The Pledge Mistress Ch. 25bycaligula97236©
Chapter 25 - Bernadette's new clique
Tuesday morning began with the usual morning PT. The male pledges and their Pledge Master were assigned to Heather and faced a truly grueling hour of harsh exercising, complete with constant swats with her riding crop. The morning promised not to be much easier for the Lisa and her companions, because that was the first day President Alexandra wanted the pledges to exercise running up and down the stairs of the stadium. The pledges would be expected to keep up with the sophomores and no longer would be allowed to stretch on the football field during the stair runs.
The women made their usual trek to the stadium, but the pledges were in for a surprise. The sorority had a tradition to motivate the freshmen to move as fast as the sophomores when conducting stair training. Once they were standing at the base of the bleachers the pledges noticed the sophomores glancing at them with knowing smirks. Then they found out why.
Alexandra addressed the group:
"Pledges, now you get to prove yourselves on the stairs! Strip off your uniforms, except your shoes and socks. Fold your clothes neatly and resume the position of attention!"
As shocking as the order was, by now the pledges were conditioned to quickly obey. Within 15 seconds their uniforms were off their bodies and within another 15 seconds the clothes were neatly folded on the ground. The owners stood at attention with the early morning sunlight shining on their bare bodies, nervously waiting for their next order.
"You'll have to earn your clothes back, Pledges! I'm not giving you anything; you'll have to earn it! You will keep up with your future sorority sisters, or you'll stay like you are for the run back! It's your choice: keep up, or run bare until you do! Do you understand?"
With that the sophomores and their four naked companions began the grueling trek up the cement stairs of the stadium. From the first day they ran to the stadium they had known the moment was coming for them to start stair training. However, the pledges had not expected to be doing it so soon or face the prospect of running back to the sorority naked if they could not keep up.
The sophomores casually moved up flight after flight of the cement slope, their legs conditioned by having done the same training for a year.
At first it seemed that the pledges would be able to keep up. All four newcomers made it to the top with the sophomores during the first climb, and stayed with them as the group ran across one section of bleachers and began their descent. The women ran across another row of bleachers turned onto the second set of stairs to began their second ascent.
The pledges would have been all right had the entire group been as fit as Kathleen. The skinny girl had no problem keeping up, because she was an experienced runner and her thin legs were conditioned for hard workouts. Adrenaline was not a problem either, because she was always tensed up with stress and knew how to use that to her advantage. As her legs started to tire, she focused her thoughts on things that upset her or made her angry, which gave her the energy she needed to keep going. As they neared the top of the second flight of stairs, it was obvious Kathleen would make it to the end of the run.
The illusion of keeping up soon faded for Bernadette and Cherine. Their legs were throbbing even before they made it to the top of the first flight of stairs. They enjoyed a brief respite as they descended, but their hearts filled with despair as they began the arduous trek up the second flight. The stairs stretched upwards to the sky, going higher and higher. The end was in sight, but so what? After that horrible climb, there would be another, and another...six climbs altogether. No. They would not make it.
Despair swept over Lisa as she ran behind the two freshmen. She knew that with difficulty she could have kept up with Kathleen and the sophomores, but decided to stay behind with the two slower members of the pledge group. She was irritated that Kathleen was not staying with the others, but realized that her lover was used to running in competitions and not to keeping pace with the slowest member of her group. She couldn't blame Kathleen, because having known and run with Jason she understood that the competitive instinct is embedded in a good runner.
Cherine was not able to run as fast as the sophomores, but she was fit enough to complete the six flights. Her pace would be slow, but with difficulty she would finish. The problem was not so much Cherine as it was Bernadette.
Bernadette, in spite of her appearance, simply was not in very good shape because she had not been used to exercising before entering college. On top of not exercising, she had smoked since she was fourteen. She was smart enough to realize that she needed to quit, which was one of her reasons for pledging the Four-Beta Sorority in the summer instead of the fall. Among the other things she wanted to accomplish, she was hoping that pledging would deny her the opportunity to smoke and force her to quit. She was right about quitting, but her lungs still were recovering from four years of inhaling smoke and nicotine. By the time she had reached the top of the third flight of stairs, she was gasping for breath and tears were rolling down her cheeks. She knew that she wasn't going to make it.
