In his office, sitting on a high shelf, there is a leather-bound ledger. He always refers to it as my ledger, but I have never seen the contents, though I am painfully aware of them. He likes to joke that the ledger is leather-bound and so am I. He always runs his fingers over the collar around my neck as he grins at the humour. It is a joke that never gets old. For him.
In the ledger is recorded every punishment I have received since I entered his service six months ago. Six months of daily entries, at seven in the morning and at seven in the evening. On the dot. Without deviation. The bookends of my existence. I remember that the first one was three spanks on each buttock. I was in tears afterwards, wondering how I could survive the pain.
I didn't know what pain was.
This morning I reported at 7am precisely. The creases on my black dress were perfect, my corset cinched to closed around my waist, my white wrist-length gloves without mark. My shoes were polished and my stocking seams were perfectly straight. At least two of these were an achievement: every so often, while I sleep, my corset seems to get tighter overnight. Equally, every so often, the heels on my shoes seem to get higher. One adjusts. So I reported, curtseying on entry to the room, then standing silently and waiting to be noticed.
Ten minutes later, he added an entry to the ledger. He likes to speak out loud as he writes. "General discipline. Fifty spanks to the buttocks. Ten strokes with the thin cane to the buttocks. Five strokes with the thick cane to the backs of the thighs." Even now, hours later, my rear is still throbbing. I'm struggling to recall the last time it wasn't in some degree of discomfort.
The ledger has my name on a card on the front. Just my first name. I sometimes struggle to remember my surname. I sometimes struggle to remember that I'm not just called "girl".
It's not the "General Discipline" entries that are of most concern, or are the most memorable. It's the "Special Discipline" entries. These record the punishments I have received for disobedience, for mistakes, for slovenly conduct. Each entry carefully details the date, the offence and the punishment. At first, there were many "Special Discipline" entries, but the punishments were no worse than "General Discipline". I got better. And the standards got more exacting, and the punishments more severe. Last week, I accidentally interrupted him. "13th of September, Speaking inappropriately. Two days' enforced silence." Enforced silence means being gagged, except for mealtimes, when I was still not permitted to speak. My jaw was sore by the end, but it could have been much worse.
I wouldn't like to give the wrong impression. He's never laid an inappropriate finger on me at all. He's fair, if utterly hard. I wish he would, really. It would let me know that he was aware of me in some ways. I guess that he is, though, because of the amount of attention he seems to give me. Sometimes after evening "General Discipline", I would go back to my room and play with myself. Two weeks ago, he caught me at it.
"7th of September, Indecent behaviour. One day confinement, two days' restriction." Confinement was horrid. I was put in a little cage, my head and hands poking through holes in one end, my feet through wide-spread holes at the other. I was wearing only my corset, my collar and the briefest of shifts that barely covered my buttocks. I was on display to anyone who cared to walk up behind me. And then the cage was winched high off the ground in the main hall. I thought that I would die of humiliation. And then I thought I would die of cramp. It was the longest day ever, I am sure.
The restriction was better. My wrists were cuffed and chained to each other by a short chain. Another chain then connected that to my collar. The net result was that I could not lower my hands past my waist. After the two days had passed, I was desperate to touch myself, and equally determined not to run the risk of being confined again. Sleeping has been difficult, since.
There are three other ledgers in his office, on the same shelf. My predecessors' records. After lunch today, he had a meeting. I was desperate to know what happens next. I don't get told, ever. It's strange, but the lack of future knowledge is one of the most disorientating things. I cling to the bits that are regular and predictable – chores, meals, "General Discipline". So, I sneaked into the office – not a place that I am regularly allowed to go to. I took down the first ledger that wasn't mine, and opened it, my finger racing over the pages as I read line after line, each punishment getting more and more severe, until I finally reached a word I didn't know. "Infibulation." I was fascinated. Too fascinated. I didn't hear the step in the hall, and I didn't hear the door. I did hear the angered intake of breath, and I did see the arched eyebrow that I know means trouble. He pointed wordlessly at the corner of the room, and then walked over to see what I had been reading.
I have a horrible feeling my vocabulary is about to be expanded.