“Jay? I’ve got to get back to work.”
“Mmm. At least put some clothes on first.”
“Sorry. We knew that, Callum. I thought you hadn’t decided yet what you wanted to do?”
“Anything. I can’t stand much more of being at home. I hate it.”
“Well! Thanks very much!”
“Oh James! I didn’t mean that.”
“Tell me what you mean, then, pet. Come here. Tell me what’s wrong. I thought you were just getting yourself settled before you decided what to do. Didn’t you find anything at the college that you fancied?”
“And you haven’t seen any jobs you liked the look of?”
“Yes, but you know how that went. I had a couple of interviews but I didn’t get anything.”
“So what’s the panic? We don’t need you to be working yet. There’s time enough for you to find what you want.”
“There isn’t. I’m going to fall out of my tree, very soon. It’s funny, Jay. I always thought I would just love to be able to be at home all day, and not have to go to work. And I did. I loved it for about a fortnight. But it isn’t enough. I know my job isn’t exactly intellectual by your standards, but it was my job, and I can’t just hang about here. I’ve got nothing proper to do.”
“But you’ve been so busy! You did all the things that we’d been saying for ages that we ought to do!”
“I know. I did them, and I found that they didn’t matter. The reason that we hadn’t done them was that we didn’t care about them enough to give up something else to do them. They’re basically just housework, only more so. If they had been important, we’d have done them before.”
“Didn’t you want to do things in the garden?”
“I did the ones I fancied, which were all the building ones. I’m not interested in plants, Jay. I don’t find it magical that the bulbs come up every year. As far as I’m concerned, that’s their job. It’s not that clever. Gardening is just housework with wetter knees. If it were up to me, I would lay flags all across that lawn and lose the grass completely. The lawn is a dead waste of time to me.”
“Don’t you want to sit out on the grass with your coffee and enjoy the garden?”
“Have you ever been in the garden? Sit out and you’ll be submerged in mud in five minutes. It rains so much here that the garden is only habitable for two months in the year, and I don’t want to sit out and listen to the motorway, or the pub car park, and that’s all you can hear outside. I thought I might watch the birds, but in the last six months all I’ve seen are magpies, starlings and blackbirds. Even if we did get something more interesting, it’s interesting for about two minutes. I thought I would get to know the neighbours, but there’s the mad woman next door who talks to cars, and there’s the man on the other side who works from home, and I can’t even discover what he does. I’ve asked him in for coffee about five times and he won’t come. And there’s pretty well nobody else here during the day. Jay, I’ve ended up going to the gym every day just to see another adult, until Ross began to give me funny looks. Otherwise, it’s Radio Four from the time you go out until you come home again. All our friends are at work, and I’m lonely.”
“Oh, pet. I didn’t realise. I thought you were just getting yourself together again. I thought you were enjoying it. I mean, have you been trying to tell me this for ages?”
“No, I don’t think so. I’ve really only just begun to work it out, but I didn’t dare not tell you. Not after what happened last time I didn’t tell you things.”
“I should think not indeed! How long did you have the marks of that?”
“Weeks. It was still the right thing to do. It put us right. But I knew I had to do something when I found I had spent the whole day working out something new to do to you in bed.”
“I don’t have a problem with that. I have certainly noticed that you’ve suddenly become very imaginative, and I’ve been loving it. Most of it. You aren’t to do the one with the toothpaste again.”
“No? I still think that if you let me. . .”
“No, Callum. If you do it again, I will spank you.”
“It was just the wrong sort of toothpaste. . .”
“With a hairbrush, Callum.”
“Or perhaps not quite so much. . .”
“Honestly, Jay, let me try with mild mint rather than fresh mint.”
“A hairbrush, Callum. It was the whole evening before I knew what pitch my voice was coming out, and my nose didn’t stop running until the next morning. It will be the hairbrush. Very, very hard. Exceptionally hard.”
