Itâ€™s funny how things can turn out. I awoke this morning mightily annoyed because it was raining again, and by the time we were getting ready for breakfast it had turned into a frightful downpour. So much for your tropical island paradise! But in the end it turned out to be a delightful day.
Hearing the sound of the rain, I rolled over and went back to sleep. So for once I was not the first in the family to be up and about. I fell into a dream. I donâ€™t remember what it was about, except that it was good and I was feeling content; when suddenly I felt myself being rudely shaken out of it. I opened my eyes, blinking away the blur, to be confronted by my brotherâ€™s grinning visage. On balance, the blur was better.
â€œWhat do you want?â€ I demanded. My mouth was dry and cottony, as if Iâ€™d been chewing on my pillow. Maybe I had been. Maybe it was that sort of dream.
â€œFirst this,â€ he commanded. He was holding my red sash blindfold in front of my face.
â€œYouâ€™ve got to be kidding!â€ I shook my head and slammed my eyes shut, hoping I was still asleep and that my pleasant dream had gone bad. I opened my eyes again. It wasnâ€™t the nightmare I was hoping for.
â€œTell you what,â€ I groaned, â€œIâ€™ll just close my eyes and you can say whatever it is you have to say.â€
â€œRules are rules.â€
I could continue to argue, but surrender was the easier course. Sitting up, I tied the band around my head.
â€œWhy are you traumatizing me?â€
â€œItâ€™s breakfast time.â€
â€œThatâ€™s it? Thanks. No. Go.â€
For all his myriad faults, the brat knows when heâ€™s neither wanted nor needed nor safe from harm. He faded into my oblivion.
On the third hour I rose again (or maybe it was just one). The rain had stopped but it was still dismal outside. I had the place to myself. It was blissfully silent but for a pair of seagulls perched upon the balcony demanding tribute. I grabbed two slices of bread, tossed them one and watched them wrangle noisily over it, ate the other piece, had a shower, drank a glass of milk, fixed my hair, put on my Kiargo black and gold string bikini, painted my toenails, sifted through a pile of pamphlets, put on some make-up, perused the restaurant guide, chatted with the seagulls, changed my toenail colour... I was so bored that I was missing my family. How pathetic is that?
Eventually, the loved ones returned. My mother was excited, my father was inscrutable, my brother was... well, my brother.
â€œCalm down, Alex. Put your shoes on, Sarah,â€ Mum called out as she bee-lined for the bedroom. â€œPlease calm down, Alex.â€
â€œWhatâ€™s the sitch?â€ I asked.
â€œWeâ€™re going on a mystery tour,â€ Alex explained.
â€œWhere to?â€ I asked, innocently enough.
â€œUm, you do know the meaning of the word mystery?â€
I chose not to answer.
â€œAnd people say that youâ€™re the smart one...â€ He stopped to think about that, then slunk away.
Dad chuckled. As I retrieved my sandals from under the sofa, I watched him grab the newspaper and head for the balcony. He flopped into the banana lounge.
â€œShouldnâ€™t you be getting ready as well?â€ I ventured.
â€œNot coming with you today.â€
â€œNot into the mystery?â€
â€œMore like misery.â€
â€œDad has business, is what he means, honey.â€ Mum explained. She was wearing her lilac Gottex strapless maillot, over which her sarong was tied low on her hip. She was fixing her hair into a loose bun. â€œWhatâ€™s Alex doing?â€
â€œHow do I know? Iâ€™m not my brotherâ€™s zookeeper.â€™
As if on cue, the bedroom door opened and from it emerged a startling apparition from a 1970s tourist brochure â€“ cream pleated slacks, Bali print shirt, Panama hat, Venetian loafers, Ray-Ban knock-offs. Mum and I just rolled our eyes. I pushed past him, found one of my mini-sarongs which best matched my bikini, wrapped it around my waist and grabbed my Gucci shades.
On the way out, Alex held up two pairs of the handcuffs weâ€™d been issued at the Commissariat.
â€œGive me a break,â€ I growled at him.
â€œNot right now, sweetie,â€ Mum smiled.
My Lil Bro looked crestfallen as he mournfully put them back in the box.
â€œYou two are no fun.â€
We yelled good-bye to Dad, whose nose was by now buried deep in his newspaper. We went downstairs, down the hill, downtown. It was still heavily overcast although the rain had ceased. The air was damp, the ground was sodden and the trees and bushes drooped and dripped. A chilly breeze tickled my bare skin and I started to regret having nothing on but my bikini and sarong. Mum was beginning to shiver as well. Alex was fineâ€¦ as ridiculous as he looked. There are times when I am envious of the male sex and their fashion sense.
