"Do you ever feel like we're losing track of time?" I asked James one day as we lay together resting after a very satisfying bout of lovemaking.
"Maybe a little," James said looking thoughtful. "Why do you ask that?"
"Because without consulting the AI I'm not sure I could tell you how long we've been on Heinlein Station," I answered, blushing a little.
"Why don't you write your story? Not just what has happened since you got picked up, but what brought you into the Starbucks where I picked up you and the rest of the family," James told me.
"Do you think anyone would be interested in my story?" I asked.
"Yes I do. If no one else is interested in your story, some day your children will probably want to know how they got here."
"If you're sure... ," I trailed off, embarrassed.
"Yes Frances, I'm sure. In fact, I'll write my story too. And I'll encourage all the other people here to write their stories as well. After all, everyone has been grousing about how boring the watches are." I thought about that the next time I had a watch shift. Sergeant Staunton noticed the fact that I was a bit distracted when I showed up and asked me what the problem was. "James asked me to tell my story," I answered.
"You mean write it or have the AI record it?" she asked. I nodded. "I think that is a wonderful idea."
Thus I began to tell my story during my watches. This is my story: My name is Frances Isabelle Parker nee Smith. I am a concubine, my master, my lover, my all is James Emerson Parker. By the time James picked me out to go with him, I was convinced that I'd never make it to being a concubine, which unfortunately was the only way I was going to get to rescue my children from the Sa'arm.
I guess I should, on that note, tell a little about my life before I got picked up. As far back as I can remember I lived with my mommy and daddy. I will tell the high points though there are very few, and some of the low points of my life.
I'll start by talking about my daddy, Mr. Smith. Yeah he taught me to be just that formal -- that he was Mr. Smith to everyone including me when I wasn't at home. I don't know when the first time he told me I had Riley's luck was but it was something that always seemed present in my life. I guess by that he meant that even when things that might seem good happened, that somehow it turned out badly for me in the end.
One conversation that stands out to me was something that my daddy said about me while talking to my mother. "Lena, I swear Frances has Riley's luck." I don't know how old I was when that conversation took place. Old enough to know that Daddy and mommy didn't want me to hear them discussing me. Not old enough then to realize that Daddy was disparaging me though, that came later.
"I know," Mommy said, "and she's already so fat the kids are calling her Miss Piggy or a beached whale."
"And whose fault is that?" my daddy sneered. I don't remember seeing his face but I'd heard that tone before when he was using words to hurt someone. "You're either on the bottle or so busy trying to keep ahead of the neighbors that you don't pay attention to what she's eating."
One of those things that might have seemed lucky was me being among the first of the girls in my class to get titties. Except that they were mostly a product of me being so overweight. Another thing that might have seemed lucky was when I made friends with a neighbor of ours, Mr. Jacob, who taught me what my coochie was all about. I thought he was wonderful and denied that he had hurt me even when everyone said I was lying about it. But what did they know? By the time I made Mr. Jacob's acquaintance I didn't just have titties, I was the heaviest girl in my class and fast on my way to the shape that I'd gained by the time James picked me up.
Thus when after another miserable day at school the old man next door leaned against the fence and said, "You look like you lost your last friend," I just started pouring my heart out to him.
One of the first things that popped out of my mouth was, "I'm fat and ugly and everyone hates me!" Then I burst into tears. Mr. Jacob sat down next to me and held my hand. I was so hungry for any scrap of kindness that it never occurred to me that that was something he shouldn't be doing.
When I stopped bawling and looked around Mr. Jacob said, "I bet you would like something cold to drink."
I gulped back one last sob and looked intently into his face. He didn't have the sneer that I saw when my mommy or daddy or any of my peers caught me crying. I didn't see that at all. Instead he looked me squarely in my eye and asked, "What are you going to do about those nasty brats?"
"I'd like to kill them all!" I said angrily.
"Could you kill them all?" he asked.
"No... ," I said after really thinking about his question. He didn't look like he was looking for a way to torment me. Indeed it seemed like for the first time in my life someone was validating my feeling of being violated by the behavior of my peers.
"Then why are you thinking foolish things like that or about killing yourself?" he asked. That set me to bawling again. It felt like he'd just hit me hard with an invisible knife.
I didn't cry quite as long as the last time and when I stopped I choked out, "H ... ho ... how d ... di ... did you know I was thinking of that?"
