I am Branca. I used to study here in London. Itís not easy being a student here in London. Not when you come here from abroad. Everyone is so busy; it is hard to make good friends. And it is so expensive. Much more expensive here than in Lisbon or in my home town, Porto.
But it is good to study here. The Imperial College is very good. To be studying engineering there is very good. And I thought I would have many friends. In Lisbon there were not so many girls that study engineering. Here it is the same but the boys, well they all work hard. It is not easy to get to know them. I think I am attractive. Perhaps I am a bit tall for the boys here: 1.8 metres but that should not matter? I like my black hair, Iím proud of how it shines. In Porto the boys think I look fine. Sometimes they are a bit too enthusiastic. If I want to study I have to shoo them away. But here the boys do not seem to notice my hair or my body. They think only of their books.
And London is so expensive. That is why I had a job as well as I my studies. To help pay for my flat and for my books. But for my job it was good to be Portuguese. There are not so many of us here in London so for translating there is a demand. And I made some good money from translating. From Portuguese into English, from English into Portuguese. I worked for an agency. They have a good system -- for all their translators they have a web site it says to their clients what areas of specialising their people have. For me it says for engineering both electrical and mechanical and also bio-tech. Their clients can look for just the right person for what they want.††
I wonder if that is how they found me?
A man phoned me. He said he had some work that he believed I could help him with. I told him that he must speak to the agent. They get cross if I do freelance work. He said it was more to do with the university, some papers from another student. He just wanted someone to take a look at them and tell him what they were about. He wasnít sure if they were important and worth translating or not. Perhaps if he bought me coffee? Well it didnít seem like it could do any harm.
He was nice. He said his name was Harry. He showed me the papers. I read them through while we had some coffee. They were about a plant for producing bio-diesel. There are many developments of this kind in Brazil now. I told him I thought they were useful for someone planning to invest in bio-diesel technology. He asked if I could translate them properly for him. If his friend found it useful there would be other work but that he would put through my agent, of course.
I thought it would be all right. It was not so much work and if my agent got a big contract he would not mind.
I phoned him when I had finished. Could he collect it that evening, he said. He had to be at a concert at the Royal Albert Hall. Perhaps I could bring it by afterwards? I said of course. It is very close to the college. Just around the corner from the library. It will be easy, I said.
It is very busy there, just after a concert. Everyone, milling around. A great bustle of people, chatting and laughing. And then it is very quiet. They all go home, of course. After the concert. And the pavements were empty. I saw him hurrying towards me. He waved. He was obviously worried that I would have gone.
There were two others with him. Two women. "Eva," he said and "Doctor Jordan." They looked friendly. It looked like they have all had a good time at the concert. "Come and have some coffee," he said. "Please come," said Eva, "Harry says you are from near Lisbon, Iíd love to hear about it."
So I said, "Yes," and we walked to his car. It was parked not far away. Thurlow Gardens. It was a big car, a people carrier, a Mercedes, almost like a small van. Big and black with blacked out windows. I was telling Eva about Lisbon, about the Alfama, the old town. We all climbed in, Harry driving, Eva and the Doctor and me in the back.
The car moved off. I remember we were going towards Marble Arch. Harold said, "We are very pleased with your work Branca."
Eva said, "I told him we need to take you on full time." I think she is joking. I said, "No, but I am at University."
And then Eva was pointing a gun at me and saying, "Sorry, Branca. You havenít understood. We are taking you on full time. Just don't argue." And the car was going quickly, along Park Lane.
I was saying no and pulling away but Eva pushed the gun against me. The Doctor leaned across me and makes a cut through my tights with scissors and she says "this will make you feel better Branca", and she pressed a hypodermic into my thigh. I am struggling now but Eva and the doctor are holding me. There is a warm numb feeling in my leg.
I heard Eva, say "So what is that?"
The Doctor said, "Ketamine. Itís safe, if you know what youíre doing, it doesnít have to go into a vein and itís quite quick and the more Branca struggles the quicker it is " The inside of the van seemed to go dark but I could see bright lights through the windows still.† I wanted cry out but somehow my mouth wouldnít work any more. I fell back against Eva, seeing Doctor Jordan smiling.
