Learning the Ropes

So we're sitting here. Mum, Cassie and me, watching them leave the room, and I'm not sure what's scaring me the most - the fact that Cassie and I have managed to remain so calm, or the fact that at some point I'll need to explain to mum why we're so calm.

Iím Jenny - Jenny Craig, twelve years old, not the most popular girl in school but then who wants to be like Alicia anyway. My sister Cassie is ten, and goes to the local primary school - she's wearing their uniform now. A yellow puff sleeved dress with a white collar, white ankle socks and black shoes. I had the afternoon off school, so I'm wearing a long light blue t-shirt, dark leggings and black suede boots. Mum has on a mustard coloured cardigan over a white blouse, grey slacks and knee length brown leather boots.

So here we are, sitting here with the television on, wondering what we're going to do next. As Cassie leans over and puts her head on mum's lap, I see her look down and then over to me, a mixture of concern and fear in her eyes. I know she wants to ask us some questions, but now's not the time to do it.

Not that she can anyway - the strips of grey tape that are over all our mouths mean that's not possible. As she looks back down at Cassie, it gives me a chance to try and process everything that's happened, and what I'm going to say to her. I guess I'll need to go back six months, and the day Cassie and I watched that DVD...




It was a wet Sunday afternoon in November, and Cassie and I were in my room, watching a Scooby Doo DVD - I think it was one of those that had that girl band in it, but right now I can't remember.

Dad was away at a conference, and Mum was downstairs cooking the Sunday dinner. She was allowing us to watch this while she got on with the work, which suited us as well. Much as we both love her, she can be a bit strict when it comes to the kitchen. She also usually does not like us wearing shoes in the house, so Cassie had on a blue t-shirt over a long sleeved top, jeans and white socks pulled up over her ankles. I had on a grey smock top and leggings, with long green socks on.

At some point, as there always seems to be in these stories, Daphne had been kidnapped and we watched her sitting in a shed, a long scarf over her mouth as she made sounds as if she wasnít able to talk properly. Cassie looked at me; her black hair pulled back in a pigtail, and said "That canít be true can it? How can a scarf stop her talking properly?"

I must have shrugged my shoulders, because she said "Iím going to prove it!" She got up and walked over to my cupboard, coming back with a long woollen scarf which she tied tightly over her lower jaw. "Can u her m," she said through the woollen band, and I nodded, adding "I can hear you well enough - I guess it really doesnít silence you much, maybe just enough. Mind you, maybe it isnít tight enough."

I got up myself and padded over to the cupboard, taking out another scarf and tying it as tightly as I could over my own mouth. "Whhtbt nw," I mumbled, and Cassie nodded to show she could hear me as well. We both looked at each other, and started laughing - we looked ridiculous, Cassie with a black scarf that had pictures of Minnie Mouse on the ends, me with a brown and white zigzag patterned one over mine.

"Girls! Dinner!"

We both took the scarves off and went downstairs, but something about that situation must have lodged in both our brains, because later that night when I was going to bed, Cassie came into my room again.

"Jenny - how do you think you stop someone making a noise like Daphne was, if a scarf is not enough?"

I sat on my bed, and said "Dunno - guess you have to stop someone either talking or moving their lips. Why?" Cassie sat next to me, and said "I want to find out - it was fun today, but I still feel like I need to know."

Cassie is a curious kid, and I knew full well that once she set her mind on something, it was going to be difficult to stop her. I also didnít want her to hurt herself, so I said "Tell you what - let's try a few things out next Saturday and see what we can find out."


Damn - now I've got an itchy nose. I put my head on mum's sleeve and try rubbing my nose up and down, which makes her give out a muffled laugh as she looks at me. Cassie has fallen asleep on her lap now, her eyes closed. Probably just as well.

As I straighten up again, watching mum try to twist her arms round again, I start thinking again about that next Saturday - the day I first tied Cassie up.




Mum and Dad were downstairs, trying to get the housework done, so Cassie and I were up in her room when she said "So how do you stop someone calling out?"

