Crime and Punishment
This story has turned into something of an epic. I had expected it to be relatively short to write up, but it grew to about 10,000 words as I worked on it. Many parts of the events I describe here are still crystal clear in my mind, so I have been able to write with a good degree of confidence. Similarly, some of the conversation is still fresh in my memory and probably reported close to verbatim. Many of the feelings I describe I also remember vividly, so while there is undoubtedly some post-facto analysis there, I am confident that what I have written is true to what I felt at the time. However, as ever, odd details elude me and, where necessary, I have just reconstructed them using my imagination.
Following the incident in my previous story, 'Babysitter Blues', in which my cousin Annie got into enormous trouble for tying us up, my sister Karen and I intensified our lobbying of our mother to be allowed to use rope in our tying-up games. After all, we argued, Annie had tied us up with rope and we had come to no harm. In fact, as Annie had given us her rope supply after that affair, we were actually lobbying to be allowed to use the rope we already secretly owned.
Eventually Mum relented and permitted the use of rope, but only after she had given us a stern lecture on safety and made us both solemnly promise that we would never, ever, under any circumstances, put ropes around our necks.
The rope Annie had given us was in four long lengths, probably each something over twenty feet long. My sister and I debated at length whether we should keep the rope in these lengths or cut it up. Eventually, we decided that shorter pieces were more practical for tying limbs, but we kept two of the long lengths intact. The rope itself was a light brown braided (rather than twisted) rope a little over a quarter of an inch thick. It was very flexible and had a slightly rough texture, probably hemp, which meant that it could be knotted very easily and the knots were guaranteed to hold. However, this also made it very abrasive on bare skin, making our usual precautions with mittens to protect wrists even more imperative.
Experimenting on each other, Karen and I discovered that rope had to be applied a little more cautiously than the scarves and old woollen stockings we had used hitherto. With scarves, the only way to be sure of making the bindings secure was to pull them as tight as possible, but, with rope, we quickly learned that the same strategy resulted in painfully tight bonds and, very likely, bruises as well.
Tying each other up was great fun. We generally used short lengths of rope to bind wrist, ankles and knees and then to use one of the long lengths wound around arms and chest; they were long enough to go around nine or ten times. The result was thoroughly inescapable and very satisfactory both to the one tying the knots and to the victim.
If we both wanted to be tied up at the same time, we had to rely on our mother. She was prepared to tie our wrists and ankles with rope but nothing else (despite our entreaties), on the basis that she couldn't tell is she was hurting us. We assured her that we would tell her if anything hurt, but to no avail. Nevertheless, wrist and ankle bindings applied by our Mum were very effective; unless she made a mistake, such as a poorly-tied or injudiciously-placed knot, we were never able to escape from them.
Our brother Timothy, three years younger than me, had a strange attitude to these games played by his peculiar older sisters. He felt that he was missing out on something we both appeared to enjoy. We had offered to tie him up at various times, but it turned out that he never enjoyed the actual experience. He would generally ask to be freed as soon as we had him tied or sometimes he would ask us to stop before we had progressed far with the tying.
One Sunday afternoon, not having anything better to do, Karen and I decided to see what it would be like to use our entire rope supply to tie one of us to a chair. Karen's knots were better than mine and I liked being tied up, so I volunteered to be the subject of the experiment.
I had already changed out of the smart dress I had worn to church (we used to dress up quite literally in our 'Sunday best' in those days) and had put on a comfortable sweater and skirt, but had kept on the white tights I had worn that morning. (Tights were a new innovation in girls' clothing at that time, first coming in about 1957 or 58. They were a huge improvement in comfort over the stockings we wore before that, eliminating both the horrible stocking suspenders and the chilly gap at the top of the legs.)
If I remember rightly, we had several lengths of rope, each about five feet long, which we had cut from two of the twenty-foot lengths given to us by Annie, a few shorter lengths, which were good for tying wrists, and the two uncut twenty-foot ropes. After some discussion, we decided how we would deploy it all and I took my seat on one of the two small Windsor chairs Karen and I had as desk chairs in our bedroom.
I crossed my wrists behind the chair-back and Karen bound them together horizontally and then vertically. (I was wearing a pair of mittens to protect my wrists from the rope.) The next length of rope went around my waist and the arched wooden back of the chair, snaking between the vertical spindles that formed the chair-back. Karen also fastened my wrist binding off to this rope, pinning my hands in place behind the chair.
A refinement that we had picked up from our Aunt Lizzie, our mother's sister, was to tie the upper arms to the chair back. The wooden arch which forms the back of a Windsor chair was ideal for this as my upper arms lay naturally along that line. Two more pieces of our rope were used for this, one for each arm.
Karen tied my ankles back to the front legs of my chair, making sure that the turns of rope went both above and below the joint where the braces connecting the chair legs were fixed. She also tied my legs back just below knee level, the rope going behind the chair leg just under the seat. These bindings also included several turns of rope over the tops of my knees, holding them down to the front corners of the chair seat.
There were just the two long lengths of rope left. Karen started by tying the end of one to the top of the chair-back, just behind my left shoulder. She brought the rope forward over my shoulder and diagonally across my chest and round to the back of the chair. She continued winding it around the chair-back and me and spiralling downwards until she was able to loop it around the top of the right back leg of the chair. She took it across to the left back leg, looped it around that and then started spiralling upwards until she was able to tie off the end of the rope to the top of the chair-back behind my right shoulder in a neatly symmetrical wrap. What little freedom of movement I had left in my upper body abruptly vanished.
