"Ami!" The voice has an edge to it. He raises an eyebrow and indicates for me to precede him into the kitchen.
From across the room I narrow my eyes at him and lift my chin, but I stop mid sentence.
He briefly narrows his eyes in response, then glares at me, nodding discretely at the kitchen doorway and moving his wineglass ever so slightly to the left.
I drop my eyes, excuse myself from the couple I am chatting with and make my way around the dining table towards him.
As I pass him on my way into the kitchen I notice the steely glint in his eyes, and I bite down on the few choice words that, a second ago, I was prepared to mutter under my breath.
He follows me, and putting one hand on the kitchen island and the other hand on the work surface near the cooker, he neatly corals me in a corner.
I open my mouth ready to defend myself, but he forestalls me, placing a finger across my lips and giving his head a tiny shake. He hardly needs words.
"Do you understand me?" He lifts his eyebrow slightly.
For an instant in time I set my jaw and stare back. Then I drop my eyes and nod.
"Ami, I am waiting for a reply."
I study the travertine flooring.
"Yes. I'm sorry. My mouth was running away with me there. I don't know what came over me."
"So long as we understand each other." He drops his hand and turns surveying the kitchen.
He picks up a plate of smoked salmon and asparagus, and hands me a dish of olives stuffed with garlic, and another containing small red peppers stuffed with cream cheese.
"Let's get this party started," he indicates the dishes and the people through the doorway.
My shoulders relax. That was a near thing, I think to myself.
I'm not particularly submissive. I'm not certain that I want to be, not really. Not if that submission means I am always being told what to do, how to behave, what to wear, what to watch on TV, what I can spend. I like to think of myself as being co-operative; of being in agreement with Dan and able to comply with his requests. To know what he is going to request - and get in first before he has to put his requests into words. I've always been this way.
My first job, way back when, was as PA to the Chairman of a very large international company. I just loved being able to predict what he wanted, before he even knew himself that he wanted it - be it end of year results from a rival company, a meeting setting up with the other members of the Board, tickets on the next Concorde flight to New York, or even just a cup of freshly brewed coffee.
In fact, I remember kneeling at a low-level coffee table in the corner of his huge office, serving freshly brewed Arabica, whilst he and several other high-powered businessmen from the States stood towering over me and watching me. One even had the temerity to stroke my hair. It makes me gasp to think I was so naive that I thought it was quite normal for a young woman hardly out of college to serve coffee to a group of men in that way.
For roughly the first third of our marriage Dan made all the important decisions and I was happy to comply with his wishes. We even used to boast that we never rowed or had arguments, and that we had ironed out all our differences during the years of our engagement. (5 years! Long huh?!)
But then something changed. Dan's hard work and determination paid off and I rarely saw him without a business suit and briefcase. He mostly worked with upper management and directors of large blue-chip companies, and was sometimes away for weeks and once lived away from us for three years just coming home at weekends, and one weekday night if he could manage it.
I stayed at home and worked part-time juggling teaching, studying for various degrees, looking after the kids and sorting out their schooling, running the household and riding my horses (mainly eventing). Somewhere along the line we came unstuck. We nearly came completely off the rails, although I wasn't aware of it at the time. In essence, I took over. I did it because Dan just wasn't around.
Okay, so if he was around I still had his gin and tonic ready for him as he came up the drive on a Friday night - but mostly I steered the ship.
Imagine wearing Wellington boots two sizes too large for you,
and then wading through a sea of ankle deep mud.
That's how it felt to begin with.
But then after a while those Wellingtons seemed to shrink and the mud dried out.
We no longer bothered to kiss each other goodbye when he left for a business trip. At one time I chaired about six different committees, and some evenings I would be out till after midnight. I remember once getting a puncture. It was before mobile phones. When I eventually rolled into the yard it was after eleven at night and Dan never turned a hair. Didn't even wonder why I was so late.
I was the good little corporate wife. I knew how to dress and I knew how to act when rubbing shoulders with the "big bosses". I could be relied on to ask the right questions and engage in intelligent conversation. I gained a reputation for my strength of character, and Dan once bought, whilst on holiday, a silly sign that read "Forget the dog, Beware of the owner." He never knew how much it smarted.
Sex was uninspiring when we had it; I can remember quite clearly that once every three weeks was not unusual, and it was more often than not of the "Wham, bam, thank you mam" variety. If I didn't feel like it I would even slap his hand away if it ventured in my direction.
