Reformism Interruptet

Overture – Let the Games Begin – Part Eight

Royalty Reforms

by Nick Lucas and Dee

 

This is a part of Reformism Interruptet and follows the part The Second Front. Having read the previous parts is a prerequisite for fully enjoing this story.

In God’s House, In God’s Love

Sister Caris did not think about her old alter ego, Susie Johnson, anymore. She did not exist anymore. Not even in the dark recesses of her mind, late at night in her sleeping gown, which was the only place she ever felt safe enough to think. She lived one moment at a time. Her mind was full of God, or work, and her eyes always watched the keepers, as she did her best to avoid their cruel encouragements. In the Cathedral, she joined the usual procession up the main aisle, heading for what they called the cellars, beneath the main seating areas, where the nuns would pray for hours, visible to anyone visiting the Cathedral through the grills set in the floor. It was the usual routine. She had completed a shift at the hospital, returned for a shower and a quick feed before heading off for prayers. She had no idea what time it was, although it was light outside. Time had no meaning to her at all anymore. She was either in her sleeping gown, working or praying with a little domestic abuse in-between.

Pastor Nigel Brown looked up and watched the Sisters marching past him, preparing to read the afternoon service. It would be his first one in the Cathedral, following his promotion to a position as an assistant to Bishop Osborne. It was a promotion, a sort of reward for his efforts, but he had to admit he would miss running his own parish a little. However, his new job came with a fine house on the other side of the river near the hospital, where he would be one of the chaplains, and he knew his family would benefit from living in Meadvale. He also knew it was his big chance. He would meet all of the Bishops, not just Osborne and Michael Winstanley, and he would have many chances to impress.

Brogan took a seat near the altar. She had not intended to stay for the service, but she was in the mood, and Miss Derbyshire had taken India home, leaving her in peace. She would be collected, of course. She had watched the guardian point her out to the security guard at the doors, as if she was likely to attempt an escape. It rather amused her. She wondered how far she could actually get, encumbered by her clothes, without the use of her hands and silenced by her muzzle. The first policeman who saw her would check her FID, and that would be that, so Miss Derbyshire’s attention to detail really seemed a little extreme. She had nowhere to run too. Nowhere to go. Meadvale was her home. It was not a pleasant thought, but it was still true. The world she knew was going or already gone.

Lucy Slade took Hermione’s arm as they strolled towards the door. Miss Lewis would be waiting for them outside, and Lucy did not want to leave in the middle of a service. She was in the habit of praying and, being so close, the Cathedral was an ideal morning walk for her and her stepdaughter. Hermione was such a lovely girl, and Lucy was already fond of her, and delighted with her husband, who had been unfailingly patient, kind and attentive. She had fallen on her feet, for sure. Even the guardian was gentle and encouraging to her both her charges. She was close to her own family, and able to see them, and she was as happy as any woman had any right to be.


Charlotte Sullivan did not even know if Miss Carpenter was still there. Holding herself still, despite her aching muscles, she tried to concentrate on her lessons. She knew she would have to answer questions on them later. Endless questions, and all her mistakes would be punished with the paddle. Her breath hot beneath her blinding mantle, she started thinking about her old life. She knew she had it easy back then, with Dee pretending to be her guardian, before her father went insane. But her mother was just as bad, sometimes. She was like an ice queen, Charlotte thought, since Christmas, since her father went quite mad, her mother had become distant and cold towards everyone. It was all so horrible. How could they do this to her? How could Dee just abandon her? How could her mother just sit there and let her father do it to them?


Miss Lewis had been less patient with Hermione Slade, but not much less so than Miss Scott, as Mr Slade remained reluctant to push his daughter past the final hurdle. She had been paddled, several times, and there was no doubt in Miss Lewis’ mind that the maiden fully accepted her guardian’s authority over her. But the relationship between Hermione and her stepmother, and the fine example Lucy Slade set for the girl, were new factors, and very positive ones. Lucy Slade had completed her national service, and complete obedience was simply second nature to her. She submitted herself totally to her guardian, and was pathetically grateful for the smallest kindness whilst willingly accepting every restriction placed upon her in God’s love. She never needed to be punished, although Miss Lewis had Mr Slade’s full permission to do so if necessary, and she constantly encouraged Hermione to be a perfect maiden.