Karen applied much the same strategy to the last remaining piece of rope. She tied one end to the top of one of the front legs of the chair then took it across the tops of my legs to the other side of the chair seat, passed it under the chair and across my legs. She continued in this way spiralling the rope over my legs and under the chair seat until she was able to loop the rope around one of the back legs of the chair. She looped the rope around the opposite back leg then repeated the spiralling, working towards my knees and finally fastening the end of the rope off to the front chair leg opposite to the one where she had started.
I was astounded at just how thoroughly immobilised I was. I could move my hands, feet and head, but that was about my limit; apart from that I was completely stuck. Karen had tied the ropes carefully, so that they were secure but not at all painful. The result was as exciting as I had hoped it would be, but also quite scary, as I explained to my sister.
"Shall I gag you too?" Karen asked.
I hesitated for a moment before agreeing. It would be silly to miss out the final detail after going to all that effort. My sister folded one of the old muslin nappy (diaper) liners we used for this purpose into a thick band and eased it between my teeth before knotting it off behind my head.
When Karen asked me if I felt all right like that, all I could give her was a subdued mumble in reply.
"Would you like a blindfold too?" my sister asked, holding up a short winter scarf.
I decided that being bound and gagged like this was quite intense enough, so I shook my head.
Our brother Timothy had wandered into my sister's and my bedroom in time to see tea latter stages of the tie-up and Karen gagging me. He said nothing, but watched with apparent interest.
When I had been tied up for some minutes (not really struggling: I couldn't move enough for that), he announced, "I want to be tied up like that too!"
"I don't think you'd like it, Tim," Karen told him. "I think it's pretty scary for Becca, and she's used to being tied up."
I nodded my agreement with my sister's assessment.
Timothy was adamant that he wanted to be tied up just the way I was and insisted that he would enjoy it as much as I seemed to. I made some urgent noises through my gag to indicate that Karen should remove it.
"Karen's right, Tim," I said as soon as I could speak again. "This is the most I've ever been tied up and I can't move at all. I really think it would be too scary for you."
Of course, the more we insisted that Timothy wouldn't like being tied up like that, the more determined he became and the more he insisted that he really would like it. In the end we gave in and agreed to tie him up as soon as Karen had freed me.
It took a while to get me completely untied and to bundle the ropes up again for future use. While my bonds had not been remotely painful, it felt very good to be able to move again, although I had probably only been tied up for twenty minutes between Karen tying the last and starting to release me.
As soon as I was off the chair, Timothy eagerly took my place.
Karen picked up the first coil of rope that she proposed to use, then paused thoughtfully. "I don't think you should wear your Sunday best for this," she told Timothy. He was wearing the clothes he had put on first thing to go to church: a white shirt with a red tie, a blue sleeveless sweater, the grey shorts he usually wore for school and a pair of knee-length grey socks.
"You might pop the buttons on your shirt," I pointed out (having experienced just such a thing myself), "and you'll need something to protect the skin on your wrists and knees too."
"But I don't have long trousers," Timothy protested. It was true: he generally wore shorts year-round, with long socks in winter and short in summer. For really severe weather, such as playing in the snow, Timothy would wear a snow-suit, but that was hardly practical for this game.
"I know," said Karen brightly, "you can borrow a pair of my tights."
"That would work," I confirmed, "and you'll need a thick sweater too."
"I'll lend him that too," Karen offered. This made sense, for although Karen was over a year older than me, she was small for her age, much shorter than me, and therefore closer to Timothy's size.
While Timothy dutifully took his outer layers of clothing off, Karen rummaged through her chest of drawers for the smallest clothes she could find. A few minutes later our little brother was dressed somewhat bizarrely in a pair of black woolly tights and a thick pink sweater that came right down over his bottom so it looked like a somewhat abbreviated dress (the mini-skirt hadn't been invented then, so it looked very odd to our eyes). He had been equipped with two pairs of thick white socks: one pair on his feet, coming up to knee level, the other pair covering his hands and tucked up inside the sleeves of the sweater.
Timothy resumed his seat and waited expectantly.
Karen and I set to work to reproduce the tie-up that Karen had used on me. Timothy was much smaller than me, so the rope formed more coils around him than it had on me. He was silent as we tied him up, just watching the process with apparent interest. As she was working, Karen noticed that Timothy was trembling and asked if he was all right. Our brother assured her that he was enjoying being tied up, but I thought his voice sounded a little strained.
Once Timothy was completely tied up and we were sure that nothing was too tight or painful, Karen asked if he would like a gag as well. He said nothing, but nodded solemnly. The muslin squares that Karen and I used were rather bulky to fit in Timothy's small mouth, so my sister used a thick white knee-length sock between his teeth and tied behind his head.
Karen and I sat down side-by-side on the edge of my bed, the lower of our bunk beds, as if it was a grandstand. We were intrigued to see how Timothy would respond to his predicament, but the reaction was not one we had expected. His eyes opened wide in terror and he started struggling hard against the ropes that secured him to the chair and yelling through his gag. Of course, tied as he was, he wasn't able to move to any significant extent, but the effort he was putting into straining against his bonds was obvious.
Just as this happened, and before my sister and I could react, our mother came into the room carrying a bundle of clean laundry. She dropped the clothes and rushed over to Timothy, reaching him a fraction of a second before Karen and me. She held his head still so that she could loosen the gag.
"I don't want to be tied up! I don't want to be tied up! I don't want to be tied up!" Timothy yelled as soon as his mouth was free.
