Tuesday 22nd March
“For if you remain silent at this time, relief and deliverance will arise for the Jews from another place and you and your father’s house will perish. And who knows whether you have not attained royalty for such a time as this?”
“Cathy, dinner’s ready!”
“Coming Mum,” I said as I put the copy of the Bible down. I’d been reading one of the books – partly for my upcoming Religious and Philosophy Studies exams, but also for rather more – personal reasons.
Anyway, I got up and walked down the stairs to where my mothers were waiting at the dining table. Mummy was still in her grey blouse and slacks that she wore when she worked for the taxi firm, while Mum had on a white jumper with a wide brown leather belt, a long brown ruffled skirt and her slippers.
“Come on Timmy – into your high chair,” Mum said as she lifted my little brother up and put him in his booster chair.
“Thanks mum,” he said in his little lisping voice as he was strapped in. We’d just celebrated his second birthday, even if he had only lived with us for just over 15 months now. Mum and Mummy had adopted him just before the Christmas before last, and he was really part of our family now.
“Have you managed to arrange the cover for Thursday Belinda?”
Mum nodded as we all sat down. “Margaret is going to look after the store for the day – she’ll lock up for me tomorrow and open up Thursday as well. How about the office?”
“Oh they can do without me for a couple of days,” Mummy said with a smile, “and you are going to have an overnight stay with your friend Andrew, aren’t you Timmy?”
“Yes,” Timmy said as his dinner was put in front of him, and he started to eat. We were having a pork casserole, but Timmy had a pork steak sliced up with some of the smiley potato faces he liked.
I actually felt a little guilty having pork tonight – but then I knew that was one of the things we would not be having tomorrow or Thursday. That was because Mum, Mummy and I were going to be spending the next couple of days away, at the invitation of Rebecca Boyle, at – well, I suppose a retreat is one way of describing it, but it wasn’t quite like that.
Maybe I should backtrack – you’ll have to forgive me, but I think this is the first time I’ve actually been asked to write one of these stories, so I may make some mistakes on the way- such as not making it clear who I am. Well, I’m Cathy – Catherine Harmer, and I’m very pleased to meet all of you properly at last.
Let me tell you a little bit about myself, so that you can understand the rest of this. I’ve been a friend of Jenny Craig and Mary Holmes for as long as I can remember, certainly since primary school, and now we’re in year 11 at school, with our GCSEs coming up. If you’ve been reading these stories for some time, you probably think you know me – the quiet one, who kind of acts as the voice of reason at times.
Well, I am – but that’s come a lot from how I grew up. I have two mums – Mum, Belinda Harmer, is my natural mother, and we do tend to dress in the same way and look a bit alike. My dad left when I was a baby, and Mummy joined us when I was in nursery. It had never once bothered me I had two mums instead of a mum and dad, and all my friends accepted it as well.
And I mean all my friends – especially Cindy Elsworth who lives in Maine. It’s a long and complicated story about how we met, but essentially we have a mutual friend in Alicia Bowden, and we’ve met a few times over the years. She has two mums as well in essence, so she understands me a lot.
And yes, before you ask, I do like the games we play as well – although for the longest time I felt a little left out of things for one very simple reason.
Let me explain – Jenny Craig has been stepping out with Colin Hampton for a few years now, and her sister is dating Alicia’s cousin Bobby Holderness. Then Alicia started to go out with a nice guy called Martin, whose parents run a music store near to us, and Mary started seeing Mark Cottrell. For the longest time, it seemed like I was the only one who didn’t have a boyfriend – even some of the younger girls like Bobby’s sister Suzie had a boyfriend. But I guess it was Bobby and Suzie I should thank – and thank – for helping me to meet Sam.
If we are being formal, it’s Samuel Stewart, and his big sister works as the housekeeper at Wissenden Hall, where the Holderness family live. I first met him at a party there, and I guess we connected there and then. We’re both quite shy, if truth be told, but we got talking that night, and became really close after that.
NO – not in that way. None of us have in that way. What I mean is we quickly realised we really were soul mates – with one small difference. Sam was Jewish, and I – well, I’m not really religious, but I have an interest in that area, so there have been a few times I have been his guest at some of the festivals he goes to, while he’s been to a few concerts with me.
Which is why the three of us were going on a little trip, Timmy was going to stay with Alicia for a night, and I was reading that passage. Sam’s sister, Rebecca, had invited the three of us to join her and her mother to celebrate the festival of Purim, by joining them at a hotel from sunset on the Wednesday until Sunset on the Thursday. Apparently, this was an annual event for the women of the synagogue Rebecca went to as a girl, and her mother felt with the arrival of little Betsy she wanted to spend the time there again.
Betsy is her daughter – born just after Christmas, and a little beauty already. Suzie and Bobby’s mum was going to look after her while we were away.
So, the festival of Purim – essentially, the story of the Book of Esther, which is what I was reading before I was called down to dinner. Without going into the whole story, it celebrate the delivery of the Jews from the threat of what we now call a genocide at the hands of a jealous official of the court of King Aratxerxes of Persia during their exile.
I guess it does take an extra resonance in our modern world as well, but I didn’t really want to dwell on that. Rebecca had explained to me what was going to happen – how we would gather with the other women in the hotel by sundown, and there would be a reading of the Megillah – the Jewish name for the Book of Esther – by one of the rabbis – and then he would leave, so that only the women were present. There would then be a time to meet some of the other women socially, as well as a collection that would be taken and used to support families who needed extra help.
That’s apparently one of the obligations of Purim – to give to the poor in the community, and also to exchange gifts of food with each other. We already had the gifts wrapped, and would take them with us tomorrow. One was for Rebecca, and one for her mother. The third – well, all they would tell me was that it was going to be a surprise for me.
Then on the day itself, there was going to be a long party in effect, before a special meal at sundown in the hotel. So, in other words, a version of a girls only party, but with a bit more meaning.
“Drink please, Cathy.”
“Of course,” I said as I poured some squash into a cup, put a lid on it and handed it to Timmy to drink from.
“So you’ll come home at lunchtime tomorrow, and then we head off from here,” Mum said.
“That’s the idea – I wonder what else is going to happen?”
“I think,” Mummy said with a smile, “as with so much, we go in and join in as much as we can. But for now, we get a good night’s sleep, all right?”
Wednesday 23rd March
“Hey – ready for the ladies night?”
