Laura took the ferry back to New Jersey more than an hour later, having walked all the way instead of taking the bus. She'd stopped on the way to get herself a chocolate chip frappe and some water from a Starbucks on Broadway. Chocolate had always been her friend when she was emotionally rocky. Becoming young and attaining a fantasy body did not mean that her habits had budged an inch. That would take more than a magic unguent.
She sat on the ferry which was almost as crowded as the one she had taken to the city. She hadn't perused a single book in the B&N. All she had done was to be knocked around by her emotional roller coaster. She wished she had had the presence of mind to check up some books on medieval France while she was there. While she had not realized it when in the B&N, she had subconsciously wanted to find out more about that mysterious painting in the style of the French classical school when she'd decided to take that trip to the city.
She would do the best she could on the internet instead, although she wasn't really comfortable scouting for information online. She tried not to think about Ralph, but that was like not thinking about a pink elephant. Storm clouds invaded her mind unbidden. If he already knew a woman intimately enough that he allowed her to be all over him, then he had no business befriending her. He especially had no business looking at her with those gray eyes, making her fall for him. The idea that he had never even broached the subject of being interested in her did not matter to Laura. She was still hotheaded enough that his very name and the thought of his very face conjured up some very visceral, very negative and yet very lustful emotions.
Hence the frappe. It was even more delicious as she sipped it in order to forget her troubles. Led by the chocolate on her tongue, she tried bringing herself back to the ferry and its comforting swell of people. She wanted company, and she wanted to talk to someone, but none of her old friends would recognize her. That, and she had mostly fallen out of touch with them anyway. Then she realized that she wanted the sisterhood. She wanted to run up and confide all her troubles to Madame Juliette. She perked up a little, realizing that she could go back there the next day and talk things over with them. They probably knew how to safely usher new found youth into a tired old mind. Just for a minute she forgot Ralph, and was back in the ferry, viewing the businessman seated in front of her, dressed in a gray pinstriped suit, and smelling remarkably like that end of the day fragrance, perfume overused in the masking of sweat.
Laura wondered for a moment whether perfume actually made the smell of sweat more bearable, or whether it made just enough available so that one's imagination made it unbearable. The ferry slowed as it reached New Jersey, and she felt the bustle in the air releasing her from that particularly unsavory rumination. As she walked back from the ferry terminal to her apartment, she felt a tingling in her stomach. She turned, fearing that she was being followed.
There was a businessman walking in her general direction, with his tie flapping in the wind, and a young mother with close cropped red hair who was wheeling her pram, also walking in her general direction, but they weren't following her. Besides, they looked too tired.
She turned around, seeing her apartment complex appearing in the distance, and then she felt the tingle in her stomach again. She whirled around, and thought she saw the flash of some animal disappearing behind a silver Lexus SUV . She wasn't sure what animal it was, but she fancied she saw a pig. That was more than a little odd.
She hastened her pace, and hurried into her apartment complex. She really didn't want to interact with Louis Phillipe just then, but she also felt rebellious and empowered just then, as if she'd just spoken to Oprah. He was the fucking concierge. He didn't own the apartment complex. In fact she owned her apartment. So fuck Louis Phillipe! So she changed her plans of using the service entrance and slinking in, and instead walked boldly through the front entrance and into the foyer.
She looked Louis Phillipe right in the eyes without so much as an acknowledgment, and he appeared to have that unique look on his face that showed a mixture of physical constipation and mental diarrhea. He smiled, and she may or may not have nodded in response. She took the elevator, and glared at Italian boy, who looked as if he was peeing his pants in response. That wasn't sufficient cause for him to stop ogling her, however.
As she entered her apartment, she almost stepped on an envelope. She stopped herself and her thoughts of being self consciously confident fled for a moment, as she came back out of her mental-emotional roller coaster back to earth. She picked up the envelope.
It was a lilac colored envelope that was larger than standard envelopes, and it said 'Association de femmes' on the cover, in astonishingly artistic cursive writing. It was almost a shame to tear the envelope because of the writing. She opened it however, curiosity dominating her inner aestheticism just then.
