Thunder and Herbs

The written words of Jenny Hackett

Be A Doll

Rachel first met Maryam at the tail end of an eight-hour shift. Tall, dark, somewhere in her 40s and as handsome as any soft butch beauty she’d ever seen, Maryam had spelled out the name for her macchiato carefully, as though she was so used to doing so that she now incorporated the routine into her flirting game almost wholesale. Though they’d exchanged maybe ten words in total, Rachel was already finding herself thoroughly smitten, and felt the gentlest of frissons when, as she handed the completed order over, their fingers momentarily met. It was all she could do not to swoon.

“Thanks,” Maryam said, with a smile, and turned to leave. But before she’d taken a step she caught herself and turned back, adding: “Oh, would you be a doll and let me know where I can get some sugar?”

Wordless, lest she let slip the wrong sort of reaction for a professional environment, Rachel indicated the back wall of the shop, with its assortment of sweeteners, creamers and napkins.

“Thanks,” Maryam said once more, and left to go take her seat, notably without availing herself of any sugar. And there she sat, in the corner of the shop, nursing her macchiato until the time came for Rachel to close up, making no indication at any point of any intention to leave. Before long, the shop was empty save for the two of them, and as infatuated as she was, Rachel was more than ready to go home and rest her aching feet. And so, after pausing to brush a few stray strawberry locks of hair into place, she strode up to Maryam’s table.

“Hey, uh,” she started, stumbling a little over the consonants and vowels. “I’m afraid we’re closing, would —” Maryam flashed a toothy smile that momentarily knocked her off-kilter “— you like me to put that in a to-go cup, or?”

The air between the two of them lay pregnant and still, and Rachel had the distinct feeling that she was being sized up. But, eventually, Maryam did speak.

“Mm, yes,” she said, licking her lips, “that’d be perfect.” She made to hand the cup over, but stopped. “I’m sorry, you must be so tired after a long day. her Be a doll and sit down, and I’ll put it into a cup myself.”

Confused, but relieved that the conversation wasn’t as hard as it could have been — she’d had her share of difficult customers in this job — Rachel found herself sitting down as Maryam got up and walked over to the counter. And sure, it wasn’t strictly policy to have the customer do it themself, but Rachel was more than tired enough that she didn’t feel much like caring.

“I really am sorry,” Maryam said from over at the counter. “I used to work in a place like this myself, you know, back when I was a much younger woman. I really ought to know better.” She came back over to the table where Rachel was sitting, and placed the cardboard cup upon it. “Rachel, was it?”

“How did y—“

“Doll, it was on your name-tag,” she explained. “Sorry, I’m sure that after an eight hour shift is hardly your ideal time for higher brain function. You must be about ready to switch off for the night, right?”

Rachel found herself nodding. Ordinarily, she’d object to being given an appellation like “doll”, but there was something in Maryam’s manner, or maybe the slight Americanised twang in her voice, that made it seem rather endearing.

Maryam shrugged her coat on — black, with silver buckles — and picked the cup up once more. “My, you’re pretty, though.”

Rachel felt a heat come to her cheeks that was only compounded when the follow-up comment came.

“Especially when you blush. There’s something really beautiful about a redhead that blushes like that, don’t you think? Like you were made to be admired.”

“I, ah…” Rachel stammered, somehow finding it in herself to come to her feet despite the weakness in her knees. “I think—“

“Yes, of course,” Maryam interrupted with a wry smile. “I really should be going. As should you. Come on.” She offered Rachel an arm — one that, despite her apprehension, she took gladly — and together they walked towards the door.

It was dark out, and almost as dark inside once Rachel had thrown the switch next to the entrance. She scarcely had time to let out a whimper as Maryam threw her against the wall, coffee cup held by the same arm that pinned her as the other found its way through the zip in her jeans. But instead of the climactic burst of sensation she was expecting… nothing.

Looking down, as Maryam pulled her jeans and knickers down, pausing only to sip more of her coffee, Rachel saw that the space between her own legs was entirely blank. Not the cunt she’d gotten used to seeing, and not the cock she’d had some years prior, but simply smooth, pale skin, not even a pubic hair in sight. She moaned in a guttural frustration.

“See,” Maryam told her in scarcely a whisper. “You really are such a pretty little doll.” Gently, she placed a business card into her conquest’s hand and a kiss upon her cheek, bestowing upon her the most genuine of smiles. “Look me up if you want me to finish the job. You’d look just darling on my shelf.”