"If you were engaging in the foolish fantasy of mass murder but were aware enough to know it was a futile thought then you were thinking about suicide too," He told me flatly. His statement ripped open another scar in my psyche and I cried some more. Not too much though, I was emotionally and physically exhausted from my earlier bouts of crying. When I stopped crying I realized that he was holding my hand softly. He pulled me off the bench where I'd been sitting and led me to his house. If any thoughts of danger crossed my mind they were fleeting. Both my daddy and mommy knew Mr. Jacob and spoke to him occasionally.
When Mr. Jacob led me into his house he got some lemonade out of his refrigerator and poured me a glass. Then he ran cold water over a cloth. "When you're finished with that lemonade you can put that on your face so that you won't look like you've been crying for half an hour."
I looked at the clock on his wall and said, "I have to be home before 6:30."
"It wouldn't do for you to irritate your father," Mr. Jacob said in a way that seemed to me to indicate that he thought that my daddy was not reasonable about where I might be. I nodded. "Well don't cut your time too close but if you get some ice to put with that cloth it will help keep your face from showing your distress."
I thought about that for a couple of moments while I drained the glass of lemonade that Mr. Jacob had given me. "Can you give me a little ice and let me know when it's about ten minutes after six?"
Mr. Jacob got some ice and put it in the cloth. He handed it to me and led me to a reclining chair. "Have a seat here and rest a bit," he suggested.
I did that, closing my eyes and leaning back in the soft chair with a cool cloth over my eyes. I went to sleep. My weeping jag from earlier in the afternoon caught up to me and my mind demanded rest.
"Frances, Frances," someone was shaking me gently and calling my name. My face was cold and I felt a good deal more distant from my body than I usually did when waking up. I was sitting in a soft chair and didn't recognize the voice that said more urgently, "Frances, honey it's time to wake up. You need to go home now."
Go home? I thought, then I remembered that I'd gone to Mr. Jacob's house with him. I didn't think that was among the things that Daddy forbade me to do. But I was certain that it would be if I was not home when he got there. I sat up and urgently tried to get out of the chair. Mr. Jacob helped me out of the chair by gently pulling on both of my hands when I tried to lever myself up using the arms of the chair. "You come back and visit me and I'll help you decide what you can really do about the brats you go to school with," Mr. Jacob said as he let go of my hands and I headed out his back door.
A thrill of fear and excitement shot through me then. I knew that there was no way that my daddy would want me to go to someone else with my problems. Not that he would help me solve my problems but rather that doing that would be me escaping his sphere of control.
Sometime later that evening after enduring a miserable meal with my parents I stood in the doorway of my closet and wondered what I should wear the next day. I think that was the first time I ever did that. As I looked over my wardrobe I wondered if Mr. Jacob would think I was pretty. Then I nearly burst into tears for at least the fourth time that day. That was something I desperately wanted to avoid. If either my daddy or mommy saw me crying or the evidence that I had been crying they would be sure to have some emotionally cutting remark to make about me being a crybaby.
To be charitable my wardrobe was paltry, it consisted of jeans and sweaters with a few t-shirts. I had one skirt that was at least a year old and a couple of button up blouses that I'd refused to wear because of the teasing I endured at school. I pulled out the skirt and tried it on. It was very tight. The same was true of both blouses. I couldn't button them at all so they would go to charity. I headed back to our living room and took them with me. Mommy was in a sober and nasty mood that indicated that she'd probably be hitting the bottle hard in the next day or two. I walked in and said, "I've outgrown these," as I held up the blouses.
"I hope you don't think that we're going to buy more clothes that you refuse to wear," Mommy said sourly.
"Maybe I could try one on at the store?" I asked hopefully.
"Have you got a boyfriend?" Mommy asked. She didn't give me time to answer before she said, "You better not have a boyfriend. You're much too young to be thinking about boys."
I shook my head in denial. I wasn't thinking of boys. I was wondering about Mr. Jacob. The kindness he'd shown me today made him the most interesting person in my life. As if he'd heard my inmost questions my daddy's head came up. He looked at me, and it wasn't a kind look at all. He turned to Mommy and said, "Lena, look at the pig. She's about to pop the seams on that pair of jeans she's got on and her t-shirt is indecent."
"What am I gonna use for money?" Mommy whined.
"There should be enough to get the pig some clothes so that we don't look like we're harboring a homeless person," Daddy sneered at mommy. I wanted to run and hide under the stuff in my closet because a fight was about to break out. But I didn't dare move. I was frozen like a mouse in the gaze of a snake.
"Why do you always pick on Frances?" Mommy whined. I could tell that she really didn't care about me so much as she cared that Daddy had insinuated that she was letting me make the family look bad.
"Maybe you ought to hope that she is interested in a boy or that someone will be interested in taking her off of your hands, Lena. Then you wouldn't have to worry about her. Of course you would have to worry about drowning in your own puke some day. But if Frances gets a boyfriend and gets out of the house it ought to make you happy," Daddy ranted.
