A story by Tim Starfield from Februs 18.
I loved her neck.
I mean, I loved everything about her, from her beautiful long dark hair and her blue-green eyes with their look of ironic innocence, to the clothes she wore and her habits, whether endearing, like singing La Traviata in the bath, or not so endearing, like leaving her tights to soak in the sink. I loved her all right. She was mine, lock stock and barrel, and she loved me in return, fiercely, with an intensity that sometimes belied her seemingly easy-going nature. But I loved her neck, her slender vulnerable neck. Especially when she was ‘tabled’. When she was stretched across our wooden kitchen table, hands gripping the far edge, she would crane her head so that she could look back at me, those wide innocent eyes watching me intently, wet with a wonderful blend of lust and fear, eager to see what I would do next, where the next blow would come from. I loved those eyes, which never left mine, save to blink now and then as she flinched from a well-aimed stroke. Blue-green eyes, moist, limpid like jewels glimpsed through a curtain of lustrous dark hair, but what I loved most was the tension in her neck as she craned and twisted, every tendon straining against the ivory whiteness of her skin. Her skin was pale, almost translucent in its pearly perfection, until gradually it succumbed to her arousal, and would become suffused with the merest blush of crimson, and her throat would rise and fall, her breath become shorter, coming in excited pants, and through the straggle of her wet hair her eyes, never leaving mine, would shine with tears. Her tongue would dart in and out of her open mouth, and she would writhe, and her perfect neck would twist and crane until I was mesmerised by it, and could see nothing else, either in reality or imagination. Like a rabbit seduced by a snake. I would become helpless with lust and, throwing aside the whip, I would fall on her, burying my face in her neck and devouring her with my kisses, while in my pulsating hunger I sought to pin down her perfect squirming body and to burrow in, to smother her in passionate communion.
‘Tabled’ was our word for it. We would snigger like schoolchildren whenever an M.P. on the radio referred to having ‘tabled a motion’, or a union spokesman said he wanted ‘more on the table’. It was our private joke, and in this, as in so much, we were conspirators against the world.
Every Friday night, after a simple meal, and a bottle of good wine, she would come to me, eyes shining with anticipation. ‘I’ve been naughty,’ she would say, ‘and I think you should punish me.’ She would hand me the whip, a bone-handled affair with seven leather thongs. We found it in the flea-market at the Porte de Clignancourt while on a flying weekend in Paris. We hadn’t been lovers long, so although we were both clearly transfixed by the object which was hanging prominently at the front of the antiquarian’s stall, neither of us was at first sure what to say, or how to react. I think I said something like, ‘That’s a mean-looking thing’. I can’t be sure. But I do remember her next words to me, because they etched themselves into my consciousness like acid, and all I have to do now is shut my eyes and I can hear them again and again, running through my brain, like a song that won’t go away, a perpetual tape-loop of searing clarity.
‘We should have one of those at home,’ she said in an odd, low voice. ‘It would help you to keep me in line.’
Well, of course, I protested, saying she was perfect as she was, and I didn’t need any whip to show her who was boss, and she said, ‘Oh really?’ and we chafed and teased one another all the way back to the hotel for dinner, leaving the martinet hanging on its nail in the market.
But that night, she was in a very strange mood. She had flirted and come on to me all through the evening, and when we got up to our room I was feeling as horny as hell. We kissed and cuddled, and then she suddenly pulled away from my embrace, and announced that she ‘didn’t feel like it’, and was going to sleep. And she climbed into bed and lay as far to one side as she was able, pulling all the covers around her like a sulky little girl. I protested, and made another attempt to seduce her into letting me have my evil way with her, but was met with a flat refusal. Lying wide awake, unable to sleep for frustration, I watched her, curled up in a neat little bundle. She seemed to all the world to be asleep, but as I watched, one eye opened and looked at me, merry with mischief. in a small, amused voice, she said, ‘Should’ve bought that whip when you had the chance. Told you you might need it,’ and then the eye closed, the voice gave a gentle excited giggle, and this time she really was fast asleep.
