The sun was hot, the air dry. A combination designed to make Charlotte sweat, and sweat she did.  She stopped sweeping for a moment to pull her thin cotton dress away from her body, the material clinging to her everywhere.  The neckline was torn, ripped down to her navel, revealing very plainly that she wore nothing else.  She couldn't do much about it though, she just had to get through the day.

Charlotte swallowed her pride once again, and resumed sweeping, not daring to look at the deputy who sat nearby watching her.  She knew it was his job to watch her but he looked at her with more than professional interest, although occasionally he would look across the street where Judy also swept.  It made Charlotte nervous because of the gap in her dress that occasionally revealed all.

Besides, her shoulders and arms ached, as did her legs and especially her ankles, for on them she wore a set of manacles that limited her stride to just a foot.  She had worn them most of the day and still wasn't used to them.  She hated them.

The deputy had put them on her early that morning when he had come to collect her and Judy for their assignments.  Mrs. Yashi had decided that both of them would do street cleaning duty that day, Charlotte because she was new and Judy so she could rest up, relatively speaking, after her day at the mine.  Lotus had another job that day, Charlotte gathered, and Ellen rarely left Mrs. Yashi alone.

So the deputy put hobbles on the girls feet, and cuffed their hands behind them for the walk into town.  Charlotte winced as the cuffs were put onto her as her still-bandaged wrists were somewhat tender.  Judy winced because her entire body was now tender.  Charlotte didn't blame her, she was aware of all of the bruises that Judy's dress covered.

"No talking," the deputy told them, "let's go."

Charlotte and Judy did their best to follow the young man, although this meant practically running to keep up.  Their short strides kept them bouncing on their toes, something that constantly reminded Charlotte about her lack of a bra.  She hated being forced to go about like this, it was just too strange and humiliating.  She tried not to cry.

As they walked, the deputy spoke to her, and Charlotte slowly realized that he hadn't been among the men who had attended her while she was being processed by the Sheriff the day before.  This guy was young, younger than she was she thought.  He still had a bit of an attitude though.

"Okay, girl," he said to her, "since you're new I'll explain a few things.  Today you will spend on Main Street, cleaning it up.  You'll do the heavy work first while the day is still cool, the easier stuff later.  Your first job is topping off the horse troughs from the public water pump."  He glanced at both of girls as they shuffled quickly along.

"Judy...er, considering where you were yesterday, we'll give the new girl the yoke, okay?"

Judy looked up at him and smiled a quick smile, "Thanks Will."

Will nodded and actually looked a little embarrassed, "Er...fine.  We'll start with the water then, and I'll explain the rest later."

Charlotte looked over at Judy, and saw the girl glance at the deputy again.  Judy had an amused smile on her face.  She saw Charlotte looking at her and mouthed "I'll tell you later."

Charlotte raised her eyebrows in answer, and wondered if there was something going on between these two.

They eventually made it to town and Deputy Will led them to the square.  Looking around, Charlotte could see that despite the early hour, people were about.  There were a couple of well beat up trucks parked here and there, but mostly Charlotte saw that people either walked or used horses.  She was very aware that she was walking among them in chains, her thin dress her only covering, and she was ashamed to be seen; but the few people out at the time didn't even look like they noticed her, so she began to relax.

It WAS an odd-looking town though, and if it wasn't for the cars and some of the clothes the people were wearing, Charlotte would have thought she had been transported back in time.  There was almost nothing here to say that this town existed in the twenty-first century.  For example, they stopped at one corner of the square where a large black hand pump was mounted.  Charlotte had seen them on TV but had never expected to meet one in the flesh.  She knew that pumping the handle would bring up water, and she wondered why they didn't get something that ran on electricity.

"Judy?" Will said, pointing at the pump.

Judy shuffled over to it, looking down at her feet, and Will went behind her and unlocked her cuffs.  He kept one on her left wrist though and locked the other bracelet to a handy hole in the pump handle.  He smiled and brushed Judy's cheek.  "That should hold you, darlin'," he said.

Judy glanced up at him for a second, and Charlotte was amazed to see her blush.

