They began with the sound of a tinny piano…

I’m the only cause I’m interested in.

At least, that is what I told myself when I packed up and left. I didn’t think much about it before I bolted. I just… I saw the letters and the picture tucked in with them and my blood ran hot. Never mind they were old, never mind how vanilla their exchanges. I knew she’d had other lovers. I expect I’ve benefited a great deal from their experiences, truth be told, and I won’t complain about that. But putting a face there stung, and why would she keep them?

If I’d let myself think any more on it, I would have known that wasn’t the real source of my temper, but I didn’t let myself think. I needed to move, needed to do, so I packed up and I got out. And I missed her. God I missed her. There were boys to be had when I wanted them, practically tripping over themselves just to walk me home, but they couldn’t keep my attention. Not like she could.

I knew coming home would be painful, and it made my heart tremble in its cage to think of. But it was only so long before the lies I’d told myself began to erode, and the raw nerves they left uncovered hurt so much more. It’d be worth the beating, worth the tears, to have her forgive me. I loved her, and it was more than just in passing. I knew that now.

When I heard she was tending the bar downtown, going wasn’t a question. I picked my dress, picked my lipstick, picked my boy, and made a date. Of course I was afraid she wouldn’t want me, but that was too much to think about it, so I didn’t. Instead I sat near the piano, and I laughed and smiled and danced. And I knew she saw me, even though I tried not to look her way much. I felt her eyes on me, and it gave me shivers. I felt when they left, too, and I worried. Most of the drunks had moved outside, probably hollering in the alley like they did on nights like these, and I was suddenly petrified she’d gone.

Casually as I could, I slinked up to the bar, intending to ask the man who owned the place if she was still around. He wasn’t there, though, so I sat to gather my thoughts. I felt her presence a split second before I felt her grip. Her fingers twined through my hair, gripping the roots in a way that hurt so well I almost moaned. I tried turning my head, but her fist tightened and I couldn’t move, and then her lips were at my ear.

“If you don’t tell that boy goodnight and follow me out the door, I’ll spank your bare ass right here in the bar,” she whispered, and I felt my rib cage expand with the sudden pounding of my heart. I didn’t know if she’d do that, and I didn’t know if she wouldn’t, but she didn’t give me much of a chance to decide before pulling me off the stool and sending me off toward the table.

I knew how to flutter my lashes, could play demure when it suited me, but obedience didn’t come naturally. So far as I could tell, though, no one had seen us and I didn’t want to change that, so I kept my spine straight and walked back toward the piano and the boy I’d likely never see again. I wanted so badly to turn, to see her face, to nibble her lips. I bid the fellas goodnight, smiled benevolently at their disappointed groans, and then, finally, turned.

Suddenly I was as bashful as a school girl about to be walked home. But the boy carrying my books was a woman in slacks and a matching vest, shiny black shoes and dark red lips. And she wasn’t going to give me a peck on the cheek at the door. If she took me home, it was going to be painful. Then she held out her arm, and all the worriment left me as I threaded mine through it. “Fancy getting out of this dump?” I asked her, smiling.

“I’ve got some place quiet we can go,” she replied, indulgent as ever, pretending with me for a moment.

We’d walked this neighborhood many late nights on the way home, though usually she’d been buying the drinks, not making them. It bewildered me still that she’d taken to bartending, but she never was one to sit still. There were a million questions between us, but it wasn’t the time now. I concentrated instead on the sharp click of my heels, the steady pace of her oxfords, the ding of the arriving elevator.

There was no man tending it at this hour, and she surprised me again with more growling in my ear as she pressed her body up against mine and let her fingers spread across my throat. The pad of her ring finger rested against my jugular, and I felt my blood pumping against her touch. “Strip. Find your spot. Stay in position until you are called.”

I sucked in my breath, warring impulses rising. She knew I’d do whatever she asked, but she wasn’t asking, and that hooked a part of me that wanted to fight, the part of me that wanted to lose the fight maybe, but fight all the same. Her grip tightened the smallest amount, and I swallowed, thinking about what I owed her, and I said simply, honestly, “I will.”

