The words that began Ethan Terrey’s descent into slavery echoed in his head as he stared blankly out the window of his corner office. “You will be at my home and we’ll discuss your future then,” Elizabeth Fairchild said to him 42 years earlier.
Those were the words Ethan Terrey remembered from his youth. The words of Elizabeth Fairchild echoed in his head as he stared blankly out his corner office window. Elizabeth molded him into a slave 42 years earlier. She introduced him to his wife, Maggie, at the conclusion of his senior year and explained how Ethan had been molded beginning with his sophomore year at Wisconsin. Maggie’s funeral was on Ethan’s mind as he pondered his future.
For the first time since college, Ethan was free. He felt a mix of relief and sadness. He experienced the entire emotional cycle of grief including denial and acceptance. His wife and owner of his being was gone. Slavery is more strenuous than most men fantasize. The next chapter of his life was uncertain but nevertheless gave him pause for optimism.
Ethan had not had an unsupervised orgasm from the day he met Miss Elizabeth. During a 38-year marriage he had been trained to obediently fulfill domestic responsibilities; offer sexual devotion; accept strenuous rules of protocol; endured harsh corporal punishment; and even accept that his wife took on other lovers. She wielded control of all finances and made all decisions in their marriage from home décor to vacation planning. Ethan was the workhorse who provided handsomely for their household while treated as a subservient inferior by his wife.
His friends considered him pussy whipped. Two of them in his circle had become lovers to his wife and, after her passing, one of them implied he expected things of Ethan, although he felt to hollowed out to consider what he meant. The financial control of his future would be explained by the lawyer later in the week. Maggie had set up a trust for him, thus ensuring she would still wield control even after her passing.
He was free, but wasn’t. He could lead his life as desired, but still wondered what limitations might be foisted upon him. The day he signed the papers Maggie had him bound face down in their makeshift basement dungeon. He had been punished and tortured into agreeing to the living trust that ensured he would never fully control the wealth he had accumulated in his lifetime.
It was 7:15 am and his mind was foggy. The chastity device he had worn for decades was no longer confining his genitals. He was a real man again, at least on the surface. Four decades of conditioning were hard to break and he teared up thinking of Maggie. She had been loving and they enjoyed wonderful vacations and the pleasure of raising two beautiful daughters. They built a nice home and had good friends, although they all recognized who wore the pants in the family.
It was a 1950s household in reverse. Ethan was always well groomed and attended to guests needs when they entertained. His daughters presumed their father was expected to do laundry and clean. If Ethan wasn’t traveling, Maggie expected him to have a dinner ready for her and the family. If the house was not clean or the yard not properly groomed, there were consequences from mild to severe. Her loss left a big hole for Ethan and, although he expected he would regain control over his life, he wondered how much happiness he could find given the loss of her guidance and power.
It made his life easier in some ways. Slavery was hard. Rules meant that he was always vigilant about performing as expected. He felt in some ways that he had never grown up and stared out the window, suddenly thinking not of his late wife, but of his late teacher and trainer, Elizabeth Fairchild.
As a 19-year old sophomore, he had been ineligible to register for classes. Moneys that were promised by his uncle never materialized and his widowed mother was unable to help. After returning to the Madison campus for the University of Wisconsin, Ethan felt a sense of relief and optimism. He had worked a summer to pay off the lingering debt of his tuition and would find a job as a busboy at a local restaurant. He also applied for financial aid and believed he had a plan that would work.
The only obstacle for him was housing. The prices on apartments was high and his friends from his freshman year were unable to offer him a room in their dwellings. As Ethan pursued the campus ads for housing, one grabbed his attention.
Ideal situation for financially struggling male student. Widowed homeowner will provide housing in exchange for domestic labor services and home maintenance. Requirements are austere and a detailed interview is required prior to acceptance for the position.
Ethan called and got Elizabeth’s voice on the phone. Her tone was direct and she stated that several boys had already applied, “Why should I accept you?” she asked tersely.
