Carly stopped in her tracks, the blood rushing to her face.
“I… I don’t know what you mean,” she said, turning to face him where he stood behind the counter of the little shop.
She couldn’t believe the stupid store manager had noticed her putting the tiny, lacy garment under her pink shirt. He had a patient look on his face, but his eyes had a hard skepticism that made Carly’s heart beat painfully fast in her chest.
“Under your shirt, ma’am,” he said, picking up the phone.
Carly’s jaw dropped. Her body seemed frozen in place. “Wait,” she said. “I can… I’ll…” She couldn’t bring herself to admit it or to take the panties out and just… put them back. She couldn’t.
“Hi… yes, shoplifting,” the manager said into the phone.
“No!” Carly said. “Wait, please!”
“Thank you,” the manager said, and hung up. “I’m sorry, ma’am,” he said. “The police will be here soon to clear this up.”
Carly stood there, clutching her purse, holding it against where the lace seemed to be burning her skin, for what seemed a terribly long while. The other customer in the store had left with an apologetic smile to the manager by the time the two officers showed up.
“Under her shirt,” the manager said to them, very simply, and then they had approached Carly and they stood in front of her.
“Ma’am,” one of them said.
I’m not a ma’am, her mind yelled. I just got married a month ago.
“Yes?” Carly asked timidly.
“Do you want to lift up your shirt or do you want to tell us something?”
Carly swallowed hard. With a trembling hand she reached up under the hem of the shirt and pulled out the lacy white panties. The officer accepted them into his big hand, and the sight of them in his possession made Carly bite her lip.
“I’m afraid we have to put you under arrest, ma’am. What’s your name?”
She hadn’t heard right, had she?
“Carly,” she whispered. “Carly Gradin… I mean, Williams. I… I just got married.”
That officer gave the other one a knowing look that made Carly’s blush much worse.
Then, before she could grasp that it was actually happening, they had her in handcuffs and had helped her into the squad car. Carly realized with a shock that ‘under arrest’ when said by a policeman in Little Bend, Indiana, meant the same thing it did in a TV show or a movie. She, Carly Gradin Williams, twenty-one years old, newly married, and stunningly beautiful in her own estimation and those of others, actually was under arrest for shoplifting.
That Carly Gradin—she didn’t think of herself as Williams, really, even though no woman kept her maiden name in Little Bend—the hottest girl in her class at New Modesty Central College had handcuffs on her wrists. As the policeman put his hand protectively on her head to keep her from hitting it on the door frame of the car, she caught sight of her reflection in the store window: petite, with blonde hair in a neat ponytail, dressed in fashion jeans and an adorable pink top to show off her slim figure, Carly Gradin didn’t look like someone who should be helped into a squad car.
“Can I… can I call my…” Carly hesitated a moment before she said, “husband?” The uncomfortable impression that her hesitation had a good deal to do with her being in the police car, under arrest, arose for a moment in her mind: she saw the panties, on the rack in the store, even seemed to feel the slightly scratchy lace on her fingers.
She had tried to steal them because… because of what had happened on their wedding night. The realization flashed into her mind, but Carly angrily dismissed it, raising her chin and trying to feel a defiance that matched the movement—trying to push it all away. She hadn’t shoplifted. She hadn’t gotten arrested. It was all a big misunderstanding.
“You can call him at the station,” one of the policemen grunted. Carly couldn’t even tell if the driver had spoken, or his partner. They didn’t look back at her, and she had no choice but to look straight ahead at the backs of their uncaring heads, if she didn’t want to notice that her hands, in her lap, had shiny metal cuffs around the wrists.
If she had noticed that, she might have started to believe that she really had taken the panties and put them under the untucked front hem of her shirt, and started to walk out of the store.
She kept her disbelief going through all of the short drive, and even when, with a burly policeman’s hand on her elbow, she walked into the back entrance of the Little Bend police station. The officer guided her toward one of the three desks in the big room where it seemed she represented the only current event.
Then she saw that already seated at the desk, across from another policeman, was her husband. He stood up as she approached, a deep frown of concern on his face.
