I believe its curiosity. Women, with whom I’ve been involved, are curious. My friend, Calliope, is more than curious. Her quest to know me surpasses inquisitiveness or furtive observation, it borders on prurience. She says it keeps our friendship fresh.
Calliope assists me with corset contracts when I need a set of surrogate hands. We were friends for two years when she commissioned me to make a hand-carved leather corset. She had definite ideas of what she wanted. Corset making is complicated. During the creative rush of brainstorming, we incorporated her ideas into a complete design concept. We chose fine, three ounce, English calfskin for the exterior of the corset and smooth, soft pigskin for the lining.
The next phase is creation of the pattern. The simplest method to construct a pattern for a custom leather corset is to use a snug t-shirt and lots of duct tape. Sexual harassment laws and the rules of propriety being what they are, I ask customers to bring two female friends or family members with them to their patterning appointment. The friends or family apply the duct tape and draw the pattern under my supervision. It is oddly erotic and hauntingly Victorian.
Calliope arrived promptly for her appointment with a sacrificial t-shirt and a new roll of duct tape. I like that. She arrived alone. I do not like that. That creates a problem. I looked past her at the landing and down the stairs. There was no one in sight. Her mother and sister were to accompany her. I fixed an arched eyebrow on her.
“Where's your Mom and Thalia.” I asked.
Calliope replied with a touch of impudence. “I wanted to come by myself. It isn’t a problem.”
“It’s a big problem. I won’t do well in prison.” I declared.
Defiantly, she said, “Oh shut up. You’re not going to prison. I want you to do the pattern yourself. I'm paying for it. Mom and my sister will only interfere with what I want.”
Calliope pushed past me into the studio and looked the room over.
“The studio looks nice.” She said, surprised.
Becoming annoyed at her attitude, I said, “Thanks. Kyle and I cleaned it. Your Mom and sister were supposed to come with you, remember?”
“Where is Kyle?” She asked.
I was starting to simmer, “Big Bear, until Monday.”
“How convenient.” Calliope teased.
Irritated, I snapped, “No, it’s not convenient. He’s a perv and your sister hates him. I get rid of him on pattern-making days. He’s creepy.”
Calliope looked into my eyes.
“You’re not.” She said pointedly.
Off guard I asked, “I’m not what?”
“Creepy.” She taunted.
Nicely boiling, I icily replied, “Thanks.”
“You’re not. You’re a gentleman. You’re not going to do anything. You’re safe.” Calliope soothed.
“Gee, thank you.” I replied venomously. “I'm a mutant, not a eunuch, and I’m far from dead.”
Calliope looked mortified. I went instantly from vexed to angry in a blink. My face was beet red. Breathing hard, pacing, humiliated and affronted, I started perspiring. A socially acceptable dewy shimmer would have done nicely. I lathered up like a two-year old filly on Derby Day. I got a beer out of the fridge and sat down on the couch. Holding it with my knees, I tried to open it. No joy. I took a death-grip on it and twisted, scraping my fingers. Damned cap wouldn’t budge. She was right. I was safe.
She moved closer and knelt down. Her fear was palpable, “Jack?”
“What?” I snapped.
I was seriously considering canceling the contract. My bullshit-meter was pegged and redlining.
She asked, “Where can I change?”
“What?” I said, surprised.
Deliberate, calm, she asked again, “Where – can – I – change?”
“Foolish. Brave, but foolish. Stop prodding the grizzly bear.” I thought.
I looked up from the beer bottle I was battling. My eyes were burning. I shut my eyes. I took a deep, measured breath and exhaled slowly. I pointed down the hall.
“My room.” I replied dispassionately.
Calliope smiled uncertainly.
“Thank you.” She said.
Her heels clicked down the hall. I went back to battling the bottle cap. Calliope came back a moment later in her sacrificial t-shirt and gave me the duct tape. I took the tape, flipped it on the couch and swiped my arm across my forehead. Huge rings had materialized at my armpits. Zero to gross in ninety-two seconds flat. It had to be a record. Calliope went over to the cutting table, found a clean shop towel and came back, offering it to me.
“Wipe your face.” She said.