What none of us properly realised at that time was that Timothy suffered from quite severe claustrophobia. His panic was triggered by situations that were both enclosed and from which the exit was not immediately visible. Tunnels and pedestrian underpasses were all right as long as he could see the other end. Lifts were all right if they had the old-fashioned sliding iron gates, but not if they had solid doors. Being tied up wasn't quite the same as an enclosed space and Timothy could sometimes psych himself up to tolerate and seemingly enjoy it, as he had when he had been light-heartedly tied up as a punishment by our Aunt Lizzie or when he had asked Annie to tie him up. In both those cases, however, the tying had been done by someone he related to as an authority figure, so there was probably a greater element of trust than was the case with his sisters and that may have been why it had never resulted in the full-scale panic attack that he was now experiencing. (As an adult Timothy learned various coping strategies and is generally not greatly inconvenienced by his claustrophobia, but he is still prepared to walk up a surprising number of flights of stairs to avoid to using a lift.)
Our Mum continued to cradle Timothy's head while Karen and I, both now panic-stricken by the situation, struggled to untie all those knots and to unwind the yards of rope we had tied around our brother. It seemed to take hours, but, in reality, it was probably only three or four minutes.
As soon as Timothy was completely free, his panic subsided into quiet sobs. Our mother scooped him up in her arms and carried him out of the room.
"You two wait there," she ordered, turning to fix us with an angry glance as she reached the door. We heard her go downstairs with Timothy.
Both badly shaken by what had happened, Karen and I started gathering up and untangling the rope which was now strewn around her room. As we worked, we discussed the situation and worked out how our mother had seen the situation. She had come into the room to see her son dressed up in an odd mixture of girls' clothes, tied to a chair with a huge quantity of rope, gagged and in obvious distress, while his two sisters sat on a bed watching him. Unless we could explain to our Mum exactly what had happened, we were probably in a lot of trouble and, in all likelihood, in for a severe thrashing.
With the room tidied, there was nothing to do but to sit down on my bed again and wait, clutching each other's hands in mutual support and with our stomachs churning in fear.
"Timothy has calmed down now," our mother announced as she returned to our bedroom, "and, you won't believe this, but he's dozed off on the lounge sofa." Her voice was surprisingly conversational and there had even been a slight smile when she mentioned that Timothy had fallen asleep. I dared to hope that she now realised that we were only guilty of an error of judgement.
Alas, I was wrong. Mum's view of the situation was exactly as we feared it might be: we had dressed our brother up in girls' clothes, tied him to a chair against his will, gagged him and sat watching as he had hysterics about what we had done.
"But, Mum..." Karen ventured.
"But, nothing, Karen-Anne," our mother retorted. "You will kindly remain silent until I ask you to speak. You too, Rebecca." The use of our full names confirmed that we were in disgrace, as if we hadn't already realised it.
There was a long uncomfortable silence before Mum spoke again. "Becca, take that skirt off and use the toilet."
Baffled, I unfastened the waistband of my skirt and stepped out of it. I went to the bathroom and sat on the toilet. I was so tense that it was several minutes before I could do anything.
When I unbolted the bathroom door and let myself out, Karen was waiting her turn to come in. I was surprised to see that she was now dressed as I was, just in a heavy grey sweater and the white woolly tights she had been wearing earlier. I was alarmed to see that she was gagged with a handkerchief tied between her teeth. She avoided my eye as she dodged past me and shut the bathroom door behind her. Whatever was Mum planning to do to us? I wondered in growing terror.
When I returned to my bedroom, I saw that Karen's and my desk chairs were standing side-by-side in the middle of the floor. Our rope supply was lying on my bed, neatly laid out according to length and ready for use.
Mum was waiting for me. She held up a balled-up handkerchief in her hand. Its purpose was obvious, so I opened my mouth and allowed her to push it in behind my teeth. A second handkerchief, folded into a band, was used to secure it. My mother positioned it carefully, so that it went between my teeth but didn't catch my lips, then knotted it at the nape of my neck.
"For all they that take the sword shall perish with the sword," my mother said as she gagged me. As a clergyman's daughter, she was fond of quoting the Bible, Jesus' words in Gethsemane in this case. "An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth," she added, Moses' words making her intention abundantly clear: we had dressed our brother up in a sweater and tights and tied him to a chair against his will (or, at least, that was what she believed), so we were about to be subjected to the same treatment.
"Hold your hands out," Mum instructed.
I did as I was told and my mother pulled a pair of long grey socks over my hands and worked them up over the sleeves of my sweater to elbow level.
"Now sit down."
I chose the chair nearest to me and sat. I was still a bit scared, but now that I knew what was going to happen, I wasn't nearly as frightened as I had been.
The next move surprised me; my mother picked up a winter scarf that I hadn't noticed and tied it over my eyes. She spent a few moments making sure that it was properly seated so that I could see nothing.
I heard the bathroom door being unbolted as Karen finished in there then heard my mother instruct her to hold her hands out. No more words were spoken and the few sounds I could hear were indistinct and slightly muffled through the thickness of the scarf which covered my ears as well as blindfolding me.
After some minutes, I felt my mother gently lift my hands, which had been clutched together in my lap, and move them round behind the chair, positioning them so my wrists were crossed. I tensed slightly in anticipation of the rope which followed shortly, securely binding my wrists together.
Nothing more happened to me for several minutes. I assumed that Karen was being tied up during this time and that my turn would follow. Sure enough, before long, I felt a rope being passed around my waist and the back of my chair.