“God has blessed you by sparing you national service.” Lucy said one afternoon, referring as she often did to her time as a nun in God’s love, but giving few details of her convent life. “Believe me, Hermione dear, you have such a glorious opportunity here thanks to your beloved father. I think he will be able to make you a wonderful match, with all his important friends, but you must strive to be the best maiden you can be. I did not realise it when I was your age...I suppose that is why we need the help of dedicated professionals like Miss Lewis...and I did not have the advantages you have. My time in the convent taught me to love God as he loves me, and he has rewarded me for my efforts with your father. You do not have to go away from home, and I do feel it is my duty to help you, dear.”

“Oh...thank you Mama,” Hermione replied, with a shy smile. Miss Lewis insisted that she call her stepmother Mama, but she did not mind at all, because Lucy was just adorable. She did not have a nasty bone in her body and she clearly worshipped her new husband, and loved Hermione. She was only seven years older than Hermione, and they were friends, talking about most things when they had the chance. Especially the future, of course. It was the summer, and Hermione was well aware that it was time to make up her mind what she wanted to do. She had not discussed it with her father. He had made it clear that she had to think it all through and give it time. So she had, in great detail, using her time in Meadvale as a sort of retreat from real life. It had been strange at times, of course, and upsetting and painful occasionally, but Hermione remembered how much she had pleased her grandmother before she died, and how delighted Lucy was with her. Miss Scott had suggested that she was something of a natural maiden, perhaps because her mother had always acted like a guardian to her. Even during their regular, long Skype conversations, Pippa was still trying to tell her what to do. But in the end it was up to her, and she felt she had to grasp the nettle and make some decisions for herself, for once.

So, she asked to see her father. He spent long hours at his office, a new government building on the far side of the hospital, just a short walk from the house, but he often came home for lunch, and then always for dinner by eight o’clock, a routine which meant he could always spend some quality time with his wife and daughter. Miss Lewis arranged for Hermione to have some time alone with him after lunch, in the garden, where he liked to enjoy a cup of coffee. Hermione did not want to speak to him in front of Lucy despite their close relationship, because there were things she could never understand, and she had no wish to hurt her feelings. It had to be between her and her father.

“Such a beautiful afternoon...don’t you just love this place when the sun shines?” Christopher Slade said, smiling as his darling daughter stepped out of the house onto the terrace and performed a graceful obeisance. She was dressed in the sumptuous velvet only the rich could afford, a cloak and gown in shimmering royal blue, with only her eyes visible above her mantle. Miss Lewis did not use veils for a stroll in the garden, but since finishing lunch she had put Hermione into her mittens.

“Of course Papa...it is like home.” Hermione responded as he rose to take her arm, looking into her eyes. She behaved towards him as Miss Lewis had taught her to behave. It always seemed right in Meadvale, and the formalities did not affect the bond they had between them, or their love.

“Sweetheart, it is your home...I have never seen you happier, and you and Lucy are a constant delight to me.”

“She is so devoted to you Papa...it is something we have in common, I suppose.”

“So...you wanted to see me?”

“Summer is here...I have been thinking about going to college...not Princeton, but maybe somewhere small, where I can be me. I’ve thought about it a lot, Papa...like you said...and I would like to study art.” Hermione talked quickly, her nerves rushing it all out, fearing his disappointment. She knew he really wanted her to stay with him. “Mom will think it is a waste of time, but it is what I love doing...even here, I sketch whenever I can...so if you will support me...”

“Of course I will continue you to support you, Hermione.” Slade squeezed her arm and gazed down the garden, past the roses he had planted himself, and across the river to the Cathedral, praying for courage. “I shall ask Miss Lewis to make sure you have an hour or two every day to sketch...and we can get you some paints too. It must not interfere with your lessons of course, but I am sure it is possible. Needlepoint is an art form too...all suitable hobbies for a maiden...I am sure we can work something out Hermione.”

“But Dad, I want to go to college?” Hermione pressed, staring up at him.