I took the towel, thanking her. I patted my face. She knelt, folding her slender legs beneath her. She took the beer from me. Calliope wrapped the hem of the t-shirt around the bottle cap and twisted. Pfffft! off it popped. She returned the beer.
“That’s cheating.” I said deflated taking back the bottle.
A truce reached, I reset my bullshit-meter, gave her the last of the stink-eye and took a deep swallow.
“Go to the bathroom. Drink some water. Have a snack. There’s Snickers for you in the fridge. Do anything you need to do. This will take a while...put your bra back on...I can’t pattern around unfettered breasts.” Quietly dismissing her. Calliope disappeared down the hall to put on her bra. I drank my beer and toweled off my face once more.
Half an hour later found Calliope encased in duct tape from armpits to navel. Finally, in my zone, focused, relaxed, I ran my hand gently but firmly over her torso and smoothed out the duct tape. I consulted my sketches, marked off the measurements and drew the pattern on the duct tape, visualizing the completed corset in my mind’s eye. Calliope had to hold perfectly still. She was hot, uncomfortable, and tired of standing in one spot; a normal, unfortunate side effect of the process. Making small talk while I worked, she was asking questions, lots of questions. Some were about the pattern and methodology but most were personal questions. I answered her absently, focused on my work, half paying attention to our conversation.
“Jack?” She said.
Absorbed, my voice vacant of emotion, “Yep.”
“Are you still mad?” She inquired.
Distracted I asked tolerantly, “About what?”
“Me coming by myself. Breaking the rules.” She said apologetically, rattled by my rapid shift to design mode and vacuous manner.
Trying to reassure her. “Nope. Hold still just a couple of more seconds. There, drawings done. Turn around. Again. Looks good, hold still.” I commanded her.
I checked the measurements one last time. Every line was even and symmetrical. I smiled at Calliope. She looked miserable.
“Okay. Get a drink. Hydrate. You’re looking pale. I’m going to get the scissors and cut you out of there.”
She looked relieved. “’Kay. Thank you.”
We took a quick break. My shirt and the waistband of my jeans were soaked. I felt gross. I drank a couple of glasses of ice water and toweled off my face. I got out my heavy bandage scissors. Calliope was leaning on the cutting table sipping a glass of water.
“You ready.” I asked.
She downed her water.
“I’m ready.” She said.
I held up the scissors. Calliope got a good look at them. Angled bandage scissors with a wide, flat, safety spade on the tip. Calliope looked uncertain.
Mustering all of my professional competence I told her, “These won’t cut you.”
“Are you sure?” Calliope replied plaintively.
“Positive. They’re 100% safe. Ready?” I said confidently.
“Yes.” She replied, unconvinced.
Cutting away the right sleeve, the cold metal made Calliope gasp and wiggle. I immediately stopped.
“Hold still.” I commanded.
I cut slowly, carefully freeing excess material from the pattern. I came around the backside of her arm just below the armpit. She giggled the scissors were tickling her, raising gooseflesh on her skin. Useless material fluttered to the floor. I moved to her left side, sliding the tip of the scissors over the end of her collarbone, cutting away more fabric. Her skin glistened with moisture. She was breathing heavily.
“What’s the matter?” I asked.
“Nothing.” Calliope’s voice was husky.
Almost finished with the left side, the scissors were stuck. I couldn’t open them.
“Hold still and don’t freak out. The scissors are caught in the tape.” I told her.
I bent my head to her shoulder. I grasped one side of the scissors in my teeth, holding the other in my hand. I was struggling, breathing heavily on her neck and shoulder. The scissors came free. I straightened and Calliope shuddered and shrugged.
“They're free. Are you okay?” Worried I'd hurt her.
“Oh yes – I’m okay. I’m fine.” She replied.
Calliope’s voice was thick, low and shaky. I was getting concerned.
“You want to take a break and have some water?" I asked.
“No. Please, keep cutting.” She pled.
I inspected the cut. “The tape is a little thick back here. I'll have to use a razor to get through the material.” Retrieving an antique six-inch straight razor from the knife drawer, I stropped the blade until the Damascus blade gleamed. I turned to her with the open razor in my hand. Wide-eyed, she looked at the razor. A fine sheen of perspiration was on her upper lip. She licked her lip with the tip of her tongue. Calliope was breathing heavily again.