Mommy seemed to notice me then and sneered at me while saying, "Get out of here, piglet! I've got things to discuss with your father that aren't any of your concern."
I got, barely waiting to get Daddy's nod indicating that he wasn't going to make me witness the fight that he and Mommy were going to have. Hiding (and sleeping) in the corner of my closet didn't keep me from hearing the high volume discussion that my parents were having. At least that was the way they described their shouting matches when they were in public together. I cried myself to sleep that night. It was far from the first time I'd done that, but I hoped that with Mr. Jacob's help I could think of a way to get out of my home, which was a pool of poison.
Mommy didn't have any bruises that I could see (though I could have sworn I heard her being repeatedly hit last night) when I tried to sneak through the house on my way to school. Unfortunately even though mommy was hitting the bottle (I could tell by the liquor on her breath) she wasn't far enough gone for me to get out without drawing fire from her as it were. "Where do you think you're going looking like you've been sleeping under a bridge for a week?" Mommy demanded to know as I headed across the living room.
It was the thought that Mr. Jacob might disapprove of my lack of care more than my fear of Mommy that had me glance at the clock and decide that a quick shower was in order. I headed back to my room much more quickly than I'd been skulking out of it. I needed a change of underwear and different clothes. I knew I'd been wearing my current outfit for at least two days. I picked up a different pair of jeans and a clean sweater. Then I rushed through a shower. I nearly ripped my hair out trying to get it brushed because I knew that I was probably pushing the time I would need to get to school quite a bit.
I rushed through the living room not even stopping when I heard Mommy say, "Frances! You stop and tell me about the boy who has you worried about how you dress."
I'd caught a glance at the clock on the living room wall and I didn't have time to listen to Mommy kvetch about my behavior. Besides, I thought, neither she nor Daddy really deserved much respect from me. They were nearly as cruel as the kids at school were and they were supposed to be my parents and protecting me. They did neither. I didn't know what I would do or how I would manage it but that day I made the decision that I would not stay in my parents' house a moment longer than necessary. The day I turned 18, I promised myself as I nearly ran the half mile to school, I would leave even if I did have to live under a bridge.
By the time I reached the school, barely in time to beat the first bell of the day, my nipples were burning points against the front of my shirt. I wasn't used to the amount of movement that I'd done this morning and hadn't realized that I'd literally flop around in my shirt and irritate my very sensitive nipples. One good thing that arriving so near the time that classes did was that it limited the time the other kids had to harass me. I made a decision then that I would do my best to acquire a watch so that I could time a walk that would be comfortable. I rather thought that my aching nipples would be the least of the aches I paid for today's scramble to get to school.
School was pretty much the same gauntlet as ever of kids poking at me verbally. It wasn't new but it seemed incredibly less important than it had yesterday. Mr. Jacob had promised that he would help me do something about it. The only dark spot of the day was getting a note to take home to my parents. It seemed that my aching nipples had highlighted the fact that I wasn't wearing a brassiere. I took part of my lunch period to see if I could catch up with the home-EC teacher in the home-EC room. I wanted to ask if she could help me alter the skirt that I'd tried on last night.
I peeked in the door hoping that Ms Tannenbaum was taking her lunch at her desk as she did at least a couple of time a week. Apparently my tendency to bad luck was not in play today. "Ms Tannenbaum," I said hesitantly as I waited at the door.
"Yes?" She said, "you're not in one of my classes," she added after I didn't say any more.
"No ... but I'd like to ask if you could help me with something," I said softly.
"I may be able to if you tell me what it is you want help with, Ms?" her voice rose a little at the end in turning her response into a question.
I realized that Ms Tannenbaum didn't know my name and I said, "Frances Smith, I'll probably have your class next year."
"So Frances," the pretty young teacher said, "what brings you here when you should be eating lunch?"
"I was hoping that you could show me how to alter this." I extracted my skirt from my backpack. "So I could wear it a bit longer and maybe show me how to use one of the sewing machines so I could do it here," I rushed out before I had a chance to change my mind about what I wanted to say or ask.
Ms Tannenbaum frowned at my skirt or at me, I wasn't sure which but I started to back out of the door fearing that I'd upset her. "Frances, does that even fit you?" she asked, holding up her hand as if to halt my departure. I nodded as I froze in place.
Ms Tannenbaum pointed to a small alcove in the back of the classroom and said, "Prove it."
