Frank stood nearly at attention, or as close to it as he ever got, in the office of his employer, Anthony Lowe. The old man sat behind his desk in the only chair in the room, for no one was supposed to relax in his company. He glared at Frank, his anger evident.
"What did I tell you about coming back empty-handed, Moose?" said Lowe, quietly.
"We're still looking, Boss. My people are still out there. But it's a big desert and there are places where we could walk right by her and not see her. I figured you'd want a more personal report than me on the phone every day."
"Yeah, like you needed to fly a thousand miles to tell me you don't have SHIT!" snapped the old man.
Frank told himself not to move. It wasn't that he was afraid of the old man, but Lowe did have a lot of power, the kind of power that could make Frank's life miserable, if not short.
"I told you to bring back my daughter," continued the old man, "and all you bring me is excuses."
"Well, Boss. I hate to say this but after all this time naked in the desert she could well be dead. You know that."
Lowe sat still for a moment, then shrugged, "Reis isn't going to accept that, you know. If we can't produce my daughter for this wedding, then he's going to want to see a body. For him there is only one excuse for her not marrying his nephew."
"Yeah, Boss. I know," muttered Frank.
Lowe looked at him for a moment, his anger subsiding a little, "There's something you're not telling me, Moose. What is it?"
Frank glanced up at him. It was true, there was something picking at him, something he didn't mention because he didn't really have enough he COULD talk about. "It's..." he began.
"Go on, Frank," said Lowe after a moment of silence.
"Well...I don't think she's dead," Frank said finally.
"It's that town, the crazy little town I told you about. It's the only place for miles that she could have gone to. If she was going to be able to survive out there, that's the only place she could do it."
"You told me that they denied her being there," said Lowe.
Frank smiled, his first since entering the room, "How many people usually deny things to us, Boss?"
Lowe chuckled, "You think this judge was putting us on?"
"Maybe, or someone was putting HIM on. It's just that we never got to look around for ourselves. I got the impression he didn't want us poking our noses around out there."
"So what do you want to do, Moose?" Lowe asked his most capable employee.
"I'd like to go back, check it out a bit more. The place...well, it nags at me, Boss. It isn't even on the map, like the whole town is in hiding or something. I'd like to shake it down a bit."
Lowe sat back in his chair and tented his fingers, "The place has some law...the judge and a sheriff. I don't want you making those kinds of waves until we're sure it needs to be done."
"We may never know that, Boss. As I said it's a big desert."
"If what you say is true, Moose, then what about the possibility of someone taking her elsewhere, helping her reach the nearest place she could catch a bus or something?"
Frank HAD thought about that. In fact a few of his men watched all the approaches to the town they could find, just in case. But it was no guarantee of finding Charlotte. "I just have a feeling she's still there, Boss."
Lowe thought about it again, "Give it a few more days, Moose, then if you still can't find her, go in."
"But You had better tread lightly, Moose, until we get a handle on this judge and his pet sheriff. I do NOT want any waves, understood?"
Frank nodded slowly, a soft smile on his lips, "Understood, Boss."
For three more days Charlotte worked downtown Temperance, filling horse troughs, sweeping up the boardwalks and cleaning up horse manure. One of those days she worked again with Judy, while the other two she served with Lotus.
Charlotte enjoyed her time with Lotus, the woman seemed to have a boundless energy and sunny outlook that made Charlotte smile. It was as if she didn't realize what her life had become; like it didn't matter to her.
Yet Charlotte also noticed that Lotus' enthusiasm didn't last all day. There were times when she was prone to quiet moments of deep reflection, and then she would turn a little sullen. These times seemed to come more in the evening than during the day, but they usually passed quickly and then she was back to her old self. Or was she?
To wile away the hours as she worked, Charlotte would sometimes think about what Judy had told her about Lotus' mysterious past, and she wondered if the real Lotus was the quiet one, trying to come to the surface.
