Such Sweet Sorrow
Chapter 14: Inward Bound - July
Phil Lane & Freddie Clegg © 2010
BDSM Sex Story: Chapter 14: Inward Bound - July - A new story from Phil Lane & Freddie Clegg. Jenny returns to Inward Bound, where she learned so much of her submissive drives in "Thesis" (also available here at Storiesonline) but what does all this mean for Joe, her husband? Should he try to learn more of her desires?
8 Months, 263 Days After Jenny's Disappearance
a note of concern
When I got back from Korea, amongst all the bills and circulars, there was one letter which was different. The envelope was handwritten, in blue ink on warm cream-coloured paper. I opened the letter and read:
"Dear Mr McEwan,
I have just heard the distressing news about Jenny. My colleagues and I want you to know that you are very much in our thoughts and also how shocked we were, when we heard what had happened. When Jenny stayed with us, she was quite simply a delight: great fun and such good company. We are very glad we had the opportunity to meet her and to get to know her. On behalf of all us all, I do hope she is found soon.
With kind regards,
I spent several minutes reading and re-reading the letter. It was so unexpected, so thoughtful. Those few words 'When Jenny stayed with us, she was quite simply a delight: great fun and such good company. We are very glad we had the opportunity to meet her and to get to know her' were a real comfort. I was glad to know she had the same effect on others, as she had on me.
At first, I did not know what to do, but now I have decided to reply. I wonder if I am doing the right thing? After all, this is the woman who runs Inward Bound. Perhaps they are in some way to blame for what has happened? How much of what Jenny wanted was their fault? In spite of these worries, the tone of Corinne Aimes's letter spurs me on, so I reply:
Thank you for your thoughtful and unexpected letter and for the kind things you said about Jenny. I am sorry I have taken a while to reply to you. It's actually a great comfort to be able to talk about her. You might also know that she was exploring a part of her personality which was rather new to me and (as far as I was concerned) very foreign but now I would like to learn more about this aspect of Jenny. I wonder if we could meet you, or perhaps I could even come to visit you? Thanking you once more for taking the trouble to write.
With kind regards,
When she receives the letter several days later, Corinne pauses to reflect. During her stay at IWB, it became quite clear that Jennifer McEwan was a sexual submissive aching for fulfilment. Joseph McEwan's letter makes it clear that he was completely at sea with this aspect of his wife's personality.
"Should I see him?" Corinne ponders, "Still, why not take his statement at face value? Why not try to help him discover more about the girl he married?"
I take a day off from the job and, on a clear bright Friday, set off across the English midlands, heading south east towards Suffolk and Inward Bound.
In England, most major roads point towards London so journeys across the country always take more time than perhaps they ought, if distance were the only issue.
I finally reach Inward Bound just over three hours later. It's deep in the country; not somewhere many people would pass "by accident". It nestles in the fold between low hills and is surrounded by deciduous woodland. The sat nav brings me down a country lane with trees on each side up to an old high wall of crumbling bricks, overgrown by ivy.
I pass between two high gate posts but the walls follow the drive on either side forming a recess about twenty yards long. At the end stands another gate with an illuminated call button to one side. I leave the car and press the button:
"Hello: Is that Mr McEwan?"
"Yes, that's me."
"Hello, I'm Corinne. I'll open the gate for you."
The inner gate opens and I drive forwards down the winding main drive. I look up and glance in the rear view mirror. I can see that there is a thick hedge planted on the inside of the boundary wall, creating a double barrier. The garden is large. It looks almost rather like a municipal park, with banks of rhododendrons and other large flowering shrubs.
Finally the House comes into view. It's bigger than I expected and could have been built for a successful Victorian businessman, but there is an oddly 'institutional' air about it, too. I park at the front door, alongside a black Jaguar and get out.
As I approach the main door, it opens and a youngish woman, in her thirties I think, comes forward to greet me.
"Mr McEwan? Hello. I'm Corinne Aimes." She extends a hand.
Her voice is quite soft and reassuring, friendly. Somewhere, there is a trace of Irish in it.
"I've organised some tea upstairs. Come on in."
I follow her into a large reception hall which has an elegant Victorian tiled floor, pale walls and smells of polish.
We seem to be the only people here. I am glad about that; I do not know how I would have coped if I had been confronted by "masters" and "slaves".
Corinne's office is on the first floor with a view out onto the garden. We sit round a small table set with a tea pot, milk, biscuits and four cups.
"I have asked Charlotte and Josephine to join us. They'll be here in a minute or two"
"Ah. I've heard those names before," I say, "from Jenny."
"Yes, I am sure you would. Nothing bad I hope?"
"Not from Jenny's point of view. Mine, I'm not sure." Corinne lets the remark pass. I don't pursue it. I'm more interested in learning what I came here to discover, than in worrying about what anyone thinks of me. "So how long have you been here?"
"Five years now. We run two businesses; Huntingdon Management Training and Inward Bound."
"Hmm. The house is interesting..."
"Yes it is, and we were lucky to get our hands on it. You might remember in the 1990's that there was a move to get psychiatric patients out of institutions and into 'the community' and as a result many of the old 'asylums' were sold off."
