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My eyes popped open. I was in bed. I lay still for two or three minutes, staring at the ceiling, trying to wake up, shake the sleep from my head, trying to remember where I was, what had happened and just look around. Sunshine filled the room through frilly lace curtains. Frilly lace curtains. God, This isn’t a dream, is it? I am really here. What time is it? I slowly rolled over to discover I was alone in the bed. The last 24 hours had been a whirl wind adventure. The flight out here had been grueling and then just one thing after another with James’s ridiculous Aunt. Do this, do that. It had seemed like it would never end. Hmmm, But then finally James and I had really gotten it on last night! And I must have just crashed… hard! Finally, Now, I felt so much better. James! Where was James?

I didn’t see him anywhere in the room. I guess he’s up. I guess I’m going to have to get up too. I rubbed a hand through my hair. Oh MY God. A Brillo pad! My friggin’ head feels like a friggin’ Brillo pad. That bitch! It had really happened! She cut off my hair! I sat up in the bed to swing my legs over the edge, intending to get up and glanced at what I was wearing. A night gown. I was wearing a friggin nightgown. All covered in little blue and pink flowers. When did this happen? Oh, God! Where is James? When I stood up, the nightgown fell to just below my ankles.

I headed into the bathroom to wash and freshen up. I was shocked at the image in the mirror. I looked just like a poodle. A bunch of tight curly hair seemed to be stuck on just the top of my head, pastel lavender poodle hair. My ears were sticking out from the sides of my head, with not a bit of hair around my ears. My eyebrows were gone and my mouth was all smeared like I’d been sucking on pink cotton candy. I ran my fingers through my hair, trying to flatten it down. It would just spring back up into the same bubbly shape.

"Enough of this."

I walked back into my room, over to the big closet and pulled open the door. Awk! Well they all had their fun yesterday. No way am I going to wear any more of Myra Anne’s hand me down clothes. Ok, maybe there’s a robe or something in here. I moved hangers full of non-descript clothes back and forth, until I found what looked reasonably like a robe. It was a long pink quilted nylon type of affair, that buttoned from hem to collar with a ruffle trim anywhere they could put one. I slipped my arms into it and looked into the mirror. No way could I button this thing up, it was just too fruity. I left it hanging open and headed toward the door and down the stairs to the first floor.

I heard activity coming from the kitchen and I needed a cup of coffee. Bea was at the sink, finishing up with her washing of the morning breakfast dishes. She was dressed in some kind of nylon smock over another of her formless floral sack dresses, humming some little tune as she worked. Acting out another of her bizarre little scenes from one of those old sitcoms, no doubt. I wasn’t sure I even wanted to go in there, but I do need coffee and I did want to find James. I steeled myself, took a deep breath and walked into the kitchen.

"Good morning, Aunt Bea." I put on my sweetest voice. "Have you seen James around?"

Bea spun about, on her heel.

"Lands, Child! Don’t you sneak up on me like that! Missy Bea! Land sakes! Missy Bea! Look at your feet! You don’t have a thing on your feet! You’re walking around here in bare feet! And cover yourself up! What do you think you’re doing walking around, with your robe and everything hanging open and your night gown just showing for all the world to see! Lands sakes Child, that’s in-decent!"

She wiped her hands on a towel, twisting it harder and harder, the veins began to pop out on her neck. She took a step toward me. I took a step back. I didn’t need this right now.

"Where is James?"

" Missy Bea, Don’t you dare try me!" Her words came out in short, sharp bursts. "James went back to the college. He has a few things to finish up before he gets his graduation over with and then he’ll come right back here, next week. Are you going to button yourself up, or must I help you with that?"

"Ok, OK!" I mumbled, as I pulled the robe around me and began to button it closed over my chest. Anything at all, to shut this bag up.

"All of them!"

"Ok, OK!" I bent over and buttoned each of a long row of fabric covered buttons, all the way down to the hem. Finished, I straightened back up. Bea was wagging a menacing finger toward my neck. Good grief! I closed the last two buttons up to my throat.

"Missy Bea, Now you march yourself right back up those stairs and get something decent on your feet. There should be some slippers in the closet. Then come right back down here and we will have a little talk."

I turned and ran up the stairs as quickly as I could, the flounced hem of the robe bouncing around my legs. I got back in my room and slammed the door. Damn, that bitch! I strode over to the closet, opened the door and looked down at a row of shoes carefully arranged across the bottom. Slippers. Where are the slippers? There was just one pair, fluffy pink things, I was half expecting to see bunny ears poking up from them. I pulled them out and slipped my feet into each. Then I caught a glimpse of myself in the mirror. There I was, a big goofy, ruffled up confection, all in pink… and here I was… back in Myra Anne’s damn clothes again. I looked like somebody out of the old "I Love Lucy" re-runs, except I didn’t have her fire engine orange hair… mine was friggin LAVENDER!

Bea was sitting at the kitchen table and waiting for me, with two cups of tea, when I returned. She motioned silently for me to sit down.

"James went back to school? He went back east and left me here? When, when did he leave?" This was incredulous! How could he leave me here alone with this woman? They had taken my cell phone, my credit cards, all my clothing… my friggin blow dryer!!! My God, I was trapped! I struggled to remain calm. There was no point in provoking this woman, right now!

"I need a cup of coffee."

"Tea. It’s better for you."