I looked at her lying on her bed, in a pink "Hello Kitty" sweatshirt and jogging pants, and said "Well, I've been reading up a few things, and apparently there's two ways - put something in their mouth or stop their lips moving. Here, let me show you." There was a small yellow sponge ball sitting on the floor, so I picked it up and squashed it before I put it in my mouth. "Ssss," I said as I looked back up at her, "icntnttlkvrwwel, cnee?"

Cassie laughed at the way I sounded, and it did sound weird. I opened my mouth and took the ball out, saying "Yuck" as I realised it had soaked up some saliva from inside. "Can I have a go," Cassie said, but I shook my head. "Oh, please," she said as she opened her blue eyes wide and looked at me, so I got up, walked to the door to close it, and then said "All right - but open your mouth wide, and try not to swallow it."

I gently pushed the ball in, but while it had quite comfortably fitted into my mouth it was too big for Cassie, so that she could barely close her teeth over it, never mind her lips. "Ddndtlkts," she mumbled as she opened her mouth again and I pulled it back out. "Is there something else we can use?"

"Well, we could try what they do in some of my books," I said as I went and looked in her chest of drawers, looking for something I thought was there. I eventually found it - it been a triangle of green cloth, which had two long ends running from the corners, that she had used to cover her hair from time to time in the summer. I folded it into a pad, and as Cassie opened her mouth I pushed it in. This time she could close her teeth and lips, the two string-like lengths hanging outside.

"Try to say something now," I said, and Cassie began singing "thwhllsntbsgrndndrnd, rndndrnd, rndndrnd," starting to giggle as she carried on. Eventually she had to open her mouth and spit out the cloth, which was now a much darker green as it fell on the duvet. "Now that was funny," she eventually said as she calmed down, "and that would keep me a bit quieter. There's only one problem."

"Oh," I said as I picked up the soaking cloth and looked at it, "What's that?"

"I could take it out any time, and Daphne could not. I want to do what she did." She looked at me as I thought about what she said.

"I donít know, Cassie - what if Mum comes in?"

"OH - are you a scaredy cat now, Jenny?" She stuck her tongue out and that was it - an official dare.

"Right," I said as I stood up, "You wait there. I'll get some things from my room, and we'll see who can last the longest." I stood up and walked to my room, but as I got to the door Dad called up "What are you two doing?"

"Just reading, Dad," I said as I called back down. Walking into my room, I picked up a couple of things from my cupboard, and went back to find Cassie sitting up on the bed. I sat down next to her, and said "Right - in the books they tie the girl's hands and feet. I'll do it to you, then stop you talking, and then I'll do something similar to myself."

"Not the same?"

"I need to get my hands free," I said as I held up one of my white tennis wrist bands. "Ready?"

"Yes please," Cassie said excitedly, "What are you going to do first?"

"Put your legs on my lap," I said as I sat back, Cassie turning and putting her feet on the top of my jeans. I'd brought in from my room three old skipping ropes, and I used one of them to tie her ankles together. I'd just started in the Scouts, so I had learned how to tie a reef knot - and that's what I did, wrapping the rope round three times and then using a reef knot to secure the ends together. Cassie kicked her legs up, and said "That's not very tight."

"We're playing - remember," I said as she swung her legs off, and I brought my own feet up, tying my ankles together in the same way. I then picked up the last rope, and said "Do you want your hands in front or behind?"

"In front," Cassie said as she held them out, palms together. I tied them together in the same way I had tied her ankles, and then said "right, open your mouth." As she did so, I pushed in a folded up handkerchief from my drawer, and watched as she closed her lips over it. "Now, if you spit that out, you lose, understand?"

"Ysssjn," she mumbled as she watched me push another handkerchief into my own mouth, and then push my hands through the wrist band, the elastic holding my wrists together over the cuffs of my black jumper as I sat next to my younger sister. We looked at each other and tried to make the other laugh - neither of us really wanted to lose this bet.