“No Hermione, you don’t...that is just your mother’s brainwashing I am afraid...and as your father, I have to be strong enough to take important decisions for you, because you are not capable of making good decisions for yourself. Your life is here, with Lucy and me, and eventually a husband and a family of your own. This is your home. I know this is good for you, and I am not going to argue about it, Hermione. You are staying here with me to live in God’s love.”

Dangerous Liaisons

“She will mean nothing to me.” Sir James Miller sighed, kissing the President’s ear with some relish, and wishing that she would shut up and concentrate. But Sharon Rosen was in a mood, of course.

“Oh just like all of the others...including me,” Rosen pouted, turning her head away from him.

“Sharon, you never divorced Leonard, did you?”

“Of course not, a President does not get divorced...not in office. Not even in the campaign preceding office. For eleven years I have had to live a lie, and now that I am finally able to get rid of the sad old bastard, you decide to take a wife?”

“I think we both know it is not really my decision to make.” Miller gave up on her and reached for the champagne. It was still early and he could bide his time. “But if you are serious, I can certainly appeal to the Prime Minister. If he can withdraw from the Saudi arrangement without embarrassment, and you were prepared to undergo some training to prepare yourself, it might be possible. I am sure Radcliffe would love the ex-president to convert to the Reformist cause.”

“Yes, you would love to get me into a muzzle, wouldn’t you?”

“Sometimes I will admit to being tempted, but leopards cannot change their spots. I intend to move back to London as soon as the election is over...Radcliffe has promised me the Foreign Office at the next reshuffle...and my Saudi Princess is both a reward and a formal cementing of the friendship between our two countries. Sharon, you know how it works.”

“She is probably young and pretty and you will devour her like a lion eating an antelope.” Rosen flopped back on the bed and stroked his back with her fingertips. She was jealous. She was a sixty year old woman who had just spent eight years leading the strongest nation in the world, and she was acting like a love struck teenager.

“She is eighteen, and a typical Saudi I would imagine. She will have been kept on a short leash there, wearing her Armani and Dior beneath her burqa, but she is a royal, so she will not be overly religious. I am arranging some maiden training for her so that London does not come as too much of a shock to her, and then I am sure I will devour her, but only out of duty and my insatiable lust for power.”

“Shit, the things I have done for you over the years.” Rosen sighed, closing her eyes.

“Out of love, I always thought...and that need not change. Our opportunities are bound to be limited, if I am living in London and you are here...but we are not kids, Sharon, we will cope.”

“I gave you Colin Hughes and his daughter, and the Hamilton girl...what have you ever given me?”

“My full attention, every other Tuesday and twice on Sundays?”

“I often think about those two girls.” Rosen said as he started to kiss her stomach, his tongue lighting her fires.

“Sharon, you think far too much...”

“Do you actually know where they are?”

“Yes, I do.” He propped himself up on an elbow and stared at her face. “Both of them are in a closed convent, in Meadvale as it happens, and they spend their days begging God for his forgiveness. I considered sending Mena there, but they were really very tedious about letting her out again after a month or three. It is a totally silent order and as they do not need their hands to pray they are kept in mittens all the time.”

“Great...I am glad to have that on my conscience.”

“Oh Sharon, you worry far too much...now please shut up and let me fuck you.”


“So, we are going back to London, sir?” Mena asked uncertainly, not sure that she had heard everything correctly. As always Alistair was doing several things at once, leaving her standing before him for ages, and it was hard to know if he was talking to her or his telephones sometimes.

“What? Oh, yes, we are. I am not needed here anymore...and actually I don’t want to be here in the run up to the election as it might...compromise...my position once we get back home.” He replied quickly, his eyes flicking from his phone to his computer screen and then back to her. He had not asked her to sit, and he had made her hold her greeting curtsey for almost two minutes as he took a call, treating her with his usual disdain. “I shall be working closely with the Prime Minister again and you will play my perfect Reformist wife. No more days in the limelight I am afraid...but I will let you breed, I suppose. But never fear dearest Mena, Miss Robinson will be coming with us...I know how devoted to her you are.”

“Is the King going to retire, sir?” Mena asked, risking the impertinence. Her husband was impossible to predict. Sometimes he would allow her to ask questions, as if her interest in his business amused him, but some other times he would explode and have her punished for her insolence. But she knew that her father was going home too. He had told her, as he always did, and urged her to be patient, once more. Not that she thought she would ever have any power herself, even if Alistair did rise to become the second President of Great Britain, after Kieran Radcliffe. That had always been a foolish, immature dream, because she was just a woman, just a Reformist wife.