“Raise your arm.” Moving to her side and sliding the tiny fingers of my left hand under the material, making her squirm.
“Okay. Take a couple of deep breaths and then one more and hold it.”
The back of the blade lightly touched her shoulder and she giggled.
“It tickles and your fingers are like ice.”
Time to be firm.
“Calliope, if this razor slips, both of us are going to get cut. Please hold still.”
Finishing the cut, I took my fingers from her shoulder. The left sleeve dropped to the floor.
“Can I sit down?”
“Sure. You alright?”
“I’m fine, I just need a minute.”
I needed a break too. I took my warm beer out on the balcony, lit a Marl Boro Red and inhaled deeply. It was dark on the balcony the cigarette’s glow lit the cool night air. I finished my smoke crushing it into an ashtray. Going inside I found Calliope studying the pattern in the full-length mirror.
“Looking. It’s going to be awesome Jack.”
“Let’s get the pattern done before lighting the fireworks.”
Taking up the scissors, I cut out the bust line, then the back waistline. Kneeling in front of her, I cut the front waistline. Calliope's breathing was heavy once more. I glanced up at her. She was studying the ceiling, a fine sheen of perspiration on her face. I continued to cut.
“Can I ask you a personal question?”
“Sweetie, you’ve been asking me personal questions for the last hour. Go ahead.”
“Are you sure?”
“How do you masturbate?”
“How do you masturbate?”
The remnant of the waistline fell to the floor. I was speechless. No one, man, woman, doctor, therapist had ever asked me that before. I looked at her. Calliope’s twinkling eyes looked right back. She gave an impish grin. I arched an eyebrow at her, wiped my sleeve across my forehead and sniffed. I placed the blades of the scissors on the front centerline. Cold steel stroked her warm belly. Calliope gasped.
“Serves you right, you’re incorrigible.” I groused.
“You have no idea.” She replied thickly.
I backed off a bit, lined up the blades cutting slowly and carefully made the final cut.
“So, how do you masturbate?”
Snip! – I finished the line perfectly – cutting straight through the center strap of Calliope’s bra. The pattern fell open. The bra fell open.
“Oops.” I said.
“You haven’t answered my question.”
“I’ve never had the occasion to explain that to anyone before. It’s har – difficult to explain.”
I studiously ignored Calliope’s breasts trying to escape the structurally compromised lingerie. I moved to cut the back centerline. She was trying to stifle a giggling fit quivering with suppressed mirth. Maintaining my professionalism was taking monumental effort.
“I am.” She chuckled.
“You are not. You’re wiggling.” I persisted.
“I’m doing my best. Answer my question.”
“Hold still.” I begged.
Calliope settled herself.
“Hold your bra.”
I finished cutting the pattern the halves fell to the floor. Calliope turned around clutching her bra closed.
Abashed I said, “Sorry about that. Go get dressed and I’ll take you to the mall and buy you a new one.”
“What the Hell do you mean no?”
“I mean no, why won’t you answer my question.”
“Oh for Christ’s sake, you’re exasperating.”
“I need a shower. I stink and so do you. You’re soaked.”
“I plan on taking a nice cold shower as soon as I get back.” I replied seriously.
“Back from where?” She asked.
“Taking you home.”
“Jesus Harold half-stepping Christ on a crutch!” I fumed.
“We are taking a shower right now”
“Fine, towels are in the closet by the bathroom door. You go first.”
“God damned it! Why not?”
“You won’t answer my question! I don’t believe you wash your back by slapping a washcloth across it! I don’t believe you wash your hair with shampoo on a plastic brush! My Dad never shaves without soap or a mirror, so I know you’re lying about that. You bound me up in duct tape! You ran your hand all over me to make sure it was smooth and fit like a glove! You cut it off with scissors and a razor commanding me to stand still the whole time! It was the most sensuous thing I’ve ever experienced. I want to take a shower and go to bed with you, that’s why not!”
Calliope stood on her tiptoes, fists on her hips, breasts free of their useless restraint. Openly defiant, her eyes dared me to reject her advance. She moved in and backed me against the wall. Calliope placed her hand on my jeans and felt my erection.