Will chuckled and turned to face Charlotte, "Okay, we have a bit of a walk to go get the yoke.  If I take those manacles off you, you aren't going to run on me are you?"
Charlotte shook her head, anxious to get out of the manacles that trapped her ankles.  She watched as Deputy Will crouched down to take them off, and shivered when he put a hand on the back of her leg and ran it up a little way.

He chuckled and watched her while he hung the manacles on his belt, and was amused to see a flush appear on Charlotte's cheeks.  "Come on," he said, still smiling, and he began to walk away.

Charlotte looked at Judy.  "You going to be okay here?" she asked.

"Hush," Judy replied, "we'll talk later.  GO!"

Charlotte didn't like the thought of leaving the girl cuffed to a pump, but she had no real choice in the matter.  So, able to run now, she hurried to catch up with the deputy.

He led her to the Court House and around back where the jail was.  Charlotte got more and more nervous the further they went and began slowing down.

Will noticed this.  "It's okay," he said with surprising sympathy, "we're not going in.  You'll be okay."

She looked at him, and wondered if she could trust him.  She knew that Judy wasn't afraid of him, quite the opposite in fact, so maybe he wasn't a bad guy.  Charlotte wished she knew for sure.

They stopped outside the jail and Will picked up a long, heavy-looking piece of lumber.  It was slightly curved and had two cuffs hanging from either end.  There were also two chains with hooks on them hanging from the very ends.

Charlotte had a good idea what this was.  "Please," she begged, "don't put me in that!"

Will turned and stood in front of her, "Listen girl.  Let's get something straight.  I'm an easy-going guy for the most part, so if you do your job you won't get hassled by me.  But...I'm not going to take any crap, either.  I don't want to hear you looking to get out of any of the work you're supposed to do.  Judy's done it this way, all the others have done it this way, and you're going to do it this way too.  Got it?"

Charlotte swallowed, afraid.  She nodded.

Will stared at her for a moment longer before stepping back.  He said nothing as he walked behind her and took her cuffs off.

Charlotte had just a moment to rub her aching wrists before Will lifted the yoke and placed it across her shoulders.

"Arms out and hold it," ordered Will, and Charlotte obeyed.  She watched as Will locked each of her wrists to the yoke, trapping them in position.  Charlotte felt very vulnerable like this, unable to bring her arms down to shield herself.  She felt naked enough standing there in just a thin dress, but this was almost too much.

Will adjusted the lie of the yoke until Charlotte told him it was as comfortable as it was going to get, before grabbing a couple of buckets and hanging one on each hook.

Charlotte felt awkward as the empty buckets swung a lot; but she was surprised to find that the yoke did feel comfortable across her shoulders.  Whoever had built it had taken the time to shape it properly, she thought.

"Okay, let's go," Will said, and he led Charlotte back to the pump.

Charlotte was very embarrassed walking out in public like this, but again she had little choice.  She walked carefully behind the deputy, trying not to swing the buckets, until they reached the pump where Judy stood waiting.

"Okay, new girl," said Will, "there are twelve troughs for you to fill: four around the square, the rest up and down the street.  Judy is going to fill the buckets for you, but you will have to haul them to the troughs and empty them.  Okay?"

Charlotte didn't look happy.  "How am I supposed to empty the buckets with my hands cuffed to this thing?" she asked.

Will chuckled, "I'm sure you'll work it out.  You'd better get started, you have a lot to do today."  He continued to grin as he made his way to a nearby bench and sat down.

Judy gave Charlotte a sympathetic look.  "Just brace the buckets against the side of the trough, and tip them over the rim.  You can get it," she said.

"Is it always done this way?" Charlotte asked her.

Judy nodded, "Come on, let's fill those buckets.  This will take a while."

It did take a while, hours, and Charlotte hated every minute of it.  To get the buckets filled, she had to crouch down next to the pump so that Judy could work.  Judy would pull each bucket under the pump and fill them in turn, pumping away at the big handle.  Then Charlotte would have to stand up, like a weight lifter, pushing with her legs and balancing the heavy load.  She was glad that the deputy had taken off her hobble though, for she needed the wider stance to maneuver the heavy buckets.

