He did not speak. He shut the door of the flat. Her heels clicked sharply on the paving as he marched her swiftly up the hill toward the pub, two minutes away. They both knew precisely what the evening held. Neither wanted it, both agreed it was needed.
Today, they arrived at the munch well before anyone else. Only the greeter was there, her A-Z prominent on the table. They sat and talked for a while, although she knew she was making little sense, her mind too full of things promised.
More people arrived. “Shall I?” she asked, almost eagerly. “No” he said, “We don’t want to frighten the newbies”.
Friends came. Kissed her. Hugged her. She felt his hand grip her shoulder as he left her side. Now, she knew, it was down to her. Her dignity; her strength.
“It’s time,” said a friend. “Come,” said another. They led her to the pillar in the middle of the room. She placed her nose against it and knew she was alone. She felt voices echo around her but was not conscious of what they were saying. No one she knew approached her. A drunken man asked her if she was with anyone. She knew she should not answer but blurted, “I don’t know anymore”. Another friend led the drunk away (“He’s gone home”, her friend smiled, softly in her ear; “not long now”). She knew her friend did not mean the drunk.
The voices of the munchers around her were a dull drone. Her ears held a far-off roaring, like sounds from shells picked from childhood’s beaches. She felt bereft and tried just to feel small instead: to remember the smell of sun-dried seaweed and salty seaside donkeys. She wanted to hug the pillar but braced her arms behind her and stood straight. She allowed herself the luxury of pressing her forehead against the pillar’s wooden warmth, rubbing it slightly to feel the grain. She blinked away a tear
Back in the flat, he waited. Anxious and earnest, he stared at the red paddle on the table and put his head in his hands. His palms itched and tingled, though he had done nothing yet. He felt beads of sweat forming in his scalp. He took a handkerchief and wiped his neck. He picked up his phone, breathed deep – and dialled
A red-nailed hand touched her cheek; She turned to see two familiar, concerned, anxious faces. They took a hand each and led her from the bar. Arm in arm the two pulled her over the cobbles, too fast to be steady on her heels.
“Are you sure”, one said to her. She bit her lip and nodded. “I can cane a man”, said one “but I’m not sure I can see a woman get hit”. “Please” she said “Don’t leave me”. They squeezed her and the smallest woman reached up and kissed her. Hard. They crossed the road, a car weaving around them. She wanted to thank them but already her breath was too ragged and her throat too dry.
They pushed her though the open door and slammed it shut behind her. Ahead she could see him: She caught his eye – he looked startled – almost scared. He shook as he rose and took the paddle from the table. She let herself be pushed over the arm of the sofa. In an instant her swirling, brown ruched skirt was tossed over her back. She felt her legs pulled up and off the floor – one of her attendants was hauling her legs out, holding her straight. The other was holding her by her elbows and looking right into her eyes. She teetered on the brown leather sofa arm.
The first blow came. No warning. Not even time for a deep breath and to brace: Her world exploded. “One” She screamed, her captors in shrill chorus with her. She shuddered and she felt insanely alive. Three more followed – too quick to count. She knew she was already bruised. She exulted.
He had never needed to forgive her. Her return was enough. But they both knew she could not be his once more until she had driven out her needless guilt.
“Go on,” said a firm female voice behind her. Again the pain in her behind seared her brain. “Five” they yelled.
Four more followed. She was sobbing now. The woman holding her elbows was stroking her hair and telling her it was half over. He stopped. She felt his hand on her cheek and turned. She imagined she saw her reflection in his face, red and wet with tears. “Be brave,” He said, ”Be proud”
“I have to have to pay” she said
Three more blows landed. Much softer. She gritted her teeth and swore. He stopped.
“You bastard” She said. “My bastard” She said. “Again” she said. “Now” trembled the female voice that held her ankles. “You want this. Do it right” said the woman holding her elbows.
The blows began again. She could feel him breathing between each one. She knew his passion had gone. That now, it was purely technical. She felt him searching her buttocks for the least bruised areas. Could feel the paddle almost touch her as he measured his next target, aiming to create a dark and even blue. She heard the rush of air as he took the biggest back swing he could. She had time to grit her teeth before her world dissolved in helpless tears once more
They were counting for her now. She tried, through sobs, but the numbers meant nothing. She heard what they said and mumbled in repetition. “ Nineteen” they said. “Nineteen” She responded. The paddle raced skyward once more. “Wait” She cried
“Let go of me” She grumbled and twisted and tossed trying to rid herself of her captors. The attendants, her friends, looked at him. He nodded.
They dropped her and she collapsed in a heap on the cushions. She stood. She wobbled. All three caught her. She brushed them away and stomped to the end of the sofa. She laid her head and shoulders on its arm, rearranged her skirt and put her hands behind her, fiercely pulling her buttocks wide apart. “Hit me” She said. She had stopped crying. She waited
She saw him move behind her once more and raised her hand. “Not yet” She wept – but he heard her determination. She fussed behind herself and pulled the string of her thong to one side knowing he would see the little puckered anus he adored. Again she pulled her cheeks apart and flat. “This is not defiance,” she whispered. He knew it to be true and he swore to remember the pride in her voice.
He steeled himself to make the perfect final stroke, flat across both buttocks. Centre of impact – that perfect, accommodating tiny pink rose. He stepped back, measured the paddle carefully over his intended target. He frowned. “Your hands” he said, caressing one set of carefully grown, cherished fingertips
“Buggar my hands” She said. She needed to feel his anger this last time.
The blow came instantly, crushingly: She couldn’t even think about the pain in her arse – because the pain in her hand was all she could feel. She shot upright sucking on her knuckles, tears streaming for the final time. He grabbed her hair – jerked her to him, held her, squeezed her. He waved her friends away. Quietly they closed the door.
She collapsed, He broke her fall and pulled himself into her. She tossed her head back and stared at him – terror in her eyes. Had she done enough? He reached for her throat and squeezed. Hard.
“is it over?” She wheezed. “It has begun,” he said.