HTG: Donna Learns the Ropes
by Delilah Winston

Part 2

“May I get you anything?” said the hostess of Jackson's Bar and Grill as she showed Donna, Christina and Karen to their booth. The booth was far in the rear of the bar, in a semi-secluded corner that offered some privacy.

“Three martinis, please,” Karen said. “Make one a double, and strong.”

Donna's stifled chuckle sounded more like a snort as she slipped out of her coat and sat down, placing the coat and her purse beside her. “Family therapy session complete with a stiff drink,” she quipped. “You've been at this for quite a while, if that tells me anything.”

Karen nodded lightly. “I've been admin assistant for two years. Secretary for four years before that.”

“And I did reception, like you, for three years, and I'm in my second year as a secretary,” Christina added.

Donna opened the cuffs for her blouse and began rubbing the lotion in to her wrists. The rope marks were nowhere as severe as she might have worried, if the thought of it were anywhere near the front of her mind. “Do they provide cotton padding if you bruise easy?” her voice oozed sarcasm.

But Christina answered seriously. “They've done it a few times.”

Donna's head snapped up and she half-snorted again. “Seriously! How can you talk about all this like it's so normal? I mean, how long have you been out of 'orientation,' as you so nonchalantly call it?”

Christina and Karen put their hands to their mouths so their giggling wasn't too loud. Karen accompanied her laughter with a light shake of her head.

“Wait until you're done with orientation, there'll be a surprise or two in store,” Christina smiled. “Not a lot about today got past you, Donna. I could see it in your eyes, hear it in your voice. I'll wager it took you half as long as almost any other new hire to figure out that I didn't simply 'happen' to bring new forms into your office, because I was tied up just as tightly as you were. I didn't give you any reassurances that you'd be all right, because I was gagged just as tightly as you were. And I could see that you knew immediately, that I didn't drop my jaw in horror when I came into your office to invite you here, because you looked exactly like I looked when I was untied at the end of my first day.” Karen gave a slight smile and raised one hand to shoulder level for a second or two as Christina said this.

Their drinks arrived, and Donna took the toothpick skewering the olive in her martini, twirling the olive around in the glass with it. “And so you're here now, to tell me all of this that you couldn't before.” Donna's tone had yet to change an iota... but neither Karen nor Christina expected it to, this quickly.

“If it means anything, Donna,” Karen said gently, “HTG has its share of young women who didn't come back after the first day. More who didn't come back after the second.”

Donna finally lifted her glass to her lips and took a sip of her martini. “What makes you think I will?” she challenged.

Karen shrugged softly. “What makes me sure? Nothing, really. What makes me think so?” She drummed her fingers lightly along the rim of her martini glass. “Because you're here. Only a few of the ladies who didn't come back agreed to come here to be taken to dinner. Your sitting with Christina and me now, and that you haven't given either us of a shiner or a bloody nose to be checked out by a doctor, speaks a great deal more than you probably want to think about.”

A waiter came to take their dinner orders. Once these were given, and the waiter out of earshot again, Donna took a glance about the booth they were in. “I suppose these people are all in on it?”

Christina and Karen chuckled again, a little louder this time. “Now you're getting really paranoid,” Christina said. “They know that we always choose these semi-secluded booths when coming here, but they don't know why, and they don't care why. It's none of their business and they don't consider it to be. We come in, we eat, we pay the bill, and they're happy.”

“And while you might be very skeptical, or at least sarcastic... there are plenty of people even in HTG who don't know,” Karen added. “Freddy G., who brought your name signs to your office-- he works in clerical. Clerical and mail room workers don't know what's going on. They have their assignments that keep them away from our offices when they need to be kept away.”

Donna turned her head toward Karen, who promptly nodded, although it was Christina who who answered Donna's unspoken question. “And yes,” she said, “That's definitely an option if you want to transfer there.” She took a sip of her drink. “You'll be assigned to a different mail room or clerical office, set aside for ex-corporates who are 'in the know'. You'll be switched to an hourly-wage paycheck instead of a salary, and lose a couple of the other job perks, but you'll keep most of them; enough to be satisfied.”