Either way, Lotus wouldn't talk about it, although she was quite keen to talk about anything else. Through Lotus, Charlotte found out about Judy's arrival in Temperance, on the arm of a man out prospecting in the desert. They were both brought in for trespassing near the mine, and were both tried by the Judge. Judy got Community Service...her man was 'shot while trying to escape'. Now Charlotte knew what anger drove Judy to survive here.
Ellen's tale was less dramatic. She simply drove into town one day, her car pretty much at the end of its life. She wandered the town for a day, and was apparently broke, for when she ordered and ate a meal at the saloon, she couldn't pay for it. Clay arrested her, the Judge tried and convicted her, and she'd been working for Mrs. Yashi ever since.
Of Mrs. Yashi herself, Lotus didn't know much, even though she looked to the old woman as a mother figure. But Lotus did tell Charlotte about one other member of the community.
Charlotte had been sweeping in front of the General store, and as was her habit, she kept her eyes down to hide her shame. So she didn't see the woman who came out of the store although she heard her. What she actually heard was the store door opening and a male voice from inside saying "You have a good day now, Mrs. Sable."
Obviously, Mrs. Sable wasn't looking either, for just as she stepped out
she ran right into Charlotte who almost fell over because of her hobble.
As Charlotte staggered to retain her balance, she looked at who had run
into her and saw a thin looking woman of around forty.
She wore a full dress that looked bulky and unattractive, and a full bonnet that hid most of her head. Her face was visible though, and for a brief moment Charlotte could see defeat and anguish written all over it. But when the woman looked at her, it changed. Mrs. Sable took on a look of hatred, intense hatred, and Charlotte took a step back.
"You whore," said Mrs. Sable, her voice low and menacing, "you leave him alone! I should be good enough, ME! He shouldn't have to go to the likes of YOU! LEAVE HIM ALONE!"
Charlotte was too stunned to speak, and actually feared the woman was about to attack her when the storekeeper came out of the store. "Come on now, Mrs Sable," he said, smiling and acting very friendly as he took the woman's arm, "there's no need to get riled up about these gals, is there? Why don't you just head on home, I'm sure your husband is going to appreciate that steak you just got for him."
Mrs. Sable looked him in the face at the mention of her husband, and the anger faded from view. She actually looked worried for a moment, before nodding. "Yes...yes...I should go. I can't be late. He should like the steak, shouldn't he?" she asked the storekeeper, almost pleading with him.
"I'm sure he'll think it fine and if he doesn't, you tell him I picked it out for you," said the man in a calming manner.
Mrs. Sable didn't look anywhere near calm, but she nodded and turned to walk away without looking at Charlotte again.
The storekeeper watched her go for a few moments, then he turned to Charlotte. "You mind your own business, you hear?" he said. "Now get back to your sweeping."
Charlotte mentioned this to the girls that evening once they had completed their home chores, and Lotus volunteered what little they knew of Mrs. Sable.
"She's Sable's wife," Lotus said, something Charlotte had already gathered. "They live out in a big house halfway between town and the mine. He keeps her there all alone and is pretty brutal to her. I heard he whips her."
"That's just a rumor, Lotus," Ellen said, always the voice of reason in this little group.
Lotus pouted a little, and played with the chain that still connected her wrists together, "Yeah, well, maybe. Still, he must do something to her. He never lets her talk to anyone, she don't have any friends. She just comes to town once a week to organize the shopping and everyone is extra polite to her so that her husband wont beat her when she gets home."
"Lotus," said Ellen again, "don't exaggerate."
Charlotte had to ask, "Why does he act that way?"
The three other women in their attic room all looked down, avoiding each
"Sable lives by his own rules," said Ellen eventually, "him and the Judge. The Judge may run the town, but Sable brings in the money to keep it alive, so he acts the way he pleases. You won't really understand him...until you meet him in person, Charlotte. But he's a possessive son-of-a-bitch, and I think he treats his wife the way he does because he is insanely jealous of anyone taking her away from him. To him, she's just another possession. People are real nice to her, and real careful around her because if Sable even imagines that she might be making friends with anyone, then...well...I wouldn't want to be her."