The town centre was almost empty. People were only just starting to emerge from their warm, dry indoors. Mum checked the street signs and we stopped outside a small storefront. We were greeted by a young woman who announced herself as Regina. She could almost have been my twin sister, only older (so not really my twin, I suppose). She was petite, with sandy blonde hair cut in a short, rather masculine style, to go with her boyish figure â€“ breasts perky rather than voluptuous, narrow hips and flat derriÃ¨re â€“ like I said, could have been my twin. She was wearing a tiny, and I mean really tiny bandeau top, and a mini, really mini sarong. There wasnâ€™t much of her, and a lot less that was covered. Alex couldnâ€™t keep his eyes off her, but she didnâ€™t seem to notice â€“ or care. I guess that when you work in Aranea Resort and youâ€™re female, you get used to being stared at.
She ushered us inside, where two other patrons were waiting to begin the tour with us. One was a woman in her late twenties or early thirties, the other a girl a year or two older than me. Regina introduced them as Annette and Jessica. Both were wearing the staff sarong, Annetteâ€™s as a dress, Jessicaâ€™s as a skirt. (Iâ€™m still not sure what the rules are regarding how itâ€™s worn, or whether itâ€™s a free choice.) They also wore the choker, though unlike Regina not the bracelets and anklets. I know enough by now to be aware that this means they are resort employees who are off-duty. Mum, without her staff sarong and choker, looked uncomfortable for a moment, but Regina gave her a â€œjust relaxâ€ smile. We are not officially residents until the end of the week, so we donâ€™t have to conform to the dress code till then.
Regina explained that while the mystery tour experience was a part of our orientation, it would be a fun day. Normally there would be â€œciviliansâ€ (strange word to use for guests) joining us, but the threat of bad weather this morning had kept them away.
â€œThen weâ€™re ready to begin?â€ We all nodded and she gestured towards the doorway, but before anyone had moved she turned to my brother with a sprightly smile.
â€œAlex, itâ€™s up to you to do the honours.â€
It took him a couple of seconds to take the hint, but his face lit up in sudden realization and his face cracked in a broad, asinine grin. Mum raised her eyebrows and rolled her eyes (which she does a lot around Alex), and I shook my head. Annette and Jessica looked benevolently amused as Regina turned away from him and placed her hands behind her back, interlocking her fingers.
I try not to visualize what goes on inside my brotherâ€™s mind (for there lies madness), but I can imagine what was going through it as he clamped her bracelets together. This time he was adept at handling the tiny coupling. Regina flexed her arms a few times, either to make the fit more comfortable or to show him that she was securely shackled.
â€œLadies,â€ she said, â€œyou can leave your bags behind the counter.â€ We did so. â€œAnd you wonâ€™t be needing your sunglasses either.â€ I was about to say that the clouds had started to disperse when I realized that wasnâ€™t what sheâ€™d meant.
Since the rest of us werenâ€™t wearing our accessories, Regina tipped her head in the direction of a cabinet in one corner of the room. â€œTop shelf,â€ she instructed, and Alex extracted four sets of handcuffs. They were nothing fancy like the ones we got yesterday, just plain rings made of hard plastic and connected by two links â€“ providing enough length that when your arms are behind you they give you some freedom of movement but not so much that you can slide them down your bottom and over your legs to escape. Regina informed us that with a really strenuous tug they can be pulled apart. That was a bit disconcerting, since I donâ€™t really see the fun in being bound if itâ€™s so easy to get out of; but itâ€™s a safety feature. Perhaps it has something to do with what can happen on the mystery tour. I donâ€™t know that for sure, but it made the dayâ€™s agenda suddenly more intriguing.
I must have been frowning while I was having these thoughts, because Mum, misinterpreting my lack of enthusiasm, had taken the initiative and put her arms behind her. She had her palms facing inwards, and she locked her thumbs together to hold her hands in place, because Alex was struggling to get her cuffs on. It was funny to watch my brother become increasingly frustrated and flustered. He had just done the same to Regina with no difficulty, and it wasnâ€™t like family ties were a new thing. But the tiny clasp on each of the rings is located right beside the chain attachment, and in attempting to join them he was trying to avoid touching her backside. To be supportive, she was stoically pushing her hands as far from her body as she could, but this isnâ€™t easy to do when someone is forcing your wrists together behind you, and it was putting a lot of additional strain on her chest and shoulders. She let out a soft grunt and Alexâ€™s expression was pricelessly comical. She winked at me. Of course, as much as I was enjoying my brotherâ€™s discomfiture, I knew full well that he would take it out on me. And indeed, when my turn came, he made sure to give my arms a few hard and completely unnecessary heaves and jerks. I looked plaintively to mummy dearest, who just smiled indulgently.
While this was going on, I caught a few glimpses of Jessica and Annett as they awaited their turn. Jessica was fidgety, not knowing what to do with her hands. As she watched us being cuffed, she held her arms rigidly at her side but her fingers were tapping out some random rhythm on her thighs. When Alex moved behind and took hold of her wrists to draw them backwards, she couldnâ€™t suppress a flinch. She grimaced and let out staccato puffs of breath as she was being put in her restraints. I got the distinct impression that she is a novice at this. Itâ€™s often easy to forget that not everyone shares the same depth of experience as you.