“Carly?” Jim asked. “Are you okay?”
“She’s fine, Mr. Williams,” said the policeman with his hand on her elbow. “Just had a little trouble at the intimates shop over on Main Street.”
“Trouble?” Jim asked, his frown deepening and his voice sounding bewildered. He looked from Carly to the man behind the desk—the chief of police, Carly realized with a surge of shame that she knew must have turned her face scarlet. Looking back at Carly, he asked, “What kind of trouble? When they called me in from work I thought you’d been in an accident.”
Carly looked from the handsome, bearded face of her carpenter husband to the police chief. She knew she should be the one to say it—she knew she shouldn’t even have turned her eyes away from the man she loved despite the problems they’d had in these first months of marriage. She couldn’t, though; she just couldn’t.
“Mrs. Williams,” the chief said, “I think you should go ahead and tell your husband what happened.”
Well, really, wouldn’t Carly have to tell Jim about what didn’t happen? The thing that didn’t happen that had made her go into Little Bend Intimates in the first place, and had made her stand in front of the rack with the laciest, skimpiest of the panties?
She had pulled off the rack, and then off the hanger, the tiny white thong panties that she knew a different kind of girl would have worn under her wedding dress. She had looked at them in her hand, and rubbed her fingertips over the delicate lace, unable to put the panties back despite the hot blush that had come over her whole upper body as she thought of the underwear she had worn, on her own wedding day.
Under all the complicated foundation garments that supported her traditional wedding dress, Carly Gradin had worn blue cotton little-girl panties.
Something old… something blue. Obviously, she had thought as she had planned every detail of her special day, her lucky blue panties.
Jim would laugh, she thought. He didn’t care about that kind of thing, really, Carly had felt certain. When they had discussed the shape of their courtship, sitting on the couch in her dorm’s common room late one spring night, the midnight curfew making the conversation rather hurried, he had smiled. He had smiled when she had said, “Is it okay if we wait? Until marriage?”
He had smiled and kissed her.
Jim Williams’ smile had called to her across the Little Bend Café the winter before that spring, and she had looked shyly over at him every morning as he sat reading the paper and she got the coffee that kept her going through morning classes. He had noticed, once, and then their eyes had met every day for a week—and then he had risen, as she waited for her coffee, and had asked if she’d like to join him.
How much better could courtship be, in a New Modesty town? He had come to Little Bend intending to settle down, and very glad to get the work that the corporate subsidies made possible; construction in this college town of a kind that didn’t happen elsewhere these days. They had dated in the approved fashion, and he had registered with the college’s placement office as her approved suitor.
Carly had told him he could do that, when he asked, because otherwise he wouldn’t be allowed to take her to dinner, or to enter her dorm. She had known the next step, the registration for intimacy, which was the reason senior girls like Carly had single rooms. Jim hadn’t said anything about it, though, and so she had brought it up at 11:58, after a movie date and some discreet kissing on the couch.
Jim’s hand had rested gently on Carly’s chest, the action hidden from the matron at her desk in the foyer by the turn in his body. It had felt so good. He had smiled, he had kissed her, and the matron had said, “Time, Carly.”
Jim couldn’t understand why Carly had looked at the police chief, rather than at him. What had she done? Had she shoplifted? The idea seemed so strange and out of character for his young bride that he felt like the floor was dropping out from under his feet.
Chief Morrison turned to Jim. “Mrs. Williams took some…”
Jim’s eyes darted to Carly’s face, to see that the blush that had come and gone a moment before had taken firm hold of her entire face. Why had the chief paused?
“Underwear,” the officer who had walked Carly into the station supplied.
The chief chuckled in a way that mystified Jim. “Underwear. Yes.”
“Took it?” Jim asked. “What does that mean?”
“Mrs. Williams?” the chief asked again, looking at Carly.
But Carly had turned her red face toward the desk, apparently unable to look at any of the three men.