As it was, we only had fifteen minutes before we heard mum calling up the stairs "Girls - we need to go shopping." We spat the cloths out and I pulled my hands free, reaching over and releasing Cassie afterwards. Five minutes later, I'd put what we had used into a plastic bag in my room, and we were both running down the stairs.


I can see Cassie's hands now as she rolls over, crossed and tied together behind her back, the rope going round and between them and a length of rope holding them into her back round her waist. Mum had tried to stop them from doing this, but she was already very well tied when they started, and she had to accept we were going to get tied up as well. Not as tightly as she was - although the rope around my tummy is very well secured between my arms and chest - but still we knew we weren't going anywhere.

After all, before long we had learned how to this to each other as well...




Anyway, over the next few months Cassie and I found new and different ways to be tied and to tie each other up. At first we had to use the skipping ropes and sponges, but over time we found new materials that we could use.

For example, in the following January Mum decided to get rid of the cotton sheets we had on our beds and buy new ones. She wanted to throw them out, but we persuaded her we could use them to cover our floors if we wanted to do painting, so she packed them into a bag and gave them to me to keep.

Well, I found some kitchen scissors and cut them into long strips, then pushed them back into the bag. The following Saturday found us in our bedroom, with Cassie lying on the bed while I tied her wrists together behind her back with one cloth strip, keeping it over the cuffs of her jumper, then her ankles over her jeans. For some reason, she really liked a cloth in her mouth, so I pushed one of Mum's handkerchiefs in, and used another strip between her teeth to hold it in place.

She lay there, twisting round for a few minutes, and then I untied her and allowed her to tie me as I sat on the floor. I put my hands behind my back, and let her tie them together. She never did it as tightly as I did to her, but I always pretended she did. Then she tied my ankles together, pushed a handkerchief into my mouth and then a strip of cloth.

Another time, Dad was getting rid of a load of old ties, so I rescued them from the recycling bag, and we used them for one adventure.

This went on for some months, but what we really wanted was to both be tied up at the same time. We couldnít ask Mum or Dad to do that - they would have freaked. What we needed was someone who we could trust to do it and not tell our parents.

What we found was April, the girl who babysat from time to time.

In late March Mum and Dad were going to a dinner hosted by Dad's company, so they asked April if she would come down and look after us for the evening. She arrived at six, just as we were returning from our gymnastics club. The youth centre was within walking distance, and Mum trusted me to bring Cassie straight back.

As we came in, April was sitting in the front room, wearing a black t-shirt, denim shorts and dark footless tights. I was wearing a lime green leotard over a pair of white tights, while Cassie had on a black leotard over blue leggings. Both of us had thick socks and trainers on.

Mum looked in, as she fixed a pair of earrings in, and said "April's in charge, so do as she tells you, all right? April, we'll be back by eleven - there's money for you to phone Pizza Hut for dinner."

She turned and walked out of the door with Dad, as April said "Right - what do you want to eat, and then we can put a DVD on."

An hour later, the pizza boxes were on the floor as we sat on the floor either side of April on the couch, watching The Pacifier. When the scene when the family are hel hostage came on, Casey said "I could get out of that, no problem."

"Oh," April said quietly, "What makes you so sure - they look fairly tight."

"Theyíre not tight," Cassie said as she turned to look at her, "Jenny ties me up tighter than that."

"Cassie!" I looked at her to show how angry I was, but April just laughed. "So you tie her up," she said. "Do you use ropes or cloths?"

"Both," I said without thinking, and then I looked at her. "How did you..."

"Experience," April said as she sat back. "So, you ever both been tied up at the same time?"

"No," I said, "but we'd love to. Could you do that for us?"

"I could," April said, "but have you ever been tied with tape?"

Cassie and I looked at each other, and then we both shook our heads. "Right," April said as she stood up, "Go to the toilet, and then come down here."

Well, how could we refuse the invitation? In five minutes, we went to the toilet, and were back in the room, where April was waiting. She had found a roll of grey tape in our cupboard, and smiled as she said "Both of you, turn round and put your hands behind your back."