And with that, Maryam placed another kiss square upon Rachel’s forehead, and left her alone to her shock and frustration. And though Rachel stared at the spot between her legs incessantly that night, at no point did she find anything there to relieve her.

The next morning, Rachel woke to the usual dawn chorus of buses, rubbish vans and pedestrians: one of the more dubious benefits of her flat’s central location in the city. And, when she rolled over in bed to check the time on her alarm clock, she was more than a little perturbed to notice that her eyes refused to open.

Fearing, for a moment, that she had somehow gone blind in the night, she pushed herself to her feet, intent on staggering blindly to the bathroom to wash away whatever gunk had collected on her eyelids while she slept. But the moment she reached an upright position, she found that her eyes drifted easily open. Ruefully, she checked the space in between her legs, and found herself hoping that missing a day of dilation wouldn’t cause too many problems down the line. Perhaps her vulva was being well taken care of, wherever it was.

After a few experimental lies down and gettings up — confirming that, yes, her eyes would remain steadfastly closed whenever she was lying down — Rachel walked to her wardrobe to dress herself.

Rachel’s wardrobe was not the most well-organised of its type. Any given article was as likely to be crumpled p on the floor as it was to be hung up properly; an elegant evening gown lay in indignity, while blue jeans and chequered shirts were treated with a little more care — though not much. Rachel had never quite figured out where she fell on the whole butch-femme spectrum, and her wardrobe was a prime example of this.

At first, she considered a rather practical outfit, albeit not an unfeminine one, consisting of dungarees and a floral-patterned t-shirt. But she found herself drawn, for whatever reason, towards the gown on the floor, as creased as it was, and entirely despite its impracticality for daytime wear.

But of course, it wouldn’t do in its current state, so Rachel decided to take an action usually rather uncharacteristic of her. She picked up the dress, walked into the kitchen, pulled out a board from the corner of the room and set about ironing.

After all, she reasoned, if she was going to dress up today, she might as well go the full distance with it.

The better part of an hour later, Rachel found herself dressed to the nines. The dress, purple and with ruffled sleeves, fit like a dream upon her body, and she paid little mind to how scandalously high on the thigh it was. There was nowhere in particular that she had to be today, so why not indulge herself by getting a bit dolled up?

It was strange. The clock on the wall informed her that by now, it was several minutes past noon, but, despite having had nothing in the way of breakfast, and no snack last night before bed, Rachel felt no hunger. Still, she thought it probably wouldn’t be wise to go too long without eating, so she fetched a bowl from by the sink, filled it with cornflakes and milk, and placed it down on the circular table in the centre of the kitchen. She took a spoon from the cutlery drawer, and sat herself down to dine.

And thus began Rachel’s half-hour-long staring contest with the bowl.

It wasn’t like she felt full. And it wasn’t that the idea of eating the cereal felt bad, it was simply that the idea… wasn’t. Something in Rachel’s brain was simply short-circuiting whenever she actually thought about consuming food, as though the very idea of eating was too illogical to even be considered.

But Rachel wasn’t about to be defeated. And besides, surely she’d need to have some food in her at some point. So, doing her best not to think about what she was doing, she scooped up a spoonful of now-sodden cereal and raised it carefully to her lips. But her lips refused to part.

She went on like this for several minutes, repeating the motions, until it dawned on her that what she was doing was simply miming the act of eating breakfast. As though she were some little girl playing pretend with her dolls.

Rachel wasn’t sure if she’d ever before felt quite so powerless, so humiliated, and most of all so silly as she felt in that exact moment. She was glad that she lived alone; she wasn’t sure if she could take a person — another person, that is — seeing her right now. Heat and shame ran to her cheeks as the absurdity of her situation set in.

Rachel reached for her phone, proceeding to hastily dial the number on the business card she’d so casually tossed onto the counter-top the night before. She found herself counting the rings: one, two, three… until, on the fourth, someone answered.

“Hello,” the voice said. Rachel was glad to be sitting down, or she’d have had real cause to worry about the sudden weakness in her knees. “Who is this?”

The question was asked in such a way as to make it absolutely clear that the answer was already known.

“Wha—” Rachel began, stammering a she realised just how difficult a conversation this was going to be, and how foolish she was going to sound. “What have you done to me?”

“I’m sorry,” Maryam said, drawing the words out into a purr that was only emphasised by the distortion of the telephone. “You may have to be a bit more specific. Right now I don’t know you from Barbie.”

