His arm caresses my neck, resting against me, keeping me in place, keeping me here. His attention may be elsewhere, but he never ceases to be aware of my presence, just as I am continually aware of Him.
His voice rumbles in his chest, and I feel the vibrations travel up my arm. He chuckles, his lap jostling me. Something Bernard has said, something I hadn’t caught. I’d been neither instructed to listen nor to ignore, and had let my mind wander to other aspects of the moment, studying the folds in his clothing, relishing the heat from his body as it bleeds into my own.
I was ashamed the first time Bernard came to visit. I had tried to refuse to take my place at Master’s feet, but that resistance had quickly been corrected. The act of kneeling had not been as embarrassing as that, and I never resisted again.
Master had been especially tender with me that evening, and even Bernard had remarked at how gracefully I had accepted the correction, how quickly I had complied. I had flushed with pride at the praise, glad to reflect well on Master. Relieved that Bernard understands.
I confessed that night, when I was allowed into his bed, that the experience had been trying. I had wanted to please him, to accept his rule, and was ashamed of the tears that trailed down my face now that I tried to allow him a glimpse of my feelings. He kissed them away, holding me close as the waves rushed over and out of me. In the moment of space between settle and sleep, he had made me the promise. Never again would a reprimand be delivered before company, never again did he want me to experience that kind of pain.
I had come to appreciate Bernard’s visits after that. Though I love my place at Master’s feet, there is something acutely intimate at allowing another to witness us like this. There is a special bond with another who understands.
And, as long, as Bernard is here, I know that my chastisement will be postponed. It is a temporary reprieve, but one that I try to relish in. I know it will not be mentioned until Bernard leaves. Master has promised.
I sometimes regret that promise now. The correction before Bernard had been harsh, demeaning, but quick. Alone with Master, he had all night to deliver his message, to ensure my understanding.
He began slowly, recounting my sin, eliciting the explanation from my lips, forcing me to see that the disrespect had been unwarranted, that my behaviour reflected poorly on the both of us. I wished him to finish with this- to end the scolding, the lecture, and continue with the punishment. He would not; master does not punish until I am ready, until I accept that it is earned, until I submit myself to him for correction.
I try not to. He allows me to speak freely at such times, and I do. I try to tell him, try to persuade him that I was justified, even though I know that I was not, even though I know that he is right. Knowing is one thing. Admitting is another.
He always gets me to that place- that place in which my defenses are broken, that place from which I can see myself for what I am, a flawed imperfect creature. That is a place I cannot bear to be for long, overcome by the shattering of my own imagined image. He holds me there, tenderly, assuring me that I am beautiful, valuable even as I am. Assuring me that I can improve these things that hold me back, assuring me that he will help, nurture, support. And correct.
I cling to him then, knowing what is coming, accepting yet dreading. He holds me close, comforting in presence and pressure. His hands are replaced by the ropes that hold me just as tightly, just as tenderly. I am here, unable to escape in body or mind from this moment.
The whip makes me want to flee, and I pull against the bonds, pull against him. He speaks to me, tender and firm. Scolding and reassuring, and I calm. The whip strikes again- He strikes again. His voice follows quickly after, reminding me why I am here, reminding me how I am to behave, reminding me that I am His.
Slowly, agonisingly, I begin to accept the chastisement, welcoming the searing, cleansing pain. Welcoming Him back into me, welcoming what we are, what he is helping me to become.
He holds me now, the ropes cast aside. It is over- the pain is over- but we linger close, swimming in the intensity of the connection as we drift together toward sleep.