Story from Janus 75 by John Undermeyer
It was an art they had taken years to perfect. Now they practised it one Sunday in each month, beginning around late afternoon. From then, deep into the night, they relished the joy of it. They called it Sweet Sabbath.
On the day, they locked up their home. It would stay that way until Monday’s dawn. Gate-bolts slid to electronically, house-blinds were dropped, telephones set to tape-record, the bedroom flooded with light.
Early in the afternoon she slipped into a bikini: that was part of the game. Then — at an agreed signal — she unclipped the top and let it fall to the carpet. Pushing the bottom part downwards with both thumbs she stepped daintily free of it and left it lying. She released mother-of-pearl combs from her temples and a mountain of chestnut hair cascaded over her shoulders, the sweet-scented ends lightly brushing the deeply-inclining small of her back.
She was naked woman in glory, the perfect example of how plenty of money, plus a life of fresh-air and exercise, can produce a lovely woman oozing with wholesome energy and sensual allure. Almost 30, she still looked in her early twenties, helped no doubt by the disciplines imposed by her yoga master.
She heard a cane slamming into the bolster of their bed. Soon she would be tucked into that bolster, hugging it, ramming her knees against it, digging it with her chin, working her nails into the ends. God, she would hurt, but then the sweetness would begin to course through her body, flowing in her blood, running to the extremities, igniting even her mind.
Afterwards he would want her, roused by the caning and hungry to have her in his arms. She would give herself to him through her hurting because that was the way she knew, the way he wanted, the way that brought total consummation to them both.
There had been an understanding between them even before they married, expressed not so much in words (although they had talked about it) but in feelings and behaviour. In everything else he humoured her but in this one thing she submitted willingly and completely. Because — she reasoned — everything had a price and this was how she paid for the way she lived, enjoying all that his money could buy.
Today she found no love in herself for him — at least, not yet. It would come, she knew from experience, but now she felt proud, disdainful, haughty. She came to the bedroom tossing her head, streaking open fingers (they were incredibly long and delicate and could express devastatingly inviting gestures) through her hair to sweep it back off her pale face. She had taken the staircase fast, and this, combined with what she knew lay ahead, made her breath deep and tremulous.
She refused to look at him but walked to the end of their bed and stood soldier-like, arms to her sides. Her breasts could have been Renaissance marble, they looked so firm and opalescent. Her tummy was adolescent-flat, her waist yoga-trim, her legs taken from a Degas ballet-girl.
She stood on tip-toe and raised her arms skyward, stretching to show him how her skin glowed, her eyes shone and the lights glinted in her hair. Then she lowered herself slowly and deliberately on to their mattress. He pointed the cane at the bolster. She reached out for it and raised her narrow hips to tuck the roll of kapok beneath them. That left her delicate, downy and unblemished bottom-cheeks higher than the rest of her body, which lay draped like white silk on either side.
There — she seemed to be saying to him — that’s a performance for you. You want to cane me? See if I care. See how unmoved I can be by your stern manner, your broad, bronzed arms, even your honey-coloured stick brandished so like a conductor’s baton.
He growled in his throat: there was a price for this insolence. She dared to flout her courage before him, challenge his role as master? No matter. Out of the strong came forth sweetness. She looked sweeter than honey, he felt stronger than a lion. ‘You are in a state to be loved?’ he asked her, hiding the tiny sense of pique, making sure she could not hear it. ‘You have taken your pill when you should: there is no reason for me not to go ahead?’
‘None whatsoever,’ she replied in taunting tones, distant, chilly, with a hint of contempt just audible in her cultured voice. It was as though someone else, not herself lay prone on the bed, waiting to undergo this trial. Except that it was not to be a trial: to her it was a practice, a ritual, a command performance in which she was the translucent star.
This was theatre, and her movements, her performance, were all. He would not miss a single motion of her body, purse of her lips, spread and gesture of her hands, curl and grimace of her mouth, blink and glare in her eyes. He needed to see proof that she hurt, she must demonstrate how she suffered as his cane fell. The show was vital to him and he would cane for as long as she could sustain the act.
She wanted to arouse him, to show how — gradually, gracefully — he could melt her sugar and raise it to boiling-point in her body She responded vividly to his first stroke which he laid at the very high-point of her buttocks. It was a sharp and unexpected blow and she spreadeagled herself, her limbs expanding like a four-pointed star, toes turning inwards, legs snapping together again, hands electrified for a second then re-grasping the bolster. Look at me — she seemed to be telling him — see how my body adores you, drink in my softly-moulded rear-parts as they spasm and writhe, for they were made to be whipped.
