Not my story, but wish it was...
Mary's friend wears a black shiny PVC mac, hood folded neatly between her shoulders, belt tied close around her waist, black latex gloves, black stockings and shiny black peg heel shoes. Very pleasant and respectable-looking.
Poor Mary though, as Alma pushes her into the shop, is wearing the only clothes she's allowed to own. As she walks into the shop she knows everybody will look. She knows that's what her thick, heavy, bright yellow rubber mac always makes people do.
The hood is up over her embarrassed head, with the front turned back to show the rubber lining. She is made to wear the cuffs of the sleeves turned back as well, revealing more rubber. Tight around her slim waist is a belt, drawn tight and buckled there by her sister. She can hardly breath: but loosen it she dare not!
Her mackintosh comes down past her knees, covering the tops of the shiny black rubber wellingtons she has to wear with it. It is double breasted, but most of the buttons are only for show. When Alma stitched and taped the front to make the mackintosh totally waterproof she was going to remove the redundant buttons completely, but in the end decided they would create a more disciplined look for her sister if left in place.
Even the small holes under the arms have been taped over. 'No half measures', Alma would say, 'For your punishment you are to wear a fully waterproof mackintosh, and waterproof it must be!'.
Mary has another reason to feel uncomfortable, standing just inside the shop door. Her punishment boots are sizes too small. She had to struggle so hard to get them on, tears starting at her eyes, immediately hot and bothered in her heavy mackintosh, wriggling and pushing and pulling, and finally stamping her her heels down, first one and then the other, her poor toes crunching as they were wedged home.
Alma had said: 'Don't worry, once you've got them on you can keep them on all day.'
A flood of embarrasment sweeps over Mary as they go in, her face blazes and the hot wetness of her, belted and strapped - and sealed - inside her rubber mac is all but engulfing. If only Alma would allow her to loosen a button - just a single button, the single working button that closed her mackintosh under her chin…
Her mackintosh was beginning to cling to her skin now, across her shoulders, and the tops of her arms. It covered her up completely, but it also made her feel completely naked!
That was how Alma meant her to feel. She did not allow Mary to wear anything underneath. 'Nobody will tell', she insisted, 'unless your silly blushing tells them! Stand up straight and take your hands away from your front. You're only drawing attention!'
How Mary wished she was allowed to wear proper clothes, some underwear if nothing else, panties and a bra. With just her mac on, knowing that everyone could see how it draped against her naked boobs and round her waist, no matter what Alma said, every step was an awful humiliation.
As she walked there was always the one question: was her mac long enough to really conceal her bare legs? She knew, of course, that she must never sit down.
She was dampening now around the neck, where the rubber collar closed. She could smell the rubber strongly now, a warm draught swirling past her nose with every movement. Her hood remained up of course, on Alma's explicit insistence. It is part of the mackintosh, part of the mackintosh Mary has to wear for her punishment, and therefore it stays up, in or out of the shop: in the shop, in the street, on the bus, in the cafés. The whole time, her warm, enveloping, attention-drawing hood must stay up.
Coming here today Alma used her car - but Mary had to wait in a queue for a bus, with lots of people coming and going, stand in line in her tightly buttoned, sharply belted rubber mackintosh. In the sunshine. With her hood up. And on the bus just so, the people sitting behind her staring at the back of her black rubber-hooded head in puzzlement.
Sometimes being made to wear the hood helped. It sort of blinkered her. If she kept her head still she could only see forward, the view to the sides restricted unless she actually turned her head. So even though she knew people were looking at her she didn't have to look at them: she could almost pretend she hadn't noticed…. Almost.
Alma gives Mary the most detailed instructions before leaving home, but before going round the shop she insists on a standard little ritual. While her little protégé has to stand to attention, she checks the belt on punishment mac for tightness, probing to see if she can insert her latex-gloved fingers under the belt.
Then, as always, Alma unties the tapes under Mary's chin, the tapes that keep the hood up. And then she does them up again, pulling the rubber tight against Mary's cheeks, snugging the rubber close all the way up and tying the tapes off in a neat little bow under the chin.
With her little Mary still standing to attention, Alma takes a handkerchief from her mac pocket and wraps it over her index finger, licks it, and wipes smudges of lipstick from the corners of Mary's mouth. When she is satisfied she wipes her hand down the front of Mary's mac, over her waist.
Mary feels the rubber make firm contact with her skin. Alma knows she enjoys this bit. But she's not allowed to enjoy it too much.
This is the ritual that has to be gone through each time they begin their visit to a new shop.
For the visit itself Alma's instructions are simple. Mary has to go to every counter or department in the shop and look for the sales assistant. She has to to find whoever it is, male or female, and look them fully in the eye.
With eye-contact made, there will be no doubt, no room for any doubt at all, that Mary's attire will have been noticed: her bright yellow rubber mackintosh, with its tightly belted waist, its wrist-straps, its closely-buttoned front (as it appears to an observer); and first and of course most striking of all to the bemused assistant, the way the close-drawn yellow rubber hood frames and disciplines the young enquirer's face.
The rule is that if the assistant smiles then Mary must smile back; and if the assistant speaks then Mary must reply.
She is not allowed to put her hands in her pockets. On the contray she must display them. At every opportunity she must handle the goods on sale, holding the article this way and that in the light, putting it down, taking it up again and so on: in every way ensuring that the turned-back rubber cuffs of her mackintosh will be paraded before the assistant - and the fact that the rubber appears to lie directly on wrist and arm of the wearer, with no hint of a shirt-sleeve or blouse to be seen …
If a sales assistant approaches Mary whilst she is examining goods then she must acknowledge the assistant by talking to her.
Alma has a list of all the assistants working in each shop. Mary must show herself to each and every one of them. If she misses one, Alma will make her seek the person out. She doesn't tell her who, just that someone has been missed. So Mary must go round again, asking for a person of whom she knows nothing except that she is one of those who works in the store, and one who has yet to take her turn in subjecting her to the humiliation of that startled uncomprehending stare.
It is quite possible that Mary might miss more than one person of course the first time round. Alma will know. She can expect to be sent round again and again until the tally of her humiliations is complete.
Last week they went into 12 shops.
The fact is of course that Mary loves every minute of it. She is quite capable of missing an assistant on purpose just so that Alma will make her go round again.
She loves walking about the shops in her yellow rubber mac, she feels so protected in it, she knows what embarrassment she feels is hers. Alma reassures her nobody is taking any real notice of her, nobody's looking. As Alma tells her, her love of her rubber mac is something she should be so grateful for, and never be afraid to show it.
Perhaps you have seen them, Alma and Mary? Alma often takes her little mackintosh girl into Kendalls and they sit at a table having a snack and drink like everyone else. Only whatever the weather, they are agreed in expecting a storm: the woman in softly glimmering black, the girl demur in brightest yellow, but with her hood up, her cuffs turned back, and her belt as tight as Alma can make it. Mary's lovely mackintosh envelopes her completely and Alma is in charge. Look out for them. You will see a little cameo of heaven.