I caught that icy, under current in the tone of her voice, as she pushed the cup toward me. We silently squared off against each other, opposite sides of the table, eyeing each other up. But, somehow, sitting there dressed like a sugar cone; I was feeling a little bit like she still had the better hand. I took a full, deep relaxing breath and pulled the cup of tea closer to me. This was not good. James should be here. Given half an opportunity, I could get him back in my pocket. Yeah, he got all horny when he saw me last night and once we got in bed together, the sex was pretty damn good. He can’t fake those grunts! But, and it’s a big but… If he isn’t going to be here for a week, then I’m not going to be able to work on him. That means, I’m stuck here in this nightmare with Aunt Bea. Not Good! Not good at all!

"I saw how James looked at you, when we got back from Betty Lou’s yesterday. He had a real twinkle in his eye, didn’t he? James was mighty pleased with how you turned out and you looked real nice. Yes indeed, you looked just how a proper Podash Wife should look. But, more importantly. You looked like James’ wife. You looked like James expects you to look. Proper and Respectable. But…" Aunt Bea was drawing her words out now, speaking slower and putting emphasis on each. "I think we both know this… You can’t just put a dress on a pig and call it a lady."

I choked on my coffee. It just about came out my nose. I could feel my face redden, as she pushed a napkin toward me.

"That’s right Missy Bea. Don’t you go and be thinking you can pull the wool over my eyes. We all know what kind of a slut you were back in the east. I told you before that we would help you come away from that life of sin. I promise you, that you will learn modesty and self-discipline and your right-full submissive position to James. Oh, mark my words Missy Bea, you will study, you will practice, you will learn and you will become a Podash Wife, because you WANT to be a Podash Wife".

This was heavy! I was freaked! Every nerve in my body screamed, "RUN!" But I was petrified. I could not move. I sat there like some stupid deer frozen in the headlights of a maniac behind the wheel of a tractor-trailer.

"First off, Missy Bea, we will have some simple rules around here. And let’s just start with your vulgar display this morning. You will never, ever, leave that bedroom again, flaunting your body for the world to see. If you do not have the opportunity to venture forth from that room fully clothed, then you will certainly pull on your robe and slippers and you will be fully covered and closed up and look completely presentable. Actually, you should not even leave your bed without a dressing gown and footwear. Is that clear enough for you?"

Was this freaking Bitch trying to tell me how to freaking dress in my own freaking bedroom? I think I was shaking.

"Number Two. You will dress like a lady every day and you will certainly not leave this house looking anything less then a lady. That means wearing your girdle, brassiere, hosiery, knickers, slip, and a nice blouse and skirt, or a nice dress. You’ll wear proper shoes and accessories. You will always be neat and everything will be tucked in and buttoned up. You will check your seams and keep them straight. If you find a hook or a button on anything, you will fasten it. The only skin you will show anyone, will be above your collar and on your arms, below your elbows. James expects you to dress like a lady and you shall not disappoint him."

"Number Three. Betty Lou will take care of your hair. James is very happy with your new cut. He thinks Betty Lou made you look real pretty and feminine for him. He just had a few suggestions though. My, that James is always so thorough isn’t he? I guess that’s why he’s such a good engineer. James just wants to make sure your hair stays nice and neat and pretty all of the time, so Betty Lou will touch you up twice a week. James just doesn’t want to see or feel any whiskers or stubble popping out. I guess that’s why he shaves every day. James wants to make sure you keep your head nice and clear of any of those little 5 o’clock shadow hairs around your ears or on your neck. I’ll call Betty Lou and get your appointments set up, I guess one of them can be on my days. This also means you’ll have to take extra special care with your do. You should wear a hairnet over it when you go to bed, a scarf if you go out and there’s some wind and of course, and a plastic cap in the bath. Do I make myself clear?"

"Ah… a bathing cap? When… How… When am I supposed to wash my hair? What about my blow dryer? Auntie Bea, You didn’t really throw that away, did you?"

"I said, Betty Lou will take care of your hair. That means, she will wash it for you when she thinks it needs washing. Heavens, you don’t wash a set like that every day. That’s what Betty Lou does, She’ll keep your hair nice and you just take care of it, like you’re supposed to, between your appointments."

"Of course, there will be the laundry and cleaning, and I guess we’ll have to work on your cooking. I think the rest of the rules, you can learn as you help me around here. Oh, and of course, you have a curfew. I’ll expect you to be in bed by 9 o’clock. Your days will be starting pretty early; you’ll have to give enough time to get yourself presentable for your days studies and chores. Land sakes… look at the time! Well, we won’t let that happen again. We were half thinking of taking you over to MerriBelle’s and picking out a new dress for you and maybe get you fitted into your own foundations, but I guess for now, there’s still enough of Myra Anne’s things in the closet and dresser, to fit you. So Missy Bea, that’s the way it is and that’s the way it’s going to be. Now get yourself up those stairs and get dressed."

I just about tripped over my hem in a rush to get back up the stairs. I flew into my room, shut the door, leaned back against it and stood there, my heart and head pounding. No, No, No… this is all wrong! Why am I even listening to her? The woman is insane! What? What am I doing here, trapped in the "Cult That Time Forgot"! I am going to have to get out of this house. Come on Joy… Think! Focus! Ok, can’t go out the window. It’s too high and I’ll break my neck. She’s down there, I can’t just run back down and out the door naked, they’ll find me in a heartbeat. God Almighty, I’m going to have to do this, just to blend in around here and buy some time! Oh, No, I can’t believe this. My eyes moved round the room. Where was the crap I’d worn yesterday? Where did it go? I only dimly remembered getting undressed. It had been so frantic and frustrating getting out of all of those things, just to make love to James. I didn’t remember what I’d done with those clothes and now I didn’t see them. Well Joy, I guess the joke’s on you. I mean, duh, like look in the closet.