“Yes, I think he finally is, and that will mean a lot of changes in Westminster.” He stopped fiddling with his phone and looked up at her, staring so intensely it was as if he could see inside her mind. “Of course, that is why you agreed to marry me, my little convent educated Rabbit, before you realised that I could control you, and now just look at yourself? The stuck up little snob who thought her brains and beauty could get her everything she wanted...but God help me, I wanted you more. Curtsey to me again Mena.”

“Yes sir,” Mena murmured, offering her deepest obeisance.

“See how subservient you are...I take it you are diapered?”

“Yes sir, as always.”

“Good...then fill it for me.”

“Sir?”

“Come on Mena, it is not hard to understand, I want you to piss yourself when I say so.”

“Yes sir,” Mena whispered, closing her eyes as she strained to obey.

“Back in London you will have no independence. You have been useful here at times, to obfuscate and confuse. But you are nothing in London, without me. I will make you perform for me. If you want to be my first Lady in time, you will have to earn it my little Rabbit...as your father has to earn the right to hang onto my coattails. He used you to promote his career, and I am going to let you watch mine. I am going to put you on a golden pedestal and make you dance.”

“Why do you hate me sir?” Mena asked, struggling to hold her position as her bowels opened and the weight of her cloak and gown threatened to pull her down onto the floor.

“Oh Rabbit, I don’t hate you...I just enjoy tormenting you...and just think of the decades of fun we have stretching out before us when we get home. Now you may rise and scurry along to Miss Robinson to tell her that you have disgraced yourself. I am sure she will punish you for it...and always remember, if you had been polite to me that first time we met none of this need ever have happened...it is all your own stupid fault, Mena.”

The Abdication

“Good grief, he is like his father...he cannot even resign without insulting someone.” Kieran Radcliffe laughed, taking a coffee from his assistant with a smile. He was watching the news, watching King Charles finally fall on his ceremonial sword, at long last, although the delays had allowed him to get his plans in place. He would let the dust settle. For a month or two, whilst setting out a timetable for a presidential election, just before Christmas. By the time he arrived at Broomwaters for Christmas he fully expected to be president of the new republic, and by then he would have his own team around him, free from the interference of parliamentary protocol. He missed Peter Munroe more than he cared to admit, and wanted Alistair Forbes back to fill his shoes. The media was in a frenzy of course, but the monarchy was an anachronism, and so was parliament, and there was nothing to stop him winning absolute power. By then, he also hoped to have a strong ally in the White House. Shap Nixon was technically standing as vice-president, but Forbes was confident that could still change. He had suggested that Nixon might have more influence in that role than was normally possible.

But he would have to watch Forbes. Peter Munroe was a loyal acolyte, but Forbes was potentially a rival, and certainly a man with ambition, unlike Peter. He opened a secret file on his computer, which Christopher Slade assured him was totally secure. It had an ever-changing password, and was encrypted so that if anyone ever opened it they would never be able to decipher the contents. He added the name. He wanted to know all young Alistair’s dirty little secrets, just in case he ever needed to cage the tiger.


Christopher Slade got the message in his office. It did not add anything to his workload, as he had been monitoring Forbes ever since they started working together. His researchers were all his picks, trained by him and loyal to him, and they realised that their careers, plus their large salaries and bonuses, depended on total discretion at all times. They looked at a lot of very important and powerful people, and discovered a lot of things. But the royal family ought to be off their list at any rate. Not that there were many of them left in the country of course. Slade opened his VIP whereabouts spreadsheet, just for his own amusement, where he had a royal workbook, to keep a track of things. In all, eight women were in Meadvale convent, where they cost his former majesty a lot less than elsewhere. He had donated them for life, in God’s love. Most of the rest were abroad earning a crust by various means, or sponging off friends.