When I woke up I was in a strange room. I was on a bed but I could not get off. Eva was sitting by me. There were wires from pads on my chest going to a monitor. There was a tube going into my arm from a bag of fluid hanging from a metal pole at the side of the bed. I asked Eva, "What happened? Am I in hospital?"
"No, Branca, but you are somewhere safe. You are with us."
Then Doctor Jordan came in and I started to remember what happened in the car. "How are you feeling now, Branca?" Dr Jordan said.
I was confused; they seemed so kind but they had taken me away. "I am feeling tired and sick. I want to go home now," I said.
"Donít worry," Doctor Jordan says. "You may not remember what has happened to you, just as you may forget a dream. It will take some time before you feel well again. Movement is extremely difficult. It is better for you to stay here. You are home here, Branca."
"No I want to go to my home," I say. I tried to get up. I couldnít.
Eva said, "Branca you are ours now. Our home is your home. You must stay here."
I felt so weak. Doctor Jordan said for me to rest, "And when you are ready, we will move you to your very own room."
I tried to get up again and then I saw they had strapped me to the bed. I was frightened, I started to cry. Doctor Jordan put her arms round me. She talked softly. She said, "You will be fine, Branca. We will look after you. You will be safe now with us. You'll see."
I donít know how long it was before I woke up again. I was still in the room, still strapped to the bed. I donít know if it was the drugs but I didnít seem to mind. It was quite dark. The walls were bare, the floor just tiles. There was a window but it was covered over with frosted glass.
Later on Doctor Jordan took the tube out of my arm. She let me get up from the bed and walk around the room. They had taken all my clothes. "How are you, Branca?" she asked.
I was shaky. It was hard to stand and walk. The Doctor gave me a sweet orange drink and I began to feel stronger. "Now Branca, now you are here there are many thing you have to learn, many things you have to know. You want to learn donít you? Like at the University?"
It seemed strange to me, not like the University at all, but I heard myself saying, "Yes, I want to learn."
"Good," said Doctor Jordan, "It is time for you to start to learn. We have someone to help you to learn. Connie will help you to learn. Connie is very good." For a moment everything seemed strange and I thought I would fall over but Doctor Jordan reached out to hold me. "Do you trust me, Branca? Do you?" she asked. I nodded. "Weíll go and see Connie."
The Doctor put a wide leather belt round my waist and cuffed my hands to it. I suppose it seems strange but it did not occur to me to try to stop her. She put a blindfold on me and gently guided me somewhere else.
There was another girl there, waiting for me: she had a deepish voice and a sweet perfume. I heard her say, "Is this the one?"
"Yes," said Doctor Jordan. "Sheís all yours now."
"Kneel down," the other voice said. "This is Connie speaking, Branca. You must do as I say."
I said, "Oh!" and "Yes." I was still confused but I got down to my knees. Someone put a bar between my teeth and strapped it behind my head. It felt hard and tasted of rubber. Connie trapped my head between her legs and brought a cane down on my bottom several times.† I squealed with pain and grunted around the gag. I was whimpering. Connie heard my sobbing and crouched down beside me. I felt the side of her face pressed against mine. "Hush, Branca, donít cry. If you are obedient then all will be well. You can make things better by being obedient. Stop crying and you can see me." She held me closely. Somehow I wanted to see her. I wanted her to take off the blindfold. "Stop crying Branca." I sniffed back my tears. "Thatís better," said Connie. "Start crying again and it goes on again. Stop crying and you can see. You will soon learn to do your best for Connie." Eventually I stopped crying.
Connie took off the blindfold. I shook my head and looked around me. I saw the room was small and cold, just bare walls and a tiled floor. There was a rubber mat on the floor and where the floor dips down was a toilet with a shower head by it over a floor drain.
