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Author’s note: as with much of my work, this cautionary tale bridges the gap between D/s and romance, so please be prepared for a little light power play here and there. My thanks, as always, to Lisa Jones for editorial support; and to Halcyon Flux for encouragement in general and brainstorming those pesky desires in particular. If anyone is wondering what any of this has to do with dead bees, the title is in fact from the Rodgers and Hart songbook. Enjoy …
The first time I ever heard the Velvets was – as God is my witness – on a Sunday morning, about nine o’clock, in the summer of eighty-nine. We were crashed out under a duvet on the living room rug at Su and Tom’s place, where we had spent a glorious and uncomfortable night attempting not to wake anyone else with our moaning and panting. When Su bought some tea in, Jill instinctively grabbed the duvet to protect her own modesty and left me in the middle of the floor with my tits on display to all and sundry. And that’s when I heard it, floating in from the kitchen on the mingled scents of incense, weed, and Earl Grey: I found a reason.
I was listening to it again, near on quarter of a century later, hunched in my headphones to drown out the banality of office chatter as I did my best to triple-check my space calculations. Not the Velvets this time, but the sore-throated childlike vulnerability of Cat Power, one chance in several thousand. That was the moment Nigel took me aside and told me that my own reason for living was dying. So of course I dropped everything and ran ran to her, not that she was likely to thank me for …
She stops and looks at the screen, reaches for the half-pint glass and takes a drink before pressing her right middle finger down on the Delete key and watching moodily as the cursor chases itself all the way back to the top corner of the page.
Fuck’s sakes, Lizzie, give it a rest. This is not what your readership – be it ever so numerically humble – wants. More sex, less maudlin introspection. Come on, shake out of it and get to work.
What had we even done under that duvet, can I remember? I suppose I should be able to, how can you forget your first whole night with the girl of your then dreams?
She looks up and smiles her acknowledgement for the kindness in the tone.
Heather goes to the bar and joins that new girl she’s been seeing for months now. Heather, of all people, in something that looks suspiciously like a serious relationship. How that would make Martine smile. Stupid thing to think, but she can’t help it, any more than an amputee can help wiggling their phantom toes every now and then. She has come here for an hour after work, just to soak up the sounds and smells of the old atmosphere in the hope that it might spark something, but it doesn’t help. It just makes her more down than she was before. She unplugs the keyboard from the tablet, packs them both in her bag, and drinks up before heading for the bus stop.
Jenna was in no mood to be philosophical about the contradictions, at that moment they just pissed her off. The big thing – the most important thing of all – about bondage was the ritual. Even though she had never actually done it, she was as certain of that fact as she was of anything. The irritating, inconvenient, pissy thing about self-bondage was that ritualising it very quickly tipped over into unacceptably pathetic. Dream all you want about the idea of Mistress making you squat and pee in the shower before crawling on hands and knees to Her bed, start doing that malarkey on your lonesome and it’s more sad than sexy.
So now she was padding through the close-curtained gloom of her studio flat in a T-shirt just barely long enough for decency if anyone happened to peek in the kitchen window; carbine clips chinking away on her ankle cuffs and her abused nipples making her feel dizzy. She opened the icebox, punched the cube containing the handcuff key from its mould and jiggled it from hand to hand as she carried it back to the foot of the bed. Honestly: safe and sane was all well and good but this was such an insufferably passion-killing slog to arrange.
She worked her way efficiently through the checklist. Key-laden ice cube in the saucer on the card table, in reach of where her hands would be and near enough to the radiator to encourage melting at an acceptable rate. T-shirt off, sit on the bed and shackle her ankles to the spreader bar secured behind the bedhead rails. Ready-lubed dildo up herself, the actual act of insertion neither erotic nor particularly comfortable. Steel cuff over right wrist, double-checking the keyhole was facing the right way. Padded blindfold comfortably down across eyes, blacking out everything. Deep breath, preliminaries over with and time to act decisively. Carefully, working by touch alone, she slipped the nipple clamps off as gently as she could and tossed them aside. Then she lay back, put casino siteleri one hand either side of the central upright rail at the foot of the bedstead and clapped the second cuff over her left wrist.
