Black and Blue

There was a feel of Spring in the air at last. I had had the day off, and had been painting the little room we used as an office because we had decided it was just too small to be a useful fourth bedroom. Now, with a final coat of Barley Crush drying on the walls I was leaning on the sill of the open window looking across the fields of Turner’s Farm towards the brook and Sillman’s Wood. The westering sun was still warm, turning my off-white walls to something more like pink, and I felt pleasantly tired and full of good accomplishment.

The front door banged and I heard the little jangle of Hansie throwing his car keys onto the table in the hall.


“Up here.” The stairs creaked protestingly as he climbed them. I didn’t turn round. I was quite well aware that standing like this projected a nicely taut bottom through my overalls. He went into our bedroom, presumably to put his jacket away as I heard the wardrobe open, before making his way to the box room.

“Lovely day, wasn’t it?” I remarked to the open window.

He grunted. “Lovely for some.”

Something in his voice made me turn straight away, concerned, and then check as I saw the cane in his hand.

“Hansie? What – what’s wrong?” What have I done now?

He laughed sourly.

“I am. I am wrong. Ach, Tim, I am a fool and you must punish me for it. Cane me good, man. I deserve it.”

Ah. It had been a while. Oh, not since we had played – I still had a couple of fresh bruises to prove it. But it had been months and months since either of us had felt we needed punishment, real punishment, from the other.

“You’d better explain,” I said, neutrally. A flicker of annoyance crossed his face, then he nodded, acknowledging the justice of the claim.

“You know that girl on the Reception desk? The one with the brown hair?”

“Becky? The one who replaced Pat when she retired?”

Ja, Rebecca. Her. We had – a disagreement. I shouted. I was pretty – I was bleddy rude to her. Then she turned on the waterworks as they say, and I was more rude.”


Ja, ja, I know. She ran off to the toilets and would not come out, and now I am in deep trouble with Matt the security guy because he has a crush on her, and also with Lol Jameson, because the reception desk staff come under Resources, and no doubt I will be in trouble with Jim, too, as soon as he hears of it.”

If I knew Jim he would have heard already. It’s almost supernatural the way he knows what goes on around that site virtually before it’s happened. And no, he wouldn’t be pleased. She’s no Pat, who was round and motherly and had been here since God was a boy – since I was a boy, at any rate – but Rebecca came highly commended from her last place, seems to be obliging, and has a pretty face and a stunning pair of legs, and Jim has as much of an eye for a well-turned ankle as anyone.

I ran my hands through my hair in frustration. All right, maybe I’m not the world’s best with women but I don’t have a problem with them. No, really, I don’t. I had plenty of female friends at college, and not so I could steal their moisturiser and their boyfriends, despite what some people may say. But Hansie, who is endlessly patient with the girls’ team at the local rugby club, and who gets on like a house on fire with any woman over the age of say, sixty, has some – issues, let’s say – with younger, prettier women. I know why, of course. Come to that, so does he. But although intellectually he knows that not every pretty young woman is a manipulative bitch like his mother, I’m not sure his heart is convinced of the same thing.

“All right, all right. Look, I’m not dealing with this – give me a chance to change, and you have a shower and change, and then we’ll talk about it.

“Ach, Timmie, I want to get this over with.”

I sympathised, a little, but what he really meant was that he didn’t want to have to think about it, and I wasn’t having that.

“This isn’t about what you want, Hansie, is it? I’m prepared to cane you if that’s what’s needed but I’m not going to rush in and bodge things. We both know where that leads. Go.”

“But. . .”


He got. But not before he put his head back round the door and said.


“What?” I may have sounded a bit exasperated at that point.

“You have paint in your hair.”

And thank you for that.

“Right,” I said fixing Hansie with my best Look. “Explain to me exactly what happened.”

He shifted uncomfortably.

“I told you already.”

“You gave me an abbreviated outline. I want detail, please. What exactly did you say to Rebecca, and why were you rude in the first place?”

A shifty look from under lowered brows, then he abruptly turned his head aside, unwilling to look at me.


“I – I said that she was a stupid little nobody. That she used her looks to get what she wanted because she lacked the brains to do so by intellect and the good heart to do so by willingness and kindness. That when her boobs sagged and her face bloated she would just be another of those doughy women with scraped back hair and a track suit pushing her latest child, by the latest boyfriend to leave her, around the Camelot Estate.”

