Ariella awoke with a groan, feeling as though her head had been run over by a cement truck. What time is it? I wasn’t out drinking last night, was I? she thought, rolling over languidly. She picked up her phone from her nightstand, then nearly dropped it as she saw it was already well past noon.
What had happened last night? Ariella fought against the haze, trying to piece something coherent together. She had… gone to visit with the new client, she remembered. She’d been under the weather, so he called her a cab and she had gone home. She thought nothing of it. Everybody had off days. That knowledge didn’t make the pounding headache any easier to bear.. Hopefully Cindy had kept some breakfast warm for her. Maybe some coffee.
“Fucking finally! Deigned to join us in the realm of the living, Mistress?”
Oh, great. Lex. The slave was lying next to her, unadulterated fury in her eyes.
“I was supposed to work this morning! I couldn’t even reach my phone to call in sick without getting off the bed. Are you trying to ruin my life - no, that’s a foregone conclusion - but do you just not give a shit about me being stuck here for over five hours?” Lex spat.
“Ugh. Fine, fine, you can go, just don’t talk so loud,” Ariella groaned, flinching from the noise and the bright light as she sat up in bed.
Lex grabbed her phone as soon as Ariella gave the order, dialing a number with shaking fingers, although from fury or worry, she couldn’t tell. As Lex apologized to her boss for missing her shift, Ariella did feel a small pang of guilt for her careless instructions. She enjoyed watching Lex squirm, but boredom and trepidation weren’t exactly tools she liked to employ. There wasn’t any fun in it for her if she couldn’t get anything out of it - or at least get to watch.
“Slave, stop and look at me for a moment,” Ariella called as Lex was about to head out the door. She groaned, reluctantly turning around to lock defeated eyes with Ariella, ready for whatever punishment awaited her next.
“In the future if I don’t wake up by, say, nine in the morning, you can leave bed without permission. Understood?” Ariella said, pushing a whisper of power to ensure the command would stick. Was it a trick of the light, or did Lex’s eyes not flicker at the push? Ariella could have sworn her eyes stayed focused, but that was ridiculous.
“Am I supposed to thank you for that? Fuck, what has my life come to, when it’s a privilege to not be held against my will for hours at a time?” She held up a hand as Ariella began to speak, cutting her off. “I don’t want your apologies. Just… leave me alone,” Lex sighed, walking out of the room.
Ariella opened her mouth to chastise her slave for her rudeness, but decided she should just leave her alone. There would be plenty of time for punishment later. Today, though, she just needed to take it easy. This hangover was probably caused by stress. Stress could cause hangovers, right? That sounded reasonable, and what other explanation was there?
She groaned again as she stood up, feeling dizzy momentarially as her headache worsened, colors fuzzing in her vision. So she was dehydrated, too. Damn. Shakily regaining her balance, she walked into the living room, where Cindy was hard at work mopping. Thankfully, being a loyal slave, she seemed to sense the mood her Mistress was in. There was blissful silence as Ariella numbly ate some leftover breakfast - and, thankfully, there was coffee already made, cooling on the counter. Cindy was truly a gem.
“Mistress, I took the liberty of canceling your appointments for the day. I think you need rest. I hope that wasn’t presumptuous of me,” Cindy said quietly.
“No, you did well. Thank you,” she sighed. At least one of us has her wits about her.
It would do her no good to just lounge around the house all day. She needed to do something, get herself moving instead of wallowing in misery. Well, that was an easy choice. Physical activity never failed to wake her up.
Ariella set the weights down behind her, sitting up and breathing heavily. Her hangover seemed to have mostly run its course, with only a faint sense of dizziness left in its place. Although, it never did hurt to get in a little extra exercise in the name of keeping her body in perfect shape.
Well, she’d worked out for long enough. It was time to ramp down. She found that jogging tended to do that job nicely. She walked over to the elliptical machines, but to her annoyance someone was using each one. Well, that was no concern. With a little persuasion, one of the gym-goers would happily let her have a turn. She approached one of the older gentlemen, who looked to be almost finished anyway. She coughed politely, and he slowed down for a moment, meeting her eyes.
“Excuse me, sir. I’d like to use that machine. Would you kindly let me have a turn?” Ariella asked with a sweet smile, pushing the compulsion to obey into the man’s mind. To her surprise, his eyes stayed clear, his look of patient consideration unchanged.. It was no trick of the light this time.
The man shook his head. “I’ll only be twenty minutes more,” he said apologetically. Ariella frowned, pushing with renewed focus. She was right. His eyes didn’t flicker. She wracked her brain. Had this ever happened before? Perhaps the dizziness was interfering with her ability to focus on his eyes. That could be it.
“Is there a problem here, ma’am?” Ariella jumped as an employee approached them.
“Uh, no, ma’am. Would you please tell this gentleman to give me a turn on the machine?” Ariella replied, marshalling her will for another push, straining to keep her eyes steady.
“Ma’am, you’ll have to wait your turn over there until one of the machines is open. You don’t have priority over other members,” the employee replied with exasperation.
Ariella wanted to stay and try to figure out why her hypnotic power was suddenly failing her, but no, best not to make a scene. She should wait her turn over where the lady had indicated until one of the machines was open. She paused. Should I? If something was wrong with her powers, she shouldn’t be waiting around. But she needed to finish her exercises, so she needed to wait until a machine was open.
In a daze, she sat down on one of the lobby benches. Something was wrong, but she couldn’t quite place what. Her power hadn’t worked, but that could be explained by the dizziness. She didn’t trust so many coincidences at once, though.
She sighed. Ah, well. I’ll worry about that once I’ve waited until a machine is open. But that wasn’t right, was it? Shouldn’t she worry about it now? Why was she just listening to that woman’s -
Oh, no. I need to get out of here. I need to -
I need to wait until one of the machines is free.
She blinked in frustration, trying to will herself to get up, but it felt like a monumental effort of will. The bench was so comfortable, after all… and she needed to finish her exercises. Right?
The man got off the machine, and she practically bounded to her feet in shock. Had it really been twenty minutes? It had only felt like a few short moments of contemplation. She was finally up, released from her internal conflict, but she still felt uneasy. After all, if she was right… well, this was not a promising situation for her. She stepped out of the fitness center, walking back to the bus stop with a determined stride.
Her whole life had been built around the use of her hypnotic talent. She used it every day, both for work and for pleasure. How could she maintain her lifestyle if her power had gone on the fritz? She had plenty of money, and Cindy would happily take care of the daily chores, but the much more pressing concern was Lex. And the other thing. The mirroring-
She shook her head. Better to focus on issues she knew how to deal with. Without using her power, could she keep Lex in line? The slave was conditioned well enough to obey her commands without needing hypnotic - or supernatural - persuasion, but there was no telling how long that would last without reinforcement. She’d never tested whether or not her commands could be bent. Why would she have? Nobody besides her slaves had ever known enough about their own commands to bend them, and her slaves had their suggestions reinforced often enough. Well, like it or not, it seemed like Ariella’s control over her playthings was about to be put to the test.
As long as nobody realizes something is wrong with me, I should be fine.
The idea wasn’t very comforting.