calls no longer frighten me. No one I love is dying. Or everyone I
love is dying, and so am I. But that is not why he is calling.
in the morning I found the receiver next to my head on the pillow.
speaks to me in a low voice. He asks questions I cannot remember any
more than I can remember my answers. And would I tell you? What good
would it do you to know what he asks of me? Would you understand why I
wake with glazed thighs?
you are curious. I can tell you are thinking of questions to ask me. I
see your eyes half closed like a cat in the sun. Your relentless
questions thumb me until I am sore.
pulled her car into the spot next to the shiny black Mercedes sedan.
She did not remember his face, and she wondered if she ever dared look
him in the eye. On that day he wore an overcoat and carried a large
dark gym bag.
unlocked her car door as he approached. She repeated to herself like a
mantra, “Stay in public...stay in public...stay in public.” She’d
told herself that the diner parking lot was public enough, but when he
got into the car beside her, she wished she’d insisted on meeting
clutched the steering wheel with both hands. The car key was in her
pocket, her purse on the floor near her door. Richard, he’d said his
name was, held the gym bag in his lap.
thought you’d like to see these,” he said. He told Ellie she would
have to pay close attention. He reached into the bag. He pulled things
out one by one and told her how they would use them. He spoke slowly,
His voice was velvet and Velcro.
remembered seeing leather restraints, a dildo,
condoms for the dildo, latex gloves, a leather mask, a funnel with a
hose at its end, and a new bright red ball gag on that first afternoon.
explained to her again about the safe word. She wondered aloud how she
would use a safe word with the ball gag in her mouth. He did not
answer. He told her she must choose a safe word.
candle flickers on a shelf above the counter in the dimly lit room. A
pot sits on a one-burner hot plate. The room smells like honey.
Wearing a short white terry-cloth sarong, I stand barefoot next to the
bed. I am waiting for Desireé.
opens the door just wide enough to slip through and glances at a slip
of paper she holds in her hand. I lie on the table and watch as she
plunges a flat piece of wood through the crust on the hot wax in the
pot and stirs. I have listened to Desireé as her marriage fell to
pieces, and her revenge for my sympathy continues to
play itself out in this small room.
wax, bikini wax,” she says. “You go away with boyfriend for
I answer she continues, “Next time you get Brazilian wax.” Desireé
smiles knowingly. “Men love Brazilian.”
doctor,” she said the first time that I opened my legs wide so she
could spread the hot wax. She leaned forward, adding, “I see so
much. I see nothing.”
she tucks tissues into the crotch of my panties she tells me that one
of her clients came in and told her to take all her hair off. Desireé
says, “Her husband want it like little girl.” She pauses. “What
you think of that?” Her voice is soft.
pulls the leg elastic up and inward, and has me hold the cloth in
place while she paints my bikini line and pubis with hot wax. When the
wax hardens, she pulls it off, ripping out my hair by its roots.
does this more than once. Each time the soothing warmth of the wax,
then a flash of pain, sharp as thousands of hot needles. I have come
to anticipate the pain. It fades slowly. Desireé powders me with talc
as though I'm a baby.
You perfect now. Smooth. You go away with boyfriend for weekend.” Desireé
does not ask me now.
you.” I say to her, for tonight I will talk with you. I will tell
you all of this: How coated with hot wax I think of you as the heat
enters my body. How I lie perfectly still waiting for the pain.
Tonight on the telephone I will offer you my pain, my devotional.
last thing Ellie remembered saying was, “Don’t.” But because it
was not her safe word, the people standing over her did not stop.
They continued using her until each one had finished, and by that time
Ellie had lost consciousness.
like that is supposed to happen, of course.
the safe word is part of the ritual, but Ellie’s master, D., should
have been looking after her. In fact, he was looking after her, and in
his judgment he was providing her with an experience of sublime
surrender, yielding to his will, and through him to his friends. Her
submission to them was another form of service to him. And when
they were satisfied, they left him alone with her. It was a matter of
respect that was his due.
will happen. To be sure, this scene was a mistake.
when Ellie lay silent, limp, her master was not alarmed. He took a
certain pride in his training. That Ellie had endured rather than
using her safe word, he saw as a tribute to himself. If Ellie had
known him in other circumstances, she would perhaps have realized
that his personality was not suited to assuming responsibility for
another’s well-being, for another’s pleasure. He was too selfish,
too arrogant and self-absorbed to pay the necessary attention to
he did not appreciate Ellie.