I turned round, and as I heard the sound of the tape been ripped free she said "What do you usually do - hands and feet?"

"Yes - why?"

"Do you want to try something different?"

"What," Cassie said as she looked over her shoulder. "Let me show you on Jenny." She pulled my hands behind my back, crossing my wrists, and then I felt the tape sticking to my wrists as she taped them together.

It was a new, exciting feeling, as she taped them tightly, but then she tore the tape free and started to wrap it around my waist, holding my wrists tightly into my back as she passed it round and over my leotard. "How does that feel," she said as she tore the tape free and smoothed it down.

"That's different," I said as she did the same to Cassie, taping her wrists together and then into her back as she passed the tape around her waist. She tried twisting round before saying "this is neat - what's next?"

"Sit down," April said, and as we sat down she taped my ankles together, first removing my shoes and socks, and then Cassie's. She then passed the tape around our legs, above our knees, so that they were held firmly together. When she was done, Cassie and I looked at each other, and said "This... Is... GREAT!"

"Well," April said as she looked at us, "I think you need to be gagged."

"Cloth in my mouth," Cassie said, but April shook her head. "I'm going to use this," she said as she held the tape up, "and youíre a bit young to put cloth in as well. Just close your lips." Cassie pouted, but did as she was told, looking up as April tore off a length of tape and smoothed it over her lips. She did the same to me, and then smiled as she knelt in front of us.

"Tickle time," she said as she started to stroke the bases of our feet. Cassie and I looked at each other for a split second, before we started trying to laugh, only to find with the tape over our mouths all we could say was "Ngnnfdnmgmdfmmngfdmnnfdnfn"

April did this for another fifteen minutes, before she sat between us and watched the rest of the film. When to finished, she said "Have some fun trying to get free - I'm going to sort your beds out," leaving us in the room to try and twist free.


We did not manage it that last night, but we had a new way of tying each other up. A week or so later I taped Cassie to the chair in her room, arms to the back and ankles to the front legs, before gagging her with the tape, and watching her try to twist free. The next day she did it to me in my room.

Sitting here now, Iím glad we got used to the way the tape pulls at our mouths, because each of us has four strips over our lips and mouths. Mum looks like she's not enjoying it, given the cloth that's underneath - at least I only have a handkerchief. But how Cassie got him to use the tape after he tied the scarf into her mouth - well, the look on Mum's face was priceless.

All I need to know now is how much longer we're going to be here before someone comes to help us...




Where was I? Oh yeah - over the last few months we got more and more adventurous in our games, using tape, ropes, cloths - whatever we could find. Sometimes April would babysit for us, and on those occasions it was Cassie and I who were tied up together, but otherwise we would take turns.

As we played more, we still tried to be really careful, but we also probably got bolder, more assured, even cocky - in fact, last week we almost got caught. We were upstairs, in my room, and I was trying to get on with my homework while Cassie was reading a book. She had had a bath, and was lying on my bed in her Scooby Doo pyjamas while I was trying to do an essay on a book we were reading in English Lit.

After a while, I felt a paper wad on the back of my head, and I turned round to see Cassie smiling at me. "Just let me finish this," I said, but when I turned round I felt another wet wad on my neck.

"Cassie, if you donít stop I'll make you stop," I said without turning round, half guessing what would happen. Sure enough, there was a pain on my neck as she hit me one more.

"All right," I said as I got up and walked towards her, "Don't say I didnít warn you." Reaching under my bed, I pulled out the bag I kept our supplies in and took out a skipping rope. Cassie tried to get out of the way, but I was too quick, and within five minutes I had her wrists tied behind her back, her wrists crossed and the ripe over the cuffs of her pyjama top.

The second rope went around and between her ankles, and then I tried something that April had introduced us to the previous week. Normally I tied the third rope around her legs, but this time I tied one end around her wrists, and the second around her ankles. April had called it a hog tie, although she did not say why.

"Hey, this is nice," Cassie said as she moved her legs to and fro, "I'm not going to be able to move."

