I am careful, you understand, in what I repeat to Phil from Board meetings and the like, but the Board’s policy is that a summary of the minutes shall be treated as a semi-public document, available to all members of the club. So it was that the synopsis of the meeting in which we had discussed cheerleaders was pinned to the noticeboard in the dressing room, and as we were going home, Phil commented on it.
“We’re not to have them, then?”
“No,” I agreed with some satisfaction, “we are not. And are your team mates disappointed?”
“Actually, I don’t think they are,” he said thoughtfully. “Mark claims to be, but I think that’s just him protecting his reputation as a stud, I don’t think he actually cares one way or the other. A couple of the guys were quite strongly against, in fact.”
“On what grounds?”
He thought for a moment. “A mix of ‘it’s too vulgar for rugby’ and ‘it’s not pc’. Oh, and a side order of ‘rugby doesn’t want women on the pitch’. I think they thought that would be your line.”
(Actually, I had commented on that in the meeting. “I have no objection to women on the pitch,” I had said, with as much composure as I could manage. “But let them be playing the game, not throwing each other into the air and shaking” and I allowed my contempt to show, “pompoms. I cannot believe that we will bring in female fans by displays of pulchritude.”
“Although perhaps a display from, say, Cartwright and the Saint-Cyr boy. . .” muttered Ms St George, sufficiently softly that although I heard her, and Alicia Driscoll snorted, Sir John did not quite catch the remark.)
“Well, we are not to have them, in any event,” I confirmed. “Although I had to give way over the matter of the mascot. That is to be made permanent.”
“Oh bugger, it’s not, is it?” asked Phil crossly. “Whose bloody stupid idea was that?”
I did not tell him – he had not seriously expected me to; I was not surprised that he loathed Gary the Gryphon. I pretend that I do not hear what my team calls it: the name is not politically correct, and they are careful not to use it where anyone outside the dressing room might notice. Ach, I am not entirely against it, and as I told Phil, I said so after the Board Meeting, when Margaret was teasing me about having had to accept it.
“For the primary schools visits and so on, and the family days, there is no harm in the thing. The upper school boys sneer at it, and I confess I do not like to see it on Premiership days, but there, we have it and we must make the best of it. And it does have its uses.”
Alicia Driscoll stared at me. “That’s a change of tune, Pieter. You hadn’t a good word to say about it when Sir John suggested it.”
“Ah, but that was before I discovered its value as a disciplinary tool.”
Margaret St George put her coffee cup down. “Go on: I’ll buy it.”
“I have almost no trouble in the dressing room since I made it plain to my players that the man who annoys me on Thursday will find himself dressed as a cuddly gryphon and waving at the crowd on Saturday. They thought it was an empty threat until that boy Jake from the Seconds had to do it.”
“He was ferociously pissed off about it,” remembered Phil, when I told him this. “That’s just like you, actually, to take something you don’t want and use it to get something you do want. Tell me, does that come naturally to you? Is it genetic, or did you have to learn?”
“Learn what, koekie?”
“To be so bloody sneaky? Such a master manipulator? Did you get your own way even in your cradle, without anybody ever realising that you were doing it?”
“You have met my mother, koekie: what do you think? No, it did not come naturally, except that both my parents are intelligent people who knew that there are more ways to kill a cat than drowning it in cream, as you say. No, I had to learn.”
“I can’t imagine that,” he said thoughtfully. “I can’t imagine you not knowing how to get people to do what you want. When did it start?”
I thought about it. “Sixteen? Seventeen?”
My school was a large private one, not well known, not particularly well funded, a little above average in its capabilities. Old-fashioned and run on European lines, or what we thought were European lines – I think you might say that they were the lines of some twenty years earlier, designed to turn us into gentlemen, and to a great degree, to fit us for the army. We had a band of prefects from our last two years: Cadet and Senior Cadet, we called the classes – preparation for the army, as I say. The school captain was always a Senior Cadet and his deputy from the Cadet year and the same applied to the sports captain. Then the next year, the deputy would be promoted to the captaincy and a new deputy would be chosen from the new Cadet year. I was to be deputy sports captain, and the captain was to be a boy called Roodt, a down to earth, sensible type, with whom I thought I would get on well.
But the first day in – all the prefects were called in a day early to help with getting organised for the first day of the school year – the senior sports master called me to his office.
“Well, de Vries, you are in luck, or possibly not.”
