The following story is the second chapter of my new novel ‘discipline for Charlotte’ Find out more about it on the books page.
chapter two – The agreement
Soft light filtered through the curtains of the guest room, waking Charlotte from her dreams beneath the bed’s thick warm blankets. Groggily she sat up as the dream already slipped from her memory and she hastily pulled the blankets up around her naked body; when she remembered she was alone, she dropped them again and got up out of the bed. There was not much to be found in the room beside her own dress at the foot of the bed, the bathrobe she’d borrowed and a locked chest at the bottom of an empty wardrobe. She chose the robe over her dress as it smelled much cleaner and prepared herself to face another difficult day before leaving the room and heading downstairs. A light was burning in the living room and she saw Frederic, already up and reading in the kitchen. “Good morning.” He said while closing the book as she entered the room. “How did you sleep?”
Charlotte recognized the book; this was already the second time she had interrupted him reading it. “Wonderfully, thank you.” She replied.
“There should be some cereal in the left cabinet if you want breakfast.” Frederic said. “And some milk or orange juice in the fridge. Please help yourself, I’m not much one for breakfast myself.”
A single glass of juice stood beside the closed book and Charlotte wondered if that was all he’d had. She looked for the cereal he had offered and asked him where to find a bowl and spoon for herself. She didn’t know where her next meal was going to come from after all. She couldn’t skip breakfast. When she sat down beside him to eat, Frederic picked up his book again. “I’m homeless.” Charlotte blurted out before he had time to continue reading.
Frederic held the book unopened in his hands. “Really? How did that happen?” He asked.
Charlotte blushed. She had decided to tell him last night. She felt that he deserved to know after having helped her this much. But she had planned to tell him a bit more tactful. She just didn’t want to interrupt his reading a third time. “I mean, I got kicked out of my apartment, two days ago.” She explained. “Because I couldn’t pay the rent.”
Frederic raised an eyebrow. “They can’t just throw you out.” He said. “As a tenant you have certain rights. They should’ve given you fair warning and time to find another place.”
“I’m six months behind.” Charlotte said. She looked down at the table and found it hard to look up at Eric. “I got a warning after three months from my landlord. But we had an agreement that he wouldn’t throw me out. He told me I should take my time to find a new job and not worry about the rent.”
“So what happened?” Eric asked.
“I guess he changed his mind. Maybe he needed the money after all. Last week he told me my time was up and two days ago the locks were changed. I couldn’t even get any of my stuff.” Charlotte took a deep breath, it felt good to tell someone, but she was afraid Frederic would feel exactly like she did. That it was completely her own fault. That she should’ve been able to find a new job in those last six months. That she’d been lazy and procrastinating and brought it upon herself. But when she looked up he did not look contemptuous or disappointed at all; he looked concerned.
“That’s outrageous,” he said. What a villainous thing to do. What was the agreement you made? Do you have anything on paper you can use against him?”
Charlotte blushed. “It was not that kind of agreement.” She said. “Nothing official.” Something changed in the way Eric looked at her then. What was he thinking? Did he think she had paid her rent some other way? How would he react, she wondered if she told him that it was actually her refusal to do so that had gotten her kicked out? Would he at some point ask the same of her? She was afraid to tell him the details, afraid of what he might or might not do and afraid she wouldn’t be strong enough to refuse for a second time. The night before, intoxicated by happiness and a story-like attraction to the handsome hero that had come to her rescue, she had nearly offered herself to him. When they sat so closely together in front of his TV she had tried, uncertainly, to seduce him. Whether he had been oblivious or uninterested, she did not know, but today she was happy nothing had happened. It would have been a bad way to start of any form of friendship.
“That’s unfortunate.” Frederic said, sounding a bit unsure. “What happened to all your belongings?”
Focussing on the matter at hand Charlotte banished her previous thoughts. “He told me he’d put them in a storage container. I’d get them back when I paid him.”
Frederic seemed to be thinking for a moment and when he couldn’t come up with a solution to her problem he changed the topic slightly. “So what happened after he kicked you out? Did you sleep in the park? Don’t you have any family of friends who could help you?”