He wanted her to be demonstrative, to try to dodge his blows, for then he had an excuse to cane her harder. Her hips bucked to one side, jibbing at his carefully aimed stroke. He had hit hard; her cheeks squeezed bitterly, her muscles drawing them both together and sucking them in tightly, pulling at her tummy muscles at the same time. This helped kill the ache, but it also helped her absorb the fire, drive it inwards deep inside her body and there convert it to hot, longing sweetness. She could do it; over the years she had learned how to make the syrup run.
Her head turned angrily and she caught his eyes with her own. Fury made them lasers but he stared her down. Again she challenged his ardour, tossing her hair, curling her lip, raising her upper body as he drove down his stick. Movements like these transformed his ire to a heavenly distillation, encouraging him to cane harder.
He flicked his wrist powerfully an instant before the stick struck her beautiful buttocks. When she felt the stronger strokes she cried out, but mingled a taunting, teasing sound into the cries of pain. Hidden in the protest was a signal of assent: you may do this to me; you may hurt; you may exhibit your mastery. And she must convert the sting his wand imparted into honey-sweet desire, distil liquid silver from his strokes.
Imagination would aid the transmutation. She saw herself as a giant-sized snake, all coils and curls, trapped in a tree-fork at the mercy of a mongoose, its sworn enemy, as the furry creature barked and bit at the helpless reptile. The bite of the cane elicited the jerk of the body in instant reply.
The two perfectly symmetrical, white and dimpled segments of her bottom rose up from the bolster then fell flat again. They were created for punishment. What other part of her could envelop his springy wood, indent to its blows, judder as he struck, then clench and squeeze to absorb the fire-brand effect?
One of his special pleasures was to see her thighs open. The game at this point was a kind of hide-and-seek; she knew what part of her he wanted to see — what special area his eyes would seek. She rolled sideways as her legs opened to hide herself from him. Denying him her treasure made him all the keener to seek it and his cane reflected the need by falling harder.
She twisted, turned, bared her teeth, flashed her eyes, stretched out ten pencil-slim fingers each with a crimson-painted nail. Move, move, move, his mind silently instructed her: I have not yet seen that part of you which it is my right, as your husband, to see.
She became a small sun-lizard which, knowing itself in peril, whipped its body this way and that, darting from stone to stone, nervous and fearful, seeking succour under a rock. But she could not find succour: where could she hide but under the crisp white sheets, and she knew better than to attempt that.
Neon flashed in her mind. She clenched the bolster in both hands, tears making the cotton damp and clingy. Lancing pains shot from her buttocks down through her thighs and calves to the soles of her pretty feet, making them curl and her toes spread.
She wanted to go on until she could transmute the pain no longer and she could tell that that point was coming. She had given a consummate performance. Her legs had splayed and she had brought them tightly together again. Her thighs had gaped and she had squeezed them shut. Her bottom had seethed and she had felt the energy inside rise and bubble like boiling milk. Her small fists had drummed on the bedclothes, her ankles reflecting the action as shock tingled in her feet, and her head had twisted and turned from side to side, making deep folds in her thick chestnut hair, strands of which were stuck by tears to her alabaster cheeks.
Her azure eyes had flashed hate at him, her mouth curled in a pain which was mingled with contempt. She had sunk her teeth into the bolster to smother her cries and yelps which otherwise would have rent the air. And slowly, inexorably, the pain had, like a Canaan miracle, transformed itself into sugary sweetness and was seething through her fibres in an unquenchable stream of energy.
Suddenly she could act no longer. She flung herself off the bolster, wriggling frantically up the bedclothes towards the top of the bed, kicking her legs, grasping the sheet, facing him, eyes brimming and — at the same time — pleading: ‘Enough dearest, let it be, no more, no more!’ The honeycomb was full of vital syrups and running inside her.
His blood raced like wild waters as she turned over on to her back and lay open before him, offering herself totally. He dropped the cane; punishment was over. But her performance was not over — they both knew that. She must keep moving; it was part of the agreement, and it would have been impossible for her to be still: now was the time to move into her most persuasive role.
What a moment or two before had been helpless spasms must slow and become controlled again, changing without any perceivable interval into sensuous, even voluptuous beckonings. The turbulence inside her must be made evident in her rising and stretching to raise his ardour higher. Where before she tossed and turned to escape his whipping, now she must switch to willing, welcoming motions designed to draw him down into her embraces.
This was the hardest part of all: to wrestle against the hurt, to sense the sugar-sweet feeling and allow desire to take its course. She worked to forget the pain and know only the urgency of passion, and the effort gradually but inevitably suffused her body with champagne.What in the beginning had been agonised twisting under his discipline became a delightful ferment under his strong, tanned and embracing body. Precious juices, freed by their exercises, cascaded through them both. His body effervesced in response to her caresses and encouragement, her glass was filled and cohesion between them became complete. Their bodies and minds would continue to brim over for hours. He dimmed the lights to complete blackness. They closed their eyes and together dissolved into the dark. Sweet Sabbath had begun.