She was spread across the bed on her back, legs spread uncomfortably wide and vagina invaded by that motionless cock-shaped mass; arms above her head with enough play to thrash helplessly about but far too little to get her hands anywhere near her body. The blood started to come back into her nipples now, stinging and smarting unbearably. She wanted to cup her poor breasts in her hands and soothe them, but she could do nothing but lie spread-eagled in the dark and whimper as they throbbed to match what her cunt was doing around the dildo. Oh God she wanted to be whipped and fucked and have her face sat on while she was helplessly bound in this position.
She slowed her breathing and let the darkness and endorphins take her off to a fantasy world that, appearances to the contrary, was entirely her own. Admittedly she had lifted the precise details from one of her favourite Ellie Malone stories, but only because that had clicked so strongly with the thoughts and fantasies she already had. No, it wasn’t anything as superficial as the pose or the toys that she had really taken for inspiration. Instead it was an attitude: those stories were always overtly consensual, tests rather than rapes. Each of Jenna’s handcuffs had a quick-release trigger that she could spring with the simplest movement of her opposite thumb.
It wasn’t because they were cheap, or because she wasn’t capable of devising an absolute failsafe system of timed strict bondage. It was because she wanted to have the freedom to stop whenever she decided. She wanted to make herself wait for the ice to melt, even though it would be easier not to. And so she lay in the dark, and took the pain in her breasts and the discomfort in her hips, as if there really was a demanding but breath-catchingly pretty girl perched beside her on one knee, daring her to impress with her resilience.
Jenna had no intention of crumpling her interview suit in standard class for two and a quarter hours, so instead she stretched out her legs in first and took as much advantage of the complementary toast and drinks as her nervous stomach allowed. Her confidence had taken such a battering recently, she was feeling far more trepidation than the job honestly deserved. It wasn’t for the job itself, of course, as much as the opportunity to relocate a couple of hundred miles and put all the poisonous memories behind her. No more going to the old haunts; no more chance of accidentally bumping into each other in the too-small world they still shared; no more caring despite herself about who Molls might be with when they did. Leaving all that behind, without abandoning her career to do it, was a big enough deal to turn her bladder inside out and make her wish she’d had less coffee.
The train rattled slowly through endless points on its way into the heart of a city that she had never visited before, and yet felt weirdly familiar from her reading. She actually found herself thinking, as it rolled over the canal bridge: oh yes, isn’t that where …
There was the curious thing, she was about to meet one of her closest friends, and for the very first time. Everyone else was already on their feet, but she had over an hour to kill and no wish to bustle, so she waited until the carriage was almost empty before standing up and tugging her wheeled case out onto the platform. She took her time strolling to the gates and then followed the tail of the morning commuter mob up into concourse, stopping at the corner of a coffee shop to look around. Her eye went clear over the woman at the first pass, before catching the discrete friendly wave and knowing grin on its way back.
She was mid forties or thereabouts, in a calf-length denim skirt and loose check shirt with unfashionably large sunglasses slipped down the front. She was flustering with a tablet in one of those combination case-cum-keyboard things, slipping it into a well-used leather shoulder bag as she stood up. Her hair was shoulder-length, greying, framing one of those straightforwardly handsome faces that seemed to go with middle-class parents and girls’ high school. She didn’t, to Jenna’s practised gaze, look particularly like a lesbian; any more than she looked remotely like her mental image of Ellie. To be entirely honest, Jenna didn’t really have a clue what a pornographer was meant to look like, but she was fairly sure it wasn’t that. As she held out her hand, Jenna was overwhelmed by the temptation to say something remarkably silly.
“Elspeth Malone, I presume?”
Liz Kinsella went decidedly pink about the cheeks and dropped her eyes momentarily towards their gripped hands.
“You know, you’re the first person who’s ever called me that to my face. It feels more than a little surreal. Hello, Jen, this is a real canlı casino treat.”
