"That is not correct."
Sherry collapsed back in her chair. So close!
The usual hushed assessments rustled around the circle. Six of the girls, including Sherry, were only a point away from winning. Five of the others were only two away. Tran, the new girl, silenced by stage fright, had forfeited her last question, and was short by three.
It was the most evenly matched game anyone could remember. That was partly luck, but also skilled play; one of the goals was to get as many players as possible as close to winning as could be.
"The next question is..." The girls held their breath while Mr. Marshall drew the slip from the owl cookie jar and read it off. Several of the girls could barely restrain themselves from blurting the answer before he finished. It was so obvious!
Restrain themselves they did, though, and it paid off. Their teacher drew a ball from the kitten jar, and held it up for all to see: "Number 6! Glenda?"
All eyes turned to Madam Class President. Eleven bottoms quivered on their seats. Glenda was a one-pointer. She always knew the answer, and she was very beautiful, with her pale skin and ash blonde hair punctuated by storm-gray eyes. She was second oldest in the class by two months. Neither the tallest nor most developed, she was nevertheless statuesque through sheer carriage. She was serene rather than aloof, unfailingly kind, an arbiter of conflict and an anchor to the storm-tossed. Not for name alone was she known as the Good Witch.
She nodded at the girl sitting next to her. "I cede to Tran."
Well! If whispering can be said to explode, the class exploded. Mr. Marshall had to shush them. It wasn't that Glenda had never passed on a winning play. Rather than taking every game, as she easily could have, she often pretended some amusing error to avoid the honor if the lots turned too far in her favor. Nevertheless, generous as she was, Glenda never, ever ceded anything to anybody.
Tran, shy Tran, introduced to the class midterm less than a month ago, and playing her first game, was again frozen. As always, her waist length straight black hair hid her face.
"Permission to coach, sir?"
Mr. Marshall was strict, and requests to coach were neither often made nor often granted, but his students knew he wanted them all to succeed. New girls often had difficulty with their first game, and Glenda had, after all, put Tran on the spot very much against her wishes. He nodded.
Glenda turned to lay her hand on Tran's knee.
"Tran? Take a deep breath, honey. Good. Another. In your own time."
Oh, Glenda was so caring! So calming! Ten hearts melted. Well, let's be honest, they'd been a little mushy to begin with; all the girls nursed crushes on her to some degree. Unrequited, every one, though none were neglected; Glenda spread her sparse favors, as class exercises demanded, with complete neutrality and no commitment.
Tran was blushing, unable to look away from the hand on her knee.
"You'll be fine, sweetheart. You can do it. Look, everyone wants you to win!"
And indeed, everyone was nodding, although some of the one-pointers seemed a bit surprised to be doing so. Such is the power of leaders.
The rules on cedes were strict. The time limit was suspended, within reason, but you had to answer eventually, you couldn't forfeit. The penalties else were severe, far beyond the regular playful rebuke Tran had already paid.
Tran whispered something.
"Tran? I think you're right, but you need to say it out loud." Glenda actually got out of her seat, and knelt before Tran, sitting on her heels. She took the stricken girl's hands in her own. "Look at me, Tran. Only at me. Tell me the answer."
The world came to a halt. Even the imperturbable Mr. Marshall held his breath.
Would Tran take an error? There was no real penalty, but points weren't everything, and Glenda was one of the few who could do so without losing face.
Tran took a deep breath, and did not lose face.
"Correct. You may take your point."
Several of the girls had had their hands clenched before their mouths; now they leaned forward avidly. Tran was almost a complete mystery; she'd kept entirely to herself.
The poor thing huddled, hiding from the girls' stares.
Glenda came to her rescue again, quietly coaxing the poor mite to stand. She hugged her classmate, whispering into her ear. Though she turned Tran away from the circle, there was no mistaking what she was doing. After another long, whispering pause, Tran nodded, and Glenda slipped her blouse from her shoulders as she turned the slight Oriental to again face the class. Bracing Tran from behind, Glenda helped her to stand straight and not shrink away. She stroked the hair back from the seldom-seen face, now revealed as delicate and exotic, almond eyes wide with apprehension.
"Oh, Tran, you are so strong. So brave. See? They all love you."
All the girls were swooning. So beautiful! So romantic!
