Sophie drew the curtains of the study windows closed. She returned to her desk and cleared the contents from its surface. Unbuttoning the top buttons of her blouse, she lifted her breasts up out of the cups of her bra. She spread her legs to shoulder width and bent forward, laying her torso across the desk before reaching back to push her panties down to just beneath her hips. She lifted her skirt up over her back to bare her bottom.
She remained like this for a few moments, her arms stretched to either side of the desk, her back arched, imagining how she looked as she prepared to be disciplined.
She glanced once more at the picture of the punished girl on her computer screen, taking in the soft curves of her parted thighs, the stripes of the cane across her buttocks, the glistening pink lips of her bare, exposed sex.
Her nipples pressed against the cool leather top of the desk and her fingers found her swollen, slick nub. She pinched and kneaded, moaning, lifting to stand on the balls of her feet as the muscles of her calves, her thighs, her buttocks tensed. She lay her cheek down on the desk and closed her eyes, giving herself over to her imagination while a stream of sunlight penetrated from between the drawn curtains, warming her face.
Behind her eyes she imagined him, the tall, dark stranger. He had no voice today, although sometimes he chastised her verbally as he punished her physically. She arched her back on his command, lifting herself to him, offering herself to him. She could almost feel the sting of his thick leather belt, hear the sound it would make as it struck soft flesh, know the pain it would deliver.
Moisture soaked her fingers and ran down her thighs as he continued to punish her. She spread her legs wider, wanting more, opening herself to her phantom disciplinarian.
She imagined when he would switch over to the cane, striping her bottom red before telling her to reach back and spread herself open, to prepare to have her bottom hole caned. She would melt her torso deeper into the desk, lifting her hips higher to him. With a slight flick of his wrist, the cane would come down onto that most private, most vulnerable part of her.
Once her punishment was over, he’d have her remain as she was, bent over, her bottom throbbing, exposed, marked.
Her breath came in gasps and her hand worked faster as she neared orgasm until finally she came, her hips bucking, pelvic bones scratching against the rough edges of the desk, the only softness that of her cotton panties as they slid to the floor.
Sophie turned the same corner for the third time that night. It was a little after eleven and Amsterdam was still buzzing with life, even on a Wednesday. It was a world of difference from her home in Scottsdale, Arizona where it was lights out before ten at night in the sleepy little neighborhood.
She glanced across the street, trying to seem casual but feeling like an imposter. L’Opera stood tucked between the other buildings, blending nicely, discreetly, with everything else. Three steps led to the old, intricately carved wooden front door, just outside of which stood a man—a security guard, Sophie imagined—ensuring the protection and privacy of those within. He didn’t look at her, likely didn’t even notice her among the other pedestrians who walked along. There were enough cafés and restaurants on this street that the boutique and very subtle BDSM club was easy to overlook if you didn’t know what lay just beyond that door. No sign hung overhead, nothing to indicate anything at all, in fact.
The door opened just then and Sophie pretended to fumble with her phone while she watched a couple exit. They looked normal, not like what she’d expected to see at a place like this. He was dressed in a dark suit and she, a cocktail dress beneath her unbuttoned coat. The door closed behind them as they descended the stairs, the man’s hand on her elbow, guiding her. They stopped once they were on the street and the man turned her to him. The woman allowed herself to be turned and only looked up at him as he buttoned her coat, his eyes on hers the entire time. Once he was finished, he pulled her close and kissed her forehead, a long, soft gesture of what Sophie could only call love.
Sophie’s heart ached.
The ringing of her phone jolted Sophie, along with the bouncer as, for one brief moment, she swore she caught his eyes on her. Her heart was in her throat as she quickly turned to walk on.
“Hello?” she said into her mobile, knowing it would be her husband and wanting to sound calm.
“Hey, hon, it’s me,” Michael said. He’d left earlier that day for Paris where he’d be spending the rest of the week in meetings. Neither of them had expected all the travel his new job entailed and there seemed to be no end in sight.
“Hi, Michael, how was your day?” she asked the same boring question she always asked at the end of his day while guilt gnawed at her. What was she doing here? This was so wrong.
“Long and dull. Just wrapped up a dinner meeting with a pretty high-maintenance client. How are you?” he began. “Where are you, by the way? I called the house phone but didn’t get an answer.”
Shit. “I’m on my way home now. Went out for a quick drink with Lucille,” she lied. Lucille was their neighbor, a woman her own age whom she considered more of an acquaintance than a friend, but it was the only thing she could come up with.
“That’s great, Soph,” he said. “I’m glad you’re getting out; you need to. You can’t stay alone in the house all day. It’s not good for you.”
Michael’s words only worsened her feeling of guilt and she looked down at the sidewalk, knowing she could never tell him the truth. He’d been worried about her ever since their move four months ago. No, since before that. Since they’d found out they’d never have the family they’d hoped for and her depression had seemed to settle in for the long haul.
“Sophie?” he asked when she didn’t answer.
She wiped a tear from her eye. “I’m here, just crossing the street. Not sure if it’s going to be a biker, a car, or a tram that does me in in this city,” she said, trying to sound lighthearted, feeling anything but.
“Where did you go for drinks?” he asked. Although he’d been living in the states for the last five years, Michael was born in Amsterdam and had lived in this city most of his life.
