gloves attached to the sleeves so that can’t happen anymore. Also, I thought that as it was a sort of bondage dress it ought to be a bit more restrictive so I ordered it with a much tighter skirt and a higher, stiffly boned, collar so as to be almost a neck corset. The pièce de résistance is, however, how it zips up.”

Charles turned his back to the girls and untied his apron. In the small of the back was a small pad-lock, the loop of which passed through the pulls of two zips; one down from the high collar, the other up from the dress’s hem.

“I got the idea from suit-case zips,” he said, trying to turn to speak over his shoulder but finding that his head was fixed almost solid be the collar. “You can’t get the dress off without it being unlocked and the lock is concealed by the apron tie.”

“And you can’t relieve the hobble either, can you?” asked Amber.

“No, the zips are open-ended but when the bottom one’s pulled up that’s it.”

“Where’s the key for the lock?” Amber asked innocently.

“Upstairs, in the flat.”

In an instant, Amber was on her feet and running for the door. Leslie was even quicker.

“We can all play hide-and-seek with the key some other time but I think Charlotte has got something on her mind that she ought to share with us. You have got something on your mind, haven’t you?” asked Leslie, ever sensitive to people's mood. “Can you tell us? Perhaps we can help.”

Charles looked up at the ceiling, then at his gloved fingers, while the others waited. 

“OK. Here goes. Barry has asked me if I would like to take over the day-to-day running of his Company. Apparently, he wants to devote more time to his collection. I think that the do over Flame Leaper has re-kindled his love of auction sales and he wants to pit his knowledge against that of the experts.”

“Have you accepted his offer?” asked Leslie.

“I’m thinking about it.”

“What is there to think about? It’s a wonderful offer. The Company was Barry’s special baby.”

“I haven’t said, ‘Yes,’ yet.”

“But you will, won’t you?”

“Why are you so keen on me doing it, Amber?”

“Well, I sort of got you the job with Barry in the first place. I mean, if I hadn’t helped you.”

“..and if you hadn’t gone off with the keys.”


“Now, cut it out, you two,” cut in Leslie. “With one of you on each side it’s as bad as having tinnitus. It’s a great offer but Charlotte has a lot to think about. Not only is it a change of career and a big responsibility, it means lots of other things too, no going back to Charles, for example.”

 “Yes, I know. It’s just that even if I know about the technical side, managing people is a different thing. For computers there may sometimes be unpublished features that have to be fathomed out. For people they even forgot to supply a work-shop manual. I’m an IT person. IT department are full of odd people, self-included, but it doesn’t matter. What is important is that they really know their stuff; then it’s, ‘out of sight, out of mind.’ I suppose that what I’m really worried about is that I might not be accepted by senior people in other companies; they can be very stuffy. It’s all right at the office because, well though it sounds a bit big-headed, I proved my worth. And going on the bus or the tube is no problem; the other passengers are just people; you don’t have to persuade them to do deals. But what if an important client takes umbrage?”

“Look, Charlotte,” getting a little tired of this introspection. “What is the alternative? Your job as a consultant is done. If you don’t accept Barry’s great offer, what then? You leave the Company and look for another consultancy. Where? How will you continue this lifestyle? Do you want to go back to being Charles? I very much doubt it. Barry’s offer lets you carry on being what you want to be. OK, you’ve got to learn some new tricks, so? Of course, you can do it. There can’t be a better ambassador for what you are; as for the change from technical expert to manager of everybody, whatever their sex. And, well you did say that everybody is doomed to become a manager.”

Charlotte laughed.

“I think what I said was that the best people, whether it was a punched-card operator promoted to supervisor, never again to punch a card, or a teacher promoted to head who never then enters a class-room, stop doing what they are good at and, maybe, then fail in the new job.”

“You won’t fail!” the girls said in unison.

“Look,” said Leslie, “Barry is well known for being, well a little odd in his tastes, shall we say. But he is also renowned for being a very shrewd judge of people; that’s one of the reasons why he does so well at auctions; he can read the opposition like a book. If he didn’t think that you could do the job and that the Company would be safe in your hands, he just wouldn’t have asked you.”

“OK, I’m persuaded. Actually, what you say about having to leave the Company and find a new job is true. I’ve been dreading having to do it for weeks. Things have changed so much and we’ve been through so much together I don’t think I could do it.”

“Well, you won’t have to break any glass ceiling.”

“No, I’ve sort of quantum-tunnelled through it.”

“What’s a quantum funnel?” asked Amber, who had only been half listening.

“Quantum tunnel,” said Leslie, “it’s a…" 

“Don’t tell me, I’m the resident bimbo, I won’t understand,” retorted Amber.

“Would you keep the same secretary?”

 “‘Spect so, Amber. She probably knows more about the Company than anybody.”

“It will be the battle of the high-heels.”

“More like the Hundred-year War.”

“You could give her a raise,” suggested Amber.

“I don’t think she needs much incentive,” laughed Charles.

“… and a copy of the catalogue,” she went on.

“You could wear ballet-boots.”

“I have a pair but I don’t think I could manage with them all day. Be purgatory standing in the tube.”

“That’s decided, then,” in a tone that indicated that she had made up her mind and that she expected everyone else to follow suit. You’ll have to get some new business cards, ‘Dr Charlotte A Graham CEO.’

“Business cards will be the least of my worries,” laughed Charles. “The Company has some very demanding and influential clients.”

“You’ll have to have lots of sharp business suits. If it wasn’t Sunday tomorrow we could go out and get some; how about Monday? I can be free all day. What about you, Lesso, you’re free too aren’t you? Say it would be just like when we first took Charlotte shopping.”

‘Yes,’ thought Charles, ‘but much more expensive.’