"Well done, you two. You may return to your seats."
Well! That evened things up nicely! Six girls in bras and panties, six in panties only. Oh, and stockings, of course. Stockings didn't count. Under the uniforms, lingerie varied wildly, and stockings were a favorite self expression, given harmonious colors and patterns, and given the uniform's below-the-knee hemline hid the tops.
The next question was harder, but Tin-Tin blurted it out at the last second. With an excited flourish, she stood and removed her bra. Her boobies were now just full enough to demonstrate a pleasing wobble. Indulgent chuckles met her slightly overenthusiastic shimmy. Showing off was, after all, a good part of why they played.
The next question went to Kendy, and the class squirmed. Fiery haired, fiery tempered, and harshly competitive, she was not much liked. She wasn't all that pretty, either; the girl simply did not know how to smile, or even stand with any poise.
She was no slouch in class, though, and the question touched on a topic she knew better than even Glenda. And she was a one-pointer. This was the game, for sure. No one but Glenda would even meet her eyes, and no one was looking forward to her usual mocking victory.
"I cede to Tran."
Wow! A girl could only cede once, but there was no limit on how many times a girl could be ceded to. It just ... wasn't often done. It could be taken as a slight or a hazing, depending on the skill of the target. Besides, this late in the game, Kendy was giving away her last chance. The stunned silence was washed away in a puzzled surf as they tried to parse Kendy's intent. Was she currying favor with Glenda? Trying to flush out the reluctant mouse? Just picking on the new girl?
But for once, her face was absolutely neutral, and while her gaze did not waver from Tran, it gave no clue to her intent.
Tran's answer, emerging from behind the curtain of hair, was resigned.
"Correct. You may take your point."
A tiny whimper escaped Tran as she stood, but only Glenda heard. Everyone, though, could see the tremble in her hands as she opened the front clasp on her unadorned trainer. There was a long pause as she focused on Glenda to regain her composure.
Finally, with an unsuspected grace, she parted her cups, and as she drew the straps from her arms, her black veil shimmered aside, giving the circle a glimpse of dark nipples atop bumpies beginning to soften and spread across honeyed skin like baking cookies. A charming development, if less showy than Tin-Tin's.
But what prompted the speculative susurrus was her pivot. She was revealing not to Glenda, not to the circle, but to Kendy. When her hair settled, her stance was determined, challenging even. Kendy's lips parted, Oh! as if she were stung.
Not by her accustomed anger, though. The adoration shining from her face made her, for the moment, the most beautiful girl in the room. No wonder she'd been assigned to the circle! How had they all missed it!
Well played! Well played indeed! Had anyone thought to look, they would have seen a tear shimmering in the eye of tiny but buxom Flik, who knew social art very well, thank you, when she saw it. She glanced at Madam President, and caught that worthy nodding to herself in satisfaction. How much had Glenda known? Had she planned this? Was she truly a witch, however good? No matter: Glenda's cede had triggered an act of healing, that was clear.
The next question went to Brick. Although nobody actually groaned, it was a near thing. Brick -- Brigit to grownups -- was pretty enough, and friendly enough, bubbly, even, but ... Well. She was a two pointer only by having been very lucky in questions, if that says anything to you. By her expression, her luck had just run out. Some were looking forward to a forfeit.
"Umm ... ah..."
Eyes were rolling at the bumbled answer, and consequently missed her eyes betraying her dilemma.
"Uh ... I cede?"
The room snapped to attention. Even Brick had caught on to the flow of the game. Everyone was tallying up the possibilities.
One or two were rooting for Tran. Most, though, thought that she would likely not be able to manage the winner's circle properly; she was at the least far too timid.
There was a lot to be said for Kendy as well, at least among the most reflexively romantic. She had shown an unusual, for her, willingness to play for the game, not for herself, but ... No, it was not her turn in the circle today, either. That left...
" ... Uh ... to ... Guh-Glenda?"
Of course. So obvious, even Brick had managed to work it out, though normally no one would ever dare slight a player who so plainly did not need the help.
Glenda was already rising from her chair as she tossed the answer away. No one even heard Mr. Marshall's congratulations.
Madam President, however, was not drawing Tran from her seat, not taking her prize as her due. Instead, she took a knee to bow most humbly.