"Mental asylums. That always had a sinister ring to it."
"I agree, but the original idea was very liberal and progressive: to provide a place of peace and safety – after all that's what 'asylum' really means - for people with mental illness. The problem was that it was too easy to just tidy people away and forget about them."
"And this is... ?"
"Yes, this is an old country asylum."
I chuckle. So have the original lunatics gone and been replaced with modern ones, I wonder? Looking at Corinne, though, that seems unfair and Jenny was nothing other than completely sane. What I actually say is: "Well, that's funny, because I thought this place had something of the institution about it, but I just could not put my finger on what it was. Now I know."
Two other women come and join us. Corinne introduces then as Charlotte (the taller one) and Josephine.
"So pleased to meet you at last," says Charlotte, smiling broadly.
"Yes, continues Josephine: Jenny was such a wonderful client, she was one of the people I hoped we could keep contact with."
"That's very generous," I respond. "Thank you for letting me come and speak with you."
"So how can we help?" asks Corinne, taking ownership of the conversation.
"Well, I am trying to learn some more about Jenny, and I hope that if she ever comes back, I can be ready for her, I mean I can be a better partner for her. Be more the person I think she wants."
"You don't think you were what she was looking for?"
"I thought I was, but since she came here, she has been different."
"In what way?"
"She has been like herself only much more so and she has been, oh how can I say it? Servile is the wrong word ... er, she was such a "good wife" all the time and it made me feel that I was taking too much from her."
"So how was she before?"
"Well, she was positive, fun, energetic, unexpected, surprising, sexy but, but conventional? No. Normal? Not quite. A bit of both really."
"And her Inward Bound experience changed her for the better or worse?"
"Well, neither. She was just different. It was as if the more edgy parts of her personality had grown, as if a two dimensional drawing had become 3-D"
"How did you feel about that?"
"I was frightened of the difference. I just did not know where it was going to end."
I pause. This is all very emotional. I'm not used to it. I'm not even sure why I am telling these strangers all this personal stuff. The three of them sit quietly, just looking.
Presently, I carry on. There's something about the three of them that seems to draw me out. "My dad was very traditional. He was a farmer. He worked very hard and seemed always to have such high expectations of my mum. As I grew older I began to notice. Sometimes, I thought he could be quite cruel. Unnecessarily cruel. Always demanding. Never satisfied. I decided that I was never going to be like that with my wife, if I ever got married. Then, when Jenny came home from here, the way she was behaving to me, just reminded me of the way the way Mum was with Dad. How he had beaten her into submission or into the person he wanted. It brought back bad memories. I felt really sad and anxious. I really didn't want things to be like that, between Jenny and me. Specifically, I don't want to be like him..."
"Did you say this to Jenny?" Corinne's question is delivered quietly. She is obviously concerned, but I think she knows the answer.
I shake my head. "No I kept it to myself. I just hoped that things would get back to what they were before, I suppose."
"And did they?"
"No. Jenny just got better, at being different. At first I'm ashamed to say I found it all a bit embarrassing. The shaven head. The nose ring. It was just, well, not what you expect."
"Very sexy though, don't you think?" asks Josephine.
"Ah, yes, in my dreams they are very wild and sexy things for some people to do."
"But not for Jenny?"
"Not for my Jenny. It was so up front and blatant."
"Would you say you were quite shy, yourself?"
"I think so, at least until I know where I am with people."
"So with Jenny being so – what might it seem like? – brazen? I guess you must have felt even more shy, wondering what people might think of you?"
"Yes, that's about it. There was all that, as well as the reminder of my parent's relationship. Actually, I'm ashamed of feeling the way I did."
"Would it matter if Jenny was enjoying herself?"
"Yes, it would matter very much because I want Jenny to enjoy herself. To be fulfilled. I want her to be able to spread her wings and fly! I don't want to force her to be the person I want her to be."
"But you said that when Jenny began to fly - if we stay with that picture - you were ... let's say dismayed?"
"Yes. I know it's really a double standard but I guess most of us manage to have some things like that. And anyway, they say you should be careful what you wish for." Corinne looks sympathetic. "What's worse though is that I'm heartbroken by the thought that maybe Jenny went away of her own accord. To get away from me. Because I was not what she wanted anymore."
"Do you think that's what happened?"
"No, not really."
"Because the last time I spoke to her was just a few minutes after we had parted. It was on the 'phone. She was saying she had done something naughty and then the connection broke and ... and then there was nothing. Before though, before we were cut off, there was laughter in her voice. I don't think that's what you do, if you are talking to your spouse and you are in the middle of running away from them."
"No. I'm sure you're right. That's not what people do. Jenny was a bit naughty when she first came here, did you know?"
"Yes. At first she told us that she was, if I can quote her, 'trying to find out if BDSM experience was as good in reality as it was in her imagination.' That wasn't really why she came. Or rather it wasn't all of why she came. Can I ask if this is something you both played with when you were together?"
"Absolutely not. Sorry, that sounded a bit aggressive. No, we didn't. Well, not till after Jenny came back from here. It had made a deep impression on her. I guess she was even more anxious to get me involved."
"To get you to share?"