“And good morning to you Mary,” I said as I sat next to her in the classroom. “How did your date with Mark go last night?”
“I’m not complaining,” Mary said with a smile as Jenny and Alicia sat behind us. We then watched as Dr Frost came in and stood at the front of the room.
“Okay everyone – I know the Easter holiday starts at lunchtime today, but you lucky people have exams coming up much sooner than you want them to, so I’m handing round timetables for revision classes that will be taking place over the next two weeks. They are entirely voluntary, but I strongly encourage you to make use of them if you can.”
“If my aunt thinks I’m coming in during this fortnight...”
“That includes you Jennifer Craig,” she said as she handed each of us a sheet. “You can never be too prepared for the GCSE exams.
“Now, on a lighter note,” Dr Frost said as she went back to the front of the room, “the year 11 Prom has been announced for Friday 17th June. While I know that is some time off, I know the young ladies here may need some time to select the right dress for them, while the young men may need the same length of time to get up the courage to ask one of said young ladies out.”
Mark and Martin just turned and smiled at Mary and Alicia, while Jenny whispered “Colin already said yes.”
“What about Sam,” Mary whispered to me.
“I’ll ask him tomorrow,” I whispered back as the bell rang. Dr Frost said “Right – to your classes and enjoy your holidays.” Which was the cue for all of us to get up and walk out of the lab.
“Three lessons – three short lessons and then freedom,” Mary said with a smile. “So where exactly are you going?”
“All I know is it’s a country house hotel somewhere near Oxford – I’m going home to change, and then we’re driving up after that.”
“Well, I’m sure you’ll have fun – but first, the agony of French...”
“Well, this must be the place,” Mum said as we pulled up alongside a row of cars. It was about four in the evening, and as we got out I looked at the ivy covered walls. I had changed out of my school uniform into a knee length black skirt with a white swirling pattern, a white blouse and flat shoes.
Mum was wearing a black leather jacket over a grey jersey dress, black leggings and flat shoes, while Mummy had on a long sleeved red Laura Ashley dress, with a grey cardigan over the top and red heels.
As she opened the boot of the car, I took out the two cases and we made our way into the reception area.
“Good afternoon ladies,” the woman behind the desk said, “how may I help you?”
“Hopefully, you have two rooms reserved in the name of Harmer?”
“Ah yes – if you would care to sign in?”
I turned and smiled as I saw Sam behind me, wearing a smart suit, shirt and tie.
“Hey – I thought this was a women only place today?”
“Well, I’m helping with the reading – and I wanted to see you,” Sam said with a smile.
“So where’s your sister?”
“Rebecca – oh she’s talking to an old friend she invited as well. In fact, here she comes now.”
I looked to where Mrs Boyle was coming out of a door, alongside...
“Good afternoon, Cathy,” she said as she looked at us. “I suspect you were not expecting to see me here, correct?”
“Well, no – I didn’t even know you were...”
“Well, I’m not exactly, but my parents were, so when Rebecca invited me I agreed to come. Rather like you and your mothers, I suspect – hello Belinda, Penelope.”
“Hi Jo,” Mummy said as they embraced each other, “so are you ready to see what happens?”
“I think so – but I really want to just have some down time, if truth be told.”
“All right then – there’s your key,” Mum said as she handed me what looked like a library card, “let’s go and unpack, and we will see both of you a little later.”
“So how does this work exactly, Sam?”
“Well, we have the reading tonight, and then a meal for you lot while the menfolk leave. Tomorrow is more like a holiday, so I imagine there will be lots of games and dancing, and a big meal in the evening.”
“Listen,” I said, “if you’re free later...”
“Well, we’re disappearing to a different room, so I’ll see you afterwards,” Sam said with a wink as we headed to the bedrooms.
Once I had put my clothes away, I sat down on the bed and thought for a moment. The last person I had expected to see here was Doctor Frost.
Actually, no – scratch that. If her wife Cassandra Craig had come, that would have been even more surprising. She’s Jenny’s aunt, and a rather formidable woman in her own right, but most definitely not religious. But still...
As I heard the knock on the door, I said “come in,” and smiled as Mummy came in.
“We’re heading down now – shall we?”
I nodded as I stood up and we made our way down the corridor, down the stairs and into a main room, where quite a lot of women were taking their seats. As we found ours, I was surprised to see what looked like an old football tattle on the chair.
“It’s called a grager,” Rebecca said as she sat with us, and held hers in her hand. “You’ll know when to use it.”
Well, we had to go with the flow, didn’t we? So we took our seats as Samuel and what I presumed was the Rabbi took their seats at the front with some of the other men.
The room went silent as the Rabbi came forward and said “Blessed are You, Hashem, our God, King of the universe, who has sanctified us with His commandments and has commanded us regarding the reading of the Megillah.”
“Amen,” we all replied.
“Blessed are You, Hashem, our God, King of the universe, who has wrought miracles for our forefathers, in those days at this season.”
“Blessed are You, Hashem, our God, King of the universe, who has kept us alive, sustained us and brought us to this season.”
I then smiled as Samuel came forward, putting on his reading glasses as he did so, and stood behind the dais.
“Now it came to pass in the days of Ahasuerus, (this is Ahasuerus which reigned, from India even unto Ethiopia, over an hundred and seven and twenty provinces). that in those days, when the king Ahasuerus sat on the throne of his kingdom, which was in Shushan the palace, in the third year of his reign, he made a feast unto all his princes and his servants; the power of Persia and Media, the nobles and princes of the provinces, being before him. When he shewed the riches of his glorious kingdom and the honour of his excellent majesty many days, even an hundred and fourscore days.
And when these days were expired, the king made a feast unto all the people that were present in Shushan the palace, both unto great and small, seven days, in the court of the garden of the king's palace; where were white, green, and blue, hangings, fastened with cords of fine linen and purple to silver rings and pillars of marble: the beds were of gold and silver, upon a pavement of red, and blue, and white, and black, marble.”
I already knew this was the reading of the book of Esther, so I listened along, still wondering what the football rattle was for. Well, a few minutes later, I found out as Samuel read “And the thing was known to Mordecai, who told it unto Esther the queen; and Esther certified the king thereof in Mordecai's name. And when inquisition was made of the matter, it was found out; therefore they were both hanged on a tree: and it was written in the book of the chronicles before the king.
“After these things did king Ahasuerus promote Haman...”