It was the following Sunday morning. Charles lifted his pair of knee-length ballet-boots off the shelf and turned them over in his hands thinking of the conversation of the night before and the imaginary or was it not so imaginary, challenge of the battle of the high-heels.

‘Perhaps I ought to practice walking in these a bit more,’ he thought. ‘Just in case I have to put my foot down to show who’s boss,’ then laughed at the images this conjured up.

He checked that the gel pads in the toes were still there and soft, then pulled the boots on, lacing them up tightly so as to get maximum support from the wedging action of his calves as the boots tapered towards the ankles. The problem with ballet-boots being that, whereas even with the highest of ordinary heels the weight is taken normally on the ball-of-the-foot, in ballets it is all on the ends of the toes.

Charles tried to stand up and immediately found himself sitting down on the sofa again. He tried a second time, with much the same effect.

‘God,’ he thought, ‘these heels are high.’ Of course, he realised, the faux leather pencil skirt he was wearing didn’t do much to help.

There was no alternative. He crawled on hands and knees to a chair and hauled himself up to stand, unsteadily upright.

Gingerly he tried walking, one hand on the wall to steady himself. It wasn’t as bad as it might have been – not quite. His normal, every-day, footwear typically had ten-centimetre heels, these, ‘fatties,’ being replaced by fifteen-centimetre ones for the dungeon. But the ballet-boots were different; apart from the extra five centimetres of heel compared even with dungeon shoes, much of his weight was taken on the end of his toes – and it hurt! Charles decided that he just had to persevere.

‘No way can I wear these all day,’ he thought, ‘but maybe for an hour or so; just to put one over that secretary if I have to.’

Charles took a few turns around the apartment. Walking seemed to be getting a bit easier or his toes were going numb – or both. Keeping the boots on, he turned to do some domestic tasks; but he couldn’t help his mind keep returning to the boots. 

‘It rather like when Amber put me in really high heels in the hotel. It was all right initially on the bedroom carpet but quite a different thing on the marble floor of the foyer,’ he thought. ‘Perhaps I ought to try walking on a hard surface.’ The problem was that the apartment had fitted carpets everywhere.

He glanced out of the kitchen window. That was it, the mews at the back of the house. Not only was it hard, it was irregular still with cobbles in places; if he could walk on that he could walk on anything. 

Charles opened the door to the fire-escape down to the mews that doubled as his entrance. Gingerly, he stepped out onto the iron platform at the top of the escape. His conjecture had been quite right: the carpet may not have been easy but this was an order of magnitude more difficult.

“No going back now,” he told himself. “Forward!” 

Grabbing both handrails as firmly as he could, he launched-off down the steps making sure that the heels landed squarely on the metal.

‘Try not to get one stuck in a hole like you did with Gwyneth’s Land Rover,’ he thought.

At last he was at the bottom; out of breath but exhilarated with his success. He paused for a minute to get his breath back, and then started to try to walk across the mews. He took one wobbly pace; then stopped. There were shiny cobbles at the foot of the fire-escape and they were impossibly slippery. Clinging to the hand-rail, Charles, at every tiny step fearing that he would fall over, slowly made his way round the base to a wall that he hugged as though it was a long-lost friend.

“Phew,” exclaimed Charles out loud, “that was a close one!”

Again, he paused to get his breath, then set-off to walk round the mews on the smoother asphalt, all the time keeping one hand on a wall – just in case. It seemed to be getting a bit easier as he turned around to walk the other way, even to the extent of taking a hand off the wall – provided it was there if needed.

He heard a shout from above him and looked up, nearly falling backwards in the process, his balance being at best still only marginal. 

“Coo-ee,” it was Leslie, leaning out of a second-floor window and calling.

“What are you doing? First you went around the muse one way keeping a hand on the wall; then you went round the other way. And you were just going to start all over again. What are you doing?”

“I thought that I ought to practice these ballet-boots,” he shouted back, “outside on some real ground, rather than just on a carpet.”

“Well,” she said, laughing, “I don’t think that you should try going up the fire-escape just yet. Come round to the front door and I’ll let you in then we can have a coffee together.”

Now that she pointed it out, Charles had to admit how to get up the escape again was something to which he had not given proper thought when embarking on his practice session. Though using the front steps meant going a little way into the street, it did now seem that would be infinitely preferable to ascending the metal stairs again.

“You’re probably right.” He glanced up at the flat. It seemed much higher up and the fire-escape much steeper than he remembered. “I’ll come round. See you.”

‘I sure I am,’ thought Leslie as Charles slowly began to navigate his way out of the mews.

The front door of the house was accessed by a short flight of stone steps. Fortunately, there were handrails on each side so that Charles was able to use these to haul himself, not very elegantly, up. He pressed the bell. There was a distant sound of ringing but no tell-tail click of the door’s bolt being withdrawn. Charles felt curiously exposed in his ballet-boots standing, as he was, on the top step, “like a mannequin on a pedestal,” he thought. In fact, the passers-by probably paid no notice whatsoever; they were too busy with their own affairs. Charles’ toes were protesting at standing still on the stone step. He was stuck out as long as he could knowing that Leslie was as likely to ignore a second ring as not. “If they are that impatient, let them wait,” seemed to be her motto. He was just about to let his toes get the better of him when he heard the bolt pull back.

He staggered through the door as quickly as he could, fearing that, at any moment, he might find himself stuck outside again, and into the marble floored hall.

“Sorry to have kept you waiting outside,” a cheery voice came from the kitchen. “I heard you ring but a client was on the ‘phone. Go into the lounge; I’ve got the coffee on. I say, those boots are really something, would you like to be my maid and wear them tonight?”

“No,” said Charles, rather more firmly than he would have wished, adding, “sorry, I’ve got thing I must do this evening.”

“That’s a pity,” said Leslie, “you would have looked great.”

Continues in


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