“Oh, Hansie.”

Ja, I know. I think I used the word ‘slag’. Also ‘chav’.”

“I really wish you hadn’t learned English insults quite so well. Anyway, if putting it around – is she putting it around? I didn’t know – if putting it around a bit makes her a slag, what does that make me?”

A tiny flicker of his mouth. “It is what everyone learns with most interest, hey, the bad words in another language? And you are – mine, now.” The flicker broadened, unmistakably, for a moment. “And Piet’s. And Phil’s. Which is perhaps enough for anyone.”

I felt the tips of my ears going pink. “Just so. But stop trying to wriggle out of it, what did she do to deserve this?”


“Oh come off it, Hansie. I want to know – how did you get into an argument with her in the first place?”

“I was waiting for a package – the proofs of the new sales catalogue. The printers had promised to send them over from Barchester by motorcycle courier, and I went down to see if Reception had them yet.”

There was a long pause, and when no further explanation seemed forthcoming I prompted:


“And we got into an argument about it. Look, I have said I was wrong, hey? I will take my medicine. Can we not just get on with it?”

I hesitated. I’m not an empath like Phil. But I could feel something wrong here, something badly wrong. I mean, I live with this man, day in, day out. I’ve seen him happy, griefstricken, drunk, horny, terrified, furious. I’ve got to know him, know the man, the whole person, and not just his body. And something here jarred. All right, Hansie has problems. But he wouldn’t just let rip at someone, not without more provocation than he was admitting to here.

“Hansie, this doesn’t make sense. Is there something you aren’t telling me?”

He swung away, abruptly, to look out at the window.

“There is, isn’t there?”

He was silent for so long that I thought he wasn’t going to answer, and then he gave a tiny sigh.


I thought for a moment. “Something you’d rather not discuss with me?”

Ja.” Very tight, very controlled.

That hurt. I was surprised by how much that hurt. There wasn’t anything I could imagine being unable to say to him. I bit my lip.

“Then – I can’t punish you, Hansie. No,” as he turned back to me, “I’m not angry with you. But I can’t judge without the facts.” I paused, considered. If he wouldn’t let me help, then there was only one real alternative. “Would you – could you talk to Piet about it?”

He thought about it for a moment. “I do not like to trouble him, Tim.”

“Ask for help when you need it, remember?”

A short bark of a laugh. “That it should be you reminding me, that is good, nee? I will go talk to Piet. They should be home by now. I will ring him.”

He clattered down the stairs. Piet had obviously answered, because when Hansie’s voice drifted up to me he was not, unusually, speaking English, but the throaty consonants and elegant vowels of Afrikaans.

He came back up much more slowly, his expression a mixture of relief and dread. “We are to go over.”

“You, you mean.”

“No, both of us. Piet specifically said that you should come.”

“But. . .”

“He also said you would not want to, and to tell you that he asks it, as a favour to him.”

Manipulative bastard. He knew I couldn’t very well refuse that, given what we both owe him. And now we were going to owe him even more.

I sighed. And I had had such hopes for this evening. “Who’s going to drive?”

“Well, my Hansie?” I said, once we were alone. Phil had discreetly taken Tim into the kitchen to assist him with some recipe of extreme complexity, and no doubt totally inappropriate calorie count, and Hansie and I had gone into my study. “So what is this business with the girl? I know fersure you were raised to be more polite to young ladies than this.”

He laughed bitterly. “No lady, that one is. Ach, Piet, I have been a fool. I am at fault for allowing the situation to develop, but I will be honest with you, I do not feel great regret for what I said.”

I felt my eyebrows raising, and deliberately forced myself not to frown or look disapproving. There was something delicate here, something that badly needed teasing out – something that Hansie wanted to say, and was yet afraid to say. “Then you had better tell me the story from the start, for I do not understand at all.”

He nodded, and a little to my surprise switched into Afrikaans again. For all that his English is a little – erratic – sometimes, he will generally use English, even to me, even in private. I was not sure what it said, that he reverted to our mother tongue. On the phone, before, I had the strong feeling that it was because he did not want Tim to know what we discussed, and that had troubled me. It had been one reason that I insisted that Tim come over too. Here, though, there was no such need.

“It was – you know, sometimes it is a little difficult, being an Afrikaner here. People make assumptions about you, about your ideas.”

Ah. I began to get a faint sense of where this was going.