At the mention of Haman – the character many would consider the villain of this tale – all the women started to shout and spin the gragers round, making so much noise it drowned out Samuel. When I looked, I saw he was expecting this, and waited for the noise to die before he continued.
“ The son of Hammedatha the Agagite, and advanced him, and set his seat above all the princes that were with him. And all the king's servants, that were in the king's gate, bowed, and reverenced Haman...”
Now I knew what was expected, as we joined in. In fact, every time Samuel tried to say that name, he was blocked out – and I realised it must be part of the tradition!
Eventually, Samuel said “Then Esther the queen, the daughter of Abihail, and Mordecai the Jew, wrote with all authority, to confirm this second letter of Purim.
“And he sent the letters unto all the Jews, to the hundred twenty and seven provinces of the kingdom of Ahasuerus, with words of peace and truth, to confirm these days of Purim in their times appointed, according as Mordecai the Jew and Esther the queen had enjoined them, and as they had decreed for themselves and for their seed, the matters of the fastings and their cry.
“And the decree of Esther confirmed these matters of Purim; and it was written in the book.
“And the king Ahasuerus laid a tribute upon the land, and upon the isles of the sea. And all the acts of his power and of his might, and the declaration of the greatness of Mordecai, whereunto the king advanced him, are they not written in the book of the chronicles of the kings of Media and Persia? For Mordecai the Jew was next unto king Ahasuerus, and great among the Jews, and accepted of the multitude of his brethren, seeking the wealth of his people, and speaking peace to all his seed.”
As he stood back, everyone smiled and said “Amen”. The Rabbi then came forward and said “Blessed are You, Hashem, our God, King of the Universe, (the God) Who takes up our grievance, judges our claim, avenges our wrong; Who brings just retribution upon all enemies of our soul and exacts vengeance for us from our foes. Blessed are You Hashem, Who exacts vengeance for His people Israel from all their foes, the God Who brings salvation.”
There were then some recitations, before the Rabbi nodded and the men left, Samuel smiling at me.
“Ladies,” a grey haired woman said, “the meal is served in the dining room.”
After we had eaten, we came back to find the chairs cleared away, and a small band sitting on the stage as they started to play music. As we went to sit at a table at the side, some of the women started to perform a dance, the others clapping along as they did so.
“Well, that was interesting,” Doctor Frost said as she sat next to me.”
“I was not expecting that noise, Doctor Frost...”
“Cathy, call me Jo, otherwise I am going to get very embarrassed very quickly.”
“All right – Jo.”
“As for the noise, Rebecca warned me, so I was ready.”
“Well, will they do the same tomorrow?”
“Almost certainly,” Jo said with a smile. “So are you going to spend some time with Samuel this weekend?”
“If I can,” I said with a smile, “will you excuse me for a minute – I need to...”
“Oh of course – on you go,” she said with a smile, as I stood up and left the room, both of my mothers deep in conversation with Rebecca as I visited the smallest room.
As I stepped out into the hotel lobby, I looked round at the quiet space, and started to make my way back to the room – only to stop as I heard Samuel behind me say “oh no you don’t, Ms Harmer – come with me please.”
“Well, if you insist...”
“Oh I do,” I heard him say as he took me by the arm, and we walked put the stairs. As we stopped outside my room, he allowed me to open the door and then we both walked in.
“Now then,” he said with a smile, “I need to make sure you stay out of the way while I steal something. Do you have any ropes with you?”
“No,” I said with a smile, “but I do have some scarves.”
“All right – put your hands behind your back.”
As I did so, I felt him crossing my wrists, and then suing what felt like a band of silk to bind them tightly together. I was then invited to sit on my bed, and I saw he had taken his tie off as he opened a drawer.
“Wrong one,” he said with a smile as he moved to the next one, and took out a long green chiffon rectangle. Kneeling in front of me, he used it to secure my ankles tightly together, making sure he took it between my legs as well, and then used a second brown rectangle to secure my legs together below my knees.
“You horrible fiend,” I said in a quiet voice as he cinched that binding, “what are you going to do to me?”
“What would you like me to do to you?”
“Oh I could think of a few things,” I said as he sat next to me, and then gently kissed me, my eyes closing as I kissed him back.
“Listen – have you got any tights? I could use them to tie your arms to your sides, but...”
“Look in the next drawer down.”
As he did so, he took two pairs of American tan tights out, and used them to bind my arms to my sides, one set below and one set above my chest. I wriggled round as he tied them off – it was tight, and certainly felt different from the usual ropes.
“So what is it you’re going to steal from me,” I said as he looked at me.
“Another kiss,” he said with a smile – and then he did just that, before he held a folded handkerchief in front of my mouth. I smiled and then let him put it in, before he rolled up a white headscarf, tied a knot in the middle and used it to gag me.
He looked at me, and said “whatever you want...”
I looked at him and smiled, before I leaned over and gave him a kiss on his neck with my lips – and the silk knot rubbing on his skin. That made him giggle, and then he started to gently stroke me in all the right places.
As I closed my eyes and wriggled round, the two nylon bands rubbed on my chest in a very nice way. It wasn’t as intense as the last time Sam tied me up...
It had been two weeks ago, and he had called round to see me while my mums were out. It was a colder evening, and I was wearing a pair of blue leggings with a long white t-shirt, a pair of socks pulled up over my feet and ankles.
We were watching a film as he took my wrists behind my back, having first covered them with a pair of socks, crossed them and tied them together, and then tied the rope around my waist to keep them in place. Putting his hands on my shoulders, he kissed me on the neck, and then started to wrap some rope around my upper body, keeping my upper arms firmly against my sides, and taking it above and below my chest. Once he had tied the ropes off, he came and sat next to me for a few minutes, as we kissed.
He then asked if I wanted the special rope – one I had experienced a couple of times before, so I nodded and stood up as he tied that in place, then once I was sitting again he crossed and secured my ankles together, followed by my legs below my knees, cinching each of the bands. As my legs were forced together, I wriggled round, enjoying the growing feeling of helplessness as well as the way I was feeling elsewhere.
I then asked if he was going to tighten the bands on my chest, and he nodded as he tied some rope under my left arm, bringing the bands together. I closed my eyes as he did this, so I didn’t notice it was a long length of rope – not until he pulled it up and took the rope around the back of my neck, using it to tighten the bands under my other arm as the bands pressed even more firmly, my top really stretched out now over my chest.