“Roodt is not coming back this year; his father’s employer has sent him to Europe and the family has gone with him.”
I absorbed this. “So. . .?”
“So I have spoken to the headmaster, and we have agreed that this year, you shall be captain in your own right, and you must manage without a deputy. There is nobody in the Senior Cadet year who is better suited, and we think it might make difficulties. . . well, never mind.”
Actually, I could see that. If they promoted another member of the Senior Cadet, he would always be seen as ‘second best to Roodt’; if they made another member of my year into deputy, then he would expect to be captain next year – and so would I.
I pondered. “But if there is normally enough work for two? And Meneer Jacobs, I do not know the work. I am not unwilling, not at all,” I added hastily, “but I am not very clear on what exactly my duties are.”
The extent of them was terrifying; I was advised that I must be prepared to delegate to a prefect without specific responsibilities or to a junior boy. I should take on the major duties myself and not lose myself in the detail. To that end, I could have the use of a desk in his room, on the understanding that I could come and go as I pleased in my free periods except when he had the ‘occupied’ sign on the door. And that was a help; his office opened both onto the corridor and into the senior changing room and was large enough that I could have some space without feeling that I was in his way, and in any event, he rarely used it, preferring the staff room for his paperwork.
So I managed for the first three weeks to combine my studies and my duties, and although I felt always that I succeeded by the scraping of my nails – by the skin of my teeth, you would say – nonetheless, succeed I did.
Until Meneer Jacobs sent me my first list of defaulters.
Ach, I had known it would come. There was an element of compulsory sport within school hours and then there were after school games, and every boy must attend after school on at least one afternoon. Those days were organised, the juniors at one time and the seniors at another and then matches and team practices and so on were fitted in around them, and managing a timetable for those was a part of my responsibility which was already causing me sleepless nights. But a boy who missed his afternoon without due permission was adjudged a defaulter, and subject to a caning from the sports captain: three strokes for a junior boy, six for a senior.
Well, but it was a short list: one name only. Marais had been told to report to me in the senior changing room at the end of afternoon school, and I had been informed that I was to beat Marais, and frankly I could not tell you which of us was more apprehensive about it. Meneer Jacobs was for once at his desk when I arrived, and concentrating on some team list; he glanced up as I came in.
“Know the drill? The cane’s on the back of the changing room door; the little tick’s waiting for you.”
I nodded and went through before my nerve could fail me. I had no recollection of seeing Marais before, although I must have done; he was 13 or so and small for his age, and plainly nervous, but it was for my own nerves and not his that I hurried to the core of the business.
“Missing from games yesterday, Marais? Any excuse?”
He shook his head mutely. I lifted down the cane.
“Bend over. Hands on the bench there. Three.”
He did as he was told; I measured the cane across the narrow hips and swiped him briskly three times. He flinched, but he did not move otherwise or make a sound, until I said, “Well done. Get up. Now go, don’t let me see you here again.” He stood up rather stiffly, and his breath, which he had been holding, rushed out of him. “Go on, go.”
He fled, still without a word, and I turned, to see Meneer Jacobs watching.
“First time? Not bad. You could go a little harder – not much with the juniors, more wrist rather than a harder swing – and a deal slower. Let them feel the good of the experience. Still, he’ll know he had those.”
I lifted a trembling hand. “I think I am more upset by it than he was.”
“Oh, first night nerves. By half term you’ll have forgotten it. Right, I’m off, make sure you lock the door after you. . .” and I realised he had stayed only to see that I had known – more or less – what I was doing with the cane, all my previous experience having been from the other end, so to speak.
He was right, of course; by half term I had caned another eight or nine boys, all defaulters. Marais had come back for a second helping, this time with a friend, but I thought nothing in particular of that, although when I saw him again in the last week of term I was not pleased, and I told him so. The Easter break – remember, our year begins in January, not in September as your schools here – was a relief to me, and I struggled with the winter schedules all through it.
First week back and there was Marais again. This time, I was a little more severe. Ach, not to be cruel. He was only allowed three and three I gave him, but I ticked him off thoroughly first, and I took my time and made them sting. I wondered about him after: he plainly dreaded coming to me, and yet he skipped his sport one week in four! The boy had no skill at any of the school sports, and obviously even less by way of inclination. Well, I had actually more sympathy for that than I think he might have imagined. I had, two years previously, been very soundly punished by my form tutor for cutting two consecutive music classes, music being something about which I felt the way Marais evidently felt about rugby and cricket.