“No. No-one that could help.” She said. She had some friends of course, but they couldn’t help.
Frederic nodded as if he understood, even though she hadn’t really given an explanation. “Do you want to stay here?” He asked.
Charlotte looked up sharply. Frederic looked like he had the day before, a concerned stranger offering his help. “Yes.” She said. ‘No ifs, no buts.’ She thought, just a straight and honest ‘yes’. If he wanted to help her, she’d let him. If his help came with a price she’d deal with that later.
Frederic looked her in the eyes. “Then promise me one thing.” He said. “Let me help you. Let me help you find a job, get your stuff back and find a new place for you to live.”
Charlotte didn’t know how to react. ‘Was that all that was needed?’ “Of course!” She replied.
“Good.” Frederic said; he smiled. “You can use the guest room as long as you need. Use my computer if you want to look for job openings. I want to see you work at it, I mean it!”
Charlotte blushed, he sounded so strict. She wondered how exactly he was going to help her. But maybe having someone looking over her shoulder was exactly what she needed after shirking her duties for nearly half a year. “I will get to work on it right away.” She said.
“We will have to go shopping first.” Frederic said. “I’ll need more food if you’re staying, and let’s not forget a second toothbrush and probably some feminine hygiene products. Besides, you’ll need new clothes until we can get your old ones back.”
Charlotte’s mouth dropped open, she hadn’t thought that far ahead. “I can’t pay for any of that.” She said with a frown.
“I know. Don’t worry, you can pay me back when you get a job.” Frederic replied. “I hate to increase your debt even more, but I’m sure you’d rather see it as a loan you’ll pay back and not rely on charity.”
Charlotte nodded. “You’re right.” She said. “I will pay you back first.” She was determined now to prove to him that she was worth the trouble he was going through and to thank him for the help and trust he put into her.
Frederic smiled. “I’ll take a shower while you make a list. You probably know better than I what you need.”
Eric took a last look at the girl he’d taken in before heading to the hallway and up the stairs. The bathrobe she wore was tied around her waist and accentuated her figure while leaving her legs bare. Her glasses gave her an innocent look, though he suspected that was far from the truth. He could not deny he’d enjoy having such an attractive and sexy young woman living with him for an unforeseeable length of time. She was highly dependent of him of course. ‘At his mercy.’ Were the words that repeated themselves in his mind. Which meant that nothing could happen between them because that would be highly unfair to her. Though maybe – he promised himself – after he’d helped her, something could grow from their time together now. But only if he proved to her – and himself – that he could be a gentleman until that time came.
After his shower Eric dressed in the same trousers and shirt he’d worn the day before. He didn’t usually enjoy shopping, but he looked forward to spending the day with Charlotte and getting to know her. She was still waiting for him downstairs. She’d found a sheet of paper on his desk and it already contained a list of items halfway down the page. “This is all I could come up with.” She said.
Eric took a quick look at the list; which seemed to contain only very sensible suggestions. “Very good.” He said. “That’s quite a lot, so we better leave early. Go take a quick shower if you want and get dressed.” It surprised him slightly when Charlotte immediately did as he said. Taking charge had come natural to him, which shouldn’t be a surprize in their current situation and in his own home. But it felt strange to do nonetheless, it had been a long time since he’d been in charge of anyone but himself. While waiting for her he added a few things to the list himself – some shampoo and tablets for the dishwasher he knew he was running out of. It did not take very long before Charlotte returned in the same blue dress she’d been wearing before. There were some stains around the hem and Eric saw just how wrinkled it was. He had overlooked how bad it actually looked the night before. Charlotte looked deeply embarrassed to wear it in its current state. “I’m sorry.” He said. “I don’t think I have anything else you can wear.”
“It’s ok.” She replied. “I’ll survive one more day in this dress.” Though the look on her face said otherwise.
“I can iron it for you.” Eric proposed. “At least that’ll get rid of the wrinkles.
Charlotte smiled broadly. “Yes, that would be much better.”