It had all started three years before, at the time it first went sideways with Molls; the time when in retrospect they should have recognised it wasn’t working and parted as friends. But of course they didn’t handle it well, any more than they did any other crisis: Molls got high and drank too much as was her habit; and Jenna retreated into a fantasy world of all the sex she wasn’t getting from Molls, as was hers. She read industrial quantities of assorted smut and found depressingly little of it truly satisfying. When she stumbled across Elspeth Malone she was feeling so down and desperate that she took the absurdly uncharacteristic step of sending off a fan email. ‘Elspeth’ replied, they got chatting and time passed.
Since then both their worlds had collapsed around them in ways that were devastating yet intensely private, both found it easier to talk through their troubles to someone they had never laid eyes on – who had never known Molls or Martine – who understood about the sexual things that neither felt she could share with her other friends. It was an intense but peculiar relationship, one which both were slightly nervous about tipping over from the virtual world to the physical. And yet Jenna was here for two days, in the city where Liz lived and wrote about. Ignoring each other would have been ridiculous.
So Liz met her at the station and pointed her on the way to the interview before going to her own work, and they arranged for lunchtime drink and evening meal. Tomorrow being a Saturday, Liz would give her the guided tour. It would be either an adventure or a disaster, and either could make a useful introduction to her potential new home.
“So, going to take the job?”
“I haven’t been offered it yet.”
“But when you are?”
Neither of them fancied the noise and distraction of Friday evening in the gay village, so Liz took them to an extraordinary Victorian gin palace that she had used as a recurring location and was conveniently equidistant from the city centre and Jenna’s hotel. It was a pub from the old school, a warren of tiny bars that had never been knocked through for efficiency. They were in a snug corner, surprisingly alone and cosy.
“Yeah, I think I will.”
The job wasn’t any different to the one she was doing now: junior secretary in another national law firm, if anything a step down on the ladder. But it would be somewhere new; somewhere she had never been called in to for a senior partner to ask her – oh so very considerately – why she had turned up that morning with a black eye; somewhere the grapevine didn’t know that her neighbours had ended up calling the police a couple of times. Getting away from all that was worth losing a year or two, she would still make more than enough to get by.
Liz was looking at her, shrewdly observing. They had never argued over it, but Jenna knew very well that Liz thought she should have pressed charges. She should have, on pure principle. When it came to the cold light of day, the whole thing was too humiliating to get into. What possible satisfaction could she get from parading the whole sordid mess in public? What happened next, Ms Saunderson? Well then she slapped me one, because I was pissing her off by nagging on again about how she never tied me up. Thanks, but really no thanks. To her surprise, Liz went off on a totally different tangent.
“When you get settled, you should try writing again.”
“You know I’m no good at that.”
“I don’t know anything of the sort.”
Jenna set down her glass, wishing that the subject would lie down dead where it belonged.
“What would I write about?”
“Anything you want.”
“I don’t know anything!”
“Oh not this again, please.”
“I mean it. I’ve never done all the stuff you have.”
“Jen, sweetheart, I haven’t done half the stuff you think I have. I extrapolate from what I do know, and I try to empathise with the characters, that’s all. Fancy another?”
Jenna checked her phone with half her attention as Liz went to the bar, the rest of her mind pondering on what Liz had said. The four months since she had moved out hadn’t made any difference, she felt just as oppressed as she had when they were screaming and fighting.
Liz came back with the drinks.
“Half the time I feel like I can’t breathe for the weight of my own ignorance crushing down on me.”
“You just up and say things like that, and you don’t think you can write? Listen to yourself. Look, I’ve made a few contacts in this business since I’ve been doing it. I know a handful of reasonably prominent authors of decent gynephile kink: a couple of them are guys, and I’m not going to tell you which; another one is very monogamously in love with the most vanilla woman you’re ever likely to meet; and yet another barely gets to see her wife for ten days a month. I was kaçak casino a married woman’s mistress for sixteen years and then she …”
Liz stopped, as if she had walked into a wall. It had been eighteen months, and Jenna had not once known her to use the word ‘died’ when she talked of losing Martine. Instead she took a deep breath and carried on.