Then she’d let me go, was opening the doors to the elevator as the loud ding faded, and we were walking the hallway that had felt like home half a year ago, that felt like home even now after all these months away. Now that I had my orders, other familiar feelings came flooding back too. Find my spot… I knew too well what that meant. The back wall was all windows; the light was brilliant here in the morning. A sheer curtain kept us from street view, but anyone passing by was going to know a woman was standing there in just a moment.

I knew the chances were low, but it gave me a shudder to think about. I wasn’t modest, no, but I found my waiting silhouette to be more intimate somehow than the spill of my cleavage or peek of my thighs in even my scantest dresses. I hesitated a moment, but she only used the moment to tease me, and my face flushed and I did as I was told. I set my jaw, determined to maintain at least a bit of control. I slipped out of my clothing, taking my time, knowing she watched as each garment was removed.

If she thought before that it was any bit of chance that led me into her bar, she knew differently now. Just as I’d never wear the trousers I so fancied on her, I’d never have worn such delicate delicates out like this. I was a good girl, after all, and these were not a good girl’s underwear. I threaded my hands together behind my head, making sure to show her I remembered my position. My feet remained in their heels, ankles spread, bottom out, nose an inch from the curtain. I breathed slowly, and I waited.

“You were gone too long, little girl. Much longer than I prefer.”

I shuddered at her words, but otherwise kept still. I could feel her moving behind me, see the feathery curtains dance with her currents when she walked closer.

“I don’t like when my things disappear. Even when they are upset.”

My throat nearly closed up as she spoke, and I didn’t know what to say. The game was over, all the possible reunions I’d imagined fading away as we moved into the reality. I was glad I didn’t have to face her right now, wasn’t sure how I could. I felt a great many things, but more than anything else, I felt ashamed.

“Do you have anything to say for yourself?”

I didn’t think I’d be able to capture the breath I needed to speak, but I managed just enough to say quietly, “I’m sorry.”

I heard her open the bureau where she kept her toys, toys she called them, though I never saw them as playful. She spoke as she rifled through them. I heard her place some things on the bed. “I’m sure you were sorry weeks ago. But you picked your pride over your happiness and sacrificed both for me in the process. And I just can’t have that.”

“Please,” I said, turning, obeying my impulses instead of my orders. The look on her face made me whip my head back around, but already I knew that wouldn’t go unpunished. In my stolen glance I’d seen the crop in her hand, her sleeve rolled up to the elbow as she wielded it, and now I felt the sharp pop of it on my left cheek. My face twitched but I didn’t move.

“I did not tell you to turn, and it is too early to beg,” she said as she flecked my bottom and legs with the stingy leather rectangle. Sometimes she let it fall on the fronts of my thighs, unpredictable as ever, and I took them with little more than some jumping muscles. Then she said abruptly, “Take three steps back.”

I didn’t hesitate this time, nor did I stumble, but something about that must have inspired her. She took a moment to slide the crop down my belly, forcing chills to run up my arms and my nipples to harden. She tossed it aside as she completed her circle, behind me once more. Her hands guided mine down, leaving them to rest against the small of my back, but then she grabbed a hold of my hair again roughly and pulled me back toward the bed. I fought for my balance, stumbling backward at her will, hating the lack of grace in my movements.

She knew I hated that, and though I managed to keep my lips sealed, I glared at her. She smiled back, a predator’s smile, a smile that dared me to feel big next to her. Her hands went to the buckle of her belt and I lost my stuffing. I couldn’t remember to be defiant when I was watching the leather slide through the loops of her pants, when I was listening for the clink of metal, when I knew what was about to happen.

“Turn around,” she said, and I did so, reluctantly perhaps, but obediently all the same. I pressed my thighs together, trying to ignore the ache developing there. It was an altogether different sort of pain, but she was still to blame. I bent slowly, resting my hands on the bed. I felt the tap of her belt moments before the true weight of it fell; for a moment I relished the heat it brought and I couldn’t help but wiggle. My knuckles became taut as I dug my nails into the bedspread. I felt more aware than ever of my lace panties as the leather bit into me. My heels dug into the floor and my movements became less flirty, more intractable, as the pain deepened.

