Although there was a camera trained on the entrance to the apartment, Sheila wondered about it. Was it was really working? She knew that sometimes dummy cameras were installed in apartment buildings. They were cheaper. Still, if this one was active, the observer would have seen, striding hurriedly up to the glass doors, an attractive blond woman, who now stopped on the top step to study the double panel of doorbells. The woman was in her thirties or maybe early forties; sharply dressed in a mauve blouse under a trim gray suit well tailored to her slender figure. She might have been some businesswoman, a saleswoman perhaps, scurrying off to some meeting with client. The woman was clearly nervous, biting a curled lower lip, looking around with the furtive glances of a thief about to case a job. She brushed back a sleeve to consult her watch one last time. Then, with wiggle of her shoulders she came to attention, squared her narrow shoulders, smoothened her bangs, took a deep breath, and quite deliberately pressed the button beside number 820. She noticed that, unlike the others, there was no name in the rectangular slot beside 820.
Sheila was mildly disappointed that her ring did not immediately summon Nadine’s disembodied voice. Instead, there were a few seconds delay, long seconds while she stood there all a-tingle, her palms sweating. She straightened upright, tightened her grip on the purse she wore slung over her left shoulder; waited tensely for some sort of response; her rising excitement a palpable thing. The angry buzz, when it finally came, caused the girl to jump. She recovered quickly, and made a grab for the handle of the big glass door just as the buzz faded away.
It was a short walk down the deserted lobby; high heels clicking, echoing on the hard tiled floor. She paused as she stood facing the bank of elevators, as if once more wavering, uncertain. This was it! She could still turn and run, beat a hasty retreat out through those glass doors, fly down the concrete steps to the street below, back to the safety and freedom of the real world. It was her last chance.
With an effort, she stifled the sudden wave of panic, and extended a slender, neatly manicured finger to touch the small orange disk that was the elevator’s call button.
The elevator was dreadfully slow, lurching from floor to floor with a muffled groan. Sheila was grateful that she was, and remained, the sole occupant all the way to the 8th floor.
She moved slowly down the silent, carpeted hallway, as though she were some condemned prisoner about to meet her fate. Summoning up all her courage, the slim, well-dressed blonde continued along the rows of identical doors till she came to number 820. There she took a breath and lightly tapped the little knocker on the metal faceplate.
The door opened. The woman who stood there was tall, taller than Sheila in her heels; a lanky woman, in her fifties, and dressed all in black, her long lean figure glamorous in the high-collared tunic and flared slacks of a silk shantung pants-suit. A splay of coarse dark hair fell down past her angular shoulders, frizzy, witchy hair — defiantly untamed. But the most remarkable feature of the women who stood regarding her in the doorway was her eyes, large dark eyes with drooping, cynical lids, heavily lined; eyes that remained absolutely expressionless.
Taken aback, Sheila stood transfixed under that unwavering gaze. A flush of awkwardness swept over her, suddenly reducing her to a schoolgirl, squirming under the accusatory eyes of an adult. The woman didn’t move. Sheila tried a smile, fumbling for words, looking down to avoid those terrible eyes.
“Come in. I know who you are.”
Of course she knew! Sheila flushed embarrassed with how ridiculous she immediately felt. She was such a fool! The door opened wide; the woman in black stood back to allow her guest to enter.
The apartment Sheila stepped into was cool and spacious, done in white and muted off-white, walls adorned with photographs in black and white, the furniture starkly modern in black vinyl and gleaming chrome. The large windows on the far side of the room must have overlooked 6th avenue; but now the creamy drapes were drawn, cutting off the outside light. Instead, the room was lit by strategically placed torchieres, augmented with indirect light flooding up from behind a row of bookcases.
The rooms were minimally, but tastefully decorated, with the occasional potted plant lending a spray of green. The only other color in Nadine’s monochromatic world was a brilliant Persian rug overlaid on the pearl gray wall-to-wall carpet. The thought went through Sheila’s mind: A rug that size must cost a fortune!
Sheila stopped after only a few steps into the room, hesitating while the taller woman slid behind her. She heard the door lock with a definite click; the rattle of the security chain being re-attached.
Sheila was about to compliment her hostess on the elegant decor, when suddenly, unexpectedly, Nadine stepped up close behind her, bringing their bodies into light contact, causing her to gasp.
“Ummm..pretty,” she heard the purr in her ear, sending a shiver through her rigidly-held body. Sheila felt the older woman’s touch on her hair; fingers toyed with the flip of the abbreviated pony-tail, and Sheila half turned in her growing unease. A wave of panic set in; she wanted to escape!