I moved away from the door, toward the closet, then stopped as I caught my full reflection in the mirror on the opened door. "Well, ain’t I just the sweetest little thang!" Standing there in this big ole pink robe, big diamond pattern, quilt stitching all over it, all buttoned up, frillies around my cuffs, all along the placket and all around my neck. My head seemed to just perch ever so daintily above it all, like a little egg with a little hair muff hat, balanced in this fluffy, ruffled nest. It was totally un-nerving.

Snap out of it. What was first? Underwear. Right. I moved away from the closet and the mocking reflection, to a dresser and started pulling drawers open at random. Whatever it was, it seemed to all be there. It seemed to be organized. The first one had panties and stockings, some looked brand new, in packages, the rest was folded or rolled. The drawer below it held bras, big heavy suckers, like the one I’d worn yesterday. Most of them were refrigerator white, but there were some pinks and peach colors, as well. The drawer below that one, was filled with sheets, no… they must be the slips, cripes! Then, I pulled open the bottom drawer. This was the mother lode. It was filled with all kinds of heavy looking crap, with all kinds of buckles, straps and cords hanging off them. They were for the most part, rolled up on them selves, into tube shapes. They must be the girdles. Some of them seemed to be nearly three feet long and barely fit in the drawer. What the hell would you do with something like that? I can’t believe old Myra Anne ever even moved, if she ever got inside this stuff!

Yeah, good old Myra Anne. She probably married the first dork that looked at her sideways, just to get out of this hellhole. Ok, the bra. I worked my way out of the putrid robe and threw it on the bed. The first bra, excuse me, brassiere, I pulled out, looked pretty much like the one I wore yesterday. I opened it up and slid it over each of my arms and snuggled it up to my chest, trying to hold it in place and at the same time get my arms around behind me to close the damn thing. This is freaking stupid! How am I supposed to get all of these damn hooks closed behind me? All of my old regular bras, just used to have one little hook in the front and I’d be done. I screwed around with it for about ten minutes. I tried putting it on backwards, but when I got it all cinched up, it was too damn tight to twist it around and get my titties into their pockets. DAMNIT TO HELL! I can not do this!

I threw it back in the drawer. Well, hell, they’re all like this. I yanked the bottom drawer open again. Didn’t it look like some of those things had bras attached to them. Yeah! I pulled out the one on top and let it unfurl. God, it was a big old peach colored thing with shinny panels and rubber panels and straps hanging off both ends and who knows what else. Yeah, maybe this will work. This thing looked like it closed up on the side and it was the whole thing, in more or less one piece. This might even be easier to deal with, I mean, after I got the hang of getting up and out of a chair yesterday, walking around wasn’t so bad. What the hell. I looked at it for a couple of seconds. Ok, you put it on, kind of like a coat and it closes across, over here on the side.

I slipped my arms through both of the armholes and let the thing settle onto my shoulders. I pulled the right side across my chest. He, he, Look at these freaking torpedoes! Ha… this reminds me of those pointy things Madonna wore all the time, when she was in her "look at my tits" phase. I wondered if Auntie Bea, had ever heard of Madonna. I had to push and poke at my titties, to get them to stay up inside the pointy little cones, and then keep my right arm tightly under them both, while I squeezed the whole thing together and got some of the hooks fastened. Well, it was still a lot easier then that other bra was! Dang! This is tight! I had to keep sucking in my gut and holding my breath as I worked my way down the side, toward the bottom. The lower I got, the harder it got. This girdle was not very flexible to begin with and now, each time I bent over for the next batch of hooks, the metal wires running up and down and through it became less and less tolerant. Whew! I closed the last one, slipped the zipper together at the bottom and pulled it all the way up into my underarm. Whoo Whee! That’s snug! We won’t be doing many deep knee bends in this thing! Ok, What’s next?

Panties. No, stockings, next. If I put my panties on now, they’ll get trapped under these freaking garters and I won’t be able to pee. I pulled open the top drawer again. Well, I am not going to wear her used stockings again. I grabbed a fresh package and opened them. What is with these people? Does everything have to be heavy? They looked like they were hand knit by the Amish or something. They felt like they had a little bit of stretch to them, but they were like a light tan in color, probably a cotton blend. They had darker reinforced sections around where my toes would be, that went back along the underside of the foot and then continued up and around the heel. Unbelievable, they seemed to be stitched together in the back. There was a huge seam running all the way up the back of each one. Unbelievable, hookers and old ladies… and I was pretty sure I wasn’t going to look much like a hooker today.

"Son of a Bitch!" I could not bend over enough to get my toes into the damn stockings. "SHIT!" It wasn’t happening. I had to open the iron maiden all the way back up to my waist, before I would be able to get the damn stockings over my feet. After enough tugging and pulling, I finally got each of them over my thighs and started the process of clipping them to the dangling straps. The front ones weren’t too bad, the sides were harder and I couldn’t get the back ones, until I stood up and that was still pretty miserable, because I couldn’t see what I was doing. Finally, OK, Let’s get this thing closed up again. I sucked my breath in and started to hook myself back together. Now my stockings and the girdle wanted to have a tug of war. Each time I bent over farther, the tension between stocking and this, this carapace, wanted to tip me forward onto my nose.