She started with the troughs around the square, and quickly realized what a big job this was.  At two buckets a trip, it took an average of ten trips just to fill one trough.  She was bushed after filling the first one.  Dumping the water wasn't easy either, and she spilled most of her first bucket on the ground before she figured it out.  But once she did she was able to keep going, and soon her focus was on nothing but the job.

The pain was murder though, and her shoulders, back and legs felt like they had huge lead bars strapped to them.  She was also sweating like a pig and wished that she could do something about her dress, which stuck to her everywhere.  Another problem for Charlotte was the heat, for as the morning progressed the day grew warmer and warmer.  She had to stop frequently for rests, and Judy made her drink something each time she made it back to the pump.

"You're doing good," Judy frequently said, "just pace yourself."

Charlotte would grunt in reply, too tired to talk.  She figured at the rate she was going, that she'd lose ALL the weight she needed to this day alone.  It was her only bright thought.

Judy gave her another thought, after Charlotte had finished filling her fourth trough.

"We'll switch after you have done the next two," she said.  "We always switch at that point anyway."

Charlotte looked at her, "We can't...you know how much pain you're in!"

"It's okay.  I can take it," said Judy, smiling softly, "I don't hurt that bad."

Charlotte shook her head. She felt like hell, but something inside her wouldn't let Judy take her pain.  "No way.  You get to relax today."

Judy blinked and said nothing.

Charlotte continued to work, walking slowly and carefully to each trough, staggering under the weight of the water one way, and practically flying the other.  She had thought herself relatively fit, but she knew that wasn't really the case.  Could she do the whole job without having a heart attack?

She was seriously thinking about this when she almost walked into the girl.  The redhead couldn't have been more than eighteen or nineteen, and she was standing right in Charlotte's way.

Charlotte stopped and looked at her, swaying slightly with the weight of the water buckets.  The girl, from what Charlotte could see, was wearing nothing but a thin, white halter, and tight, cutoff jeans that showed her model-thin build to full advantage.  Her feet were bare and from the look of them the girl rarely wore shoes.  Her hair was long and fell down her back in a loose braid.  She was smiling, but it was not a smile that generated a feeling of warmth in Charlotte.  It was more the kind of smile a cat would give a mouse before an entertaining hour of 'me chase you.'

Charlotte tried to edge her way around the girl, but was stopped when the girl moved to block her.  She gave Charlotte a slow, deliberate once over, taking in each detail like an auditor.

"So, you're the new girl.  Interesting," she said, her voice almost a purr, adding to the catlike image, "what's your name?"


"Chaaaaarrrlotttte," the girl said slowly.  She reached out to touch Charlotte's face, but Charlotte flinched.

"Oh no," said the girl, "you don't move away."

"What do you want?" Charlotte asked.

"Why...to touch you of course," said the cat-like smile.

Charlotte looked behind her as well as she was able.  She could see Judy and the deputy both watching her.  Judy was trapped at the pump, but the deputy had stood and was now a few paces away from where he had been sitting.  He was just watching.

"Turn around," ordered the girl.

Charlotte did so.  "I have to get back to work," she said, hoping to get by.

"Not yet," said the girl, who once more approached her.

"No!" Charlotte said, stepping back.

The girl stopped, a cloud passing across her face, the smile fading and becoming something a lot less appealing.  Now the mouse saw the face of a cat tired of the game and ready for lunch.

"You...don't say no...to me," said the girl, "YOU...don't say no, to anyone!  You're here to do what we say, to make our lives a little more...interesting." the smile returned, or at least its shadow did.  "You don't have the right to refuse...anything!"

"Please," said Charlotte quietly, "just let me go."  Charlotte couldn't understand it, but the girl's manner, her mere presence, terrified her.

The girl slowly shook her head.  "Not until I've had my little taste," she said slowly.  She advanced on Charlotte who stood helpless, her arms bound wide to the yoke about her shoulders.  It didn't occur to her that two full buckets of water made for handy weapons.  Charlotte was lucky in that regard.