Ethan thought quickly and said, “I really need a place to live and I’ll do the work you want.”
Elizabeth responded by saying that Ethan’s needs were less important to her than her own. She told him that she expected the work to be done without negotiation or hesitation. She added, “A lot of boys need this place and are willing to do the work. You are no different. Why should I interview you?”
“I have skills around the home,” Ethan said while feeling a strange sense of inferiority. He realized he had to prove himself quickly and added. “My uncle taught me how to fix a lot of things around the home and I worked during high school as a landscaping laborer. I think I could do the things you need.”
“Those are good skills,” Elizabeth said unemotionally. “I will grant you an interview. When can you come this week?”
School was starting the second week of September and it was August 31st. He told her he could be there any day she requested and was quickly told to arrive at Elizabeth Fairchild’s home at 10:00 Thursday, two days later. She told him to wear a pair of dark pants, a proper collared shirt and to be properly clean. She promised that the dialogue, even if he weren’t accepted as her resident, would be beneficial. “You will be at my home and we’ll discuss your future then.”
After the call, Ethan sat and stared at his phone. It was weird. Elizabeth was weird. She was direct and a little mean. He was unsure if he should go, but secretly harbored thoughts of shame. The arousal he felt was real and he knew there was no way any fantasies in the dark recesses of his mind would materialize in reality.
* * * * *
Two days later, Ethan arrived five minutes before the appointed time. In the two days since the conversation, he mostly thought about the benefit of having a place to live without tapping into his very limited financial resources. As his six-year old 1972 Chevy Nova winded up the driveway, he saw something akin to an estate located eleven miles from the campus. The drive took him by Kettle Moraine, a hilly area not affected over half a million years by the ebb and flow of massive global glaciation. The landscape was stunning and something he hadn’t ever seen as a flatlander growing up in the south Chicago suburbs.
Trees lined the two acre property and provided a privacy Elizabeth Fairchild relished. The house was a large Georgian brick adorned with a façade of large windows divided into small pains of glass. Ethan immediately wondered if he might be expected to wash those windows, a task he believed could take an entire weekend for the 6,000 square foot two-story mansion.
Elizabeth answered the doorbell and stood silently examining the young man on her porch. She was wearing lime capri pants and a tasteful floral blouse. She was vibrant and petite, although her size belied her formidable power. Even though she was in her late fifties, Ethan found her exceedingly attractive.
“Hi, I’m Ethan,” he said while his feet remained anchored to the porch. Elizabeth’s calm demeanor sent out a hormonal warning not to presume he would be invited in. She instead studied the boy for a moment before standing aside and allowing him into her home.
They sat at the kitchen table which overlooked a beautifully landscaped deck and garden. The dialogue covered a multitude of topics including Ethan’s educational background, the suddenly loss of his father during Ethan’s adolescence, and his financial challenges. Elizbeth probed without hesitation into any subject she deemed worthy of discussing.
Finally she explained that she was widowed and very fortunate for her late husband’s significant financial success. She chose to never remarry and made it her business to mentor young men striving to complete their college education. She bluntly said that Ethan was an exception to her rule of recruiting sophomores because the “break-in period” she envisioned could last between six and twelve months. Ethan was an exception to her rule because, she overtly stated, of his handyman skills and, secretly, she sensed a financial dependence which had already rendered him broken and needy. He was, in a word, submissive by nature.
“Do you have any questions?” she asked.
Ethan asked a lot of expected questions about the room he’d stay in and the expectations she had of his labor services. He asked about keeping food there to eat and how much time he could devoted to his studies in between. Elizabeth answered every question honestly an allowed Ethan to realize that the duties for which he volunteered might be more than originally envisioned.
She asked him, “Did you have any questions about the austerity of my expectations?”