“Oh…” She looked around, too far from home. “I can’t remember. I’ll ask Lucille the name of the place tomorrow.”
“She’s not walking back with you?” he asked, sounding confused and concerned.
Sophie closed her eyes, shaking her head. She was so stupid. “There was a man there…” she lied again, feeling lower than the lowest person on earth. “You know Lucille.” She forced a smile on her face and hoped he could hear it.
“Ah,” Michael laughed. “Well, she is single and pretty wild from what I’ve seen.”
“She’s a lot of fun, actually.”
“How far are you from home?” he asked, worrying about her again.
“Oh, just a few blocks. I’d better let you go before my battery dies. I forgot to charge my phone before leaving the house again. I still needed the navigation to figure out my way back. All these canals, everything looks so different at night.” Since when did lying come so naturally, so easily for her?
“Okay, I just wanted to check on you. Tell you I missed you,” he said.
Was she imagining the disappointment in his words?
“The traveling’s going to slow down soon, you know. Just a few more weeks. I promise.”
She nodded quickly, desperate to get home before the dam broke and her tears spilled. “It’s okay, Michael. I understand.” She did. It was he who didn’t understand the kind of person he’d married. “I love you,” she murmured, the first of those tears coming.
“You okay?” he asked. She could practically feel the concern in his voice.
“M-hmm. I have to go,” she said quickly, smiling through her tears, feeling how ridiculous, how pathetic she must look to anyone passing by.
“Love you, baby.”
She hit ‘end’ on her phone just as the tram pulled up to the stop. She climbed on board, swiped her card, and sat in the farthest corner, staring out the window. So much had changed in the last year. She had changed so much in the last year. She and Michael had been married for four years now and dated for half a year before that. At thirty-six, he was twelve years older than she. Her parents had had a hard time with their engagement at first because she was so young, but she’d just been so sure he was the one. Now she wondered if they shouldn’t have waited. He wanted a family, children; she couldn’t give him that. Michael had been so great, supportive, loving when they’d found out, even though she could see his disappointment. He claimed to be over it now, but was he really? Wasn’t she keeping secrets from him? That went both ways, she knew that much.
But that wasn’t all. Since the move, something had gotten into her. No, that wasn’t quite right. It had always been there—this thing. The right way to say it was that it wanted out now. It wanted to express itself. Maybe it was the stress of it all, of trying to fit into a culture not her own, trying to understand a people she simply didn’t understand, trying to make friends, build her life again. She felt like she was in a pressure cooker and the lid was going to blow.
But she knew she’d have to keep this part of herself secret from Michael. He was too clean, too pure. He’d likely be so turned off by her… perversion, he’d leave her immediately.
She stood and pushed the button for her stop.
She argued this daily in her head these days. She loved him still. And even though she knew she could never give him what he wanted, she wasn’t strong enough to let him go.
The tram came to a stop and she climbed out. The house was just a block away. They had rented a beautiful three-story canal house on the Brouwersgracht in the trendy Jordaan neighborhood of Amsterdam. She loved this city, their house. She loved being a part of such a vibrant place, but something inside her wouldn’t let her go, let her just relax and be here. With him.
She took the three steps leading to the crooked front door. The structures that lined Amsterdam’s streets were all a little bent or leaning or just plain old crooked. It was one of the things she loved about the place—its imperfections, its cracks, its ability to remain unique.
She fished out her key and, slipping it into the lock, opened the door and went inside. She turned off the one lamp she’d left burning in the living room and headed upstairs. She felt exhausted all the time these days, felt like she could sleep for weeks.
* * *
Michael sat on the edge of the bed holding his cell phone minutes after they’d hung up. He set it down and reached to undo his tie, taking it off and unbuttoning his shirt.
He was at a loss. Ever since they’d found out Sophie wouldn’t be able to have the babies they’d talked about since day one, she’d been different, withdrawn. It had been almost a year of this now. When the job offer in Amsterdam had come, it had been one they couldn’t refuse and, Michael hoped, the change his wife needed. He was a native Dutchman, and he understood the culture, the people. But he’d realized how isolating it would be for Sophie after they’d signed the contracts, sold their house in Scottsdale, and moved. He wasn’t sure she realized the distance that her refusal to talk to him, to really talk to him, was putting between them or the consequences of that space. This was his second marriage and he had a pretty good idea of it. He needed to get her to talk, to open up to him. He had to if they had any chance of making it.
Yes, he wanted babies, but there were other options they hadn’t even begun to explore. He loved her, had since the day he’d first set eyes on her. He hadn’t realized how young she was, barely twenty when he’d met her, but he’d never wanted a woman in the same way he’d wanted her right from the start. Yes, the miscarriages were awful and he understood her not being ready to try again, but he loved her. He loved her and he wanted her. Having a family was second.
He exhaled a loud breath. “All right, Soph,” he said aloud, baffled as to how to proceed. He stripped off his clothes and headed into the bathroom for a quick shower before bed. It was Wednesday night. He wouldn’t get home until late Friday night. He considered his options, but there just weren’t any. The Parisian clients were important and they trusted him. They’d almost lost the account a few weeks ago and the relationship was too delicate to hand over to someone else at this point in time. He had no choice but to wait it out. This weekend he’d talk to her and if he had to, he’d force her to talk to him. He wanted his wife back again—he wanted all of her. And he wasn’t going to let her get out of it this time.