“It means,” said the arresting officer, “that the owner of the store observed Mrs. Williams putting the underwear under her shirt and moving toward the door. He—the store manager—called us, and we arrested Mrs. Williams for theft when we found that she did have the… underwear… beneath her clothing.”
Again that strange hesitation in front of underwear. Jim looked at Carly, whose eyes flicked up to his and then departed again.
“Carly, is this true?” he demanded, hearing the astonishment in his own voice.
Why would she possibly need to steal underwear?
Carly didn’t respond. Her little mouth had twitched to the side in her pretty face.
“Here’s what she took,” said the officer, putting something—a plastic bag, it looked like—on the chief’s desk. “Store manager says he can’t sell them now, so they’ll have to be paid for.”
A tiny cry from Carly distracted Jim as he peered at the bag to see what was inside it. She reached her hands out toward the desk, and for the first time he saw that they had actually cuffed his sweet, beautiful wife.
At the same moment, then, Jim made out the lacy white thong in the plastic bag—the evidence of Carly’s shoplifting—and realized that the Little Bend police had, in his vested opinion, gone way too far. The mixture of confusion and anger that filled his mind and his chest kept him from thinking straight for a moment. He turned to see Carly looking at him again, a heart-rending plea for forgiveness seeming to vie in her face with a much less attractive, almost conniving expression.
His anger won, for the moment. He had no idea why Carly had done it, though he understood clearly now that his first thought—that it had been a mistake either on her part, the store manager’s, or the police’s—couldn’t be true. The look on her face, and the way she had reached toward the tiny panties in the plastic bag, told him that his wife had intentionally tried to steal them. But they shouldn’t have arrested her, his hot temper said. They had no right to put his wife in handcuffs.
“Chief, can we get those cuffs off her, please?” he said, doing his best not to raise his voice and mostly succeeding.
Looking back at Carly with sympathy in his eyes, Jim saw to his astonishment that the conniving, narrow-eyed expression had won. She had a slightly superior smile, now, and with a rush of frustration he understood: Carly had realized her husband had decided to take her side, even though he had seen the evidence and understood her guilt.
“Sure,” the chief said, nodding to the officer. “But let’s be clear that Mrs. Williams is still under arrest.”
“What does that mean?” Carly asked. Jim could hear her trying to make her voice sound casual, though he got some satisfaction from how badly she failed: Carly was still scared, and presumably mortified—though her blush had faded now. Jim hoped she still felt embarrassment, anyway; she had, it seemed, committed an actual crime, and the police had had to haul her husband down to the station to work it out.
“That means that we may well still charge you, Mrs. Williams,” the chief said in a stern voice, “handcuffs or no handcuffs.”
Carly’s eyes went wide. Jim felt heat creep up the back of his own neck. Apparently Carly would respect the chief of police in a way she didn’t respect her husband. He supposed that made sense, since he didn’t have the same kind of law on his side, but the clarity of the impression still increased his frustration with the girl whose behavior had caused him growing amounts of that unwelcome emotion in the months since their marriage.
Why had she taken those panties? Her reach toward them, and the one moment of teary penitence when she understood that her husband had seen them, convinced Jim that Carly hadn’t grabbed a random piece of clothing for some thrills.
Jim’s eyes went to them again, on the desk; skimpy and lacy, almost a G-string, really. The kind of underwear a bride might wear if she wanted to make, well…
He felt guilty as the thought rose, and contrasted itself in his imagination with his memory of their actual wedding night.
What a girl would wear if she wanted to make a present of herself, for her husband to unwrap and enjoy for the first time.
“Mr. and Mrs. Williams,” the chief said, “why don’t we sit down and have a talk about what happens next?”
Carly managed to keep her eyes on the chief as the officer unlocked the handcuffs and took them from her wrists, and then as she sat in the chair across from him, next to Jim. Most important, she managed to keep from looking at the panties in the plastic evidence bag, though every second seemed to make the temptation to peek at them greater.
Why had she taken them, and why did she want to look at them now? Carly began to wonder, for real, whether something was wrong with her.
