There was an actual contract this time, because Miss Taylor was feeling generous.
“Not that it would be something we could enforce legally,” she said cheerfully. “But I won’t need to, and you won’t want to. Isn’t that right?”
She held Britney’s chin in her hand at the time, and was making Britney meet her gaze; accordingly Britney was barely thinking at all as she took a deep breath and let it out in something that was half a sigh and half “Yes, Mistress.”
“It’s just that this time, we already have an understanding,” Miss Taylor continued. “I don’t need to trick you. I just need to tell you. And you’ve done so well for me,” and Britney basked in Miss Taylor’s praise, knowing she was completely sincere in this, “that you deserve a reward. Knowing what you’ll be getting - and doing - is the obvious solution.”
Property Rental Agreement
Entered into Between
Commencing 25th January 2020
This Rental Agreement (”Agreement”) is being made between Taylor Bryant (”Property Holder”) and Britney Parsons (”Property”). Taylor and Britney may also be referred to as “Party” or collectively as the “Parties”.
IN CONSIDERATION OF the Property Holder agreeing to provide domestic occupancy and monetary reward for the lease of the Property, the Parties agree to the following:
1. Term and Termination
This Agreement will become effective upon signing and will remain in effect for a period of three (3) years (”Initial Term”). After the Initial Term, the Property will need to request a new contract from the Property Holder and shall be subject to performance review. The Property Holder may terminate this agreement at any time without notice. The Property may request termination of this agreement in writing, but will find she cannot.
2. Right of Use
The Property Holder shall at all times have the right of use of the Property, except during her allotted hours of personal time, Thursday and Friday between the hours of 8am and 8pm.
The Property may not dye or cut her hair, schedule cosmetic surgery, or use makeup styles other than those previously specified by the Property Holder without permission from the Property Holder.
The Property Holder must account for any clothing picked out for the Property from her own funds rather than requiring the Property to use her own.
4. Duties & Obligations
The Property Holder undertakes to:
A. Provide the Property with a room in her home and food of the same quality as her own.
B. Act as the commissioner for the Property’s service rentals, taking 30% of all rental earnings in return for her commissioning activity and for providing room and bill of fare.
C. Ensure the Property does not have to remember the duties performed during her service rentals.
D. Safeguard the physical and mental health of the Property with regard to her service rentals.
The Property undertakes to:
A. Carry out any service for which the Property Holder rents them to a customer, including but not limited to: Massage, manual labour, maid service, sexual favours, painting the house, petsitting, dogwalking, or petplay.
B. Carry out any service directly benefitting the Property Holder except during her allotted hours of personal time, Thursday and Friday between the hours of 8am and 8pm.
C. Continue to educate herself in practical tasks to enhance the range of services for which she may be rented.
D. Select, condition, and provide to the Property Holder two (2) new employees who may be assessed for future status of Property, the first to have been identified, approved by the Property Holder, and conditioning to have begun within the first six (6) months of the Agreement, the second to have been completely conditioned no later than 4 (4) months before the end of this Agreement’s term.
E. Carry out household shopping and prepare meals for the Property Holder, Property, and any guests of the Property Holder, except at the Property Holders’ discretion.
F. Save at least 60% of her net earnings from service rentals for the future.
G. Carry out any sexual requirements or requests of the Property Holder, and inform the Property Holder whenever she is distracted by sexual desires of her own.
The Property waives all rights, except for the right to pleasure the Property Holder whenever asked.
By signing below, the Parties acknowledge and agree to the terms of this Agreement.
Britney read it all over, sat across from Miss Taylor at the same kitchen bar where their whole working relationship had been born. “Is any of this negotiable?”
“We can talk about it,” Miss Taylor allowed, “right up until you sign it.”
“I’ve been wondering about dying my hair pink…”
“I can accept that a possibility,” Miss Taylor said. “But only once I have someone else who fits your aesthetic profile for the McAllisters.”
Britney paused for a moment, mouth open, wondering if she would get an answer if she were to ask who the McAllisters were.
She let the moment pass. Miss Taylor was only likely to be so forthcoming.
“Does that have anything to do with my duty D?” she asked, rereading the longest and most detailed clause in the contract proper.
“It could do,” Miss Taylor smiled. “But that’s one part I’m keen to discuss in more detail. You know, of course, that you’re not my only employee, even if you’re about to be my only tenant?”
“…Mind you, there’s every possibility I’ll be bringing Louise into the house too, before too long, with different days off to you,” Miss Taylor allowed. Britney smiled happily; it was undoubtedly a good sign that she was getting so much information from Miss Taylor, who had been notoriously secretive as long as the two had known one another. “In any case, with the move to the house, my expenses will be going up a little.
“And the obvious thing to do is bring in some more employees. But scaling a business is hard; past a certain point, you can’t oversee the whole thing yourself. I clearly want to keep my oversight of the service rentals themselves, so I’ve decided to outsource talent relations.”
“I… I’m sorry, Mistress, I’m not sure I understand?”
Miss Taylor smiled, the slightly condescending but affectionate smile she sometimes adopted when Britney wasn’t as quick on the uptake as she might be.
Britney had come to really enjoy that smile during her submission to Miss Taylor. In fact, occasionally she played a little dimmer than she actually was, just to get to see it - but only when Miss Taylor was already in a good mood.
“I’ve already tapped almost all of my friends for employees,” she explained. “And now they all work for me, and in many cases, while they’ve come to understand how fun I am to pamper - I know you have, haven’t you?” Britney nodded enthusiastically. “Not all of you are still as much fun to hang out with. So I want to keep my other friends uncompromised.”
She smiled at Britney, the gentle smile of apology. “No offence.” Britney had no idea why she would be offended. She’d been chosen by Miss Taylor. What could be better?
“So… you want me to compromise my friends instead,” Britney said slowly. She was checking that she had the right idea, but she was also trying it out for size.
If she was compromised, why wouldn’t she want her friends to be, too? Her arrangement with Miss Taylor was wonderful.
“That’s the size of it, yes,” Miss Taylor said breezily. There was no concern in her voice that Britney might not agree.
This was not a negotiation. Not really. But Britney had known that for some time.
“So… I’m supposed to find someone who can replace me in service rental for the McAllisters?” Whoever they were and whatever they wanted.
“Just find me someone who will work for me,” came the reply. “If you want to go pink, then yes, that’s not happening under this contract unless you find someone to suit them - or they decide to change up their subscription, I suppose.”
Subscription? Britney hadn’t realised that was how some of the service rentals were being handled. But it did make sense. Miss Taylor liked the idea of regular income; it was reliable and could be planned for. If she was willing to offer a discount on Britney’s services for reliability, that would make for an effective subscription deal.
It would mean a slightly lower cut for Britney, of course, but if it made Miss Taylor more likely to continue to renew her contract, surely that would be a good thing, not a bad thing?
“Do I enjoy services for the McAllisters?” Britney asked.
“Do you want the current truth, or for me to change your truth?” Miss Taylor countered. Which meant that this was definitely a duty Britney should be grateful to Miss Taylor that she couldn’t remember, of course.
“Do I need to change?” she asked, about as good a deflection as she felt capable of.
“Well, I don’t think so. Not for now,” Miss Taylor told her.
“Thank you, Mistress.”
Miss Taylor smiled. “So?”
Miss Taylor tapped her pen against the contract. Britney blinked, then smiled. Really it should have been obvious, but somehow she’d been lost in other questions.
She could have three years as a blissful, powerless piece of property, so long as she gave two of her friends the same experience. Or she could refuse to sign. Be set ‘free’, which seemed like completely the wrong word. And if she went free? Back to job hunting. Back to paychecks that didn’t stretch far enough and thankless arguments with customers.
And she’d have to recall every last bit of it, too.
No, she decided. That wouldn’t do. Two of her friends it was.
She signed on the dotted line.
Britney hadn’t given up her friends to nearly the extent her new contract would require. She’d had plenty of free time under her first unofficial arrangement with Miss Taylor, though as service rentals had gone up (and as Miss Taylor had occasionally expanded the amount of time she rented Britney for) there had been less.
But one of the appeals of the original deal, before she came to understand how important Miss Taylor was to her, was being able to go out with her friends - not just having the time, but also having the money.
After signing on the dotted line, she started thinking immediately about who to ‘select, condition, and provide’ first. Miss Taylor refused to name names, saying the choice had to come from Britney. That left her with a problem; who to choose?
There were two different problems. She wanted to make sure Miss Taylor got good property; giving her someone who couldn’t make her maximum money would be letting her down. But she also wanted to make sure the woman rewarded with the opportunity to become good property deserved it.
She spent a sleepless night pondering the problem and couldn’t solve it, so she did the only thing that had come to her; a message to her friends asking who’d be happy to help her get moved in to her new home.
Just four women were both willing to help and available on the right day, but that was honestly more than Britney had expected.
There was Shirley, a striking redhead whose voice, worn coarse by nicotine, had always been much lower than you’d expect, with a punk do-it-yourself aesthetic and attitude. Deborah, whose dark-skinned beauty was accentuated by her choice to keep her head shaved, drawing the attention to piercingly charismatic brown eyes, always dressed in loose, muted tones and soft leather jackets, and concealed beneath an outwardly peaceful front a power and determination that Britney hadn’t seen anywhere else (except possibly Miss Taylor?).
Christina, on the other hand, had often been the subject of jokes about being Britney’s twin. Lastly, there was Stephanie, whose slim blonde looks were almost boyish, and who, new to the group, seemed to feel an overwhelming urge to please - she was always working hard to make up for not knowing all of the cliquish inside jokes.
All of them were older than Miss Taylor, which Britney thought privately was probably a point in their favour. Miss Taylor seemed to enjoy her employees and her property more if they were older than her.
Or was that just because older women had had to accept her help? Would it have the same results if Britney were the one to bring them in?
After all this service, Britney still didn’t know enough to anticipate Miss Taylor’s preferences. That… could be a problem. But this was also a test. A test of Britney’s judgement.
Looking over the other four as they chatted and joked around before everything started, Britney privately wondered if she should have asked Miss Taylor what perks she’d get for bringing her four new employees or items of property, not just two. Choosing was difficult; they’d clearly each have their own market. She had no idea which would be bigger, as she had only a basic idea of the services Miss Taylor was willing to rent.
So who to choose?
Over the course of the day, many boxes were packed, taped up, carried to the car, driven across town, unloaded, and chain-relayed into the house. Cries of “Chain gang” from the person currently carrying a box to bring it to the next in line became the joke of the day, a recurring motif they all took joy in. But they all did - she thought it was Shirley who’d started the joke, but that alone wasn’t enough to decide, was it?
As the work was nearly done, the pace slackened. Miss Taylor had graciously agreed to let Britney have the day in privacy, to assess and draw up her plans (Deborah had always been uncomfortable near her, and was still expressing some concern that Britney was continuing to stay with her, even if she agreed that the deal she thought Taylor was offering was too good to pass up).
They gradually came together as a group in the new kitchen, which Britney began setting up while Christina and Stephanie dug out the kettle, coffee, and mugs, brewing up coffee for everyone.
“This is a lot of kitchen gear,” Deborah commented. “Did you learn to cook recently?” Her tone was teasing, but then they’d been friends for years. Britney had always been working with ready meals, ramen, Hamburger Helper or the occasional half-assed pasta dish, and her friends knew it. Seeing microplane graters, measuring cups, and a garlic crusher was always going to provoke comment. The copper-bottomed saute pan also seemed a bit more expensive and serious-business than her friends anticipated.
“Oh, Mi- um. Taylor and I pooled our stuff. But - yeah, actually, I guess I have been.” She paused, considering. “I can whip something up for dinner for us all if you like, and maybe we can stick a movie on?”
There was a moment of contemplative silence, and even busily unpacking her kitchen equipment, Britney could feel four pairs of eyes burning a hole in her back.
It was Christina who finally laughed and said “Sure, why not?” which Britney could have predicted. It was Shirley who stood and said “Well, in that case, we need wine.”
Stephanie set down a coffee mug in Britney’s reach and then hurried back away. “Hang on, Shirley, I’ll come with. We can grab some chocolates or something to do our housewarming…”
The two of them left the house, Stephanie’s voice raised in chatter as the door closed behind her.
There was a moment of busy, companionable silence, which ended when Christina laughed. “Don’t worry,” she said. “You’ll still get your housewarming party.”
“Well, we’ll see,” Britney said. It wasn’t that she doubted Miss Taylor would give her an evening free to share with her friends; it was that she didn’t feel it was her right to ask for one. She owed Miss Taylor better service than that.
From the shift in the texture of the silence, she could feel Deborah and Christina exchanging looks, which also told her that Deborah must have been discussing Miss Taylor with Christina.
She bit her lip and kept her back turned. It was such a lovely day; she didn’t want anything to ruin it.
How dare Deborah suspect Miss Taylor of anything? Britney owed her new job, her financial security, her new home and much of her current passion for life to Miss Taylor.
Deborah’s rightful place would be beside Britney at Miss Taylor’s feet, she thought for a few moments.
But when Britney thought about it, she couldn’t imagine that she could condition her. And did Deborah deserve it?
She deserved to be chastised for her judgement. She didn’t deserve the bliss of property.
But Britney promised herself that, over the time she had left, she’d keep Deborah in mind for the second offering. If she could be brought to the position where she’d accept that Miss Taylor had only her best interests at heart and would make her life better, then why not?
No, considering the practicalities of conditioning Deborah had made it clear that her initial musings had run along completely the wrong lines for a project of this type.
It couldn’t be a question of who deserved it. She knew she had to pick someone suitable for Miss Taylor’s requirements, yes; she’d been quite correct to assume that.
But the other decision factor was rooted in her need to deliver them as required by her contract. She had to be able to condition them, overcome whatever level of resistance to it they might have, and provide them within six months.
Because while all of her friends might do well for Miss Taylor, while you could make cases for any of them deserving to serve her, Miss Taylor was the truly deserving.
...Did that mean that everything about this plan was a mistake? Could something else be better?
Britney reached out and picked up the steaming coffee mug, cradling it in her hands, taking it as an excuse not to turn around and show her expression. She had to think.
She reviewed her options for the group dinner and a plan began to form. Britney couldn’t help but smile.
Stephanie had helped her set the table. The others had remained in place around it; Shirley had appointed herself in charge of everyone’s wine glasses. Deborah and Christina were, for the most part, just keeping the conversation flowing. From time to time, Christina would meddle with the music, keeping the atmosphere bright. She’d always been the peacemaker, but not through any sense of the group’s conflicts. It was just about enjoying mellow, calm time; as she tweaked music or changed channels or just switched topics of conversation, she deftly but coincidentally steered the group away from frustrations.
She and Stephanie carried the big bowls of spaghetti and sauce across to the big round kitchen table, and Britney took charge of distributing food. Beginning with Shirley’s bowl, she flourished the pasta tongs in a big arc and made a point of twisting the spaghetti together in big, sweeping circles, more circles than you’d expect. She got the expected giggles from Christina, Deborah, and Stephanie, but her attention was on Shirley. As she swirled her tongs - and then as she ladled out the sauce in another slow whirl - her eyes were on Shirley’s, watching to see when she’d start to anticipate the swirl, to track it ahead of where it was.
Shirley started anticipating the pasta twist, and watched the entire sauce swirl from a position in front. Britney knew that as brash as she was, it’d be nice and simple for her to coax Shirley down into an initial trance.
She repeated the same process with Stephanie next, a little more confident (and if anything, wanting her confidence bolstered), and was unsurprised to see Stephanie fall into the same, susceptible pattern very quickly.
Christina went for it, too, perhaps just from the amount that had happened, perhaps because the group atmosphere was already a little tranquilised, with Britney always feeling ready to drop back down after so much time with Miss Taylor, and two of the others gently calmed and very slightly zoned out.
And perhaps that was what pushed Deborah toward the edge. Her eyes only started to anticipate just as Britney was running out of sauce, she didn’t seem like someone Britney would be confident in working with, in hypnotising. But there was something there, maybe. In the right atmosphere, with her guard down, that could be something.