I started to say something, but then he kissed me again – before he pushed a sponge in, the material expanding and filling my mouth as he taped over my lips. I then felt him pass a rope up my back, one end tied to the rope at my neck, and the other end...
Well, let’s just say as he caressed and stroked me, every move made me wriggle, every rub of the ropes drove me closer and closer to the edge – and then factor in that other rope, and...
Well, let’s just say when Mum and Mummy came back, Samuel had gone, and I had showered with my dirty clothes in the wash basket, and a very warm glow going through me.
“Crrffllsmmll – smnnhthr,” I mumbled as his hands caressed my chest, gently squeezing and massaging them.
“Oh I will be careful – sadly, I cannot stay too long, or else...”
I nodded in understanding, and then said “cnuutkthggut.”
Samuel nodded as he untied the scarf and took it out, the knot now decidedly darker and greyer. “Thanks,” I said, “if you don’t have much time, I think we need to kiss a bit more.”
Samuel smiled and nodded, before we came together...
“Cathy? Are you in there?”
I opened the door, wearing my pyjamas, to see my mothers standing there.
“I’m fine – Sam just wanted a word before he went off,” I said, “and I decided to get ready for bed after he had gone.”
“Fair enough,” Mum said, “we’re going to go down for breakfast at eight tomorrow. See you in the lobby?”
“Sure – have a good sleep,” I said as I closed the door, smiling at the memory of what Sam and I had managed to do...
When I woke the next morning, I stretched and yawned, and then had a long shower, before I out on a long white skirt, with a lace pattern on the hem. I then slipped on a shirt sleeved pale blue blouse, and fastened a brown leather belt around my waist, before putting on some brown ankle boots.
Making sure I had my purse and room key with me, I walked down to the lobby where Mum and Mummy were waiting. Mum was wearing a Laura Ashley style dress, with a red floral pattern, while Mummy had on a white blouse and pants.
“Good morning sleepyhead,” she said with a smile as I joined them, “ready for breakfast?”
“Oh yes,” I said as we went in, and joined Rebecca and Jo at the table. There was also a grey haired woman sitting there – Rebecca’s mother.
The breakfast was a light one, but all the women there were dressed in party clothes and dresses. Normally, when I see Rebecca, she is wearing a blouse and skirt or a grey dress, but today she was wearing a deep blue short sleeved dress and matching heels. Her mother was wearing a brown dress with a matching shawl, while Jo had on a green tunic and pants, which she said was from India.
Eventually, the woman who was leading the day stood up and said “Ladies – we gather in fifteen minutes for the reading and the observing of the Mitzvah of Mishloach Manot.”
“I presume that is the gifts?”
“Indeed,” Rebecca said, “we will see you in the main hall.”
“Come with us,” Mum said, “we have the necessary baskets in our room.”
I went back up with them and looked at the three wicker baskets. The rule for these baskets is that they contain two different types of food at least, which must be ready to eat or drink, and they reflect the wealth of the person giving. Well, we’re comfortable well off, so each basket had a half bottle of Kosher wine, packs of crisps and pastries, and sweets.
We took one each, and as I looked at the label I saw I was carrying one for Jo. We then joined the other women as they walked down, putting the gifts on a large table as we went in and sat down, watching as the room filled up.
Eventually, the woman who had spoken earlier stood up, and we followed the ceremony of the morning prayers and the book of Esther – and at least this time we knew to join in with the shouting and blotting out of a certain name.
As the last blessing was given, the woman said “To make known that all who hope in You will not be shamed; nor ever be humiliated, those taking refuge in You. Accursed be Haman who sought to destroy me, blessed be Mordechai the Yehudi. Accursed be Zeresh the wife of my terrorizer, blessed be Esther who sacrificed for me - and Charvonah, too, be remembered for good for suggesting to the King that Haman be hanged on the gallows.”
“Amen,” we all replied.
“And now, let the celebration of Purim begin! PURIM ALLEGRE!”
On cue, the young girls went to the large table and started to pick up baskets, walking round the hall and handing them to people as they looked at the name badges we were wearing. I was given a basket that had bags of popcorn and soft drinks in it, as well as some cakes, while both my mothers got a slightly more adult gift basket with wine.
As the last basket was handed out, the leader said “there are entertainments and games going on all day – but for now, go in peace. Purim Allegre!”
“Let’s put these back in our rooms,” Mum said, “and then we can come down and see what else is going on today. I believe there is going to be some sort of fair going on outside.”
I nodded as we went back up the stairs, and I opened the door to my room, placing the basket on the bedside cabinet and looking at it. I then stepped out of the room – and walked into Jo Frost.
“Hey Cathy,” she said, “enjoying it so far?”
“I am actually,” I said with a smile. “But I have to say again, I never expected to see you here.”
“Well, like I said yesterday, I tend not to announce the fact I’m Jewish too loudly. Given the line of work I used to be in, I need to be able to fit in wherever I can.”
As we talked, a tall blonde haired girl a little older than me walked past, smiling as she nodded towards us.
“She looks familiar?”
“That? She’s Rachel Goldstein – her uncle is a leading light in the Ministry of Defence,” Jo said. Well, of course she would know something like that. As she watched Rachel walk to the stairs, I saw she was serious, but when she turned and looked at me she had a smile again.
“Right – anyway, I’ll see you downstairs,” she said as her mobile phone went off. I heard her say “Little Mother? No sign so far,” as she walked off into the distance. For my part, I walked down to the other room and knocked on the door.
“Mum? Mummy? You ready to go down?”
There was no answer, and when I tried the door it was locked, so I presumed they had already gone downstairs, so I made my way down as well. The main room had been cleared of chairs, and a number of the women were dancing to the sound of the band from the previous night.
“Excuse me – it’s Cathy right?”
I turned to see the blonde haired girl standing next to me.
“Yeah – your name’s Rachel?”
“That’s right – listen, I know it’s an imposition, but can you come and help with some of the games for the younger girls? It’s only until lunchtime.”
“Just give me a minute,” I said as I went and told Rebecca what I was doing, before I went with Rachel to where the younger girls were gathered.
“All right girls,” she said as I and a few of the older girls stood round, “we’re going to start with a game of Blind Man’s Bluff. Who wants to be first?”
“I think I’m ready for some lunch now,” I said as I left the room with Rachel, watching as the girls went to join their families at the table. I saw Mum and Mummy at a table and walked over to join them.