He amused himself with the rest of the spreadsheet for a few moments, and cross-referenced the lists with the White nuns in Meadvale convent; well aware that it was considered the height of Reformist piety. It was becoming quite fashionable for a rich family to gift a daughter to the order. Beside the duchess and three princesses, plus the two girls he himself had helped find a home there, Natalie Hughes and Skylar Hamilton, there was a niece of Sir Charles Buckingham, Archbishop Winstanley’s youngest daughter and a clutch of major and minor celebrities whose lifestyles, and particular proclivities, had suggested them for a lifetime in God’s loving embrace.

The Princess

Fatima was not fazed by the appearance of the woman standing before her. She was quite used to Britain, having spent at least a month there every summer since she was a toddler, and she was a Muslim, so covered women were as normal to her as anything else. But this particular covered woman was going to teach her how to live as a maiden, to prepare her for her marriage to Sir James Miller, and Fatima was aware that her lessons were going to change her life. She was not daunted by the idea of an arranged marriage. She had expected that ever since she was a little girl, as her mother and sisters had before her. She was, after all, a Princess, albeit one of many Saudi princesses, and she understood that business came before pleasure. But she had expected to marry a Muslim, probably another Saudi, and live the life she knew in the luxury of a Jeddah mansion, then spending her summers in London, Paris or Rome, shopping extravagantly with the billions of oil dollars her husband would surely lavish on her and her fellow wives.

However, that was not to be. Her father had offered her to a British diplomat as part of some rather complex international negotiations he was involved with in his role as the Saudi Foreign Minister. She was his ninth daughter, and from his third wife so Fatima had never considered herself a particularly important catch, but she was a favourite of her father’s, and she had hoped he would keep her close to home. But he had explained that Sir Charles was an important man, and that linking the two families together was vital for both Britain and Saudi Arabia, so she had hidden her disappointment and promised him that she would do her duty as both a daughter and a Princess. He had explained that she would have to be prepared for her marriage. She was only seventeen, and the wedding would probably not take place until the following summer, when she would turn eighteen, so she had time to learn how to be a good Reformist wife.

Despite outward appearances, she was not a particularly pious girl, as her family were just not like that, which was not at all unusual in the upper echelons of Saudi society. She was a royal, albeit a fairly minor one, and her father was a billionaire and a politician, so in public she was always the perfect Muslimah, but in private she was used to enjoying herself. Beneath her anonymous black robes and veils, worn whenever she left the privacy of her own home, she always dressed in the latest fashions, listened to the hottest music and generally behaved like any other teenager the world over. Her purdah was like a cloak of convenience, designed to give a certain impression, but she never felt restricted or oppressed. Saudi Arabia was a religious country but the oil dollars had created a class that lived above the rules for everyone else. She was born and brought up as a Muslim, but she never thought about it as a way of life. So, in that sense giving up her religion for her new husband was not a huge issue. It was not as if she was giving up something that was an important part of her life. But she was aware of Reformism and what it meant for women in Britain, and she was a little nervous. Her mother, no doubt trying to settle those nerves, told her that it would be nothing like as bad as some of the stories she had read about on the internet or heard from her brothers. Kamiah Al Hussein reminded her daughter of the horror stories infidels told about Muslims, and of course that was true. Fatima was not forced to veil, or treated like some sort of second class citizen, it was just what she was used to, and what she expected, and she behaved like everyone else.

Kamiah had met Sir James Miller. He was currently the British Ambassador in Washington and Fatima’s father had taken all his wives to some grand dinner, and introduced them there. Her mother had told Fatima that he was a charming man, in his late forties, who had not mentioned God once. In fact, Kamiah said that he seemed really very casual about Reformism in general and had been the life and soul of the party. So once she was married, Fatima would probably live the same sort of life she was used to living in Jeddah, but first she had to learn how to behave. That did make sense. Fatima was used to that idea of being one thing in public and another in private. A British girl marrying one of her brothers would have a lot to learn, so some sort of training was a logical step. But she had read about British guardians and the small mountain of grey velvet standing in front of her reminded her what she was there for. She rather wished that she had put her abaya over her tight, knee length designer dress.

“Hello…you must be Miss Freeman…I am so pleased to meet you at last…the maid left coffee?” Fatima gabbled, moving towards the grey mound with her hand outstretched, ready to shake. Her English was perfect, as was her French, Spanish and Mandarin, since a succession of tutors had forced her to learn them all, alongside her usual music lessons, deportment, art and the Quran, of course. Princesses would never work, at least not the rich ones, but her father believed that his daughters had to be educated and they were.