“That can be true, certainly. It is up to us to correct false assumptions of that kind.”

“Surely. And that is where I went wrong, and why I am at fault and should be punished.”

“Go on.”

“The girl Rebecca – I did not pay her much attention at first. She was just – there – you know? She smiled, seemed pleasant enough. There are always two girls on the reception desk, out of a total of four – Rebecca, Susan somebody whose last name I have forgotten, Helena Stevenson, and Ngozi Udayi. And one day as I came in Rebecca was having a go at Ngozi, about a delivery that should have gone out yesterday evening, and Ngozi had some trouble finding it in the record book. And Rebecca rolled her eyes and smiled at me as I passed, and I smiled back and thought nothing of it.

“And then a few weeks later we were interviewing for a new salesperson, and it was the job of Reception to call us when the candidates arrived. We had seen two, a pleasant enough lad from Durham, and a local girl. The third was a Pakistani boy, and there was a mix-up, and we were not called until 10 minutes after his interview should have started. We assumed that he was not coming after all –had perhaps had a better offer – and I went down to tell Reception that we were going to take a break and go check our e-mails and would they call me at my desk when the fourth candidate arrived. But when I did, I found this boy sitting in the most out-of-the-way part of the lobby, sweating like a – sweating with nerves, I think thinking that we had kept him waiting deliberately. When I spoke to Rebecca – Rebecca again – she said: ‘oh, I’m sorry, we tried and couldn’t get through, and I was just going to try again. Still, we have to look after our own, Mr B, eh?’ and then she looked at the boy and back at me, and she winked at me.

“And still, Piet, I did not understand what it was that she was implying. I thought – well, I thought perhaps she meant that as fellow employees of Hamiltons we must stick together, that I should cover for the mistake. So I merely said: ‘Loyalty is all very well, but you must be more careful, Rebecca’. And she grinned and said: ‘oh, I know who’s on the right side’.

“So I am stupid, yes, we know this already. But it was not until the business with the courier that I understood what she meant, what she thought I was.”

“My Hansie, you are not stupid, and if you wish not to make me angry you will not say so again.”

He quailed a little, and muttered ‘yes, sir’ and subsided momentarily into a glum silence, staring down at his  hands knotted in his lap.

“And the courier business?” I prodded gently.

He sighed. “Ach, it was ugly, ugly.”

We were waiting for the proofs of the new sales catalogue from the printer – they had promised faithfully to have them to us yesterday, and when they did not come I rang up and gave them hell about it. So they said they would get a courier to bring them over.

Now it takes – what, 30 minutes from Barchester to Hamiltons, if you come along the bypass? Forty at the outside, if the traffic is heavy. So after an hour, I rang down to ask Reception if the package had come yet, to be told no. The same story fifteen minutes later, and half an hour. By this time I was furious, so when Rebecca rang up to say that she had just seen the bike entering the main gate I shot down there to give him a piece of my mind.

He was very young, skinny, black, local by his accent. When I got there he was just apologising profusely to Rebecca, who for some reason was there on her own – he was new, had not been given clear directions, and had got lost and been forced to stop and ring his headquarters for clarification. They were supposed to have rung and explained the situation to us, which of course they had not. This was received with a snort and a very cold shoulder by Rebecca, despite his best efforts, and not, I admit, very much more warmly by me. But when he had gone, she turned to me and shrugged and said:

“I suppose you can’t expect any better from one of them.”

I think my mouth may have dropped open. “What?” I said feebly.

“Well, you must know, Mr B. A coon. A darkie. They’re all as thick as shit.”

“Rebecca, you cannot, you must not say such things!”

“Oh, I know, all this PC rubbish. But you and me know, don’t we? Lots of people over here think you South Africans had the right idea, keeping them down. Yours was a great country when the whites were in charge, and look at it now. Black people are too stupid to run things.”

I felt sick, sick to my stomach. My father – he believed, as his church taught, that Afrikaners were God’s chosen people. Apartheid was the expression of that God’s will, and so both right and proper. He expected deference and obedience from our servants and black farm hands, as he did from me, and he would beat them, as he would beat me, for any faults in their duties. Indeed, I think that children and blacks had a similar place in his mind – they were lesser beings who were to be dutiful, obedient, and silent unless spoken to. But I never heard him use openly insulting language to them, which is more than can be said of his speaking to me, and he would not readily turn them off, even when times were bad, because he thought he had a duty to them. My mother, on the other hand, often mocked ‘dirty kaffirs’, though never to their faces, and never when my father was around, either.