The letter within was a lighter shade of lilac, and was folded twice. She opened it, and read the following:
Your initiation has been scheduled for the twenty fifth of May. This date cannot be changed, and has been arranged according to the availability of the vast majority of our members. Attendance is mandatory, according to the terms of your contract. Initiation starts at six pm sharp. The dress code is business casual. Dinner will be served post initiation and is mandatory as well.
Ton Ami Juliette."
It was printed, unlike the lovely cursive writing on the envelope, and appeared to be a standard letter that they probably sent out to every new member of the sisterhood. The 'Dear madame' and the 'Cordialement, Ton Ami' were printed in a navy blue ink, while everything else, including the 'Juliette' were printed in black ink. Laura turned the letter around, and moved it hither and thither, and then held it up against the light, to see whether it was some special kind of paper with a watermark that would give her more clues about the sisterhood, but there was nothing. She sighed, and placed the letter back in the envelope.
Of course attendance was mandatory! Laura had fully expected this sort of brook-no-disobedience tone from the sisterhood. Even if it wasn't, she wanted to pay a visit to them anyway. The twenty fifth of May was the next day. She wondered whether all business of the sisterhood was conducted this way, with only last minute notices. If so, she had better be prepared for an eternity, or at the very least a very long life, of being on her toes constantly. She looked forward to her visit the next day, and wondered why the stupid thing had to be scheduled in the evening, instead of at nine am. She really didn't want to spend the whole day alone, and had been planning on going to visit Madame Juliette in the morning. Now she wondered whether that was wise. While she wanted company, and she wanted someone to talk to, she didn't want to spend all day and then all evening with the sisterhood.
Besides something that hovered on the periphery of her consciousness warned her off from going in the morning. She sighed and set about her evening routine of tidying up and cooking herself a quick meal of pasta Verde with all the fixings, so that she could get her mind off of Ralph. She got the recipe from Martha Stewart on TV, and gathered together small zucchinis, sweet onion, snap peas, bunch scallions, fresh basil and baby spinach in her kitchen. The vinaigrette was made from white wine, extra virgin olive oil, mustard, salt and pepper. She threw in some finely diced chili peppers, only because they were going to go bad, and she prided herself on deviating from every recipe at least in one respect.
While she cooked the pasta in a pot, she wondered if Ralph had anything to do with the sisterhood. Perhaps there was a brotherhood. Certainly he was gorgeous, so he could be someone's idea of their perfect physical self. She wouldn't be surprised if the redoubtable madame was not the only one selling youth. It seemed like a formula that someone else could come up with as well. Of she had to figure out what precise formula had led to her current state before entirely fleshing out that line of thought.
As the fixings sizzled on a skillet, she wondered if the initiation involved this so called magic unguent. She had it applied to her vagina once, and if the general theme of Madame Juliette's words were to be believed, along with a modicum of faith, it was the unguent that had made her as she was.
It was a decent enough dinner, and it was adequate for her youthful self. It was perhaps too many calories for her earlier incarnation, but that hadn't prevented her from indulging in the past. She somehow got herself to sleep while watching Regis Philbin being sensitive, nice, funny and exasperated in quick sequences to different contestants on the millionaire show.
The next morning she decided that if she was going to have this much energy all of the time, and her emotions were going to be this crazy, she would have to find some outlet to channel it. Since sex wasn't an immediate option, and she really didn't want to spend the morning fingering herself in her apartment, she went running.
She had never run in her life. Not really. There was one month when asshole and she tried jogging, but asshole couldn't really do it, and she didn't want to do it even though she could have. So this may as well have been the first time she was trying it out. She was amazed at how good she was at it. Rather, she was amazed at how good her new body was at it. Pounding the pavement was never easier. She started out with the intention of a ten minute run, so that she could figure out her own physical abilities and her stamina.
She ended up running a good ten miles in an hour. That meant a six minute mile, which isn't record worthy. But stack ten of them in a row and it shows a hell of a physical condition. She wondered whether this was going to be her physical set point from now on? Would she age? Would eating pints of ice cream lead to the same effects as her normal human existence. She did not know, but she wasn't planning on ruining this new physical form recklessly.