"Sit up straight," my mother instructed.
I duly shuffled my bottom back as far as it would go on the chair seat. The rope was passed around my waist again and tightened. I felt a series of movements that suggested a knot being formed somewhere behind me. More small movements indicated that my wrist binding was being fastened to the waist rope.
I could sense more rope manipulation going on, with odd small noises behind me and movements transmitted through the wood work of the chair, but I felt nothing until a rope was suddenly passed across my chest and pulled tight. More followed, crossing my body at different angles. My mother was evidently using one of the long lengths of rope to tie me to the chair-back. There were occasional pauses while she adjusted the rope. (I later realised that every couple of turns, she was threading the rope through the bars at the back of the chair to stop it slipping.)
I was now comprehensively bound from the waist upwards, but my legs were still free. My mother turned her attention to rectifying that next. She took hold of one of my ankles and gently guided it out to the side of the chair and back. The chair legs were braced by spindles linking the front and back legs of the chair on each side and these two spindles were in turn linked by a third one spanning between the first two. Think of a capital letter H made of wood and linking the chair legs and you will have the right idea. It was to the junction at one end of the crossbar of the H that my mother tied my ankle. She repeated the operation with the other ankle, so I was now straddling the chair, in much the position I would be in riding a horse, with both my feet off the floor. I was fairly supple after a couple of years of ballet lessons, so there was no strain in sitting in this position.
I was left alone for a moment then was surprised to feel the whole chair being moved with me on it. I felt my knees come in contact with something and then my mother's hands guiding them past some obstruction. There was a knock of wood on wood as the chair collided with some other object. I felt each of my knees being tied to something, but I couldn't work out what was happening.
I felt my mother's hands on the back of my head and suddenly I could see again as she removed the scarf that had been tied over my eyes. I immediately saw what Mum had been doing when she was moving my chair: I was almost nose-to nose with my sister. The chairs had been pushed together so that the front edges of the seats were in contact. Karen's face was therefore only a little over a foot away from mine. (The chair legs splayed out slightly, so the chairs had to be offset sideways by an inch or so relative to each other in order to do this.) My sister's legs were bound in the same way as mine, with her ankles tied to the junction in the spindles bracing the chair legs. Although each of us had our knees out to the sides of the chair seat, they still protruded slightly forward of the very front of the seat. The obstructions I had felt my knees being guided past were, in fact, Karen's knees. Our mother had taken the opportunity to add a finishing touch to our imprisonment by tying my sister's knees to mine with the last of the rope supply.
If we had been as guilty as our mother believed us to be, then it would have been an apt punishment for tying up our brother for us to be forced to contemplate each other in the same situation. As it was, we had lost any opportunity of pleading our innocence to our Mum and would just have to endure the punishment.
Our mother methodically checked all her knots. She didn't have to re-tighten any of them, so I assume all were satisfactory. She stared at us for a moment or two then picked up the scarves that she had used to blindfold us and tied them over our mouths and noses, covering our faces from just below our eyes right down to our throats. I later worked out that this was to preclude any chance of our using our teeth to loosen each other's gags, assuming, that is, that we could ever find enough slack in our bonds to bring our faces together.
Without giving us any clues as to how long she intended to keep us tied up, our mother left the room, closing the door behind us.
As soon as the sound or our mother's feet on the stairs had died away, Karen tried speaking to me. All that came out was an unintelligible mumble. I thought she might have said, "Are you all right?" so I nodded, but didn't attempt a spoken reply.
Karen and I both engaged in a struggle with our bonds, more in an attempt to find whatever comfort we could than with any expectation of escaping. Apart from anything, I suspected that, having been tied up as a punishment, the consequences of escape would be undesirable.
Once we had settled ourselves as best we could, Karen and I simply sat and stared at each other. The way Mum had tied us, our discomfort was minimal, but unable to move or talk to each other, it was excruciatingly boring.
Time ticked slowly by until, about half an hour after we had been tied up, the bedroom door opened. Our mother entered, followed by Timothy, still dressed as we had last seen him, in Karen's sweater and tights.
"Tim has just woken up and he tells me that it was his idea that you tied him up," our mother said. "Is that true?"
Karen and I nodded in response.
"I didn't give you much of a chance to tell me that, did I?" she asked sheepishly.
We shook our heads.
"I'm really sorry," she told us as she started to remove Karen's gag.
Mum took my gag off next then freed our legs and separated the chairs, which had been hitched together with a piece of rope around the crossbars of the H-shaped braces linking their legs. She move our chairs apart and then concentrated on untying Karen completely before starting on me.
"I'm really sorry," Mum repeated. "I promise I'll listen to you in future."
It was more the injustice of the situation that had grieved Karen and me than the punishment. (After all, we both rather enjoyed being tied up, so it wasn't that much of a hardship.) Our mother's unreserved apology and a group hug set things back to rights between us.
Later, at tea-time, Mum confessed what had been going on to our Dad, who had been out all afternoon. He asked all three of us children whether we were all right now. We all confirmed that we were and Karen and I assured him that we bore Mum no ill will about what had happened.
Now that the atmosphere in the house was back to normal, I ventured a thought that had been forming in my head most of the afternoon. "You know, Mum," I said, "the way you tied us up was the sort of thing that Karen and I have been trying to get you to do ever since you let us use rope for tie-ups."
"Well, it doesn't seem to have done you any harm," Mum conceded, "so I suppose that would be all right."
"You ought to let the girls tie you up like that to make up for this afternoon," Dad commented with a twinkle in his eye.