A black skinned girl stood in front of me. She looked African. Her face was finely boned as if made from some black porcelain. Her black hair was braided and tied back tight. She was wearing riding boots over tight cream trousers and had on a white leather T shirt. A riding whip hung from the belt of her trousers. She wore white leather gloves. She had a gold ring glinting in the septum of her nose. She looked so confident and strong and so very... desirable. She smiled. White teeth. "Hello, Branca," she said. "I'm Connie."
I looked up at her.
She crouched down beside me, her head close to mine. "Branca, you know you must learn? You work hard and earn your privileges. You understand?"
"You thirsty?" Connie said. I nodded eagerly. "Uh huh? Thatís good. I'll take out your gag so you can drink." She unbuckled the strap and the rubber bar came clear of my mouth. "If you want it to keep the gag out of your mouth put your face at my feet, rub your face on my boots." I whimpered but I didnít want the gag back, I bent my face to her feet, pressing it against her boots feeling and smelling the leather. She spoke again. "What about hungry? Branca? Uh huh?" I gave an mmm in response. "Well," Connie said, "ask me to shave your head and then you can eat."
I was puzzled, confused by her response.
"Sorry Branca, that was not quick enough," Connie said pulling her feet away from my face. "You have to learn to say yes quickly. Not only obey but obey quickly." With that she chained my ankle to the wall and left me locked alone in the room.
When Connie came back she asked the same question. This time I managed to say, "Yes. Yes, please shave me."
Connie looked down at me disapproving. "Not good enough, Branca," she said. "I think you are not happy about being shaven. It is not enough to do as you are told you must want it. You must be happy with it. Weíll try once more, one more chance today if you want to eat."
So I pleaded with her, begged her to shave me. Told her I hated my hair and that nothing would please me more than to lose it. Connie smiled, pleased with my response. "Thatís better Branca, come over here," she said. She bent my head over the toilet. I heard the soft whirr of clippers and felt the slight pulling sensation as she ran them from the nape of my neck up to the crown, over and over again. I saw all my hair falling away, together with my tears. Connie lifted my shaven head and turned my tear streaked face towards her. "Tears, Branca?" she said, sadly. "I said you must be happy with being obedient. Tears mean you cannot be happy. That means just raw vegetables for your food today."
That was how it started, how I learned to obey and be happy obeying. Life was simple. There was just me and Connie. She was my only visitor and as the weeks passed I found myself asking Connie to beat me, rape me, to let me lick her bare feet, do anything she told me to do, to think of things she might want me to do. And to obey and to enjoy obeying. And gradually I earned a warmer room, a blanket at night. She stopped shaving my head. They gave me more to eat than raw vegetables and water. And I began to think that I loved her and finally I would do just anything she asked me to do to her or for her. And then, when she brought her boyfriends and girlfriends and I would do anything she wanted for them, too.
Then one day Doctor Jordan and Connie both came to see me. The Doctor says, "My, Branca, you have done well! I am very pleased with you!" She stroked my hair. It was growing back. As long as I obeyed, Connie let me keep my hair. Iíd been very good. It was still very short of course, but you could not see my scalp. Thatís how good Iíd been. "Just look at your hair now." She can tell I am puzzled by her arrival. "Itís time to pass you on to your Owner." She sees my distress at realising I must leave Connie. "You have been chosen specially, Branca. Chosen for your language skills and for what you know about engineering. Now Branca, we expect you to try hard. You have to do your best for Connie," she says and I knew that I must and I knew that I would.
I started to cry again because I did not want to leave. It was safe there with Connie. If I did as she said and I was happy with doing what she said then all was well, I could manage things there. I looked at Doctor Jordan. "Will I ever see you again? Or Connie?"
The Doctor looked sympathetically. "Yes, Branca. If you are ill, I will look after you and when your Owner goes away, perhaps you can stay here with us again. So what will you do Branca?"
I knew what to say. "I will do my best for Connie," I said and Connie and the Doctor smiled. I heard that phrase so many times in my training. I know when I hear it that I must do exactly as I am told.