Though she was bristling from yet another humiliating comparison to a doll, Rachel still found herself clenching her thighs, noting with some palpable disappointment how the sensation differed from normal.

“It’s me,” she said. “Rachel. From last night.”

The pause that ensued felt all the more intense from the gentle sound of Maryam’s breathing on the other end of the call. It was broken by a hearty chuckle.

“Oh, yes!” she replied, brightly. “The pretty young thing from the coffee shop. How are you liking my gifts?”

“Gifts?” Rachel retorted. “You mean, messing with my eyes and taking away my—“

But she couldn’t bring herself to finish what she was saying; at least, not in as coarse a manner as she’d originally envisioned.

“My… you know,” she finished, deflated.

The same chuckle, throaty and warm, came down the line once more. “Why, aren’t you just darling. The most adorable little thing I’ve had the pleasure of toying with in weeks.” She sighed, giving every impression of being deeply contented with herself. “Well, if you hadn’t wanted it, you shouldn’t have accepted it.”

“Accepted?” Rachel exclaimed. “How exactly did I—“

But realisation dawned upon her quickly.

“That’s what you meant. ‘Be a doll’.” Rachel found herself blushing, this time more out of indignation than embarrassment.

“Oh, you’re a clever one,” Maryam replied. “I like that. More work for me, of course, but my wife will be particularly pleased.”

Rachel sighed, resolving herself to abandon any remaining shred of dignity. “Please,” she said, somewhere between whisper and whimper. “Put it… fix me.”

“‘Fix’ you?” came the reply, followed by another pregnant pause. “I suppose I could. But is that really what you want me to do?”

Rachel nodded, remembering only belatedly that she could only be heard, not seen. “Yes.”

Maryam laughed. “I… don’t… believe you…” she drew out into a sing-song cadence. “I know your type. I know your trajectory.” She tutted. “Endless days working in the same place of drudgery, or else you get your degree and have endless days working in some other place of pointless number-pushing. Either way, you never get appreciated for the things that make you truly special.”

If a smile had a sound, Rachel would be willing to put good money that it would sound a lot like Maryam’s voice. She didn’t reply. Words felt like too much.

“You’re beautiful, you know,” Maryam continued. “Don’t you want to be admired?” She sighed. “People you age are so obsessed with thinking, making intellectual or practical contributions to society. But what has society ever done for you? You owe it nothing.” She hummed, in the manner one might do when admiring a well-crafted landscape painting. “When you get to my age, it’s really more about stopping to smell the roses, if you’ll pardon the cliché.”

“But I…” Rachel somehow managed to say, but as she continued her utterance she realised that she wasn’t really sure where the sentence was meant to go. She let it lie dead in the air.

“Tell me,” Maryam said. “Where do you see yourself in five years? Or in ten? Truly? Working in an office, or another café?”

It was a question Rachel had heard so many times before, in job interviews, from parents, from friends in school, but if truth be told, it wasn’t one she really knew how to answer honestly. Come to think of it, she wasn’t sure if she’d ever had a plan beyond simply going through the motions and making it through the week.

“You could be so much more, you know.” Maryam’s words painted honey into Rachel’s ear. “A beautifully-painted, looked-after and beloved objet d’art; a darling companion for a couple in their prime. You’d need never have a worry beyond what to wear for the day, and even then…” Her laugh this time was softer, more gentle. “Tell me, wouldn’t that be nice?”

As much as she so desperately wanted to — though, in that moment, the reason for that desire escaped her — Rachel couldn’t deny the appeal. She looked down at herself, at how she was dressed, even picturing her blanked-out crotch through the layers of fabric. She felt… pretty. Peaceful. Blank.

“Okay,” she said. “Tell me what to do.”

The next few seconds lay heavily upon her, and for a moment, she found herself regretting her words. But when the response came, it brought some strange reassurance.

“Write down this address.”

When Rachel arrived at the address she was given, a single taxi ride after putting the phone down, the butterflies inside her stomach were starting to reach a fever pitch, leaving her wondering if, perhaps, she should have given that whole food thing another try. Nevertheless, she rapped on the door — imposing, painted dark green and with a rather impressive brass knocker — with a barely contained eagerness, and found herself waiting on tenterhooks for the response. She did not wait long.