"She looked at me with such hate!" Charlotte said.
"Well...she thinks we're taking him away from her! That bastard thinks nothing of...well, using us, but goes apeshit if another man looks at her twice. I feel sorry for her, I really do."
So did Charlotte, and evidently so did the others, for everyone went to bed in a quiet mood. Lying in the dark, her ankle chained to the bed, Charlotte thought about the man her father had wanted her to marry, and also about Mrs. Sable. A life that could have been hers, perhaps? She knew her suitor's reputation, it was within the realm of possibility.
Charlotte once again fell asleep, not knowing if she was lucky ending up in Temperance, yet happy she hadn't been forced to go home.
She had a different job the next day.
"Charlotte," said Mrs. Yashi as Charlotte helped Ellen clean up the breakfast things, "how well do you read?"
"Very well, Ma'am. I graduated from high school," Charlotte answered, wondering where this was leading.
Mrs. Yashi nodded and said nothing more as she left the kitchen, although Ellen smiled.
"You know something?" Charlotte asked her.
Ellen's smirk grew larger, and Charlotte had to smile too.
"Come on," urged Charlotte, drying her hands, "you have to tell me. What am I being set up for?"
"Well...I guess there's no harm in telling you a little bit," Ellen said, looking around to see if they were alone, "if she wants you to read then you're going to spend the day over at the Miller's place."
"Yeah. They're a sweet old couple, been here in Temperance all their lives. They've seen it grow and die and grow again. Aggie Miller still gets around, but her husband Emmet is bedridden. Every month or so they have one of us over to help clean the house. And Aggie also takes a part of the day to go into town by herself, leaving us to baby sit, more or less. But don't worry about it, he's easy. A really nice guy is Emmet." Ellen smiled.
Charlotte raised an eyebrow, "Why do I think there is more to it than that?"
Ellen stifled a giggle, something Charlotte thought quite unusual for
the young woman.
"I'll let THAT be a surprise. But I'll tell you this much, you'll be fine. Perfectly safe. Just go along with it and you'll find it worth it in the end. Trust me!"
Charlotte was about to press her further but Mrs. Yashi came back in, "Girls, there is no need to stop and chat. Charlotte, go upstairs and change into a clean dress, the one you have on is already a mess. Stay up there until I send Ellen for you. Understood?"
"Yes, Ma'am," said Charlotte, and she left with her head full of thoughts. Who were the Miller's and what was the surprise?"
She didn't have to wait too long, for after a little while Ellen came up and beckoned Charlotte down. Outside the house on the dirt track that stood in for a road, was a cart and horse. Its driver was Zachery, the man who had first caught Charlotte, and he was smiling which made Charlotte nervous.
"It's okay," Ellen said, "Zack's not really a bad guy, he just likes his chains a bit too much. You'll be safe with him."
"He rubs me the wrong way," Charlotte said.
"Well, he's here to take you to the Miller's place and bring you home again tonight. So be nice to him."
Charlotte sighed and went to her fate. She at least felt better that this time she was wearing something half decent. Better yet, it looked like she was going to be able to ride the cart, her bare feet still not used to going without shoes.
Zack looked Charlotte up and down a couple of times, making the girl blush, before beckoning her up on the seat next to him. She climbed up, aware of how close they were sitting, and was startled when Zack bent down and pulled some cuffs out from under the seat.
"No!" Charlotte said, but it was too late. Zack quickly placed the cuffs about both her ankles and they were now connected with only three inches of chain.
"Why did you do that?" she asked him, forgetting that Zachery couldn't talk.
Ellen, still standing on the porch, answered for him, "Come on Charlotte, haven't you realized yet that we don't go anywhere without restraints on?"
