After that meeting with Sarah, it felt surreal to be standing in a circle with all the guys. Ben, Liz, Asher, Leo, Travis, Raul and Eddie. Here I was in a see-through shirt, and everyone seemed to be stealing measured glances at my neck, while I clasped my hands low in front of myself. It was my new collar, of course. Little did they all know that one by one, they would each get to put a leash on it and lead me around outside, with the power – if they so wished – to take away my only piece of clothing. The very thought made my knees weak. It was insane.
The meeting was moving in slow motion. Asher was going into details about a web page design that a client was complaining about. Leo responded to each point in turn, looking agreeable even though it was obvious that he felt the client was insisting on unwise things. And mere minutes ago, I had narrowly avoided having to end the meeting with a Bic shaver in my hand. My heart was still beating loud at the thought as I crossed my arms, hiding my semi-visible breasts. It was a mistake to move my hands, as I now saw Raul blinking, as he looked down. Did he notice that I had shaved? No doubt this revelation was going to be huge amongst the guys, even if they didn’t say anything. I felt a blush growing but still kept my arms across my chest.
As the guys gave their updates, Ben kept his eyes on my face. His expression was sympathetic as if he was saying ‘hang in there.’ I appreciated the support.
“That’s fine,” Leo said, as Asher shifted his attention to Eddie, asking him about how easy it was to turn on and off maintenance mode. Apparently, it was a stakeholder’s request. It was easy to guess where that request came from.
One hand untucked from my crossed arms and traced the ring on the front of the collar. Eyes darted my way as I swallowed nervously. I was zoning out, thinking about why I needed ‘naked training’ in the first place. The thought of Ho, holding my leash while bringing me down Main Street was becoming unbearable. “Look guys, I need to talk to Brandy about something,” I said, ducking out of the update meeting early.
A moment later, Brandy looked up and saw me standing in front of her. She pulled out her earbuds. “You look like a million bucks,” she said, smiling as her eyes danced over my shirt.
Against my will, I smiled awkwardly at the compliment, but then realized she might have meant the extra million I negotiated. “Look, I don’t see how humiliating me all across town is necessary for preparing me for the ACE event.”
“It’s an important event. Don’t you want to nail it?”
“I’m not worried about the ACE event,” I lied, not wanting to think about how big the crowd might be and what I would have to do. “I’ve hosted parties naked before and besides, it’s a different crowd. Main Street is my neighborhood. It’s bad enough I have to wear this shirt around town showing everyone that I’m Nine. Being fully naked where I live… that’s too much. The apartment area should be my safe zone.”
“But… they can all see you naked as you are now… with the shirt on,” Brandy said.
What Bandy said made sense, but… “I don’t care. There is a big difference and you know it. Naked is too much. And I want to yellow card Ho,” I blurted out.
“Yellow cards are for Sarah, and only when she is about to do something.”
“I can’t be leashed by Ho… I just can’t,” I said gravely, hoping she could tell from my expression that this was well past my red line. “If you want me to play nice with this project, I highly recommend that you give me this.” It was hard to stand my ground against a person who held all the cards. I prayed that she would give me this one thing.
Brandy looked sympathetic. “Emi… that’s not the way it works,” she said gently.
Feeling a disgust that must have shown on my face, I turned to leave.
“Wait a moment Emi. Sit down, let’s talk this through.”
I paused, still facing away from her, trying very hard to not walk away as I realized that she could see my ass through the shirt.
“This really means that much to you? You can’t tough it out?”
I looked back and nodded.
“So if I make this huge concession, do you promise to be a model mailgirl?”
I nodded again.
“You and Ho have some pretty bad blood,” she chuckled. “Alright, I’ll give you this – but it will cost you.”
My heart lept in relief as I turned around to face her, but my joy was bittersweet as I knew that she would make me pay dearly.
“The more extreme shirt, or a latte with me at Cloud Nine. Your choice.”
I balked. “You mean, naked at Cloud Nine?”
Brandy smiled. “Naked? That’s even better! Since you are so generous, I will toss in a full yellow card to replace your used-up one.”