“… None of us write this stuff because our own sex lives are so bloody brilliant we just have to share them with everyone. It’s a way to cope with the imperfect real world by creating a perfect fantasy one where things go the way they should.”
“I didn’t just mean writing about it. I’m thirty, Liz, and it feels like my sex life hasn’t even really begun yet. There’s all these things I want to do. Not to mention the really bizarre shit in my head that even I wouldn’t be stupid enough to do for real.”
Liz grinned conspiratorially and bent her head forward.
“Oh go on, I’m always looking for ideas.”
There’s something surprisingly easy about confessing your dirtiest fantasies to someone you have never met and never will. Jenna had been worried that this journey might spoil it, that face to face they would suddenly become shy and giggly. Apparently it wasn’t the case. She dropped her voice to a suitably discrete whisper.
“I keep imagining this really butch dyke doing me in the arse with a strap-on; serious gender play and humiliation, making me admit all these dirty things … umm … in front of an audience that are – you know – getting themselves off over the show.”
It wasn’t just the dirtiness that she was reluctant to admit. Liz had an aversion to writing butch dommes – aesthetically because they simply weren’t her thing, philosophically because that automatic link between power and masculinity irritated her. For a moment Jenna felt she should apologise, and then she remembered whose fantasy she was talking about.
Not that she had needed to worry. Liz grinned even wider, blushing to match her own face. Dammit, the woman looked so normal, and yet what came out of her head …
“Sweetness, I thought you said you were thinking bizarre shit?”
“Oh shut up, that is kinky and you know it.”
Without warning, Liz sighed deeply and rested her chin in her hand. There was a tear shining in the corner of her eye, brimming over the lid. One secret, it seemed, deserved another.
“I can’t remember what it tastes like.”
“Oral sex. I can’t remember exactly how it tasted when I went down on her. I know it was wonderful, and I don’t believe I’ll ever forget how it made me feel to do, but the other day I was trying to describe the taste and I can’t.”
Not that it mattered, as far as writing was concerned. Liz had never been one to dwell on those sort of physical details, that wasn’t her focus. But what could Jenna possibly say for comfort to the point itself. There really wasn’t anything at all, so she didn’t even try. Liz seemed to come out of it of her own accord, as if a passing thought had briefly distracted her but was now gone.
“So where do you fancy going tomorrow?”
She took the job, and found an affordable basement flat in a Victorian red-brick terrace near the university, a twenty-five minute bus ride from work. It would do whilst she looked for something more permanent, and with summer coming on the cool gloom of the place could be a blessing. She wasn’t quite so sure about still being there for the winter, but that was something to worry about later. At least it had a large shared garden.
Moving to a new city was disorientating, which after all had been the point. She badly needed shaking out of the toxic rut that the last few years had been. It was both unsettling and exciting to be in a different environment, where everything from the accents to the rugged scenery was unfamiliar. Liz was the only person she knew, the only friend who popped round to help her unpack or share tips on shops and restaurants. Jenna knew full well that she was struggling with her first historically-set novel, it was touching that she put the research aside to lend a hand.
It was impossible to imagine Liz in jeans and trainers, even in the chaos of Jenna’s box-strewn cave with a hammer in her hand. She was invariably in skirts or dresses, always with an open neck that showed the ever-present necklace with an amber teardrop like polished butterscotch, always in sandals or courts. They were hanging Jenna’s prints, Liz being subtly careful to help without interfering too much, letting Jenna step back and direct as she made minor adjustments until they were straight.
As they worked they chatted, about the local pubs and how easily Jenna could get by without a car, the dire state of current television, the difficulties Liz was having with her research.
“The problem is, women didn’t really get dragged through the courts or write porno memoirs the way men did, so there’s this huge hole in our knowledge. We know about gay individuals here and there, but not about gay culture. There must have been one, on some level, which doesn’t seem to have been recorded in any detail.”
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