Our mother didn't know what to say to a wisecrack like that.
"Would you?" Karen asked earnestly, even though, like me, she knew the suggestion was just a joke on Dad's part.
Mum's sense of honour and fair play was strong enough that she hesitated instead of dismissing the notion out of hand as nonsense.
"Please?" I prompted, recognising Mum's dilemma and capitalising on it mercilessly.
"I'll think about it," our mother temporised.
"Maybe we should ask Aunt Lizzie to be there, to make sure it's all fair," my sister suggested, as if it had all been agreed already. I recognised this as a brilliant thought on Karen's part: Mum often used her big sister, Aunt Lizzie, as a confidante, while this was exactly the sort of romp that would appeal to the mischievous streak in our aunt.
"I'll think about it," Mum repeated more firmly, clearly bringing the conversation to a close. Karen and I were, however, confident that our mother's honesty would ensure that she phoned her sister and put the proposition to her without any bias.
Later on, when Karen and I were getting ready for bed, our mother came into our bedroom and sat down on one of our desk chairs, perching inelegantly on the edge of the seat as it was too small for her to sit comfortably.
I broke off from brushing my hair and sat on the edge of my bed. Karen was already in her top bunk, so she sat up to be able to see over the edge to where Mum was sitting.
"I've had a chat about things with Aunt Lizzie," our mother said. My sister and I both understood what 'things' signified. "And I've decided that you can tie me up if you still want to."
Neither of us were sure what to say in these circumstances, so we both just nodded to indicate that Mum should continue.
"Now, this isn't a punishment," she continued. "You've already had my apology and children don't punish their parents. I spoiled your game by turning it into a punishment, now this is an opportunity for us all to turn it back into a game. Understood?"
We nodded to show that we were with her so far.
"Aunt Lizzie is quite busy this week, so it will have to wait until Friday, after the dance." The Friday dance fixtures were a regular feature of our parents' social calendar: every couple of weeks or so, our mother and father would go out for a meal and an evening of ballroom dancing with Aunt Lizzie and her husband, our Uncle Alf, while we would be babysat by our cousin Annie.
When Friday evening came, Uncle Alf and Aunt Lizzie arrived just before our tea-time as usual, deposited Annie and departed for the evening's dance venue with our Mum and Dad.
Annie organised a meal for the four of us, assisted by Karen, Timothy and me. After we had eaten and cleared up the dishes, it was our brother's bedtime, so Annie took him upstairs. Karen and I were still dressed in our school uniforms and decided we wanted to change into something more comfortable. It was too late in the evening to bother with another change of clothes, so we decided just to put our night things on. We both wore long brushed cotton nightdresses to bed at that time. As it was a chilly evening (and our bedroom was unheated), we supplemented them by keeping on the wool tights we had worn during the day and wearing sweaters on top. We both wore knitted woollen bootees as slippers at that time. We were back downstairs before Annie had finished putting Timothy to bed so we put the kettle on to make a pot of tea.
When Annie returned, we all sat down together with cups of tea and an open packet of biscuits. After some minutes chatting together, the conversation reached a natural lull. Karen and I exchanged glances then my sister ventured a question. "Annie, can we ask a big favour?"
Annie could see that we were both slightly tense. "You can certainly ask," she replied cautiously.
Karen went on to explain what had happened the previous Sunday and how our Mum had agreed to let us tie her up to make up for spoiling our game. We wanted to tie her up exactly the same way she had tied us, but Karen and I had never tied up an adult before and we wondered if Annie might just possibly let us practice on her.
As we spoke, Annie's expression slowly changed until she was grinning broadly when we finished our request. I think she was as amused by our hesitant and roundabout approach to our request as she was at the description of the previous Sunday's goings on.
"Well, my Mum told me all about what your Mum did to you," Annie told us, "and that the return match was set for tonight. Knowing you two, I thought you might ask me for a practice run. It's just as well I came dressed for the part."
Annie stood up and reached behind her. She unzipped the grey pinafore dress she was wearing and pulled it up over her head, depositing it over the back of a chair. I had noticed earlier on that Annie was wearing opaque black stockings, which was unusual for her as she almost always wore translucent tan ones. The stockings were now revealed as a pair of heavy black nylon exercise tights and it was also obvious that she was wearing a matching black leotard under the black turtle neck sweater that we had seen under the pinafore.
"Just make sure you don't ladder these; they're expensive," Annie warned us.
The only chairs we could sensibly tie an adult to were the dining chairs we used. They were a set of old wooden chairs that had once been part of the furnishing of a church and had been given to my parents by my mother's father, a Church of England vicar. They were sturdy ladder-backed wooden chairs, a little worn, but perfectly serviceable. The only clue to their former life was the little shelf each chair had under the seat to take a hymn-book. We had six of these in the dining room, another two slightly more battered specimens in the kitchen and others in odd corners of various other rooms. We were already in the dining room, so Karen and I decided to tie Annie to one of the chairs there.
My sister and I went up to our bedroom to gather our supply of rope and the handkerchiefs and nappy liners that we would use to make gags. When we returned, Annie had moved the dining table back against a wall and had set a chair in the middle of the extra floor space she had made. She had also retrieved a pair of black woollen gloves from her coat pockets and had put them on.
"Ready when you are," Annie announced, sitting down.
We began by crossing Annie's wrists behind the chair and binding them with rope. We used our usual approach of several turns horizontally then several vertically and knotted the rope at the top of the binding, well out of the reach of Annie's fingers. We had a two tails of rope, each about six inches long, sticking out of the knot, so we tied them around one of the horizontal bars that made up the chair back.