“You want me.” She pointed at my crotch. “Those don’t lie.”
“Sure I do.”
“What’s the problem then?”
“You’re nineteen.” I replied emphatically.
“You said that. That’s no reason. You act like a monk. I’ve known you two years. Jack, you haven’t had a girlfriend in all that time.”
“How do you know?”
“Kyle has a bigmouth. He gossips like an old woman.” She declared.
Calliope took my hand, commanding “Come on.”
She led me down the hall into the bathroom and started the water. I watched her get half a dozen towels from the closet. I guess I was in shock. I knew I was scared. Calliope was right Kyle does have a bigmouth. He probably also told her I hadn’t had a date in five years. Shaking all over, I felt cold. I wanted to run and hide but couldn’t move.
Calliope stepped back, took off her heels and shrugged out of her ruined bra. Hooking her thumbs into the waistbands of her shorts and panties, she slid them down her legs. She stood there in the glory of her divine gifts watching me. I was spooked. She came over and unbuckled my belt. I jerked a little and grabbed her wrist.
“I can undress myself.”
“I know you can.” She cooed.
“I’m not helpless.” I argued.
"Oh God! Yes I am!" My mind screamed.
“Jack, be quiet and accept this.” she said gently.
Humbled, I let her undress me. We got into the shower. The water was too hot for me; Calliope didn’t seem to mind it. I let the taps be. She soaped a clean washcloth and handed it to me.
“Show me how you wash your back.”
I took the washcloth and started the self-flagellation ritual of cleaning my back. Long soapy welts began to rise.
“Stop it. Give me the washcloth.”
I gave it to her. Calliope soaped it again, working up a rich lather.
I gave her my back, looking up at the ceiling tiles. She twisted my hair up over my shoulder and gently worked the washcloth in slow, concentric circles down my back and buttocks. She soaped up the washcloth and handed it to me again.
“Wash your front.”
Washing backwards from the feet up, I got to my groin and soaped my now painful erection, gently stroking.
“That’s how you do it!” Calliope exclaimed triumphantly.
I shook my head giving a hysterical little laugh and moved on to washing my torso. I started slapping my chest with the washcloth.
“Why are you doing that? Can’t you reach your chest?”
“No. My arm won’t bend that way.”
Calliope took the washcloth from me washing my chest, shoulders, neck and arms. She marveled at the difference of texture in my hands. Gently cradling my tiny left hand, she was amazed at its smooth, soft skin.
She handed me the hairbrush with a squirt of shampoo on the bristles.
“Wash your hair.”
I bent over and flipped my hair over my head. I brushed shampoo into the under layer. I stood up, flipped my hair back, and continued brushing shampoo through it. I worked up a good lather. I closed my eyes and rinsed my hair, brushing the lather out. I opened my eyes to find Calliope working on her own hair, conditioning it. I was finished. I didn’t want to leave her alone in the shower. It seemed rude, ungrateful.
She was facing away from me working the conditioner into her roots with her fingers. Calliope’s head was slightly down, and she stood with one leg bent, the toes of that foot on the floor of the tub. Water, lather and conditioner slid down her body, leaving glistening rainbow trails glowing on her alabaster, translucent skin. The air pressure felt high. The steam in the shower formed a thick cloud. She hummed an Irish epic, The Rising of the Moon. Calliope was stunning. Magic ebbed, flowed, and sparked, cresting in small waves around us. I knew her for what she was, a sprite.
I soaped a clean washcloth and patiently, gently washed Calliope’s back, buttocks and legs. She rinsed her hair and turned to find me kneeling before her. I soaped the cloth, washed her feet and continued up Calliope’s legs until I reached her vulva.
“By the way, how do you masturbate?”
“I’ll show you later” she murmured, “keep washing.”
I obeyed the command. Lingering here and there when Calliope would whimper or when her body stiffened, gently washing in small, slow, circles. I gave special attention to the nooks and folds, getting every inch clean. Skin is skin. I love fine, supple leather. When I finished bathing her, we patted each other dry. Together we went to bed, the sprite and the changeling.