My head was pounding from the exertion. I stood there, one hand on the dresser, breathing in with hard, sharp gasps… futile attempts to fill my lungs. How in the hell am I going to get my panties on?

I was finally dressed in all of my under things, foundations, slips, whatever. And I don’t want to talk about it, ok? I was back at the closet. I had to pick something out of there to wear. Fat chance, I’ll find jeans, huh? That’s a joke. And, you don’t see me laughing, do you. What to wear, what to wear? Like, I’m all ready fully covered, aren’t I! Let’s just keep it simple. Is there a half ass decent dress in there? God, they’re all so bad. I closed my eyes, reached in and pulled out the first thing I felt. Oh, boy!

I stood before the mirror looking myself over. I ended up in this blue dress, it had buttons all the way from the collar to the hem, and there were seventeen of them. I know because I counted them as I fastened each and every one, and that wasn’t counting the three weird ones under the collar. This dress had a big wide, white collar that crossed over and closed off to the left. As if that wasn’t bad enough, there was a red fabric flower attached, over on that same side, that was just a little crushed, but big enough to intrude into my field of vision whenever I glanced down. The sleeves had little white cuffs, that ended about three quarters of the way down my arms, so that was cool and the bodice pretty much followed the shape of this brassiere, girdle, rocket launcher, compactor thing. It hadn’t actually been that hard to button though, since the skirt part was pretty loose and flared away from my hips enough, so that I’d been able to lift it up in front of me, to do it up. Frickin shoes. How am I going to get into my shoes. I saw the long shoehorn over on a wall hook; that wasn’t the problem. I am not going to take this off again to tie my shoes. No way.

I scanned the row of shoes along the bottom. There were a few pair that just slipped on. I extended my foot and pulled a pair of blue ones out, that I thought might match my dress. They looked to have about a 3-inch heel on them. Ok, no big deal, I’d had plenty of hot times in hot heels before, these were way more matronly then anything I’d ever consider, but all in all, this would be easy enough. I could at least walk.

Ok, Good enough! I walked through the door, leaving the bedroom and carefully headed down the stairs. I didn’t especially want to attract Bea’s attention, if I could just make it through the front room and get out, I’d be able to explore a bit, maybe find a bus station and look at the schedules. Unfortunately, the clackity, clack of my heels gave me away.

"Missy Bea, Is that you? Now, you come in here and let me see how nice you look."

Nuts… "Yes, Auntie Bea, I’m coming."

"Oh my, well don’t you look just darling in that dress. My, my, my, Myra Anne always just did look so cute in that. Now, just let me look at you a minute. Well, goodness, you know you need your crinoline under that. My, my, my, it just warms my heart to see you in that dress. Now turn around, once."

Crinoline! Where are we going… to a freaking square dance? I gave her one of my extra special, cutesy smiles and spun on my toe.

"Missy Bea!"

Ah, Oh, Now, What’s up?

"What did I tell you about making your seams straight?

"I, I did! I did, Auntie Bea, look!" What the heck? I got all the buttons closed in the right holes. How the hell can the seam not be straight? What’s the big problem?

"Your seams, Missy. Look at your seams. Your stocking seams are twisted halfway around your legs! Are you trying to smart Alec me? I warn you, I won’t have it. You march yourself right back up those stairs."

Are you shitting me? I can’t even see the damn things.

I turned, walked back through the front room and began the climb to my bedroom. Auntie Bea was right behind me.

I stomped over to the mirror and turned around, peering over my shoulder, then under my arm, it was kind of hard to see the backs of my legs. I grabbed the hem of my skirt and lifted it up over my butt for a clearer view.

"Stop that, you’ll muss your dress. Now you just take that dress off and fix those stockings right!"

I once again repeated the arduous task of the buttons, finally getting enough of them open, to slip my arms out of the sleeves and let the dress fall to the floor around me and step out of it.

"You do not drop your dress to the floor. You put a dress on and you take a dress off, over your head. Now pick that up and lay it neatly on the bed and do not do that again. Now, unclip your garters and straighten those seams!"

"I… I can’t Auntie Bea. I can’t bend down there in this girdle."

"Nonsense. You sit right down on the bed, and lift your legs up, one at a time and bring your knees up to your chest. What in heavens name is wrong with you girl. Now get to it!"

I sat down as instructed and unclipped the garters and began to roll the stockings back toward my ankles so that I could realign the seam. It was extremely difficult to bring my knee near enough to my chest, so that I could reach my feet, due the incredible binding of the bottom of the girdle across my upper thighs. I grunted and grunted, as I had to repeatedly roll them up and down and up again and down again, over and over, only able to judge their straightness at the back of my legs, by feel. The entire exercise took over fifteen minutes, as Auntie Bea would not allow even the slightest waiver in the seam line.

"That’s better. Well, you will certainly have to work on that. I hope you don’t think you will have all day to get dressed in the future. Now, go on over to the closet, there are a few garment bags at the far side. You will find your crinolines in there."

There were indeed, several opaque plastic bags hanging from the rod. I opened the first one. I detected the strong sent of moths balls and glanced toward Auntie Bea. She nodded "yes", and I pulled a stiff, gigantic lampshade from it. As I freed it from the bag, it seemed to double in size. I looked at her again and she was making strange, animated gestures with her hands that I took to mean, put it on OVER my head. There was no point in even arguing about it, as I lifted it above my head and let it float down about my waist. The stiff net material bounced around me, with each step as I crossed the room to retrieve the blue dress. This time, I hunted and found the dress’s waist and sleeves, and burrowed through the wide bottom, flipping it up and over my head squirming and wiggling until it settled around me. A couple of extra fluffs of the hem with my hands and the dress finally lay evenly over the entire substructure. I finished up the buttons, staring aimlessly at myself in the mirror.