She stopped abruptly, and I almost moaned into the silence– with wanting or gratitude, I wasn’t sure. She tossed the implement onto the bed, and I felt her move behind me, and then her fingers slid into the band of my lingerie. I closed my eyes and concentrated on the trail of her fingers down my legs as she removed them.

“Step out,” she said when they were at my ankles and her down there with them, and I did so, leaving my feet a bit further apart. It took me a moment to realize that she still lingered near, but as soon as I did, my knees snapped back together and a fresh wave of heat rolled up my body. It’s not that I had any inches on me that she hadn’t seen before, but it was so intimate to have her there, looking up at me. Regret descended, but before I could move back into place she stood, put a hand on my back and then used her own foot to knock mine good and wide and said, “That wasn’t a wise move, now was it?”

“I didn’t mean–”

My apology was cut off when she brought her hand down hard on my bare and freshly striped bottom.

“Doesn’t matter and you know it. This is the price you pay for disobedience,” she said as she cracked her hand down hard again, and I sucked in my breath. I did know.

She was as relentless with her hand as she had been with the belt, though I thought this may have hurt more. I couldn’t help but twist my hips, though I managed to keep my feet still this time, even spread as they were. It brought some measure of comfort when the restraint of her arm wrapped around my waist, but it only brought harder swats. She spent most of her energy on my ass, but sometimes her hand wandered low and I would feel the sting of her fingers on the insides of my thighs. I felt my breath come in gasps, and I was sad again when she stopped.

“Pick up the belt,” she said, stepping away from me. I looked down to where she’d flung it, curled like a snake on the white bedspread. Without thinking, I leaned down to grab the leather with my teeth. I made my eyes wide with what we both knew was borrowed innocence. I just wanted her to want me. She grinned, and I knew that she did.

It didn’t stop her from taking it, though, from taking it and using it. This wasn’t the fast paced whipping I’d gotten earlier. The licks came slowly and they cut deeply. Each one contained the full force of her arm and it became difficult to stay still. She was crossing a threshold, the one that made the line between pain and pleasure less blurry. “Please,” I whispered, unable to stop myself and unable to finish my sentence.

Whatever she’d done during our time apart, she hadn’t been lazy. The next lick was harder still, and the next after that, and again I heard words leaving my lips without asking permission: “I’m sorry.”

There was nothing playful left in her, though. Not now. I shifted my hips and clutched at the blanket and felt sweat beads pop up along my forehead. My lungs grew tight and my chin trembled, and the belt fell again and again and again.

And then it stopped, this time falling to the floor, and in the deafening silence she said to me, “Never again.”

Now a sob did shake me, the first of many I knew even then, and I pushed myself against her when she ran her hand over my thighs and my poor bruising ass. It hurt but I wanted whatever she wanted to give me.

“You hear me?” she continued. “Never. Again.”

Her palm left and crashed down again and I cried out desperately, “Never again! I promise. I swear. I’m yours.”

She spanked my other cheek and said only, “Again.”

“I’m yours!” I said, my body propelled forward by the force of her. I tried to pour every ounce of honesty into it, but she wasn’t satisfied. I saw her reach for something from the corner of my eye, and when her arm encircled me this time, I braced myself.

“Again,” she said, and this time I saw stars when the swat landed.

I screamed, unable to process the smack of wood on my already throbbing bottom. Then, “I’m yours,” I said, managing to make my lips move even as the rest of my body betrayed me. I wanted to be good but my feet kicked up. It didn’t seem to faze her as she brought the brush down again.

I held fistfuls of the blanket and tears streamed down my face as she continued to command and I continued to answer. Soon there was no pause between us, just the vicious call and response as she punished me. “I’m yours,” I cried again and again, unable to do anything else. When my hand reached back, she caught it, and then she used her muscled arms to lift me bodily across one knee. My stomach pressed against her thigh and my legs dangled, and I lay there, sobbing and limp and powerless.