came to him already trained, through Stephen who was a friend of Alan,
who was a friend of Marta, who was a friend of Richard who had first
fastened the collar on Ellie’s neck. She had passed through their
hands, being prepared, made ready for the next person she would serve.
lay, her hands bound behind her back, naked except for the black
leather restraints on her wrists and ankles, and of course the
dark hair stuck to her body, wet with perspiration, tears, semen and
saliva. D. stood over her. He prodded her abdomen with his boot. And
then again harder. He would not have called it a kick. And again, an
expression of distaste distorting his features. Ellie lay on her back,
her head tilted, her mouth slightly open. Her lips were pale now, a
spot of dried blood where her lip was split.
took an ice cube in his hand and glided it over her nipples, which
rose, puckering, as he made slow circles. Even unconscious she could
serve his desire. Her eyelids fluttered open. He came slowly into
focus, and she spoke only one word, “Devotional.”
walked down the set of steps and opened the door. Her pocket was
stuffed with cash. She’d done her homework and looked online,
leaving, she knew, an electronic trail, but as with breadcrumbs she’d
been unable to retrace her steps, to return home. Or perhaps she’d
returned home changed by what she’d seen. Still, she didn’t want
to use her charge card or a check here. Paying in cash meant shame.
Shame was good. She wore it like a collar.
She dressed without looking in the mirror. No one else knew all
the secrets she knew, and she could not meet her own eyes. In the
world she laughed, answered the phone easily, bought skinny latte
grande at Starbucks and joked with the barista. In the world she was
safe, had the illusion of being safe. Only occasionally did she meet
someone who looked at her in the singular way she had come to
at home was she enslaved. Daily. And that is what brought her here.
She had not been to a party in months. Ever since D. had left, the
door shuddering when it slammed behind him, she had been without a
Master. She did not seek a replacement for him any more than she had
sought him. He had merely appeared as the others had, only
when she was prepared for them and for her service. None had been as
exacting as her Mistress.
jangling bell announced her presence in the store. Here she was
surrounded by the things she had seen for the first time in Richard’s
car and later come to know: ball gags, dildos, leather, masks, the
softest leather restraints, and collars. Richard had been her first
teacher. After him there had been others. Each had been increasingly
strict, more able to subdue her rebellion. The latest, most strict was
D. When D. left, he took the collar with him. “You are not worthy to
wear it,” he had hissed as he removed it from her bent neck as she
stood before him, sobbing. Later she would not know if her grief was
for him or for her lost service.
hated living without a proper Master. But she refused to answer ads.
When the calls came inviting her to parties, the first few times she
explained that D. had gone. And then the calls stopped. She wondered
who D. had sitting on the floor at his feet now. It didn’t matter.
It only mattered that for some unbearable weeks she had wandered free,
like a feral cat aching to be tamed. And so she yielded to the
Mistress who now ruled her from the moment she entered what should
have been her sanctuary, until the time she escaped into the street and
it was to serve her that she was buying the collar. With the modest
gestures to which she had become accustomed, she pointed to the collar
in the case. The sales girl suggested a day-glow plastic dildo, which
she swore was almost indistinguishable from the real thing. She took
the neon green object from the case and held it up, bent it, held it
out. “Touch it,” she said, Ellie obeyed. “Basic. No motor.
Natural, huh?” Ellie had others, better, she thought, at home, but
she fished into her pocket and pulled out more bills. The sales girl
flashed a conspiratorial smile, and gave her both the collar and a new
dildo still in its plastic case.
home she washed the dildo with soap and water, held it up to the
light. It was the color of a pitcher of lime Kool-Aid in the sun. She
tossed it onto the bed. It made a soft thud as it landed.
showered, prepared herself as she’d been taught for an evening of
service. It was no less than her Mistress required, but without the
collar she had been unable to serve her properly. Now all was ready.
Wearing a bath towel like a sarong, Ellie stood in front of the
mirror. Now her gaze met her own. She fastened the collar around her
neck, which was still damp from the shower. That was a mistake. The
collar would certainly chafe. But it was too late.
stared at herself. The new collar was stiff, but she wore it as though
she had always been encircled by its safety. The D-rings gleamed in
the lamplight. Ellie hooked her thumbs into the towel, and with a
single simple gesture she stood naked in front of the mirror. She
stared into the mirror, wondering at her daring. “I am here to serve
you, Mistress,” she said.
would not need the lubricant. Within minutes her cries of passion
filled the room. After nearly an hour of increasingly intense spasms,
limbs flailing, she murmured her safe word and lay still at
you been there, you would have heard, as I did,