“And where did you get to this morning,” I asked as I sat down.
“Private matters,” Mum said, and that was all I needed to know. “And you?”
“I was asked to help with some games,” I said as the grace was said for the meal.
“Oh? Who by?”
“Rachel over there,” I said as I looked at where she was sitting with some of the other girls. She looked over and smiled as the food was brought out, and we started to eat.
Once the meal was finished, I excused myself and made my way towards the toilets. I could see Rachel walking a little distance in front of me, and then entering the toilet. As I walked in, I could still see her in front of me – but with a masked man standing behind her, holding his hand over her mouth and a gun to her head.
“What the...” was all I managed to say before a leather gloved hand was clamped over my mouth.
“Shit,” I heard another man say behind me, “we didn’t plan for this.”
“We’ll just have to take her with us,” the one holding Rachel said. There was something funny about his accent – not British, but it wasn’t Australian either, like something in between. “We get them down to the cellar, and then send the message.”
Rachel looked at me, her eyes wide open and full of fear, so I said “llttmtlkthrr.”
The man nodded as the hand was taken away from my mouth, and I said quietly “Rachel, I can see how scared you are, and I’m scared too. How about we keep calm, and get through this together, all right?”
“This happened to you before kid?”
I turned to look at the masked man who had held me, and I said “something like it. You’ve got the guns, we’re not going to do anything stupid, are we Rachel?”
I watched as she looked at me, and then shook her head from side to side.
The man holding Rachel nodded as he took his hand away, and she gasped for air.
“Both of you, put your hands behind your back.”
Now, I’m nowhere near at the same level of expertise as the likes of Jenny and Alicia, but as I put my hands behind my back and felt the masked man use some rope to tie them together, I knew the way he was doing it was going to be easy to get out of. He didn’t even bother to take the rope between my arms, but I knew better than to do a Patty, so I just said “what are you going to do to us?”
“Just keep you out of the way while we get her dad to do something,” the first man said as I saw Rachel starting to cry, her arms behind her own back. “Hey,” I said to her, “it’s all right. Remember why we’re here today, what it is we are celebrating.”
“Yeah – yeah you’re right,” Rachel said as the man with me looked out of the door.
“Okay – coast is clear,” he said as we were both frogmarched across the corridor and through another door, then down into a basement room.
“Sit them down over there,” he said, the second man pushing us over to the wall. As we sat down, I watched as he put my ankles together, and used some rope to tie them together – again not taking the rope between my legs.
“What are you going to do,” I said as he moved over and tied Rachel’s ankles together.
“Keep you quiet for one thing,” the first man said as he tore a strip of duct tape free from a roll. As he pressed it down over my mouth, Rachel said “please, don’t – I promise I’ll be quiet.”
“Sorry, kid – rules are rules,” the man said as the tape was pressed over her mouth, and she looked at me. I nodded and tried to tell her to keep clam, without attracting attention to myself, before one of the masked men took a picture of Rachel on his mobile phone, and then typed on it.
“Right – let’s get out of here. Nobody’s going to find them down here,” the first man said as they walked out, closing and locking the door behind themselves.
“Whtrwwggntd,” Rachel said as she looked at me, the tears starting to fall down her cheeks.
“Hllddnnescnd,” I said as I started to twist my mouth, her eyes widening as she saw the tape start to come away from my mouth as I used a combination of moving my jaw around and my tongue to force the tape away.
“Yuck – that stuff tastes awful,” I finally said as the tape hung off one cheek. “Okay, I said don’t worry, Rachel, I’ve got an idea. I need you to do two things for me.”
As she nodded, I continued “the first thing is, don’t panic, keep calm, and don’t try to do what I just did. So long as you do that, and breathe in and out through your nose, you’re going to be fine. Nod if you understand?”
Rachel slowly nodded as I said “good – the other thing is if I turn round, can you reach into my pocket? My mobile phone is in there?”
She nodded as I turned to my side, and watched as she managed to reach in and take my phone out.
“Great – give it to me for a minute,” I said as I took my phone, turned it on and then dialled a number in my contacts list. All of us made sure we had a contacts list which is full and up to date, and it was that contact list which I glanced down before I pressed dial.
“Okay, put it back in my pocket,” I said quietly as I heard footsteps, “and then press the tape back over my mouth.”
“You’ll see – do it quickly,” I said as Rachel put the phone back into my pocket, and then managed to press the tape back over my mouth before the door was unlocked, and the two masked men walked in.
“Well, you both behaved yourselves – good,” one of them said as he looked at us. Looking at Rachel, he then said “once your dad has done what we asked him to do, you can go back to him.”
Rachel nodded as she glanced over at me, and the two men sat on a couple of chairs on the far side of the room. I just watched them – because if the person I had dialled picked up the call, they were about to discover just how much fertilizer they had landed in.
The worst part of it was the waiting, as the two of us watched the masked men talking quietly. I had no idea how long we had been down there – but I knew my message had got through when we saw the two men suddenly stand up.
“What is it?”
“I’m not sure – I thought I heard something outside.”
“Well, go and take a look!”
The man nodded as he walked over and opened the door, just a little bit as he looked outside, and then back in.
“Nobody there – must have been my...”
Rachel’s eyes opened wide as he turned and looked at us, and then crumpled to the ground.
“What the f...”
We then saw the second man clamp his hand to his neck, before he too fell to the ground. As the door opened, we watched two African women come in and pick the two men up, before Jo Frost came in and walked over to us.
“Get them out of here,” she said as she peeled the tape away from our mouths, and said “got your phone call – how are you both?”
“We’re fine,” I said, “who are your friends?”
“Friends,” Jo said as she looked at Rachel, holding her head in her hands. “Are you all right?”
“Want to tell me what this is all about,” I said as I brought my hands round, Rachel stuttering “hhowowwww didddd you...”
“I wish I could, Cathy, but I can’t,” Jo said, “but thank you – you’ve done a good thing today by letting me know where you are. Rachel, your father knows you are safe, but he wants you and your mother to stay here with me and Cathy, and he will see you tomorrow. Be assured, this will not happen again.”
“Jo, do you mind if I take her upstairs and get her a drink?”
“Sure – on you go,” I said as I took Rachel by the hand and led her up to the main entrance to the hotel.
“There you are,” Mum said as we walked out, “what happened to the two of you?”
“Sorry Mum – we got talking and lost track of time. Want to go and get that drink Rachel?”