Lisa snapped: "Then I'm not either!" She turned to her other companion: "Cherine, go! Catch up with Kathleen!"
"That's an order! Catch up!"
Cherine said nothing more, but slowly began moving further and further ahead of Bernadette and Lisa. By the time they were only halfway up the fourth flight of stairs, Cherine already was at the top and running down the next flight to try to catch up with the main group. Meanwhile, Bernadette's face had changed color and she was clearly suffering.
"You go...too! I can't..."
"Just do the best you can!
"Just do your best! Try! It's our first time! Thursday you'll do better!"
Bernadette started to cry. "I can't!"
"Well, I'm not leaving you, so you don't have any choice! Now do what you can! That's all I'm asking! Just do what you can!"
Bernadette started crying in earnest as she began the painful journey up the fifth flight of stairs. Lisa glanced at the sixth flight to see the sophomores and Kathleen finishing, and at the bottom to see Cherine trying to catch up. Bernadette made the laborious climb up the stairs, barely able to walk up the steps, let alone run. Sweat was pouring down her body as she sobbed and gasped for air. Finally the two women made it to the top. Lisa was relieved. Five flights done, one to go.
As the two women made their way down the steps to start their sixth ascent, Cherine finished and joined the group on the football field. Then Lisa and Bernadette heard the whistles and cheers of a group of football players as they came out of the locker room for an early run. Oh, great. On top of everything else, Lisa and Bernadette now had an audience.
The two stressed pledges tried to ignore the barrage of whistles and cat-calls as Bernadette struggled up the final flight of stairs. That final climb was one of the hardest things she had ever done in her life, but Lisa's uncompromising presence and the real fear she felt from all those guys watching her forced her to continue. Finally she made it to the top. As the noise and lewd comments from the football players continued to assault their ears, the two pledges descended the final flight and sadly approached the waiting sophomores.
Bernadette was heartbroken. She was totally humiliated and for the first time in her life, truly hated herself. She had failed, out done by Kathleen, of all people. She saw herself as a loser, and because of that she would need to quit the pledge group. She had no right to hold her companions back. She would have to quit.
Through her gasping and crying, Bernadette heard President Alexandra's voice:
"Pledge Kathleen and Pledge Cherine!"
"Put your uniforms back on! You've passed the stadium run!"
Kathleen and Cherine looked at each other, then at Lisa and Bernadette. It was Cherine who spoke up:
"Ma'am, I request permission to speak!"
"What is it?"
"Aren't we 'sposed to do this as a group? I mean, I thought that if one of us doesn't pass, none of us gets our uniforms back."
"No. I'm not doing it that way. You two passed; Pledge Bernadette and Pledge Lisa did not. They're going back bare-assed, but you're not."
Cherine and Kathleen again exchanged glances. Kathleen spoke next.
"Ma'am, it says in a bunch of places in the Pledge Manual that we gotta do everything as a group. That we're not supposed to have some of us in uniform and the others not."
"Well, I'm gonna cut you some slack. You're saying you don't want it?"
Kathleen swallowed and took a deep breath.
"No, ma'am. We don't want it."
"Not 'till we all pass, ma'am."
"OK, if that's the way you want to be, then you can just be the happy naked foursome." President Alexandra turned to one of the sophomores: "Kate!"
"Yes, President Alexandra!"
"Bag up their stuff and take it back to the house! Looks like our four pledges will be doing some streaking this morning!"
"Yes President Alexandra!"
As Kate shoved the four uniforms into a cloth bag, Bernadette continued to cry. However, she no longer was crying over her failure to do the run. Instead she was overcome at the thought that her fellow pledges, two of whom she disliked, once again had come to her defense. She felt very guilty, because she knew that she would not have done the same for any of the others, with the possible exception of Cherine. Had Lisa or Kathleen been in her shoes, Bernadette gladly would have put her uniform back on and let them go back naked alone. Had it been Lisa who had fallen behind on the stairs, there was no way Bernadette would have dropped back to encourage her.
