Amy saw the foam-headed foe immediately upon emerging from the ladies room. It sat beside her jacket, staring her down as no inanimate object should be able to do. Amy didn’t bother to suppress her groan at the offering. She wasn’t one to turn down a pint, and more than happy to return the favour, but there were some nights when sleep beckoned.
Especially now that Isaac had left. He was the instigator of many late nights, she liked to think, though she would not have been out late nearly so often had she not gone over to join him each time she caught sight of him across the pub. That simple action may have had disastrous effects on her sleep cycle, but she couldn’t bring herself to regret a single minute of it. He was, simply put, the most fascinating man she had ever met. He even looked vaguely like the guy from the Dos Equis ads, and had stories to fit the character. Despite his worldliness, he had a way of making her feel special, feel talented, feel just as interesting. She didn’t know why he had bothered to spend time with her, being surrounded as he typically was by people who were certainly far more interesting, but for whatever reason, he always seemed to have plenty of time for her, even if that time often extended into the early hours of the morning.
And, most significantly, he was the first person to call her a writer. The comment had caught her off-guard; her writing was not something she had shared with anyone she knew, never mind anyone she saw on a daily basis. Even now she did not know what had tipped him off to her secret hobby. He was persistent and patient, and eventually she relented and admitted that she had dabbled a bit in her spare time, but it was merely an outlet, a way to express things she’d rather not her everyday friends or, heaven forbid, her employer ever hear. She had thought it merely play, but he had told her it was something more. After many weeks of patient prodding, she came to understand, and to agree.
Despite her best efforts to redirect his interest, he continued to ask to see her stories until she finally agreed, only after swearing him to secrecy. She had expected him to scorn her meagre efforts for both their subject and form, but instead he had encouraged her. He admitted that he didn’t understand her peculiar fascinations, but that her passion clearly had shown through. She had never felt so deeply accepted.
And then he was gone, moving away rather suddenly to the other side of the country while she was away on holiday. She was happy for him, but couldn’t help but feel a twinge of regret. Amy had made plenty of other friends, but none with whom she had felt such a strong connection. On the bright side, Amy told herself, she had been able to sleep much better now, freed from the frequent desire to prolong her nights out.
She had buried herself in other things, throwing herself into the daily issues at work with more passion, starting to run in the evenings and making more of an effort to cook meals that involved more than just the microwave. More than just taking up time, these efforts helped her to construct an aura of happiness about herself, even if it did feel a bit hollow.
“Jen,” Amy sighed as she started trudging back down the corridor to the all-but-empty bar, “I told you – I have a long day ahead tomorrow, I really was on my way home.”
Rounding the corner into the main room of the pub, Amy’s rant caught in her throat. She didn’t even notice Jen, busying herself with a bar rag in the corner and very successfully blending into the scenery. Even if she had been dancing a jig and hopping across the tables, Amy might not have notice.
He was back.
Leaning casually against the bar, engrossed in the paper lying open before him, he looked as though he had been there for hours even though she knew he could only have arrived in the few moments since she had been away from the bar.
Whatever arguments and complaints Amy had been prepared to spout in return for the pint died in her throat, smothered into non-existence by a grin that lit her entire being.
“I thought you had gone!” Amy exclaimed as she bounced over to him, thoughts of her bedroom forgotten.
He closed the paper before lowering his spectacles to regard her, smiling himself as he caught her enthusiasm. “Not quite,” he replied. “I have a few things to attend to before the move is final.”
“Good,” the word tumbled from Amy’s mouth before she could appropriately mask her response. “I mean,” she back-pedalled, “I’m glad I have the chance to say goodbye properly now. I’ve missed you, but I am happy for you. Congratulations- I know that it’s been a hassle trying to move, and I’m glad it finally worked out.”
“It’s not quite final yet, but hopefully,” he smiled wistfully. “Anyway, I’ll be here for at least another few weeks.”
“I’m glad,” Amy said, allowing her relief to show. “Anyway, what is your new home like?”
He smiled, his eyes taking on the drifting, dreamy look they always did when he talked about far away places, and she lost herself in them and the tales of his latest adventures that accompanied such looks.
As it had so many times before, the late hours quickly flew by to be replaced by early hours as they talked about everything and nothing. They shared stories and questions, each of hers eliciting another remarkable tale from him and each of his bringing her an incredible sense of warmth that he would be interested in her own simple life. As they always did, his patience and curiosity drew things out of her that she never would have dreamed of sharing, and before long she had withdrawn her notebook to keep track of the ideas to expound upon later on her own.