What do you call a daydream when it’s at night? Whatever it is, I was troubled by dozens of them that night. I didn’t sleep, my mind was racing. I was too aroused, and disturbed by my thoughts. The very next day, straight after breakfast, we were back on the Metro and heading for the flea-market. I bought the whip, for a ridiculously inflated price. The guy said it was actually a very valuable antique, had belonged to Louis the Something-or-other, which I very much doubt. But I was in no mood to argue or haggle with him. We had to have it. We carried it back to the hotel in an incongruous M & S carrier bag, and christened it there and then, in room 207, in broad daylight, with the sun streaming in through the open window, and the smell of freshly-baked bread flooding the room from the boulangerie across the street.
It was an immediate success. There was something in her that passionately desired to submit, to yield, to suffer. Something that was withheld from her in her daily life as an independent modern woman. In the everyday world it would be stupid of her to confess to a need not to be in control, it would be seen as weakness, fear, not to mention a betrayal of the sisterhood. But in the privacy of our secret scene she could give full rein to a delicious feeling of helplessness. Similarly, I found within myself a stronger, more authoritarian side. A man who doesn’t take no for an answer, who isn’t bound by the endless petty politenesses of being middle class in the modern world, all the ‘I’m terribly sorries’, and the ‘My faults’, and the ‘Would you minds’ that pen you in and emasculate you. A man who knows what he wants and gets it, powerfully and without excuses. A man who I don’t necessarily like, although I secretly admire him — I would never articulate his opinions in public, or admit in polite company that I enjoy beating a woman just for the sheer sexual thrill of control. A man who, I have to say, disturbs me. Perhaps that’s why I was so troubled that sleepless night, perhaps I foresaw what I might become.
But together, we were magic. These strange hidden personalities were just searching for each other in order to become the perfect whole. If anyone had found out what we were doing and asked why, we’d have replied, ‘Because it fits, stupid’. Our communion in sex became more potent than ever. Our relationship blossomed as a result. Our secret cemented us in a tight self-sufficient bond. We became a private bubble of contentment floating untroubled on a sea of daily cares.
And every Friday night she would come to me with the whip in her hand, and ask to be punished. You must understand, I wasn’t punishing her for anything. We didn’t have some silly system, like five demerits for burning the toast, or anything like that. The reference to punishment was purely symbolic, it just seemed to fit naturally into the game we were playing. Maybe on some deeper level I was punishing her, and for all sorts of imaginary sins, maybe for merely being a beautiful woman. Maybe she was seeking my forgiveness for being capricious, wilful, selfish. maybe we were both atoning for fault lines buried deep within our psyches, but I don’t want to get too far into that. What it felt like was that we were fulfilling each other’s fantasy, with a definite erotic end in sight. It was a contest of equals, played out to rigidly defined rules and a predetermined pattern, with the result never in doubt, and always the same two exultant winners.
Every Friday night I would accede to her request. I would take the whip from her. Holding its cold bony stock. I would caress the vicious leather thongs through my fingers, a quiet hard smile forming on my face. I would command her to clear the kitchen table. She would do so, quickly and efficiently, sometimes it seemed in danger of dropping some item or other due to the trembling of her fingers, always in too much of a hurry, yet concentrating so fiercely on the ordeal ahead that she never made a mistake. Then she would stand before me, and I would fold her in an ardent embrace, kissing her upturned face, running my hands through her lush hair. Kissing her beautiful ivory-white mesmerising neck, which was already beginning to work its seductive magic upon me.