The football players continued whistling as the Four-Beta women formed up to make the run back to the sorority house. Because it already was daylight, there was a very real risk the pledges faced arrest if the police or Campus Security saw them. The solution was for the pledges to line up single file and for the sophomores to line up on the outside of the pledges, which greatly reduced their exposure. The whistling and cat-calls from the football players continued as the women exited the stadium, even though the pledges now were mostly hidden by the sophomores.
The women jogged at a leisurely pace along a back street that paralleled the university. They crossed Old Campus and finally the wide street that separated the university from the nearby residences. As they made their way back to the Four-Beta house, the group received plenty of curious glances from the early morning commuters who were out and about. Their witnesses thought, but could not be sure, that the four women running in the center of the group weren't wearing anything.
The pledges showered and then ate quietly with the sophomores. The sophomores seemed in very high spirits, but the pledges were nervous about having to repeat the stadium exercise on Thursday. They understood that, until all of them could manage the stairs, they would be forced to run in the nude.
The Four-Beta pledges, accompanied by their Tri-Alpha counterparts, put on their uniforms and were escorted to their classes. In spite of everything that was happening to them, they were students first and pledges second, and their mentors expected top academic performance. Whatever difficulties they had back at the sorority house had to stay there, because the pledges were expected to pay attention to what was going on in their classes and pass their subjects on the first try.
As usual, Lisa was deposited in Ruth Burnside's office and greeted her professor in her normal stance, naked with her legs spread and her hands behind her head. As the student aide stood in position, Burnside talked to her at length about the summer classes and her studies. Dr. Halsey and one of his TA's came into the office and joined the conversation. The TA, a young guy who was fairly good-looking, spent the entire time with his eyes glued to Lisa's attractive figure. Lisa tried to ignore him and conversed with the two professors, talking with them as though she were dressed and sitting down.
As the day went by and Bernadette had the chance to reflect on her traumatic experience on the stadium stairs, she realized something truly frightening about herself. She had considered herself the best member of the pledge group: the most outgoing, the most confident, and the most attractive. Perhaps that was true, but of the four pledges she also was by far the most egotistical, self-centered, and short-sighted. The tiredness in her chest and her ruined lungs were a legacy of her short-sightedness, a physical ailment she had inflicted upon herself that would take months to fix. Because of her stupidity, she now was burdened with a weakness that was making the other three pledges suffer. And yet, they still supported her. They still wanted her to succeed, even though she had done nothing to merit their help. Even that creepy Kathleen, even she stuck up for me. Even she's a better person than I am, thought Bernadette to herself.
That night Bernadette decided not to use Ken, or pursue her goal of getting Cherine to loosen up with her inhibitions. She had concluded that it would be better for her not to continue pledging the Four-Beta Sorority. Among other problems, she dreaded the prospect of another run on the stadium stairs Thursday morning. The thought of pain tearing through her damaged lungs was not her main concern, but rather the humiliation of being the weakest member of the pledge group.
She had always thought of herself as superior to most other women her age, largely because of her popularity in school. However, she had not really been challenged when it came to exercising before joining the sorority. With upper body she did all right, but running had been very hard, even before the stair training. Now she had become an impediment to the others, and could not face being in that awkward situation. It was just too humiliating. She would have to quit, for the good of everyone.
After dinner Pledge Bernadette found Tracy at her usual spot in the sorority library. She knelt, and flatly told the Pledge Mistress that she needed to quit the pledging program and leave the sorority. Tracy was not particularly surprised, because she knew that Bernadette had two issues in her life that were likely to manifest themselves during the pledging process. Tracy was aware that Bernadette smoked and that her fitness would be a problem as the aerobic portion of the physical training intensified. That was no surprise, because she had seen the same thing when going though Basic Training in the Army. The smokers always had a lot of trouble during the runs at the beginning.