"Not very good," Annie commented, demonstrating that although her wrists were securely tied together, she could move them from side to side, sliding the binding along the wooden bar we had fastened it to.
Karen and I untied Annie's wrists then selected a longer piece of rope to try again. We tied her wrists as before and tied the binding to the same bar of the chair, but now we had enough rope hanging out of the final knot to take one end out to each of the vertical side members of the chair and fasten them off there. Annie tested the security of the new arrangement and gave her approval; no matter how she squirmed around on the chair, her wrists stayed in exactly the same place.
We wrapped a rope several times around Annie's waist and the chair-back next, finishing off with a knot in the middle of her tummy. Having her wrists already tied to the chair made it a little awkward to position the rope and we resolved to tie our mother's waist rope before fastening her wrist binding to the chair.
A long length of rope wound around Annie's arms and chest and the woodwork of the chair came next. It took several attempts before we had an arrangement that was satisfactorily stable. We discovered that if we occasionally threaded the rope through the framework of the chair and reversed the direction we were wrapping it in, the earlier turns were less likely to slip. We made sure that the rope was fairly evenly distributed, the lowest turns of rope going below Annie's elbows and the highest over her shoulders.
Once we were satisfied that Annie was thoroughly immobilised on the upper half of her body, we turned her attention to her legs. We intended to use the same straddle position that our mother had put us in and that had quite clearly been part of the description that Aunt Lizzie had passed on to Annie, which is why she was wearing her dance tights and no skirt. However, these chairs offered no convenient point to which to tie ankles. The legs were braced by wooden bars joining the legs on each side. These were quite low down, only about three inches off the floor. The lateral bracing was by two bars slightly higher up, one linking the front legs and one linking the back legs. These braces were in turn linked by two more bars, but they ran from front to back on the chair, not side to side as on the Windsor chairs in our bedroom. There was therefore no convenient strong-point at the side of the chair to which we could fasten rope.
As Karen and I were discussing our quandary, we were kneeling by the side of Annie's chair and experimenting with where we could place her foot. Of course, tied up as she was, Annie couldn't see what we were doing or really understand what the problem was. We brought another chair across and I hitched up my nightdress so I could straddle the chair while Karen pointed out that there was nothing to tie an ankle to. Annie immediately made a very simple and obvious suggestion, which solved the problem admirably. We tied a rope around her ankle, winding it around several times and knotting it securely. The knot was tied so that we had two long tails of rope left, which we tied to the front and back legs of the chair, neatly immobilising Annie's ankle, even though there was nothing close by to tie it to. We repeated the procedure on the other ankle and stood back to admire the completed tie-up.
Annie explored the tiny amount of freedom of movement she had left and declared herself completely helpless.
With the experiment successfully concluded, Karen and I were just thinking about releasing our cousin when we heard the front door open. Our Mum and Dad and our aunt and uncle were back from their dance. There was considerable variation in the time they returned home after one of their Friday evening outings, so we hadn't been sure quite when to expect them. It took only moments for them to find Karen and me and our tied-up cousin in the dining room.
"Hello, Mum," Annie greeted our Aunt Lizzie. "Karen and Becca wanted to try out some ideas, so I'm helping."
"I don't think you'll be going anywhere if they do that to you, Sheila," Aunt Lizzie commented to our mother.
Our Mum looked a little apprehensive, but made no comment about Annie's predicament. After a short silence she remarked, with somewhat forced brightness, "I'd better change out of my good clothes then," and left the room. People still dressed smartly as a matter of course in the late 1950s. Both the men were wearing suits with white shirts and ties and their wives had on what we called cocktail dresses, not full length ball-gowns but nevertheless much dressier than would be worn for daytime occasions with quite full knee-length skirts. My mother wore a hip-length jacket on top of her dress for travelling home in the car, while Aunt Lizzie, who always had a taste for the dramatic had on a floor-length hooded black cape, with the hood thrown back.
It was only two or three minutes later that Mum returned to the dining room, now wearing a sweater and a tweed skirt. Aunt Lizzie looked her up and down then whispered something in her ear. My aunt gestured towards Annie, who was still tied to her chair and I saw my mother's eyes widen. Aunt Lizzie emphasised whatever she had just said by nodding her head. Mum scuttled out of the room again, avoiding everyone's eyes as she went. We heard her go upstairs again.
My Dad and Uncle Alf had decided to leave their lunatic womenfolk to their own madcap devices by this stage and had disappeared out to Dad's workshop, which was built onto the back of our garage.
Our mother came back a few minutes later. She tried very hard to look as dignified, but to no avail, Karen and I burst out laughing as soon as we saw her, followed by Annie and Aunt Lizzie then by Mum herself. The whispered conversation had evidently been that our mother should dress as she had made us dress when she tied us up. Mum owned no tights like ours, so instead, she was dressed cream wool winter combinations, a union suit if you prefer, with a pair of short grey socks pulled up over it and a tight-fitting grey sweater on top. She had another pair of grey socks on her hands in place of gloves. Our laughter served to break the tension that had built up and to turn the event back into a game rather than an ordeal.
Having practised on Annie, it took Karen and me only five minutes or so to tie our mother to another dining chair in exactly the same way. The only thing that hampered us was the sheer exhilaration of tying up our own mother: we were both trembling with excitement and that made us slightly clumsy.