These days, of course, I would know within a week what the boy was doing; then – then I was 17 and it took me a term and a half, and some luck. I overheard his form tutor discussing him with another member of staff, from which I learned that the boy was very intelligent; from his form prefect I learned that he had until this year not fitted in well, but that suddenly he seemed to have standing among his peers, and well, I was young but I was not so young that I could not put two and two together. Indeed, my youth was probably an advantage: I was not so far past 13 myself to have forgotten how a 13 year old thinks. I was by then on such terms with Meneer Jacobs that I could go to him unofficially, and tell him what I believed, and how I thought I could deal with it without making an unpleasantness that might go on the boy’s school record and be held against him later, and he laughed and was pleased to approve.
And then I waited for young master Marais to turn up again on the list of defaulters. When he did, there were two other boys with him; tradition was to take the youngest first and let the older boys sweat with apprehension for an extra few moments, but this time I called Scheepers for his three, and then van Halter for his six, and let Marais wait. I gave him a full five minutes after van Halter left before I called him into the changing room.
He was indeed intelligent: he was quite bright enough to discover that something had altered although he was not certain what it was, but he changed colour when I held the cane out to him.
“Hang that on the door, and come back here.”
He did as he was told, uneasily; I sat down on the bench and stretched my legs out in front of me, and regarded him steadily. That was the first time I used my size deliberately to daunt: I was nearly as tall then as I am now, although I was much slighter; he was a slender boy, and short.
“I think, Meneer Marais, that I have had enough of your tricks.”
He opened his mouth to deny everything, but I held up my hand.
“No. I know what it is. You hate organised sport; well, so that is not so important.” He was shocked at that; it was not something he expected to hear from his captain of sport. “So you skip a session, and you are reported to de Vries, and he beats you, and that is unpleasant, but it is bearable, once in a while. But suddenly you find that the boys of your year, they are a little more interested, a little more accepting. Now why is that, Marais? Is that because you have broken the rules? Because you have a set of stripes from de Vries to show off?” He gave that foolish wriggle which a boy does when he is caught squarely in the spotlight. “Yes, I see. Marais is tough enough to take his licking from de Vries, and so he becomes one of the big names in his year; he skips his sport, he gets his caning and he grows in the eyes of his friends. Two pluses and only one minus. I am well aware” (actually, Meneer Jacobs had told me: I had no access to such information) “that you are not in general a troublemaker: you have not been caned at school other than by me, have you? So maybe you have until recently been seen as Mamma’s good boy?”
His gaze was set on the floor. I sharpened my tone a little. “Personally, Marais, I care not at all whether you play football or cricket or anything else. However, afternoon sport counts on your timetable as a class, and if you miss it consistently, we are talking truancy, are we not? What do you think will happen when the headmaster finds out? When somebody other than me notices that I am beating you once a month for absence? Do you think the headmaster will let you off with three strokes?”
He shook his head, wordless, and beginning to be frightened.
“So you will not do it again. The next time your name comes on my sheet, I report you myself, for truancy, do you understand me?”
He nodded, and then mustered his courage to look me in the eye and squeak, “Yes, de Vries.”
“Good. Then we deal with this week’s absence.”
His eyes turned involuntarily towards the hook on the door where he had replaced the cane but I shook my head.
“No. You have been using me and I do not care for that, so this will not be something you are anxious to tell your friends. Over there, on the windowsill, there is a takkie; bring it here.”
He opened his mouth and for a moment I thought he was going to beg or argue, I could not say which, but he bit it back and turned away. He must, I think, have seen the effect of the takkie – it was commonplace when we swam that the slowest to dress would be ‘encouraged’ by a whack with an old tennis shoe on a wet backside. It was not serious, it left no lasting marks, but it stung like the very devil, and it must have been only too plain that I intended nothing he would enjoy. Still, he brought me the thing bravely enough, and did not struggle when I guided him across my lap. Indeed, he simply braced his hands on the floor and lay still, although his spine was rigid with indignation and humiliation.
And that, cruel though it sounds, was what I was after. He had learned, from me although the teaching was none of my intention, that he was physically braver than he had thought. Now he needed to learn that he could not take advantage of me to avoid the class he disliked. I slippered him until he could lie still no longer, until he squirmed and until I heard a small sound of distress – actually, it did not take long, eight or ten only. Then I hauled him to his feet and took him by the shoulders. He was struggling not to cry, I could see, although I suspected that was not pain but the shame of having been treated as a small boy, and the takkie had achieved what the cane could not, his hands going behind him to squeeze and rub the sting away. I waited until he gave a gulp and controlled himself.