Now it was Donna's turn to laugh; a bitter one devoid of any warmth or amusement. “How can you expect me to take you seriously, Christina? Or you, Karen? Listen to yourselves! Telling me, with a straight face, no less, how you accept being treated like-- like....” she hesitated a few seconds before spitting it through clenched teeth. “Like sex objects, for a bigger paycheck, an extra two weeks vacation, a killer house salad with lunch? There's one thing worse than sexual harassment, ladies-- if you can call all this just 'sexual harassment:' That's being a woman who accepts it and defends it in front of other women that have to deal with it.”

Karen glanced sharply toward Donna, exerting some effort to keep her mouth closed. This reaction had Donna within a second of springing out of her seat and out of the diner, until Christina very gently touched the blonde girl on the forearm; a gesture that softly pleaded with her to wait and hear them out. Donna's nostrils flared wide, causing Christina to quickly pull her hand back, but Donna stayed seated.

Christina glanced toward Karen, who nodded back to the brunette and took a slow breath. “If you were to stay with us until you were here just half as long as I've been, Donna, and still felt that you were being treated strictly like a sex object, then I'd think you were the one putting up with, and complying with, the so-called 'harassment',” Karen said in careful tones. “Stay just a month, six weeks at the most, and if you're really as observant as Christina and I believe, you'll see just how much respect we're treated with. You think all the 'job perks,' the salads and soups, the carpeting for our offices, and all the lotion and Epsom salt you need to deal with rope marks and aches, qualifies as respect? I know you're nowhere near that naïve. We're recognized for our work... our work, mind you; everything we do from nine in the morning until 3:45 in the afternoon. I don't care how well you adapt to what we do from 3:45 until 4:30. If you're not working, if you haven't learned to use the software we use to process bearer bonds and surety bonds and investment bonds, and if you're not finishing the work in a properly expedient manner, you're not climbing one rung up the ladder, honey. You won't even see any kind of ladder unless you bump a corner of your desk the wrong way and get a run in your stockings.”

“Which, incidentally,” Christina added, “won't be happening either, because our desks are designed with smooth, rounded corners. So are a lot of corners in the walls and practically all large electronic equipment in the building. Anyone asks why that is, and we satisfy them with a single magic word: architecture.”

Their dinner orders arrived, and Donna blushed briefly as she felt, and heard, her stomach growl. Christina smiled again. “That's not abnormal after your first day, either, or even your first week,” she said quickly.

Donna dug into her meal hungrily, but was still obstinate enough at the idea of willingly staying at a job where she'd spend 45 minutes of each day bound and gagged, that she had to remember to stop and take another bite of her meal between her relentless onslaught of argument. “For argument's sake, I'll suppose you're telling the truth,” she began. “That you are treated with complete respect, properly recognized and honored as corporate professionals, and they do everything they need to do, that you feel comfortable, safe, and even valued. How on Earth does that reconcile you with what you have to do each day for three-quarters of an hour? Christina, you just told me that my stomach growling after my first day was normal. How you can call our job normal, that's something I'd love to hear. I mean it, I can't wait for you to tell me how you find it perfectly normal to sit on the floor for 45 minutes, bound, gagged, struggling to get free but probably just succeeding only at looking 'sexy' in the effort?”

Christina finished her drink and plucked out the olive, nibbling on it. “What day were you actually hired?” she asked. “Today's Monday; all new hires start on Monday because that's the first day of the work week. What day were you told you have a job with us and you'd be starting today?”

Donna's brow furrowed. What that had to do with the subject at hand, went right over her head, but she answered anyway. “Last Thursday.”

Karen nodded. “And how often did you talk to your family about starting the job, between then and today?”

Part of Donna didn't want to answer that. She hesitated for several seconds.

Finally Karen said, “You'll see where this is going in a minute.”

Donna gave a small sigh. “I talked with them,” she said. “I talked to my sister just this morning as I was getting dressed.”

Karen smiled. “As you were getting dressed-- that's perfect. When you were talking to your sister this morning while getting dressed, did you say anything to her about working at a job where you'd be calling your superiors, 'mister' and 'sir', or about wearing a skirt suit each day instead of slacks and a polo shirt? Pumps instead of loafers or sneakers? And while you were putting on your stockings, did you say anything to your sister, how you felt about wearing them instead of 'footie sox' or keeping your legs bare?”

Donna didn't answer for several long seconds. She thought she was trying to keep a completely poker face; a completely unreadable expression. Either she was really bad at it, or Karen and Christina had counseled enough young women at these dinners that they didn't need to be able to read her face. “Come on, hon, say it,” Christina coaxed. “Say it.”