"Well done, Branca! Thatís right," said the Doctor. She placed a metal collar round my neck. I ran my fingers across the cool titanium. I could barely feel where the too halves joined. There was no screw or catch that I could feel. I could think of no way in which I might release it..† Even if I wanted to. She fitted a belt around my waist, a metal plate that runs down across my sex, two heavy chromed chains that run from that behind and around my buttocks up to the belt.† The fit is perfect for it really has been made for me. I explore the belt with my fingers. I could tell that I would be able to use the toilet but I could not console myself at all. My only consolation would be that I will do my best for Connie.
They brought me here in some kind of van or truck. The first I knew was when they came to my cell with the straps and the gag and the hood. They didnít say anything. But then they never do. They just started putting the things on me like they were wrapping up a parcel. Wrists strapped, ankles strapped, knees strapped. Then the gag. At least it was a plug gag with a padded strap over my mouth. I hate the ball gags and the ring gags are even worse -- but maybe thatís because of what they usually want to do when they put a ring gag on you.
Then the hood. I can still remember the smell of the leather and the feel of the thick pads over my eyes and ears, the terrifying sense of blindness, the disorienting muffling of every sound.
I felt myself lifted and put down again. On something unsteady. One of the trolleys, I guessed. "Ready for shipment?" I heard a voice say. "Sure," said another. "Sign here, then," the first replied. And then I was moving. I didnít seem to stop moving until I got here and the straps and the hood came off.
It was quite a shock when I saw her. I suppose I expected a man. I mean I suppose itís just prejudice but thatís what you would think, isnít it?
But it wasnít a man. It was a woman that took off the hood and the straps. A woman that told me that she was my new owner. A woman that said I had to do as she said if I was going to do the best for Connie.
What about her? Well, surely a woman slave owner would be glamorous? Desirable, like Connie? I was wrong. She wasnít. "Mistress," she makes me call her but "Daphne" is her name. I donít understand her. She seemed successful. She was obviously wealthy. Her house was very nice. But she was not happy.
She seems very -- well closed off, I cannot tell what she is thinking, what she is feeling. If she feels at all. She can be kind. She took time to explain just what she wanted done and just how she wanted it done. I knew from my training that I had to do it. Itís what Connie would have wanted. Mistress reminds me about that.
Of course she punishes me. She beats me if I do things wrong. She keeps me in chains and locked up but I know that is what a Mistress must do with her slave. I know that is how a slave must live. That is what they taught me; that I must do my best for Connie.
For working during the day she keeps me naked apart from hospital scrubs and rubber flip flops. It isnít very glamorous but it is practical for the cooking and cleaning. Oh, and the chains and the collar and the chastity belt of course. In the evenings she liked to dress me up; corset, high heels. Sheíd obviously got a thing about my figure. When she touches me sheís as likely to play with my waist as my breasts or my backside. She doesnít work me too hard. Itís quite a big place but it doesnít take to long to clean. Itís just the two of us and sheís not unreasonable about things the way that some owners Iíve been told about are. I mean sheís never done the thing with the white glove to see if things have been dusted properly. The worst part is clearing up where sheís been eating.
She came in late this evening -- I have to wait up until she tells me I can go to bed -- whatever time that is.
Sheíd been to some classy event - came in wearing a strapless, long, silk, evening gown and long evening gloves, great dangly earrings and what might have been a diamond choker. The dress was probably a bit tighter than it should have been. You could see the rolls of flesh under her arms spilling out over the top of the tight silk. She flopped down on the couch looking as though sheíd had too much wine and not enough good company. A strand of hair had come lose from where sheíd had it put up; it was dangling down across her face. She scowled at me, waving me to get some food.
I knew what she wanted. It was what she always wanted. My legs were aching from the stilt high heels she made me wear. She looked up from the couch, grinning. Definitely too much wine, I thought. She asked for a beer, cheese burger and fries with extra onion rings.
I fetched her the beer first. She crouched forward almost engulfing it, slurping the froth from the top, leaving a foamy line along her upper lip. She fumbled putting the glass down and splashed some on the table. She grabbed a handful of paper towels from her handbag and dabbed ineffectually at the puddle of beer.
ĎWhy does she do it?í I thought. ĎShe doesnít need this.í I took the burger across to Mistressís table.