“Sure,” she finally said as we walked into the bar area, and I paid for two glasses of coke. We then walked out into the path that ran around the outside area, and took a seat at a table.
“Yes,” I said as I took a drink.
“Were we or were we not kidnapped?”
“Sure looked that way,” I said as I put my glass down.
“Were we or were we not tied up and tape gagged?”
“It certainly felt that way?”
“Then how on earth did you get the tape off your mouth – never mind get your wrists free? More to the point, how did your friend find us – and who were those other women?”
“Okay – let me answer what I can,” I said as I leaned over. “Jo is someone who is very good with security issues – and the number I called on my phone was hers. I don’t know how she did or does it, but I do know she has a way of tracing phone calls, so I knew she would find us.”
“Okay – the tape? The ropes?”
“Ah,” I said quietly, “let’s just say I have a little practice, and I wasn’t joking – that was not the first time something like that has happened to me.”
“And the other women?”
“That,” I said as I picked my drink up, “I have absolutely no idea about.”
“You’ve had something like that done to you before?”
“Actually,” I said quietly, “those guys were strictly amateurs. Look – why did they want your dad to do something?”
“Well, Daddy works in the Government, and I know he has something to do with aid to African countries, but he doesn’t talk much about his work at home. He’s meant to be in Southern Africa this weekend to sign some sort of deal.”
Well, that gave me some hints as to why someone may want to kidnap Rachel, and why Jo may have been involved – but the two African women?
“There you are,” Jo said as she walked over and joined us, “everything has been sorted out, and you don’t need to worry anymore.”
“I guess I never said thanks,” Rachel said, “so thanks.”
“No problem – I was glad to be of help.”
I had a million questions I wanted to ask Jo, but Rachel silenced me with her next comment.
“If they were amateurs, how tightly have you been tied up before?”
“Very tightly,” I answered as Jo raised an eyebrow.
“Not here, not now,” Jo said quietly, “we have the se’udat Purim in a short while, but if you both keep off the wine there, then once the party has started, we can slip away and I can show you how it feels if you still wish to Rachel.”
“Can I ask why you want to know?”
“I’ll tell you later,” Rachel said, “Jo is right – we have the meal to prepare for.”
It was about six thirty when we gathered – my mums were wearing dresses, while I had on a white jumper with a grey waistcoat, grey slacks and ankle boots. As we took our seats, Jo and Rebecca sat with us – both of them wearing jumpers and skirts with heels.
The meal was noisy, and great fun, as a lot of wine was drunk by most of the adults – but not by Jo. We had a pomegranate, citrus and avocado salad with a slightly spiced dressing, and then something like a samosa – a mixture of chicken and nuts with Moroccan spices wrapped in triangles of filo pastry, served with lemon herb couscous and roasted vegetables. Rebecca explained the pastries were a reminder of the shape of the hat worn by Himon, and the meal designed to reflect Esther’s diet.
Then there was the pudding – Hamantashen, another set of triangular pastries, these ones with different fruits, chocolate and syrups.
Well, there are only so many pastries I can eat, and as the women started to dance and sing I saw Jo motion to me to follow her. As we walked out, I smiled as Rachel followed us. She was also wearing a white jumper, and a long black skirt with flat shoes.
“Do you still want to see this,” I said quietly as I looked at her.
“Yes – there’s something I need to tell you about, but I do want to see it.”
“Okay then – Jo?”
“We’ll go to my room,” she said as we walked up the stairs, and into her bedroom. Once inside, I watched as she opened a drawer, and took out a coil of rope.
“Once I knew I may end up having to do this, I went and got some supplies,” she said as she took two sponges and handed them to me. “Rachel, when Kathy says she has been tied tightly, she means she was unable to escape without help. Is that what you want to see?”
As Rachel nodded, I made two fists with my hands, her eyes widening as Jo covered them in white tape.
“Now, believe me, I have seen people go further,” Jo said, “but for the moment, this will do. So you see that Kathy can’t use her fingers now.”
“Yeah – yeah I can see that. When they...”
“The guys today were amateurs,” I said again.
“No – when I was about ten, an armed gang robbed our house.” Rachel sat down and looked at us as Jo took my hands behind my back, and started to tie them together. “They pointed guns at me and my mother, and made her watch as they tied my wrists together in front of me. They used thin cord, and it hurt – a lot.”
As I looked at her, Jo looked over my shoulder and said “what did they want?”
“Mum’s jewellery. Anyway, they then made me sit on mum’s lap, and told her to give me a great big hug. That was when they tied her wrists to her elbows, and neither of us could move. They then tied our waists together, before tying my ankles, and my mum’s ankles and legs. The last thing they did was tie my ankles to mum’s legs, before they tied two scarves in our mouths and left us there.”
“I can imagine how scary that was,” I said as Jo tied the ropes off, and then turned me round so that Rachel could look at them.
“I see – does it hurt?”
“No – if it’s done right, and the ropes are kept tight and arranged properly, it doesn’t hurt,” I said with a smile. “You can see how Jo took the rope between my wrists as well – that actually makes it tighter, more comfortable, and more difficult to get out of.”
“Even with her hands covered,” Jo said with a smile.
Rachel nodded, and then said “would you do that to me as well – with my hands in front of me?” She held her wrists out and crossed them, watching as Jo cut another length of rope off and then tied them tightly together.
“See,” she said as she pulled the ends of the rope between her wrists and tied them off out of reach of her fingers, “does it hurt?”
“No – and it’s certainly tighter than before,” Rachel said as she tried to move her hands. “So what happens next?”
“Well, if I was playing with my friends...”
“Hang on – you play this with your friends?”
“Oh yes – and my boyfriend, but that’s another story. Jo, can you tie my arms to my sides please?”
Jo nodded as she unwound a long length of rope, and then tied my arms to my body, winding the rope above and below my chest in neat bands before she pulled them together behind my back and tied them off. Rachel watched this, as I wriggled round, my waistcoat now forced to the sides by the way the ropes were tied.
“See,” I said quietly, “I can’t move my arms very easily now either.”
“So I see,” Rachel said as she looked at me, “so if you did the same to me?”
“Is that what you would like me to do,” Jo said, Rachel nodding as she took another long length of rope, and bound her arms tightly to her sides, and then tied her wrists to the lower band.
Well, she had done the same to my wrists behind my back...