The girl reached out once more, this time with both hands, and she cupped Charlotte's face.  She lifted it as she moved closer, for she was slightly taller than the frightened girl, and inhaled.  "Mmmm," she said, before pressing her lips to Charlotte's.

Charlotte was stunned.  She had never been kissed by a woman before and she stood stock still in surprise.  She forgot about the pain she had suffered up to this point and for a brief moment she existed only in that kiss.  It wasn't because she was aroused, because she wasn't.  It was just the suddeness of it all.

"Glory," said a voice from behind the girl, "you leave her alone now!"

Glory broke the kiss and moved back slightly, her pretty young face still only inches from Charlotte's own.  She didn't break eye contact with Charlotte while she spoke.

"Oh aunt Hettie, I'm just saying hello!"

"I know what you're saying, young lady.  Now let her get on with her work!"

Charlotte recognized the voice.  It belonged to one of her original captors, Hettie.
Charlotte hoped the old woman was there to rescue her.

Glory smiled, like a cat who had just eaten the mouse and was now looking for a warm spot to nap in.  "Sure, Aunt Hettie, whatever you say."  Glory's fingers traced the sides of Charlotte's neck, sending shivers though the girl, until they reached the neckline of Charlotte's dress.  Before Charlotte could react, not that she could have done much about it anyway, Glory gripped the front of the dress in both hands and pulled them apart, ripping the dress from neckline to stomach.

Charlotte gasped, the spell broken, and she stumbled backwards, spilling some of the water.
The shock of suddenly being exposed like that overwhelmed her and she tried in vain to pull her arms down so she could cover herself.  She was only vaguely aware of Glory's laughter and of Hettie scolding the young woman.  She only became aware of Glory again when the girl yelled at her, "See you around...Chaaaarrrrlotte!"

She looked up to see Hettie hustling the girl away, with other people looking on.  Ashamed, and deeply embarrassed, Charlotte began to cry.  She was sobbing in the middle of the street when Deputy Will took her by the shoulder and turned her around.

Her left breast was pretty much exposed, and Will carefully tugged Charlotte's dress until it was covered.  He was pissed off at Glory, who was always pulling this kind of shit, but there was nothing he could really do about it.  The girl was the Sheriff's daughter.

"Come on, let's go back," he said to the crying girl, lightening her load by tipping out the buckets onto the ground.  He  guided her back down the street to the square and to the pump where Judy waited for them.
Judy gave Charlotte a hug while Will stood by, uncomfortable.  "Say, Judy," he said, "I heard what you had offered earlier.  Do you really think you can finish?"

"Well, she has done seven, I'd only need to do five.  I can do it," Judy replied.

Will nodded and began undoing Charlotte's cuffs.  Charlotte had by this time pulled herself together a little, but she didn't protest this time when they told her that she and Judy were swapping.  As soon as Charlotte's hands were free, she pulled the front of her dress together and took a few steps away.

Will let Charlotte have a few moments to regain her composure while he locked Judy into the yoke and took off her hobble.  Then he filled the buckets full of water before sending Judy on her way.

"Charlotte," Will said quietly, "Charlotte?"

Charlotte turned to face him.  "What?" she asked him, not looking him in the eye.

"I...er...I have to lock you to the pump."

Charlotte just stood still for a moment, before shuffling over to the pump.  She said nothing when Will put the handcuffs around her bandaged wrists, and put the manacles back on her ankles.  She said nothing the first couple of times Judy came back for refills.  But she grew calmer as time passed on, and Will eventually saw the girls exchange subdued comments as they worked.

By the time a very tired Judy had come back from filling the last trough, both girls appeared to be back to normal, at least to him.

"Wait here, Charlotte," he said, "while Judy and I return the yoke."

Charlotte smiled softly and jiggled her bound wrist.  "I promise," she said, making him smile.