As for me – well, when I came to think of it at all, I resolved that if my father and mother believed a thing, then it must be wrong. Certainly the only kindness I ever got at home came from black people, so why should I think less of them? How could someone be blamed for the skin they were born with? It was unfair. Unfair. And anyway, who was I, with my secret desires, a moffie, to cast stones? For people like the bullnecked Andre Bezuidenhout, the man with the farm next to ours who boasted of having shot three black poachers he caught on his land (whether they truly were or not), I would be a far worse thing than any black.

I won’t say I did anything very brave to resist. I didn’t join any of the anti-apartheid groups, still less the ANC (which didn’t exactly have a recruiting office on every corner). In a place like South Africa was then, nearly everybody made mucky little compromises, hey? You had to do that just to live, day by day. And of course I got out, as soon as I could – in my case running from other demons, but glad to live in a more normal society too.

And now this, this – racist bitch! – thought to tar me with her own brush, just because of my name and accent. But furious as I was I didn’t lose control. Not quite. Not then.

“You disgust me,” I said coldly. “I don’t give a damn what colour someone’s skin is as long as they can do their job, hey? And I’d rather have black colleagues – who incidentally have to work a damn sight harder than the lazy English, just because there are so many people like you around – I’d rather have them a thousand times over than a racist like you.”

She went scarlet as she realised that her assumptions had been wrong. Then – and I saw her think it through quite deliberately, the manipulative little bitch – she crumpled up her face and forced a few sobs out.

“Oww, please Mr B, I didn’t really mean it, I mean it was just a joke. You won’t tell, will you?” And she looked up at me through thick, dark, lashes pearled with tears, quivering, a stricken fawn, and put a tentative hand on my arm.

I had seen my mother do just so with my father, when she wanted her own way and he would not allow it. Even he was not invulnerable to that combination of feminine beauty and helplessness.

OK, that was when I lost it. I told her exactly what I thought of her. She went from red to white, and from fake tears to the real thing, and ran bawling from the Reception area to the women’s toilets.

“Well, Mr van den Broek, that was a good telling off,” said a soft voice behind me. I spun around to find Ngozi Udaye looking at me quizzically.

“I. . .”

“I heard. Enough. I admit I was a little surprised – it is good to remember that there are good and bad people of every colour.”

“Well, I – no, really I should not have spoken so to her. But she made me so angry, assuming that just because I was Afrikaner, I would share her views.”

“But that is what racists do, isn’t it? Put people into boxes? I am black so I am stupid. You are Afrikaner so you are racist. No need to find out anything about us now, we are sorted into our little box. Instead of real life, which is so confusing, so difficult. Some Afrikaners are racist. Some aren’t. And some black people are stupid but so are some whites.” She looked in the direction that Rebecca had fled. “She will make trouble for you, I think.”

“Ach, probably.”

“She will run to Matt, the Security man, and tell him how wicked you have been to her. And he will tell everyone else.”

I grimaced. She was right, of course. I had been stupid. I had lost the moral high ground.  It was just starting to sink in what an idiot I had been. At that moment, Rebecca re-appeared, Matt in tow.

“No wonder you don’t like me,” she hissed. “I’ve just found out that you’re a fucking queer. Got something against girls, have you? Just because you slept with that other little poof, the boss’s son. . .”

“Nephew,” interrupted Matt, obviously the source of these tidbits.

“Nephew, then. And everyone knows he only got a job here because he sucked someone’s cock – his uncle’s probably – and you probably do the same, you fucking minging queen!”

I took a step back at the venom in her voice, but what really sent a needle of ice through my heart was her attack on Tim. I felt my hand ache to slap her and swung away with a sound of disgust. I could not hit a woman, not even such a woman as this. And I did not want to get into a further slanging match. It would help nothing. The situation was about as bad as it could possibly get.

“I’m gonna have HR on you. You’ve been harassing me, that’s what you’ve been doing. I’m going to make a formal complaint.”

No, I had been wrong. Now it was as bad as it could get. I gave her a withering glare.

“You must do as you see fit. But of course there would have to be an enquiry into the circumstances – all of them, hey?”

“Your word against mine. And Matt will back me up, won’t you Matt?”