That notion made her forehead crease, and she felt the blush returning to her cheeks, only a few moments after Jim’s sweet defense of her—against the handcuffs, at least—had sent it away, and she had suddenly thought, I might get away with it.
The idea that Carly Gradin might have something fundamentally amiss in her physiology or psychology brought her back to her wedding night even more urgently than the panties themselves did.
She saw the hotel room at the luxury resort that represented a sizable share, Carly felt sure, of Jim’s yearly income, though he had never said anything to indicate he had paid very much. The New Modesty program had subsidized a lovely wedding, but their contribution toward the honeymoon was smaller. The beautiful resort near the famous theme park had been where Carly had always wanted to go on her wedding trip, though—and Jim had made it happen.
Looking at him, seated across from the chief, she seemed to feel his arms around her on their wedding night.
They had gotten into the hotel room very late at night. In the bathroom she had changed from her cute pink going-away dress to her pretty white cotton nightgown, its lace-accented hem just above her knees. Underneath, still, she had of course worn the powder blue cotton panties.
She had come to bed to find Jim in his own underwear, lying with the covers pulled all the way down. The contrast between his black boxer-briefs and his hairy, muscular body had made her face go very hot. He had smiled and opened his arms wide.
“We don’t have to do anything tonight, honey,” he had said. “It’s so late. We’ll wait until morning. Come here and let’s just hold each other for now. I’ve waited so long for this; I want to take my time.”
Carly’s whole body had trembled, but Jim’s understanding had made her smile. Something else in his voice and in his words, though, made her cheeks blush even hotter—while at the same moment the mortifying thing every New Modesty girl learned about in wellness class happened, a bit, down below.
She had felt it when Jim kissed her, and a little more when he had put his hand gently on her chest, lightly touching the modestly sized mounds of her breasts through her shirt and her bra. She had sometimes felt it a little just at the sight of Jim with his shirt off at the pool, but seeing him almost naked in bed, and hearing him say I want to take my time had had an effect on her that made her want to run forward even as it made her want to step back.
When a New Modesty girl became a bride, Carly had known, the time had come for her to do as her husband said—particularly, the wellness instructor had said, in the bedroom. She had known that Jim, too, had attended an orientation about New Modesty marriage, and it had seemed clear that he understood that it would take time to accustom her to her duties in the marital bed.
She had managed to keep moving forward, and Jim had enfolded her in his arms. He had finally fallen asleep that way, after kissing her and murmuring how lucky he was and how much he loved her, but Carly had taken a very long time despite the lateness of the hour.
Just before he had fallen asleep, Jim’s huge left hand had found its way underneath her nightgown, and come to rest on her bottom.
“Hmm,” he had said, as he had given her a gentle squeeze, there, that had sent the blood rushing to her face.
She hadn’t been sure if he had even been awake at that moment. His closed eyes and his high forehead had seemed to frown a little in the moonlight. Carly had known in that moment that her husband had not expected to find his bride in little-girl panties on her wedding night.
She had slipped out of bed and taken them off in the bathroom, though it felt very strange not to wear underwear to bed—especially with the Brazilian wax she had gotten two days before her wedding, recommended and subsidized by the New Modesty Authority. When Jim had raised her nightgown in the morning, after kissing her softly awake, she had seen his eyes flick downward and widen a little at the sight of her bare, virgin pussy.
Sitting in the uncomfortable chair at the police station, she couldn’t help squirming a little at the memory—how she had made sure Jim couldn’t actually take his time, whispering to him to “Do it, please,” and saying “I love you so much” and “That feels so good,” over and over.
Yes, it had actually felt good after the little bit of discomfort. The lube recommended by the New Modesty Authority, which she had applied after excusing herself for just a moment, right after Jim had raised her nightgown, had ensured that the discomfort of her defloration wasn’t even all that great. In the month since then, the lube had let her treat sex as not much more than a twice-a-week nuisance, after doing it every morning on their honeymoon, of course.