Annette had a different attitude. I like to classify the reaction to being bound into five types â€“ playful, submissive, stoic, edgy and defiant. Mum and I are stoics, Regina looked to be playful; Jessica was most definitely the jittery, on-edge type. Annette was a defiant. She tilted her head and glared over her shoulder at Alex as he struggled to connect her bracelets. I donâ€™t know if she was deliberately tensing her arms to make it more difficult for him, but if so she only made it harder on herself. Maybe it was part of a game she was playing. I do that a lot. Or perhaps she was a little unnerved by the age difference. Some gals are like that, they donâ€™t like being tied up by much younger guys, and she certainly had a funny expression as she watched Alex shackling his mother. But I donâ€™t really get what the issue is. There are times when you can suck all the fun out of things by being too over-analytical. My personal motto: Sudo non super vegrandis res. Donâ€™t sweat the small stuff.
Naturally, Annetteâ€™s show of haughty bravado merely served to inspire my dauntless Lil Bro. We were standing in a rough semi-circle with him at the focus, and he was enjoying his dominance. Well, I could hardly blame him for that. What adolescent boy doesnâ€™t fantasize being the solitary male in command of a bevy of scantily clad damsels? Nevertheless, he was still a bit uncertain, as he glanced across at Regina. She tipped her head with a â€œYouâ€™re the bossâ€ expression, so he went back to the cabinet, rummaged about and withdrew a bunch of long leather straps. Flaunting them at us, he slowly counted out five, draping them one at a time over his left arm and nodding at each of us in turn as he did so. With a flick of his hand he beckoned us to face away from him. Annette grumbled something unintelligible and Mum sighed, but we all obeyed.
Alex started with me. He looped the strap around my upper arms, just above the elbows. It was made of soft, supple leather, lined on the inside with a fleecy material, and secured with a glide or slider buckle for precise fitting. He pulled it as taut as he could, hauling back on my shoulders and drawing my elbows together so they almost touched behind me. It was not exactly painful, because Iâ€™m quite limber, but itâ€™s always stressful. Of course, the elbow tie is a perennial crowd pleaser, for what it does in front of you as well as behind.
Regina was next, followed by Jessica. I have to admit that Alex did good work. He was sensitive to each womanâ€™s response as he tested how tight to make the strap. None of us, except maybe Regina, knew how long we would have to endure it. Of course, my brotherâ€™s concern was not so much sympathy for our ordeal as for prolonging his own enjoyment of it. Jessicaâ€™s ended up so slack that it didnâ€™t serve much purpose, while Reginaâ€™s was as severe as mine. I knew he would go easy on Mum, and that was partly because she was wearing her strapless swimsuit. While aesthetically enhancing the display of your chest, the posture puts a lot of strain on whateverâ€™s covering it. Even the Lil Bro has his limits.
Annette, again the last, looked on fearfully, expecting the worst. Alex had his fun with her, yanking the strap so hard that she yelped â€“ more in shock than distress â€“ and then he eased off. Her wan smile of gratitude showed that she had been broken, at least for the time being. And satisfied with that, when he was done my brother stood back, arms on hips and head bobbing in smug conceit as he looked us over, thoroughly pleased with his efforts. Yet while he thought he was finished, Regina had other ideas. She went to the cabinet, squatted with her back to it and reached in, fumbling about until she had what she wanted. It was another bundle of leather straps, these ones finely braided, doubled up into a handle at one end and finishing in a metal clasp at the other.
â€œYouâ€™ve got to be kidding,â€ a reinvigorated Annette snarled under her breath, as my brother sorted out five of the leashes and discarded the rest. Meanwhile Regina was back at the cabinet, and this time she took out a small stack of scarves, of shiny midnight blue. Alex took them and blindfolded us. I was first, so I donâ€™t know what happened, but I heard one of the others, Jessica I think, emit a soft â€œOohâ€ sound. Alex had triple-folded the cloth to eliminate any trace of illumination, even when I turned my face directly to the window, where sunlight was now streaming in. The satiny texture was cool and tickly against my cheeks.
As the darkness descended, I understood the purpose of the leashes... sorry, tethers. Theyâ€™re called tethers here. â€œLeashâ€ apparently has the wrong connotation. Anyway, Alex looped the clasp end about my throat, securing it in a loose-fitting noose, and did something with the handle end. I wasnâ€™t quite sure what he was doing until I felt a tugging on the back of the ring about my neck and realized that the five of us were being hitched together in a line. I sensed that Jessica was directly behind me and quickly discovered that to my immediate front was Regina. We were close enough that I could sniff the subtle fragrance of her perfume, maybe half an armâ€™s distance.
Our tethering together wasnâ€™t just for the thrill. It had a practical purpose. By keeping the strap in tension, when we got started on our journey we could each follow the lead of the one in front and so negotiate the path in relative safety. Regina must have the trail imprinted precisely in her brain, because she didnâ€™t need much guidance from Alex; in fact she gave him accurate directions all the way, just like Kate had done yesterday. I guess that when you spend so much time blindfolded, you learn to navigate by memory, aided by finely tuned sensory perception and well-honed instinct, as well as some elemental good luck.