Once we were satisfied with the security of our mother's bonds, and Aunt Lizzie had inspected our work as well, we gagged our Mum with a balled-up handkerchief stuffed into her mouth and held in place with one of our stock of muslin nappy liners folded into a band between her teeth and knotted securely behind her head.
Mum struggled against her bonds before shaking her head to acknowledge defeat. It was hard to read her expression behind the gag, but she seemed to be enjoying the game almost as much as we were.
"Is your bag in the hall?" Aunt Lizzie asked Annie, an apparently completely random question.
"Lounge," Annie replied.
"Back in two ticks then," Aunt Lizzie remarked as she left the room. She disappeared into the lounge, which was the room adjacent to the dining room where we presently were. We heard the door being shut.
Less than two minutes later, our aunt was back. We were astonished to see that she had exchanged her dress and dramatic cloak for a pair of grey woollen tights and a black sweater. (I had never seen adult size woolly tights before; I think Aunt Lizzie had probably bought them in Germany when Uncle Alf had been there with the RAF.) Like Annie, she had black woollen gloves on her hands.
Our aunt was very obviously offering herself as a second victim, or third if you counted Annie. Karen and I just stood open mouthed and speechless.
"You two had each other for company," Aunt Lizzie pointed out. "I'm not going to let my little sister sit there on her own."
"We'll untie Annie, so we can use the rope on you then," Karen said after a long pause while she got to grips with the situation.
"Annie's fine like that," our aunt replied dismissively. "There's plenty more rope if you look in her bag."
I fetched Annie's bag from the lounge. Sure enough, it contained several lengths of the same rope that Annie had originally given us. We selected yet another chair and eagerly set to work to tie our aunt to it, using exactly the same arrangement of ropes that we had used on Annie and on our Mum.
When we were just about to gag Aunt Lizzie, a thought occurred to me. "How long should we leave you tied up for?" I asked.
"How long did your Mum leave you two tied up?"
"About half an hour, I think," Karen replied.
"Well, that's half an hour for each of you, so you ought to untie her after a whole hour," Aunt Lizzie told us. "Unless of course she manages to escape before then," she added.
Karen and I were confident that if Annie couldn't escape then our mother wouldn't be able to either, so we didn't consider that to be an issue.
"But how long should we keep you tied up?" I asked
"I'm here to keep my sister company, so I should be tied up as long as she is."
With all that settled, Karen and I gagged our aunt in the same way that we had our mother.
When we had been tied up, our chairs had been tied together so that we were facing each other. We set about reproducing that effect for our mother and aunt. We found that we could manoeuvre the chairs if we stood each side and lifted slightly, so that they would slide more easily on the carpet. Unlike our desk chairs, the dining room chairs had vertical legs, so the front edges of the seats could be brought together with the chairs exactly face-on to each other. The women's knees stuck out slightly beyond the front edges of the chairs, just as ours had, so we arranged each of them to have one knee against the chair and the other against their sister's knee. We used two short pieces of rope to join the chairs together and another two slightly longer pieces to tie our mother's and aunt's knees together.
"Do you want us to untie you now?" Karen asked Annie, who had been sitting patiently watching our progress as we tied up our mother and aunt.
"I'm all right," she told us. "I'll just sit and wait here."
Karen and I had a whispered conversation. We concluded that despite it having been so much fun tying three grown-ups to chairs, we felt a little awkward hanging around watching them, so we decided to go into the lounge and come through every ten minutes or so to check that all was well.
As it turned out, there was something interesting to watch on television. After all these years, I have no recollection what it was, but I do remember it captured our attention. We settled ourselves on the sofa and took it in turns to go into the dining room, timing ten minutes on the mantelpiece clock between visits.
Each time I went through, nothing had changed; all three women were tied up on their chairs exactly as we had left them. However, at about the thirty or forty minute visit, when it was Karen's turn to check on our prisoners, I became aware that she had been gone an awfully long time. I was engrossed in the television programme (I really wish I could remember what it was!) and was reluctant to go through myself to see if anything was wrong. Eventually, I felt that I really had to be sure everything was all right.
When I opened the dining room door, I was astonished to see Aunt Lizzie completely free of her bonds and working on untying my mother whose legs were free and who had already been ungagged. Annie was still tied up, but was now gagged as well and Karen was sitting on the floor with her back against the wall. Her hands were behind her back, presumably tied, and I could see rope at her waist, knees and ankles. She was also gagged with one of our muslin nappy liners.
"Here comes the other one," my Mum commented as I came into the room.
Aunt Lizzie immediately left off what she was doing and pounced on me. She bore me to the floor surprisingly gently, so I wasn't hurt in any way, but I found myself lying face down with my aunt sitting on my bottom and pinning me down.
"I think you know what comes next," Aunt Lizzie told me, sounding very pleased with herself.
I had been completely overpowered, so I crossed my wrists behind my back to signify my submission.
Aunt Lizzie stood up and helped me to my feet. "Better put these on first," she said, handing me something.
It was my own blue mittens. I put them on my hands, deeply puzzled. Aunt Lizzie must have fetched them when she went to get changed, I concluded. But that implied that she must have been very sure of escaping her bonds to have planned for this payback.
My aunt tied my wrists behind my back and then wound the rest of the length of rope around my waist and knotted it at the front, just as she had done to Karen. She helped me sit down next to my sister and then tied my ankles and knees, carefully wrapping the skirt of my nightdress around my legs before doing so.
A gag was obviously just about to follow, so I took the opportunity to ask my aunt the obvious question while I still could. "Aunt Lizzie, how did you manage to escape?"