I guess it wasn’t so bad. The crinoline held the hem of my dress out and away, just covering my knees, by about 12 inches all around. In the heels, my legs looked a little shapelier and longer. I guess I didn’t look quite as dowdy now. The outward flair of the dress, with the heels, did seem to give me a more youthful appearance. I raised my gaze toward my head. The lavender tint of my tightly permed hair, didn’t seem quite as garish as it had earlier. The color now seemed to be a suitably soft compliment to the primary colors of the blue dress, large white collar and the bright red fabric flower. I don’t know if I can get used to not having eyebrows, though. It looks really strange. I had no makeup on at all, and I thought my face looked slightly pale, almost angelic. God, all I need now, is for my ears to morph into giant wings and I can fly away from here! Auntie Bea’s bumbling around behind me, caught my attention.

"Here’s your clutch, Dear. Why don’t you do your face, while I go back downstairs and call Betty Lou. Meet me in the kitchen, when you’re done."

"Yeah, OK!" I don’t know… I guess it’s going to be tough to ditch her today. Ruefully, I watched Bea leave the room and then opened the purse. What is in there that keeps giving off this pungent, sickly smell? I rummaged through it, until I came upon an eyebrow pencil. I wonder if I can even do this without a template. Sure, I’d used makeup a million times, but I’d always had my own eyebrows to follow and enhance. This would be a first. Peering closely into the mirror, I could detect only the barest of a resemblance at the root pores, where my brow hairs had been shaved away. Tentatively, I laid the tip of the brown colored pencil, roughly in the middle of where the brows had been and began to draw arches over each of my eyes. It was hard to get them to look even. One would have a little bump at the wrong place, then I’d get the other one too high. I kept going back over one, then the other, until I though they matched pretty well, but now they seemed awfully big. They reminded me a whole lot, of Bettie Davis, in some old "Mommy Dearest" flick. Unreal. Yeah, Well; they’re not there for real anyway, are they? I dropped the pencil back into the bag, fished around inside and came upon a little container of blusher. I opened that up, picked out the little fluffy pad and dabbed it into the color. Eyes back in the mirror, I rubbed little rosy accents across and into each of my cheeks. Done, with that. Back into my bag for that old tube of fuchsia, popped the lid and made a face at the mirror like I was going to give myself a big sloppy kiss. I rolled a thick slab of the color around the outside of my mouth, duplicating how Bea had slathered it on me back at Betty Lou’s. No point in being subtle, It’s completely wasted on these Yahoos, and besides, I was starting to get into this entire ungodly look. I could rob a bank and never be recognized. God, if my friends could see me now. That sent a shudder down my spine. God, if my friends ever saw me like this, I’d die.

Well, what more could I do? I turned to leave and noticed a jewelry box on the vanity. Why not, It might save me another trip up and down the stairs. I flipped it open. It was filled with what I gathered, were all the rejects from the last yard sale. It was pretty much a split between cheap plastic junk and even cheaper looking metal crap, medallions, beads, pins, little gold plated birds, big gold plated birds! I settled on a pair of flat white plastic disks, at least an inch in diameter and screwed them on to my ear lobes.

"Betty Lou wants us to come over now." Auntie Bea greeted me as I entered the Kitchen for the third time today. "I thought we could do some shopping first, but I guess that will have to wait. Betty Lou has a full schedule the rest of the week, so we’ll go there next."

"What’s it like out side? Do I need a sweater?" Cripes, listen to me! And what’s with Betty Lou already? I was just there, yesterday. What the hell was left to do?

So, there I was, walking down the street, in broad daylight again, with Auntie Bea. I couldn’t walk quite as fast as I could yesterday in the oxfords. My gait was a little over exaggerated because of these heels. True, I’d sometimes worn heels and platforms, even taller then these, when out clubbing, but usually I’d have gotten a ride from friends or a taxi. And my floor time normally centered on bumping, grinding and dancing. I’d never had to cover any great distance walking. The heels also seemed to force me into a pronounced, hip swinging rhythm, yet, as I walked, the tight girdle restricted the length of my stride. This translated into the crinoline developing it’s own swinging motion, first swaying to the right and then the left, and back and forth and back and forth, with each step. I felt like I was wearing a giant church bell, clanging and ringing around my legs, drawing everyone’s attention to me, as we moved down the street. I was totally mortified.

The tinkling bell at Betty Lou’s front door announced our arrival at the Beauty Parlor. That same thick, overpowering atmosphere assaulted my senses. I removed the sweater and returned it to its rightful place with the others, next to the door. Then, attempted to control and smooth my billowing hems against my legs. Well, at least my appearance fit’s right in with the other inhabitants of this pink asylum. Auntie Bea left me standing there and went ahead, to talk with Betty Lou in hushed tones. I allowed my eyes to dart about the room, furtively glancing at all the activity. My eye was drawn to a young woman sitting in one of the waiting chairs. She was about the same age as me, maybe a little shorter in height, it was hard for me to tell. But she did stand out, as somewhat out of place, in that her hair actually looked normal. It was a nice reddish, auburn in color and she wore it in a modified page style, parted in the center and pushed back and fastened just above and behind her ears with simple barrettes. I was pretty sure that her lovely hair and that charming style wouldn’t last long in here. Another damned Podash wife in the making. I immediately was drawn to her. Her eyes were darting nervously around the room. She seemed to be alone. She seemed a kindred spirit. I moved toward her and sat in the seat next to her. Stupid crinoline popped right up in front of me. Judas Priest!