“That’s me. Believe me on this one. Well, if you haven’t rung the bell at the college, and there hasn’t been an employer to appreciate your wonderful talents, and most of them are wonderful, except the toothpaste, what about an agency? Sign on with a couple of those, and make it someone else’s job to find you a place.”
So I did that, and actually, one of them did come up with a job I thought I wanted. I just didn’t think I would get it. It was for a company that designed role play scenarios for something called Cloudburst, which apparently is what it’s called when they have chemical disasters. There seems to be an idea that companies should have a dummy run at an environmental disaster before trying the real thing. They had a team of scientists and medical people and so on, and they wanted someone who had experience of security as well, to decide on liaison with the police and army. I didn’t have the right qualifications (hell, I don’t have any qualifications), and I didn’t have the right experience, but as Jay said, I might as well try for it, the worst they could say was no.
And I got an interview, and it went rather well, and I was hopeful, and then they called a whole lot of us for a test day in London, and Jay and I had a celebration because I had at least got through the first round, and when he wasn’t looking, I sneaked the toothpaste into bed and pretended I was going to do that again, and picked up a mock spanking that warmed me quite enough to make the subsequent evening extremely enjoyable.
Then the information pack arrived for the test day and I freaked out completely. I just didn’t understand it. I didn’t understand the science and I didn’t understand the medicine, and the section on logistics might have been in Greek for all the good I made of it. By the time Jay came home from the office I had worked myself into an absolute tantrum of rage and fear. Fortunately, the thing arrived on a Friday and I had been out all day helping Spike to lay a patio, so by the time I had read it, the answerphone was on at the company headquarters. Even in a temper, I could see that I couldn’t leave the sort of message that goes “I’ve lost my nerve and I don’t want to work for you any more” on an answerphone. But first thing on Monday, I was going to ring them up and cancel.
James said I wasn’t. I said I was. James said I wasn’t. I said I was. James said, eventually, that we weren’t going to talk about it any more tonight. We could do nothing over the weekend anyway, so we were going to have a meal and share a bottle of wine, and think about it calmly in the morning. I said there was nothing to think about, I was cancelling, and James gave me the Look. I know the Look. It tells me, when I’m cool enough to read it, that this would be a good time for Callum to shut up and behave nicely, unless Callum wants his bottom warmed. He never spanks me unless I agree that I’ve deserved it (well, he can’t: I’m five inches taller than him and three stone heavier), but there was a calmer Callum at the back of my mind, who knew perfectly well that I was behaving badly, and who would probably have outvoted the tantrum Callum in a pinch. So I shut up and I sulked.
Jay was sweet about it. He tried to coax me out of my temper, and he cooked although it was my turn, and he made things he knew I liked, and he let me drink more than my share of the wine. And all that happened was that I felt guilty as well. At bedtime I turned my back on him, which is rare. Because I’m the bigger, when we cuddle, I usually curl round him. But he rubbed my back gently, and kissed the nape of my neck, and let me alone. Then I sulked because he didn’t want to make love, although if he had tried, I would have sulked because I didn’t. I just wanted him to be as uncomfortable as I was.
I didn’t feel any better in the morning. I groused through breakfast and I didn’t do my share of the housework. I just wandered through the house picking things up and putting them down again. Eventually, James stopped making things happen (like the dishwasher and the washing machine), and came through to me wearing his coat and holding mine.
“Come on, you horror. Let’s go out. We’ll go to the river.”
I opened my mouth to refuse and got the Look again. I knew I was pushing it. It crossed my mind that a two day sulk would probably get me to the slipper shortly, so I put on my coat and trailed down the path. I found my car keys before James found his, so I was already in the driving seat when he arrived. We went to the river. I drove too fast and not particularly well: James didn’t say anything, but I could see his knee move in that spasmodic twitch of the passenger treading on a non-existent brake. The river did help. We walked for quite a long way, and eventually James sat down on a bench overlooking the weir and said, “I’ve been thinking, Callum, and I reckon what we need for that information pack is Ross and Jerry.”
“We,” I said nastily, “don’t need anything. I need to ring those people up and cancel. I can’t do the job, and I won’t do the job, and I’m not going to their fun day.”