The ironing board stood in a cupboard under the stairs. Eric fetched it and placed it in the living room after taking out the iron and letting it preheat. “You can go upstairs to undress…” He said at the same time as Charlotte undid the zipper at her back and wriggled out of the dress. He swallowed his last words and stared at her. She wore cute blue and white underwear and had a body that took his breath away. She blushed only a little when she noticed him watching her. Taking a deep breath Eric held out his hand for her dress.
“Oh no. I can do that myself.” Charlotte said. She ignored his offer of help, laid out her dress on the ironing board and took up the iron.
Eric was at a loss for words. With her back turned to her he noticed the curve of her buttocks, accentuated by the soft fabric of her panties. He wondered if he should leave or stay and watch. ‘Things like this don’t normally happen.’ He thought to himself. ‘Women don’t go undressing in front of men they’ve just met.’ He was sure of it. Yet the look in her eyes when she had, was far from innocent, despite her glasses. ‘She wants me to watch.’ He assured himself, failing to supress a grin at the thought. ‘Being a gentleman is one thing, looking away from something so freely offered another.’ Unfortunately, ironing a single dress did not take very long and as Charlotte was pulling it back on over her head, Eric imagined his own face might be just as red as hers, when they left the house she was smiling even more broadly than he was.
It was still early in the day and the streets were nearly empty when they arrived at the city centre. Eric had no trouble finding a parking spot for his car. They had decided to do the clothes-stores first because later in the day they would be crowded with shoppers on a Saturday. Charlotte wanted just a few dresses, some jeans and tops and a more professional outfit for job interviews. Eric joined her on her route through the aisles in the first couple of stores and quickly found himself carrying small plastic bags with the things he’d bought for her. Charlotte turned out to be the kind of girl who could try on anything in a store and make it look good. Most of the time he spent outside the fitting rooms, waiting while she did just that. She asked him his opinion several times; but he never figured out how she decided what to keep and what not. When they left the third store they passed a small boutique of woman’s nightwear and lingerie. Charlotte looked up at him; underwear was the third item on their list. “I’ll wait for you outside.” Eric said.
She looked at him with a frown. “You have to come in.” She said. After a small pause, she added: “You have to pay, remember.” Frederic hesitated and looked at the boutique window. “Don’t pretend you don’t want to.” Charlotte said as she took his hand and guided him inside.
This wasn’t the first time Eric had been in a lingerie store; but those times before hadn’t been with a girl he’d known less than a full day. He paid close attention to the items Charlotte picked and his confidence quickly grew as he recognized the style she went for. He managed to offer a few suggestions himself and was rewarded with a blush and a smile when he picked out something she liked. When she disappeared behind the curtain of a dressing room he waited outside. She didn’t come out to ask for his opinion, but his imagination and memory of the ironing incident made up for that. They left the store with several sets of lingerie and a short nightgown he sincerely hoped she’d wear outside of his guest room as well.
It was a bit past noon when they put the bags in his car and they decided to have lunch out before finishing the rest of their list. Eric led them to a small local bistro where you could get toasted bread with various toppings. Charlotte walked smartly alongside him. She’d grown more and more confident and relaxed during their shopping spree. This brighter version of herself was even more attractive than the girl he’d met yesterday. Eric felt happy himself, just having her at his side. During their lunch they talked about Charlotte’s studies and working experience as an administrative assistant. This led to Eric’s own job experiences and he found himself telling her all about his work, his colleagues and other day-to-day business. He was just telling her about a peculiar customer – a woman who insisted she talked to him every time she had problems with her Internet, even though he wasn’t part of the IT-department. He had just helped her when he was working at one of the local stores, while in fact he had been there to discuss sales with the local clerk, which was one of his responsibilities. – He was just telling Charlotte about her when the waitress came to take their plates and asked them if they wished for the cheque. Eric realized their plates had been empty for a good time while he’d been talking. “Yes, please.” He said. He looked at Charlotte with a grin and she asked him to continue. She looked truly interested and gave no sign of being bored with his story. With a smile he continued.