Charlotte watched the two of them walk away, and then took a deep breath.  That girl, Glory, had scared her to the bone.  But Charlotte realized that she had come though it and lived.  She was angry, mad that she had been forced to go through something like that.  But the reaction of the others around her...Hettie, Judy, and especially Will, had made her realize something.  Abuse was the exception here, not the rule.  Charlotte had been afraid that everyone would be taking things out on her, making her suffer the way Judy had suffered the day before.  She hadn't really, deep down, believed what Mrs. Yashi had told her the night before.  But she had seen on the faces of everyone, shame and embarrassment.  It gave Charlotte hope that things might not be as bad as she feared.  It at least gave her something to think about.

She stretched her aching muscles until Will and Judy came back, and then pulled the front of her dress together again.  She watched as Will locked manacles on Judy's ankles and cuffed her hands behind her once more, and then didn't resist when Will locked up her hands too.
Of course this meant that she would be unable to pull her dress closed if it flapped open, but she was so sticky with sweat by now that it wasn't likely to happen.

Will stood back and looked at the two women.  "Okay," he said with a smile, "lunch."

Lunch time was a real break for the girls, even though they had to spend it cuffed to a table outside the saloon.  They each ate the simple meal Will had brought out for them with their left hands cuffed to handy U bolts, and were able to talk fairly freely.  Will ate his lunch at another table, in plain sight but far enough away to give them some privacy.

Charlotte looked at him while she chewed a raw carrot.  "He's a nice guy, isn't he," she said.

Judy flushed a little and looked at her plate, "Yeah...he's the best.  Some of the other guys...well, they would have made you finish carrying all that water after Glory got to you."

"Who IS she?" Charlotte asked after a moment.

"She's Clay's daughter, and she knows it.  She treats us slave girls like shit although most of the townfolk won't let her get away with much."

"Slave girls?" Charlotte repeated, arching her eyebrows.

Judy grinned, "Glory gave us that name.  She thought she was insulting us but we kinda adopted it.  If nothing else it describes our position in this town better than any other term.  We keep it to ourselves though, Mrs. Yashi wouldn't appreciate the humor.  Besides, only Glory calls us that in public anyway."

"She scares me to death," admitted Charlotte.

"Me too," said Judy, "say...can I ask you a question?"

"Okay," said Charlotte warily.

"How did you get here?  How come the Judge sentenced you?"

Charlotte paused before telling Judy of her capture and subsequent trial.  She avoided telling her why she was running in the first place, but Judy pressed her and she finally told Judy about her father's plans for her.

"What a shit," Judy said.

"That's dear old Dad!" Charlotte replied.

"Well, I think you'll be safe here."

"I don't know," Charlotte said carefully, looking around to see if anyone was close enough to hear them, "it doesn't seem that safe, if what you went through yesterday is any indication."

Judy looked up at her, biting her lip, "That doesn't happen that often...and now that you're here, it'll happen even less."  She looked down, seemingly afraid to look Charlotte in the eye.  "Look, about...that.  It's not that we want anything bad to happen to you, we don't.  But now that you're here there is one more girl to share the burden...each of us gets to go a week longer before having to go back to the mine.  Do you understand?"

After a moment, Charlotte nodded, "Yeah...I guess so.  It's just that I'm not looking forward to it."

"Neither do we, not even Lotus, who's a bit of a slut anyway," Judy grinned.

"Lotus, a strange name for a blue-eyed blonde," said Charlotte, smiling back.

"Mrs. Yashi named her.  I'm told she was found out in the desert, just wondering around with barely anything on and no memory of who she was.  They took her to Mrs. Yashi who took her in and she's been here ever since.  Out of all of us she's the only one who actually volunteers to do this shit, but as far as she is concerned this is all she has ever done.  She's been here for years, longer than Ellen even.  They figure she was only around sixteen when they found her, but she can't tell them.  Nicest kid you'll ever meet though."

"Kid," said Charlotte, "she's older than all of us!"

"Yeah, well, she seems younger, you know."

Charlotte nodded.  Lotus did have a very youthful air about her.

"What about you?" Charlotte asked Judy, "how did you get here?"

Judy looked like she didn't want to answer that question and was saved by Will who stepped up behind her.

"You girls done eating yet?" he asked, looking from one to the other.  They both nodded.