A gentle pressure on the back of my neck told me that we were moving off, and there was a small jerk on my throat as Jessica to my rear got the message half a second after me.
â€œBe careful, thereâ€™s a door sill,â€ Regina warned as we crossed the threshold. I heard the lock click.
Stepping cautiously out onto the sidewalk, I tried to get my bearings. We seemed to be heading eastwards, because I could feel the sunlight, weak though it was, on those parts of my face not concealed by my blindfold. The noise of the street seemed distant, although I could sense the presence of people all around â€“ pedestrians passing by, shop and cafÃ© proprietors opening up, maintenance workers clearing away the detritus of last nightâ€™s festivities and this morningâ€™s inclement weather. With the experience of yesterdayâ€™s trek to help us, it was a relatively simple matter to shuffle along in our little sightless queue. Even so, time seems to stretch out when youâ€™re concentrating so hard on where to place each new step, and I was beginning to get a little bored and irritated, not being able to see where we were going or what was happening all around us. Then suddenly it became worthwhile.
We had left the built-up part of the village and Alex was steering us along a cobbled track which ran up a long, slightly undulating slope. I must have been fidgeting in my bonds, because my thoughtful Lil Bro, thinking I was getting wobbly, was walking by my side with one arm around my waist. From the angle at which he was holding me, it seemed that he was using his other arm to steady Regina and keep on her proper course. Yet though she occasionally needed his support, her skill at navigating behind her blindfold was quite remarkable. There was no hesitancy in her pace â€“ which actually made things harder because the tempo was just a little too fast for the rest of us to maintain.
The ground underfoot was smooth but slippery in places, and once or twice Alex had to assist me to keep my balance; and because we were tied together I could tell that the others were having difficulties as well. I felt a constant tugging on the loop around my throat as Jessica staggered along, but I wasnâ€™t in any danger of choking because there was a lot of slack in it. None of us spoke, but there was quite a bit of huffing and puffing. It was really quite strenuous; but just as I was beginning to lament my bonds and blindfold, I became aware that we were passing through a lush garden. The sudden effusion of aromas was so powerful that it was like walking into a wall of scented cushions.
We slowed down to take it all in. The pathway was lined with flowerbeds from which issued a rich emanescence of opulent bouquets and exuberant fragrances, both familiar and exotic â€“ sweet, spicy, pungent, musky, resiny, citrusy, minty, earthy â€“ wafting and mixing in the breeze. The blindfold, as it does, stimulated my senses and heightened my awareness, in fact almost to the point of overload, because without vision it was impossible to separate and highlight individual scents from the potpourri. It was a strange, almost psychedelic experience, intense and intoxicating but at the same time disorienting. Regina informed us that this was called the Aromatic Trail. I would have named it the Perfumed Garden, and Iâ€™m surprised the resort people didnâ€™t come up with that one themselves â€“ or maybe they had. For as if on cue, Regina casually added that the sudden rush of sensation causes some blindfolded women to have an orgasm. I almost tripped over in shock. Alex only just managed to save me. I heard one of the women behind me gasp and my mother giggle. I wish I could have seen her face, even half hidden behind her midnight blue mask.
By the time we reached the end I was near exhaustion, not just from the physical effort but also from the sensory inundation. When we finally came to a halt, Alex asked if any of us needed to use the toilet. We all said yes, and Iâ€™m sure that the overstimulation had something to do with it. He took off our blindfolds â€“ which was decent of him â€“ but we remained bound and tethered. I blinked and squinted to adjust my eyes to the sunlight, and saw that we were standing on a small ridge or terrace on the side of the mountain, overlooking the village. We were quite high up â€“ funny, I hadnâ€™t noticed how rapidly weâ€™d been climbing â€“ and the view out over the bay and beyond to the open sea was truly breathtaking.
We were in a small park and there was an ablutions block at one end. Once inside, we could have released each other from our bonds without much difficulty, but we didnâ€™t. That would be against the rules, and why agree to the rules in the first place if youâ€™re going to break them whenever itâ€™s convenient? So we had to assist each other in getting the job done. That was hard enough linked together with our hands cuffed and arms strapped behind our backs. In the narrow confines of the stall it required a lot of coordination and considerable gymnastic skill. It would have looked hilarious, if weâ€™d had an audience, because we had to go in two at a time, while the others remained just outside, but with the next in line forced to lean into the cubicle because of our halters. We rotated through. I helped Regina, Jessica helped me, and so on.
Mum presented a special difficulty because, unlike the rest of us wearing bikinis, she had on a one-piece, which was easy to get down but a lot harder for her partner, Annette, to pull back into place with her arms pinioned behind her. Somehow we managed, but on the way out I made the mistake of glancing at the mirror. I have learned from experience that you should avoid seeing your reflection when you are helpless to take remedial action. My hair was a mess and my make-up runny from the effects of the damp air; my sarong was hanging askew from Jessicaâ€™s handcuffed attempt to fix it back in place. Indeed, we all looked pretty dishevelled.