I scurried into the changing booth and skinned out of my jeans. I put the skirt on though it seemed even tighter today than it had last night. Still it did fit even if it was threatening to rip apart at the seams. The mirrors in the changing area showed me a vision of myself stuffed into the skirt that threatened to show my underwear. My hair was an unruly mess that proved that I never paid any attention to myself. I hesitated about going out. But I knew that if I wanted to wear this skirt, and I thought I did want to see what Mr. Jacob thought of it, I would need to have it altered at least enough that I didn't burst the seams.
I slowly went out the door to prove that I could wear the skirt after a fashion. "Do you have a boyfriend, Frances?" Ms Tannenbaum asked when she saw me. I shook my head as I blushed and found that my tongue was quite tied. "I can tell you that skirt will violate the school policy with regard to clothing." I frowned but nodded.
"I don't intend to wear it to school... ," I almost whispered.
"So who are you wearing it for?" Ms Tannenbaum asked. The look in her eyes told me that she appreciated my skirt. I didn't know what to think about that. Too many new experiences and situations were being thrown at me for me to process my feelings about them. I knew I wanted Mr. Jacob to at least verify that I was female. I thought I should feel a bit uncomfortable knowing that Ms Tannenbaum found me desirable but somewhere deep inside I felt a sense of power bubbling up. I didn't yet know what I would do about it. The only thing I was sure of was that if either of the adults who had paid me positive attention was to ask, I would probably do most anything they suggested.
I didn't want to say whom exactly so I said, "A neighbor."
"Does he go to school here?" she asked.
I blushed while shaking my head emphatically. "You know that if he is an adult and has sex with you that he is breaking the law?"
"I don't think he's interested in me that way at all," I blurted out.
"Frances, the only man or boy over the age of 13 who isn't interested in looking at you at least is blind or a eunuch," Ms Tannenbaum said. "Now get up on that stool so I can see what is going on," She pointed to a fairly solid platform that had a couple of steps leading up to it. I thought it looked like a tiny stage in a way. As if the platform in a music box had been transformed to full size and transported into her classroom. I went up the steps and stood in the center of the platform. "Come here," Ms Tannenbaum tapped the side of the platform near where she stood. I followed her instruction and moved 'til my feet were about six inches from the edge. I looked down and realized that my waist was now level with or just a bit above Ms Tannenbaum's head. I blushed when I realized that she could possibly see my panties.
She confirmed my fear a second later when she asked, "Frances is that the only pair of underwear you own?" I shook my head. The panties I had on weren't my only pair but the rest were of a similar style and amount of wear. "I think," Ms. Tannenbaum seemed to muse, "that if you're willing to invest the time, that I can teach you what you'll need to know in order to modify your skirt. I'll even help you with choosing a couple of different underwear patterns that will be better suited for wearing with a skirt like that one will be when you're finished."
Ms Tannenbaum's offer of help was too much for me and I started to weep. Somehow Ms Tannenbaum managed to get me down from the platform that she'd called a stool and I found myself cradled in her arms as she rocked me in an easy chair that seemed to be part of the decor of the room. Only the ringing of the bell to warn students that lunch was over disturbed us enough for me to lift my head and look at Ms Tannenbaum and sniffle while saying, "I need to get to class."
"I think you ought to stay here, or better yet go to the nurse's office and see the counselor there," Ms Tannenbaum said.
I shook my head emphatically. The note I had to take home regarding my clothes was more than enough to cause me problems at home. If the school called and asked permission for me to see the psychologist who was on staff the trouble would at least double. "Trouble... ?" Ms Tannenbaum started.
"Everywhere," I said before she could finish what I thought might be a guess of 'at home'.
"Frances," Ms. Tannenbaum said, looking very serious, "Bullying is not allowed in school. If someone is bullying you the only way it will stop is if you tell someone."
I shook my head and said the only thing that made sense, "Too many to name."
If I thought that was going to stop Ms Tannenbaum I found out it would not. Her eyes heated and she said, "What grade are you in?"
I told her because her demand for information was too urgent for me to pass off. She frowned even more and said, "I knew you were young, but Frances, I hate to see a girl your age even thinking about boys or men."
What could I say to this woman who seemed to be the second person in my life to show me any care at all? I couldn't tell her about my home life and telling her that I felt like everyone at school was harassing me over my weight would just seem like whining when she had just made herself available to me. "I don't know if I'm thinking about boys or men. I just want to have something attractive to wear," I said as a compromise.
"Well I won't do the sewing for you and you'll have to buy the material you use but I can help you learn to do a good job if that is what you want."
"How much do you think the material for the skirt and maybe a couple of nice pairs of panties will cost?" I asked. I was a bit worried because I really didn't have much in the way of money.