“No… I mean…” I thought quickly, considering her offer. The more extreme shirt was not even on the table, but Cloud Nine… I’d already done that and Jill had already seen me naked. A new yellow card also would be very nice, but I didn’t want to be seen near my apartment naked.
“No naked bike ride?” I asked, apprehensively – my mind went back to that thrilling and memorable ride.
“No naked bike ride.”
“I get to wear the shirt as we walk?”
“As I am taking over Ho’s walk, I reserve the right – as a walker – to decide that as I see fit.”
My shoulders slumped. Why was she so difficult? Brandy always seemed to know how to leverage advantage to maximum effect.
“However,” she said, locking my eyes with her gaze. “If we go today, outside of your mailgirl time, for the first half of the walkies I’ll let you keep the shirt on.”
“So two walks today?” I asked, not wanting to say walkies.
“I want to feel comfortable in the neighborhood around my new home. Can I wear the shirt on the cafe-side, and be naked near the marketing building during this walk?” I couldn’t believe I was negotiating where I’d be naked outside during the daytime.
“You ask for a lot, but okay. You can hand me your shirt just after we leave.”
“During a quiet time at the cafe? And naked inside, not outside.” I wondered if I could trust her to return the shirt.
“Possibly. I can’t control how busy it might be.”
“If I agree to this… what about others making me walk naked on Main Street?”
“For the first two weeks, they will be your selections. Convince them you don’t want to.”
“I can do that?”
“Yes, but beforehand. Not while you’re Nine.”
I nodded, absorbing the information. I should have a meeting with everyone. A surreal, awkward meeting. I certainly wasn’t looking forward to it. I hoped that I could convince people to let me keep the shirt on, at least around main street. “When do you want to go for the latte?”
“I’ll let you know. So is that it?” she said, picking up her earbuds, holding them near her ears while waiting for an answer.
“Thank you,” I said, turning to go back to the standup meeting, but it was already over. Looking back at Brandy I realized that she made me pay a lot. Still, considering how much I didn’t want to be leashed by Ho, it felt like a bargain. An extra walk, outside of my mailgirl time, felt wickedly expensive. But then that is to be expected from that little demon. At least I had another yellow card, which felt good considering what I had to face today.
Looking around, I saw Becca motioning for me to come over. She was sitting with Sam and Hannah, beside a large window facing the sea, with endless little clouds peppering the blue sky. The waves were pounding the shore, beckoning the runner in me.
“What was that all about?” Becca asked, looking at me tentatively, forcing me to pull my gaze from the ocean.
“Ahh well, I negotiated my way out of letting Ho – walk me on a leash,” I said. “She’s off the list.”
“Good,” Becca said, smiling. “That seemed too much to me as well,” she added, with an approving nod.
Her praise warmed me, causing me to humbly nod in agreement with her.
“I hope you negotiated some extra compensation for your mailgirl app testing as well, I didn’t see anything in the contract,” Becca added.
“It’s covered. You probably just skimmed over it. I’m well compensated.”
“Oh good then… I’m glad.”
Sam was looking at my nipples with a frown on her face. “This doesn’t seem much better than before,” she said, not as flippant as she usually was. She appeared to be embarrassed for me.
Hannah jumped to my defense. “That’s a terrible thing to say, Sam! She looks beautiful and you can’t see so much when she’s just a little further away.”
Sam scratched her head. “So every person she meets, it’s like she’s stripping completely naked for them?”
I crossed my arms. “If I’m shopping, maybe a bag can cover my front as I load groceries,” I offered, thinking that Ben was definitely going to do all the shopping. But then I noticed that I had no idea how long he was going to stay at my place.
Sam closed her laptop lid. “So you are saying that you would actually shop dressed like that? Out on Main Street?”
Becca put an arm on my shoulders. “Of course she will. That’s where we are going today on her first walk. I’m going to make sure she doesn’t starve and isn’t dependent on anyone. Help her break the ice with that daring shirt by helping her shop in the supermarket in her neighborhood.”
I was stunned and felt the blood draining from my face as I comprehended what Becca was saying. Just thinking about it made my heart rate increase.
“Can I come?” Hannah asked excitedly, but then she stopped smiling when she saw my concerned look.