She stopped off at her local Starbucks on the way back and gulped down two glasses of iced water for starters. She decided to chase it down with a Venti dark roast coffee. Gloria handled her at the register, and looked more like she was choking today than was usual. She'd probably seen a pink slip or had some fight at home. Whatever it was, she barely got through the motions of manning the register. Laura felt sorry for her, as she moved to collect her drink.
Marcus was there, and he flirted with her. She played the game today. She checked herself out in the restroom mirror, and saw that the run had made her even sexier, although she had thought that impossible earlier. A healthy flush of blood to her already glowing skin made her irresistible. She wondered if Marcus would crawl through a mile of muck like the protagonist in 'The Shawshank Redemption' if she demanded it. She wouldn't ask him to do that, but her bets were on him doing it if she asked.
It is a marvel to get coffee which has been roasted the right way, and she enjoyed that just then, forgetting all about the trepidation that thoughts of her evening initiation engendered. She still slyly avoided Marcus' attempt to touch her while handing her the coffee, but she flirted plenty, testing out her game on him. At one point it appeared that he had blown his wad in his pants already, if his facial expression was any indication. She laughed, and sipped more coffee.
Evening came slowly, and Laura didn't really have too many of her plans made. What she did end up doing was going to a Macy's and getting herself some young thing clothes. Some colors, some less old lady styles, some lacy and sexy lingerie, larger and more supportive bras, a pair of stilettos, which she chose with infinite care, from a black saleswoman who appeared to be hitting on her throughout her tenure at the shop. She also got herself plenty of new aids in making up. She wasn't going to fuck up her fantasy face with makeup just then, but she was going to make sure she had what she needed.
For the initiation ceremony, she dressed in black lace bras and panties from Victoria's Secret, a sharp dark blue shirt from Thomas Pink, and a black woman's suit from Armani. She had more than just splurged that day, but she wanted to make sure that she erred on the side of caution when it came to dealing with a cabal of people who were capable of making her old and decrepit again.
Patchwork quilt beard guy was back, and Laura almost hid in her foyer when she saw him, remembering how he never shut up. Louis Philippe pretended to be working while she waited there, but he was intensely uncomfortable in her presence. Some guys can't handle a beautiful woman, and simply get all riled up in their presence. It may be something inside them, where they know they can't have her, and somehow in their world that is not okay. She enjoyed his discomfiture a bit, and then forced herself to exit the foyer.
This time she learned all about the driver's Korean experience. It was told in a fresh manner, and this time he saved both his corporal and his lieutenant's lives. She wondered whether he had added the lieutenant this time around, or whether he had forgotten him the last time. The old timer cabbie gave her no indication of noticing that her name was the same as an elderly spinster he had picked up two days ago. Laura's decision on her new name had been indecision, so she had stuck with Laura Lioness for the day. The last name decision was postponed to the next day. With the sisterhood she'd have to use her own name anyway, given that they knew all about her.
She paid him off and asked him to scoot, knowing full well that her agenda at the sisterhood's was on a schedule that she wasn't privy to. She took one quick look at the orange shop sign with the Phoenix on it, and then looked at her wristwatch. It was five fifty five. She opened the door, and then the inner mesh door. Porky looked up hearing the door chime.
"Good afternoon, madame," she said. "Welcome."
She didn't budge from behind the counter as earlier, but she didn't need to. Laura was going to enter anyway. She walked up to the counter, and then Julia gestured to her.
"This way madame," she said.
She took her to another room, one that was adjacent to the massage room. It was a plain old ante room that had a painting by the Rococo painter Antoine Watteau on one wall. Or at least it was in his style, with gentle, graceful colors, and lots of thinly spread paint that gave a feeling of lightness to the viewer. It showed a wide assortment of men and women from the seventeenth century wearing powdered wigs and standing around as if they were posing for a photograph. The only odd thing was that there was a man and a woman buck naked in the center, wearing the same powdered wigs, and having anal intercourse. It was such an odd and stark contrast between that scene and the prim and proper mien of those around them.