The door was answered, not by Maryam, but by a Mediterranean-looking woman with close-cropped (though not unfeminine) hair and precisely-applied makeup, wearing an elegant L.B.D. and pearls.

“You must be Rachel,” she declared, with some amusement. “Maryam has told me a little about you… but she didn’t quite do you justice. Do come in.”

Rachel stepped over the threshold of the door, her feet quaking slightly in kitten heels, and followed her host into precisely the sort of restrainedly-opulent lounge that can only fairly be termed a “drawing room”. The furnishings were an inviting off-white, two sofas spaced fairly out with an honest-to-goodness fainting couch at the side of the space. The only element of the room that felt at all out of place, from the velvet curtains to the soft shag of the carpet, was a simple wooden chair.

Maryam was already sitting on one of the sofas in a dark, tailored pinstripe suit, her posture faintly imposing without being in any way improper. The other woman wasted no time in joining her, nestling into her like a cat fits where it pleases.

It didn’t take Rachel much thought to realise that her place was on the wooden chair; she took it without a word.

In front of the sofa upon which Rachel’s hosts sat, there was a glass coffee table bearing two coffee cups and a half-filled cafétiere of deep brown liquid; the two women took their cups and sipped thoughtfully. It didn’t even occur to Rachel to ask for a cup of her own.

“So,” Maryam said simply. “You’ve now met my wife, Charlotte. And she’s met you.” She turned to look at her wife with a wry smile. “Did I pick a good one, dearest?”

Charlotte smiled back, warmly, but with teeth. “I dare say you did.” Her accent was a plain Received Pronunciation, without any of the faint Americanisms that Maryam displayed. “Perhaps we should take a closer look, though?”

“Of course.”

Maryam stood up and walked over to Rachel’s chair, looming above her so as to make Rachel feel, as she was forced to look up at her host, rather small. It wasn’t an altogether unpleasant feeling. Certainly one that she could get used to.

The spell was broken when, without ceremony, Maryam hauled her to her feet and began to pull her dress off. Not wanting to be left totally without agency, Rachel went to lift her arms up.

Maryam tutted. “Dolls do not need to move,” she said. “If I want your arms up, I’ll lift them myself.”

Sheepishly, Rachel lowered her arms, and for the rest of her disrobing she was entirely passive. It wasn’t a violent experience in any way: every movement Maryam made was done with the greatest of care and gentleness, as though Rachel were made of thin china that could shatter if mistreated.

Rachel felt her dress come off; laid beside her on the floor, flat so as to avoid any creases. Then her legs were lifted up and her stockings rolled down, removed from her feet along with her shoes. Her bra was unclasped and placed upon the dress and, finally, her hips were lifted off the chair and she felt Maryam pull her knickers down to the floor. She watched, silently, as Maryam folded the underwear into quarters and placed them with the rest of her clothes.

Strangely, Rachel felt no shame from being exposed in front of these two elegantly-clothed women. It just felt… right.

“What a pretty thing you’ve found me,” Charlotte purred, still sipping at her coffee. “How well-crafted it is, how artful and delicate. Tell me, how is it articulated?”

Settling Rachel back into her seat, Maryam caressed her shoulders from the blade to the top of the arm. “Ball-jointed shoulders for the greatest degree of motion,” she observed.

This didn’t strike Rachel as at all odd; her shoulders had always been built like that, smooth porcelain held together with string, painted by hand. Her hips were the same. In fact, isn’t that how most of her joints were constructed?

“The hair is actually real,” Maryam continued. “Sewn into a cloth scalp that can be removed… thus.” With that, she pulled the hair from Rachel’s head, leaving the smooth china bare beneath it. “And the painted expression is just divine, don’t you think?”

Rachel knew, without being able to feel it, that Maryam’s hands were stroking her chin, before coming up to her eyes.

“The eyes are a nice feature. An intricate mechanism. The lids fall when you lay the toy supine.” With that, she picked Rachel up off of her chair and lay her upon the carpet. Everything went dark.

Charlotte giggled. “How delightful!” Rachel heard her get up off of the sofa and walk over to her, felt her — through proprioception alone, for that was one of the senses she’d somehow retained — nudge her arms and legs with her feet, somehow sure that her blank crotch was receiving the attention of her new owner’s heel. And, despite the powerlessness of her situation, despite the complete emptiness of sensation… it was heavenly.

“We’re going to have such fun,” Charlotte declared. And Rachel knew, in what little remained of her consciousness, how right she was.