When we emerged, Alex had the temerity to demand to know why weâ€™d taken so long. I wanted to punch him... or at least kick him.
Regina inquired about what we thought of the tour so far.
â€œInteresting,â€ was all any of us could say. My brother just grinned.
We got ready to set off again. From where we were, the track descended precipitously towards the eastern edge of town. Alex had taken cognizance of the way ahead, which was winding and uneven as well as steep, and he decided not to blindfold us... except for Annette. Iâ€™m not exactly sure why she was singled out, although I presume it was because of her earlier bad attitude. She gasped in dismay but didnâ€™t say a word. However, with our eyesight restored, Lil Bro figured that his captives required some further restraining. I knew what was coming when he twirled the first of the scarves into a strand and tied a knot in the middle.
When he realized that it wasnâ€™t big enough for an effective knotted gag, I thought he was going to abandon the enterprise. Not Alex. He folded the material into a rectangular wad and pushed it between my lips. I didnâ€™t resist, but started to regret my acquiescence when he reached down to my waist, took hold of my sarong and whipped it off my hips. He fixed it over my mouth and tied it around my head. It was kind of bulky but did its job. He repeated the process with the others, except for Annette. Because he didnâ€™t have the use of her scarf, which was otherwise engaged, he made her sarong into a cleave gag. These are not very effective unless pulled very taut, which is what Alex did. Annetteâ€™s eyes bulged as the material tightened around her head and forced her jaws apart; and while she didnâ€™t struggle as it was being applied, once it was in place she started complaining. That was more than a little pointless â€“ itâ€™s funny how some gals seem to like the sound of their voice muffled and garbled through a gag. As for me, if I cannot say it loud and clear, I keep it to myself (mostly).
While Alex was gagging me, I glanced behind, at Jessica, for her response. Itâ€™s always interesting to see how the novice reacts to new situations. She was boggle-eyed when my brother pulled off my skirt â€“ how far did she think he was intending to go? â€“ but she had settled down by the time her turn came. Nevertheless, it was obvious from her expression of distaste and the way she instinctively pressed her jaws together that she was not used to the gag. Alex, however, showed admirable restraint, allowing her a few seconds to relax, to lick her lips and moisten the insides of her mouth to accept the wad of satin. She swayed her head and wriggled her body as he secured it, not much but enough to make it difficult for him to do properly. So he stopped trying to tie it, clamped his hands on the sides of her head and held it rigid until she got the message that he was in command. And when heâ€™d completed the job, to further remind her who was in control of whom, he grabbed her arms and spun her around to tighten her elbow strap. Her eyes widened again and her head lolled as her shoulder blades were wrenched backwards and her chest thrust forward. And like Annette, Jessica learned her lesson and started to behave. I felt so proud of my Lil Bro, that he can be so firm with his damsels when the situation requires it.
Of course, I was wondering how he would handle it when our motherâ€™s turn came; but she made it easy for him by cooperating. However, he hesitated before gagging Regina, but only because she had to give directions. Of course, with her sight restored, she could see where we were going and communicate by means of mouth noises and head movements. So even as Alex was pondering his move, she opened wide to accept her gag. Then, without waiting for instructions, she strode forward. Caught unawares, I was jolted into following her lead as the tether between us stiffened. The same thing happened with Jessica to my rear and so on down the line, to Annette at the end. Being blindfolded, she was taken completely by surprise and uttered a muffled curse as she staggered forward. I didnâ€™t have much sympathy for her (since her attitude was becoming, quite frankly, just a little tiresome), but I did feel sorry for Mum, directly to her front, who had to put up with the jerking and lurching which tugged on her halter.
We had veered off the main path and were treading a narrower trail which runs parallel to the ridge that encloses the eastern end of Resort Village. This stage took about half an hour to complete, and it had only just occurred to me that the first part of the walk must have taken at least twice that long. I hadnâ€™t realized because itâ€™s so easy to lose all track of time when youâ€™re blindfolded and your attention is focused steadfastly on each step you take. It feels like a long time, but you have no way of knowing for sure. Now, without that diversion, I was beginning to regret not having a proper breakfast, although at least the hunger pangs provided some distraction from the dull throbbings in my arms and shoulders. Even my boobs were getting a little sore from the tension of the elbow strap. So I canâ€™t say I was enjoying our little adventure; but that doesnâ€™t mean I wished it would stop. Itâ€™s like when youâ€™re having a really weird dream â€“ you hope itâ€™s over soon, but you donâ€™t want to wake up until you find out how it ends.
Eventually we came down off the side of the ridge, emerging onto the headland, a grim, hulking protuberance of taupe-coloured granite, windswept and barren. We continued to a broad causeway constructed of huge boulders, and thence onto a long, tapering sand spit anchored across the mouth of the estuary which empties into the bay. About halfway along, perched upon a rocky outcrop snuggled amongst the spinifex, is a low, coral pink building designed like the hybrid offspring of a Mexican hacienda and a mediÃ¦val citadel. Over the gateway, a sign proclaims â€œThe Sand Castle.â€ I had seen this structure from our hotel suite, but it had been too far away to pick out the details. It is, in fact, a restaurant.
