Much to Learn: Side Note

With thanks to Paolo of Wholebean and I

Sarah and Mark’s Story began here

Sarah gave the draft e-mail one last read, her mouse hovering over the send button. It had taken forever to craft, and it was worth a few more moments to make sure it was appropriate- or at least as appropriate as it could be with her judgement impaired by several glasses of a rather delicious sparkling white wine. She had been amused to find a sparkling wine with a screw top in the local shop, and had purchased one of the inexpensive bottles hoping that it might at least be palatable. She enjoyed sparkling wine in general, but without anyone to share the bottle with once opened, such things weren’t practical at home. This had seemed like a good solution. However, the wine turned out to be delicious enough that it’s resealability was nearly rendered superfluous.

Fitting, she thought. She had met Karen in college, and many of their early discussions had been somewhat alcohol-fueled. Very alcohol-fueled in most cases, she had to admint. As they had grown older, more professional, and more responsible, they had outgrown such habits. Mostly.

Their friendship remained strong, though. Strong enough for Sarah to confide in her about Mark, at least in general terms. It hadn’t even been a shock to Karen. Sarah had broken the ice on the issue several years earlier, back before she first met Dresden.

Dresden was the first internet spanker Sarah had arranged to meet in person. It had seemed prudent, given that she was meeting an internet stranger in a foreign city, to have a friend who knew what she was up to. Someone who could act as a safety net, or at least, to the more paranoid part of Sarah’s mind, someone who might be able to provide evidence in the event she wound up axe-murdered and floating in the Thames.

The meeting had gone swimmingly though, and prompted Sarah to dive more fully into her online life- the same online life that had lead her to Mark, fittingly with a bit of prompting from Dresden himself. Karen had occasionally asked how things were going, and Sarah found it very nice to have a flesh-and-blood friend to talk things over with, albeit with a thick layer of vanilla frosting.

Even still, it had been a bit of a shock when Karen had agreed to meet Dresden and Murphy. Sarah had originally proposed meeting with her friends while she and Karen were on holiday thinking that she was asking “would you mind if I set you up with a tour or some sort of museum to visit on your own for a couple hours while I meet my kinky friends for a chat?” Evidently the message was lost in translation, as Karen’s reply had been something to the effect of “Sure, I’d love to meet them. “

Oh.

Um. . .

Sarah had been very nervous before the event; organising a meeting between dignitaries from warring nations would have been less stressful. The chat in the pub was one thing, but Murphy had kindly offered to drive them to the next city they’d planned to visit on their tour of England. It was a generous offer, but there were ever so many ways things that could get horribly awkward when confined to a car for several hours.

 

The drive had gone off splendidly, however, though the chat mostly was kept light. Whether this was due to the early hour of their departure, the copious wine imbibed the previous evening, or the part of human nature that was keen not to offend when trapped with strangers in small spaces, Sarah couldn’t say. Karen had seemed to be enjoying herself the entire time- or at least for as much of the time as she had been an active participant in the conversation. Sarah smiled as she remembered how Karen had accidentally knocked herself out with non-non-drowsy dramamine for a good portion of the journey. The three remaining travellers had talked a bit more freely then. It wasn’t as though they were uncomfortable with Karen’s presence, but when one is used to keeping a tight wrap on certain aspects of one’s life, glossing over details in front of people who may not know what they’ve gotten themselves into is a hard habit to break.

Nonetheless, the trip had certainly brought Sarah and Karen closer, and Sarah had not given a second thought to telling her about Mark when Karen had asked how she was settling in after the move. He was kind of a big portion of her “settling.” It it seemed remiss to omit that bit of news, although it was delivered in the typical general terms she used when discussing such things with Karen.

Until Karen’s last e-mail. She had asked for “ALL THE THINGS.” Sarah smiled at Karen’s characteristic over-use of a catchphrase, and the caps lock key. Sarah had found this amusing for years, particularly during the “happy cat is drunk” phase, and was glad to see that the quirk hadn’t been left behind with so many other things from school.

All the details. That was difficult, and Sarah had toiled over the reply far longer than was warranted. Talking to strangers online about such things was one thing, but talking to friends was another entirely.

Even the vanilla details sickened her logical side when written out. The super-sweet account of the afternoon in the park, the early-morning texting, the way they had cuddled after. Even these things she couldn’t quite share without a twinge of discomfort.

And so Sarah struggled. How could she explain what she was going through to someone else? Mark had told her each time after, as she rested her head on his chest, that what they did together was special, that someone who didn’t share their disposition would never understand what passed between them, the tenderness that such an outwardly violent act conveyed, the closeness experienced only through the clear differential in power, the asexual intimacy of discipline. For those who didn’t share this attraction- this obsession- it would sound insane. It sounded insane even to a good number of those who did share that particular leaning.