A week ago, heck, two days ago, I would have though she was dressed like some tight ass, scared to burn in hell, fundamentalist preacher’s daughter. Now, next to me, she just looked demure. She was wearing a peachy pink nylon dress, in a muted pattern of slightly lighter polka dots. Apparently, the material of choice in Podash. It had a white portrait collar with a little bow beneath it. Below that, white plastic buttons closed it down to an elastic waist, before it dropped in pleats from her hip line, to well beyond her knees. The sleeves were kind of puffy at the shoulders and the material just glistened in the light. She seemed astoundingly nervous and jumped when I spoke.

"Hi! Is this your first time?"

"Oh! You startled me!

"I’m sorry, I didn’t mean to do that. It’s just that you don’t look like you’ve ever been under the shears here."

"Oh, my, no. I’m sorry, how rude of me. My name is Floria. Floria Gloford. But, most people just call me Flo. Please, you just call me Flo, too, ok?.

"Well, Hello Flo, pleased to meet cha. My name is…"

"MISSEY! FIVE MORE MINUTES!" My eyes bugged out of my head and I just about jumped three feet out of my skin! Bea was screaming at me from across the parlor. "Five more minutes, till Betty Lou can get to you."

"Right! Ok, thanks!"

"Missy, That’s a pretty name.

"No, no, my name is Joy. It just seems like everyone calls me Missy around here.

"Missy Joy then. That’s still a pretty name. Do you come here often? We, my husband Glenn and I, just moved here, in this past week. Glenn bought the hardware store, over on Elm. He joined the Chamber right away and made a lot of new friends. Glenn makes friends real easy. I’ve been pretty much busy all week, keeping to myself mostly, just putting things away, you know, we live above the store. Then the other night, Glenn said I should get out more and meet more people in the town and socialize. Well, it’s true, I don’t know a soul here, but Glenn said he’d met some different people in the Chamber, shopkeepers and the like. Glenn suggested I go out and get some new clothes and pamper myself a little bit, like here at Betty Lou’s. Glenn said the members of the Chamber are all like one big happy family and if I went in someplace and told them I was Glenn’s wife, and Glenn being a member and all, why they’d just fix me all up, real pretty, in a minute. Gosh, Everyone has been real nice and gone out of his or her way to help me fit in. And, well here I am! We didn’t have a fancy beauty parlor like this back home, so I don’t know what all they do here, but Glenn told me, just to tell Betty Lou, he’s in the Chamber and she’ll just pamper me to death!"

Wow. What’s going on here? Another victim? Flo was beaming now, she seemed genuinely excited, plenty nervous in anticipation of her up coming moment in the chair, but it did not appear like anything, in this town seemed strange to her. Flo seemed well on the way to becoming a full fledged Podash Wife, of her own volition. I really liked her though, She was genuinely friendly and didn’t seem ready to judge me, or jump all over me for a crooked seam. None the less, in the back of my mind, a thought was trying to form. This "Chamber". What is that all about?

"Gosh, Flo, that’s really neat!" Did I just say that? After all the crap, all the stupid rules, I mean after all my big plans to live high on the hog and enjoy a jet set life, got shoved up my ass. I’m wearing other people’s clothes and look like a freak, for God’s sake. After all that, I liked Flo. She was innocent and pure. She accepted me just as I was. I wanted her to like me. I needed a friend.

"Floria Gloford?"

We both looked up.

"Floria Gloford? You’re next. My name is Helen. Welcome to Betty Lou’s!"

"I’m Floria Gloford. But, please call me Flo!"

Flo gave me a smile and a wink and called out, "I’ll see you later", as she got up to follow Helen back to her station. I watched her settle into the chair. She was laughing at something. Then Helen snapped a cape into the air and brought it over and around her, looking for the entire world, like a toreador at the beginning of a great performance.

"Missy, Missy, wake up!"

Betty Lou was gently shaking my shoulder, pulling me from my thoughts. I frowned for a minute, but then, well… Flo seemed to be able to take this all in stride. Heck, I’d just been here yesterday, the worst of it had to be over. This would kill some time, I could relax, get pampered again and maybe I could meet up with Flo when we were both done, maybe grab some coffee and I could get to know her better. I did my little one, two rock and got up and out of the seat, smiled and followed toward her station.

"Hi, Betty Lou. What’s up?"

"Hello Missy. How are we today? Everything comfy?"

"Yeah, I guess. What are we doing today? I thought we’d pretty much covered all the bases yesterday."

"Yes we certainly did. And you do look pretty nice this fine day, if I do say so myself. Well, it seems your Mister James was very impressed last night. You must have been quite the little tiger. He wondered if I could tighten up the trim of your neck and around your ears, so that it would be a little easier to manage with. Didn’t Bea mention any of this to you this morning? James must have spoken with Bea before he left. That is surprising. Here, hold on to these."

She handed my ear rings to me.

"I don’t understand, Betty Lou. My hair is very short now. Surely you won’t cut more!"