This turbulent third of our life came to a close one Friday when Dan arrived at work to be asked for his car keys. He'd became a necessary cut. The entire company he worked for became a necessary cut. I collected him from the station that evening. He was very quiet. His face was grey.
We lay in bed that night and he broke down. He asked me if I was going to leave him. He didn't think I would want to be with a man who had just lost his job. We made love tenderly and with more regard to each other's feelings than we had in years.
Life deals you blows and you pick yourself up and get on with it. It takes time and you follow a rocky road, but then, life ain't easy.
Sometimes just putting one foot in front of another is hard, yet at other times you find yourself running up the hills.
Dan's made of some pretty strong stuff. He started to network, and before long he set up his own company, and he never looked back. It's being cut adrift that's the most difficult thing; once you start to tread water it's only one step on and you're swimming with sharks. Once again I found myself steering that darn ship! But this time as a mere sub-lieutenant.
I mostly deferred to him; the household resumed its well-oiled status; life settled down. It wasn't exactly super-exciting, but it was good, and predictable, and I discovered that Dan was much better at navigation than I was.
Then out of the blue came my heart attack. It's funny how these things toss you about a bit and make you think. I did a lot of thinking back then. I decided I didn't want to do any more boring or predictable. I sorted out my shoe collection, and my underwear, and started to read some erotic literature hoping to spice up our sex life a little. And of course, it lead me to that book and to my first ever visit to a sex shop, and the rest is, as they say, history.
Let's just say I became compliant.
What a pivotal moment that was. We both had so much to learn, so much to experiment with. I had kept such a firm lid on my own nature, that it came as quite a shock, especially to Dan, to discover just how wanton I could be.
The spanking is really the icing on the cake.
Sometimes it's hard,
sometimes it's soft,
and sometimes it's unbearably sweet.
I love it and I hate it, and I find myself completely addicted.
But me submit? Never. Ha!
Wait a cotton-picking minute. Did I say that at the start of our marriage I was happy to comply with Dan's wishes? Did I end by stating that I became compliant? Hmmmm...
submit: to surrender oneself to another; to yield; to be obedient to another
comply: to act in accordance with the wishes of another; to yield; to submit
So why is it that I am happy to comply but not happy to submit? Believe me, whilst I am quite happy to surrender, I am not happy to yield. I am sparky and feisty and I wade happily into a dispute like a Spanish galleon in full sail with all her gun ports open and ready to do battle. Yet at the same time I am like a fruit sweet with a hard exterior and and a soft interior. A very soft interior.
Not just a pickle but a puzzle!
dominant: prevailing; predominant; overtopping others; occupying a conspicuous position; the fifth note above the tonic
subdominant: the note next to or immediately below the dominant
Ahhhhh? Maybe that is what I am? I am a musical note. I am a little softer and not quite as loud, but a sympathetic vibration resonating off my dominant. Dan provides the tune, and I provide the harmony.
He leans in, stroking my blush-pink cheeks and tracing the fine lines that define my sit-spots. I clutch my pillow and my breathing becomes deeper and hitches with anticipation.
I sense, rather than hear, the displacement of air as the bathbrush arcs down full across my bottom, temporarily flattening and pressing into the flesh. Although I have expected it, I gasp with the pain and fist the cotton of the pillowcase.
"But I did understand you, Dan" I squeak.
The bathbrush lands a second time, then twice more on my left buttock before repeating its action on my right. It hurts a lot and my eyes are watering.
"All things considered, you did very well", Dan informs me. "This is just to ensure you keep up the good work, and that you continue to understand."
The bathbrush rises and falls three times each on my sit-spots. I am sobbing quietly into my pillow and I want to be able to lie still and endure, but it hurts too much so I scissor my legs for all I am worth. Dan waits a moment, and when I have settled he rains down three more swats across both cheeks. Then I hear him throw down the bathbrush and he is rubbing my smarting backside.
I crawl up off his lap and snuggle into his chest, burrowing under his right armpit, and he is hugging me to him. I cry for a bit, and then he hands me a tissue to blow my nose.
"Time for you to cook my breakfast, old girl," he says, and grins.
I clamber down off the bed and shrug on my robe, then I twist my hair and clip it up on top of my head. I smile back at him. It feels so good to understand.
"Aye aye, Sir!" Still grinning, I give him a mock salute.