Sam scowled. “So what Becca? You’re going to leash her down Main Street? Drag her into a busy supermarket? Did you forget that she doesn’t like being seen naked?” she grinned. “I guess it’s easy to forget about that,” but then she scowled again. “That seems kinda bad. And with the leash, it would be extra humiliating.”
“I won’t use the leash,” Becca said, defending herself. She looked unsure suddenly, looking back at me again.
Hannah looked confused. “We can do that? Not use the leash?”
“Of course. It’s not part of her RA rules and it’s not part of her mailgirl obligations. Besides, I say the walker can decide this detail,” Becca said. “If we go strictly by the book, only use the leash if it’s dark outside or she’s naked.”
That sounded logical and I liked where this was going.
“But what about…” Hannah started.
Becca cut her off. “About what? That piece of paper Sarah had?”
“Isn’t that part of her mailgirl duties?”
Becca folded her arms. “It’s not part of ‘Confessions – standard mailgirl etiquette’. While I kind of agree with the humane concept of helping Emi get used to public nudity for this ACE event, I think Sarah and Brandy know they are pushing it with this walkies thing. I say the leash is totally optional. Spread the word, Hannah.”
Hannah nodded. “Okay, I will.”
Hearing this filled me with relief. When the time came to have a conversation with everyone that planned to walk me I really needed to emphasize that I don’t want to be leashed when wearing the shirt. Plus I didn’t need to be walked in populated areas or near my home. “I… ahh, thank you, Becca,” was all I could manage. Still, I didn’t like the idea of shopping in this shirt, while wearing the collar. My hand went to the collar, feeling the edges. However, without the leash, it would be less humiliating.
“That’s an interesting collar. Can I?” Hannah said, holding out her hand.
Sam laughed. “You want to try it on!”
“So what if I do?” Hannah blushed, still holding out her hand.
“I… ahh don’t have the key,” I said, embarrassed about how that might look.
Becca glanced around. “Who does?” she asked, settling her eyes on Sarah.
“Brandy,” I said, gesturing over to where she was sitting.
“Okay, good. Follow me,” she said, leading me over to the little demon.
Brandy looked up, pulling out her earbuds.
“Got Emi’s key?” Becca asked in a friendly voice.
“Of course,” Brandy said, fishing it out, handing it to Becca while giving me a meaningful look.
I wondered what that look was for, then it hit me. I was supposed to protect Brandy from Becca, especially about the leash and collar. Suddenly I didn’t know what to do.
Becca held out her hand. “I need the spare too. I want Emi to keep it at her home, so she can take it off there.”
Brandy again reached into her bag, her wallet, and fished out the second key – giving it to Becca.
I was surprised that Brandy would give both keys over so easily. Was she waiting for me to do something? “Ahh… that’s okay Becca,” I said, taking one of the keys from her. I glanced at both women. “I… I’m going to let Brandy hold on to this key for now. I’ll take the other one home,“ I said as I passed the key back to Brandy. I hated the thought that I was helping the enemy and shunning assistance from a friend, but somehow this move felt wise.
Brandy took it and placed it into her wallet without looking at me or acknowledging any thanks. But that was okay, I knew exactly how grateful she was. She owed me one now.
Becca looked at me oddly as she walked around me with the key. I felt her hands on the collar and I got goosebumps from her touch as I felt the key slide in. The tick as it unlocked felt odd and as she pulled the collar away the fresh tropical air caressed my neck. Somehow I felt like my old self again. Was there really a difference? Was the collar making me feel submissive? Likely that was the purpose of the device. It was bizarre. I would have to be on guard for the psychological aspects of this thing.
Hannah came bounding up and Becca handed the collar to her. She put it on immediately, pulling out her phone. She started snapping selfies.
We all watched Hannah as she made a spectacle out of herself. Even Brandy smiled, curiously tilting her head in thought.
Sam walked over to get a closer look. “Oh lord, here we go,” she said, laughing. “You can’t have Hannah and Becca anywhere near that kind of stuff!”
Glancing at Brandy, I saw that she seemed to be enjoying this new information.
Hannah then removed it and started to put it on Becca who tried to step back but it was too late. Hannah clicked it shut.
