To Train A Wild Rose

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Chapter 14 - Nobody to Miss Me

I didn’t say anything on the way home but just sort of sat there, quietly running my fingers over the beautifully soft leather of his jacket. I’d always… like… dreamt of owning a jacket like that… but, I mean, where was I ever going to get that sort of money from?

Of course I pretty much died of embarrassment when he turned the corner and our crappy hole of a home came into view - I mean, the whole street was a total dump but our place really dragged it down even more. That was why I never, ever let anyone come anywhere near the place. But, as the car pulled up, I still felt this strange sort of need to say something. “I’m sorry about your car,” I managed to mumble without taking my eyes off that perfect carpet.

“You need to meet my eye to apologise,” he told me. And I could tell that he wasn’t even telling me off… not really. It was more like he was teaching me about the way the world worked.

And, for some reason that I didn’t even nearly understand, I sort of had to… like… try to do as I was told. I looked up at him and started to repeat my words but they basically… like… totally froze in my mouth and all I could do was sort of stare at him for a bit.

I mean… I wasn’t used to the whole ‘meeting the eye’ thing… well… I was OK with teachers and stuff but not with proper men. And this guy… well… it wasn’t that he wasn’t a bit of a hunk… I mean… he totally was, but that wasn’t the problem… it was just that he had this… like… total presence thing going on.

And I could sort of see that he was a fair bit younger than I’d thought… like… just a couple of years older than me… basically way too young to be driving such a posh car… and way too young to have so much of that… well… I guess you’d call it authority.

He enjoyed the effect he was having on me for a bit but then he gave me a quick grin and said, “You were saying?”

So I forced myself to repeat what I’d just said.

“Your apology is accepted and appreciated,” he told me and he gave me this… like… proper smile. I mean… it wasn’t one of his ‘laughing at me’ smiles. It was a ‘you got something right’ smile…

And it did all sorts of funny things to my insides.

“Now, are you sure you’re going to be alright?” he asked.

“Yeah,” I replied with a bit of a sigh. I was careful not to nod my head this time, though.

“One last thing,” he said and he sort of fixed me in place with his eye and, for the first time, he sort of turned… like…totally serious on me. “Please promise me that you will never… ever… do anything as stupid as that again. I trust you appreciate that you could easily have died back there.”

I thought I ought to be totally pissed off with him for that but I couldn’t quite manage it. I guess he was basically right, really, and I knew that he was just saying this because, for some sort of crazy reason, he was… like… worried about me… it was almost as if he cared about me or something.

“I suppose,” I mumbled but of course he was never going to let me get away with that. He left this horrible silence thing that seemed to go on… like… basically forever. I knew I was going to have to fill it in the end so I gave a sigh and looked up at him again.

“I promise I’ll be… like… more careful in future,” I told him.

And, funnily enough, I meant it too.

“Thank you,” he said and he gave me another one of those smiles of his that did all sorts of funny things to my insides.

We sat there for a couple of seconds, just sort of looking at one another… and it was nothing like as uncomfortable as it ought to have been.

And, as I sat there, my mind kind of wandered back to that beautiful run down the hill… and how I’d just promised not to do anything like that again… and how, maybe it wouldn’t have been such a bad thing if I had died. I mean… it wasn’t as if I had all that much to live for.

I was sort of shocked out of my thoughts by his voice. “Tell me what you’re thinking,” he told me. His voice was still… like… gentle but there was a definite touch of the whole command thing going on now.

“I can’t,” I mumbled as my eyes dropped back down to that perfect carpet. “You’ll take it all wrong.”

He smiled at me then said, “I’m sure that you don’t like it when people judge you without even knowing you.”

“What do you mean?”

“Why don’t you see if you can work that one out for yourself?”

I was quiet for a bit as I thought about it but, even though I knew he was waiting, he sort of managed to let me know that there wasn’t any particular hurry.

“You think I’m judging you?” I guessed.

“Correct. You’ve already decided I’m not worthy of your trust.”