Laura squinted, but she needn't have. She squinted only because she wasn't sure whether she had seen what she thought she had. It was one of those reactions a person has when they see something outrageous or something incredible. The woman who was on her knees, while the man took her in the anus, was Madame Juliette. She gasped and then blushed, although why she should blush at the redoubtable madame's promiscuity centuries in the past was something that she couldn't put a finger on.
The tiny room was hardly large enough to host five people inside it. Laura wondered how many people would be there at her initiation. The three J-s, her, one other person?
Julia cleared her throat and brought Laura back to the present moment.
"This way please," she said, indicating a door, as she disappeared inside.
Laura ran in her direction, since porky J had been a tad too fast. She saw that the door led into some sort of a cellar or a basement. She shivered for a moment, wondering what the initiation was. There was nothing to be done however. New body, new rules. That was how her life was going to be.
A yellow light illuminated her way, as she descended the stairs. The stairs appeared to lead some ten storeys down, at least. They kept going. The gentle yellow illumination was ever present. Laura saw that high yellow bulbs were fixed into sheer rock, offering a stark contrast to the rich style of the house where she had just been. It was like stepping from a luxurious home into a cave, except for the yellow bulbs.
She called ahead a couple of times, and heard Julia grunt back a response. When the steps started becoming gentler and less steep, she heard Julia's steps slow down, and very shortly she almost ran into her. The steps ended in a vast hall that was the size of a football field. Having walked down the length of a narrow staircase, the sudden vastness hit her with so much more force. Julia had turned to face her.
Laura looked around. She saw a different world down here. The light here was a brighter yellow. There were chandeliers with brass or gold frames overhead that cast a warm light over the whole place. It looked like a giant hall room inside a palace that had been turned into a five star hotel. A rich, velvet carpet that was dark maroon in color covered the floor as far as her eyes could travel. The air was redolent with eucalyptus and jasmine in very slight proportions, and a smell of freshly baked cookies in a greater proportion.
"This way, madame," Julia said.
Laura felt intensely self conscious. There were at least hundreds of women in this hall. Everyone of them wore a mask that covered their face, as though this were a masked ball. Except for Julia and her, everybody wore masks. There were all manner of masks, and in all colors, shapes and styles. Some reminded her of the mask from Cyrano de Bergerac. Some reminded her of the Batman villain, the Joker. Many were simple black masks that only served the purpose of concealing their owner's face without making any other statement about their personality or preferences. It was estrogen central though. There was not one man in sight, so sisterhood meant just that.
Julia led her through the crowd of strangers who stood around conversing on topics all and sundry. Laura was aware of being subject to intense scrutiny. It appeared that she was the youngest sister in a very ancient organization. Madame Juliette was listening with a great smile on her face to a woman who was a few inches shorter than her, with red hair and a black mask that had gold rimmed eye holes, gold cheeks, and a gold chin. Her piercing green eyes were visible through the eye holes, and she fixed Laura in her sights for a second. Laura felt totally inadequate, and knew that she didn't want to make an enemy of this woman.
The woman whispered something in French to madame Juliette, and turned on her heel and walked off into another cluster of women, who parted respectfully. Madame Juliette turned her attention to Laura just then, and smiled from behind her black mask that had pearls lining the eye holes and more pearls marking an aperture for the nose, and a pearl each indicating where the ears should be, so that the wearer would appear to be wearing those pearls for earrings. It was an exquisitely designed mask.
"Good evening, madame," Madame Juliette greeted her.
"Good evening, madame Juliette," Laura replied, and wondered whether she should run off to the nearest Halloween store and buy herself a mask and come back. "The masks…"
"That is part of the initiation, madame," Madame Juliette said. "The masks are symbolic, and we'll take them off later, but they show that you don't see us, but we see you, and that you are willing to trust us nevertheless. It is an old tradition."
"So I would have to come with a mask to the next new member's initiation?" she said.
Madame Juliette smiled and may or may not have nodded, and then put her arm around Laura's shoulder and steered her further into the hall. Laura didn't know where Julia had disappeared, or Julianna for that matter. What she knew was that the madame was walking faster, and with her arm around her shoulder, expected her to pick up the pace, which she did.
