Emily awoke to a bright burst of sunlight filling the room. For several confused moments she surveyed the suddenly unfamiliar surroundings before remembering the circumstances of her visit to Stephanie, and the conversation that had taken place in that same room that previous night. Those shadowy hours seemed to belong now more to the dreams that came to her now in halting fragments.
Over by the window Stephanie was already dressed in a smart blouse and culottes, studying the world beyond.
"I hope you slept well Emily, you've an appointment to keep, remember."
Emily, of course, remembered all too well.
"Breakfast is on the table, get dressed and come down. It's beautiful out today."
The term *beautiful* held an exceptionally ominous tone for Emily that morning. In her world that translated to *unseasonably warm*. Even still naked she was beginning to sweat. The coat was now out of the question, and she'd neglected to bring a change of clothes. The only option that remained was to borrow some of Stephanie's. She was a few inches taller than Stephanie but they would fit - that wasn't the problem. While Stephanie would happily oblige, she knew that whatever she was supplied would be in rigorous adherence to the clothing protocols set by Anya. That would either be a skirt and blouse, or more likely a sun dress.
But as she reflected on her situation, she realised the thought suddenly no longer held the same threat it had just hours before. Indeed, it seemed somehow obvious; tt was spring, she would wear a pretty dress, and she go out into the bright light of day. Where she was going was an obscure spot some way distant, drowned out in the hazy morning light. Sitting up, Emily's eyes alighted on the small pile of clothes that lay folded on the covers before her.
"Oh", she uttered softly.
At the table in the kitchen Stephanie browsed the news, occasionally furtively flicking to the tab where she and Anya had exchanged a handful of rushed messages earlier the previous evening. Inactive since midnight - no updates. She suppressed a small flutter of nervous excitement - no signal was the go ahead. Noticing a presence nearby she turned to the doorway and burst into an expression of spontaneous delight.
Emily leaned against the doorway, shuffling nervously but managing nevertheless to return a shy smile. The chequered sundress came up to a third of the way up her thigh - modest enough by Stephanie's standards - and left a generous swoop of exposed chest. She also wore cream knee socks above a sensible pair of brown flats. Heels would be far too much with such an outfit, after all.
From her shoes up, Stephanie appraised her friend's new look, lingering just a moment on the collar that glinted in the daylight. It was an elegant, well fitted model, and even matched the silver fastenings on the straps of the dress. But it was still - distinctly - a collar. Stephanie knew this was a step for Emily, but in light of what was already taking place today it seemed a comparatively minor one. And besides, Stephanie mused, her beauty suited an outspoken submissiveness. For such a vision as her friend presented to Stephanie appearing in the hallway, it made perfect sense - Emily would understand this eventually, that much was certain.
Beaming still, Stephanie bid Emily a second, more effusive good morning and gestured to the table where breakfast had been laid out for her. As she sat, the dress crept another couple of inches up her thigh - Stephanie snuck a furtive glance to see if her friend had noticed, but she was distracted buttering toast, and, relating some anecdote about a book she meant to pick up ahead of class next week. Stephanie realised this was the first time she'd spoken offhandedly, without trepidation or some poorly hidden agenda, since she'd arrived. They'd hung out a couple of times, once at the library and another at the bar. Perhaps Anya's presence, or threatened arrival, had some deadening effect, as if just her proximity was a trigger that elevated the low thrumming trance state that only usually materialised during conditioning sessions. Or perhaps it was something else.
Stephanie wondered this might be some advanced stage of the conditioning; the creature she was becoming. One for whom humiliation was an open-ended process; its very normalisation an additional sting. It made sense such a girl would talk animatedly, guilelessly with her keepers - forgetting her exquisite vulnerability for moments to lapse into idle chatter. Building a little bubble of supposed security ready with a pin at just the right moment. Stephanie felt like she'd been given a gift, straight from Anya's malign genius to her own nascent wickedness. She was going to be the girl to pop the bubble.
It was as she finished her toast and sipped the last of her coffee, that Stephanie picked her moment.
"Before we can go, there is one more thing we need to address, Emily".
She'd gauged her tone and phrasing well - like flicking a switch, Emily was now once again the girl she'd met in the doorway the night before, caught between a rock and a hard place.
"Oh?" Emily wondered to herself whether this would be about the key. She realised - with a suppressed desperation - that up until now she'd been expecting a last minute reversal in her friend’s resolve. But even if she didn’t like to admit it, she knew better. Stephanie wouldn't relent and unlock her before they left. Stephanie’s unflinching expression was enough to make her understood with absolute certainty that this was not the case, and had never been.
"Come through to the living room with me - we need to make clear your infraction from last night will not be tolerated."
Wordlessly, Emily obliged.
Leading her down the corridor, she turned left just before the front door. This was a room she realised she'd not been in before. It was bright, facing south and even warmer than the bedroom had been. But this was different. Clearly it was a space in which Stephanie spent relatively little time - unlike the bedroom or even the kitchen it was sparsely furnished. Indeed, all it contained that meant anything to Emily was a sofa, a coffee table and a small leather strap placed conspicuously at its centre.
Half an hour later they were out the door and already crossing through the park, Stephanie leading with Emily following mutely behind. Eyes downcast, she tried to appear as casual as she possibly could while her hands repeatedly strayed to the bottom of her dress, flattening it against her sides in a nervous reflex towards modesty. At that time the park was all but deserted but for a few joggers and students waylaid on their way to the library. But all the same, being denied panties under Anya's strict regimen was one thing; combined with being caged, and a bright crimson spot on each buttock from a spanking just minutes earlier, made getting caught out by a sudden breeze and exposed even for a second an unsavoury prospect.