"You wonít be able to talk, either," I said as I took a handkerchief and folded it into a pad, pushing it in as Cassie opened her mouth. It was while I was looking for a length of cloth that I heard footsteps on the stairs, and Cassie and I looked at each other.

Well, I panicked. There was a roll of clear tape on my desk, and I grabbed it, ripped a length off and stuck it over Cassie's mouth before pulling my covers over her, and then running back to my desk. I had just picked up my pen when Mum walked in with a pile of ironing.

"I just need to put these away, Jenny," she said as she walked to my chest of drawers. "Is Cassie all right?"

I looked over to see that Cassie was lying with her head on my pillow, facing the wall. "Oh yeah," I said, "Sheís just dozed off. I'll make sure she goes to her room in a few minutes."

"Well, so long as she doesnít disturb you," Mum said as she put the clothes away, and walked over to Cassie, brushing her hair as she lay there. "Ten minutes and then in your own bed, Cassie," she said, smiling as my younger sister nodded her head. As she walked out of the room, I let out a sigh of relief as Cassie turned and smiled through the tape at me - we had got away with it that time.


Funnily enough, it was the day after that I overheard Alicia talking to her little clique at the table next to me. I started to read my book, but that little blonde's voice was carrying.

".... of course, I tried not to show how scared I was, even when they made me lie face down on the bed next to mum and started to use the rope on me."

"Did it hurt?"

"Not really - it was soft, but there was no way I was able to move my hands and legs. Then they turned me over, put this tape over my mouth, and I had to lie with Mum and watch as they emptied out her jewellery into their bag.

"Then they left us there - my big sister was in her room, strapped to a chair, so we were stuck until Dad got home."

"What happened then?"

"He cut us free, called the police, and - well, have a look."

I saw her raise her blouse sleeve as her friends gasped. I had figured out someone had robbed her, but I was in no hurry to ask her what else had happened.

Then again, I didnít know Mum, Cassie and I were going to be the next target of this gang.

As I said, this afternoon I did not need to go to school, so Mum had picked me up at lunchtime and brought me home. She had had to take the afternoon off from her job at my dad's bank, so she was still dressed in her work clothes, but when I got home I took off my blazer, skirt and blouse and pulled on my dark leggings and a long blue t-shirt. I got caught up on my homework, before Mum called me at three fifteen to go with her to collect Cassie. I pulled on my black suede boots and went down the stairs to join her.

It takes fifteen minutes to walk to her school, so we were there when she came out at twenty to four, swinging her bag in her hand as she skipped along. She had on the summer uniform - the yellow puff sleeved dress with a white collar, white socks and black shoes. Mum had used one of her old yellow chiffon scarves as a headband for her, her long blonde hair hiding the ends at her neck.

The walk home was uneventful, and we walked up the garden path, waiting as Mum opened the front door. She put her handbag on the table by the door, and hung her brown leather jacket up as Cassie and I went to the kitchen to get a drink. We each grabbed a bottle of Sunny D, and opened them as we walked back into the front room.

The first I knew that something was wrong was when we walked in and saw Mum sitting on the couch, her eyes wide, and behind her was a stranger - a man dressed in blue overalls, with what looked like a stocking over his head. Cassie and I looked at each other, as we both felt a large hand on our shoulder and heard a second man say "Both of you kneel down and don't move."

"No," Mum said as Both Cassie and I knelt down on the floor, "They're just kids, please donít hurt them."

"Shh, mummy," the man behind her said as he took out what looked like a cap gun. "Girls, you and Mummy are going to play a game - and you like games, don't you?"


I looked at Cassie, Cassie looked at me, and then we both looked at Mum. She was sat on the couch, her hands on her lap as she stared at both of us, while the man standing behind her had his hand on her shoulder.

"That's right,Ē whoever was behind us said, "This is a game for you two and your mummy - isn't that right?" Mum looked at him, and then slowly nodded her head. "Yes," she said quietly, haltingly, "We're going to play a game. You'd like that, wouldnít you?"