“Now, I will offer you a deal. You may go out of here – we are done – and you will attend your football or whatever it is one day a week. And you will attend it, for if you do not, I promise you that I will go to your form tutor, but if you go each week, then I will take no more notice of this. Or you may come here, two afternoons every month, and I will excuse you from your sport those days, and in exchange, you will work for me.”
“Doing what?” he asked, his voice still unsteady.
“Whatever I need. Photostatting. Running my errands. Arranging the sport noticeboard. Tidying up the equipment store. It will not be particularly interesting, but you will be excused your sport, every second week.”
He could not decide. He hated me, for I had spanked him like a child; he hated football. His plan had crashed around him but he was not certain that what I offered him was worth facing me regularly, since I was the thief of his dignity. His lip trembled and I had some unwilling sympathy.
“Come next week and I will show you the sort of thing I would have you do, and if you do not care for it, then you may say no to me. Will you do that?”
He nodded once, and I took my hands off his shoulders. “Then you may go.” He got to the door before I thought to add, “I will mark the defaulters list that you were caned; nobody will know anything different from me.” I did not know why I said that, except that he had not denied his fault and he had not tried to avoid his punishment. But he would have no hero’s marks in the morning to show his friends.
The tale had carried us through our journey home; Phil followed me upstairs and kicked his shoes off, curling on the bed to watch me while I hung up my jacket and put away my tie.
“And did he come? Bloody typical. Give you a defaulter and you turn him into a fag.”
I was shocked. “Oh no, koekie, nothing like that. I was beginning to know that I was not as the other boys, but I had no interest in a child. . .” but Phil was shaking his head.
“I didn’t mean that. I mean, you were a prefect and you had a junior boy to fetch and carry for you.”
“Ah, that. Is that what it is called in England? We had a different name for it, I forget what, and it was not common other than at the boarding schools. It was not a tradition at my school. . . I did notice, mind you, that when Marais was with me, various members of the staff tended to drop in unannounced. I learned to leave the door open when we were in the office together. There was a suspicion of what were called ‘inappropriate friendships’. But yes, he came, and he stayed.”
“Just like Gary the Sodding Gryphon. Take a problem and make it into an asset,” murmured Phil.
I came to sit on the bed beside him. “Making use of all the available materials, Phil. And I worked that boy! He was useful. At first he did my dirty work – he tidied my papers, he sorted out cupboards, he made lists. Then I started on the timetabling for summer matches. . . You know, Phil, nowadays we have computer programs for that, and there are training courses which go on for weeks to teach people how to draw up a timetable for a large number of people attending a large number of events. Then we did it with a pencil and an eraser and many, many sheets of graph paper, and we invented the technique as we went along, as the sports captains before us had invented it. Well, no, perhaps that is not true. Ideally, Roodt would have taught me, as Castries had taught Roodt. But I sweated over it until the day I taped all my sheets together and laid them out on the gymnasium floor and Marais and I wrote all the team members on cards, and we crawled about putting cards on papers to see who could not be in two places at once. And then suddenly Marais was enjoying himself! The next time he explained to me some system he had dreamed up which involved yellow cards for the cricket and green cards for athletics and blue cards for swimming – he explained it twice and I understood only half of it – and then he explained it to Meneer Jacobs, who did not understand either, but we went to Meneer Stuijt who taught mathematics, and he did understand, and said it would work, so Mevrou Allan in the office ordered us every colour of index card in her catalogue, and I, with absolutely no regret, handed over the scheduling of school matches to a junior boy. I think I never managed in two years to convince Marais that there was anything enjoyable in organised sport except the organisation – and he was good at that.”
“And did he go to his compulsory classes?”
“Fersure. Which was all that I had intended – that he should not cut his classes without permission. I had half expected that he would be bored enough with filing that he would go back to football. I wonder what happened to him?”
Phil stretched out. “And that was how Viper de Vries learned. . .”
“. . . that I could get more by subtlety than by force, yes.” I pondered; I had not thought of Marais for years – I did not, I realised, even know his first name. “It was not all I learned, though. It was that same year – and indeed, through the defaulters list again now I think of it – that I learned, indirectly, that there was a down-side to power. That it had costs as well as rewards.”