She named a figure, and though it wasn't high I still knew it was beyond my means. "Too much?" Ms Tannenbaum guessed. I nodded. "Well I think there might be a few scraps that would work for small items like a pair of panties or to give you a bit more room in the waistband of that skirt. Are you sure you have to go back to class?"
"If I don't go to class I need an excuse," I said quietly.
"I think I need to take you to the principal's office."
I tried to get away from her but she wasn't letting go of my arm. "Don't worry about your parents finding out about this. There are things that we're allowed not to tell them like you reporting being the victim of a sexual assault. Or needing to ask questions about sex. I teach sex ed. and I will tell the principal that you found one of my handouts and are asking questions that should be answered today."
"B ... b ... but I ... I ... I'm n ... not a student here," I stuttered out.
"That doesn't matter. I'll call from here to let the principal know that my next period class may need to be covered. We're in the same district. Heck the only thing separating your school from this one is a fence with open gates," she said as she gently pulled me along to a phone on the wall.
"Can I put my pants back on?" I asked, remembering what Ms. Tannenbaum had said about my skirt being out of compliance with the school rules about clothing. She nodded tightly at me and I headed to the changing area. It was a struggle to get into my jeans and truly now that I had an inkling that Ms Tannenbaum might look at me in a sexual fashion I wasn't sure that they made much difference. After all they were tight enough for me to be in danger of bursting their seams as well.
When I returned from the changing area Ms Tannenbaum had a brochure in her hand. It had a picture of two girls or women kissing on the front. "Hold this so that the principal can see it when we go in his office. I'll tell him you have questions about it that are best answered today. He won't want to ask you any questions and he will square the rest of the day with your school and principal if I say it will take that long. And before you say it shouldn't I'll tell you this Ms Smith, I think you need weekly visits with our counselor."
I shook my head urgently at her last suggestion. I knew that no matter how much the school tried to keep the information from getting back to my parents they, most especially my daddy, would find out and then I'd have at least torment at home to go with whatever additional torment the kids at school thought up for me when they discovered that I was seeing the counselor.
"I can't force you to go to the counselor," Ms Tannenbaum said, "but from your actions I'd guess that your problem with that isn't only related to the other students. If I thought you were being abused at home in any way that would show I'd demand that the nurse examine you for evidence of physical abuse, but you only act like you're being harassed. And unfortunately no matter what the policy on bullying is, the reality is that we can't stop it."
I nodded sadly at Ms Tannenbaum's admission. I knew from experience that what she was telling me was true. I didn't like it but had to admire her for being so brutally honest with me. She looked me over and I thought I saw a hint of wanting in her perusal. It caused butterflies to start to fly around in my stomach or something. I know that very suddenly my nipples were again burning points at the tips of my breasts. "You're more temptation than I should have to put up with," Ms Tannenbaum groused as she gently tugged me into the hall way and led me by my hand toward the principal's office.
As we walked I realized that I felt full down below. Almost as if I needed to use the restroom. Yet I was pretty certain that was not the case. Still my jeans were rubbing me through my panties and making me feel hot and full. My nipples felt the same way for some reason and I wondered just what was going on. All the changes that were taking place with me wanting to be noticed; wondering if Mr. Jacob would notice me, realizing that Ms Tannenbaum had noticed me and thinking about the girls on the cover of the brochure seemed to be sending very confusing signals to my mind and body.
I thought that I'd be miserable in the office what with the way my day had gone up to this point. I was wrong, Ms Tannenbaum brought me in for a few minutes while she told the principal that I had found the brochure or booklet that she'd handed me. The principal, Mr. Vance, took one look at it when Ms Tannenbaum had me set it on his desk so that he could see it and turned an interesting shade of red. He asked where I'd found it and I said against the fence between my school and the high school.
Mr. Vance made sure he knew what my schedule was for the rest of the day and then told me that in a few minutes someone would be delivering my assignments for the day. "Ms Smith," he'd said, "it seems to me that you don't need to have any more turmoil today. Therefore you can work on your next assignments here," he'd pointed to a desk that was set up facing the wall. Evidently I wasn't the only student who needed to work here for some reason.
Since I didn't have my assignments yet and I was curious about the brochure that Ms Tannenbaum had given me I decided that now was as good a time as any to peruse it. The handout was a fairly clinical description of sex. It told me the medical names for my body parts like breasts, vulva, labia, clitoris, and vagina. It had line drawings that weren't much more detailed than the silhouettes that were used to designate the boy's and girl's restrooms. In short, because it provided information in the flattest possible way the brochure was being what I suspected it to be designed to be; in a word: Boring.