Every night after dinner, on their honeymoon and then afterward, in their little house, Carly had pretended to fall asleep after dinner. Lying in bed alone she always saw, to her distress, the little frown on Jim’s face, and felt his hand on her bottom in the blue panties.
She fell into a restless sleep each night in the midst of that embarrassing memory. She awoke every morning with the disconcerting feeling that if her husband had really wanted to take his time—no, if he had insisted on it, and had told her for example that she had better go change into the sort of underwear a man deserves to see when he lifts his wife’s skirt, because he would take his time with her now… Carly Gradin would have had to say no.
She looked over at her husband, and saw his grave, still quite confused face, and swallowed hard. Her heart began to pound at the sudden suspicion that maybe Jim would have to take his time with her after all—though in a way that made her tummy flip over just thinking about.
“You don’t necessarily have to charge her, then?” Jim asked. He still didn’t understand the way Carly had apparently acted, or was acting now, but at least it seemed like they could keep her from having to go to court over what must, at some basic level, only represent a misunderstanding.
“We don’t,” the chief confirmed. “Here in Little Bend the merchants agree, when they decide to press charges, to my discretion as to how to handle the matter.”
Jim glanced over at Carly. The pinkness in her adorable face seemed to come and go with each passing moment. He wished he had some idea what thoughts or feelings exactly lay behind each surge of color: of course she felt embarrassed to have been brought in handcuffs to the police station, as any young woman would… but there seemed something more there, something about the provocative panties she had apparently stuffed under her shirt.
“What does that mean?” Carly asked the chief softly. She had lowered her eyes to her newly freed hands, now, which rested in her lap. Her blush seemed to have settled back into a slight hint of rosiness, and she looked so lovely to Jim and so forlorn that he wanted to scoop her up and take her home immediately, tell the chief he didn’t believe any of it, and the store owner would see them in court.
Not only did he know that from a legal perspective that wouldn’t work—might land both of them in jail, in fact—but the memory of the conniving look in Carly’s eyes came back to him. Even more distractingly, he saw the evidence bag again out of the corner of his eye, and the urgently arousing image of what Carly might look like wearing them, rose up before his mind’s eye.
Jim thrust that thought away. The thumb of his left hand rubbed against his fingers without his even willing the movement, as the memory of their wedding night came back to him. The reason his wife’s actions in the intimates store made so little sense to him—he understood now that the whole situation with Carly’s arrest had begun to make itself clear—lay in that moment.
Jim had sown his wild oats for a few years before he had met her, twenty-five to her twenty-one. He liked dominant sex, and he liked some of the spicier sorts of pleasure—different positions, oral sex, and especially anal. The New Modesty orientation had seemed to make clear that he should expect Carly to know her marital duties in that area, but it seemed she hadn’t gotten the memo.
He remembered what the instructor had said about the ‘marriage academy’ program offered at the New Modesty Authority, but he hadn’t even thought about looking into it online. Matters of the bedroom should stay between a husband and a wife, he had always believed.
It didn’t matter, he told himself. He had fallen head over heels the first time she had accepted his invitation to join him at his table in the café. Her dreams of entrepreneurship fit with his own of making his carpentry into a full-service remodeling business. Their ideas about family and home just fit together, both of them far away from their coastal parents and siblings, who had gotten along fine at the wedding.
The twice-weekly morning sex, thrusting hard into his bride’s smooth, submissive pussy as he watched the pleasure in her closed-eyes, lip-bitten, kitten face, her knees dutifully raised to receive her husband’s hardness… it would be enough. When he asked, holding her afterward, “Did you come, sweetheart?” she always said, “Mm-hmm,” kissed him, and snuggled into his chest more tightly for the two minutes before she hopped out of bed to make breakfast. Knowing she had felt the same release he did, inside the velvet depths of the pussy he had deflowered, made him so happy that he didn’t think he could ever ask for more.
The chief spoke not to Carly but to Jim, as he replied to her question.
“It means that you have a choice. Mrs. Williams can do fifty hours of community service or you can promise to discipline her for what she did, Mr. Williams. In either case the charges will be dropped.”