The place was almost empty, with the morning tea customers departed and lunchtime crowd yet to arrive. The ambiance was standard family style, but the decor was ancient Greco-Roman, or at least its colloquial version. We were greeted by the proprietress, a diminutive woman who introduced herself as Marcia. She was wearing a tiny, exquisite slavegirl dress, with all the proper accessories â€“ gold neckband, bracelets and anklets in a baroque, antique design. There were three or four waitresses clearing and setting tables, wearing similar costumes, and a couple of waiters in full-length togas. In fact, the latter were wearing the crimson-edged toga praetexta, attire which only a history geek like myself would know is wildly inappropriate for serving staff. Of course, I said nothing.
Marcia ushered us to a table on the balcony, with a superb view towards Frigate Island and the open sea. Without hesitation, my etiquette-challenged Lil Bro took his seat, leaving his five damsels standing by the table, bound, gagged and tethered in line. Poor Annette was still blindfolded and trying to get her bearings. Marcia inspected us unsympathetically before gesturing to one of the waiters. He acknowledged Alex with a polite tip of the head, but was brusque as he seized Regina by her shoulders and twisted her about to unleash her from me. He shoved her to one side and removed my halter, and then the others. He barked an order at Marcia to help get us ready. For a moment I was taken aback by his gruff behaviour and the insolent treatment of his boss, but of course he was playing his role. In keeping with the theme, Marcia was a mere slavegirl and we were Alexâ€™s captives. At least, I think it was role-play.
Alex stayed in his chair and began chomping on a bread stick as Marcia and the waiter took off our gags and blindfolded us once more. The blue scarves were too saliva-sodden to use over our eyes, but our sarongs, which had served their purpose so well across our mouths, could be moved upwards. The straps around our upper arms were also removed, for which I was grateful. However, our hands remained shackled behind our backs. My brother, ever the considerate one, glowered with displeasure and insisted he was not going to ruin his enjoyment of the meal by having to feed five helpless females. Marcia reassured him that this would be taken care of. She assigned one of the wait staff to each of us â€“ I was assisted by one of the girls. She kept me in pig-out bliss with a sinfully sumptuous serving of newly baked scones spread with a lavish coating of rich strawberry jam, topped by a gargantuan dollop of freshly whipped cream. I happily gorged myself, and my helper was kept busy wiping blobs of jam and cream from my nose, cheeks and chin. I also managed to dribble my grape juice down my front. The girl apologized but I took full responsibility. I had a lovely time. We all did.
Before we left on the next leg of our tour, there was another trip to the bathroom. We were by now sufficiently adroit at doing what was necessary bound and blindfolded, and not being leashed together made it a lot easier. Thereâ€™s no need to go into the details.
It must have been around about noon when we left the Sand Castle and headed back towards the village. The morningâ€™s walk had left us pretty much exhausted, and our mini-feast had left us stuffed, so Regina commandeered one of the taxis parked behind the restaurant. Our blindfolds and cuffs stayed on (except, of course, for driver Regina) but that was all. When Alex grabbed Annette and I heard her pulling away, I silently cheered for her.
â€œLet it go, sweetie,â€ Mum said, guessing, behind her blindfold, what was happening.
Alex replied with a sullen grumble; but it was a timely reminder to him that the privileges of being the sole possessor of a penis in our group extended only so far. I think that for a brief moment he was weighing the odds of successfully wrestling his damsels into submission; but even bound and blindfolded, five feisty females would be more than a handful for one obstreperous adolescent, so he wisely opted for a tactical retreat. He was gracious in helping us into the buggy, and on the way back into the village he good-naturedly described the picturesque scenery for us... Come to think of it, he waxed so lyrical that I now realize that he was, in his inimitable way, taunting us. I was so disappointed. If that was the best he could come up with, I obviously havenâ€™t taught my Baby Bro as much as I like to think.
As the rumbling of the wheels across corrugated bitumen transitioned into smooth rolling across level pavement, I knew we were back in town. When we came to a halt, Alex tapped me on the shoulder and I climbed out. He guided us two at a time across the threshold of one of the buildings, and since hardly a word had passed between him and Regina, I had no idea what to expect. When he uncuffed me and took off my blindfold, as I adjusted my eyes, massaged my wrists, stretched my arms and rubbed my shoulders, I looked about. I saw that we were standing inside an establishment called The Chain Store â€“ no need to guess its product line. Regina quickly assured us that we were under no obligation to buy anything â€“ we were here for a free fitting and a gift. Annette, always the cynic, suggested that the hard sell was reserved for the paying guests, and Regina responded with a good-humoured smile.