I was becoming very uneasy in the chair as she fastened a fresh plastic cape around my neck. The cape ballooned before me, as the crinoline’s volume, again displaced by my positioning in the chair, blossomed above my knees. The cape covered everything now, but clearly, there was an entirely new management system to controlling or at least adapting to this mass of stiff netting, that I needed to learn. But that wasn’t my immediate concern. I mean, yeah, my hairstyle now was more appropriate on a sixty-year-old woman, and yeah, it wasn’t anything I’d ever ask for, but… At least it was a woman’s hairstyle, even if I didn’t like it. God! Please, don’t make me look like a circus clown!

"Put your head forward, Missy, Honey. And keep very still, I’m not using a guard and we don’t want to nick you."

Betty Lou pressed the back of my head forward, forcing my chin against my chest. I sat there in dread. My fear advanced to horror, as the sharp crack of electric clippers behind me, pierced my skull. I felt a hand brace the top of my head. My breathing accelerated with the suspense. Then I felt the unmistakable cold, the harsh, hard, remorseless pressure of vibrating steel against my neck. Tears welled up in my eyes. Betty Lou pressed into me, again and again. Then she flipped the monster over in her hands and placed the snarling teeth at the back edge of my occipital bone, just at the point where my permed curls had begun their transitional taper. She pushed the blades hard against me and dragged it down my neck. I started to sob openly.

"Be still now, Missy. You can blubber all you want, but don’t you move your head one bit. I want to get this shaped just right. I just don’t understand why you think you must act like a big baby every time you sit in this seat. Gads, you don’t see your friend acting so childish. I just don’t understand why you must put up such a fuss. James wants you to look nice for him, so you should look nice for him. You are mighty lucky to be in a family that is so concerned with your welfare and willing to take the time to help you follow the righteous path. You’d be well advised to show a little more gratitude, if you ask me."

I tried to look over sideways toward Flo, without moving my head. I was deathly afraid that Betty Lou would slip at any moment and the horrid clipper would rip right through the top of my head. Through bleary eyes, it looked like Helen had finished shampooing her hair and was now fastening it up, above her head with large clips, in preparation for, for what? Betty Lou moved into my field of vision, blocking my view. She was now creating a precise edge all of the way around my head, just below the permed part. The entire area around my ears was completely denuded. She moved to my front and with a flick, the little curls that had previously framed my face at the temples were gone. I continued sobbing, tears traced their way down my cheeks. My body jerked with uncontrollable heaves.

"Missy, you are really trying me!"

The clippers went silent. I sat very still, not willing to venture even a quick glance toward Flo. I was torn between my intense curiosity as to what Helen would do to her next and the stark fear that my own head would topple from my shoulders if I even flinched for a half second. There was brief rustling and the snap of rubber gloves behind me and then I felt a cool cream being applied to my neck. Betty Lou spread it out over all my freshly exposed skin, working it around my ears and very carefully massaging it up to the very edge of what little hair it felt like I had left. She was extremely meticulous in the application. Then as quickly, she finished, moved over toward the counter, stepped on a pedal that lifted the lid of a trash container, peeled each of the rubber gloves from her hands and dropped them in the container. I thought I detected an unusual amount of tingling for a shaving cream. Then it began to warm up. As I contemplated the substance and the increasing heat and discomfort on my neck, the electric clippers again cracked to life. I felt Betty Lou begin to pick at the hair on top of my head, with some kind of tool. She seemed to be lifting and separating the tight curls. Oh, God NO! She’s going to shave me bald! I gasped and held my breath, completely paralyzed from protest. She did not drive the blade to my scalp. Rather, She just skimmed the carving blades back and forth, closely following the shape, above the small tight, mass of curls, remaining on my head. She trimmed any and all, away that did not conform to the perfect length and form she desired. The clipper fell silent again.

"Ok, that ought to do it. Missy, you can just stay here in the chair a while, until the dilapitory cream gets done, we don’t want that getting all over the place, so you just keep your hands away from it.

Dilapitory! My God! That’s, that’s, My God, NO, NO, not my hair! NO! Please NO, Not my hair! Forever! NOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO!! I sat there and bawled like a baby.

"What’s all this blubbering? What’s all this about?" Bea had suddenly shown up at my station.

"I don’t know, She’s been like this for a while now."

"Maybe it’s something coming back from her old life. Lord only knows what all she was doing back at that college. James told me some shocking, absolutely shocking things about what she did back there. I’ll tell you, it’s scandalous! Missy! MISSY!! Listen to me, girl. You snap out of it right now. MISSY! Are you listening to me?"

"Wha… sniff… What? Sniff, sob… sniff… yes, sob, sniff, I’m, sniff… listening."

"I have to go over to Gloford’s Hardware for some things, now. When you finish up here, with Betty Lou, I want you to go straight home and wait for me in the Kitchen. Can you do that! What! Speak up. Do you hear me? Lord, give me strength. Missy! MISSY! Speak up, girl! I want to hear you answer me!"

"Yes… sniff… yes… I… I will… Auntie, sniff, I… sniff… hear… you, sniff… I will."

I sat there sobbing silently now. Oh, my neck burns so bad! Oh, my hair! My hair is ruined forever! Oh, what did I ever do to deserve this? I wasn’t a bad person. They were all wrong. I was just having fun.

"Missy. Missy Joy."

It was Flo. She was softly calling my name.

"Missy Joy, It’s ok."

I looked over toward her. She was smiling at me. She looked so sweet. Her hair was all up in curlers now, compacted against her head beneath a tight hairnet, with those little cotton pads covering her ears. Helen was brushing a lot of clipped hair from her cape. I wondered how much had been cut off. I couldn’t really tell, but it seemed drastic. I didn’t see much of anything left on her neck, certainly not enough to put around a curler. Flo leaned in my direction, as she started to get up and out of her seat. I noticed she also rocked a bit back and foreword before she rose. The motion seemed so natural for her.