I saw James’s mouth tighten. He had a very firm grip on his temper, though.
“Callum, be reasonable. They wouldn’t have asked you to go if they didn’t think you could do it. Why would they waste their time? They know that you don’t know much science. They aren’t asking you to be a doctor or a chemist. They’ve got other people to do the technical decisions. The job is to do with keeping the public safe in a crisis and you can do that. All you need is enough knowledge to determine where you can make a decision and where you can’t. Jerry is a physicist, but I bet he knows enough chemistry to be able to tell you what’s important. And Ross is a physiotherapist, so he’ll know some basic medicine, and that’s all they can expect you to know. We’ll give them a call this afternoon and ask if we can go round. I’m sure that between the four of us we can work out what you’re likely to be asked to do.”
“No! I don’t want to! I can’t have a job where I have to refer every decision to a committee!”
“Oh, Callum, stop it! You know they said it was just a test day to see how you react. If you’re properly prepared to make sensible decisions, you’ll come over well, and they’ll train you for anything else they want. Now you’re just being difficult. I know it’s frightening but you can do it.”
“I CAN’T! And I don’t want to! And I won’t be bullied! It’s my job, not yours, and it’s my life, not yours, and I’m not doing it!”
And I got up and stamped back down the tow path, and after a hundred yards I began to run. I’m very fit: I hadn’t had enough to do while I had been unemployed, so I’d been spending a lot of time at the gym, and I covered the two miles back to the car in a very short time. Then I did the thing I’m ashamed of still, even though it was long since paid for. I went home.
I suppose I thought that James would use his mobile to phone for a taxi, and I expected him to appear about half an hour behind me. I knew perfectly well that I was asking for a spanking, but I wasn’t going to agree to it. But after an hour and a half, even my tantrum was beginning to wear off. It’s quite difficult to maintain a tantrum without an audience. I thought that perhaps James hadn’t been able to get a signal on his phone, so I called his mobile number, and the phone rang. In the hall.
I went out and looked round blankly. Then I suddenly realised that the mobile was in James’s raincoat, which he had worn to work the day before. I slid my hand into the pocket, and pulled out first the phone, and then. . . oh fuck. His wallet.
I was going to die. I had abandoned my lover ten miles from home, with neither money nor the means of communication. He was going to slay me. He would leave me, if my luck held. If it didn’t, I wouldn’t be able to sit down until Judgement Day.
Back to the car. Forty minutes frantic driving, because there’s a maze of little back roads out there, and about six ways of getting back to town, and I had no way of working out which one James would have taken. Eventually I came up behind him – he was walking briskly towards home - and pulled in, and opened the door. I took one look at his face and then gazed straight ahead. We went home in absolute silence.
Inside the house, I hung up my coat and went, unbidden and still in silence, to the corner of the living room. James doesn’t send me into the corner often – he says I’m not a child – but occasionally he does, and I had the distinct feeling that this was one of those occasions, and that I didn’t want him to have to speak to me. I was bitterly ashamed of myself. I heard him go into the kitchen, and the click and hiss of the kettle, and I looked at my shoes and shivered. I was in so much trouble! I heard him make tea, and I felt him sit behind me and drink it. That usually means that he is mastering his temper. He won’t punish me in anger. I stood looking at the wallpaper, counting the repeats in the pattern (same number as last time) and wondering what I could expect. Not the cane, probably. James only canes for lying, although always for that. I reckoned it would be the strap or the paddle, and a spanking as well, and I was beginning to wish he would just do it, partly because I couldn’t stand much more of the apprehension, and partly because I knew I had asked for it, when he spoke, quite quietly.
“Did you know I had no phone?”
“Not until about midday.”
“And no money?”
“No. I found your phone and your wallet at the same time. Then I couldn’t find you. I went out past the old aerodrome first, and then round by the swing bridge. I’m really sorry, James.”
“What are you sorry for?”
“Everything! Leaving you, and quarrelling with you, and being horrible since last night, and being a wimp about the job!” I leaned my head against the wall; I didn’t dare turn round.