I hadn't really thought about it like that before but yes, I suppose she did just want me to share. I nod.
"Ah. Did you enjoy it? Were you giving or receiving?"
"Jenny wanted me to be the giver, if that's the word."
"Top: that's the word. Jenny wanted you to be the Top or the Dom. Anyway, it came out that Jenny came here to collect data for her PhD and she had not told us first."
"I am sorry about that."
"Don't apologise. We devised a very suitable punishment for her. Did she tell you?" Corinne chuckles. For the first time I realise that she gets as much fun out of this as, Jenny evidently did.
"I'm not sure. I suppose I didn't really listen when she was telling me about it all. Frightened at the thought of what I might hear."
"Yes you have said."
"Also, I suppose that I thought that this would all be down to the involvement of Angela."
"Professor Dawney, Jenny's boss. Well, I say 'boss'; it's a bit more complicated than that. You know that Jenny was doing research? Her PhD project was being supervised by Professor Dawney – Angela. She had Jenny do this project on adult play and stress. I think she thought you were a 'good laboratory model'. But Angela and Jenny had an affair together before Jenny and I got married and I suppose I have always been a bit suspicious of the Professor. When I got back to the UK and found out what Jenny had been up to, it all sounded like just the sort of thing Angela would do. Trying to manipulate Jenny away from me and back into her own arms."
"Ah ... and was Jenny still... interested in Angela?"
"No. Not at all. At least that's what I thought. What I still think."
Ah, thinks Corinne. Now this could explain quite a lot. Specifically, it could explain why the Professor tried to cut short Jenny's time at IWB. Maybe, as Joseph fears, she was trying to get Jenny under her control again and using us to encourage her to become more compliant by the consensual slave training Jenny was receiving? That would make Professor Dawney one devious bitch!
"So why are you here now?" asks Charlotte.
"That's the $64,000 question. I've thought a lot about the answer. Let me tell you something about my job," I say. "I'm an engineer and I work a lot with large concrete castings. Sometimes we make these on site and sometimes they arrive pre-cast. Either way, you start with an empty mould, pour the concrete in and when it sets, that's your bridge parapet or bridge pier or whatever. On their own, the moulds just look like empty boxes or rings or whatever, but they contain all the details that the casting has to have. It's almost like a photographic negative. I suppose that I think of you, of Inward Bound, as the mould that Jenny was trying to pour herself into. I can't talk to Jenny herself anymore, but I can look at the moulds and I can try to understand the person she was becoming, by looking at the shapes which she was using to build herself."
"That is the most poetic way I have ever heard anyone talk about concrete!" says Josephine.
Her comment defuses the anxiety I have been feeling. I laugh. She laughs. We all laugh.
Corinne gets up: "Come on Joseph. Let's show you around; show you how we cast concrete."
In many ways, I am glad to get out of her office. It seems to draw a line under the rather introspective conversation we had been having. On the other hand, I'm a bit worried about what I'm going to see. It's a bit like stepping on to a ride at a theme park.
"So this is the upper floor of the original main building. We have room for guests to stay, offices to run the business and one or two rooms for the guests."
"You mean people like Jenny?"
"No, I mean guests in the conventional sense of the word. I will show you where Jenny stayed, when she was having her adventure, later on. It's in another part of the house. When they are here for as long as Jenny was, the challenge is keeping them occupied. We like to set exercises for them every day and the trick is to maintain their interest throughout the course, by giving them new challenges each day. We have designed what you might call a syllabus, but for people who come back for more, it's a constant challenge."
"People come back for more?"
"They certainly do."
"Well, that's a sign you are living up to expectations."
"We like to think so, but we really want to exceed expectations!"
We tour the dining room, kitchens and go outside to see some more modern buildings containing a gym and even a swimming pool.
"You've put a lot of investment into this."
"Yes, but don't forget this didn't happen overnight. We were able to take advantage of various business start up grants and then there is the management training company which has also provided a very steady background income. Also, one of our team is an architect. That gives us very good contacts in the building world, so we've spent rather less than we might have done, if we were without the benefit of his inside knowledge. Finally, we were lucky enough to attract some significant investment from another company who were impressed by the way we had developed our niche in the market."
"I hadn't realised this was all run on such commercial lines."
"It's a business, like any other. We have customers, we employ people we have expenses, we pay taxes. Our cash flow problems are no different from anyone else's."
"I can see. Now sorry, I interrupted you. I think you were going to talk about your clients, or whatever it is you call them and anyway I'd like - I think I am now brave enough - to hear what Jenny went through."
"Of course. One of the first things we do is help the – and yes, we call them the 'slaves' – help the slaves get themselves into the right mood. We try to start things off so they realise that this might be a slightly edgy experience. One of the first exercises we do is to give them a opportunity to take simple instructions and obey."
"OK. Well I guess that's what they come for, what Jenny came for."
"I'm afraid Jenny fell at the first fence!"
"Well in their joining instructions we asked then all to wear particular clothes, to have their hair crew cut and to have an ear piercing done. It's all reversible over the time they are with us. Hair grows so they are not going to be short for a long time and if you take the piercing out it will heal without a scar."