He turned on his side to look at me, and then eased over to pull me flat and to rest his head on my shoulder. “Tell me?”
de Villiers is not an uncommon name and Johannes de Villiers no more so. I knew of four boys so named in the school, two of them in the same class, so when the name turned up on my list, I assumed it was one of the younger ones. Hence my surprise when the door to the changing room opened and my friend JD came in. He was actually older than me, from the Senior Cadet year, but he was on the rugby team with me, and we knew each other well enough to pair up for training exercises and so forth. I stared at him for a moment, with a growing unease of embarrassment: I had not so far been called upon to discipline any of my own circle, nor any boy from the year above my own. I confess I did not know what to say for a moment – all that occurred to me was to carry on as fast as possible, in an extremely business-like way, to get the whole thing over.
“Jacobs has you on the list.”
He grinned at me conspiratorially. “’Fraid so, de Vries. My girlfriend. . . well, the less said about that the better. And you know it’s not my habit to cut games, but. . .”
“Well, your choice,” I said doubtfully, and turned to fetch the cane from the door.
“Oh, there’s no need for that, is there?”
I looked back in some surprise.
“I mean, between members of the Firsts?”
Frankly I was not sure that I knew what he meant, or rather, I thought I did know but I did not like it. I – well, I cannot claim that I Looked at him, I did not know how, but I certainly looked at him.
“I won’t tell anybody, don’t worry. After all, it’s. . . oh, I suppose you wouldn’t know, would you, you’re only a Cadet. You should have learned this from Roodt this year when it was his job.”
That sounded just a fraction patronising and I felt my hackles rise. “What should I have learned from Roodt?”
“Well, the way things work, old man. I mean, this sort of thing, it’s O.K. for the babies, and I suppose it does no harm in the middle school, but we’re a bit past that, aren’t we? We have to keep up appearances, of course, that’s why I’m here – name on the list, show my face, wait a decent time, push off again. Wouldn’t do to have the juniors thinking that they can skip games, would it? But that’s why the Fifteen and the Eleven and so on always go last after the little ones. They see us waiting and think that we’re to be whacked too, set a good example. No, of course, you weren’t to know; I dare say Roodt would have told you.”
I looked at him for a moment. “You tell me Roodt knew about this?” It is not pleasant to find that someone you admire is not worthy of the admiration; I felt an ache in my stomach at Roodt being – corrupt is too strong a word.
“Ach, didn’t really apply, I suppose. Castries was captain, so the list went to him, of course. Roodt didn’t come into it. But Castries would have let him know and in due course he would have told you, I suppose. It’s not a big deal, de Vries. Just a school tradition.”
“Just a school tradition,” I repeated. I was loath to judge Roodt; I had known little of Castries, so I could not say whether this was truth or lie, but. . . “Well, you know, de Villiers, I think we shall start another school tradition, by which there is not one law for the riff-raff and one law for the Fifteen. My instructions are that any boy on the list is to be caned, so I shall stick to that, if you don’t mind. Just put your hands on the bench, and we’ll get on.”
He looked at me – actually as if I were using a language he did not know. “Oh, come on, old man! I mean, between ourselves, within the Fifteen. . .”
“I am sports captain before I am a member of the Fifteen, de Villiers. Hands on the bench, please.”
“Oh for God’s sake, man!”
My temper frayed a little; I had not the control I do now. “Listen, de Villiers: if you do not do as you are told, I will say that you are refusing due punishment and we can take this to Jac. . . to Meneer Jacobs. And then if he tells me that such is the tradition, I will beg your pardon, but nobody has told me about it, and I am not sure that I believe it, or even if it is true, I am not sure I approve of it.” I swallowed. That had sounded rather. . . precious – but I cared about my school and I was still very young, and corruption hurts the young disproportionately. “But if he does not confirm your story. . .”
If he did not confirm it, then we both knew quite well what would come of it. Refusing due punishment was a serious offence and would result in the matter going to the Prinsipaal. I had heard of it only once in all my time at school, and then it had ended in the boy being beaten for his original fault, and then later being thrashed severely by the headmaster for the refusal. By the standards of the time, ours was not a strict school, although it would seem so nowadays, and here in another country; consider that although I at 17 was authorised to beat another boy, I was limited to 6 strokes at most, and I had to account for myself every time I did it. But it was a matter of pride among us, that although we would – naturally! – avoid punishment where we could, when we were caught in wrongdoing we took what was coming with a good grace.