Charlotte actually hadn't noticed, thinking that all the bondage she had been put through had been aimed at her personally. But now that it was pointed out to her she saw the truth behind it, and it upset her a little. She had hoped, over time, that the humiliating restrictions she was put under, would be lifted. But if all the girls were getting treated like this no matter how long they were here, then Charlotte knew she had bondage to look forward to for the next two years...unless she found a way to escape.
It didn't look likely, but that didn't stop her mulling over it as Zack drove her over to her next assignment.
They eventually arrived at a house out on the outskirts of town, far on the opposite side from Mrs. Yashi's place. It was a modest one story, but looked fairly neat and well-kept.
Sitting in a rocking chair was a spry-looking old lady in a baggy dress and shawl. She was knitting something and she stood up as Zack brought the cart to a stop.
"Is that the new girl with you there, Zachery?" she asked, her voice rather youthful.
Zack nodded and the woman turned to poke her head through an open front window.
"Emmet! Emmet! He brought the NEW one! We got a new girl here!" she yelled.
"Well get her in here, woman!" answered Emmet, sounding just as energetic.
Charlotte didn't know what to think, and she sat stunned as the old woman who had to be Aggie, turned to smile at her.
Charlotte was also surprised when Zack, who had jumped off the cart, now grabbed Charlotte's waist and lifted her over his shoulder.
She had to grab him for balance and suffered the indignity of her position as he carried her to the house. She wondered why he hadn't taken the cuffs off her ankles, and hoped she didn't have to wear them all day. Not only wouldn't she be able to walk, but she would hardly be able to stand.
Zack ended up depositing Charlotte on the porch, sitting her down on the floor. Charlotte hastily pulled down the hem of her dress, for it had ridden up and almost exposed the fact that the dress was all she wore.
Zack grinned and headed back to his cart.
"Hello, dear," said Aggie with a grandmotherly smile, "my name is Agatha, although everyone just calls me Aggie. What's your name?"
"I'm Charlotte, Ma'am," said the girl.
"Oh...None of that 'Ma'am' business. It's Aggie, girl. Oh good, Zachery, you brought the chain."
Charlotte looked up in horror to see that Zack had come back with a huge length of chain over his shoulder. He smiled as he went by and into the house.
"What's THAT for?" Charlotte asked.
"Well, as much as I enjoy you girls company, and would love to have you run around free in my home, Charlotte, the fact remains that you are all prisoners. The Judge says that you can't go free while serving your sentence, so Zachery is just putting in a long chain that we can lock you to while you're here. It's nothing really, it just goes around your ankle."
It really did. After anchoring one end someplace inside the house, Zack came out and locked the other end around Charlotte's left ankle, before removing the cuffs he had put on her. She was at last able to stand and she and Aggie watched Zack ride off in his cart.
"Come on, dear," Aggie said, "I'll introduce you to my husband."
Emmet looked like a skeleton, so withered was he. Yet his eyes shone brightly and his mind was certainly all there. Whatever was taking his body wasn't taking his spirit.
He lay in a large bed in the front room, and raised an eyebrow as the women entered. "So you're the new girl, huh?" he asked, appraising her.
"Her name is Charlotte," said Aggie, moving to smooth out his blanket, "and this is my husband, Emmet."
Charlotte just stood, wondering if Ellen had been putting her on about these old people being safe.
"Cat caught your tongue, girl?" Emmet demanded sharply.
"No Sir," Charlotte replied.
"Good. Because you'll need it later," said Emmet smugly.
Charlotte suddenly felt alarmed, but then realized that Emmet hadn't meant what she thought he meant. She'd use her tongue to read to him, of course.
"Let's get started, dear," Aggie said to her, "there's a lot to do this morning and I want the afternoon in town. Come on!"
Dragging her chain behind her, Charlotte was given her tasks. It turned out to be an awful lot of basic cleaning. She would be moving furniture and rugs and then scrubbing walls and floors. Aggie would help her out from time to time but mostly she tended to Emmet and dealt with a large pile of laundry.