“Stand still, please.” Miss Freeman said, her tone even but clearly intending it as an instruction, not a request, not moving a muscle. Fatima frowned, but stopped in her tracks, letting her right arm fall back down to her side. “I am aware that you are inexperienced, Princess Fatima, but as far as I am concerned, your education with me started as soon as you came into the room…I am your guardian, you should curtsey to me.”

“Oh…sorry…”

“Silence!” Miss Freeman snapped, and Fatima almost jumped in surprise. No one had ever spoken to her so harshly. Not even her tutors. Not even her parents. “Clearly you do not understand what you are…here. In this apartment, where we shall live together until your marriage, you are not a princess, and I am not your servant…you are now just a maiden and I am your guardian…I shall decide whether you speak, or not…I shall decide whatever you do, what you wear, what you eat, when you sleep and even what you think…and take heed, maiden, because I will not repeat myself. Now curtsey!”

Fatima obeyed, shocked into it, doing her best to copy what she had seen British women do many times. She came to London every summer to shop, more for jewellery than clothes, but the sight of women curtseying to each other was a common one. Miss Freeman, still completely hidden behind her veils and mantle, watched her closely. It was not that bad for a first attempt, but her new charge would need a lot of practise. Luckily her parents had agreed to leave her in London, in Miss Freeman’s care, so there would be no outside interference. Jen Freeman knew what Sir James Miller wanted out of his wife to be, which was really what most Reformist men expected, of course. Blind obedience.

During the next hour, Miss Freeman taught Fatima Al Hussein the basics of her new life. She also introduced her to the five instruments of torture every maiden had to learn to endure. Firstly the muzzle. Muslimahs might be used to not talking in certain situations, but being physically silenced was a new experience for her. Not terrible at first, because it was not really particularly uncomfortable, but as Miss Freeman did not intend to remove it for several days, it would become so. Secondly the corset, considered by some to be a fashion item, helping any Reformist lady achieve the desirable shape, accentuated by her wide skirts. But that was really just an additional benefit, because the purpose of lacing Fatima down until she found it hard to draw breathe was to keep her back straight and reduce her mobility. Maidens did not rush anywhere. Posture was a sign of good breeding too. Thirdly, the mittens. Fatima was a rich girl about to marry a powerful man, and she had no real need of her hands, most of the time. Everything would be done for her, allowing her to focus on earning God’s love. Miss Freeman watched the girl’s eyes as she buckled the mitten tight, because she realised how helpless she was. It was a good lesson for her to learn, of course. Fatima had to learn to rely on her guardian for everything in her life. Fourthly the cruel paddle. Miss Freeman had dozens of reasons to punish Fatima by that stage, but she would have done so even if the girl had somehow managed to avoid all of the usual pitfalls. Miss Freeman always beat a new charge within an hour of taking control of her, simply to assert her authority. It was often unfair; her last charge had been the angelic granddaughter of the Archbishop himself, a girl raised within the Church who had already completed two years of intensive maiden training with her previous guardian, who had only left to care for her elderly parents. Abigail Winstanley was a delightful child, with perfect manners and an obvious, genuine piety and desire to behave. Her competent predecessor told Miss Freeman that she had only been paddled twice, both times soon after she came of age. But Miss Freeman used her favourite chair position and beat the child until she fainted, after some ninety strokes. By the time she married, and Miss Freeman passed her on, Abigail Winstanley had gone beyond perfect to entirely automatic, the perfect Reformist wife.

Fatima knelt precariously on the arms of a low chair, with her head forced down lower than her knees. She was naked apart from her mittens and her tormentor intended to beat her. She could not believe what was happening to her. She had been spanked once or twice as a child, by her mother, but this was not a childish spanking. It was a brutal beating delivered by huge swings of the plastic bat her guardian wielded with such patent relish. The terrified, horrified maiden screamed into her muzzle until she could scream no more, and then Miss Freeman calmly introduced her to the fifth and final torture of her clothes. It was more than being covered, of course. Much more. Fatima had covered all her life, since she reached puberty, and it was quite natural to her. But that was all it was, a covering. Miss Freeman encased her in layers, the humiliating diaper, the corset, a slip, layers of thick petticoats, flannel legging things that could have been described as bloomers and then a padded under jacket before finally enveloping her in a heavy, thickly lined velvet gown. It not only weighed a ton, but it was hot and hard to move at all. She stood before the mirror, her achingly beautiful face and soft black hair the only parts of her left visible. Then Miss Freeman picked up her mantle.