Sheíd almost fallen asleep in her beer. "Hey," she said, waking up with a start. "Donít creep up on people."
"Sorry, Mistress," I said quietly as I put the food down. It was the best way. She was sitting elbows on the table. She picked up the burger in both hands, still wearing her silk gloves, and pushed it into her mouth. Grease and melted cheese dripped down her chin and onto her dress. A translucent stain spread from the neck line of her dress, down across her bosom.
"I dunno why I go to those things," she slurred. "Theyíre always shit and theyíre full of shits. And heís a shit anyway. Why wasnít he there? They donít give a shit about me and I donít give a shit about them and I..." She seemed to lose track of what she was saying. "Whereís? Whereís my beer?"
"Youíre holding it Mistress," I said. Itís nights like that I wished sheíd forget to lock the doors so I could go back to Connie but somehow she never did.
I donít have to do too much for her in the bedroom which is good for me.† Well, sheís fat, and sometimes she just smells. Itís not as though she doesnít bathe but sometimes she just smells. Especially up close. Especially down there. A good thing though, she doesnít want me to do that for her very often. And another thing, she doesnít punish me often either.
Except last night.
It started well. She seemed really pleased when she got back. "Thatís the Canadian investment sorted," she said. "That will clear about three million for two dayís work. Not bad. Start supper then come back and run a bath."
It was pretty much the same all the time. Iíd get the table laid, have the food ready to serve and then put on my corset and heels and go up to Mistress Daphneís bedroom. She waits while I undress her and help her into her bathrobe. She always says to leave her clothes on the floor until she gets into her bath. Itís always a problem -- makes more work for me to clean and press them. I follow her through into the bathroom carrying whatever she wants for the bath.
Last night I was carrying her bath towels and a tray with a glass of white wine.
I helped Daphne undress. She really isnít anyoneís idea of the body beautiful. I mean sure she was tired after the trip. She looked pale. Sometimes her skin looks almost waxy. I took her robe, the flesh across her belly sags a bit, there are these two rolls of fat and thereís plenty more on her hips too. Her hair looks lank. Thereís a shampoo for greasy hair and conditioner on the side of the bath but I canít remember when I last saw her use it. Sheís smoking again. I can smell it on her hair.
Iím standing there in my corset and heels. Holding the tray and towels. Then I see sheís looking right past me. Sheís looking in the mirror. Thereís a big mirror panel on the back of the bathroom door and sheís looking at it. Thereís me in corset and heels, Iíve still got the tan from the summer in Porto before I came to London; my hair is neat - I like it to look good. Itís not a look Iíd choose but I try to look nice. Thatís what Connie taught me and I have to do my best for Connie. I think Connie would like how I look. And then thereís her. I look at her and I think, ĎYouíre what I lost my freedom for? Why couldnít I stay with Connie?í
I guess she saw the look on my face. Any other time it would have earned me a beating but now it was like someone stuck a pin in her and let all the air out. She just slid down to the floor of the bathroom, her back against the bath. She was crying and waving her hands at me. "Look," she said, "look at you and look at me."
"What do you mean, Mistress?"
"Look, look at me, Iím just so, so, disappointing. All that work, all that money, all that effort. For what?"
"Youíre tired Mistress," I said.
"Yes," she said. "Tired of all of it. Tired of being like this." And then she beat me. She grabbed me by the hair and dragged me across the edge of the bath. She used the back of the bath brush and she just kept bringing it down on my backside, over and over again. Until she slid down beside me sobbing. "Get OUT!" she shouted. "GET OUT!!" I was glad to leave her.
I left her for a while. I found her sitting in the lounge and took her a tray with her meal and some more wine.
"Thank you, slave," she said. I think she was feeling a bit remorseful about how sheíd treated me but of course she didnít apologise. "Stay here," she waved for me to kneel beside her. She didnít seem interested in food for once but she gulped down the wine. She turned on the TV and started flipping through the channels. Too much choice. 50 channels of nothing. Well, even I canít find anything to watch on it when sheís out and the alternative is working my butt off.