Donna gave another small sigh and a conciliatory smile. “I've worked at worse jobs,” she finally said. “Deena said it first.”

They still snickered at her semi-defensive afterthought, until Donna quickly added another one. “I didn't know just how much worse it would get.”

Their snickers gave way to chuckles. Christina paused in lifting her fork to her mouth, lest she swallowed the bite of her meal the wrong way. “Look for a job that's worse, in earnest, and I bet you'll find it,” she said, before slipping the forkful of food into her mouth.

“Worse may be relative, I'll give you that,” Karen said. “But that's part of the point, not a counter to it. There can't be any normal without abnormal. What is more or less normal than what? Opinions are like assholes, girl friend-- everybody has one. And I'll tell you my opinion-- if the execs at HTG want to tie and gag me, and leave me to struggle for three-quarters of an hour, and for the rest of each day, the rest of each week, the rest of each month, they treat me like I really matter as a corporate worker, if they congratulate and thank me every time I process bond forms and investment forms quickly and accurately, they point to me as a model example for new hires to emulate, and they promote me from secretary to administrative assistant based on that hard work... and another company lets me dress in jeans and a sweatshirt, lets me call my managers, 'Hey you,' and then they also treat me like some machine that isn't efficient enough because I have to eat and piss; they dock my pay every time I'm five minutes late on a report because some office supply grunt went to lunch before changing the ink cartridge for my printer, and they try to make me feel like I owe them my soul because they deign to give me a job in this rotten economy? Well, I apologize for not giving a putrid crap if you look at me funny because I find the latter option worse and take the job at HTG.”

Karen's polite tone of voice contrasted sharply with the piercing look in her eyes. Christina had offered a nod or two during the lecture, but kept silent until Karen was done. Then she simply raised a hand to shoulder level for a couple of seconds before picking up her knife again and cutting another piece of meat.

Stunned as Donna was at how vigorously-- even proudly, if that were possible-- Karen defended the HTG practice of tying up young women working in the corporate departments, she was fighting a losing battle trying to block out feelings of admiration and respect for Karen's dedication and the hard work... the actual work... she put in each day. The attractive young Japanese-American woman flashed a triumphant smile as Donna lightly shook her head; feathery, soft wisps of blonde hair floating about her face, and her obstinate look faltered.

Donna wasn't quite out of ammunition just yet, however. “The first day or two you spent working at HTG had to be outrageously jarring,” she insisted. “I don't care if you thought I looked perfectly 'normal' for a new hire that had just finished her first day of so-called 'orientation,' Christina; that's part of the point, as you said to me just a minute ago, Karen. However reconciled you two might have managed to become now after putting in as much time as you've put in-- you can't expect me to believe you didn't feel anything like how I feel now, after your first day or even your first week? And can you honestly say that even now, you like it?”

They both smiled again, and Christina's smile, in particular, suggested that this question was exactly what she'd been waiting for Donna to ask.

“I can't say I 'like' it, Donna. Of course I can't. That would be ludicrous. The point is, I don't dislike it either; at least, not anymore. It's become enough of a routine part of the day that I no longer mind. And as to how, and why, I no longer mind? How, and why, Karen and I have come to accept it so completely?”

Christina paused, and set her fork down before using her left hand to clasp Karen's right. Not a romantic or loving touch, but a very sisterly one, very similar to how Donna often held Deena's hand when it was appropriate. “This is how. Karen and I had strong support from our first day, from the women who'd been there long enough. Women who stepped up to counsel us the way we're trying to counsel you; the way you just might counsel another young woman who'll be feeling the way you do, today, on her first day here. Counsel, and support, and give her a shoulder like we're offering you one, and like we'd been offered. Everything we're trying to do for you now, was done for us by co-workers who are now like sisters, even the couple of them who are now retired to raise a family or moved on to other careers.”

Donna was silent for a brief moment. She looked down at her plate as she took a bite of her meal and then glanced back up. “Was I being watched?”

“No,” Christina said quickly.

Donna was sure that there was more to the answer than Christina was telling her, but the pretty brunette shook her head and repeated her answer gently, but more firmly. “No, Donna, you weren't.”

Donna sighed and finished her meal. Karen and Christina had both finished eating already and were nursing their coffee; each of them having gotten one refill from the waiter. “How much are you not telling me?” Donna asked. “Even if you feel you can't tell me what, at least admit if you're not telling me some things? Please?”