Maiden Training

Lucy Slade did not really understand Hermione. She was only six when Sir Charles Buckingham first came to power, and as her family had lived in Meadvale, Reformism had long overwhelmed them all by the time she was really old enough to remember. She had entered the order at the age of sixteen, and although previously to that her life at home had not been that strict, she had never considered arguing with her father or trying to disobey him. After her national service, the thought appalled her. Hermione did not seem to understand her place. Obviously, she was aware that Hermione had been brought up in America, but she did not believe that the lovely girl she had got to know so well since her wedding day could ever have behaved so disgracefully. Miss Lewis dealt with her, of course. Hermione needed to be punished for her dreadful sins, and Lucy herself tried to be firm with her too, whilst offering some words of comfort and encouragement when possible. She felt that keeping Hermione muzzled was wise. It gave her and Miss Lewis a chance to talk to her, without any further outbursts of anger, and her lessons concentrated on duty and obedience.

Her dear husband did not take much of an interest in his daughter’s punishment, leaving everything to Miss Lewis. He had made his decision, and made it clear that he would not change his mind, but he obviously felt that his daughter would come to her senses given time. Lucy agreed with him, as always, and promised to do her best to help. She hoped that the announcement of her pregnancy might cheer Hermione, and the poor girl certainly smiled at the news, but it did not change her attitude. Miss Lewis seemed to paddle her every night, and kept her under the strictest discipline. It was all rather upsetting for Lucy. She was so happy in her marriage, and she wanted Hermione to be happy too. Her husband tried to explain that his daughter had been abused in America, her head filled with unreasonable expectations that still plagued her in Meadvale. It was all quite absurd, of course. Lucy did not understand why a girl like Hermione would want to go away to college. It did not bear thinking about, and she had to be made to see sense.


“Up!” Miss Freeman commanded and Fatima rose gracefully from her obeisance. She had held the submissive pose for what seemed like an eternity but she had kept her balance and her cloak swirled a little around her. It was much better, she thought to herself, but probably not enough for Miss Freeman. Nothing was ever good enough for Miss Freeman, who could always find something to criticise her for. She stood straight with her aching head slightly bowed and her mittened hands held together in front of her. She was hot and tired, but she could not show it, and Miss Freeman would not care. Maidens did as they were told and their feelings were of no consequence.

“Dressed as you are, your role is basically decorative. How you look and move makes an impression, good or bad, and you must always remember that you are a representative of your family and of your husband, one day. I can dress you in the finest clothes, but if you stomp around like an elephant you will disgrace yourself, your guardian and much more importantly your husband. Sir James Miller is an important man doing such vital work, and you must support him by creating the right impression of him at all times. In showing respect, by completing a formal curtsey, you must be elegant and graceful whilst managing your cloak. A little flutter or swirl can be charming and can give a glimpse of your waist if it is left open, something gentlemen like to see. It is quite decent, you need not be ashamed of displaying yourself, but it must never ever be blatant or suggestive. All your cloaks are weighted, so dramatic movement is almost impossible, but you must learn to control them as you move. Now again!”

Jen Freeman made her charge curtsey one hundred times. It was hard work, of course. She could see the girl was tiring and intended to sit her down for a long lesson, totally covered, for several hours. She could feed through her tubes and complete another silent day in her muzzle. Miss Freeman would not allow Fatima her voice until she was under perfect control, and had made significant progress with her movements. She had a whole year, after all. There really was no need to rush.