“And how is your writing coming?” he asked on seeing the notebook.
It was a simple question, and hardly a new one. The topic came up at least once every night they had spent together since she had first admitted to the habit. Never before, however, had those few brief words made her feel as though the floor had been ripped out beneath her, sending her mind and stomach into a tumbling, free falling feeling, that threatened to unbalance her completely, smashing the veneer of happiness she had so carefully constructed around her.
“It hasn’t,” she confessed shakily, fixing her gaze intently on the half-empty glass in front of her, swirling the contents in a vain attempt to induce a head to give the container the impression of substance that didn’t truly exist. “I haven’t written anything in more than a month.”
She steeled herself for the criticism she knew she deserved for her lack of effort. It never came.
“You will,” he said kindly. Amy felt her shoulders relax a bit, some of the tension she’d held in anticipation of his scorn at her lack of progress beginning to dissipate. “It is part of you,” he continued kindly, “a part that needs to be expressed. I’ve seen enough from you to know that. However,” he said, his voice growing stern, “this sort of expression requires effort on your part. You’ve made great strides, I’d hate to see that go to waste.”
Amy blushed more deeply, though at the same time felt her remaining tension drift away. She had known this scolding was coming, just as he knew the effect it would have on her. He let the silence extend, giving his words time to set in and patiently awaiting her reply.
“I know,” she meekly admitted. “I’ll try.”
“Will you?” he asked, his gaze steady and penetrating.
“I’ll try,” she repeated, unable to lie to him. She had been trying, but somehow she had been unable to summon the motivation to write even simple emails to old friends in weeks.
“Perhaps you need a bit of motivation.” His voice had softened, but the words sent shivers down her spine. Motivation? With what he knew of her nature, such a proposition was decidedly chilling. They both knew full well what sort of motivation she needed.
“Perhaps,” she admitted, unable to meet his eyes any longer.
“I see no reason to dally then,” he continued softly. “The night is young enough, though I think Jen would appreciate it if we let her close up.”
Amy nodded again, pushing her mostly empty glass away from her as he drained his, and following him silently to the door.
The walk home was a familiar one, and hardly threatening even in the deep darkness of the hour. Tonight, however, Amy couldn’t help but feel a bit of anxiety. Odd, she thought to herself, so many other girls are nervous walking alone, and yet the one time I am nervous is when I have someone with me.
Odd that she also wished, for once, that she lived further from town. The walk was only a few minutes, though even in silence and dread of what was to come, she savoured the time with Isaac.
She fumbled her keys as her shaking fingers struggled to unlock the door. Isaac waited patiently as she completed the task and welcomed him in.
“Um. . .would you like a cup of tea?” she offered, wincing at the inappropriateness of the offer of caffeine at this hour.
“I think we’d best just get to business, assuming you’re ready?” he asked.
Amy could only nod as he led her over to her couch and sat himself in the middle, gently coaxing her over his lap.
“You know why you’re here?” he asked.
“Because I live here,” Amy replied cheekily, only to suck in her breath at the first swat.
“That is not what I meant, and you know it,” he scolded. “Why are we here?”
“For a spanking” Amy mumbled into the cushions. Another sharp smack made her gasp and arch her back.
“Why are you being spanked?” Isaac asked more directly.
“Because I haven’t been writing,” Amy replied, another smack eliciting a small squeak.
“You haven’t been trying,” Isaac corrected as he continued the spanking. “If your writing is as important to you as we both think, you will need to devote more time to your art.”
Amy couldn’t reply, her breath caught as it was in reaction to the quickly building burn. If Isaac expected a response, he didn’t push the issue, instead increasing the pace of the spanking until Amy became very vocal, if not necessarily eloquent.
When he finally stopped, her squeals had begun to take on a deeper tone, heralding heartfelt sobs. He held her gently as she came back to herself, his gentle hands seemingly unrelated to those that had so sternly admonished her minutes before.
“Thank you,” she finally sniffed as she sat up.
“You are quite welcome,” he replied with a warm smile.
“I’ll miss you,” she admitted, holding him close, as if she could keep him with her forever.
“It’s not that far,” he said calmingly as he continued to stroke her hair. “Besides, you can always write.”
“I will,” she replied. And meant it.