Shopping for groceries was an altogether more domestic chore, but Charlotte enjoyed her time with Frederic. He picked the items they needed confidently and often asked her what she liked or wanted and added that to the cart as well. He showed no shyness in the aisle with feminine hygiene products and she wondered then, if he’d ever shopped for a woman before. It suddenly seemed strange that a man like him – caring and gentle with a good sense of humour and certainly attractive – would be single. They hadn’t talked about anything concerning past relationships of course, but Charlotte decided she’d try to find out why he was still alone.
They returned to his home in the early afternoon. While Eric put away the groceries Charlotte carried her new clothes to the guestroom and filled up the empty wardrobe. She chose the green dress they had bought and clean underwear to replace what she’d been wearing for several days. While undressing she thought back of her actions earlier that day, when she’d taken off her dress in front of Frederic. She still didn’t know what had gotten into her when she had. At one point she thought it might be interesting to do and the next she’d stood there in her underwear, too late to turn back. She’d felt so powerful and sexy when she’d done that; yet at the same time too embarrassed to look at him. Had she done it to take back a bit of control in her life? To reward Frederic for everything he was doing for her? Or just because she wanted him to see her like that? She had felt the same exhilarating rush when she pulled him inside the lingerie store, though she had been too embarrassed to take it further and show him more. ‘There’s nothing wrong with some innocent fun.’ She thought. But she’d have to be careful that Frederic didn’t get the wrong idea.
“You can put the dirty laundry in the basket in the bathroom.” Frederic called up from downstairs.
Charlotte blushed, he knew exactly what was keeping her so long, quickly she picked up the old dress and took it with her. She banished the confusing thoughts from her mind and headed downstairs. After leaving her dirty things in the bathroom she joined Frederic in the living room. He had once again started reading that book. The wall behind the desk was lit up, indicating that the computer was turned on. ‘I guess I won’t be allowed to procrastinate any longer.’ She told herself. “Can I?” She asked Frederic, pointing at the desk.
“Of course.” He replied. “I turned it on for you.” His eyes lingered on her for a moment as she walked around the desk and seated herself in the comfortable leather chair behind it. The little grey cat, Shirine, quickly joined her on the desk, stretching herself between the screen and the keyboard, purring softly. As Charlotte crossed her legs Frederic’s gaze turned back to his book and she turned to look at the screen. She felt the urge to visit several of her social media profiles or check her mails. She knew however that none of those would contain anything interesting concerning her hunt for a job. Wasting time would not honour the agreement she’d made with Frederic and thus with a sigh she searched for a site with local job offerings.
Charlotte felt like she’d been searching for hours, though the computer’s digital clock told her barely one had passed since she’d started. She had already taken a short pause to check her mails, she had the email client open anyway to send a letter of application to the first interesting offer she’d found. “How is it going?” Frederic asked. He seemed to have noticed she’d stopped for a moment.
“Not bad.” Charlotte replied. “I’ve found several interesting openings and sent them all an email.” Frederic got up out of the sofa and joined her behind the desk. Happy with the momentary distraction she showed him what she had found so far.
“You’re right, these all sound very good. They would be a good fit for you.” He said. Charlotte beamed at his approval. “But what do you think about working something more simple, like helping out in a store or working a register?” He must’ve seen her disgruntled face, so he quickly continued. “I don’t mean as a career choice of course. It’s just something you could do until you find something better that really suits you.”
“I guess…” Charlotte replied. she knew he was right of course. She wasn’t really in a situation to be picky. “But I didn’t find anything like that online.”
“You should probably just call some local stores and ask if they have an opening. Usually it would be better to go in person, but it’s a bit late for that. You can use my phone if you want, I’m sure you’ll find most numbers on the internet.”
After taking the pen and paper Frederic offered her, Charlotte looked up the numbers she needed. She felt a little disgruntled at how he’d taken charge and told her how to do things. ‘It’s only fair.’ She told herself. ‘You haven’t had much success on your own and he’s only trying to help.’ When she picked up the phone to call the first number she looked around at Frederic and felt extremely nervous with him around listening as she made the call. Luckily he realized the problem and gracefully retreated to the hallway to disappear upstairs. Shirine left her comfortable spot at the desk and followed her master. Just an hour later Charlotte had three appointments on Monday with various store-owners that wanted to speak to her in person.