Well, the code of a schoolboy, in those days. . .
But de Villiers glared at me, and I thought with some discomfort that I had lost a friend. He faced me down for as long as he dared, and then he turned his back sullenly and bent over with his hands placed as I had instructed. I picked up the cane; my own hands were shaking. With the juniors I had fallen into the habit of asking “Ready?” to give them some warning, but I could not trust my voice; I tapped once for range and then cracked the cane across his backside. There was no response, not to any of the six strokes, and I vacillated between wanting to lay them on harder than normal, for my dismay and disillusionment, and trying desperately to be fair, to beat him no harder than I would have done another boy. When we were done, he rose, unbidden, and I held out my hand to him in wordless. . . not apology, for I did not regret what I had done, but appeal perhaps. His glance was withering and he knocked my hand aside and strode from the room.
I worried about it for several weeks, although never did I see what other way I could have managed things. No other boy from the Senior Cadet or Cadet years came before me; whether de Villiers had been lying or not I could never decide, and I never found anyone I was prepared to ask. It was true though: he was no longer my friend, and I think he must have spoken to some others, for I had some difficulty with. . . ach, with petty things. With my kit wandering if I did not secure my locker, and with messages going astray. Not for long. By the end of my second term, I think it was accepted that if de Vries were not the best sports captain the school had ever known, he was at least competent – and I believe the story may have leaked after all, for my reputation with the younger boys was for being fair.
But it was a sharp and unwelcome lesson nevertheless: that duty may have to outweigh liking. I think my lesson may have hurt me as much as de Villiers’ hurt him.
He pushed his head into my shoulder like a cat seeking attention. “Poor Piet,” he said. “Life’s a bitch.”
“And then you die,” I agree. “It was a long time ago, koekie. I was only a lanky teenager who could fuck up his relationships through stupidity. Nowadays I am the all-knowing, all-powerful Alpha Top who can fuck up his relationships through stupidity.”
“Nothing’s fucked,” he said with conviction. “You know it’s not. We’re all good.”
I smiled. “Indeed we are. I was not serious, hart. And probably I was no more foolish than any other boy of 17, filled with hormones and self-doubt.”
“I can’t even picture you at that age.”
“Can you not? I was thin; Meneer Jacobs despaired of getting my body to bulk up enough for my height, and my mother used to complain that I was composed entirely of elbows and knees and nose. It was another year before I broadened properly. They need not have feared for Marais’ moral wellbeing – even had I been inclined to such behaviour, I cannot imagine any boy being attracted to me.”
“Not inclined? Not even if I were to put on my good grey trousers and my team blazer and tie, and report to my captain of sport for skipping games?”
I thought about it. “It is a very common fantasy, koekie, but not mine. I never found it pleasurable to cane the other pupils. I think if you were to put on your grey trousers and a tie, I would simply think ‘Phil looks well’, not ‘here is a naughty schoolboy’.” I stopped to consider. “Although if you would care to play so on your own account. . .”
“Not my thing either,” he said comfortably.
“You do not want the strict master who has caught you in wrongdoing?”
“Not that sort of master.”
I rolled over to get above him. “What sort of master, then?”
“Oooh, you know. . .”
“The master who owns you? The master who may punish you for wrongdoing or simply in order that your body may show the marks of his ownership? The master who may take his own pleasure with no consideration for yours? Because you belong to him?”
He was trembling already. I moved back to free him and reached to the bedside table for my old gloves. “Strip, you. And quickly.”
And after, with his chest still heaving and my weight still half on him – he loves that, to feel me behind him from his neck to his knees – I thought back to what had started all this, and mourned, not very seriously, “Good grief, Phil, that is even less correct than cheerleaders shaking pompoms. To suggest that you are my possession. . . that you belong to me...”
He yawned. “Not at all. We know it’s true; I belong to you. What’s un-pc about that?”
“Ownership of another human being, hart?”
Another yawn, in danger of cracking his jaw. “Phil belongs to Piet. Who does Piet belong to?”
“True enough,” I agreed. “Piet belongs to Phil.”
“Well, shake a pompom over that. Shout it to the back of the stand. Or if those don’t appeal, we can just keep it to ourselves, provided you tell me, regularly.”
“Daily, koekie. Daily. Piet belongs to Phil, Phil belongs to Piet. Every single day.”
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