“Now then,” Jo said quietly, as Rachel tried to move her arms, “sit side by side on the bed, because the next bit is to make sure you cannot move your arms.”
Rachel smiled as I sat next to her, both of us watching as Jo knelt down, crossed our ankles and then secured them together. She then secured my legs together below my knees, before she lifted Rachel’s skirt back and bound her legs together as well, making sure the rope went around and between before folding her skirt back down.
“Well,” I said as I looked at her, “tight enough?”
“My goodness,” Rachel whispered, “and you’re right – it doesn’t really hurt, it feels very comfortable.”
“Not at all – but we could still try and escape right?”
“Indeed,” Jo said, “and we’ll sort that in a moment, but first, we need to keep you both quiet. I don’t think we should go full job, but enough to give you the feeling you can’t talk.”
“What does she mean, full job,” Rachel whispered as she looked at me.
“Another time,” I whispered back as Jo folded two handkerchiefs.
“The secret of keeping quiet is stopping sound getting out and you moving your lips – so the first part. Open wide, and breathe through your nose.”
“It’s all right, stay calm,” I said as I let Jo push the cloth into my mouth, and then nodded as Rachel allowed her to push one into her mouth as well.
“Flssfnneedesntt,” she said as she looked at me, and then her eyes widened again as she heard Jo peel a long length of wide tape from a white roll.
“This will stop you moving your lips,” she said as she tore it free, and pressed it down over my mouth, Rachel looking at the shape of my lips which I knew from experience would be there. She then felt the slight tug as Jo tore a second strip free, and pressed it firmly down over her mouth as well.
“Try to talk,” she said as she stood back, Rachel shrugging her shoulders as she mumbled “wllfunsst – hmgddd...”
“Tlddu,” I said as I tried not to laugh.
“Okay,” Jo said as she looked at us, “one last thing, and Rachel you have to answer this, because I can guess Cathy’s answer.
“Do you want to experience what it can be like to be left unable to get off the bed?”
Rachel looked at me, and then nodded as Jo said “okay – you both need to lie on your sides on the bed, facing each other.”
I shuffled over as Rachel pushed herself back, and then fell onto her right side, before I managed to lie on my left facing her.
“Whhtndse,” I said as I felt Jo pulling my ankles back, and then securing them to my chest ropes. I watched Rachel as Jo walked round and did the same thing, hearing her slight grunt and nodding.
“Okay – let me know when you want to get free,” she said as she sat down and picked up a book. I was content just to lie there, while Rachel tried to move, and then lay still as well.
A short while later, I heard Jo’s mobile phone go off, and listened as she answered it.
“Ah – good evening Little Mother. I was expecting your call. I take it you have followed up on the other leads?
“No, no further activity here – although I have had to fulfil an unusual request. Be assured, no further harm has come to her.
“Oh have they now? Well, if you require any further assistance, do let me know.
“Naturally – and tell Teacher we will both be more than glad to come and help for a few weeks.
“For The Heart and The Strength.”
As she ended the call, she looked at us and said “professional matter. Now, if you will excuse me for a moment, I need to...”
We both nodded as she went to the bathroom, and looked at each other.
I nodded, wondering how to explain exactly how tight when there was a knock on the door, and I heard a woman say “Doctor Frost – are you in here?”
“Hmgddd,” Rachel said as I rolled over, and saw a grey haired woman come in, wearing a brown woollen dress, dark stockings and heels.
“I was wondering if...”
She stopped and looked at both of us, while I heard Rachel mumble “rrrhhllmmfrr...”
“Jo? What is going on here?”
“Well,” Jo said as she rubbed the back of her neck, “truthfully, Rebecca wanted to experience this. After this morning, I hope you can understand why?”
“Yeah – yeah I think I can,” she said with a smile. “And this must be Cathy Harmer.”
“It is – Cathy, let me introduce you to Rebecca’s mother, Sara Goldstein. Sara, have you heard from your brother-in-law?”
“I have – he’s safely back, and the information passed on to the relevant authorities. I guess you are off duty now?”
“No – I remain on duty for the weekend. But as you can see, Rachel is safe as well.”
“So I see,” Sara said with a smile. “Well, much as I do not want to interrupt her fun, I need her to come to her room now. If you could?”
“Of course,” Jo said as I watched her to start to untie Rachel, and then remove the tape and sponge from her mouth.
“That was – quite an experience,” she said as she watched Jo unwrap her hands, “thank you for that Cathy – I hope we can keep in touch after this weekend?”
“Fnnddmtbrkfssttmmrrr,” I mumbled, Jo nodding as she went off with her mother. I then looked at Jo, my eyebrow raised.
“Nope – sorry kiddo, I can’t tell you what that was all about,” Jo said with a smile, “but I do need to get you untied so you can get to your bed. Stay still now.”
Well, I’ve known Jo, and Jenny’s family, long enough now to know that when they say they can’t tell you, they really can’t tell you. But the talk of Little Mother and Teacher, and then that phrase she used – For The Heart and the Strength? What was that about?
Like I said, however, I knew I would not get answers, so I merely stretched out and rubbed my legs and arms, waited patiently for Jo to unwrap my hands and give her the sponges, and then thanked her before I went back to my room. I had a lot of things to think about...
“There you are, did you sleep well,” Mum said as I joined them at the breakfast table.
“I did actually – how are you two? I came down to see you before I went to bed, but you were dancing all over the place.”
“Well, it was a fairly wild party,” Mummy said with a smile. Both of them were wearing blouses and pants, while I had on a blue polo shirt and black leggings under a pair of denim shorts. The celebration was at an end, and we were going to go to Wissenden Hall from here to have lunch there.
“Yes they are,” I said as I started to eat my breakfast, and then saw Rachel come in with her mother. She looked over at me and smiled, but went to sit at another table.
It was when I went to get some hot food that she joined me at the counter and said “hey – thanks for last night. Why do I get the feeling that still wasn’t the tightest you have been tied?”
“Because it wasn’t – but I trust Jo, and she wasn’t going to put either of us into more trouble than we needed to be.”
“She is good – where did she learn?”
Well, I was tempted to say it was in the blood, or that Jo had learned from the masters, but I decided a better approach would be to say “she was in the forces – maybe she learned there?”
“Possibly – can we exchange numbers? I’d like to keep in touch, if that’s all right with you.”
“No problem,” I said as I got my mobile phone out, and we sent a text to each other.