"Well, Charlotte, you sit here and rest a bit more.  I got a private little job for Judy, here," he said, unlocking her cuff from the table.

Charlotte saw Judy blush and glance up at him, and got a good idea as to what that private job would be.  She smiled.

"I'll be alright here," she said.

"I'm sure you will," said Deputy Will, locking Judy's hands behind her once more.  "We'll be back real soon."

As Judy stood up, she winked at Charlotte and a big smile crossed her face.  Charlotte watched as Will led the girl around the corner of the saloon and wished them well.  It was obvious that the couple had something personal together, and Charlotte was glad.  It was another indication that not everything was bad here in Temperance.

As she waited, she sat and watched the people of the town go about their business.  She noticed that for the most part they went around just like any other people: shopping, chatting, doing whatever business was needed.  She saw a few children from time to time and tried not to get noticed by them, and for the most part she succeeded in being a part of the background.

Of course, handcuffed to a table outside a saloon, she wasn't completely invisible.  Every so often a man going in or coming out would stop and look at her, some even asking if she needed anything, or to make a rude suggestion.

Charlotte tried to be as polite as she could to them, reasoning that she might at any time be required to work for any of those men.  But she avoided any advances.

Charlotte still wasn't sure what her pubic service really meant though, and was ruminating on it when she felt a presence sitting next to her.

It was another guy, about thirty, with a thick thatch of black hair and green eyes.  He sat staring at Charlotte, but not in a menacing way.

Charlotte stared back.  She noticed, because he wasn't wearing a shirt, the thick hair on his chest and the shape and size of his muscles.  But it was his eyes that caught her.  She had never seen green eyes on a man before.  She thought they made her brown ones look plain.

"You're the new girl, huh?" he asked, his voice deep and very masculine.

Charlotte just nodded.  She saw his eyes drift down her body and she blushed, pulling together her torn dress with her free hand.  She was startled when he stood up suddenly, and a tiny tinge of fear ignited inside her as he moved closer to her.  She didn't resist when he put a hand under her chin and tipped her head back, and she did nothing but melt a little when he bent low to kiss her.

Unlike the kiss with Glory, this one sent a pleasant shiver through to her toes, and when he broke free she couldn't move.

He smiled at her, before turning to go into the saloon.  Charlotte was still stunned by the kiss when Will and Judy showed up a few minutes later, smiling faces flushed.

"Okay, back to work!" Will said.

Their next job, as far as Charlotte was concerned, was their most disgusting.  Judy didn't disagree.

With so many horses coming and going through town, horse manure was of course a problem.  Guess who had to clean it up?  They wouldn't get all of it though, that was way too much to expect.  But wherever it piled up to much, the girls had to clean it up.  To do this they were given shovels and a wheelbarrow, and Will set their hands free.  They kept the hobbles on though, which made wheeling the heavily laden barrow of dung awkward.  Many a time the girls, on their way to the stables on the edge of town where they could drop their load, instead tripped and tipped it out onto the street.  Quite often they would have to load the same barrow twice.

The only good thing about the job, Charlotte found, was that no one bothered them while they worked.  Even Will kept his distance.  The girls could have used this time to talk, but the job was exhausting enough, and they really didn't want to open their mouths to breathe.

After they were done, Will allowed them to rest again for a short bit and to wash up at the public pump.  To Charlotte's horror, this meant getting drenched with water right out in the open in front of everyone.  Judy went first and her soaked dress vanished practically to invisibility.  It hugged her every curve and she might not have been wearing anything for all the cover it gave her.  Judy didn't seem put out by this though, she just kept glancing over at Will and smiling.

When it was Charlotte's turn, she tried to make do with just washing her hands, but she was so messy at this point that Judy convinced her to get really wet down for a proper scrub.  Charlotte closed her eyes as Judy helped her get soaking wet, but the cool water did feel very good in the afternoon heat.  When she opened her eyes and looked at herself, she saw that her dress had also pretty much faded away, and that Will wasn't the only man in the square looking at her.  She blushed and tried to hide herself, hoping that the heat would dry the dress quickly.

Judy grinned at her, until she noticed how much Will stared at Charlotte.  She gave the deputy a nudge to get his attention back.