It hit Ethan that the word appeared in her ad and that he hadn’t bothered to look it up. He confessed as much and suffered a stare that made him feel small. Then Elizabeth said, “That’s not a good start for you. I’m extending an offer that can help you achieve collegiate success and you have determined that my words are not enough to comprehend. If you are to fulfill your duties as part of my offer to you, I’d expect you’d be a better listener. What do you think?”
Ethan was embarrassed in a way that Elizabeth enjoyed even though she made no display of it. “Yes. I’m sorry. I should have looked up the word.”
“But you didn’t,” Elizabeth reminded him, offering him no quarter.
“No,” Ethan said, not embarrassed. “I guess I didn’t.”
“There is no guessing. You didn’t.”
Ethan sat quietly, not knowing how to respond to the intimidation, nor recognizing it was a test of his psychology that he was passing with flying colors. Elizabeth could see he was accepting her authority over him. She remained silent and waited for Ethan to speak, but received no response. Even better, she thought. He knows to speak when spoken to.
“Did you?” she asked with rhetorical finality, although expecting an answer.
“No. I didn’t, Ma'am” Ethan admitted, wondering if this would be his last chance for the opportunity. As he sat there, his synapses delivered an internal conversation in nanoseconds about the foolishness of wanting this position while realizing Elizabeth Fairchild might be a psycho. Nevertheless, he sat and answered her query, humbly and obediently.
“Good boy,” she said. “I think we’ve explored enough for today and I would like you to think about my offer to you.” At that point, she stood and retrieved two pieces of paper stapled together. They included a list of house rules and tasks a resident would be expected to fulfill. She slid them to Ethan and explained the next steps in her vetting process.
“You’re not the only boy I am interviewing. I admit you show promise and would benefit greatly under my mentorship. I have one young man always living here until he graduates. That young man could be you. During that time, he abides by my rules and becomes a stellar student with a great future. The conditions are austere…”
She paused and smiled. “But you don’t know what that means do you? Your assignment is two-fold, that is if you wish to be considered. First, look up the word austere. Second, given your future understanding of the word, I expect an application for the position. I want an essay between 600 and 700 words as to why I should grant you this opportunity and how far you are willing to go to earn my guidance.
“Do you have any questions?” she asked with finality.
Ethan glanced at the list, wondering if window washing was on it. He looked up at Elizabeth and said, “No.”
“No, Ma’am.” Elizabeth said.
“No, Ma’am?” Ethan asked curiously.
“No,” Elizbeth said. “Don’t ask. Say it. If you wish to live here for the remainder of your collegiate career without having to spend a penny of your own money, you will learn to say ‘yes, Ma’am’ and ‘no, Ma’am’ when asked questions by me. Understood?”
“Do you still want to be considered for the position?”
“Very well. One last thing. You may not ask another person about this. You may not ask your friends or mother. You must review this document, write an essay, and make this decision on your own. Voluntarily. If I choose you, it will be on a day to which you look back that will be one of the best days of your life. I expect you to write the essay tonight and share it with me at the same time tomorrow. I will read it while you are here.
“We have a bit of a problem though, don’t we?”
“What is the problem?” Ethan asked.
“What is the problem….what?” Elizabeth asked.
Ethan sat and looked confused until Elizabeth reminded him of his place and how she was to be addressed. “Ma’am,” she said quietly with a maternal quality.
“Oh,” Ethan said without a hint of resentment. “What is the problem, Ma’am?”
“You drove up from Chicago and it’s 3 hours each way. Do you have a place to stay?”
Ethan realized he had become so mesmerized that the logistics of follow-up meeting never entered his mind. He had money for a hotel, but hated to waste it. Driving back and forth would be a long way for something that might not materialize. Still, he was secretly aroused. Something strange was happening again. The rapid-fire synaptic conversation deep in the recesses of his hormonal boy brain was painting pictures of a relationship that was likely to never materialize.
The thing Ethan didn’t know was that the reality of the relationship would extend far beyond his imagination.
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