I went. Not the strap, then: he would have sent me to fetch it, and bent me over the sofa if he had wanted to use the strap. No, it would be the paddle. I pulled out the box which lives under the bed and which contains The Kit. All the Bad Things. I put it on the floor by the bed, and took myself into a corner up there. I wanted James to see that I knew I had been behaving badly, and I was sorry. He left me for no more than five minutes before he came upstairs too.
I went to him where he was sitting on the bed. He pulled me in between his knees, and stripped my jeans and pants down to my calves. I shivered, and he turned me, and pushed. I went down. This was not promising. When he catches me between his knees, it means I’m about to get a real hiding and he braces his right leg against the backs of both of mine to trap me and keep me still. It usually means the paddle. He reached across me and pulled my right hand into the small of my back. That isn’t good either. It means he’s expecting me to struggle. He was clear of the edge of the bed too, so my head was down towards the carpet, not on the mattress, and my backside was lifted right up.
“This is for the tantrum, and for running home. We’ll talk about the job afterwards.”
I was thoroughly trapped. His hand braced mine into my back, his legs braced mine. He would lift the paddle.
But he didn’t. I could see the box, and he hadn’t touched it. It was nothing more terrifying than his palm. He was very thorough, though. I gritted my teeth at first, because I knew that I had deserved this – worse than this, although there might still be worse to come – but the steadily increasing fire in my bottom had the usual result and brought on the usual sound effects: soft ‘ows’ and increasing ‘aahs’ and full blooded yelps and squeals. There was nothing to make me struggle; well, not what you would really call struggling. I squirmed, trying to keep the sorest places away from his hand, although I have never understood the point of it. He can see where it really hurts, and wriggling has no useful effect. It’s just something that I can’t help doing, however many times I tell myself that I won’t. I bucked a bit against the restraining leg, and he tensed his thighs on me, and pulled my hand tighter, and I suddenly felt how closely he was holding me, how strongly he had me enveloped, and I realised that he knew that I felt myself adrift, and he was keeping me anchored. Then I understood the measure of how much he loved me, and that was when I began to cry. I cried silently for a minute or two, and then easily, freely, and that was when he let me up.
“Come on, pet, come here. That’s better.”
I curled against him. He hadn’t really spanked me hard. That wasn’t going to bruise, I could tell from the feel of it. I got both my arms round him and my head against his chest, and whooped one big breath and stopped snivelling. There had to be more to come.
“If you ever do that again, Callum, you won’t sit down comfortably in a month.”
No, that was wrong. The ‘if you ever’ speech comes right at the end. It’s the one that immediately precedes forgiveness, everybody knows that. I had more to come, surely. I had deserved much more than this. But James had me safely in his arms, and his face down in my hair, and although my bottom was blazing, it was bearable.
“Now we’ll talk about the job.”
I stiffened, but James was just holding me. “Come on, jeans.”
I tugged at my clothes. I didn’t understand how this went. I was due something more for being wet about the job, so what was the point of dressing again? James helped, and then pulled me back against him. How can someone so much smaller than me make me feel physically so safe?
“What are you going to do about the job, Callum?”
“You’re going to make me go, aren’t you?”
“No! I can’t make you do anything. Even if I could, I wouldn’t. It’s your job, as you reminded me at the river. Your life. Your decision. I won’t try to make it for you. But I will try to get you to make it rationally.”
I squirmed, ashamed again. “I’m sorry. . .”
“Honey, it is your job, and I do understand that you’re scared of the test day. Really I do. If you absolutely can’t go, then you can’t, and that’s all there is to it. I think you can, though, and I think that if you talk to me about what scares you, you’ll get it into perspective. Then you can make an intelligent decision, and even if I disagree with it, it’s your decision and we’ll live with it. Talk to me.”
“I can’t understand the information pack. I don’t have the background knowledge for it. If that’s the sort of thing they do, I can’t do it. I don’t mean I won’t, Jay, I mean I actually can’t because I don’t know how. So I’m going to make a fool of myself.”