I didn’t know how to be so powerless, and at her next “Again,” I kicked my feet at the air. When the brush smacked down this time, it took my breath away. I suppose she read it as defiance, because she didn’t give me so much as a moment to recover before bringing it down again, even harder. I gulped in air as soon as I could and choked out the answer she wanted to hear, the one I wanted to give. “I’m yours!”

And maybe there was a little bit of no left in me, because that wasn’t satisfactory to her. When my feet kicked next time, it was because I had no will to stop them. She spanked me with the hairbrush until my whole body trembled, until my bruises had bruises, until I couldn’t think my own name. And when I could find it in me, I said only, “I’m yours! I’m yours! I’m yours!!!”

I didn’t hear her set the brush down, and I could barely feel her fingers when her touch turned gentle on my hot and swollen bottom, but I heard the words she finally spoke.

“You’re mine.”

I sobbed again, still dangling for a moment, and then she slid me back to stand on my own two feet, a command she gave me with a pat to my hip. Wretched as I was, I forced myself to do as she would expect: I resumed my position, bending over the bed with my ass out and my feet spread.

“Good girl,” she said, and the smallest praise spread over me like the sunlight breaking free from a cloudy day. I don’t think I could have taken it otherwise when she laid the cane out in front of me a second later. “Twelve,” she said resolutely.

I groaned and closed my eyes. I remembered that I deserved everything she decided to give me, that I had promised myself I would take anything to be forgiven, and forced my lids to part. She leaned down, one palm pressed into the bed as the other tipped my chin upward. I cringed when I met her gaze, ashamed of even my smallest hesitation, and said, “Yes, ma’am.”

I shuddered when she picked up the implement, shuddered as she walked back around the bed, whimpered when I felt her taking aim with a few quick taps, and cried out when it landed. My knees bent again, this time almost to the floor, and it took some time to force myself back into position. She’d delivered the first stroke to the crease of my thighs and bottom, and I knew immediately that I would feel it for days to come. The next one landed above it, and the next above that. I wailed through them, unable to contain myself. The dregs of my willpower forced my knees straight every time, but I was good for nothing else.

The seventh stroke whistled down, a clear demonstration that she had been holding back with the first six, and I hid my wet face in the blanket as my foot stamped at the ground desperately. She was patient, but she was not lenient, and I bawled my way through the rest of them. My body still shook when she finished, even as I heard her put the cane away. The relief that came when suddenly her forehead touched mine was overwhelming: she had punished me severely, and now it was over.

I grabbed desperately at her, arms clinging to hers because it’s what I could reach, unable to stop my tears. I felt the months of shame and sadness, lonesomeness and grief, rolling down my face as we held each other. When she did pull away, it was to clean my face with one of the white handkerchiefs she often wore in her breast pocket. I saw the imprint of my smeared makeup and knew I must look a mess, but I had little room to worry over it. My ass and thighs throbbed, the skin hot and muscles swollen, and I knew I would wear her marks long after the pain fully subsided. And it would surely be a week before the pain fully subsided.

She folded the tissue and pressed it into my hand, then said, “Lie down, baby,” and I moved forward obediently, feeling the way my muscles ached with the movement. There was relief now from her hands, first as her fingers filtered through my hair and then as she dabbed cream onto the delicate raw skin of my bottom. It hurt and I flinched, pressing the handkerchief against my mouth to suppress any noise. I didn’t want her to stop. She rubbed the lotion in small circles, adding gentle praise for a job well done. I wasn’t sure I deserved it, but I soaked it up anyway. I needed the kindness as much as I had needed the absolution. 

When my skin had absorbed all it was going to, she put the jar away and laid down with me. I folded myself around her, ignoring the pain it caused as I wrapped my arms and legs around her and placed my head on her chest. The coolness of her lips against my forehead reminded me again of how much I had missed her, and I took a deep breath, filling my lungs with the scent of her. I felt the throb of wanting her settle between my legs, cadence matching that of my thrashed bottom. Sleep would come faster than I could offer myself to her in that way, but the time would come. I nuzzled closer to her, pressing myself against her and drifted off to the thought of waking up together, mine the last word to occupy my hazy thoughts.

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