I thought about this for a bit then did this sort of a shrug thing. I mean… it wasn’t as if it mattered anyway. I was never going to… like… see him again. So I started to tell him about the perfect run down the hill and how, maybe, it wouldn’t have been such a bad thing if I had died. And once I started, the words sort of basically came tumbling out of me. I guess I just wasn’t used to this whole ‘somebody listening to me’ thing.

At last the total torrent of words kind of dried up and we just sat together in silence for a bit. “You can’t imagine anything else in your life ever being as good as that run,” he said at last.

I looked up at him in total shock. I mean… he totally got it!

He was quiet for a long time then said, “Things will get better. I promise.”

“You can’t say that!” I pretty much shouted back at him. “You don’t know anything about me… about my crappy life!”

He just smiled this smile at me that told me that, even though he’d only known me for about ten minutes, he already knew me better than I knew myself.

And then we just sat like that for a long time - with him staring at me by the streetlights - but not in a pervy sort of a way. It was more like he was looking deep into my soul or something. And, funnily enough, it felt… like… loads more uncomfortable than if he’d just been eyeing me up or something.

“I better get going,” I said with a bit of a sigh. I took off his beautiful jacket and gave it back to him and then tried to open the door. Of course I couldn’t get the stupid handle thing to work and, before I knew it, he was there, opening the thing for me. I sort of felt like I was pretending to be something I wasn’t as he gave me a hand to help me climb out but I guess it was… like… pretty useful because I was getting really stiff after smashing myself up.

“Thank you,” I said with as much good grace as I could manage as he closed the door behind me. And I even managed to look him in the eye as I said it. “Thank you for everything.”

“Your welcome,” he replied, steadily returning my look. And I only sort of noticed that he had still been… like… holding my hand, when he let it go.

And then I could feel his eyes sort of following me as I made my way into that embarrassing dump I called home.

“Is this whole thing some crazy, mixed-up punishment for your car then?” I asked.

“Babygirl!” he said and I could kind of hear I was in trouble so, basically without any thought, my body dropped into his stupid kow-tow thing.

“Head up; quote rule eight,” he said sharply.

“The girl will never question her master’s purposes or motivations,” I answered automatically. “Oh, sorry, Master!”

“You are forgiven… on this occasion… but please be much more careful in future.” He left me a couple of seconds to think about this then went on, “But, in answer to your question, no, this is not intended to be a punishment for the damage you did to my car… but no more questions of that sort, please. Now get yourself ready for bed. I’ll be back in five minutes.

This was the first time he’d let me get undressed on my own. I guess he’d decided that, now I could see, I didn’t need his help any more.

When he returned, I was propped up in bed… like… clean and polished with my teeth all shiny. But as soon as he stepped into the room, I knew I was in trouble again… not in… like… big trouble… just sort of little trouble, I guess! I looked around the room and saw that my dress was lying in an untidy heap over by the wash basin.

I hopped out of bed - I was basically totally starkers but there was nothing there that he hadn’t seen before - and scurried over to collect it.

“Babygirl!” he said as I bent over to pick the thing up.

“Yes, Master?” I asked.

“While I am not, for one moment, complaining about the view, don’t you think it would be a trifle more…” he left this pause bit, “ladylike to squat down to pick up your dress rather than bend over?”

This total tidal wave of embarrassment crashed over my whole body - I suspect the bits on display were sort of glowing bright red too - and I had to clench my teeth together to stop Ro from pushing a snarky reply out.

“You may say it,” he said with a smile.

“I don’t do ladylike,” I snarled.

“Wrong tense,” he told me. “The word you’re looking for is ‘didn’t’!”

“Permission to mutter rude things under my breath, Master?” I said as I hung the dress neatly over the back of the chair.

“Are they ladylike things?”

“Probably not!”

“Then permission denied!” he said. We both giggled.

I thought for a moment. “I’m not really sure whether I know any ladylike things…” I said, basically only sort of half joking.

“Not to what you might call mutter!” he added.

I gave him a bit of a look but you basically got used to that sort of stuff from him so you kind of ignored it.

“Confounded,” he suggested, “uncouth, arrogant, gauche, infuriating…”

“‘Infuriatingly arrogant’ will do quite nicely, thank you!” I said and we both laughed.