“O.K. I see that you don’t understand it. But they knew that you have no qualifications above GCSE, and they asked you to come anyway, so they obviously think it’s worth letting you try. You’ve got enough time to do some research for the test day, to show some initiative in finding out, and if they take it further you can say that you haven’t got the background knowledge that you think they need and what do they want to do about it. If you show that you can do your own job well, then even if the rest of it goes wrong, you can walk away and just let it go.”
“Oh, I know you’re right, really. I just think I’m going to end up looking stupid. I’m scared of making a fool of myself in front of all those people.”
“Yes. Scary. But you’ve faced scary things before. How bad can it be? I know I said we wouldn’t have to talk about it again, but if you cast your mind back to the point at which you were made redundant, you earned yourself two dozen with the cane, didn’t you?” I had. Although Jay hadn’t given them to me. “And you admitted it, and you were prepared to let me do it, weren’t you?” I had been prepared to try; I wasn’t at all sure that I would have managed it. “So you don’t lack courage. These are people you’ll never have to see again if you fail. I just think that if you don’t go, you’ll be diminished in your own eyes and you’ll never try so high again.”
“And in your eyes too.”
“That doesn’t come into it. I will not love you less if you tell me that you have thought about this and you really can’t do it, or if you try and fail.”
We just sat, then, for ages. He said no more, he just held me, and I listened to his heartbeat, and eventually I looked up and gave him a rather feeble smile, and said, “I’ll call Jerry and Ross, and I’ll go. It’s one day. I can manage one day. Even if it’s awful, I won’t die of embarrassment.”
It was worth it, just to see him smile.
“When you get nearly home, send me a text message and I’ll pick you up from the station. Have you got your mobile? Is it charged? Have you got your information pack? And those notes that you and Jerry made?”
“Yes, mother, and a clean handkerchief, and sixpence for the collection, and I’ve washed behind my ears and polished my shoes.”
I got a slap to see me off.
“Callum? How did it go?”
“Oh, God, Jay, I am so tired I can hardly stand up.”
“Have you had anything to eat?”
“Yes. I missed a train by ten minutes so I had time for something at the station.”
“How was the day?”
“I haven’t the least idea. Lots of the others knew more about the technical stuff than me, but I don’t think anybody knew any more than me about how to make the public behave sensibly and not like sheep. They gave us a whole lot of scenarios to deal with, and I think I tended to over-react – I said I would have called out the Territorials once – but I don’t really know. When we had to justify what we had done, I just said that I thought it was safer to over-react than not to do enough, and if that’s wrong, too bad. I had to wing an awful lot of it. They asked us at one point how to judge where the centre of a chlorine cloud was, and all the others seemed to know how to recognise it, but all I could think of was that it would be where the calls for ambulances were coming from, for breathing difficulties, you know? Oh hell, Jay, I don’t know how it went, but I did my best.”
“Good enough, then. That’s all you can do. What about a bath and a glass of wine, and early bed?”
“Oh yes. Jay? I’m glad you made me go.”
“I didn’t, love. You made yourself go. Go on up, and I’ll bring you your wine. Want me to wash your back?”
“I want lots of things, but I think I might be too tired.”
The bath was great, and I had never realised how pleasurable it can be to have someone else wash your hair, but I was so tired! “Callum, don’t go to sleep in the water, I’m not strong enough to lift you out. Come on, I’ll dry you.” Please could I go to bed? I wanted to make love, too, just to show Jay how much I appreciated the way he took care of me, and how much I loved him. I felt myself pushed into the bedroom, and tucked into bed, and woke enough to whine at being left, and presently Jay’s lovely comforting warmth settled in bed beside me. I reached for him and tried to rouse enough to do any of the things I knew he liked, but he hushed me and held my hands. I whined again, and then he began to stroke me, my chest, and back, and then other places, very gently. I would just let him do that for a moment before I returned the favour, just for a moment, and then, and then, ah, and then, ah yes, yes please, oh yes, how did he learn to be so GOOD at that, oh yes, oh yes, OH YES! And as soon as I’d got my breath back, I would naturally want to do the same to him, only somehow I was asleep, with my head on his shoulder, and no doubt at all that I was utterly safe with him, and totally and undeservedly loved.