“Great – see you around Cathy,” she said with a smile as she walked off, and joined her family. I nodded and walked back as well, wondering when we would see her again.
“I wondered where you had got to last night,” Rebecca said as I came back to the table. “I just got a text from Sam, to say he would be there at lunchtime as well.”
“Who’s cooking if we’re not getting there before then,” I asked.
“Mrs Holderness – Susan, she insisted,” Rebecca said with a smile.
“Well, it should be fun then,” Mum said with a smile.
As we pulled up outside the entrance to Wissenden Hall, I got out and smiled as I saw Sam standing there.
“Hey – how was the weekend,” he said as he looked at us.
“It was fun – hello Timmy,” I said as my little brother toddled out and hugged all three of us.
“I missed you mummy, and you mummy, and you Cafy,” he said as he looked at us.
“And we missed you,” Mum said as she picked him up and hugged him. “Come on – you can tell us all about what you did this weekend.”
As they went in with Timmy, I felt myself blush as Sam kissed me on the cheek.
“Enough, little bro,” Rebecca said, “you two can have fun later.”
“Well, we’re going to have a little while,” Mrs Holderness said as she looked out, “lunch won’t be for a couple of hours yet, and the rest of the family are still out at church.”
“Well then,” Sam said “we need to find a way to pass the time?”
“Oh I can think of a way,” I said before I looked in the front room. “Sam and I will be in the treehouse.”
“Don’t do anything someone else wouldn’t” Mummy said as we went through the kitchen, and up into the tree house, going into the larger of the two rooms. “Well,” Sam said, “now that I have you to myself, I need to make sure you can’t get away!”
“You wouldn’t dare,” I said with a smile, then laughed as Sam rugby tackled me to the ground, and sat across my lap, holding my wrists together above my head as he looked at me.
“You fiend,” I said with a smile, “what are you going to do?”
“Make sure you can’t get away,” he said with an evil grin, as he reached for one of the storage boxes, and grabbed some rope, using it to bind my crossed wrists together. He then turned himself round and crossed my ankles, as I felt the rope going around and between them, but I didn’t respond – mainly because I was enjoying what he was doing.
“Now then,” he said as he got off me, and helped me to sit up, “I need to make sure you stay exactly where you are.”
“You fiend,” I whispered before he kissed me, and then started to wrap the rope around my upper body and arms, framing my chest below and above with the ropes. As he did so, I raised my bound wrists up and down in protest, but secretly I loved the way he tied them, and then secured the ropes behind me.
“How tight do you want this to be,” he whispered into my ear.
“Not too tight – unless you know when the others are coming back?”
“Fair point,” he said as he walked in front of me, using another length of rope to tie my legs tightly together below my knees, and then another length to secure my wrists to that band.
“Now then,” he said as he knelt behind me, “ready to submit?”
Well, I regretted that right away when I felt his fingers on my sides, and I started to laugh. “Oh no,” he said into my ear, “we can’t have you raising the alarm like that.”
“You wouldn’t dare,” I said with a smile, and then I opened my mouth anyway as he pushed a folded cloth in, and then wrapped the micropore tape round my head to keep it in place, lifting my hair out of the way as he did so. Not that it would damage my hair if he hadn’t done that, but it still felt good.
Which was when the tickle torture continued, me squirming and eventually panting through my nose as I fell onto my side. Sam smiled as he sat next to me, and said “so, do I win?” as I looked at him.
“Well...” He was about to say something when we both heard footsteps on the stairs outside...
“Sam? Kathy? You two in there?”
“Yeah, Uncle Abe,” Sam called out, as I recognised his uncle’s voice.
“Well, the others are back now – you two need to sort yourselves out and then come in for lunch.”
“All right – just give us a few minutes,” he said, and then as we heard the footsteps retreating and then he cut the tape away.
“Pity – I was just starting to enjoy that,” I said with a smile.
“I know – but we’d better go back and join them,” he said with a smile as he started to untie me.
“Hey,” Bobby Holderness said as we came into the dining room, “I hear you had an exciting weekend?”
“How do you mean,” I asked, wondering if he had heard anything.
“I meant that you had fun as a group of ladies – why?”
“Oh – nothing,” I said as we all sat down, Mrs Holderness holding court as we all enjoyed a roast lamb dinner. My mums talked about everything that had happened over the weekend, while I talked to Bobby and Sam, with Suzie joining in as well.
What I knew was, when I got back home, I had a few things to sort out, and I was going to need some time out to think about them – especially what part Jo Frost was playing in things...
“Look what I drew,” Timmy said as he showed me a picture he had drawn of all four of us.
“That is a very good picture Timmy – but why are my hands behind my back?”
“Because you like them there,” he said with a smile.
“He’s got you there,” Sam said with a giggle, as the others laughed as well...
“And as the three little pigs danced and danced, they knew they would never be bothered by the big bad wolf again...”
I smiled as I saw Timmy’s eyes close, and then turned off the light in his room, leaving and closing the door before I went back into the front room.
“Yeah – Mum, can you do me a favour tonight?”
“Of course – what is it Kathy?”
“I need a time out to think some things over – would you do the honours?”
“Of course – go and get ready, and I’ll meet you in the bedroom.”
“Thanks,” I said as I went to the bathroom. From time to time, I needed to be in a position just to think things out – and that meant making sure I couldn’t move or talk for a while. It wasn’t as strict as other times, but it was what I needed.
So I washed, brushed my teeth, did everything I needed to do, and then put on a pair of blue cotton pyjamas, before I pulled a pair of white bedecks over my feet and tucked the legs into them. I also pulled a pair of bedsocks up over my hands, as Mum came in with some lengths of rope.
“Okay Cathy, cross your wrists in front of yourself,” she said quietly, and when I had done so she tied my wrists together. I then sat on the bed as she bound my ankles, and my legs below my knees, before she walked behind me and used a longer length of rope to bind my arms tightly to my sides.
I smiled as the bands framed my chest, and then opened my mouth. My mums prefer if I am doing this that I use a knotted scarf as a cleave gag, and nothing else, and I’m not going to argue with them. So I felt the silk knot on my tongue, and the band tied round my head, before I lay down and watched Mum tie my wrists to the rope around my knees.
“You will be all right now,” she said, and as I nodded she turned the light off and closed the door. I wriggled round for a few moments, before I started to think of what Captain Frost had meant, and about my new friend Rachel, and when we would meet again...