After that was sweeping, up and down every boardwalk on both sides of the street.  Judy took one side while Charlotte took the other, and every so often Will would walk across the street and back again so he could keep track of both women.

Eventually though, it was time to go home, and Charlotte was actually grateful when Will took her broom away and cuffed her hands behind her.  She shuffled along behind him, tired and sore, until the deputy led them both to Mrs. Yashi's home, where he released them.

"I'll see you both again soon," he said with a smile, "so long, Judy!"

"Bye, Will," she replied, giving him a special smile.

The two girls, now free, ambled into the house.

Mrs. Yashi, who met them at the door, took one look at Charlotte's ripped dress and shook her head.  "What happened?" she asked.

"Glory, Ma'am," Judy said, answering for Charlotte.

Mrs. Yashi scowled, "That girl is going to end up HERE, if she isn't careful."

Judy grinned, "I wouldn't mind that!"

The old woman sighed, "I know, but I doubt her father will ever let that happen.  Both of you go wash up, and Charlotte, find something to wear.  You have chores to do."

As the mistress of the house turned to go back to her parlor, Charlotte blinked.  "Chores?" she asked.

"What did you think?" Judy said, looking at her.  "We have to earn our keep here.  But don't worry about it, there is rarely any heavy work.  Ellen does most of it anyway; she stays here to look after Mrs. Yashi.  We pitch in because it is expected of us, and because we want to.  Mrs. Yashi is good to us, we want to be good to her in return."

Charlotte nodded, seeing the logic, "Okay, I get it.  So, let's go shower and do some chores."

Judy grinned, "Girl, are you in for a shock!"

The shock was, there was no shower.  The tub in the big bathroom was the only way the occupants of the house could get a decent wash.  As it was, there was no time to heat the water and fill it, so Judy instructed Charlotte in the fine art of the sponge bath.

Again Charlotte was surprised at the casual way Judy took off her dress, and Charlotte shyly did likewise, dropping her dress in a basket for laundry.  Judy showed her where everything was and then proceeded to give herself a bath while standing in the middle of the bathroom.

Charlotte was divided between trying not to watch Judy and trying not to show too much of herself.  But the cool, wet sponge did feel good and the funny smelling soap did wonders in cutting through the day's accumulation of sweat.

She was surprised however, when she felt a second sponge on her aching back.  It was Judy, who had already finished.

"Come on, Charlotte.  You go too slow."  She proceeded to give Charlotte's body a quick and efficient wash while the startled girl hurried to do her more private parts.  Soon she was done and after the girls toweled off they hurried upstairs in the raw to the closet in their room for fresh clothes.

Charlotte felt rather naughty, running naked through the house.  She hadn't done anything like that since she was a little kid.  It almost brought a smile to her face.

But now dressed, Judy led the way back down in search of Ellen, who they found in the kitchen, working on supper.

Ellen assigned them simple chores.  Judy helped out in the kitchen while Charlotte got her first taste of feeding the chickens that lived behind the house.  It was a nasty job, especially barefoot as Charlotte had been since leaving her car, and she was glad to be done.

Supper was fried chicken, one of the unfortunates from the flock outside, and vegetables from the patch that was also behind the house.  It was good food, and the conversation was lively and warm.  Charlotte enjoyed herself and some of her fears faded away.

The best part of the evening though, was after clean-up.  Mrs. Yashi gathered her girls in the parlor, everyone but the old woman sitting on the floor.  Mrs. Yashi then picked up a well-worn book, and began to read out loud.

It was, to Charlotte's amusement, Arthur Conan Doyle.  She and the other girls listened with rapt attention to the adventures of Sherlock Holmes and the 'Read Headed League'.

But after a while, Charlotte's attention drifted, and she thought about the people she had met that day.  She thought about Glory, and what trouble the girl might cause next.  She thought about Deputy Will and how different he seemed from the rest of the Temperance police force.  She also thought about the green-eyed stranger who had kissed her.  On him her thoughts dwelled the longest.

Her smile lasted until bedtime.

end 7.