It was mind-numbing work for Charlotte, but she found she liked it, and managed to relax. The normality of the situation, despite the chain locked to her ankle, appealed to her. She felt she could handle it easily.
She did every room in the house over the long morning, and was glad when
it was over. She felt exhausted and was glad for the stop for lunch.
They ate together with Emmet, a simple meal of some sort of soup with fresh bread that Aggie boasted to have baked herself, and Charlotte found herself enjoying the company of the old couple. But eventually the meal was over and Aggie gathered her things together for her trip into town.
"You just see that he needs nothing while I'm gone," Aggie instructed, "I'll just be a few hours, but don't you dare give him anything sweet! He's liable to try to con you into it, the old coot, but don't give in. The doctor said he can't have any!"
Charlotte smiled, "We'll be fine, Aggie."
Aggie smiled back, "I know you will, Charlotte. You're a good girl. You just mind him and read his book to him the way he likes and I'll be back before you know it."
Charlotte smiled fondly at the old woman, and then went inside.
Emmet was smiling at her. "Well, Charlotte. You look like you could use a rest," he said.
Charlotte looked down. Her nice clean dress was rather soiled, and she did feel tired and sweaty. "I sure could," she agreed.
Emmet chuckled, "Well, my book is on the shelf, yonder. The white one. Go get it and you can sit on the edge of the bed and read it too me. I'd read it myself, but my eyes aren't as good as they were."
"I'd be happy to, Emmet," Charlotte said, unaware that normal was about to be replaced with strange. She picked up the book and frowned when she read the cover.
"Young Housewife Sex Games of Suburbia?" Charlotte asked, thinking she must have picked up the wrong book.
Emmet grinned, "That's the one! Come on over and start reading. There should be a bookmark in there somewhere."
"But surely you have something more...wholesome to read," Charlotte said, slightly appalled.
"Nothing more wholesome than young women having fun," Emmet replied with a smile.
Charlotte blinked, then shrugged. If the old man wanted smut, she'd read it to him. Charlotte just hoped his wife approved.
She perched on the edge of the bed, silver chain still locked about her ankle, and turned to the place indicated by the ratty old bookmark. It turned out to be an illustrated book, for one page had a picture on it of two women, both naked, one of whom seemed to be tied to an iron patio chair and orally servicing the other. Again Charlotte blinked and she felt herself blush.
"I can't read this!" she exclaimed.
"You can and you will, young lady," said Emmet, "I only get to hear that book being read once a month and you're not going to ruin it for me." He sighed, and softened his approach. "Look, Charlotte, I know it seems hard to do, and a little weird. Every time we get a new girl here you all feel the same way. But think of it this way: I'm old, Agatha is old. We're both too old to deal with this in the flesh, so that book allows me to imagine. Are you going to take an old man's fantasies away from him?"
Charlotte shook her head. Put that way she saw his point. So she turned to the book and began to read. Very soon she was into the adventures of a group of suburban housewives who got their kicks while their husbands were at work, by sexually dominating each other and anyone else they could find. Sometimes, even a husband would join in, but for the most part it was just the women.
"She strained at the ropes," Charlotte read, "her large, heaving, 40 DD chest glistening with sweat, as her best friend caressed her open sex with the cucumber. 'Oh please,' she cried, 'don't use that! We were going to eat that with our dinner!' Buffy held the cucumber up high and grinned. 'Then your darling hubby will enjoy the taste even more!' she chuckled, before plunging the phallic vegetable deep into her moist cave!"
There was more like this, all with accompanying illustrations, that made Charlotte flush as she read them. She was actually surprised to find that as crass as it was, the erotica was arousing her in some small way that she would never admit. But she had to grin at some of its worse moments.
"Betty felt her love tunnel clench one again as she rode the strap on dildo attached to the bench of her picnic table, not knowing that her neighbor was watching and masturbating next door. They screamed out their love passion together, and their multiple orgasms set off fireworks in the skies of their consciousness. Betty knew her husband was nothing compared to the ten-inch black wobbler Daphne had loaned her that morning!"