The hall, like a good hall for mixing, and was well lit and she saw them pass several masked faces. All women were dressed in archaic styles, and some even wore powdered wigs and brocaded and puffy silks, as though they were visitors from another time period. Laura sensed a hundred eyes looking at her, deciding whether they liked her or not based on that split second view, and then she was whisked past more eyes.
Madame Juliette slowed down, and Laura saw that they had approached what appeared to be a circular marble enclosure that stood in what may have been the center of the room. Madame Juliette steered her into it, and then disappeared. Laura wondered what this enclosure was for. It had one door that they had entered through, which was also marble and grilled similarly. Madame Juliette closed this door behind her, and Laura was alone in the enclosure.
The marble enclosure's walls were like thick marble grills with ornate design that reminded her of the Taj Mahal. She could see the eyes of the dozens of women surrounding the enclosure trained on her. She wondered what the nature of her initiation was going to be. Perhaps there would be a speech before they got into it. She heard a voice just then, and the white noise buzz of a hundred voices went quiet just then.
"Madames, mademoiselles, we have a new member," the voice said.
It was a stranger's voice.
"Laura Lioness, please listen carefully to all that is being said here."
Laura nodded, and wondered whether she should respond verbally. She wasn't given any time to do so, however.
"La Association da femmes is one of the most ancient institutions in human civilization, and also the most closely guarded. You have been chosen for induction into this institution because of your own unique nature and the will of the sisterhood. You are required to commit yourself to secrecy about this institution for as long as you breathe. Is that understood?"
"Yes, ma'am," Laura said, a moment too late and perhaps too softly, having expected to be talked to and not to participate.
The voice appeared to have heard her, for she didn't ask again, and continued.
"Failure to maintain secrecy will result in the final punishment," she continued.
Laura shivered, wondering what the final punishment was.
"You have been endowed with a youthful body that will not decay for several centuries. As price of this endowment, you have also been informed of the three requirements. You are being inducted into our sisterhood today, and by maintaining its norms and living according to its rules you will fulfill the first requirement. You will always stay alert and aware of people who were such as your former self, so that you can recommend potential new candidates. This requirement will come into effect after one year of membership, after your worth has been proved. The third requirement, where you tithe your sexual pleasures to the sisterhood, will be fulfilled as seen fit by your superiors."
Superiors? Did she say superiors? So this wasn't a democracy of any sort. Laura felt an Orwellian knot in her stomach just then.
"As part of the third requirement, we will collect an advance during your initiation ceremony. It is our tradition, and it serves as insurance against possible future intransigence."
Laura wasn't sure what the voice meant, but she was sure that the sisterhood was going to make her do something sexual just then.
"Please remove all items of clothing from your body at this time," the voice commanded her.
Say what! Laura blushed beet red, looking around at all the eyes staring at her from behind masks. Black eyes, brown eyes, aquamarine eyes, even gray eyes, but not storm cloud gray.
She hesitated a beat.
"This is your first warning, Laura Lioness," the voice said. "La Association da femmes does not give more than one warning for disobedience. Please remove all items of clothing from your body at this time."
The voice was sterner, and Laura knew that she must comply immediately. She dropped her business suit coat and her skirt right then, even before the voice had completed her announcement. She was in a state of panic, worried that they'd turn her back into an old woman. She struggled with the buttons of her blue shirt and opened the first few and then pulled it over her head. Then she pulled off her extra support black lace bra and panties, half tearing the bra because the stupid hook was notched in an inconvenient manner that made immediate pulling off difficult.
She was stark naked, and shivering because of the feeling of vulnerability. Laura looked down at her body, and some pride leaped into her mind. This was her body now. Her old sensations of shame for her erstwhile sagging breasts and her sickly body would have to be replaced somehow, but that would take time, and perhaps a shrink. She looked up, still blushing, hesitant and worried about the eyes staring at her. They were staring at her. She saw some tongues come out and lick the lips that she saw through mask mouths. She saw some lips widen into smiles. There was humor and lasciviousness rife in the room.
It was an effort for her to make eye contact while she was naked and vulnerable. It was so much easier to bury herself inside herself, the old ostrich with its head in the sand idea. She forced herself to look up a few times, since she reminded herself that all these women must have endured similar gazes when they were new inductees into the sisterhood.
