“WELCOME TO LEATHER PRIDE!” the signs said. “BAZAAR, SECOND FLOOR. DOG CAMP, PONDEROSA ROOM. COMPETITION SIGNUP, VENTURA ROOM. LEATHERWOMEN, EAGLE ROOM. ”
Emily pushed through the big hotel doors, and found herself in the middle of a rip-roaring and very male crowd. She ducked through the black-leather clad throng, her heart beating loud and fast; she hoped she wasn’t about to have a heart attack. Even though she’d worn jeans she felt out of place; The clothes she’d bought seemed okay at the mall, but the silver printed skull on her black t-shirt now made her feel like a dumb girl.
These people were so big, and so loud, and confident! With wide eyes she watched a young man sweep past her; he was on the end of a glittering steel chain attached to a glittering steel collar. His body was beautifully lean and shone with oil— and abundantly visible since he only wore boots and tight silver shorts that hugged his lean flanks. She gulped when he winked at her, and carefully made her way to the escalators that went to the main convention halls, riding up behind two broad men in bike jackets. They had their arms wrapped around each other’s waists, and the red bandannas in their back pockets were on matching sides so that the hankies looked like they, too, were touching each other affectionately.
The second floor was even busier, and crowded with booths selling scary things, and men putting each other into cages, and men watching each other crack whips. A plump man bent over, bracing his hands on his knees, to accept the swats that another man was giving him. Booming voices called out greetings to long-lost friends, and Emily was surprised at the generally good natured mood. There weren’t any tears, no blood running down skin, no scary scowling sadists in sight. She could have been at any sports club— if sporting uniforms were made of black leather and the decor included cages.
Emily took another fortifying breath, and found the door to the women’s division of the national leather organization. A woman smiled at her, and handed her the program book; Emily clutched it in her hand and found a chair near the wall where she could watch in safety.
It was a little bit quieter in there, even though the whips and paddles seemed to be busy in the same casual manner. There were conversations going on in many different places. Like the bunch over there; three women standing, their body language assured and at ease. With them were three others who Emily figured must be slaves. A man and a woman were kneeling stiffly a little ways away, each of them with their attention riveted on their respective mistresses. Another woman sat at the feet of her mistress, leaning her head against the booted leg. The standing woman was running a strand of her slave’s hair through her fingers, and the girl’s eyes were half-closed with sleepy pleasure.
Emily swallowed hard, and forced herself to read the list of demonstrations and events that were available that day. The list made her swallow again, and she could feel herself blush. It was hard to believe that people could talk about spanking, or pretend to be a horse or dog, or act like a slave in public!
The afternoon found her slumped in her seat, watching the rope bondage show. When the tall blond woman had asked for a volunteer, Emily had waited too long, and a pretty redheaded girl was now being wrapped in rope instead of her. She hesitated too long, every time. Why had she even come here? Just because these secret fantasies of hers were being paraded around in public didn’t mean, evidently, that she was going to have them fulfilled. She didn’t have the courage, that much was obvious. A woman had smiled at her earlier, and Emily had barely managed a returning smile before she ducked away.
On stage, the girl tipped helplessly forward and was caught and safely held by the strong hands of her captor. Emily got up and slipped out the door, and found her way out into the rotunda, where her cellphone could get reception.
“Fee, I can’t do this.”
“Come on, Em,” said the calm and kind voice of her best friend. “You know what you want, and we agreed this might be a chance to find you some friends at least.”
“I… what have I got to offer? Nothing…”
“Stop that,” Fiona ordered her. “You don’t even know what someone might want. Now look, I was looking at the program on the website, and there are three different play parties tonight. One is the Eagle Women’s club, and it says every woman is welcome, now you go buy a ticket.”
Emily found a bench and sat down slowly.
“Em, are you listening to me?”
Why couldn’t Fee top her? Emily wondered for the hundreth time. She was so good at giving directions and orders. “Yeah,” she said aloud.
“Okay, so where are you?”
“Outside, on a bench.” Emily could hear the clicking of Fee’s fingernails on her keyboard, and in her mind’s eye could see the pretty bedroom that had been her sanctuary so often in the past three years. All she wanted to do right now was run back to that safety, and cry. But Fiona was talking;
“Get up, go inside, and go to the table in the far left corner of the Eagle Room. Do you know where that is?”
“Yeah, but Fee, I’m not really—”
“Sweety, you don’t know that.”
Emily dutifully took a deep breath.
“You just tell them, okay? You’re so close, you’re nearly there.”
“Yeah, Fee.” Holding to the thought that she’d been given an order, Emily went back inside once more.42