“Stay! Stand still! Perfectly still,” the voice of command was slow, unemotional, and precise. And then, with lips just inches from her ear so she felt with hot breath, the simple words: “I want to look at you.”
Sheila did as she was told. She let a wave of passivity settle in on her. She stood inert, as if rooted to the floor. She might have been a mannequin; relieved of her purse, docilely surrendering it, letting her arms hang limply at her sides. Sheila was afraid to move. She maintained the pose as ordered, standing at loose attention, her eyes fixed on the closed drapes at the far side of the room, while Nadine stepped back to more fully appreciate her guest’s slim, gray-suited form.
Sheila could feel the other woman’s eyes scrutinizing her; knew she was being looked at from behind, and while her body was paralyzed, her mind was racing full tilt. How did she get herself into this?! It was all so silly! Yet it was real. The stark, white room was real; the exciting woman in the shiny black suit was real. A quiet thrill rippled through her.
She jerked upright and stifled a whimper when a finger touched her from behind, pressed lightly, under the collar of her suit, just at the base of her neck. She felt that finger being slowly drawn the center of her back, following the gentle curve of her spine, into the shallow dip of her lowerback, then past the bottom of the jacket to continue without pause, right down the back of her narrow, silk-lined skirt. The exploring touch through her clothes became more intimate as the finger traced the pert curve of the girl’s skirted behind. She was given a light pat on the bottom.
“Nice…oh yes…very nice.” It was a low, dreamy murmur.
The words thrilled her. She didn’t dare move.
Now Nadine stepped around, slowly circling, to take in her guest from all angles, ending up in front.
The dark-haired woman stood perfectly composed with folded arms, facing the tense blond girl, her expression — critical, that of someone considering a purchase, that she might well reject. Sheila waited, hardly daring to breathe, till she saw Nadine slowly nod, as if accepting the presented offering. But if the imperious woman was pleased with what she saw, she showed no sign of it. No glitter of appreciation brightened those hard obsidian eyes, no sign of pleasure softened the lines of that set, business-like face: tight-lipped, with pointed chin proudly raised. All of a sudden Sheila was struck by Nadine’s singular beauty: the face was plain, pale, and tightly drawn, the hair, thick and frazzled, the eyes, devastating in their power, and then there was that unassuming air of icy elegance — that took her breath away!
Sheila, her head held high, gazed back at her new-found beauty of her observer, fascinated, enthralled by that coldly remote stare. She didn’t move a muscle, but her big brown eyes widened in alarm when Nadine suddenly took a step forward to bring herself up to within inches of Sheila’s rigid body.
Looking into Sheila’s widening eyes, she lifted a hand and this time drew that single taloned finger down the side of face.
“Oh..yes, you’re a pretty one alright,” Nadine mused. “Pet,” she enunciated precisely, as if trying out the words, gazing all the while into big brown eyes that were tinged with apprehension. And Pet wants to play. Don’t you Pet?”
“Uuuhh, Nadine,” Sheila faltered, her eyes fluttered, she bit her lower lip, then continued, “I think that I probably….”
“Sssh,” the finger on Sheila’s cheek slid over to press lightly across her questioning lips.
“I don’t believe I gave you permission to call me that, now did I?” It was the voice of sweet reason. “I think it’s best if you address me as…’Madam’. Yes, I think that would work quite well, don’t you? You will call me ‘Madam,’ and I will call you… ‘Pet.’ Now wouldn’t that be nice?”
The finger insinuated itself between Sheila’s lips, probing gently against small white teeth, and when it found resistance to entry, it contented itself with exploring the inside of Sheila’s lower lip, running over the gums, pressing back the fleshy lip to fully expose the tightly clenched teeth through which Sheila sucked in a shivering gasp of air.
“Open,” Nadine coaxed in a honeyed tone, gently pressing on the set of clenched teeth. “Oooo-pen,” the order was repeated, harder this time, drawn out, and laced with a threat, like a parent warning a child.
Sheila let her jaw drop; the insistent finger slipped in over the ridge of teeth to explore the inside of her mouth while she stood there, helpless, with arms at her sides.
“Suck.” It was a heated whisper.
The blonde hesitated. The narrowing of Nadine’s eyes was enough to get Sheila to promptly begin to suckle on the intruding digit. After few seconds, with the two women looking into each other’s eyes while Sheila dutifully sucked the finger that was sawing in and out between her teeth, Nadine withdrew.
“I’ll expect you to obey more quickly the next time,” she said dryly, turning away to leave her distraught guest standing there with eyes closed, shoulders heaving as she struggled to catch her breath, like someone who just had a very narrow escape.