Matt looked sullenly at me, unwilling to challenge me openly. I shrugged, and retreated to the lift while I still could.

“Ugly indeed, my Hansie.”

He made a despairing sound and put his head in his hands. “I know. I made such a mess of things.”

“Do you think she will complain?”

“If she thinks she can get something out of it, I have no doubt of it. She is right, it is her word against mine for what happened.”

“What about the other woman, Ngozi Udaye?”

“I – I admit I had some hopes, but I am told that she is a strict churchgoer, one of the Pentecostalist churches. You know how they feel about homosexuality. I don’t think that she will want to be associated with such a sinner now Rebecca has made it plain to her what I am. She could not keep a look of horror from her face when the bitch was accusing me – and poor Tim.”

“Ah, yes, Tim.” I was starting to get a sense of why we had ended up where we had.

“You see now why I could not talk to him? He has always felt that perhaps his position is in some way unjustified, or is seen so. If I tell him that the staff gossip in such a way, say that his relationship with  Jim is – ach, such filthy minds people have, to think such a thing – well, he will be heartbroken. And he will try to work twice as hard to show that he is there on merit, a thing which those with eyes can see plainly for themselves, and he will make himself ill again.”

“Oh Hansie, Hansie. And if you had remained calm, and simply told her that her attitude was totally unacceptable, do you think that she would have said such things in return ?”

“No, meneer. I did not think – I lost control of myself, in the way you so often punished me for on the rugby field.”

“Yes, I admit I am a little disappointed over that,” I saw his stricken look and held up an admonitory hand. “No, let me finish. I am a little disappointed, and I want you to tell me why you lost that control I worked so hard to beat into you.”

“But I said. Because she was racist. Because she thought that I was racist.”

“No, my Hansie. Listen to your own story. When that happened you were angry, but you behaved correctly. When you lost control was after that.”

“When she – when she tried to manipulate me.”

“And how did you describe that? What did you compare it to?”

He went green, and whispered, so low that I could hardly hear it:

“My mother.”

At last.

“Yes. Now we come to the heart of it. Your mother is a pretty and manipulative woman, wilful and stupid and the cause of much grief to you. And this Rebecca, it seems, may be another of the kind. May be, I say, for I have only your side of the story.”

“I have not lied!” His head shot up, outraged that I should doubt him.

“I did not say you did – you have always been honest with me. So be honest with me now: can you swear that you, too, are not putting people into boxes?”

“I do not understand.”

“You do not like pretty young women very much, Hansie. You see your mother in them much too easily. Are you sure that did not influence you in your dealings with this Rebecca? Are you certain that she is as you have painted her?”

He thought about it, painfully long. “No,” he said at last. “Maybe I do suspect pretty women a bit, but I was perfectly pleasant with her until I found out what she was like – and she would not have confided in me if she had not thought I liked her.”

It was a fair point. I thought he was probably right.

“Very well then. So now you have told me what you wished to tell me. What would you have of me now? Judgement?”

Another long pause. “No, meneer. I think I know for myself what I did wrong and what I did right.” I have never found it harder to keep my face from showing what I felt, the way my heart sang when he said those words. To hear such from Hansie, my poor damaged brutalised Hansie, who has always so craved the judgement of others. Truly he was growing and healing.

“I wish I had not done what I did. I wish I had managed to keep my control. I do not think I was wrong to be angry with her, but I should have handled it better. I think I deserve to be punished, for that alone.”

“I agree.” And if you cannot take it from your partner, who has had such a part in that healing, I will give you the absolution of pain, willingly, as I will give you anything it is within my power to give freely. “Stand up, Mr van den Broek.”

He leaped up at the sudden snap in my voice, and the change of address that left him in no doubt of his status, and his fate. I went to the drawer and took out my cane.

“You are well aware of the position,” I said drily, and he hastened to lower his trousers and bend over the desk.

And afterwards, when it was done, and he had been comforted, I had a moment to think how I should help the other bird that comes to my hand, fluttering anxiously as it no doubt was somewhere on the other side of the door. What should I do for Tim?

I had gone to sit in the garden, miserable, after Phil gave up on trying to occupy me, or get more than monosyllabic answers out of me, and decided to concentrate on saving the dinner instead. I think he debated simply lifting me off my feet and dragging me to the sofa for an all-enveloping hug – in fact, I more or less saw the idea flash across his face – but in that mysterious way that Phil divines the secrets of hearts he somehow worked out that it would have been the wrong thing just then. It wasn’t something that could be made better by a hug, more a deep, stony ache like the pain you get in the bridge of your nose from eating an ice-cream that’s too cold. Only this was in my heart, not my nose.