I turned my head to look at Cassie. "You heard mum, Cassie - it's a game, and we're all going to play. I want you to just kneel quietly, and listen to the two men, all right?" I looked at Mum as I said this - I could see it was not a game, but I had to keep Cassie calm.

"A game? Like the ones we play," she whispered, but I just nodded. As afraid as I was, I didnít want Mum to know what we had been doing.

"All right, girls," the man behind us said, "Here's what's going to happen. We're going to do something to your mum, then to you. When we're finished, you will be sitting next to each other. I'm afraid you won't be able to do much, but I promise you it will not hurt, all right?"

We both nodded, and I could see that gleam in Cassie's eye that came when we started playing. "All right," the man said, "the first thing we need to do is fix your hands together behind your back. Watch mummy as we do it to her first, and you'll see there's nothing to be afraid of."

Well, we both knew what that felt like, but we did as we were told, watching as the man behind Mum pulled her hands behind her back. I watched as he picked up a length of white cord, shook it loose and then used it to tie her wrists together. As he did this, Mum started crying, saying "please, donít hurt them," even as I saw her arms been pulled back.

"Now, who's going first," the voice behind me said, so I said "I will. Cassie, watch what I do and then do the same, all right?"

"All right," Cassie said as I stood up and moved my hands behind my back. I felt something soft been wound around my wrists, and then as they were drawn together I took in a deep breath. I had no idea what he was using, but it felt soft against my skin, even if what he was doing was tighter than I had felt before. "All right," the voice said as he gave it one last tug, "Your turn, little one."

"My name's Cassie," she said as she stood up, "what's yours?" "I'll tell you later," he said as I looked at him for the first time. He was a little shorter than the other guy, and I could see red hair under the stocking over his head. He guided Cassie's wrists behind her back, crossing them before he wound white cord around and between them, pulling them gently, yet tightly together.

I turned and looked at Mum, watching as the man took the longest length of rope I had ever seen and wrapped it around her arms and body, pulling them into her side as her jumper stretched over her chest. As he passed it round her arms, under her chest and over her shoulders, she looked at me. "Are you all right," she mouthed, and I nodded, as I felt something been tied round my arm.

Looking to my side, I saw that he had tied the end of a length of rope around it, just above the elbow, before winding it round my body a couple of times, and then round my other arm. As he pulled the rope, I felt my arms been pinned into my side, and as he passed it between my body and my arms I had the sinking feeling I would not be able to use them for some time.

I looked over at Cassie, who was trying to twist her arms round. After he finished with me, the man took another length of rope, and tied it round Cassie's waist, pinning her wrists against her back before passing the rope between her arms and back, making sure they were held in place.

"All right," the man with Mum said, "All of you now have your wrists and arms pinned so that you cannot move them. The next thing we need to do is make sure you cannot move your legs - you two come and sit next to mummy here." We both walked over and sat on the couch next to Mum, me on her left and Cassie on her right."

"Please, just leave us alone," Mum said, but that just made the two men laugh. "I've heard of you," I said as I looked at the two of them standing in front of us, "You visited a fri... A girl I know at school, last week."

"Oh," the taller of the two said, "Little smaller than you, blonde hair?" I nodded, and then heard him say "I remember her - she cried the whole time, even when we had to keep her quiet." He knelt down in front of me and looked into my eyes. "You're not going to cry, are you?"

Mum and Cassie looked at me as I shook my head and said "No - I'm not going to cry." In fact, I was secretly rather proud - I was capable of doing something Alicia was not, and some day I would tell her that.

Cassie smiled as he then picked up a length of the white cord and looked at Mum. "All right, mummy - cross your ankles and I'll show your kids what's going to happen next."

Mum started sobbing as she crossed her ankles and he pulled the cord tightly round them. There was a funny squeaking sound, which made both Cassie and I giggle as the cord rubbed against Mumís leather boots. He quickly wound it tightly round and between them, before tying the ends off behind her ankles. He then picked up a second cord and knelt in front of me, passing it round my black suede boots. I watched as the material was pulled in under the rope, and my ankles were held firmly together. Finally, he passed it between my legs and tied it off. Cassie was last, the rope going over her white socks as they were held firmly together.