Karen touched Donna's hand lightly. “Yes, we're not telling you everything, but please trust us-- we will. How many times did you insist on it yourself-- this is all a lot to take in on your first day.”

Christina chuckled at Karen's point, and Donna tried to resist, but then she gave in and chuckled as well. Finally she put up both her hands in a gesture of surrender. “Well, at least I know now I'm not going to try and turn the company in,” she half-teased. “But it's still all very troubling. You're not going to ask me if I'm going to be back tomorrow, are you?”

“Absolutely not,” Karen said firmly. “Because if you were ready to answer that so soon, I'd think you were an idiot. Christina and I have done what we can for you tonight. Now you need to fill your tub, sprinkle in the Epsom salt, let your body soak for a while and then sleep on it. Come morning you'll have an idea on whether you'll at least try one more day. We'll be there for you if you need us, but 'reconciling' yourself to all this, as you so aptly put it, is going to take weeks, and that's if you can bring yourself to keep putting in 'just one more day' until you get there.”

The check was brought over. Christina and Karen told Donna in no uncertain terms that her share of the bill was on them. “Mind you, that's just tonight,” Christina winked. “First night girls come along for free. But then each girl puts in their share. That's especially ironclad after you get your first paycheck.”

Donna finally smiled like her old self. Christina and Karen both hugged her, and she returned the gesture for both of them. “Good night, Donna... sleep tight,” Karen said warmly. “It was great to meet you.”

Donna knew that whatever she felt by morning, she felt the same about meeting Karen and Christina. “Thank you. Both of you.”

Donna nodded off on the bus ride, and only the speakers in the bus amplified the operator's voice enough to jar her awake as he announced her stop. Soon as she got home, she hung up her coat, turned on her stereo, undressed, and let her underwear and stockings soak in a sink filled with hot water and soap while she filled her bathtub with water as hot as she could take it, sprinkled in the Epsom salt and let her body soak. The music let her stay awake while she sat in the bath. When she was done, she drained the tub and sink, hung her underwear and stockings up over the tub to let them drip dry, and finally donned her pajamas, settling herself under the comforter on her bed. She knew it would be an hour or two before she fell asleep, because she couldn't procrastinate on her decision. At least by laying down in bed and being relaxed physically, it would help her think.

* * * *

Officer Brown and his fellow guards watched Donna sign in, while keeping their faces carefully neutral and avoiding direct eye contact. Brown gave a simple, polite 'Good Morning” as she approached. Donna knew they were acting under orders, but didn't complain about it. Truth be told, she was grateful for it right now. Just the light clack of her 2½ inch heels on the floor tiles sounded unnerving as she walked through the checkpoint to the elevator; certainly more so than the previous day.

Karen was putting some papers in Donna's work inbox as she stepped in. With Karen was another woman who look a couple of inches taller than Donna; possibly a six-footer. She had the same, long jet-black hair as Karen but stood a head taller, had a longer jawline, wider cheekbones, and her skin was heavily tan. She wore wire-frame eyeglasses that accentuated her face nicely.

Donna gratefully accepted a hug from Karen. “You came,” Karen said, keeping her voice soft.

“I'm here,” Donna acknowledged. “How do I look?”

The tan-skinned woman smiled. “The same way I looked on my second day here. Scared enough to soil myself.”

Karen raised a hand to show Donna she also felt the same way on her second day, and all three of them laughed lightly. “Hi, my name's Carla,” said the tan-skinned woman. “It's great to meet you, Donna.” She shook hands in a friendly manner, smiled in a way that showed Donna that she was now part of 'the sisterhood.'

“Take a deep breath,” Karen smiled. “Here's some papers to work on. Try to focus on that, even when you reach mid-afternoon. Okay, hon? You'll be fine.”

The speakerphone buzzed once. “Morning, Donna,” came the voice of Mr. Stone.

Donna took a slow breath. “Morning, Mr. Stone,” she answered. It was all she said, and Mr. Stone took it in perfect stride.

“I work down the hall, near the other end of the department's area,” Carla said. “I do basic human resources for the department. My manager is Mr. Halwell.”

Donna gave a sardonic smile. “So you're my main shrink if I have a problem?”

Carla chuckled. “All the ladies here help fill that role for new hires, but I do have the most seniority and experience here in the department, yes.”

Donna hung up her spring coat and sat down to log into her workstation. “Thank you. Right now, my only problem is wrestling with a little voice pushing me to run for my life.”