The food was rich, portions were large, and it felt heavy in their bellies when they were done. Britney had made sure to stack the odds in her favour. Between Shirley’s wine and a full meal, at the end of a long, energetic day, this felt like prime operating position.
She let Christina pick the movie, knowing that this would lead to something very chill and relaxing. She wanted everyone calm and relaxed.
With an armchair and a sofa, Britney took the sofa, knowing this would lead to Shirley and Deborah taking the sofa, Christina laying on her front before the sofa, and Stephanie seated by the front of the armchair.
With everyone else’s attention on the film, Britney sat low in her armchair, reached forward, and took Stephanie’s head in her hands, holding it steady with a thumb behind each ear, a ring finger on each cheekbone, and two fingers resting on her temples.
She tilted her head down and said softly “You seem a little tense. Let me show you a trick I’ve learned…” Keeping her tone quiet enough that the others shouldn’t hear her, her fingers began to work at Stephanie’s temples.
Steph blinked twice, her eyes widening then unfocusing for a moment. The tiredness of the day and the tension of people-pleasing began to lose their grip on her head.
“This feels… good,” she said.
“I know,” Britney returned. “Shhhh…” She continued massaging away at Stephanie’s temples. Stephanie sat quietly for a few moments, her eyes closing briefly as she started to enjoy the massage. Then Britney spoke again, still quiet.
“You’ve been having a tough time lately,” she said. “But that’s OK. A lot of that’s just your frame of mind. Your work sucks as much as mine used to, right?”
“Sure,” Steph agreed, wondering where this was coming from.
“It’s hard to enjoy a job when you go in unhappy, or stressed, or whatever. Even a good job wouldn’t be fun like that. But we can change that, by changing how you feel at the start.”
Britney adjusted her grip slightly. To Stephanie it was uncanny how she could find her way from one stress knot to another, breaking up frustration after frustration, her other fingers keeping Steph’s head in one spot, making it easy for her to watch the movie (well, except that her eyesight kept focusing and unfocusing, and she wasn’t catching any of the dialogue.
With each point of tension that broke up, Stephanie felt a tingle run down her spine to her tailbone and up to the top of her head, her scalp tingling deliciously. She was a little out of it, but it was the good kind of out of it.
She set her wineglass down carefully, aware her hand had been moving, the wine sloshing, not wanting to stain the carpet on her friend’s first day in her new house.
“When did you learn this?” she asked quietly, her words slow and clumsy in her throat now. She couldn’t see Britney, but she heard a sigh, soft and contented, and suddenly knew with instinctive clarity: Britney had felt this before learning to do it.
“Oh, it’s new,” Britney told her. “But that’s not what matters. What matters is getting you a little happier, and a little more relaxed…” Her voice had completely changed. There was a friendly, confiding authority to her tone, as if she were excited to introduce Steph to her secret, but knew that it was still her secret.
“I feel really good these days, Steph. And I’d like you to feel good too, right?” Steph had no idea that Britney knew how to sound like this; her voice was slick and sweet as honey, drip-drip-dripping into Steph’s ears, making her mind sticky and slow. It felt so good she couldn’t help wanting to listen. If it could keep her scalp fizzing with easy delight, if her worry and stress could melt under those strong, talented fingers, she wasn’t going to do anything that might interrupt it.
“Oh yeah,” she agreed dreamily.
“So we want the same thing. That’s nice, that’s always nice. So I’m just going to show you my trick that helps with relaxation, and helps you feel so good, and we’ll talk about why I’m doing this, and what you might want to think about, later. But right now all you have to do is sit there and… relax.”
Something about the way she said that last word sent shivers down Steph’s spine. She felt so good, and she closed her eyes to feel it even more clearly.
“See how good that feels? Imagine if you felt like this every day. Imagine if you could abandon the way work makes you feel. If everything in your life made you relax, and the more you relax, the easier it is to relax, and the more you do, the less you need to pay attention, and the less you pay attention, the easier it is to…”
Steph was no longer listening. Britney’s words were filling her head without any need to listen. Paying attention would just get in their way. That wonderful touch, and the sound of her voice, filled Steph’s head to the exclusion of all else. She lost track of the movie. Forgot her friends. And then there was nothing.