Bernadette's other problem was her self-confidence and tendency to harshly judge everyone around her. Her self-confidence came not from what she had accomplished in her life, but from the illusion of being part of the "in" crowd at her high school. She was destined to suffer an identity crisis, because the world in which she lived vanished the moment her graduation ceremony ended. Precisely because she had been so happy in high school (often at the expense of her less popular classmates) finding that level of happiness in the future would be difficult. In some ways Bernadette faced a harder life than any of her three fellow pledges, because the other three had not enjoyed their time in high school. They would miss that part of their lives much less, and could look forward to a happier future.
Upon hearing Bernadette announce that she wanted to quit the pledging program, Tracy's demeanor changed completely. She told Bernadette to get off her knees and sit in a chair, using a normal tone of voice. Then she stood up, grabbed a sign with the words "Private conference" written on it, and hung it on the door to the library.
Tracy surprised the freshman by speaking to her like a psychologist, giving up her normal military manner of talking. She addressed Bernadette by her name, instead of calling her "Pledge". The change was a total shock to Bernadette, who had always taken it for granted that Tracy's behavior was an outgrowth of her personality and not simply a performance required by her position as Pledge Mistress.
"Leaving the pledging program is your choice, Bernadette. The only thing I'm gonna ask of you is that we talk for a little bit, to make sure you're leaving for the right reasons. The main thing I'd want is to make sure you don't take off, and then, a week or two from now, regret doing it."
"I...I don't know ma'am...I just don't think it's gonna work for me."
"Maybe 'what's not working for you' is that you're scared right now? New situation, taking orders, dealing with people you wouldn't have hung out with in high school?"
"That's part of it."
"Part of it. And what's the other part?"
"That run on the stairs. I can't do it. I tried, but I can't do that run."
"Why do you think you can't do the run?"
"Everything gave out on the third flight of steps. My heart, my legs, that pain in my side...I mean I just couldn't move...and it really hurt...and I couldn't..."
"Well from what I heard, you did go the full distance, it's just that you were a bit slow."
"Pledge Lisa came back and told me to keep moving."
"So Lisa cared enough to do that for you."
"Then what happened?"
Berndette sat silent as tears began rolling down her cheeks. Finally she managed to speak.
"We all had to jog back to the Four-Beta house naked."
"President Alexandra ordered all of you to streak back?"
"She made me and Pledge Lisa...'cause we didn't make the run...and...I mean...and it was my fault, 'cause Lisa didn't do it, 'cause of me."
"What about the others?"
"They wouldn't get dressed 'cause of me. They refused."
"They refused to get dressed?"
"They...wouldn't get dressed 'cause they kept saying that's what it says in the Pledge Handbook...that we gotta do things together as a group."
"So, in other words, you had all three of your fellow pledges sticking up for you. You got in trouble and they helped you. Did I get that right?"
"And, so...right now...you don't see how lucky you are, to have friends who'll do all that for you?"
Bernadette sat silent again, trying to figure out how to say what she needed to say. Finally she blurted out:
"The problem is they shouldn't have done it! Not for me! I don't know why they did it 'cause I don't even like 'em! I mean...I like Cherine, but that's it! I don't like Lisa and Kathleen, but they don't know it...and they think I'm their friend...and I'm not their friend! And I...they shouldn't have done it, 'cause there's no way I would've done it for them!"
"OK, so...why do your feelings towards Lisa and Kathleen make you want to quit the Four-Betas?"
Bernadette thought about it. Her real problem was that she felt horribly guilty about her inward disdain for two women who had been so supportive, but didn't know how to express that thought, even to herself. Finally she settled on a partial explanation:
"I just don't want to be the one to hold the others back. And I'm sick of being humiliated. I'm sick of being the one that everyone's looking at and saying 'she's the loser, she's the one who's fucking everything up! It's her fault!' I just don't wanna be the fuck-up of the group."
Tracy sat back in her chair, glad that she now had an opening to begin convincing Bernadette not to quit the sorority: