Luxury sponsors never went for girls over thirty. That’s what all the girls on the Selecta Arrangements forums said. I knew when my birthday came and I still hadn’t found one that my chance at a real happy ending had flown away.
Thirty. I’m thirty, I kept telling myself, and I didn’t really have a clue how I felt about it.
On the one hand, I couldn’t help feeling a good deal of pride at having actually lived this long in the shitty world of the energy collapse and the corporate laws. I had fled a home that was more like a hell at age eighteen. I had found my way into various Selecta Corporation programs that kept me fed, housed, and clothed—surviving much more, if I said so myself, on my wits than my reasonably good-looking face and slim but still under-developed body.
I had made it to thirty with my sanity intact, in a world where young people seemed to get chewed up and spit out into the labor camps with frightening regularity.
On the other hand, I had nothing to show for it.
Three years as a data entry specialist at a Selecta subsidiary that made rechargeable batteries. The typing class in the Selecta-sponsored education facility had prepared me for that. Five years as a data entry specialist manager, making a little more, with the prospect of actually being admitted into an executive training program.
Except that the market for rechargeable batteries had evaporated when the rare earth minerals (not that I had any idea really what that meant) had stopped coming from the mines, as war overtook the countries producing them.
Two years, after that, waiting tables at a Selecta corporate retreat. Dead-end hardly begins to describe it. The only decent part laid in the way Selecta did fulfill their promise to pay their employees a living wage, no matter how lowly.
Then, at twenty-eight, a fellow waitress had told me about the Selecta Arrangements program. I knew it would involve rethinking the way I approached romantic relationships. I could see through all the marketing materials about Love on your terms.
Knowing I was already past the prime age for finding the wealthy sponsors, I had settled for moderate sponsors, and I had, to be fair, had two relationships with kind men that had let me enjoy some of their small slices of prosperity.
Nice meals, nice clothes. Things I couldn’t have afforded on my waitress salary, even living in Selecta-subsidized housing. Nor had either of these guys been interested in what seemed to me the dark side of Selecta Arrangements: the disciplinary part.
Of course, I hadn’t done anything sassy, either, or even been late to a date. So the matter of consequences—as the girls usually put it on the forums—had never come up with either guy.
Neither had marriage, though. Both arrangements had ended quietly, with the guy telling me he had found another young woman. They hadn’t said that the girls they had found were younger than me, but I knew how it worked.
Thirty. I sighed, looking down at my handheld where I had the Selecta Arrangements app open. Time to start looking in the bargain basement.
My finger had started to hover over the Economy button in the search filter. If I tapped, I would see the many, many guys who weren’t able, or in some cases willing, to put that much money into having male-led sex with the promising young women Selecta had curated for their enjoyment.
A lot of these guys, the forums told me, did want to get married. Once they had found a mate, after all, they wouldn’t have to pay Selecta’s membership dues anymore. I would never have a yacht, but at least I would have a decent guy who appreciated me. That had always seemed to me the true promise of Selecta Arrangements, along with the one-in-a-million shot at the trillionaire you hit it off with, so that he sweeps you off your feet with a proposal… and a yacht.
An alert popped up.
“An invitation from Selecta: based on your profile, Isabella, you may qualify for a new SA program! Tap here to learn more.”
I was sitting in my dark living room with no prospect of going anywhere soon, about to take what seemed an irrevocable first step on a downward spiraling path. Given what everyone knew about Selecta, they had probably sent the alert for precisely that reason. Did their algorithm see that it was my thirtieth birthday, and that I hadn’t even gotten a cake for myself, let alone anyone else providing it?
It hardly mattered. I tapped the alert.
Especially for our associate members thirty and older! Would you like to participate in exciting, cutting-edge research, with a guaranteed one-year luxury subsidy?
My jaw dropped. A button at the bottom seemed to draw my fingertip like a magnet.
Join the longevity study.
“Longevity?” I murmured. It could mean so many things.
I tapped the button. A screen full of text appeared. At the bottom, the I agree button was gray. I groaned.
I didn’t read, I scrolled past all the text. I had already signed my life away to Selecta, hadn’t I? I mean, I had agreed to accept a spanking from the guys I dated, if they thought I needed one.
Once I had scrolled through what was probably ten thousand densely-packed words, at least, the button turned blue. I tapped it.
Screening appointment scheduled for May 5 at 8am at your residence. Please pack a bag for a three-day trip and be ready to leave immediately if you are accepted into the intensive program.
My jaw dropped again. The next day. Tomorrow morning.
I instantly regretted not reading the contract to which I had just agreed, of course. I tried to go back and figure out where exactly I had said I would leave at the drop of a hat for parts unknown. I found the contract, but the wall of text defeated me the moment I started: This agreement binds the parties undersigned to a covenant under statutes 37(a), 37(b), 76(f), 98(a)…
Well, at least I knew Selecta ran everything, including the clothing store where I worked. If they were going to take me into some research project deep in their machinery, they would at least give my boss notice and make sure my credit rating didn’t suffer.
Because they literally owned the credit bureaus, the forums had told me.
I sighed and stood up and headed for my tiny bedroom. I had no idea what I had gotten myself into, but with a year of luxury subsidy coming my way, I felt like I could sleep easy.
The buzzing alarm woke me at seven, which was half an hour earlier than I had it set. Ugh. Fucking Selecta. They controlled everything in the apartment, of course, and had clearly reset the alarm to make sure I would be ready for the weird appointment it took me ten seconds to remember—before I looked at the display on my bedside table and read LONGEVITY PROGRAM SCREENING, 8AM.
What the fuck had I done? As if to answer me, my handheld buzzed on the nightstand. When I picked it up, I saw an alert that made my heart beat faster, but in a very, very good way.
DEPOSIT FROM SELECTA RESEARCH.
I tapped and my eyes went so wide I felt like a comic book character. That was what I had done. I sighed. My luxury sponsor was an arm of our corporate overlord, and I felt fine. If accepted, I would have to depart immediately, but surely, I would be coming back soon… should I think about applying for a bigger apartment, though?
And the point of this cutting-edge program must be to help me find a real luxury sponsor, right? I couldn’t see any other reason, since one of the many things everyone knew about Selecta is that they liked taking wealthy people’s money—what else could they intend for me but that I be a source of revenue?
My brain went over and over those questions in a frustrating, endless loop as I packed a backpack, showered, and looked at myself in the mirror. Knowing Selecta, and Selecta Arrangements, as I did, I had no doubt at all that my appearance would have an important role in whatever research they meant to make me a part of. I regarded myself naked in the full-length mirror with which SA so helpfully provided in each of their subsidized apartments—the better to ensure that “associate members” like me could make themselves as appealing as possible to the “full members” who took them on dates, gave them allowances… and, of course, paid a substantial fee to Selecta.
Thirty. I refused to fool myself. I could see small lines around my eyes. I had found a grey hair and plucked it three days ago. My tummy, once so easy to keep board-flat despite eating french fries on a weekly basis, protruded enough that I wore shapewear on dates these days.
My breasts, so little that I could count on two hands the times I had worn a bra in the last five years. Three of those times had been because my last sponsor had said a certain actress looked hot in a lingerie set in a movie we had watched—then bought me a similar set. He had fucked me enthusiastically in them the first time, then progressively less enthusiastically on subsequent dates. I had finally decided I just didn’t have the cleavage to look at all like the actress—though her breasts weren’t really that much bigger than mine—and that my sponsor must have come to the same conclusion. I had gone back to not wearing a bra, and his twice-weekly fucking—never terribly animated to begin with—had returned to normal.
Like my previous sponsor, he had clearly chosen me in part because of my elfin figure; some guys just liked that, the way some guys among the SA member crowd liked a little patch of hair above a girl’s pussy, or even a fully developed, neatly trimmed bush. A few guys, according to the forums, even demanded that their SA girls let their pubic hair grow freely.
My sponsors had both proven more generic in their taste. Though I had let the brown curls between my thighs go for a couple weeks before this morning, I had just shaved them in the shower. SA’s basic instructions, provided by the counselor who had admitted me to the program, included keeping your pussy bare unless a sponsor instructed you otherwise.
Looking down there now, in the mirror, sent a blush to my cheeks that I could see when I raised my eyes to regard my heart-shaped face, framed in light brown hair, currently pulled back into a ponytail. My conventional brown eyes looked back at me. I looked into them in search of the reason it still made my face hot to think about shaving my pussy.
Something about what it seemed to mean—about the control Selecta had taken over my body, and then handed over willy-nilly to the men who decided they might like to date me… no… might like to fuck me. Might like to enjoy the place I had been made to bare for their inspection and their pleasure.
I bit my lip and turned away from my reflection, to put on my everyday pink cotton panties, then my jeans and my t-shirt. I heard a buzz from my handheld.
SELECTA SCREENER HAS ENTERED YOUR BUILDING.
I looked at the time. Shit. I had lost five minutes to my reverie in front of the mirror.
I heard the doorbell. Finishing tugging my t-shirt over my chest as I went, I crossed the living room to the door. I took a deep breath, then opened it to reveal a middle-aged woman in scrubs. Everything about her said nurse. I had never loved going to the doctor. My heart rate instantly increased by twenty beats per minute—then ten more as I took in the disapproving look on her face.
“Isabella Stanford?” she asked, her eyes raking up and down my five-foot-ten frame. I suddenly felt ashamed, not just of my relatively disheveled appearance, just out of the shower, but of my height. All my life people had tried to persuade me that I should feel grateful to be tall, but I had always wanted to be petite. Grass is always greener, of course, but my height had definitely limited my luxury prospects on SA—no one could deny that.
“Yes?” I said, already feeling defensive.
“I’m Maria,” the nurse replied. “I’m here to do your screening for the research program you signed up for.”
“I know,” I said lamely. “I was… I guess I’m running late?” I swallowed hard, looking at her severe face, then stood aside to let her brush past me and into my apartment.
“That’s alright,” she said, though she clearly didn’t feel that way. “You can go ahead and take off your clothes.”
“What?” I asked, genuinely confused. “Oh, you mean for my blood pressure? I can just roll up my sleeve, right?”
I showed Maria that my arm would be free, though I couldn’t remember a medical professional having had trouble with a short-sleeved shirt before.
“No,” said Maria, frowning. “Everything. You can keep your panties on for now, but I’ll need you to take them down when I do the arousal check and install your sensor.”
“The what? And… install my… what?” I felt like my eyes would pop out of my head.
Maria shook her head, blowing a snort of frustration through her nostrils. “Honey, you didn’t read the agreement, did you?”
My cheeks went from cool to furnace-hot in a millisecond. “I did,” I lied. “But… you know… that legal language. I couldn’t…”
My voice trailed off as I saw that the nurse had started to tap things on the tablet she had produced from her bag. She held it up and turned it to me. From the scroll bar on the right-hand side of the screen I could see that this section must be two pages into the agreement, if that. My cheeks only got hotter as I read.
I agree to comply with the instructions of the medical professional assigned to carry out my screening examination. I acknowledge that this examination concerns my sexual health and that therefore I will be required to remove all my clothing, and to undergo sexual stimulation by the screener. I agree to the installation on my person of a monitoring sensor, and to the use by Selecta of the data from that sensor.
“Couldn’t get much clearer than that, could it?” Maria asked when she’d given me thirty seconds to take it in.
I raised my eyes to hers, and I felt regret building in my body, a sob beginning in my chest. I fought it off, pushed it down, and chose defiance instead.
“Well,” I said, “I mean… it will never hold up in court, right?” I wrinkled my nose and looked at Maria as scornfully as I could.
“No,” she agreed with a sigh. She withdrew the tablet and turned it to herself. She began tapping. “At least I get paid whether or not you go through with it, honey. Can’t say the same for you.”
“Wait!” I said. “What are you doing?”
She looked up with raised eyebrows. “I’m telling Selecta that you’ve broken the agreement.”
The dark brows knit themselves into a frown. “And what do you think, Isabella? That lovely stipend you got this morning is going bye-bye.”
Again sorrow threatened to seize control, and again I forced it down and set my face into as hard an expression as I could manage. Maria clearly had some kind of chip on her shoulder about Selecta Arrangements girls, I thought. She obviously took some pleasure in the thought of ripping the lifeline I had managed to secure out of my hands.
A zillion thoughts whirled in my brain.
I should have known.
Selecta was that kind of company. I should have understood that something intensely embarrassing, even invasive and degrading, would be involved. At the same time, in order to continue walking the edge of what society would accept, I knew that Selecta also scrupulously complied with the law—and with basic ethics—in the area of consent. They certainly put young women in difficult positions in their leveraging of traditional gender roles, but those positions came from society and not from Selecta’s exploitation of them.
I need the money. I need the money so bad.
“Wait,” I said again, hearing how much less certain my voice had become.
Maria looked up; her eyebrows once again raised. Her finger hovered over a button on her tablet screen, and I felt certain that the next tap she made would seize back the money—all the money—from my account.
“I’ll…” my voice started out weak, but I put rebellious scorn into it as I continued. “What the hell. I’ll do it.”
A tiny smile turned up the left corner of the nurse’s mouth. I felt another surge of heat to my face as I had the uncomfortable thought that she had gone through precisely this decision-making process with hundreds of women—then stood watching as they all removed their clothing, knowing the humiliating consequences to come.
Knowing but also not knowing. My heart quailed at the thought of what the arousal check might involve.
Maria looked down and tapped a different button on her screen from the one she had seemed about to tap. She raised her eyes to look into my blushing face.
“May I sit down?” she asked. “I’ll just get my stethoscope and blood pressure cuff, and then we can get started once you have your clothes off.”
My forehead creased, and I bit my lip, but with a concerted effort I managed to readjust my expression to hard neutrality.
“Okay,” I told her and turned my back.
Once I had faced away from Maria, I could let my face go. I chewed the inside of my cheek as I pulled my t-shirt over my head and dropped it to the sofa. Behind me, I heard the nurse sit in the armchair next to the window, and then I heard the rustling of her getting things out of the bag.
“You’re five foot nine?” she asked.
I felt my mouth twist to the side, as I unbuttoned my jeans.
“Ten,” I said.
“And your scale tells me you weigh 175 or so,” she said.
I had to bite my lip to keep a sound of protest—or of shame—from escaping at her peremptory, disapproving tone. To have her say that, just as I pulled down my jeans to reveal my backside and its mortifying expansion over the past two years or so, made me want to sink into the floor.
To stay in good standing in the Selecta Arrangements program, associate members had to weigh themselves every morning. Just one of those little humiliations that had become second nature to me, so much so that I didn’t even look at the number. I didn’t think 175 was that bad, really, but Maria clearly didn’t see it that way.
“So you know,” she said, “that’s just a bit overweight according to your BMI. You should think about adjusting your diet.”
My jaw dropped, and I had to keep myself from whirling around to face her with some wounded retort. To my horror, tears leaked from the corner of my eyes.
“I know,” I said, as casually as I could. “I’m trying to watch my diet.”
Slowly, I straightened up, willing my hands to stay by my sides. I refused to give this woman the satisfaction of seeing how badly she had embarrassed me—how thoroughly she had invoked the childish modesty I thought I had left behind years ago, around the time I had started having sex with a man who gave me an allowance.
“It gets harder as you get older,” Maria said. Her voice sounded sympathetic.
I turned, keeping my hands at my side, looking the nurse in the eye so she could see what I hoped looked like a jaded expression.