The channel changing stopped. It was just another lot of adverts. How many personal loans does anyone need? The screen changed. "International Athletics -- Live From Melbourne - The 2006 Commonwealth Games," the caption said. Daphne reached for the control but it fell from the arm of the couch. I went to get it for her. When I turned back she was staring at the screen, captivated. There was a girl standing, hands on hips, behind the starting blocks of the track. Now, Iím not into girls. I do what Iím told in that direction of course but itís not my thing. I could see though that you could think this girl was hot. She was beautiful, strong, fit and sexy all at once. She drew her hair back, fastening it in a pony tail behind her in a final ritual before taking her place on the blocks.† The camera drew back, five others were crouched in the blocks. A horn blew. Six bums pushed up tense as the girls waited for the gun. The crack of the pistol launched them down the track. 100 metres of intense effort. The look of self assurance and power. The grace in the way she stretched as she breasted the line barely millimetres in front of the other competitors. And then the smile of triumph, the combination of extreme pleasure and exhaustion, her bodyís entire resources exhausted in just a few seconds.
"Should I change the channel, Mistress," I said. "There will be financial news on Bloomberg."
"No," said Daphne, studying the screen with an intensity I had never seen before, "leave it."
She watched another race and another. The programme switched to the high jump and then the javelin. Daphne sat fascinated. The commentator said, "And now the leaders in the marathon are approaching the stadium. Kerryn McCann of Australia and Helen Cherono Koskei of Kenya " The camera cut to a view of the road outside. There were just two runners, one white and the other black, still virtually neck and neck after almost 26 miles. Other runners could be seen some distance behind them, pressing on, trying to close with the leaders in the last quarter mile as they came closer to the gates of the Melbourne Cricket Ground.
The leading girl glanced back over her shoulder and responded, kicking out and pulling away with a smile on her face that said, "Maybe Iíve done 26 miles but so have you and Iíve still got something left."† As they entered the stadium there was an enormous roar from the crowd and the white runner, a short rangy girl in a yellow vest and sunglasses, began to edge ahead. The caption on the TV screen read "Kerryn McCann, Australia" The big display screen at the far end of the stadium was ticking away the seconds as she approached the line. 2:30.52, 2:30.53, 2:30.54. She crossed the line and slowed, waving to the crowd. Well outside a world record time but pretty good nonetheless. McCann had finished only two seconds in front of Helen Cherono Koskei but two seconds was enough even after two and a half hours. The others from the leading group followed her across the line minutes later, their pace broken by the drive of the first two. "Impressive performance," said the commentator, "from the thirty eight year old mother of two and a great repeat of her 2002 performance in Manchester."
Daphne sat watching intently, her mouth half open, apparently stunned by what she had just seen. She became aware that I was watching her. She looked at me and scowled. "Get out," she said. "I shanít need you tonight." I went to bed, feeling as lonely as Daphne seemed to. I took off my corset and heels but of course my collar and chastity belt stayed on. I fell asleep and dreamed of Connie.
Two days later the equipment arrived. The running machine, the exercise cycle, the weights.
"This," Daphne announced to me, "is going to do it. Iím going to be fitter. Iím going to lose weight. Just watch."
It all looked like top-of-the range equipment to me. I guess she started out with the best of intentions. It didnít seem to work out too well though. Two days after it was all installed she had a TV put up in the room. She didnít seem to get on with the running machine, she spent a lot of time sitting on the cycle watching TV but it looked to me like she was just going through the motions. Yesterday I saw her there, pedalling slowly, with a cigarette in one hand and a doughnut in the other. I donít know much about fitness programmes but Iíd be surprised if any of them involve that.
She was in a bad mood when she weighed herself that evening. "What a waste of money," she snarled. "Two and half grand and I havenít lost a pound!"
She took it out on me of course. With a riding crop this time. Iím getting used to that. The crop, the belt, the brush. The wheals, the cuts the bruises. Itís hard to bear but I know I must do my best for Connie. It didnít help when I said that maybe she needed to talk to someone who knew about the exercise business.