"Missy, I’m going over to sit under the dryers now. Maybe when we’re both finished, we can go back to our place for some tea. You could meet Glenn. My goodness, Missy Joy, your hair really looks so nice. It makes you look so lovely. I can’t wait to see mine. I’m so excited."

Flo headed off to the dryers. I didn’t know what to make of it. She was enjoying this? She thinks I look nice? She really is so sweet.

"Are we settled down, now?"

Betty Lou had returned.

"Let’s get this off and finish you up. Head foreword, please."

Betty Lou pulled another pair of rubber gloves over her hands and picked up a small towel. I leaned into my chest again as she gently wiped the nasty cream away. I saw that there were tiny stubble’s of my hair mixed in with the creamy residue as she cleared it all off. The pores of my denuded skin tingled even more then they had yesterday, if that were even possible. A spontaneous shiver ran up my spine. I guess she was done. She removed and tossed the used gloves into the container, then reached behind my neck to release my cape. I looked at her. She didn’t have that pleased with herself look that she had yesterday. Now she seemed just a little disgusted, as if she had just finished with an ungrateful, unruly child. She nodded with her head, indicating to me, she was finished and I should get up. I remembered to rock, gripped the arms of the chair and pulled myself upright.

I was drawn to the mirror. I had to look at myself. It wasn’t really the astounding difference I had emerged with yesterday. It is still light lavender in color. I am still a poodle. It is more of a refinement, if refinement is actually a word I can use in the same context with this hairstyle. This, this hair, my hair is, is, how can I describe this? My hair, it, it is like a small globe. A perfectly formed globe of, of… it is like a formed texture over the top of my head. It doesn’t appear to have any discernable length at all, it is like a tightly curled blanket, no longer then… but length doesn’t seem an appropriate form of measure. It is more like a compilation of texture, density and thickness. It appears to be about 1-1/2 inches in depth. It is completely immobile. It’s hard to think of it as my hair. It grows from my head, yes, but it rises above me like a foreign ornament, surrounded by a vast expanse of exposed skin. My forehead, the sides, the back of my head, all seems to glow in the parlor lights. It looks incredible. I brought my hand to my head; I had to touch it.

It was bizarre. It was like I had no idea who that was in the mirror. A prim apparition of femininity stared blankly back at me. I had to sit down.

Trance like, I returned to the waiting area. I consciously gathered the volume of my crinoline skirts from my back and sides, moving it before me, gracefully as I could manage before sitting. I sat fairly upright on the edge of the seat and then folded my hands in my lap over the net mass. This seemed to work. This was probably the most lady-like sitting position I had ever assumed since being forced into those embarrassing class recitals in grammar school. It’s funny how those things come back to you at the strangest of times. I found that I still had the white ear disks, clutched in my hand. I reached up and carefully screwed each to my lobes. I would wait for Flo. She was my friend.

I have lost all track of time. I remained perched on the edge of my seat, knees together, unable or unwilling to fully relax. I was again conscious of the tautness of the stockings over the length of my legs. The powerful, unrelenting crush of my girdle, made manifest it’s total dominance over every square inch of my torso. My soft breasts were completely subjugated within the unyielding wired casings that reshaped them into hard bullets, perched high on my chest. The red fabric flower hovered in the edge of my periphery. I absentmindedly reached up to open it’s folds. This sweet rose had been pressed flat as it had hung in that dark closet as if between the pages of a book, waiting to be discovered and now it was free and should be allowed to blossom. Was I too, like that rose? And then I simply sat and waited.

Flo had returned from the dryers. I watched as she gracefully slid into her seat. Helen waited for her to settle in, then removed her hairnet and began the process of removing the rollers. Flo’s long bouncing page was gone. Her hair lay about her head in short gentle curls. She seemed genuinely happy, as she and Helen continued their conversation; good-natured laughter filled the room. I longed to be a part of it. Helen was easily as good as Betty Lou. She worked quickly, lifting and urging the curls into a tight, yet subdued bouffant shape, rising perhaps three inches at her crown. Her curls seemed softer. They lightly caressed the tops of her ears, just slightly covering them. Hellen now formed gentle, curling waves along each side of her forehead. As her vision was revealed, a precise, highly sculpted bubble slowly encapsulated the top of her head. The articulated bubble style was clearly that of an elderly matron, yet in the way the tightly controlled sphere of glory seemed to float above her, it further emphasized Flo’s youthful facial features. The image was true artistry. It was breathtaking.

I held my breath, time seemed to have stopped. Helen seemed to be moving in slow motion now. I watched, mesmerized, as she lifted an aerosol can in her right hand. Flo slowly raised a thin stemmed mask to her face. A thin mist then began to envelop her head. The nozzle slowly circled about her, moving up and down and then to the side and then to the other side. The mist grew thicker with each successive pass, speckles of light danced throughout it. The unmistakable scent of lacquer reached my nostrils and still it did not stop. That glorious crown that was now Flo’s hair sparkled and gleamed like chrome! Yes! YES! It had to be preserved! OH, YES! OH GOD, YES! Cover it! Coat it! Thicker! Heavier! More! MORE! YES! YES! GOD YES! ENSHRINED IN AMBER FOR ALL TIME!

People were starring at me. I had just had a raging, screaming out loud, earth shattering orgasm right here in Betty Lou’s Beauty Parlor.

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