So he pressed a huge glass of white wine on me – Viognier, full of the scents of peaches and flowers – swatted me gently on the backside and pushed me out onto the patio. The light had more or less left the sky, but a pleasantly homely glow came from the house, along with the scents of garlic and tomatoes, and the stones still had some warmth in them from the day’s sun. The rosemary was blossoming already, little pale blue flowers that looked almost white in the dusk.

Piet would do the right thing for Hansie, I knew that. I could not, would never, grudge Hansie his help. I had just thought that by now it would be me that my partner would turn to.

I looked up at the flicker of a bat overhead, heard someone step onto the patio behind me. I knew who it would be.

“Piet,” I acknowledged, without turning.

He stepped in close, put an enormous arm around me from behind, and pulled me, gently but irresistibly, against him. His head dipped to kiss the crown of mine.

“You have paint in your hair,” he said.

“I know.”

“And you are unhappy,” he added. I opened my mouth to deny it, closed it again.

“Do you feel that he has violated the agreement between you?”


“Your pact that it should be you who taught him not to bully. That was how you started out, was it not?”

I thought about it for a moment. “I – want to say no to that. I’m not sure. The thing is, Piet, he won’t talk to me about it. He shut me out. That’s what hurts.”

“He shut you out, and he came to me.”

“Yes,” I said, aware how ungracious it sounded.

“But he asked you to cane him for it, did he not, Timmy?”

I twisted in his arms to look at him, nearly spilling my wine over him in the process. “But he wouldn’t explain why he did what he did! How could I punish him when I didn’t understand what the reasons were?”

He smiled at me. “See how wise you have become? Yes, you are quite right to suspect that there is more to this story than you know.”

“But he won’t tell me!” I exclaimed again in frustration.

“Gently, gently,” he chided. “No. And there is a reason for that, too. Will you – can you? accept my word that he keeps silent out of love for you?”

“I don’t understand.” Nor did I. Out of love? What did that mean?

“I cannot say more, because despite my pleading he will not have you told. However, you should know that badly as he behaved – and he accepts that he acted most improperly, and lost control of himself – he was sorely provoked. The girl he spoke to has, it seems, some difficulty in accepting people of other races, and thought that because of Hansie’s background he would share her views.”

“Oh God.”

“He thinks there may be trouble at work over this.”

I bit my lip. He was probably right. But if Rebecca was going around expressing racist views Jim would have her out like a shot, no matter how good, and how decorative, she was on Reception.


“Will you stand by him? Even if it means making yourself unpopular too?”

“What a – of course I will, don’t be ridiculous.” I was so taken aback that the retort, which was, in hindsight, a bit less than polite, just slipped out. However, we were both distracted by a sudden choked sound from the shadows.


Ja. Ach Tim, I am sorry. I never meant to hurt you, and you stand by me anyway.” There were tears in his eyes.

“So my Hansie, you too are listening in to conversations?”

“Sorry, meneer,” he began automatically, and then: “Well. . . to be honest, I am not sorry for this, either. Tim, I will tell you why I would not talk to you first. Piet is right, you are a grown man, and the man I love, and you deserve to know.”

I took his hand, and squeezed it. And slowly, awkwardly, it all slipped out, what had happened, what he had said.

“That’s dreadful. But why didn’t you want to tell me?”

“Because she said – when Matt told her I was gay, and with you – ach, Timmy, such foul things she said, that I had my position because I slept with you, and you. . .” he hesitated, and then, haltingly went on, “you had yours because you. . .” he trailed off into an inaudible mumble.

“What? I’m sorry, I didn’t catch that.”

“Because you sucked Jim’s cock!” Low and fierce.

I blinked, then laughed. “Is that it?”

He looked at me, astonished.

“Hansie, that’s just, just – playground abuse, the sort of thing kids say to hurt. I was expecting something far worse than that. Do you honestly think that 99% of the people in that place would believe that – anything like that – of Jim? For God’s sake, half of them think he walks on water, and most of the rest will go a mile over hot coals for a word of praise from him. Whatever people might think about me – and I’ve heard worse than that, believe me – they wouldn’t think that of him. Rebecca’s just a bitch, trying to find the insults that would do the most damage.”

