This is his first afternoon with Madame
in her flat above the bookshop, the buses
whining through the drizzle along
Islington High Street. He likes
her colour scheme – bold purple, gold,
everything flickering in the candle-light, exotic,
very different from the magnolia anaglypta
and white skirting boards in Theydon Bois
– and the scarlet drapes and Turkish kilim
where a one-eyed ginger cat
regards Madame’s whip phlegmatically
as she trails it across his thigh. He likes
the incense sticks dropping ash
onto the floor like insouciant teenagers
though he’s less keen on the actual pain –
each bite into the flesh, and he slips further
from the room, each lash a descent
into darkness, his skin laid open and raw,
his vision blurring, and that’s when
he realises he’s forgotten the Safe Word.
It’s a place, yes – some northern town
he visited as a child. He remembers
grit-stone houses under a soft film of rain,
fine as latex, the butcher with hands
like boxing gloves, women in beige raincoats
with bosoms big enough to offer shelter
and the smell of freshly baked buns,
a wet dog itching its rain-soaked fur
against his bare legs. He’d said to Marjorie once
he’d like to retire somewhere like that,
somewhere with hills, real hills, the light
on them blue as the day went. Look,
he whimpers to Madame, do you think
you could stop that now – but she’s in her stride,
unstoppable, a real professional, you had
to give her that, and he’s so tightly bound,
his wrists chafing against her iron bedstead.
He can feel her breath on his neck, yeasty
and warm as the loaves in the bakery ovens,
swelling and rising to greet the new day.