“Guess what’s going to happen if I ever see any of your clothes on the floor again,” he said, taking the dress off the chair and hanging it up on a hanger that I sort of hadn’t noticed on the back of the door.

“I’ll be back to being starkers again?” I suggested.

“Not next time; for the first offence, I will merely make you drop it on the floor ten times and then supervise as you hang it up properly. The time after that, however, you will be back to being ‘starkers’ again for a while. Is that all clear?”

“Yes, Master.”

“Hang on,” he said as I was about to hop back into bed. He handed me this neatly folded cloth bundle.

And I unfolded this… like… totally amazing night dress thing… all long and lacy and frilly. I mean… the old Ro would never have dreamt of wearing that kind of thing in a million years… even if she had been in the habit of changing clothes at night. I mean… what was the point? It wasn’t as if there was anybody about who was bothered.

But basically without thinking, I sort of found myself gasping, “It’s beautiful… the kind of thing a princess would wear.”

And there were these stupid tear things sort of welling up in my eyes.

“Then it’s just right for you, My Little Princess Babygirl,” he said as he kissed the tears away.

I pulled it on and, when I looked at myself in the mirror, I hardly recognised the girl looking back at me. By now, I was basically convinced that my eyes had changed; they had lost a fair bit of the whole fierce intensity thing that my master was helping me to understand had just been a kind of shield. Only the funny sort of metallic blue highlights in my hair gave you a reminder of the sort of bundle of spiky anger inside me that was all that was left of Ro.

Then, after watching me sort of study myself for a bit too long, my master scooped me up, snuggled me for a bit and then popped me into bed.

For a while we chatted about nothing much: my favourite characters in the Paddington books I’d been reading; whether I’d been to London; where I had been on holiday.

At last, during a pause in our conversation, my master must have spotted that I had something on my mind. “Go on, then,” he said. “You may ask your question.”

I thought in silence for a while, trying to put my thoughts into words. “Do you really think that you’re going to get away with this…” I asked at last. “Kidnapping me, I mean”

“We already have, Babygirl, we already have,” he answered. “The hardest part was always going to be getting you in here.”

My entire body sank. I sort of knew it was true.

But somehow I found myself wondering about who there was out there, who was going to miss me… and was basically not having a whole lot of joy, coming up with any sort of answer.

My father… big joke!

My mother… I guess she’d miss me a little bit but… she’d soon sort of comfort herself with the next bottle of cheap wine… or the next tenor from her church choir.

The teachers at college… I suppose they might just about notice I was gone… but most of them would only recognise my name as a ‘disciplinary problem’.

Maybe the skateboard guys I used to hang out with… nah… I was always a bit too clever to really fit in with that gang and a bit too stupid to hide it.

Of course my master must have worked out what was going on in my head. That ‘infuriatingly arrogant’ man always seemed to know exactly what I was thinking. “You need to come here for a cuddle, don’t you, Babygirl?” he said.

I nodded. I basically didn’t even trust myself to say anything because I would have just burst into tears - and I’d decided ages ago that there basically wasn’t any point in letting all that sort of stuff get to me.

So he hauled me out of the bed and wrapped me up in the sheet like a little parcel. Then he held me, cuddled up tight on his lap, and kind of rubbed my back - just, sort of like I’d always… like… imagined a daddy would… and there wasn’t anything nasty or creepy about it. It was just… well… totally lovely.

“Tell me about it,” he said.

“There isn’t anybody out there who’s really going to miss me,” I managed to say. “There’s just nobody who loves me.”

“You’re wrong on that second one, Babygirl,” he… like… told me flatly.

I looked up at him in total shock but, even though I was… like… totally confused, I sort of managed to avoid the whole, ‘You what?’ bit because I knew he didn’t like it. So I went with a, “Who?” instead.

“Isn’t it obvious by now, Babygirl?” he asked and gave me his loveliest, gentlest smile. “I love you.” He leaned in and gave me this beautiful kiss on the cheek.

Of course that was too much for me. I just… like… totally collapsed into these helpless tears.

And he held me there… like… all snuggled up on his lap, until I cried myself to sleep.

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