Social Duties

Lady Osborne had to socialise. Her husband had a team of Pastors working under him, and knowing them and their families was important for his wife. Sebastian liked to know everything about all his people, and Brogan was forced to give detailed reports after visiting any of them at home. Not that she objected, of course. She was a good wife. One thing Harry and Sebastian had taught was obedience. She had only ever managed to keep one thing from them, and that was her own mind, but even that was under constant attack most of the time. She had never believed in God, and she still maintained that position inside her head, even whilst she was praying for something or someone. She was outwardly pious, as a good bishop’s wife certainly should be, and inwardly confused and conflicted, fighting all her lessons. Meeting Mrs Brown, the latest arrival, she found herself quoting the bible, and leading a short prayer before accepting coffee. It did not even sound like her, and she had not intended to do so, but she was not acting either. It came from within her.

“Such a pleasant house, Mrs Brown, I do hope you will all be very happy here.” Brogan said, making conversation as she sipped her coffee.

“Oh I am sure we will be...it is the centre of things in a way isn’t it?” Megan replied, a little on edge. She was happy that Nigel had got promoted, and Meadvale was certainly very nice. Her boys were at an excellent private school, paid for by the church of course, and Selena, and Megan herself, had a little more money for clothes and the finer things in life. Miss Donald followed Nigel’s instructions with her and her daughter to the letter, but he was a reasonable man, and life was good. Better than most she thought, and better than his sister, working as a guardian in Washington of all places.

“Certainly as far as the Church is concerned...and Selena has a friend here already, doesn’t she?”

“Yes, Hermione Slade...it will be nice to see the Slade’s again.”

“Of course it will, and I am sure you and Pastor Brown will be invited to dinner soon, and I shall ask Miss Derbyshire to invite Selena to meet India, too. It will be nice for you to get better acquainted with everyone. Meadvale may be the centre of everything but it is still a small, close community.” Brogan said, trying not to sound too wistful. She still missed the buzz of London, and of being around the action in Westminster, even if half the time she only overheard things of interest. Church politics were not nearly so interesting for her.

Clandestine Farewells

“So you are going? Just like that?” Sharon Rosen asked, hating the hurt in her voice.

“Do the people you intend to promote linger on when you call them home?” James Miller grinned, flopping down onto the sofa in his rented apartment, which he used for any meetings that did not appear in his public diary. “Radcliffe really wants to announce his presidential team, and he doesn’t expect his new Foreign Minister to hang around...unreasonable of him I know but there you are.”

“Your King has certainly put the cat amongst the pigeons.” Rosen sighed sitting down beside her lover. “I had a call from Radcliffe last night, and the election is set for four weeks time. He isn’t hanging around, is he?”

“Oh the plans have been set for years. It was just a question of time. The Royal family were such a decadent, useless bunch something had to be done sooner or later.”

“Charles, you calling them decadent is a little hypocritical, isn’t it?”

“Could be, except I have never been caught, have I?”

“Not so far...and is the wedding still on?” Rosen asked, well aware that it was. She could understand the desire. Linking a very senior Reformist directly to the Saudi Royal family made sense. Even if the Princess was hardly top drawer, she was a favourite daughter of their Foreign Minister’s, and British/Saudi relationships had never been stronger. She was jealous. She hated herself for feeling like that, but she was jealous. If he had asked her to marry him and move to London she would have. She would have got divorced and joined him like a shot, once her term in office was over. She would have veiled for him, in public at least, and it made her feel angry. He had used her, just as she had used him at times. He was right about that, and she always knew it would end one day. It was not exactly a surprise.

“The Republic will be very different. The House of Commons will just be a talking shop, the House of Lords will cease to exist and, the senior team won’t need to be elected...you know I would hate to lower myself to elections...and no one is even standing against Radcliffe. And yes, the Princess is already in London, preparing herself for me.”

“So, we will not be able to see each other in London if I come over.”

“Sharon, don’t...this was fun, but we have to move on, we both are moving on.”


“Are you sure?” Alistair Forbes asked, ignoring the noise and bustle of the bar.

“Completely. He is cleansing his past, like your man said...I got some good shots, and you have the paper evidence, you have him by the balls.”

“Someone does, not me. I am out of here. But you’ll get wired the money from the Caymans.”

“Cool, is it going to hit the press?”

“No, I doubt it...he can keep it all quiet if he is sensible. And so will you...ok?”

“Don’t worry about it; I don’t even know who you are.”

Reformism Interruptet is continued in Overture – Let the Games Begin – Part Nine History Repeats Itself.

 

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