All three of them chuckled again, and Carla lightly patted Donna's shoulder. “I'll join you for lunch if you like. I'll come find you in the cafeteria.”

Donna smiled gratefully at the offer as Karen and Carla left the office. At least the paperwork and forms were routine enough, and she was learning the software programs well. Christina came in at 10:20 am to help her with the program's sorting functions and tagging bonds that were growing close to maturity. They finished at 40 minutes prior to lunch break, and Christina suggested that Donna spend the time studying the emergency access codes Mr. Stone had given her.

Donna couldn't help but be amused at the long list of numerical codes and how they were grouped and categorized. The first code was 6-18-1-14-11. The second code was 184-3-13. The third code was 83-11-7. These were supposed to unlock the longer codes, such as 8-1-9-18: 19-8-15-18-20, 12-20 2-18-15-23-14 and then 5-25-5-19: 3-5-18-21-12-5-1-14. 'If the network ever were hacked, it would take a long time to gain emergency access,' she thought to herself.

* * * *

During lunch, Carla told Donna a little about herself. She'd been with HTG for eleven years, and at 35, she was one of the older women in the department. Most women her age and older had usually been promoted to other departments or had moved on, but as Carla explained, a few, like her and Karen in particular, chose to remain in New Bonds. It gave new hires a more solid and experienced base of support.

“Do you...” Donna hesitated. She wasn't sure if the question would be rude.

“What?” Carla asked. She gave a small smile to show that she wouldn't object to the question.

“Um. Do you need to... take them off?”

Carla's eyebrows knit for a brief second before she realized Donna was looking closely at her face. She gave a quick laugh and doffed her eyeglasses, showing that the ear rests contained retractable wire extensions to curl around her ears, so her glasses wouldn't go flying off her face.

“I did have to go to the optometrist to get these after my first week,” Carla confided with a grin. “I felt like Daphne from Scooby-Doo, but with Velma's nearsightedness. Not a very comfortable feeling.”

Donna finished her cup of pineapple chunks. 'They sure don't taste canned,' she thought to herself. She looked at Carla's face closely again.

“What do you do if you want to get married and start a family?” she asked honestly.

Carla gave a small nod. “Some women will move on to another career at that point,” she said. “But many choose to stay. Yes, believe it or not, you'll get full maternity leave benefits, starting much earlier than for most.” She winked in a way that told Donna exactly what she meant.

Donna had to smile. “The more I hear, the weirder this company sounds. But weird in a good way, if you can picture that.”

Carla laughed again. “Oh yes, I can do that,” she admitted. She happened to glance at the wall clock just before it gave two short chimes.

“That's the ten-minute warning chime,” she informed Donna. “Easy to get lost in conversation.” They both smiled.

Finishing their coffee, they put all the trash in the waste bin and the trays on top of the bin. Carla smiled and patted Donna on the shoulder. Donna looked at Carla questioningly before realizing that her face must have changed without her even noticing. She smiled sheepishly and nodded.

“Thanks, Carla.”

* * * *

Donna finished up the next stack of bond forms and rested her elbows on her desk, fingers laced together, and rested her chin on her knuckles. 'Banks and investors aren't hurting that bad from the recession, or else they just might be trying to pull all of us out of it?' She pondered the thought and smiled slightly to herself. 'Doubt it. They're not very into sharing.'

She had about ten more forms to finish when the door opened. Donna started to say, 'One second,' but only the 'se' sound from the word 'second' came out before a burly, gloved hand took hold of her right wrist. The few forms she was holding were very lightly taken out of her hand, and slipped neatly into the outbox.

It was time!

Donna's reflexes and instincts promptly assumed command of her body. Karen and Carla had said they couldn't advise her to prepare for 'orientation' because once it started, all that preparation would go out the window. And if the fluttering sensation quickly filling Donna's stomach were a gauge, they'd been right on the money.

“PleeammmmMMMMMMmmmmmmMMMMMMMMM!” How they moved so fast while being so solidly and muscularly built was something Donna could only wonder at; she knew it was inappropriate to think they would be clumsy, but she hadn't expected their quickness to be so, well, quick. Donna's knee rose without her even trying to think about it; she felt it connect with something that definitely wasn't soft. For a half-second she thought she might have hit the edge of her desk with it, but they'd already pulled her far back enough. No, she'd hit the man covering her mouth right between the legs, all right-- he just wasn't rolling on the floor or howling in agony. No doubt he wore a protective cup.