"Well, your Mum and I used to play tying-up games quite a lot when we were little. We had a lot of practice, so we were both pretty good escape artists. You and your sister didn't tie my wrists quite as firmly as you might have and I managed to wriggle out." She gestured towards the chair she had been tied to and I could see that her wrist binding was still hanging, rather forlornly, on the back of it; Aunt Lizzie must have been able to gain enough slack from somewhere to pull first one then the other hand out of the ropes without disturbing the knots.
"Lizzie was always much better at escaping than I was," Mum remarked.
"It helped that I was wearing gloves," Aunt Lizzie explained. "I might not have managed it with mittens or socks on my hands."
"But you must have been really sure that you could escape even before we tied you up," I pointed out. "And you must have been sure you could tie us up, otherwise you wouldn't have had my mittens here ready." I was still taken aback by the supreme confidence Aunt Lizzie must have had in her own abilities.
"Let's just say I was quietly confident," my aunt told me as she advanced on me with a gag.
My contribution to the conversation ended as she worked the band of muslin between my teeth and tied it behind my head.
Over the next few minutes, Karen and I watched as Aunt Lizzie finished untying our mother.
Mum stretched herself then engaged in a whispered conversation with her sister. What were they planning now? I wondered.
Our aunt confirmed whatever had been discussed with a nod of her head then left the room.
"You've been tied up a long time," my mother commented to Annie, "but I'm sure you can wait until we've seen to these two." She gestured towards Karen and me. I wondered what 'seen to' signified.
Annie's reply was a muffled snarl from behind her gag.
Aunt Lizzie returned to the dining room holding a pair of short woollen scarves which I recognised as coming from our stash of tying-up supplies. She knelt down beside us and, without further ado, blindfolded us both.
"It's late, so we'd better get these two off to bed," our mother announced.
I felt myself being picked up and hoisted over a shoulder. Being carried in that position while blindfolded was quite disorientating, but it was obvious from the movements that I was being carried upstairs. I was carefully lowered until my feet touched the floor. A steadying hand on my shoulder helped me stay upright and there I stood for a moment until I was again lifted off my feet, this time cradled in someone's arms. Almost immediately, I felt myself being set down on something soft. A bed? A gentle pressure on top of me confirmed that I was indeed in bed and that the sheets and blankets (this was a decade or more before duvets became common in Britain) were being tucked in firmly.
I could hear murmured conversation and feel a slight movement of the bed as Karen was similarly deposited on the bunk above me and tucked in. There was a click as the light switch was turned off then a gentle thud and a change in the room acoustic as the door shut.
I wondered what would happen next, then as the minutes ticked by, I realised that nothing was going to happen next and that we had been left bound, gagged and blindfolded for the night. In growing trepidation, I called out to Karen as best as I could with a gag in my mouth. There was no packing behind my gag, so I could manage a reasonable volume, even if not much intelligibility. Karen mumbled something back to me; I had no idea what she said, but just hearing my big sister's voice was reassuring.
I tried to roll myself over in bed, partly because I was uncomfortable lying on my tied hands, but also because I thought I might be able to rub my blindfold off against the pillow. It was a futile effort: the pressure of the bedclothes resisted my attempt to roll over and I wasn't able to get enough purchase with my feet to loosen them. I had no option but to lie on my back and steel myself for what promised to be a very long night.
Not long after Karen and I had been put to bed, I heard the bedroom door open again and the distinctive click of the light switch. The blackness imposed by my blindfold lightened fractionally and then quite suddenly I could see again. My cousin's grinning face filled my vision.
"I'll get your gag off," Annie said. I lifted my head to let her get to the knot.
As soon as she had freed my mouth, Annie climbed the first few steps of the ladder to the top bunk so that she could reach Karen's blindfold and gag. I saw that she had put her pinafore dress back on. I heard Karen thank her and then felt the bunk beds sway slightly while Annie folded back the sheets and blankets so she could untie Karen's legs. There was a creak from the bed-frame as Karen sat up to let Annie untie her wrists.
Annie tossed the scarf, gag and ropes onto the floor then came back down the ladder to finish freeing me.
"Did you manage to escape?" I asked Annie, unsure whether rescuing Karen and me had been done with parental sanction or whether it had been a freelance move on her part.
"I could never have got out of that tie-up you did on me," our cousin explained. "My Mum untied me as soon as you two were upstairs."
I still wasn't entirely sure what was going on. Being tied up and put to be had been thrilling but had also been very scary. I thought it had been fun, but I wasn't entirely sure.
"I want to give Mum a hug before we go to sleep properly," Karen announced, climbing down the ladder.
I realised that was what I wanted too, so the two of us went back downstairs with Annie. My parents and my uncle and aunt were in the lounge, enjoying cups of coffee. Both the men were still wearing the suits they had worn for their evening out but had removed their ties and unbuttoned the collars of their shirts. Aunt Lizzie had put on a pleated grey skirt to render her combination of black sweater and grey wool tights a little more conventional. My mother, however, was still resplendent in her outfit of woolly underwear, socks and sweater.
Aunt Lizzie spoke first. "Thank you for the game," she said. "It's a long time since I've played a tying-up game like that. Did you two have fun too."
"Sort of scary being tied up in bed," Karen admitted.
"Tie-ups are supposed to have a bit of scary in them," our Mum declared.
I thought about it and had to agree. It had all been fun, but Karen and I were exhausted, so we exchanged good-night hugs with the grown-ups and went back upstairs where Annie tucked us in again, but without the ropes this time.