Emmet seemed enthralled, and at one point when the sex was extremely heavy, he stopped Charlotte mid sentence.
"Girl," he said, "would you do an old man a favor?"
"Certainly!" Charlotte replied, grateful for the break so she could collect herself a little.
"Then stand up please, Charlotte."
Puzzled, Charlotte stood facing him. He smiled at her.
"You're a beautiful girl, Charlotte," he said, "would you do an old man a favor and take off your dress? It's been awhile since these tired old eyes have seen such a fine young woman as yourself."
"Mr Miller!" exclaimed Charlotte. "I couldn't do that!"
"Just for a little while. I don't see the pictures in the book as well as I used to and it would make me so happy to see your young body while you read. Could you do this dying old man a favor?" He looked at her and Charlotte found herself melting. He seemed so pitiful lying there, fading away to nothing. And it wasn't as if she was in any danger from him. Besides, her body had been looked at by so many lately, that an old man wouldn't make much difference now.
"Alright," Charlotte said, "just for you. But I hope Aggie doesn't come home to see this."
"You're a good girl, Charlotte. You won't regret it. I'll put in a good word for you with the Judge. You'll see. Now...please?"
Charlotte paused, then she undid the single button at the neck of her dress. She pulled it up and over her head, dropping it to the floor, showing the old man that she wore nothing under it. She felt vulnerable, scared, and still a little aroused by the book in her hand. She hoped none of that showed, although her nipples were rather stiff.
"Lovely, simply lovely," Emmet said, "you have more meat on you than those others, I like that. Now, go sit there in Aggie's chair and go on reading. You don't have to show me the pictures anymore, I'll just look at you."
Aggie's chair turned out to be a bare wooden rocking chair like the ones on the porch, and it felt cold under her bare skin. Charlotte tried to ignore the way Emmet looked at her naked body, and continued reading.
"Dorothy was surprised to feel another mouth sucking and kissing at her huge breasts, another hand caressing her hot, moist cave, and she opened her eyes to see that her husband had joined them on the bed. He was naked and his huge member was being stroked by her best friend and hairdresser, Babs. Dorothy gave in to the passion though as her husband moved his mouth to where she burned hot, and his tongue brought her to paradise!"
As Charlotte continued to read out loud, she began to relax in the chair, her legs parting, her own sex becoming exposed. Emmet drank in the sight of her young body, wishing he was forty years younger, but content now to just watch. He smiled as Charlotte's free hand slid down to caress a bare nipple, or brush between her legs. He knew she was probably oblivious to what she was doing, but it was obvious even to him that she was getting caught up in the material she was reading.
Charlotte continued, "She stood up at their bidding, hot with passion, his love seed filling her womanhood, making her feel at last complete. 'Dance' they ordered, so dance she did, closing her eyes to move to unheard music, the music of her sexual soul!"
"Charlotte?" Emmet said gently, the point he had been waiting for now reached, "stand up, but don't stop reading,"
Charlotte stood and Emmet waited to see what would happen. He knew the book talked about the dancing girl for a few more overdone pages, and sure enough, as Charlotte read, her body began to sway.
Emmet smiled, it would be okay. "Close you eyes, Charlotte," he said quietly, "can you see her dancing? Dance for me as she is dancing, Charlotte. Dance for me."
Charlotte did dance, her eyes closed, her free hand roaming over her body. Her dance wasn't much more than swaying back and forth but it was done with such slow sensual feeling that it was all that needed to be done. She presented Emmet with a beautiful sight, this naked girl with a steel chain locked about her ankle. She glistened with sweat for the house was warm, and her slick body exuded sex.
"You can sit down now, and continue reading," Emmet told her.
Charlotte did as she was bid, and for a moment lost her focus before catching the rhythm of the story again.