She seemed completely unfazed by what was happening - I mean, it was tighter than anything she or I had experienced, and I knew we would not get free, especially as the man then pulled some rope around Mum's legs above her knees and tied them together. He did the same to me, and then to Cassie, the rope going round her bare legs just above her knees.

"Right, girls," the man said as he stood up, "We'll start the game in a few minutes, but until then you sit quietly with mummy." We watched as the smaller man sat in a chair and looked at us, while the other one went out of the room for a few minutes.

"You're been very brave girls," Mum said as she looked at both of us. Cassie smiled, and so did I - this was real; not a game, but we were treating it as one.

"All right," the other man said as he came back in, "There is one more thing we need to do before we start the game, and that is to make sure you canít call out or talk for a while. Mummy first."

"No, no, please, you canmmtmtt," Mum said as he pushed something he had balled up in his hand into her mouth and then tore a strip of grey tape off the roll. He pressed that down over Mum's mouth, and then covered it with three more. He then went not to me, but to Cassie, and untied the yellow scarf from her hair.

"Open wide," he said as he folded it into a band, and as Cassie opened up he pulled it into her mouth, taking the ends behind her back and tying them together over her hair. "All right," he said as he stroked her cheek, "just sit quietly now."

He started to walk over to me, but Cassie said "nnn - iwenttblkmm.Ē He walked back over and looked at her, saying "I said you had to be quiet."

She stared back at him, and then looked at Mum, before saying again "Ptttpvrmthlkmm." He looked again at her, then at Mum, before he tore a strip of tape off the roll and stuck it over Cassie's mouth. Mum screamed "NNNNNN", but Cassie seemed to just smile under the tape and look back at her and me.

"And what are we going to do with you," he said as he looked at me. "I want to be like Mum as well," I said, so he took a handkerchief from his pocket, folded it up and pushed it into my mouth, before putting a couple of strips of tape over it.

Satisfied, he stood up and turned the television on. "Keep an eye on them," he said to the other git as he walked out of the room, "I'm going to have a look round."


Oh my goodness, did I just use a naughty word? I guess I'm more upset than I thought I was, and I'm glad that Mum and Dad didn't hear that.

Where was I? Oh yeah - one of the two men was sat in the chair watching us as his 'friend' went upstairs, after he had turned the television on. It was switched onto CBBC, and by a strange coincidence one of the favourite programs of both Cassie and I was coming on - Horrible Histories.

It always makes us laugh, but somehow just then it did not seem right to laugh - I could see the tear stains on Mum's cheek where she had been crying as she looked at me.

"Rulrghtjne," she mumbled, and the relief was clear in her eyes as I nodded. That look changed as she heard Cassie starting to sing beside her.

trblchudrs, grjeusjejins, slstrts, vlvctoeens...


"Mmmshhh," Cassie said as she started to hum along to the music. By chance, it was the music special they did at the end of the third series, and I knew a couple of the songs on there were her favourites. So I nudged Mum, nodded to her, and we sang along with the first song that we all watched.

Fshn tpd mlst fisses
Baffdn assmlk ndspisses
Thn Idrsd lkgdesssis
Lng, blckhr nrnglt ncessss
Viprs tfr mnnises
finnnst lnnrobtpprssses!

As we sang or hummed along, the man watching us started laughing quietly. "I've got to say, I've experienced a lot of reactions to us," he said as the Celtic Boast Song came on, "but I've never had people singing alone to a television program before."

Cassie laughed again at this, and I could see the tape starting to work a bit loose over her mouth. Unfortunately, so did he, as he picked up the tape roll and walked over, ripping a strip off as he did so. "I need to be sure you can't talk for a while," he said as he smoothed it on top of the strip over Cassie's mouth, and then a third strip on top. He looked behind her back, probably to make sure the rope was still firmly holding her hands together, and then did the same to me.