We looked about for a while, fantasizing about some of the items, hypothesizing about others. There was something for every part of the body and a few objects that didnâ€™t seem to belong anywhere that I can conceive of. Alex asked Mum about a pear-shaped gadget and she just gave him a funny look. The merchandise came in a range of materials, from plastic to platinum. Not everything was a chain, but that was the general motif. As well as appliances like gags, blindfolds and hoods, there was other gear, like chain mail bikinis (ouch!); and my brother became interested in a showcase full of chastity belts. He called me over and asked me to explain what they were and how they worked. Since he knew perfectly well what they were and how they worked, I ignored him.
There was a couple in the shop who were being attended to by the salesgirl. When she had finished with them, she showed us around the store. Her name was Natalie. She measured me for a beautiful set of fine gold chains â€“ for neck, waist, wrists and ankles â€“ with accoutrements that included connectors to be used in all sorts of different combinations, shackles for elbows and knees, and indeed everything a fashion-conscious damsel in distress could desire. All pieces had detachable fur lining â€“ sheer luxury! She told me how cute I looked in my bits and turned to Alex.
â€œDoesnâ€™t she look pretty?â€ she said.
â€œHuh!â€ he replied. My brother is nothing if not eloquent.
Alas, the gold chains were not to keep, but Natalie presented us each with an elegant suede-leather choker, mine magenta with a heart-shaped lock. Iâ€™m getting quite a collection now. She also introduced Mum, Jessica and Annette to various other interesting devices, like spreader bars, posture bars, yokes, prangers, fiddles. Iâ€™m sort of glad I wasnâ€™t expected to try out any of these, because they looked rather demanding. We stayed about half an hour before moving on. We each wore our new collars, but Alex magnanimously chose not to exercise his prerogative to put us in anything more. It was nice to be free for a while.
We piled into the buggy and set off through the village, back towards the docks area on the eastern edge of town. We came upon a small cluster of weather-beaten, white-washed timber structures which I had seen a few times at a distance and assumed were just the old, rundown parts of the resort that hadnâ€™t yet been renovated. Regina set us straight. This is the core of the historical settlement which has been preserved in its original condition. We pulled up outside a building signposted â€œCourthouseâ€ and disembarked. (Okay, itâ€™s since occurred to me how unlikely it is that in the islandâ€™s pre-resort days the population was anywhere near large enough to warrant its own courthouse and jail. Dramatic licence for the tourists, I guess.)
We were met by a man and a woman dressed in old-time police tunics. She had on the ubiquitous collar, but not the bracelets and anklets, which made sense given her character. Of course, in keeping with local fashion, only the guy wore trousers to complete the look. Of course â€“ how un-unexpected! â€“ as soon as we alighted we were arrested on the spot (except Regina). The real surprise was that Alex was taken into custody as well. We were handcuffed, with antique iron manacles, and marched off to the cells. My brother was still in a state of mild shock as we were incarcerated, being for once on the receiving end. Nevertheless, as a concession to his gender, he got off lightly. While his hands were shackled in front, for the rest of us it was hands-behind-the-back. This became a bit annoying because there were flies buzzing about, being irksome and irritating, as is their wont. Alex was kind enough to drive them away from us, at first. Eventually, however, he wearied of being so helpful and left us to fend as best we could for ourselves.
The cell had barely enough room to accommodate the five of us, seated on two metal bunks set against opposite walls, close enough that Alex could perform his fly-shooing task (while it lasted) without having to get up. I should add that he had a ball and chain attached to one ankle. Afterwards, I was a little disconcerted to find out that it wasnâ€™t locked; he could have reached down at any time to free himself; but one must concede that safety should always take precedence over authenticity. (Thatâ€™s probably why we gals were spared the ball and chain â€“ not out of consideration for our tender natures but because it was harder, with our hands secured behind our backs, to release the ankle restraint in an emergency.)
We spent about half an hour behind bars, sufficient for tedium to set in but not long enough for excruciating boredom. We learnt that you can sign up for an overnight stay, with the complete tin bucket latrine, straw mattress, bread and water experience. You can even join a chain gang, like what we saw on our first day. Not my cup of tea, but whatever floats your boat, I suppose. (Splendid mixed metaphor, there.)
The mystery tour was far from over. It was still but early afternoon. Back in our buggy, we skirted the village, taking a circuitous route that ultimately had us heading due north, up the islandâ€™s west coast. I had a suspicion of where we were going, confirmed as we crested the ridge above the Oasis. On the road about halfway to our destination we encountered a ragged line of some twenty or so women and girls, bound and tethered by neck ropes and escorted by about a dozen buccaneer types who were striding up and down the column, urging their prisoners forward with dastardly fervent zeal. Following behind them at about ten pacesâ€™ distance, a crowd of spectators was laughing and joking and calling out words of encouragement (whether to the captives or their captors it was hard to tell).
Both groups moved to the side of the roadway to let us pass. Some of the hostages got into the spirit of the game by calling plaintively for rescue. We just shrugged sympathetically and drove on.