“I am – my liefie, you astonish me sometimes, truly. I have hurt you when there was no need. Piet, you were right: I should have been honest with him from the beginning. That was another stupidity.”

“Hansie.” Piet’s voice was deceptively calm.


“Did I not tell you that you were not to call yourself stupid?”

He swallowed, and one hand went back, unconsciously, to rub his backside.

Ja, meneer.”

“So. Tim, I think you should spank him.”

I felt a grin creep across my face. “You know, Piet, I think that’s a very attractive idea.”

“But I have been caned already,” said Hansie mournfully.

“Then you’ll feel the benefit of a nice spanking, won’t you?”

“And then afterwards. . .” added Piet, and when we stopped to look at him quizzically,  he smiled wickedly. “Afterwards we shall eat, and then we shall all punish Tim.”

“Me? But I haven’t done anything!”

“No? Then we shall punish you for being lazy.”

“It’s not fair,” I pouted, not very seriously. Hansie sidled away as I did so. “Hey, come back you, you’re due a spanking.”

He grinned whitely in the dusk, and backed away another step or two, only to be snagged with lazy precision by Piet, who smacked his rear (with some vigour to judge by his expression) and propelled him back to me.

“Dinner’s just finishing off in the oven, be about another few minutes,” announced Phil, stepping through the patio doors. “Hey up, what’s all this?”

“Tim is spanking Hansie,” announced Piet gravely, “as he much deserves.”

“Oh good, can I watch?”

“Come here and get those trousers down, Hansie van den Broek,” I said, sitting myself on the low stone wall around the patio. He pulled a face, but obeyed. I paused to admire those hard, muscular legs, the solidity of his backside. The characteristic tram-line stripes of the cane had been laid out with millimetric precision across both cheeks, dark against the incredibly white skin. I ran my fingers gently across the ridges, felt him shiver with the sensation, then pulled him down into position across my knee.

“My nose is in the dirt,” he complained.

“Excuse me, there’s no dirt on my patio,” said Phil. “Spank him for me, Tim.”

I brought my hand down, and he squawked. Yup, those cane stripes were still sore. A few more had him bucking and hissing. The skin in between the stripes became flushed. I paused, ran my fingertips gently over the warm skin, heard his breath catch. He opened his legs for me, let my finger slide gently over, down. . . a growing pressure beneath me registered his interest.

“Not quite yet,” I whispered. I spanked him hard and fast and without respite for a minute or so, until my hand was stinging and he threatened to fall from my lap with his wriggling.

“He spanks OK for a little guy,” commented Phil. I stuck my tongue out at him, my hands being too busy to make a rude gesture.

“Phil,” said Piet with mock severity. “How can you pass personal comments like that about our guests? Must I remind you of your manners?”

“Um, yes?” suggested Phil hopefully. My hand had resumed its gentle exploration of Hansie’s nether regions, slipping between his parted legs as he lifted himself, urgently, to cup his balls and play gently with the shaft of his erection. He twisted off my lap, pressed his lips to mine, as Piet slid Phil’s shorts down and landed a slap on each cheek. Phil gasped, then reached to pull Piet close against him. Hansie’s arm circled my waist, and he lifted me bodily over the wall and laid me on the grass. It was a little damp under me, but I didn’t care as long as his mouth continued to devour mine, and his hand went – oh yes, please! There! Piet seemed to be inspired by his example, his mobile lips roaming Phil’s neck, ears, shoulders, his hands caressing, tantalising. . .

“Fuck, the dinner!” exclaimed Phil, suddenly, twisting away from Piet. Naked from the waist down, he raced inside.

He returned in short order holding, in a pair of oven gloves, a large earthenware dish that appeared to contain a layer of something irregular and blackened.

I bit my lip.

“Carbonara?” suggested Piet.

“Damn it,” said Phil crossly. “You distracted me.” He looked at us and we looked at him. After a moment Hansie started to quiver with poorly suppressed laughter. Piet’s mouth quirked, and I lost it, collapsing into giggles of my own. Phil glared at me for a moment. Then laughed himself.

“We’d better order a takeaway,” he added.

It took a while to come, and by the time we ate, I had worked up quite an appetite. But all my appetites were fully satisfied in the end.


Idris the Dragon

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© , 2007