Besides, what was it that she was doing with Mark, anyway? For all their talk and feedback, they hadn’t actually discussed this. Both of them had been of the opinion that they should figure out what worked well between them and let the dynamic grow on its own. Their would be plenty of time to find an appropriate label later, but that didn’t exactly make it easy to talk about to someone else.

He wasn’t a boyfriend, that much was clear. There was the age difference, not to mention his wife. Estranged wife, but wife still and a significant figure in his life. He was a mentor for sure, but their relationship lacked the particular distance that particular word conveyed. It was clear that there was more to their encounters than casual play, but neither was it an overtly sexual relationship. Intimate, yes, just not necessarily in that way.

And yet for it’s intimacy, she knew that he had other partners. She had wanted someone experienced to help her sort through her feelings as she began this journey, and that experience had to come from somewhere. She wondered if the other women felt the same things she did when she was with him. Pondering this for a few moments, Sarah was surprised that she bore only the smallest hint of jealousy. What she felt when she was with him was remarkable, magical. Would she begrudge anyone else from feeling the same thing?

They were not exclusive. . . how had he described it? “You are a free submissive and I am a free dominant.” As much as she may have liked to be committed to someone, there was a certain poignancy in that freedom. Each time she submitted to him, it was a conscious act, not something required as a matter of course in their relationship. He had made it clear early on that their friendship could persist even if she chose to continue without that particular element if things didn’t work out. It had been reassuring, though after her first spanking Sarah doubted that would ever become an issue. His spankings had been everything that she had dreamed and more. He had a gift, a taboo gift but a great gift all the same. He made her feel loved, disciplined, and cared for. Whether she was over his knee or leaning into his hug or reading one of his “good morning” messages, she felt his love for her as a tangible thing, even if she couldn’t put words to just what flavour of love it was.

Did the others feel the same? If they did, how could she possibly begrudge them that? He had a great capacity to love, why would she ever want to damper that? Just as with the discipline bit, she knew that to explain this to an outsider would sound ridiculous. But she had experienced it. It made sense to her, and she loved him for it.

She thought back to her last message to Karen, where the subject of Mark had also come up. “Remember how I said I was trying very, very hard not to fall completely in love? Well, feck that.” Just as with the message she was currently crafting, the wine may have loosened her tongue, but the message was true.

Sarah took a deep breath. She knew herself, knew that her emotions had a tendency to run away with her when meeting someone new. If she could control herself, be honest with herself, the situation may even be salvageable.

She remembered Peter- the knowledge that they were not made for each other burned like a raging fire before settling into a warm glow of trust, friendship and understanding. They were even able to joke about it now, both admitting publicly that if he were straight or she were a man that they would be very happy together. They were happy together now, just not in a romantic way.

Or even Gavin, her work crush. While they may not have anything to talk of outside the office, she had lit up every time they were assigned to the same project. He wasn’t the kind of man she wanted to date, but the kind of man she wanted to co-author a paper with. A brainy-crush, but an intense feeling all the same that jumbled her thoughts whenever he was in the room for several months before the feeling died down. After that point, their collaborations were seamless, a subtle dance on a spreadsheet. An exercise that could only be accomplished with deep mutual understanding and a dispassionate outlook.

Or Clark, she thought with a shudder. She had completely given in there, letting her emotions get the best of her and awoke to find herself in a relationship with nothing of substance left once the fire burnt itself out. Their sparring matches which had once been a beautiful, if ironic, expression of their love became nothing more than the aggressive confrontations that they appeared to be. The resulting turmoil had been traumatic for them both, and she vowed to never let herself get into that sort of mess again.

Especially not with Mark. She would take her time, be open, be honest, and let this go where it led. The emotions were powerful and intoxicating, but, as with the wine, there was no harm in indulging a bit as long as she retained enough control to make decisions she could live with later. Besides, he had told her to take her time. She could replace the cork, savour the memories and return later when she had processed the last taste, when her head had cleared enough to perceive the subtle nuances of the next experience.

Sarah got to the end of the brief message to Karen and sighed. It was a completely inadequate representation of the gamut of emotions she had experienced while composing the reply, but it would have to do. She could barely explain it to herself, let alone anyone else. Feeling slightly defeated she hit send. It would be ok. Karen would understand, quite possibly a great deal more than she gave her credit for.

And quite possibly a great deal more than Sarah did herself.

To be continued

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