The expression on the older woman’s face, though, made me look down at my feet: she might sound sympathetic, but her face looked one hundred percent judgmental—or much, much worse… patronizing. I almost commented on her own weight, which did not look to be in the healthy BMI range.
Then I thought of what Maria’s response might be—Well, honey, I don’t fuck for money, do I?—and I felt my nose twitch with the effort to keep the blush away.
“Have a seat on the sofa,” she told me. With renewed effort, I put a simpering smile on my face and obeyed, and for the next five minutes Maria became all business, and despite my near-nakedness the exam seemed to settle down into something like normality.
Blood pressure 120 over 90. Fine. Whatever they listened for when they put the cold end of the stethoscope all over you and told you to breathe. Fine. Hammer on the knee made my leg kick. Wonderful.
“You’ll have a full gynecological workup at the research facility,” Maria told me, as she put the cuff, the stethoscope, and the funny rubber hammer back into her bag. “If you’re accepted. It’s looking fine so far, but I’m afraid the embarrassing part is about to start. You should probably get a towel from the bathroom to put on the sofa.”
To my dismay, my jaw dropped once again. “Why?” I asked, despite my best effort to bite my tongue over the monosyllable.
Maria’s lips pursed with what looked like disgust.
“Isabella, you were offered a place in this program because you’re very likely to experience a sort of arousal Selecta’s very interested in right now, in experienced associate members of their Selecta Arrangements program. If you do experience that level of arousal, it could get a little messy—messier than when you masturbate, if you masturbate.”
My breathing had become rapid and shallow as I stared at the nurse. She held my gaze steadily, her lips still pursed, her eyebrows rising to suggest that I should get on with the humiliation.
“I…” I tried. “I don’t…”
“I know you don’t, honey,” Maria replied. “That’s part of the point.”
I turned and fled, more or less, to the bathroom, feeling the heat surge into my cheeks and down my neck.
I took all the time I thought I could choosing a towel before the horrible nurse might come looking for me. With my hands running over the terry cloth, not really feeling its softness at all, I tried to figure out what I could possibly have meant to say, after don’t.
I don’t get that aroused? True. Sex was fine. I liked that I could use it to keep nice men supporting me and wanting to see me. I didn’t enjoy thinking about it very much, because it didn’t feel fantastic to put out in order to eat out—as some of the girls on the Selecta Arrangements forums put it.
One of the things the program got right—as I agreed with the other knowledgeable girls on the forums—was making lube one of the fully-subsidized items in an SA girl’s shopping. I got all the lube I needed delivered monthly, and it helped make the sex feel… fine. Some girls in SA actually didn’t like sex; I knew that, and I felt thankful I didn’t have that problem. Sex felt good, but not, I had to confess, great.
I don’t… play with myself? Also true.
I hadn’t ever seen the point, really. Why make yourself feel embarrassed that way? When I saw in videos what orgasm supposedly looked like, my cheeks got hot, and if I was alone I fast forwarded. The loss of control, especially over your face… What amount of pleasure could make that worth it, I always wondered.
The men I’d slept with—my one real boyfriend, if he could be called that, from the time before Selecta Arrangements, and my sponsors—had asked about my orgasms or lack of them. I had told them that I didn’t think I could and fucking felt fine, and not to worry. They had seemed grateful for the reassurance, and they had happily come inside my pussy, while I carefully closed my eyes so I wouldn’t have to see their silly faces.
I chewed on the inside of my cheek as I chose a towel at last and turned to go back to whatever humiliation awaited me in the living room. I didn’t have any idea whether I hoped this stupid nurse would discover something in me that I didn’t know had been there—something that would let me into this program, despite the shame involved—or if I hoped it would turn out Selecta had made a mistake.
If they’d made a mistake, would they at least let me keep the month of luxury allowance they had already put in my account, instead of ripping it away?
“You can put the towel down on the sofa,” Maria told me. “Then go ahead and take off your panties for me, please, and sit right on the towel.”