'They really have thought of everything,' she couldn't help but marvel as she squirmed futilely in their grasp. The man she'd kneed didn't even show reaction to her assault, didn't even rear his hand back just to suggest she might get a good whack across the face. It probably wasn't anything he hadn't dealt with before. Donna gave a quick breath through her nose; very glad at how they adhered to the strict policy that she not be hurt in any way.

Donna was rendered helpless as quickly and efficiently as the previous day: once her wrists were tied, she was then gagged tightly, before they sat her on a stool while tying her upper body and her ankles at the same time. Again, they worked in tandem making sure the ropes didn't slacken in the slightest while it was wrapped around her and then cinched around the loops; again they worked together keeping her skirt suit, tie, and hair neat and keeping any of them from rumpling or creasing between the ropes. Again they handled her legs and feet with care even while tying her ankles, so her stockings didn't get snagged.

But, again like the previous day, the man who held her calves while her ankles were bound, let one hand slide along the curve of her calves once the knot for her ankles had been secured. What he expected to feel through the gloves he wore, was a mystery, but Donna's eyes flashed in fury. Almost instantly one of the man's partners grabbed his hand and stared pointedly at him. Despite the man's mask, it wasn't hard to see he was pretty upset with himself. Donna, however, wasn't very forgiving.

“MMMMMrrrrmmmmmRRRRRRMMMMMM!” her head thrashed side to side, her tongue thrusting forcefully against her gag as she struggled to try and slide her lower lip back and under the cloth; a first step in possibly working her gag out of her mouth. If she hoped to get that done right away, however, the men didn't stick around long enough. They sat her down on the floor and quickly, wordlessly left the room, softly closing the door behind them.

If he had touched her leg like that hoping to incite her, he certainly did a good job. Donna's mind raced furiously. She wanted to rebel against her 'orientation,' but exactly how would she do that?

'If the execs at HTG want to tie and gag me, and leave me to struggle...' she remembered Karen saying during dinner the previous night. That meant two things. First, Donna was supposed to struggle in her bondage; try to free herself. Try to work her gag off. But it also told Donna that Karen, while she was bound and gagged in the seclusion of her own office, had never successfully gotten free. And she'd been working here for six years. six years! Were the 'aides' in charge of tying up all the women really that good, that expert, that neither Donna nor any of the women working in the corporate divisions, could ever successfully escape from being tied up? Or did Karen just not really try? She defended the whole little policy rather fiercely the previous night, Donna remembered.

Donna's body made the decision for her, on whether to really fight her hardest to free herself, or simply sit quietly in defiance of the expectations that she struggle. It suited her ego just fine, too; the thought of seeing the look on the aides' faces if they came in to untie her, only to find the ropes laying on the floor and Donna sitting back in her chair, working on the remaining forms she had, was deliciously satisfying.

Pure adrenalin and the need to see that look kept Donna from growing exhausted. She started to breathe hard, but she wasn't going to quit. Her body's gyrations and wrigglings made her seem almost like a caterpillar encasing itself in a cocoon to begin the transformation into a moth-- or like a new moth fighting to get out of the cocoon. She began to feel a definite dry sensation at the back of her throat from exerting her voice. Donna didn't give a damn just how tightly she was gagged. Her muffled cries into her gag pushed her struggles and kept her fever to see the look of shock on the aides' faces, burning.

A noise caught her attention, turned her head slightly to her left-- SHIT!!

That adrenaline rush made forty-five minutes pass a lot faster than Donna realized.

Donna had been defeated; she'd lost the battle. 'Orientation,' as HTG so nicely put it, was done for the day. The aides untied her with the same quick efficiency they'd proven so good at. They put the scissors in her hand, held up the stenciled sign for her that she remembered. Donna wanted to grumble, 'Fuck you' at them. Irritating her further was the immediate thought, maybe that's why they didn't remove her gag themselves. She exhaled a slow breath through her nose and nodded to the aides, whereupon they let go of her wrists, collected the wooden stool, gathered the ropes into a plastic bag and left the room. There was no point trying to rankle them, Donna knew. They were really well trained, really well practiced at not speaking to her, not maintaining eye contact with her. Even though a part of Donna wanted to try and provoke them into bending that rule, another part of her was very glad they stuck to it.

End of part 2

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