“Jay? I’m more in a mess than ever, now. They’ve offered me the job.”
“Really? Wonderful! Why is this a mess?”
“See for yourself. The job’s great, I mean, look at the salary! But they want me to do day release at the college as well.”
“Why is that a problem?”
“They want me to do A level chemistry and biology, and a computing course, all over three years. And they’ve said they’ll pay for it, but if I don’t stay in the job, I have to pay back the cost. I see what they’re after, because apparently they have to pay for all three years up front, and I suppose it’s fair, but it’s a lot of money if I find I can’t hack the job, or I can’t manage the courses.”
“About six grand.”
“We can find that. Take the job.”
“How can we find it?”
“Twit. I showed you this before. You’ve still got your termination package, haven’t you, so we can put it in a deposit account if you want, marked ‘Callum’s opt out fund’. We can scramble together another three thousand if we have to. Even if we don’t have it in cash, we can lay hand on it easily enough. Sell some shares, save up, put it on the mortgage, whatever.”
“You said you didn’t want to sell shares with the market the way it is.”
“I won’t have to. By the time you think you can’t stand it, the market might be on the up again.”
“I don’t like it. If I had the money I might risk it, but. . .”
“Callum, I’m not having this quarrel with you again. It isn’t your money or my money, it’s our money. We’ve got enough to take a risk. If nothing else, we can sell the MG.”
“No! You aren’t selling your car!” It’s his project. He bought an old MG Roadster, and he has been restoring it for as long as we’ve been together. Last summer was the first time he got it on the road. He’s got what I call a real car too, but the MG is his toy.
“What’s mine is yours, you know that. I think we could lay hand on three thousand without too much trouble if we had to, but the car would sell in two weeks and even for a quick sale it would go for more than that.”
“No. I’m not having you sell your car.”
“Hello? I haven’t had to sell our car. If you finish the course, I don’t have to. If we put the money on the mortgage I don’t have to. If you work a year and save up, I don’t have to. If we win the lottery, I don’t have to. Even if we did sell it, they aren’t rare. I could get another one later. Stop getting into a state about something that probably won’t happen. If things are really bad, your dad or your step-dad would lend us the money. Honestly, Callum, we can afford it. Live dangerously. Take a chance. Do I have to tell again that you can trust me to look after you, as much as I trust you to look after me?”
“I’m not having you sell your car!”
“Callum, it’s our car and we can sell it if we need to. If we want to build the kitchen extension the car will have to go. If we want to move upmarket the car will have to go. This isn’t different.”
“It is! Those are things that you get the good of! You can’t sell your car to pay for me to get a new job!”
“And I don’t get the good of it if you’re happy? If you have a new job which is much, much better than any you’ve ever had before? Better paid, more stretching, higher powered, more fulfilling?”
“But it’s your car!”
“Enough. I’ve had enough of this. I’ve been reasonable about your redundancy, and I’ve been reasonable about your neuroses and insecurities, and I’ve been reasonable about your interviews and I’m not going to be reasonable any more. Now I’m going to be Top and you’re going to do as you’re told. Go out to the garage and wait for me.”
What on earth for? The tone was the same as the “Go upstairs and wait” that presages a hot backside, but why in the garage? I wandered out through the kitchen and into the garage, turning on the light. I looked at the MG. The MG looked back at me. Then I leaned on the tumble dryer and waited. “Oh, no, James. . .” He had the hairbrush in his hand.
“Trousers down, Callum. Shorts too. Now, bend over and put your hands on the bumper.”
Chrome bumper. We had spent a whole weekend fitting it. It was unpleasantly close to the ground. “Get your nose down to the paintwork.” My paintwork: I had done the respray as a birthday present for him one year while he was away at a book fair.