I would undress her. Slowly, comprehensively. I would unfasten her blouse, button by button, tugging the silky fabric free from the waistband of her skirt, smoothing it from her perfect shoulders and sliding it gently down her arms. I would unclasp her brassiere, freeing the stubborn clip from its position at the centre of the suspension bridge that stretched between her taut shoulder blades. I would unfasten her skirt, drawing it slowly over her head while she stood obediently with her arms up, uncomplaining, yielding mutely to my gentle ministrations. I would worship her body with my gentle fingers, my soft lips. Not hurrying, not allowing any clumsiness to betray my excitement, I would ease each small neat foot from its shoe. Slipping my fingertips beneath the waistband of her sheer nylon tights, I would ease these gradually down and off, caressing each smooth leg all the way down, and all the way back up again, to where her panties were now the only sop to modesty that was left to her.
These I would yank down with sudden roughness, my fierce seriousness of purpose now as revealed as my naked prey. I would spin her around, and guide her down until she was spread-eagled across our kitchen table, pushing hard on the small table, pushing hard on the small of her back while she squirmed and reached with her hands for the far edge, grasping it with a robust determination to hang on grimly. With a sigh, an involuntary shudder of anticipation, she would settle into the ignominious position, her legs parted slightly and stretched out behind her, balanced on tightly arched feet, toes tense, pushing for grip into the polished linoleum of the floor.
There, presented before me in glory, was the most tempting target a man could ever wish for. Her exquisitely rounded bottom seemed to be inviting the blows that were to come from the whip. I would smooth, stroke and silently bless it, already becoming distracted from my task by the sight of those piteously pleading blue-green eyes glimpsed beneath their curtain of dark hair, and the perfection of her neck, in which the pulse was already standing out, stiffly beating out its nervous rhythm of arousal.
With an effort of will, I would recall myself to my task. Picking up the martinet I would swing and slash at her poor defenceless buttocks with gusto. The whip would fly in vicious arcs through the air, its flailing tails hardly seeming to land. They snapped and sputtered off her alabaster skin as though they never touched it. A slow-motion movie would show how false an impression this was, since in reality each thong was biting deep into the flesh before flicking backwards like an angry scorpion and emerging as fast as it entered. And gradually the alabaster skin would itself give the lie to the misconception, as it became progressively suffused with little patches of mottled crimson which spread and grew together like puddles. And soon the whole of this beautiful woman stretched out before me would begin to give off strong signals that the whip was doing its cruel work well, as she would begin to buck and quake before its onslaught, sobbing out little gasps of surprise and hurt as the sting began to bite. And I would ply myself like a zombie to my duty, my right arm rising and falling in savage oblivious fury, beating out a relentless ostinato with the whip while I became more and more fixated on the blue-green eyes and the silky perfection of her neck, protracted in suffering before me. And my obsession and the beating and her moans would rise together in a long-drawn-out crescendo, until the moment when everything shattered, and I would fall upon her like a ravenous beast, slavering, ready to devour her.
Later, when our angry hunger for each other had been slaked, and passion was, for the time being, spent, I would anoint her poor bruised and throbbing bottom with cream and massage it thoroughly but gently, to smooth away the fiery heat generated by the whip. And we would go through to the front room, in only our dressing gowns, and watch TV or listen to music, and if it was winter we would light a fire in the grate and sip cocoa laced with whiskey. And she would sit between my thighs, on the floor, and I would stroke her dark lustrous hair, and caress over and over again her beautiful neck. And we would cuddle, and talk, and make silly jokes, and fall in love all over again, while the whip hung on its nail in the kitchen, unheeded and forgotten until the next Friday night.
I lost her, of course. You always do. That’s the thing about love that nobody ever tells you, that it dies, it goes away, it never lasts. Now I can’t be sure that I ever found her in the first place. Were we really lovers, or were we just figments of each other’s imagination, fantasies to call into life when needed and then discard again when the need was gone? Did I dream her, or did she dream me? It must have been her dream, because if it was up to me, she’d be here again right now. But then again, in many ways she is here. Strange, but if she never really came then she could never really leave. Hell, I guess the problems of two little people don’t add up to a hill of beans in this crazy world. We’ll always have Paris.Here’s looking at you, kid.