“Did you lock it?” Becca asked, looking annoyed.
“No, it’s just shut… oh my God,” Hannah squealed as Becca blushed. “You are totally hot for the collar!” she said as she snapped some photos of Becca.
Becca turned this way and that, trying to hide her blushing face from the camera. She turned around trying to pull off the collar, fumbling with it. “Does anyone know where the leash is?” she asked, pretending none of that just happened.
I saw Brandy digging in her bag, while Becca made a good show of hiding her embarrassment, waiting impatiently for the leash.
“Oh Becca, I would love to try it with the leash,” Hannah said excitedly.
“Not now, Hannah. Get a hold of yourself,” Becca scowled as she received the leash from Brandy. Turning, Becca walked to the whiteboard and put the key on the tray below, and dangled the leash off the edge, while she fumbled with the collar, finally pulling it off. “While Emi’s inside, this is where we will keep the permit,” she announced loudly, hanging the collar next to the leash.
Sam, Becca, Hannah and I gathered at the whiteboard and we all looked at the dangling collar.
Becca reached out and touched it gently. “You can take the key home with you tonight. Don’t forget, or your shower will be awkward,” she said, running her fingertips over the permit and then along the side and over the back lock.
We were all still watching the collar, mesmerized as a group. “Right,” I said, realizing that was important. I needed to remember to take the key home.
Sam laughed, causing Becca to stop touching the collar. “You two wannabes will totally be ‘studying’ this collar whenever you get a chance. That’s why you put it here, obviously.”
Hannah suddenly became animated. “Oh, what a great idea! Becca let’s…”
Becca shook her head sharply at Hannah, causing her to stop speaking. “I just want Emi to not be overly bothered with this. She only needs the permit for walking outside.”
“Yeah right,” Sam said. “Why didn’t you push to get rid of the collar and leash altogether? The permit doesn’t need to be on a collar. They are just trying to make this harder for Emi.”
Hannah looked alarmed. “What’s wrong with the collar? It looks nice!”
Becca waved her off. “Look, Sam… it’s not ideal, but a little collar play was in the story… plus it does align with the ACE stuff. I’m fine with it if we keep it to just outside wearing, plus it does make it harder to steal it. Frankly, I like the security aspect. Emi shouldn’t be alone when naked.”
“Also after dark, even in this shirt… I still need the leash.” It was embarrassing to talk about this.
Sam grinned bitterly, shaking her head. “You mailgirl bitches… all sticking together. I shouldn’t be surprised.”
Hannah looked sympathetic, touching Sam’s arm. “You don’t have to feel left out Sam,” she said, picking up the collar. “Don’t knock it until you try it!” she said enthusiastically as she tried to put it on Sam.
Sam dodged her. “Get away from me you freak!”
The playful antics of my teammates were uplifting. As I watched Sam and Hannah dance around, playing, I realized that without them all of this would be so much harder. A flood of emotion hit me as I realized how much I needed them to get through all this.
Becca put her hand up, scowling after glancing at me. “Stop it you guys… you’re making Emi upset.”
“Oh, sorry Emi!” Hannah blurted. “Is it okay if we play with your collar?” she asked, looking serious.
I laughed and stepped forward hugging her. “God I love you, Hannah,” I squeezed her and looked up at the other two. “Group hug?”
Becca smiled and joined in.
Tentatively, Sam also joined the hug. “At least this is less pervy now that you have a shirt on,” she added, causing everyone to laugh.
After that, I tried to pull some sanity back into our day, and we did a little powwow going over the high-level designs of the app. It was nice to get back into normal developer stuff, but I saw Sarah still rounding the corners of mailgirl mats on the other side of the room. She would be ready for me soon.
Looking over to the whiteboard, the collar dangling from it, I wondered if it was safe to leave it there during the day. At least I would bring the key home tonight. Was it really that simple – to just ask Brandy like that? Could I have done the same? Just asked Brandy for the key? Now that I thought about it, it seemed silly that the thought hadn’t occurred to me.
Out the corner of my eye, I saw Sarah wave at me discreetly.
I looked at her with wide eyes as she nodded sympathetically, indicating it was time.
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