By now Emily's head was spinning, a daze of sensory overstimulation and acute, unquenchable embarrassment had set in almost as they left the flat and walked out together into the street. She didn't realise it then, but *fear*, as she'd known it the day before, was not among the roiling mass of feelings that stirred in her at that moment. For her, the world had shrunk to a handful of sensory data; the dizzying brilliance of green and gleaming metal and buildings that made up the city, the blush across her breast and cheeks that burned hotter than the sunlight on her exposed back and thighs, the sting Stephanie's hairbrush had dealt to her behind, the throbbing in her cage and the spreading wetness at its aperture she hoped wouldn't be visible through her dress.
Stephanie noticed her friend was lagging slightly. Stopping, she turned around and at once understood why. Emily's face bore all the signs of waking trance. She recognised it from the sessions with Anya, but had never witnessed it outside of those specific, formal induction processes. But suddenly, she realised, perhaps this was no different? Every stage of the morning up til that point - following Anya's instructions to the letter - had been in reference to principles they'd encoded into Emily's mind - some weeks in advance - that, together, they had gradually escalated until it became standard. Just because it lacked the ritual trappings of pendulums and mantras didn’t lessen its effect. Rather, they'd just gone beyond the need for such things.
But trance or not, they had an appointment to keep. Not that they were exactly late; Stephanie had left an over hour to get ready but found she'd needed barely half that time. Emily's compliance was instinctual. This was the first time Emily had, in fact, been able to surprise Stephanie. Keeping Emily in line, Stephanie had acted effectively as Anya's unflinching proxy. But unlike her collaborator, she didn't wear her authority quite so openly. The part she chose in this dramatis personae was that of the close friend, framing every exercise of control in Emily's best interests; every rebuke a frank and necessary reminder of realities. Taking her friend over her knee to deliver a sound disciplinary spanking was, to say the least, an unprecedented development in their relationship.
Which is why Stephanie found herself thrown by how automatically Emily submitted herself to what was to come the second she understood that this was the situation. It was as if she was following a script she knew and Emily did not. Pulling off the sun dress and setting it nearly on the other side of the sofa, she lowered herself onto Stephanie's lap, shuffling only a moment to make sure her cage was comfortably resting between Stephanie's thighs and her bottom centred where Stephanie would have best angle to bring down first her hand then the strap. Stephanie had tried to recall then whether anything had been mentioned about disciplinary protocol during the conditioning sessions, and came up blank. After all, this was not something that could exactly be explained verbally. Nor was it something she was aware of Emily having experienced before - and by now Emily's sexual history and attendant fantasies were an open, and well-thumbed book.
But still, while the situation was new to Stephanie, spanking itself was not - she'd watched and read and fantasised about it long enough to internalise the movements; the build up, the alternation, the closely monitored pain levels that prolonged the feeling of escalation. The immutable sense of hierarchy between punisher and subject. So while Stephanie might not have known the script, she was able to more than competently improvise the key movements. It had been her idea after all.
Even so, she was surprised just how much she found herself relishing the process. Until the moment of execution, she’d concerned herself almost entirely with the after effects. For her, this was a calculated, extra layer of humiliation she'd devised; the combination of cage and reddened bottom and what it unambiguously signalled to anyone who saw it. Now it seemed she’d overlooked the best part.
Despite everything, she'd not been severe - certainly no way near as much as she could have been, and likely would be before long. She also knew how much was necessary to serve her primary purpose. And besides, as Emily's first punishment it was important to leave space for surprises further down the line. After the last few blows had landed, Stephanie had signalled the end of the punishment by gently placing a hand on the small of Emily's back and, gently stroking her reddened bottom, had all but whispered the now familiar refrain: 'good girl'. Emily gratefully received these attentions, inwardly revelling at the combined heat of her friend's hand on her already burning skin, then slowly slid to the floor til only her head remained nestled in Stephanie's lap.
As they stood, Emily looked again at her friend, a cryptic seriousness creeping into her expression that at another time Stephanie would have enjoyed analysing. Picking up the dress she'd laid across the arm of the sofa, she held it out towards Emily's expectant hands, but then drew back at the last moment. This was a last minute calculation but it made sense; what she was about to impart was sure to have a more lasting impact if her friend was naked. Clearly Emily had intuited something of this herself, her expression turning to an apprehensive pout - even more exaggerated than her standard - and her hands fluttered to her collarbone, a defensive reflex that left no part of her nudity covered. Stephanie, registering these signs of successful conditioning with some suppressed pleasure spoke;
"Now Emily, I promised we'd find some solution to your predicament and have devised a solution that I feel marks a fair compromise"
Emily - confused - nodded.
"Last night you were threatening to break the terms of your arrangement with Anya because you were too shy to ask the clinician to remove your chastity device so she can prepare you for your session. Therefore, I shall be accompanying you to the appointment, and you won't need to speak because I'll be doing the speaking for you. In fact..."
Stephanie feigned trailing off, but her gaze was fixed on Emily, rooting to the spot on which she stood. Subtly switching to a softer yet firmer vocal register, she continued -
"...you will not be able to speak at all. Not even when spoken to. You will nod and you will obey, and unless I specifically indicate otherwise, all communications are to go through me."
Emily’s face remained neutral, but her pupils dilated imperceptibly as she breathed the word: “yes, miss.”