"You are expected to comply appropriately to immediate sexual overtures, Laura Lioness," the voice said.
Six women walked right up to the grill, facing her. The enclosure was small enough that they could reach through the grill and touch her. They proceeded to do just that right then. A pair of pale and delicately feminine hands with an expensive manicure and reddish pink nail polish proceeded to pinch her nipples. Another pair of hands with a similarly immaculate manicure but no nail polish, that were tanned a bright flesh red, tugged at her raven hair with no mean amount of force. She gasped.
Another pair of dark caramel hands slapped her buttocks, again, with no mean amount of force. Someone's finger probed her anus, and she squealed from the suddenness of it. Then a pair of buff olive hands plunged into her sex, and she squealed again, louder, from the suddenness and the sheer pleasure that she was experiencing.
The pale hands that were plucking at her nipples now parted her lips, and placed a finger inside, then two. She bit her pursed lips on them, while she squeezed the olive hands with her cunt, enjoying the pleasure of a masterful hand job. The finger in her anus wiggled around, and probed deeper, and then she felt two fingers stretching out her asshole, and bit harder with her lips onto the fingers in her mouth, to express her desperate gestalt of pleasure and pain just then.
She was struck across the buttocks once more, and she felt a smarting pain. Very oddly it fired up her cunt further, and her vaginal muscles powerfully tightened around the fingers of that olive hand. Those fingers were speeding up their action, and fingering her with increasing passion. She gasped, feeling a finger moving onto and off her clitoris, making it jump and throb. The palm rubbed her wet pubic hair, and the fingers then reached in deeper. She felt three fingers inside her tight cunt, pushing inward, trying to find more space. She'd never remembered having such a tight cunt. It's walls and muscles were something to behold, and they tried pushing the fingers out, even without her volition.
She gasped from the pleasure that the hand versus loins struggle was giving her. The olive hand's fingers were relentless, as though this woman was used to tight cunts. She felt a fourth finger inside her sex, and squealed out, almost pleading with her pleasure giver, asking her to withdraw that finger. There was nothing to be done however, and the woman wiggled all four fingers inside her.
She was soaking wet. Her dark pubic locks were dripping, as was her cunt. The fingers inside her were slick and wet, but that did not make them any less tight in there. Her vaginal walls squeezed on them by reflex, and Laura moaned out loud, hearing her voice spread across the hall, and hearing murmurs in response.
A fifth finger went inside her. All five fingers. She cried out in both ecstasy and pain.
"No, please," she said, but she didn't really mean it. Not entirely.
The finger inside her anus wiggled some more, and then bent at the crook, making her squeal once again. She looked up and saw penetrating blue eyes belonging to the woman who had five fingers inside her sex. She was a complete stranger.
Laura saw lust in there, and held her gaze, feeling lust herself. She had always been heterosexual, but right then she wanted to fuck that woman. She felt raw carnality when she saw those blue eyes. She saw the black pupils dilate, and felt something pass between her and the stranger pleasuring her.
The woman forced her fingers deeper, and Laura gave her a pleading look, while feeling completely at her mercy, and yet intensely ecstatic. The fingers moved rapidly inside her sex, pushing back the powerful pressures that her new cunt was capable of. She felt her clitoris throbbing, and her head pounding. An intense wave of rapture shattered her loins and her thighs and her buttocks.
The fingers inside her sex, and her anus, and her mouth, and those that were tugging at her hair, all became a part of her, as she felt herself exploding between the legs, squirting copiously. She moaned again, and gasped, trying to soften her moan, but the pleasure was just too much to contain in a quiet body. She yelled out, letting go, feeling a flood of molten lava escape from her, and feeling every fiber in her body as if it were pure lust. She looked back into those blue eyes and saw mischief and glee in them. The lips of their owner blew her a kiss. Then she felt herself back in her body, and felt the different fingers in and around her.
Perhaps this was how the initiation ended. Laura felt that she
had the third part of her payment to the sisterhood covered. She
had no idea that she would be in that enclosure for a few more