Well, it hadnít loosened on me - the ropes were digging into my wrists and arms, but they werenít totally uncomfortable. It was Mum who looked the most uncomfortable, as he tugged the ropes tighter behind her and then went to sit down again as another song started. This time, to my own surprise, it was me who started to sing along.

Iwshr thtud lvm, Tathp dclng
'Cu'm... Risshrdtfrd
nd... efryboeelvs kng!


As I was singing along, the other man came back into the room, one of my dad's sport bags in his hand which rattled slightly as he put it on the floor.

"What on earth," he said as he looked at the three of us.

"It's all right, it's helping them cope," the other man said as he came over and checked that Mum and I were both securely gagged.

Cnu majnt?
Mtlst Plntajent

Now Mum and Cassie were singing along as well, Cassie happily, Mum I suspect to show them she wasnít afraid. The two men looked at each other as we started into the last verse.

Uwnt hrbdweord

"Let's go," he said as he picked up the bag.

"Don't you want to separate them?"

"Nah - let's just get going. I don't think they're going to cause any trouble."

So they left us sitting there, watching them walk out of the door and leaving the three of us alone there...


That was what - an hour ago now, I guess. Cassie is still sleep, her head on Mum's lap as she breaths in and out, the thin yellow band around her cheeks not moving much at all.

"Msprddfutw," Mum mumbles as she puts her head on mine, as I rest mine on her arm. The ropes around her body are rubbing into my cheek a little, but I can live with it as I rub my head against her, to let her know Iím all right. As I do so, I realise something very important, but say nothing - I don't want to until I am certain I'm right, as I try moving my jaw.




"And that's how your father found you when you got home?"

I nodded in response to April's question as I sat next to her on the couch, while Cassie played with her dolls on the floor in front of us. It was Saturday, and she had agreed to watch us while Dad took Mum into the city centre for a little "retail therapy" as she put it.

"Yeah - Dad walked in and saw us with my head on Mum's arm and Cassie resting her head on her lap. He said something like 'What th...', at which point Cassie woke up and just said 'hlodd'." I looked at Cassie, who nodded in reply.

"Anyway, he untied Mum and us, then called the police. They came round, we told them what had happened, and they said we had been very brave young girls. I didn't have the heart to tell them why we were so calm."

"What did your mum say?"

"She just thought we were trying to stay calm to help her - I don't think she suspects anything. I could have got the gag off easily enough, but - well, I was enjoying it too much."

April just shook her head. "What about physically? Any bruises?"

"One or two, but they're mostly faded now." As it was, I was wearing a long sleeved white top under a blue t-shirt, jeans and socks, while Cassie was wearing her pink joggers and sweatshirt, so any bruises were covered by the clothes. "To be honest, the most interesting thing was what happened at school yesterday?"

"Oh yes?"

"Well, Cassie and I had a couple of days off, but when I went into the classroom yesterday, just for once, I was the centre of attention. All the girls wanted to know what had happened - well, most of them anyway. Apparently Cassie had a whale of a time telling her friends about the game as well."

"Most of them?"

"Yeah - Alicia was a bit standoffish. I mean, she looked at me, I looked at her, and I think we both knew something we did not want the others to know. I knew how she really behaved when they were robbed, and she didnít want to admit that, just for a little while, she was not the most popular kid in the class."

April smiled as she stood up. "Well, at least it hasnít diminished your curiosity," she said as she checked the rope holding my bound wrists down to my legs, while I raised my feet to look at the rope around them. The police had not taken the ropes used by the burglars with them, and Dad had just thrown them out - only for Cassie to sneak them back in. "Cassie, are you ready?"

Cassie turned and nodded, the brown plaster over her mouth making her silence complete. She left the two Barbie dolls on the floor, the black laces holding them securely together, and pulled herself onto the couch next to me, leaving her bound wrist in front of her on her lap as April tied them down to the rope above her knees.

"I need an hour to finish this essay," April said as she turned the television on, "so just stay nice and quiet, all right?" She tore a strip of plaster off the roll and stuck it over my own mouth, before leaving us to watch the Scooby Doo





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