Her voice continued, "The warm sun caressed Susie's naked, nubile body, stimulating every part it touched. She brushed her hands over herself, wondering if she was still enough of a woman to attract the handsome pool boy. Certainly she had been enough for her new neighbor. Oh how she liked to welcome new people to the neighborhood! Susie plucked at a nipple, enjoying the shockwave that flowed from breast to loin. Soon her other hand joined it and began a siege of her intimate opening. She groaned with pleasure as her skilled fingers worked her silky outerfolds, probing for the treasure that lurked just inside..."
Charlotte's hand was indeed toying with her pussy, and Emmet watched quietly, not daring to break the spell. Some girls reacted strongly to the book, others hardly at all, but Charlotte was really getting into it. Only the little blonde, Lotus, had gone further. But then, she was such a sensual creature anyway, Emmet knew.
"Her fingers plunged deep, curling and stroking at her G spot, sending shivers through her entire body. She pinched her nipples with one hand and thumbed her clit with the other, eager for the release that was hers alone to give. So many times she had given this pleasure to others, and now it was HER turn. She began to move faster, bringing her passion to the boil, hoping it wouldn't bubble over until she was ready to drink from it..."
Charlotte's breathing grew heavier, her voice as she read grew quieter, as her hand ran up and down her sex. Emmet could see from his place on the bed that her pussy was glistening, moist from the actions of her hand and the emotions generated by the book.
Then, she paused, as her fingers suddenly slipped inside her own 'moist cave'. She looked up, away from the book and right into Emmet's eyes. She was frozen in this moment, her body actually shivering with built up need.
Emmet quietly began to speak. He knew the book by heart, every page, every picture. He began exactly where Charlotte had stopped, and continued to talk of Susie's self pleasure.
After a moment, Charlotte closed her eyes and she lay the book down. She began to use both hands and was soon copying the actions from the book. When she came, it was with a small cry and a jingle of chain as her body stiffened in response. Emmet paused to watch, and after a minute he saw her relax once more. He smiled softly.
Charlotte took her hand from her sex, and brought her legs up so she was curled into a ball on the chair. She kept her head bowed, her face hidden, and said nothing for the longest time.
Emmet knew it would go one of two ways, either she would get mad at what had happened, and blame him...or...
"I'm sorry," she said after a while, "I didn't mean to...I didn't want to..."
"It's okay, Charlotte," Emmet said gently, "what happened is perfectly natural. Those stories are supposed to affect you like that. It's fine!"
"But...in front of you. I've never done...anything like that in front of anyone before. You must think me a complete slut!"
"Not at all. All I see is a beautiful young lady who has a healthy command of her sexual needs. It's all quite natural!"
Charlotte looked up at him slowly, tears on her face, "I don't feel beautiful, I never have. I feel like a slut...dirty."
"You're not a slut," Emmet replied, "you're not dirty. You are a beautiful, healthy young woman who only acted naturally. You have no need to debase yourself, and I won't have it!"
Emmet smiled gently, and opened his withered arms, "Come here, come on. It's okay."
Charlotte sniffed back a tear, and got out of her chair. She padded naked to Emmet's bed, chain dragging behind her, and gingerly climbed on. A part of her wondered what she was doing, but as Emmet held her she realized just how much she had needed comforting. Ever since her father announced her marriage, Charlotte had felt the world shocking her over and over again. But in this old man's arms she found a sanctuary she couldn't explain. She was just glad it was there.
They lay for a while, before the spell was broken, and Charlotte sheepishly got off the bed and put on her dress. At Emmet's quiet urging, Charlotte cleaned up the mess she had made of the chair, and put away the book. They talked no more of what had happened, and filled the rest of the time till Aggie came home with Zachery with idle chit chat.
Lying in bed that night, naked in the dark except for a blanket and a metal cuff on her ankle, Charlotte finally allowed herself to think about what had happened that day.
"Ellen?" she said softly.
"MmmHmmm?" came a muffled voice from the next bed.
"You're right, it was worth it in the end."
Ellen paused before answering, "Told you."
Charlotte turned and closed her eyes. She fell asleep, smiling.