Pirateâ€™s Cove is a small deepwater harbour on the south-west coast, enclosed by sheer cliffs and shielded from the open sea by the broken remnants of a wave-shattered prehistoric shoreline. According to local lore, or at least the version I read in the brochure, Aranea Island was once a haven for the buccaneer fraternity; but frankly I donâ€™t believe a word of it. I donâ€™t recall ever reading about pirates operating this far west in the Pacific, at least those of the Blackbeard or Captain Kidd pedigree. Still, itâ€™s a romantic legend, and the rugged terrain provides an apposite setting.
Upon arrival, we were confronted by a fantastic but slightly ludicrous spectacle â€“ a fully rigged pirate ship drawn up on the narrow beach and enclosed on three sides by tiers of bleacher seating. Regina ushered us through the entrance, past two cutlass-wielding sentries, just as a show was reaching its climax with a thunder of cannons, a salvo of musketry, the clash of steel blades, a barrage of salty language, the shrieks of kidnapped maidens and whistles and cheers from the audience.
Instead of showing us to the stands, to my delight Regina took us backstage, where amidst frenetic activity we girls were bustled into a dressing room. As we were squeezed and laced into period costumes, magnificently ornate gowns with gorgeous trimmings and abundant dÃ©colletage, the producer gave us a quick briefing. Mum, with her showgirl looks, was given the lead role as Lady Claudia, a beautiful Irish noblewoman who really did exist, or so weâ€™re led to believe. She had been carried off by pirates during a voyage to the colonies sometime in the seventeenth century (albeit in the Caribbean, not the South Pacific) along with her handmaidens. The latter were to be played by Jessica and me. Annette was cast as one of the picaroon crewâ€™s busty serving wenches.
And so we got to star in a rip-roaring, eye-popping, hair-raising, heart-stirring, chest-thumping, bodice-ripping buccaneer saga. Alex had a part too, more a walk-on, as Corky the cabin boy (or whatever â€“ I didnâ€™t pay much attention). The first scene we played was the requisite boarding battle, replete with shouting, screaming and loud explosions, and a prop faÃ§ade for the boat from which we fair maidens were abducted to meet our fate worse than death. It was actually rather terrifying, because we were slung, kicking and squealing, over the shoulders of our lusty captors who had to leap nearly two metres onto the main stage. With our hands bound behind our backs, we had no way of protecting ourselves if the guys had lost their grip and weâ€™d fallen; but they were well-trained, experienced and athletic, so there was no real danger.
At the opening of the second act, Jessica and I were lashed to the mast while Mum, after the customary mauling and molesting by her evil captors, was forced to walk the plank. She really did â€“ I could hear the splash when she disappeared over the side â€“ but of course it was into a shallow pool just a metre below, out of sight of the cheering audience. (They cheered as the tragic heroine was fed to the sharks? Charming!) Jessica and I were then taken off stage, not to appear again. Apparently the ill-fated handmaidens were tossed overboard to join their wretched mistress. Iâ€™m glad that little drama took place off-stage. I had no great desire for a dunking.
We watched the rest of the show from the sidelines. Looking out into the stands, I recognized several of the captive women and girls we had seen being herded down the road toward the cove. Regina explained that they were given free admission and their menfolk got tickets at half-price. Mum joined us, sodden and bedraggled, before we went below to change out of our costumes.
It was now about three oâ€™clock, still quite early, but we were all tired, and the last leg of our mystery tour was something of an anticlimax, which was fine by me. We stopped in at one of the restaurants in the village for afternoon tea. We went behind the scenes to visit the kitchen and got to sample the various dishes as guests of the chef de cuisine. Dining is, typically, sans vue for the ladies, and so all food and drink is prepared with this in mind. Anyway, the most interesting aspect of the visit was that we tasted each dish both with and without our blindfolds in order to experience the contrast. It is illuminating to discover the extent to which sight is involved in our appreciation of food, because it was like eating completely different stuff â€“ not necessarily better but different. Alex took part in the experiment as well, but he just shut his eyes for the dining-in-the-dark, refusing to wear the blindfold. Men donâ€™t wear blindfolds, he told us. Ah, the adolescent male ego!
It was closing in on five oâ€™clock when we returned to our starting point, picked up our things and said thanks and good-bye to Regina. It had been a fascinating day. Jessica and Annette accompanied us to the bottom of the hill and, incredibly, Annette allowed Alex to tie her hands behind her back and blindfold her for the (admittedly brief) walk. I guess it was her way of saying â€œno hard feelingsâ€ for her attitude during the day.
Once weâ€™d parted company with them, my brother nudged my arm.
â€œNot in the mood,â€ I deflated him.
â€œDonâ€™t even think about it,â€ Mum pre-empted him.
Back in the suite, we described our adventures to Dad, showed him our lovely new collars, and explained to him what heâ€™d missed.
â€œOh, and Mum got ravished by pirates.â€
â€œReally? And how was that?â€
â€œWet,â€ my mother replied. My father just blinked.
We had dinner in the downstairs restaurant, followed by another night in. Mum and Dad went straight to bed. Alex watched TV while I retired to write up this journal entry. And so, as day three on Aranea Island draws to a close, I wonder what other mysteries and further adventures await us.