"Tran, my heart, my Lady, I would be honored to celebrate your brave victory with you."
SHE HAD CEDED THE MATCH!
Girls were openly weeping at the nobility of it all. Two were already composing poetry in Glenda's honor. Who better than she, after all, to guide Tran in her first display, and so bind her into the circle? Further, Glenda had neatly given Tran her dignity, by declining to make her a trophy, however cherished. Making Tran her equal, her Lady, was a risky move, a huge loss of face for both if Tran couldn't carry the role, but if she succeeded -- and no one seriously thought for a moment that Glenda would let anything else happen -- the huge step in regard would establish the newcomer in an unshakable position. As she so often did, Glenda had seen something the others had not, and was secure enough in her own standing to bring that quality out at her own cost.
Of course Tran could decline, and some feared she would. However, she had taken bravery from Glenda, from Kendy, and even from Brick, and that, too, was part of the game.
Tran lifted Glenda's chin in the traditional gesture, bidding her to rise. But her rote acceptance was flat.
"The honor and pleasure are mine."
Holding hands at shoulder level, they took the circle mat.
After trading formal bows and a kiss, each gave her nudity to the other. Tran divested herself of her panties with the first form, as was proper for a neophyte, but she did it with a fetching impromptu grace note, which got appreciative nods all around. Her bend was demure, but there was no hiding the two stripes on the backs of her thighs, just above her plain white stockings, that she had taken for her forfeit. Some were now recalling her stoicism.
Plainly, the new girl did indeed have hidden talent, even some training. That boded very well, but many wondered where she had it from, and why then was she so hesitant?
Glenda respectfully matched the form in simplest kind, though with exquisite precision.
Mr. Marshall prompted Brick with a touch to her shoulder, and she scooted out to clear away the discarded wisps.
Glenda knelt again to christen the new player's blossoming nippies, then her root, with delicate, loving kisses. She rose to Tran's pleading hand on her cheek.
All this was more or less compulsory. Now the display could begin in earnest.
They stood holding hands across the stylized six petaled flower at the center, a circle of two, studying each other, seeking a tasteful opening.
A proper display was no more than that, a chance to show off and to admire, at most a pulse-quickening dalliance with one's partner. It was actually poor form to go over the edge, or to send your partner there.
Strcitly speaking, a partner wasn't even required; from time to time plenty of girls -- Kendy the outstanding example -- made solo displays. Still, in duets, one partner had to lead, and that duty normally fell to the winner. This time, it seemed, Glenda's concession had been a mere formality. She took the initiative, bestowing the first real intimacy.
Tran shivered as Glenda's kisses covered her neck, her brow, her face, centering at last on her mouth. She coyly resisted the probing tongue for a moment, then opened. Their hands slipped around each others' backs, feeling out the contours. It was a good, sound kiss, evincing a flurry of longing sighs from the circle.
Eventually, Glenda's hand covered Tran's nipple. Tran gasped and pulled back, wild eyes darting around the room, but Glenda held her close, stroking her hair until she calmed.
Nudging with palm and lips, Glenda turned her Lady outward. The black veil hid and revealed as she started to bring it back over Tran's shoulders, but Tran brought her hands up to hide herself.
Tran's deep shyness was beyond coy. She was willing to be caressed, willing to caress in turn, but doing so while others watched? That was hard. She'd made a good start, but couldn't follow through.
A couple of girls were beginning to understand that her peculiar mix of skill and defensive reserve could only have arisen from someone misusing a talented innocent. Fists clenched in sympathetic anger. Cultivating insight and empathy was also part of the game.
Overcoming the damage was the challenge Glenda had set herself.
Again, she soothed and reassured. Her embrace did not coerce, but protected. Again she gathered the black fall, pulling it back, finally taming it with her headband, freeing her own ashen tresses, another rare treat.
She gently smoothed Tran's hands down from her cookies, and at last tilted the diffident face to her audience. Look, was the import of the tickling voice at Tran's ear. See.
Whatever Tran feared was not there, only rapt admiration, especially from Kendy. It daunted her for a moment, but Glenda had her by her natural leash, however loosely, and would not let her elude their warmth.
Tran closed her eyes, steadying her spirit with Glenda's breath and heart. The trim, spooning bosoms rose and fell in concert.