Actually, I suddenly didn’t have a problem with him selling the car. I hated that car. I don’t fit in it, and if he wants me to help him work on it, we have to take the bonnet right off, because I’m too big to get under it. I quite enjoyed going out in it in the summer, with the top down, but when you’re bent over, kissing the bodywork with your backside bare, the car stops feeling like a friend.
“Whose car is it?”
“Yours, James.” SMACK! “Ow!”
“It’s our car, Callum. Whose is it?”
“It isn’t ours, it’s yours!” SMACK! “Ow!”
“No, it isn’t. It’s our car. Whose is it?”
“Better. Now, can we sell our car if we want to?”
“Not to pay for my job!” SMACK! “Ow!”
“Yes, we can. Can we sell the car?”
“I just don’t think it’s right!” SMACK! “Ow!”
“It is right. Can we sell the car?”
“You can sell your car if you want to.” SMACK! “Ow!”
“Wrong answer, Callum. Back to the beginning. Whose car is it?”
“Can we sell it?”
“Can we use it to pay for your education?”
“I don’t think we ought to!” SMACK! “Ow!”
“You really are very slow, you know. I hope you do better than this at college. Whose car is it?”
“Can we sell it if we want to?”
“If we sold it, could we pay for Callum’s education with the money?”
“Have we finished having this argument yet?”
“Are you taking the job and going to college?”
“Do I need to spank you any more?”
“No, thank you, James.”
“Who’s the Top in this house?”
“Well. . .” SMACK! SMACK! “Owww-uh! You’re Top, James!”
Sometimes it’s just right to give in.
He doesn’t always get his own way, though. He may be Top, but he doesn’t always win. The company sent me all the details of my contract and so on, and the suggestion that if I would like to call Alison in Human Resources, she would take my bank details and make all the arrangements. She wanted a good deal more than bank details, and told me why. “Fine, Callum, that’ll be with you by the end of this week, and we’ll see you on Monday. We’re looking forward to it.”
I opened my mouth to tell James what Alison had said, and then thought better of it. The occasional deception by omission is permissible, I thought. Friday night would be a better time to fill James in.
James was sitting on the sofa with a glass of wine on Friday evening when I opened the subject of the new job again.
“I’m really nervous, Jay. I’ve been out of work for months now, and I feel horribly out of practice. Can I practise some stuff on you?”
“Whatever you like, pet. What do you want to do?”
“I’ll show you. I won’t be a minute.”
And with that I slid upstairs to put on the nice slate grey uniform that Alison had sent me: Jay has gone over at the knees for me in uniform since the first time he saw me wearing one. He was reading the paper when I came down again, so I just lounged in the doorway looking insolent until he glanced up. Then he made a noise like Donald Duck. Very gratifying.
“I’m not sure that I can remember how to search someone, Jay. Can you just stand up for me? Legs apart, please. Thank you, sir, that’s lovely. Sorry, does that tickle? You realise, sir, that if you don’t co-operate, I may find it necessary to carry out a complete strip search? Please don’t struggle, sir, I’m much bigger than you.”
I searched bits of James that don’t normally see the light of day, and he giggled, and struggled, and generally failed to co-operate, until I hoisted him over my shoulder and carried him upstairs. “I have reason to believe, sir, that you have a concealed weapon. . .” See, the old jokes are the best! So I looked for that, and Jay failed to co-operate again, which was how he ended up stripped and bent over the dressing table, with his wrists handcuffed together behind the mirror struts. “I’m afraid, sir, that if you really won’t help me with my enquiries, I shall have to take matters further.”
He grinned back at my reflection in mock fear. “Oh, Callum, not the rubber glove!”
“Not precisely, sir, no. Not exactly. Not a glove.”
I got the Donald Duck noise from him again, and it was extremely edifying being able to see in the mirror exactly what his responses were. I stopped half way and made him guess what precisely I had got on under the uniform – not difficult, but he wasn’t at his best and sharpest.
He may be Top, but in an emergency, the security man’s in charge.
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© , 2005